Friday, August 23, 2002

[Boy, I *was* tired this morning. I accidentally posted this on Radio Free HMS!]

Why I don't totally hate post-modernism

CS Lewis often wrote how much easier it was to convert a pagan than a nominal but lapsed Christian. Well, I agree, and that's why I don't totally hate post-modernism. (Since I'm tired and have made 14 typos already this morning, I will call it PM from here on out, though I normally I abhor the practice of "initializing.")

Yes, of course it is evil, denying as it does not only particular truth, but the power of truth itself. It denies that there is Truth, and, when it feels compelled to speak a truth, it does so with ironic distance, always attributing it to some interesting but erroneous character or author. I also know I'm being lazy and lumping in a lot of seemingly distinct schools of thought into the general title of PM. Logical Positivism, Structuralism, even to some extent Marxism. But they all share this common dependence on and contempt for history. They all believe in the power of the intellect to overthrow the ideologies of the past.

And PM is the worst, because it uses the power of the intellect to deny its power to do any of these things. And that's why I don't totally hate it. It is self-negating.

The danger in it, of course, lies in the famous Chesterton line that a man who believes in nothing will believe in anything. But that's also the opportunity. An honest postmodernist can only forestall the inevitable, not prevent it. At some point he must come to examine his philosophy that says "there is no truth but I will it so" and declare that truth, too, null and void. And when he does, he will hopefully find a Christian or a Jew standing nearby to rush into the vaccum in his heart.

Bazarov, the protagonist of Turgenev's "Fathers and Sons," is a nihilist doctor in Russia in the mid 19th Century. He and his companion run around blithely denying everything, having fun drinking and arguing with the friend's uncle. Until Lady Odintsova arrives, and then Bazarov falls in love. Even as he struggles to deny the feelings, and declare them mere chemical reactions in his brain of no true meaning, he is overcome by the power and reality of this emotion. Sadly, because he is surrounded by nihilists and those who profess belief but do not possess it, he is overcome. He dies of a probable suicide, deliberately exposing himself to cholera to treat a patient.

It is our job to find the PMs and befriend them, so that when the crisis comes, we are there to help them.


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