There is a lot of hate for postmodernism on YouTube. Is this hate justified? Or is it just becuase postmodernism makes people uncomfortable. I guess what I am asking is "does postmodernism have any powerful critiques against it?"

  • 4
    You could try the wikipedia page for critiques of postmodernism to start. From what I've seen, most of the time that postmodernism comes up in recent discussion, it comes up in the context of stuff like feminism (Jordan Peterson loves throwing the word around, along with "Marxists"). The reason he (I think incorrectly) uses the term is because postmodernism is often associated with a rejection that truth is objective. That is probably the biggest critique of it, that it itself takes pride in asserting the subjectivity of truth. – Not_Here Jul 12 '17 at 1:36
  • 4
    It's also important to know that the word means different things in different contexts. There's philosophical postmodernism and there's literary postmodernism, for example. You can read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article on postmodernism here. – Not_Here Jul 12 '17 at 1:41
  • I suspect this may be better addressed in the context of an American political/cultural debate. I don't mean that to be dismissive. It could be treated philosophically, but it might clear up the matter more quickly to distinguish, at least crudely, from the philosophical sense. And then to see if that was the one, after all, that was wanted. The word often has a simple connection to cultural relativism and so-called multiculturalism, Left-leaning politics. It's connected to deeper issues, but one may not mean anything but the political sense. – user26700 Jul 12 '17 at 19:25
  • 1
    @Dwarf except that relativism is embraced increasingly by the right in the US - like KellyAnne Conway's "alternative facts" or Newt Gingrich's assertion that what mattered wasn't that violent crime rates had dropped but that people felt like they were rising even if the statistics said otherwise. – Alexander S King Jul 12 '17 at 21:09
  • That's true, you are right. I avered that in my comment bellow, on Scalia. Everyone is nihilistic these days, as Heidegger long ago said. We live in the End of Metaphysics. Though, I would say, multicultarilism actively advertises this 'relativism', though with its own deceptions and double talk, while Right conceals it, and disavows it. Think of Lyotard, form which the term largely stems. Surely a thinker of the Left! I believe we are coming close to another Weimar, which was the freest moment in human history hither to. When all this becomes generally visible. – user26700 Jul 12 '17 at 21:17

Here are three reasons (there may be more):

  • The Analytic/Continental divide (some might say feud - see here for example): At the beginning of the 20th Century, two schools (or more accurately, two opposing styles) of writing in philosophy emerged: The Analytic style which was popular mostly in English speaking countries, and the Continental style, which consisted mostly of French and German philosophers. Postmodernism fell under the Continental style, and hence was often ridiculed by English speaking academics and students. A famous confrontation within this overall feud was the Searle/Derrida dispute.
  • The Science Wars: Postmodernism was associated with the strong programme whose adherents held that science is a social construct, i.e. scientific truth is determined by sociological and cultural considerations, in the same way that political systems or religious beliefs are. Obviously this didn't sit well with many scientists or scientifically-inclined philosophers, who opposed and ridiculed the strong programme and postmodernism in general. See the the Sokal affair.
  • Postmodernist philosophers are notorious for writing in a difficult to read, idiosyncratic style, and are frequently accused of deliberate obscurantism. See this post and answers within.

Additional, unsourced reason: Postmodernism is associated with the left, especially the radical left. So it gets a lot of hate from right wingers.

| improve this answer | |
  • 4
    A further question is what anyone means by postmodernism. It is often a synonym for "relativism" in many critiques that lambast it. – virmaior Jul 12 '17 at 3:54
  • 1
    @virmaior Although postmodernism has become identified with deconstructionists such as Derrida, postmodernism is essentially those philosophical schools that arose in the postmodern era. The Postmodern era started when the Russian and American armies met in Berlin. First time in history that non-European armies controlled all of Europe. The prior era was the age of modernity that started with the Renaissance. – Swami Vishwananda Jul 12 '17 at 5:51
  • 3
    @SwamiVishwananda that's an interesting but highly debatable definition of postmodernism. Sources? – virmaior Jul 12 '17 at 7:40
  • @SwarmiVishwananda I think you're putting the cart before the horse there. Post-modernism, along with many expressionistic art styles like the Dadist film movement, arose out of a belief that a society the could allow the carnage of 2 world wars had no intrinsic value. The post-modern era starts when it does because that is the origin of post-modernistic though, not the other way around. – JonS Jul 12 '17 at 9:46
  • 2
    It seems that postmodernists disguise as Left (with themes like diversity, etc), but are actually favoring the Right. Why? When they attack modern science, they are attacking the only force strong enough to counterbalance organized monotheism. They are defending the same obscurantism that made organized monotheism thrive. Also, when they say "each one has its own truth", they are dividing people, and this is good to who's in power now. "Unity makes strength" is a Left motto, and postmodernism goes straight against it. Chomsky's critics are in that line, and Chomsky is anything but rightist. – Rodrigo Jul 31 '17 at 0:25

I'll try to offer a brief sketch that moves from what I take to be "overarching" (more inclusive) complaints to more specific ones. Please keep in mind that I am, personally, very dissatisfied by most of Postmodern thought; I'm not trying to hide that fact or pretend to distance myself from judgment.

Postmodernism, at its most basic level, is a critique of Modernism. This critique is motivated by a dissatisfaction with philosophical Liberalism, which amounts to a distaste for capitalism and an appreciation of individualism, among other things. It's obvious that people who consider these "Enlightenment values" to be good (useful, respectable, fair, successful) will already, at this relatively nascent stage, be suspicious of Postmodernism. This suspicion is not unique to "right-wingers" or what the average American calls "Republicans" because this critique flows from Classical Liberals, Libertarians, many Democrats and everyone who is opposed to most of contemporary Progressivism.

Related to this is the Postmodernist's attitude toward science and rationality. Social constructivism, a distaste for "totalizing statements", and skepticism about objectivity, indifference, and progress are very important features here. To be frank, I think a lot of this stems from misunderstanding what these terms mean and what role they play in scientific investigations. "Objectivity" is parsed as "unchanging, universal truths", "indifference" is considered an anti-human (or life-negating) emotion, "individualism" is thought to be identical to selfishness and opposed to solidarity, and rationality is seen as an oppressive tool of the patriarchy. To be fair, I really do think that the concept of objectivity is horribly inflated and mis-used by scientists and lay people, but there are alternatives! We can all be fallibilists about knowledge (even the kind that arises out of empirical and formal efforts) without being skeptical about science and rationality.

Another feature is relativism and subjectivism. This is related to constructivism and probably stems from it. Moral judgments are relative to cultural practices and reality itself is sometimes considered as having no residue of perception-independent stuff. Gender fluidity might not be related but the attitude is similar: since gender is a social construct, we can find ourselves anywhere along a spectrum. However, there are alternatives here as well: instead of becoming relativists, we can become fictionalists about morality and gender. As I mentioned earlier, many of these attitudes are the result of misunderstandings ... ones that might possibly arise as a result of not exploring the intellectual landscape very thoroughly.

Please don't take this as a complete critique of Postmodernism. I can't clarify all of my attitudes and arguments here, and it's obvious that adherents will categorize these things differently.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    One can take this back somewhat further to Hegel, and show the failure of Progress to reach a definitive formula. One way of doing things in political life as the result of completing the teleology of Nature. When that fails, the praise of radical diversity comes in, radiant enjoyment of difference as such. The dark side of radical openness is sheer license. – user26700 Jul 12 '17 at 19:42
  • 1
    ""individualism" is thought to be identical to selfishness and opposed to solidarity" I think one can say Liberalism is still pursued by the radicalism of post-modernism. The claim is that Liberalism has stagnated. But, Communism (rather than autocratic Socialism) and anarchism are the logical result of increased individualism, i..e, withering of the state. Individualism can refer to civil rights, 'the people' over the 'power vertical', the 'evil' State or Government. Ambiguity in usage of "Individual". – user26700 Jul 12 '17 at 19:54

Yes there are excellent critiques -- if you can get a postmodernist to listen. The postmoderist is a little narcissistic and will see you as just a narrative purveyor looking for power.

But consider, if there is no "final" truth, then why do we agree on what time it is? Why should I believe that you exist and aren't just a robot trying to get human rights (and as such I can "shut you off" as an act of freedom)? Why should I move a finger when the ICBMs are heading our way? There is no answer in postmoderism.

The postmoderist lets the child scream their "story" to the street, so that she can go get her latte and continue her quite thoroughly modernist lifestyle. It is the religion for the bourgeoisie, because not everyone has the luxury of negotiating thier truths. Perhaps because they don't have the luxuries of Western education, or perhaps because they don't even have a voice any more at all. Think on that.

They are hypocrites and every pomo I've met has been in a delusional psychosis who would let value far beyond what they've contributed to the world die for the sake of feeling superior or at the very least smug that they've wrapped all of the concerns of humanity about truth into a neat little box called:


They're exactly like American Christians -- who believe in the Ten Commandments and then go off supporting massive military operations. Pomos are the same, they live a lie of modernism.

| improve this answer | |
  • 6
    There are hypocrites everywhere, and you are rolling up a lot of nonsense into postmodernism. The idea that truth is negotiated does not mean those negotiations can be just walked away from because you don't approve of thinking. That is not postmodernism, it is just perpetual immaturity. – user9166 Jul 13 '17 at 21:30
  • That's not called postmodernism, that's called rationalism. Because eventually a human has two choices about reality: psychosis (disconnect from it) or something like somatic rationalism (you evaluate your feelings while forming objective conclusions about it all). – TheDoctor May 6 at 2:09

I think a lot of this "hate" could arise from an intuition about the fundamental incongruity of saying there is no such thing as justified true belief, and ascribing any truth value to that judgement. Perhaps the "hate" is motivated by a kind of will to show that if that is what postmodernism purports to say, and also say about itself, that it is true, then it is fundamentally dissatisfying to someone if what they care about is finding out what is true. Postmodernism could appear to make a mockery of all pursuit of truth, through problematising the term "truth" as its kind of reason for being (at least, that is how it could appear).

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    In this sense it is used depreciativly as a synonym for nihilism. & for"sinister" political activities. Especially in Rightest critiques of the Left. & even the Rightests tacitly undermine this, e.g., the right-left spectrum doesn't maintain itself. It devalues... In fact, rightest methods are just as nihilistic, or post-modern, Justice Scalia was a good figure showing that, ostensibly maintaining old traditions, in the pretense of Originalism, which is actually a a radical undermining of the legal tradition in the form of a legal philosophy (in a register that didn't exist in former times). – user26700 Jul 12 '17 at 19:38

The severe lack of epistemology in postmodernism as a school of thought is troublesome, to say the least--topple that with the added layer of obscurantism and it makes it nearly impossible to criticize as a philosophy and movement.

| improve this answer | |
  • I give it and it`s adherents a pretty good excoriating. See my answer. – TheDoctor Jul 31 '17 at 3:42

See my review of S. Hicks critique of postmodernism. Links in article to book. Here: https://ruminations.blog/2017/07/08/review-hicks-postmodernism/

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Hello and welcome to Philosophy.SE! Do you think you can expand your answer so as to provide more information instead of being a "click here" type of answer? As it stands it seems more like a promotional post for your blog. – Not_Here Aug 3 '17 at 2:38
  • Well I appreciate it Matthew – Scott Simmons Aug 3 '17 at 7:00

It seems that postmodernists disguise as Left (with themes like diversity, etc), but are actually favoring the Right. Why? When they attack modern science (examples here, here, here and here), they are attacking the only force strong enough to counterbalance organized monotheism. They are defending the same obscurantism (be almost impossible to read and understand seems to be a rule - examples here, here and here) that made organized monotheism thrive. Also, when they say "each one has its own truth" (examples here, here, here and here), they are dividing people, and this is good to who's in power now. "Unity makes strength" is a Left motto, and postmodernism goes straight against it. Chomsky's critics are in that line, and Chomsky is anything but rightist.

Now, if many critics come from the Right political wing, then they are 1) part of the plot, or 2) equally fooled.


@Not_Here asked for references, so here is the first. The core of Noam Chomsky's critic against what is called Postmodernism:

I've dipped into what they write out of curiosity, but not very far, for reasons already mentioned: what I find is extremely pretentious, but on examination, a lot of it is simply illiterate, based on extraordinary misreading of texts that I know well (sometimes, that I have written), argument that is appalling in its casual lack of elementary self-criticism, lots of statements that are trivial (though dressed up in complicated verbiage) or false; and a good deal of plain gibberish.

And I almost forgot, the clearest critique of all:

enter image description here

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    Do you think you can find any sources that you can cite or quotes you can use to help express your point? As it stands this answer is just you asserting your opinion declaratively. – Not_Here Aug 1 '17 at 8:14
  • @Not_Here Thank you. Which ones do you think need reference: they attack "modern science", they're almost impossible to read and understand, they say "each one has its own truth"? I'll find the reference for Chomsky critic, while I wait for your answer. – Rodrigo Aug 1 '17 at 13:03
  • @Not_Here Do you really think any of the above asks for references? To me they're plain obvious to anyone who had even a small contact with Postmodernism. I'd appreciate if you could answer, since you bothered to comment in the first place. – Rodrigo Aug 18 '17 at 3:11
  • 1
    The best way to answer questions on this site is to provide sources for the claims you're making, "to me they're plainly obviously..." That doesn't matter because people will find this question who are not familiar with postmodernism, the point is to provide a well written and as close to objective answer as possible, not to assume the person already understands what you're saying so they blindly trust your opinion. And no, there's no need to answer a question that already has a high voted accepted answer. And to that point, Alexander has tons of references in his answer. – Not_Here Aug 18 '17 at 5:40
  • @Not_Here You too like to play the blind? Alexander really seems to believe that "Postmodernism is associated with the left". I'm giving material to think the contrary is actually how it all started. If this is useless, maybe that's really because you're not here to think. – Rodrigo Aug 19 '17 at 4:02

I can't really speak for its philosophy at all, though it is often feminist, or relativistic, etc.. Postmodern art, post conceptual art, can at least appear to be lazy and tasteless, especially in its desire to shock or surprise.

In literature there are many definitions of it, which doesn't get us very far in saying why people dislike it. So e.g. Calinescu says it's difficult to distinguish it from popular culture, because post modernists want public acclaim. This sort of thing gets talked up especially by Marxists. So Eagleton thinks that the movement claims or appears to have abolished all alienation in one stroke, closing us off from realising quite how bad things are.

I do really like some writers who are broadly speaking postmodern, but this status is usually contested either by themselves or the critics.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.