Some of the characteristics of our postmodernist times include: globalization, technology & science progress, significant media & arts influence, ‘subjectivity’ of the notion of truth, relativism, pluralism etc. We are investigating here the last 3.
1. Truth Subjectivity
2. Relativism vs. Pluralism
2.4. tests for truth
1. Truth Subjectivity
Talking about the challenges of our times, Amy Orr-Ewing said ‘By its very nature, the postmodern worldview is difficult to define, and some would resist calling it such. It is an eclectic movement, originating in aesthetics, architecture, and philosophy, that is skeptical of any grounded theoretical perspectives. It rejects the certainties of modernism and approaches art, science, literature, and philosophy with a pessimistic, disillusioned outlook. Questioning the possibility of clear meaning or truth postmodernism is about discontinuity, suspicion of motive and an acceptance of logical incoherence.
The postmodern suspicion of any claim to meaning or truth has a dramatic effect on the status of the word in both written and spoken form. We all remember president Clinton’s now infamous statement “It depends on what the meaning of the word is is.” This statement caused global shockwaves because one of the most powerful men in the world appeared to be questioning the very nature of language. Sadly, this example has not proved to be an aberration, but rather an example of the tendency of our age.
Our contemporaries have developed within a cultural context that suspects authority and rejects any meta-narrative (overarching or transcendent) view of the world, any large scale theory that seeks to make sense of the world. The French philosopher Lyotard argues that postmodernists have ceased to believe that narratives of this kind are useful for understanding reality. Instead, humans have become alert to difference and diversity, so that postmodernism is characterized by a multitude of micro-narratives. Meaning is possible only within a particular context or community, and truth should not be understood as transcending these barriers of diversity.’
Many contemporary philosophers and scholars seem to agree that this absence of absolute truth is the fundamental reason behind some of the biggest issues our world faces nowadays.
Further to the characteristics enounced above, Malcolm Muggeridge, a well known British journalist (who is credited, among others, with popularizing Mother Theresa) added a few other statements that, in his opinion, well describe our times. He said that this century seems to exalt:
- Self over principle
- Quick fix over long haul
- Body over spirit
- Cover-up over confession
- Escapism over confrontation
- Comfort over sacrifice
- Feeling over commitment
- Legality over justice
- Power over meekness
- Anger over forgiveness
- Man over God
Some other contemporary personalities have also characterized this century as following:
- “The theory of rejecting theories.” Tony Cliff
- “It’s the combination of narcissism and nihilism that really defines postmodernism,” Al Gore
- “Postmodernism swims, even wallows, in the fragmentary and the chaotic currents of change as if that is all there is.” – David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989
- “Weird for the sake of weird.” Moe Szyslak, The Simpsons
See more at Relativism vs. Pluralism
(Sources: Wikipedia, ‘Beyond opinion’ Ravi Zacharias)