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.
- Reminder regarding hard-earned progress: humanism, unitarianism, science, and rigorous philosophy
- Amsterdam declaration
- 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
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.
- Amsterdam Humanist Declaration. ” Humanism advocates the application of the methods of science and free inquiry to the problems of human welfare. But Humanists also believe that the application of science and technology must be tempered by human values. Science gives us the means but human values must propose the ends.”
Beaudoin, L. P. (2014-2018) Cognitive Productivity: Using Knowledge to Become Profoundly Effective; and Cognitive Productivity with macOS: 7 Principles for Getting Smarter with Knowledge. See the discussions of objective knowledge and postmodernism. And: the chapters on leading oneself with knowledge; assessing knowledge resources (“assess analytically”) and on applying knowledge.
- Bereiter, C. (2002). Education and Mind in the Knowledge Age.
- Chomsky, Noam on Post-Modernism (Full text free).
- Dennett, D. C. (2000) Postmodernism and Truth – Daniel C. Dennett – The Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy (Philosophy Documentation Center).
- Lilienfeld, 2017 Microaggressions: Strong claims, inadequate evidence
- Mitchell, K. J. (2018) Innate: How the Wiring of Our Brains Shapes Who We Are. Princeton University Press. (Explanation/grounding of human nature being largely innate. You can read this as an update to Stephen Pinker’s Blank Slate.)
- Multiple authors. 2020-07-07 . A Letter on Justice and Open Debate | Harper’s Magazine
- Pigliucci, M. Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk
- Popper, K. (1972). Objective Knowledge.
- Sokal, D. & Bricmont, J. Fashionable nonsense : postmodern intellectuals’ abuse of science. Compare the Wikipedia entry on the book.
- Stanovich, K. E. (2009). What intelligence tests miss: The psychology of rational thought. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
- Shrier, A. (2020) Irreversible Damage
- to be announced.
See also my blog post earlier this year: Courage, Heroes and Culture .
Reviews of Cynical Theories
- The Truth According to Social Justice—A Review of ‘Cynical Theories’
- In Defense of Liberalism (Review of “Cynical Theories”) | by Mark Alexis | Curious | Medium
- Postmodernism Unbound? Review of Cynical Theories by Helen Pluckrose | by Oliver Traldi | Arc Digital | Medium
- The Cynical Theorists Behind Cynical Theories – Liberal Currents.
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.