Our New False Gods

Two French theorists have become the gods of postmodernism and radicals have tipped their swords with their poison and the rest of us suffer from the effects of that poison. Most of us have never heard of these two men, and the others, and so are unaware of how they have and are affecting our lives. They are and we’d be wise to understand this because we are lost in confusion of why the confusion in life, not to mention the destruction we see daily in some of our cities. It won’t go away until we stop it and it won’t stop without us knowing what to stomp on. The two men are:

  • Michel Foucault (1926–1984)

  • Jacques Derrida (1930—2004)

Modernism is built around the Age of Reason (the Enlightenment) where basically reasoning was the key to understanding. Modernism was a rebirth of classical Greek thinking, a belief that nature, and by nature all of the cosmos, operated on laws, orderly laws that could be known through mathematics and reasoning. Order is what held everything together keeping chaos from tearing it apart. The three great thinkers that philosophers have been debating ever since they made their mark are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. This was in the 400s to 300s BC. In the 1500s three philosophers who made up the Continual Rationalists, Renes Descartes (French), Gottfried Leibniz (German) and Baruch Spinoza (Dutch of Portuguese ancestry) continued the argument of rational logical thought. In fact, Descartes wrote a pamphlet titled “Rules for the Direction of the Mind.” Under Rule 1 he writes:

“We must note then that there are two ways by which we arrive at the knowledge of facts, viz, by experience and by deduction. The mistakes which men can make are due to faulty inference; they are caused merely by the fact that we found upon a basis of poorly comprehended experiences, or that propositions are posited which are hasty and groundless. . . . Intuition is the undoubting conception of an unclouded and attentive mind, and springs from the light of reason alone; It is more certain than deduction itself.”

Science, which came out of the Enlightenment is based on these basic rational methods:

  • Step 1-Question.

  • Step 2-Research.

  • Step 3-Hypothesis.

  • Step 4-Experiment.

  • Step 5-Observations.

  • Step 6-Results/Conclusion.

Okay, STOP!

Every tool in our toolbox for knowing may in and of itself be pure. The problem is, each tool we use whether reason or intuition or science is used by a human mind, a mind that is flawed at best. We can, and do, pervert every research tool we have either by innocent miscalculation or perverse design. For this reason men came up with a series of logical fallacies (and you can look them up) covering the most typical way logic can be falsely used in an argument for knowledge.

Now, I need to introduce you to the Scottish philosopher David Hume born in 1711 and died the same year America formed as a nation, 1776. His thinking will lay the ground for both Foucault and Derrida. There are two ways of logically drawing a conclusion about what it true: Deductive Logic or reasoning and Inductive Logic or reasoning. Simply put, in deductive reasoning you formulate what is called premises, a series of presuppositions based on both thinking and observation and if you get the premises (or presuppositions) right, from them comes a conclusion that is absolutely true. For instance, if B is the same as A and C is the same as B, then A is the same as C. The syllogism also goes like this:

  • All men are mortal

  • Socrates is a man

  • Therefore Socrates is mortal.

The conclusion is a logical fact. As for inductive reasoning, rather than being based on deductions it is based on experience. If I go outside every day for a week and watch the sun rise my experience tells me that the sun will every day rise because that has been my experience. If five times in a row I throw a ball into the air and it falls back to the ground, my experience tells me if I through it a sixth time it will again fall to the ground. But if experience is our only guide for reasoning someone will pose the thought, maybe tomorrow the sun won’t rise in the morning, or maybe the ball on the sixth throw won’t come back. That’s skepticism, or doubt. David Hume raised the question; Can we know anything for a fact because tomorrow or the next time hasn’t happened and who says it will always be the same? Only experience can tell us, and we haven’t experienced the future, yet. So we can never really know truth. But Hume also understood that you can be skeptical and doubt knowing by asking theoretical questions and posing theoretical outcomes based on not absolutely knowing. If you stay in the processes of your mind, skepticism become nihilism (there can never be a knowing of truth). He did believe that you could have trustworthy truth, while not absolute in an absolute sense, but you could have trustworthy truth based on actual observation.

By the time Foucault and Derrida came to the theoretical table they had adopted Hume’s idea of skepticism, living in their minds never venturing outside. They were going to blow-up the rational world of modernism for the irrational world of postmodernism.

Next time we’ll get to these two false gods.