“Richard Rorty further defines his teaching goal as enticing students to read Darwin and Freud ‘without disgust and incredulity’ and to ‘arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalist [i.e., Christian students] will leave college with views more like our own.’” David A. Noebel, Understanding The Times: The Collision of Today’s Competing Worldviews, p. 4
“Rather, I think these [Christian] students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft [teaching] of people like me [Rorty], and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents.” Ibid
“What united all these seemingly disparate philosophers and movements is that they were all, according to [Professor Stephen] Hicks, left-wing (usually Trotskyist/communist/Maoist, etc.).” Paul Austin Murphy
Paul Austin Murphy, “Postmodernism is Leftism,” American Thinker, April 8, 2017
Professor Stephen Hicks’ book, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (2011), is used as a springboard in this piece. In other words, this ain’t a book review.
Hicks uses the term “postmodernism” throughout his publication; though he’s well aware that many of the philosophers and movements he refers to aren’t ordinarily classed as postmodernist. That means that ‘postmodernism’ is indeed a catch-all term which is used primarily for convenience’s sake. Despite that, all the movements and philosophers referred to are postmodernist in a literal sense; even though they aren’t seen as being postmodernist in the strictly philosophical sense. More importantly, what united all these seemingly disparate philosophers and movements is that they were all, according to Hicks, left-wing (usually Trotskyist/communist/Maoist/etc.).
In terms of autobiography, Stephen Hicks is a very rare animal indeed: he’s a right-wing professor at an American university. He teaches at Rockford University; where he also directs the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship.
When Socialism was Discovered to be Dead or Dying
Professor Stephen Hicks’s central thesis on postmodernist intellectuals is that they recognised that socialism was dead or dying (in the late 1960s,1970s, and 1980s) and thus decided to do something about it. What did they do? They developed their own distinctive “sceptical” (yet still left-wing!) philosophies. In 1974, for example, Herbert Marcuse was asked whether he thought the New Left was dead. Hicks quotes Marcuse as replying: “’I don’t think it’s dead, and it will resurrect in the universities.’”
He was dead right about that!
Of course, we can ask Hicks if it really were that simple. Was it really all about revivifying socialism/communism or were there (at least some) other factors involved? Nonetheless, that project might have been in the unconscious minds of these thinkers. Perhaps their upbringings in the theology of socialism left an indelible mark on their psyches; as religious upbringings tend to do.
Philosophy Serves Politics
It can be said that sceptical epistemology, deconstruction, etc. are all means to achieve the political ends which can’t be sustained by truth, evidence and argumentation. Thus, if all this is taken as given (as true!), then one’s “readings” and epistemologies give one free reign to believe what’s required in order to further a political agenda/goal.
If we can be more specific about what postmodernists believe (even if in very broad terms), we can cite the following. Take logic. It’s artificial, serves power and is anti-human (Heidegger, Levinas, etc.). Science is theory-laden and “underdetermined by the evidence” (as often said in the philosophy of science). Truth is a “tool of power” (Foucault) and is specific to different “language games” (Wittgenstein, etc.) or “phrase regimes” (Lyotard).
Thus, if, as Fredric Jameson put it (as quoted by Hicks), “all life is political” (therefore all philosophy is also political), then one political tool (if in the guise of philosophy) will be rhetoric (“literature”, in Derrida’s case). That means that if no “discourse” reveals the truth (or even attempts to do so, in postmodernism’s case), then why not bite the bullet and indulge in an even purer more extreme (philosophical) rhetoric — even if in a poetic and/or pretentious guise?
Thus, as Hicks puts it, “regular deployments of ad hominem, the setting up of straw men, and the regular attempts to silence opposing voices” aren’t only legitimate, they’re to be encouraged (at least if you’re on the same side). Hicks cites the example of Stanley Fish who “calls all opponents of racial preferences bigots and lumps them in with the Ku Klux Klan”. He also cites the radical feminist Andrea Dworkin. She “calls all heterosexual males rapists and repeatedly labels ‘Amerika‛ a fascist state”. (So too does Chomsky!) All this, therefore, is simply a variant on the many Leftists who suffer from Tourette’s syndrome when they repeatedly and uncontrollably shout “racist”, “bigot”, “xenophobe”, “Nazi”, etc. at literally anyone who dares to opposes them.
But Why Leftism? Continue reading