Philosophical postmodernism: self-defeating cynical theories

This page authored & maintained by Luc Beaudoin.

Beacon’s Sept 26, 2021 humanist meeting will deal with philosophical “postmodernism”. I will present and as always there will be a moderated group discussion.

Using cognitive science and the book, Cynical Theories we will take up Daniel Dennett’s claim that “what the postmodernists did was truly evil. They are responsible for the intellectual fad that made it respectable to be cynical about truth and facts.”

Outline of my presentation

  • Dan Dennett, Carl Bereiter, Stephen Pinker, Noam Chomsky, E.O. Wilson, Steve Weinberg and too many other leading scientists and philosophers to list here realized that philosophical postmodernism is an intellectual travesty. I will provide a few quotes including this pithy understatement:

Scientists, being held responsible for what they say, have not found postmodernism useful.
E.O. Wilson

  • Reminder regarding hard-earned progress: humanism, unitarianism, science, and rigorous philosophy
  1. Amsterdam declaration
  2. Premises of science and philosophy
  • Philosophical postmodernism per Cynical Theories and related works:
  • — 2 principles and 4 themes of postmodernism ( Cynical Theories)
  • — key features, concepts and other propositions postmodernism
  • Science and reality are not texts (Popper’s 3-world ontology will do)
  • Why this matters
  • Non-dogmatic alternative to postmodernism
  • Knowledge-building discussions

Main readings

The meeting will focus mainly on postmodernism as defined in Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody by Helen Pluckrose & James A. Lindsay and in relation to the ancillary readings below, particularly:

We will consider in particular the two principles and four themes (or postulates) discussed by Pluckrose and Lindsay. The question is not whether the principles and postulates are an adequate description of postmodernism, but the implications of the principles and postulates. I will also contrast postmodernism with cognitive science and general philosophy of science (Popper, Lakatos etc). The consequences of postmodernism are not “purely academic”; infecting academia undermines academia; philosophy matters; these bad philosophical ideas, and shoddy thinking, have real world consequences.

Ancillary Readings

See also my blog post earlier this year: Courage, Heroes and Culture .

Reviews of Cynical Theories

Also recommended

Fellow humanists have also recommended:

  • Rauch, Jonathan The Constitution of Knowledge: A Defense of Truth for this conversation, also.
  • Recent articles in The Economist which deal mostly with social activism trends whose foundations have been argued to lie partly in postmodernism thought as specified in CT and related publications.

Moderation of meeting

After my presentation, as always there will be a moderated discussion. For a change, we will use the Six Thinking Hats method.