Response to Response to “Response to Response to Postmodernism Against ‘Postmodernism’”

Hi Kevin,

I think if we keep this conversation going much longer, I’ll have to rethink my article titles. Again, thanks for your response.

On Hicks: I admit I am only familiar with Hicks in the most general way. The postmodern will say that “we needn’t listen to him because he is the ‘authority’… especially given his privilege and power!” But I think this is more an excuse not to have to engage with him. I’m not familiar enough with his work to say whether he’s generally correct, but I think we can at least agree that he’s sufficiently competent to warrant thoughtful responses if one disagrees with him. Generally, I think there are very few postmodern responses to critiques that genuinely engage in the arguments. Whether this is a result of being genuinely postmodern, or is a superficial label for intellectual laziness, I do not know.

On Foucault: I think this was the same point, structurally, that I was making about Derrida’s deconstruction and his far-left political views. Understanding the passage of time and the evolution of thought and belief helps explain these apparent contradictions. I think we are similarly familiar with Foucault — my understanding is largely based on Discipline and Punish and History of Sexuality (probably where I personally find him most interesting) — and I too have seen his thought used in a surprising variety of subject areas. I’m glad to hear that your experience with these oft-criticized areas of study was not quite so ideologically narrow. My own experience in having conversations with people who have degrees in women’s studies, feminist studies, and so on, have been far less egregious than many in the media might have one believe.

On Classical Humanism: I like your distinction between being able to be a student of the Classics and disagree with many of the key arguments, and being a student of some of these new disciplines and not being able to. I also agree with the steel man argument. Dostoyevsky is famous for his real grappling with the alternative views in his novels (indeed, I think Peterson makes quite a note of this in 12 Rules for Life.)

On Perspective: I do not disagree with the idea that one has to be grounded in something. But I think this idea goes much deeper than it might in fact appear. You identify that your perspective is Classical humanist and Pagan. This is a good start, but the problem lies with saying that this provides a “philosophical and metaphysical substructure which can act as both a solid foundation for knowledge-building and a clear lens of analysis.” I think this can be problematic in that, by viewing your own lens as “clear” and as a “solid foundation,” you’re comparing other perspectives to this level of clarity and solidity. However, the value judgments being made on these other perspectives are through your lens of Classical humanism and Paganism. Everybody’s lens is clear to themselves — they’re seeing what they’re seeing. It’s essentially an epistemological issue: each person has their lens, and we can’t understand when others don’t see as “clearly” as we do. But it only that they have a different lens. You may deem their lens to be unclear, but perhaps it is yours that is dirty!

This is not to say that it is impossible to make judgments on different lenses and perspectives. But we have to acknowledge that we have a lens. And before we can make value judgments, we have to understand to the best of our ability the other lens, and perhaps even for a moment, swap them out. Lenses for cameras can be even more expensive than the camera bodies. It can take a lot of work to save up enough to be able to buy a lens that you can swap out. But perhaps if you build a relationship with a fellow photographer, he or she may let you borrow a different lens for a day, just so you may see the world differently. But, to your point that “one does not need to abandon one’s core cultural and metaphysical positions…”, neither does one need to change their entire camera! The body, the film, the mirrors, the framing, is all still the same.

To further this point: the more “foreign” the lens to the body (a Japanese lens on a German camera, for example) actually requires the acquisition of other parts just in order to use the lens! It is so much easier to just use the lens that works on my camera, so I will do so most of the time. Why should I spend all this effort buying this other lens, and also even more equipment simply so I can look through this lens? Indeed, to speak to your “abandonment” idea, it may even be easier to just abandon my German body and buy a Japanese body and lens combined! But it is possible to attach the lens to my body, it just takes a great deal more work.

The “Leftist Angle”: Peterson’s psychological analysis is interesting, but (and he references this somewhat often, but rarely in any depth) I find Jonathan Haidt’s analysis far more helpful. His book The Righteous Mind describes his extensive research on moral psychology and how that plays a role in people’s political decisions. And even beyond that, how it plays a role in people’s ability to “talk across the aisle” so-to-speak. In the most way: liberals prioritize care, whereas conservatives have a more balanced weight for care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity. Understanding the moral foundations of liberals or conservatives helps the conversation. Haidt (a liberal) has fairly good evidence and explanations as to why there are so many liberals in academia, (this explanation is given on Jordan Peterson’s podcast where they “interview” each other.)

On Texts Being Unnecessarily Difficult: I agree that people should both engage with complex ideas, and that we should endeavor to be as clear as possible when writing about complex ideas. However, I think it is tempting to say, “his writing is so complex! His ideas can’t possibly be, so why does he write so?” But I find the ideas of Derrida, for example (perhaps the key “postmodern” philosopher I am most familiar with,) to be intimidatingly complex. Differance, for example, is one of those simple ideas that can be ruminated on for years without feeling one has quite grasped it. I do not think this is due to it being a bad, philosophically-shallow idea. I think it is because it is an ideas worth pursuing, and the ideas worth pursuing are usually the least easy to get to.

The truth is a trap … you cannot get the truth by capturing it, only by its capturing you. — Søren Kierkegaard, Journals.

The truth is a trap … you cannot get the truth by capturing it, only by its capturing you. — Søren Kierkegaard, Journals.