Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Postmodern Flashbacks

Jacques Derrida's death has unleashed a lot of commentary on the web and it is giving me the same headaches it did when I was an undergraduate at Simon Fraser University in the early 1990s. I offer the following links... From Englishman Roger Scruton, an article published by City Journal in 1999:
If you study the opinions that prevail in modern academies, you will discover that they are of two kinds: those that emerge from the constant questioning of traditional values, and those that emerge from the attempt to prevent any questioning of the liberal alternatives. All of the following beliefs are effectively forbidden on the normal American campus: (1) The belief in the superiority of Western culture; (2) The belief that there might be morally relevant distinctions between sexes, cultures, and religions; (3) The belief in good taste, whether in literature, music, art, friendship, or behavior; and (4) The belief in traditional sexual mores. You can entertain those beliefs, but it is dangerous to confess to them, still more dangerous to defend them, lest you be held guilty of "hate speech"—in other words, of judging some group of human beings adversely. Yet the hostility to these beliefs is not founded on reason and is never subjected to rational justification. The postmodern university has not defeated reason but replaced it with a new kind of faith—a faith without authority and without transcendence, a faith all the more tenacious in that it does not recognize itself as such.
Scruton also provides the following gem:
... you will find that almost all those who espouse the relativistic "methods" that Foucault, Derrida, and Rorty have introduced into the humanities are vehement adherents of a code of political correctness that condemns deviation in absolute and intransigent terms. The relativistic theory exists in order to support an absolutist doctrine.
Indeed. That sums up my university experience quite well. Scruton is a fine conservative, by the way, and I'd recommend his book The Meaning of Conservativism to anyone interesting really kicking the subject around. I found the Scruton article by way of John Ray's examination of Post Modernism.

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