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