So, I posted previously on the dangers of postmodern hermeneutics here. I argued that the actions of crazed, violent morons who declare themselves to be “The Islamic State” rationally prohibit their recognition as Muslim. The belief that they are Muslim, or perhaps “Islamists,” stands only by an unreasonable deference to the self-designation of lunatics. A murderous, aggressive, intolerant plague of humanity is, as a matter of objective fact, un-Islamic, regardless of what it considers itself to be. We know that these people cannot be Muslim, for they fight against everything for which the Tanakh, the Gospel, and the Koran stands. It is therefore inaccurate to characterize them as “Islamists” or anything of the sort, as Islam clearly has very little influence over their behavior.
Though the likes of ISIS would deceive mankind into believing that they are Muslims, the texts of Islam are not theirs, and their mindless interpretations hold no weight or authority given their insane irrationality.
And yet, a Princeton scholar is loudly and confidently pronouncing that ISIS has “just as much legitimacy” as any Muslim. In my previous post (linked above), I point out that this is only possible if the role of reason in interpretation is thrown out the window and it is believed, as the scholar asserts, that Islam is merely whatever people who call themselves Muslim believe and do. Rather than granting that religious texts actually possess meaningful content, and therefore holding that the definition of the associated religion depends on an adequately educated, rational interpretation of the relevant religious texts, the position taken by the scholar appears to be that there is no distinction to be made between interpretations, and therefore, all interpretations put forth by those who consider themselves Muslim, regardless of their merits, are to be accepted as equally legitimate. This is, of course, an insane position which requires that the psychopathic whims of violent criminals take as their peer the nuanced, illuminating thought of classical Islamic theology.
So ridiculous is this position, when laid bare, one might wonder how on earth such a strange and twisted pesudo-philosophical position takes hold in American academia. I’m afraid that this is no mere smoke and mirrors trickery taking command of otherwise innocent minds, but it is the end which is sought by those who seek not remediation, but rather justification for their cowardice and mindlessness.
I have for some time been arguing that there is an underlying philosophical current of “emotional relativism” gaining perhaps unprecedented power over the generation of Americans presently rising to adulthood. It is the belief that the truth depends upon one’s subjective emotions/feelings/thoughts or some array of those (and perhaps other, related) psychological qualities. It should be considered separately from pure subjectivism only insofar as I believe the dependence on emotions or “feelings” to be central to the entire movement. But, nonetheless, it stands with subjectivism, virulently opposed to the objectivity on which academia (and every human activity) relies for its power and success.
As I stated above and as I have argued (somewhat clearly on this blog, but largely elsewhere), it seems this emotional relativism drives nearly all of the prominent components of the new far-left movement rampaging through America’s youth. Neo-PC language-policing, for example, is aimed at preventing the use of terms anyone may declare “offensive,” and it seeks entirely to demand obeisance to the almighty feelings of the “victims” of “microaggressions” and what-have-you. The trump card par excellence is the declaration “you can’t tell me my feelings aren’t valid,” or some permutation of this. The movement masquerades as respect for the feelings of others, but once participants are enticed by such commonplace themes, they find themselves swallowed up by an ideology seeking to establish the primacy of one’s emotions over all else.
With “safe spaces,” bizarre accusations of “cultural appropriation,” social media mobs clamoring for the deposition of professors who utter facts without adequate “trigger warnings,” asinine declarations of the ever-expanding category of “microaggressions,” the list is extensive.
Thankfully, here (via the illustrious philosoraptor) are a pair of psychologists who do the unappealing legwork of amassing and categorizing these examples for us. They use in place of “emotional relativism” the term “emotional reasoning” (which may be better than my term) to clearly lay out connections between the Neo-PC, trauma-obsessed “victims” of the far left and typical, well-understood psychological faults which are (again, thankfully) explicitly identified with the basic incapacity or, more likely, unwillingness to think critically and clearly.
As those of religion and philosophy have put forth for thousands of years, wisdom is the path to happiness, and it consists of thinking rationally and clearly in honest pursuit of objective truth. It is refreshing to see a pair of prominent psychologists making clear that cognitive behavioral therapy is perhaps best considered the art of encouraging philosophy’s implementation in the lives of individuals.
Read that article and soak it all in; it’s not flawless, but it is, in my estimation, quite good. The authors link those headline-driving events quite plainly to the logical fallacy or fallacies required for their existence. They explain that it is a disservice to everyone involved to simply accommodate the inability to accept reality. Furthermore, it is quite important to note that the rejection of reality is not in any of these cases an actual solution to the problems driving its proposal as such.
I won’t assert that postmodernism is responsible for causing these problems, of course. I will, however, point out that there is no real wonder why postmodernism has become that to which flock these confused souls. As I wrote in my previous post on hermeneutics and the Infidel State (first link in this post):
Arguments that reality is “socially constructed” or that “interpretation is meaning” run rampant through the academy, their continued support gladly given by intellectual lightweights seeking a playground of incoherence in which everyone’s a winner and none assailable.
This position is particularly alluring to those who seek to make their feelings/emotions/opinions/what-have-you immune to critique. They want to elevate themselves to peer status among all who have feelings/emotions/opinions/what-have-you, regardless of the merits involved. They want to exclude rationality from the scrutiny of their feelings and prevent any shared external check on their actions. If they can accomplish this, they can demand that everyone respect their irrational subjective reactions to the world as authoritative in the same manner that carefully considered, thoroughly examined, and well-developed theories are respected.
In short, the adoption of postmodernism is on the rise because its adherents are suffering from an utter inability or unwillingness to engage the world in the serious manner required to save themselves from their emotional problems. Virtue truly is, I contend, necessary for happiness. Because these poor souls cannot bring themselves, for whatever reason, to exercise the virtue necessary for their own salvation, they seek justification for their present condition and absolution of any wrongdoing on their behalf. Rather than accept that their irrationality is causing their problems, they find safe harbor in a pseudo-philosophical postmodernist foundation for their assertions to the contrary.
By simply adopting the common postmodernist stance in hermeneutics that “interpretation is meaning,” or that in interpretation “one actively invents one’s object” (that’s Foucault, I believe), these folks are able to claim any variety of conclusions they desire. For, to whatever extent these positions make any sense at all, they mean something like: the meaning of a sign (text being the primary, but not only, type of sign being discussed) is determined entirely by the interpreter, without any necessary respect for rationality or information communicated by the sign.
Add to this the common (and alone, somewhat appealing as a metaphor) assertion that “all the world is a text,” and you’ve got yourself a quick two-step argument for total subjectivism (into which emotional relativism and all varieties of subjectivism are easily gathered).
Therefore, for example, the meaning of the Koran is whatever any reader says it is. What is good is what anyone takes to be good. What is wrong is entirely relative to subjective judgement. A statement is offensive if anyone declares that it is. Everything, by virtue of this simple, stupid theory, is now defined by anyone. As they flee from their problems, these people are willing to destroy even the notion that we share an objective reality, independent of our thoughts and beliefs, so that they can revel in incoherence. Nihilism wasn’t enough; subjectivism was the only safe harbor for these fragile snowflakes. Truth must be real; it must simply be defined entirely by their whims.
And that is the greatest danger presented by these emotional relativists; they will band together and seek to destroy those who challenge their feelings. They reject the labor of life for the painless ignorance of mindless intellectual death. In its infancy, the movement has claimed the jobs of professors and politicians, but should it ever reach adulthood, there is no telling who may be brought before the inquisition of the perpetually offended, or what punishments will be deemed appropriate for their alleged oppressors.
We cannot allow that reason, and the obligation to proceed thereby, is chucked aside in pursuit of a coward’s paradise, and this is the ultimate goal of these new far leftists. They are infantilized adults who have not only failed to mature in their understanding and behavior, but who have sought to convince others of an unquestionable righteousness in their failure. They demand not only an unearned respect, but that reality itself bend to their whims and thereby justify their behavior.
I’m glad this article was brought to my attention. It gives me comfort to think that others out there are recognizing this tide of cowardice welling up in this most recent generation, for it does no good to anyone, and it must be stopped.