I'm reading postmodern theory, and it seems to be all allusion and beating around the bush. I'm having a hard time getting at what the foundational ideas are. One thing I have heard is that postmodernism sees science as on 'way of knowing', that is no better or worse than other 'ways of knowing'. I've heard some very educated people say that this is a central tenet of postmodernism, and others say that postmodernism never makes any such claim. How can I know either way? It also occurs to me to ask, 'way of knowing what'? It's one thing to know being fat increases health risks, it's a completely different thing to know murder is bad. If all postmodernism is trying to claim is that there are different arenas of knowledge, with different ways of knowing in each, then isn't that just restating Kant who drew the distinction between 'what is', 'what ought', and 'what's beautiful'?

Any help is appreciated, sources are appreciated the most. Thanks!

Edit in response to suggestions for context and additional information:

I'm reading:

  • Cynical Theories by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay

  • A Primer on Postmodernism by Stanley J. Grenz

  • Philosophy and Theology by John D. Caputo

Next, I'm considering "Feminism is for everybody" by bell hooks. I'm trying to understand the Social Justice Movement, but it seems hard to pin down what anyone believes. Reading the books, it seems like they are saying science is just one 'way of knowing' among many, no better and now worse. Speaking with a self-declared postmodernist, however, she claims no serious postmodern scholar ever made that claim. We went through the book and she showed me how, cast in a certain light, maybe I misinterpreted the books.

  • 1
    "Postmodernism" is a very broad category covering authors with diverging views, so it can not be said to "claim" anything in particular. Postmodernists do broadly endorse validity of pluralistic knowledge claims, and link prevailing scientific knowledge to cultural and social power structures. So your "educated people" may be right or wrong depending on how far the postmodernist they are talking about pushes those points, if they have someone in mind. However, more often than not people talking about postmodernism only have a vaguest idea of what that is taken from pop-parodies.
    – Conifold
    Sep 13, 2020 at 13:23
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    But no, postmodernists (like Feyerabend, Rorty, some feminists) go beyond claiming that different ways of knowing are appropriate in different areas, they challenge trustworthiness/superiority of science even in its traditional areas of study, like physics. Many take it too far, you can look at Lotter's review Postmodernism and our understanding of science for a more academic perspective.
    – Conifold
    Sep 13, 2020 at 13:37
  • 1
    See Science wars Sep 13, 2020 at 13:46
  • see also Alan Sokal's works plus Sokal and Bricmont. Sep 13, 2020 at 16:39
  • 1
    There are some references on the "constructivist view" of science starting on p. 23 of Science Studies: Probing the Dynamics of Scientific Knowledge which is online at pub.uni-bielefeld.de/download/1877535/2900021
    – Hypnosifl
    Sep 13, 2020 at 18:55


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