Previously I mentioned having trouble with a certain writing workshop I’m taking this semester. Postmodernism — the idea that everything is subjective, which differs from modernism mainly in that when modernism’s fallacies were pointed out, the Modernists were bothered by the lack of logic and sought to repair it, whereas postmodernism has thrown away reason, and therefore appeals to consistency have no weight — is probably the most prevalent worldview these days, and it comes up everywhere. Some professing Christians are postmodernists.
In my Aesthetics class on Thursday (the teacher of which does believe in absolute, knowable truth), we got into subjectivism. On the second day of class somebody said that art is whatever you think it is: for one person, what looks like a pile of trash is trash, while if another sees in it art, for that other it is art. But the teacher objected to that definition on the grounds that the term “art” would then become meaningless. On Thursday we got around to the topic of beauty. The authour of our book held that beauty is subjective, and as such has nothing to do with art, which is objective. Several people agreed. “But then ‘beauty’ becomes meaningless,” I said. “If we objected to that definition of art because it made ‘art’ meaningless, we have to object to this definition of beauty.” A few of them didn’t agree.
In the class immediately following it, the same writing workshop, we were supposed to critique some poems. However, the teacher said, our first question should not be “what is the point”, because that assumes there’s a right answer. Different people’s interpretations of the same poem were all equally valid.
If one person assumes a poem means one thing, and suggests revisions to bring out that meaning better, and another person thinks it means something else, and suggests changes to show that other meaning more clearly, which one is the authour to change? Well, if the authour doesn’t agree with either interpretation, he just changes the poem to suit himself, right? Oh, but that’s too simple. In that case, other people’s criticism becomes useless.
Yesterday in Philosophy of Religion class the topic was the dilemma of Euthyphro: is an action morally good because God commands it, or does He command it because it is good (according to a standard outside of Him)? Someone who said the second option was better said that mankind makes the standard, and therefore makes morality. I have heard this opinion before, but every time it suggests far too many problems to pick one to start with.
Subjective beauty means the word “beauty” means different things to different people. Two people talking about beauty, therefore, are speaking a different language; they are not communicating. Subjective truth means the word “truth” means whatever you think it means, and even if two definitions contradict, they’re equally true. Subjective good means that it’s not wrong for one person to shoot another, if that one has decided that it would be morally good to kill the other.
What happens is that language becomes meaningless. Communication ceases to exist. By denying that mankind has a rational soul, Postmodernism escapes all authourity: not only of revelation, but of the noble affections and of reason. Even textbooks of English lose their power, and we descend once again to what evolutionists say are our brothers: chattering apes. This is the greatest problem with Postmodernism, and one of the most readily apparent inconsistencies within the worldview: that in order to convert others to their ideas, they must use words which they assume mean the same thing to most people.
The quote, as usual, is from Chesterton. But some among you may be relieved that I resisted temptation to quote him anywhere else.