The late, and formidable, Sir Roger Scruton when tackling the post-modern downgrade of truth to interpretation filtered through subjective emotion, insinuated that the late 20th Century theory, now popular amongst 21st century academe and Western culture, created a liar’s paradise.
He was right. Post-modern society has no real base justification for its own existence.
Its theology is confused, and syncretistic, producing an uncertain ethic that elevates niceness to heaven entry righteousness, and prides itself on a hypocritical version of tolerance as high enlightenment, while ignoring the high cost of its double standards.
Post-modern ethics, and the society embracing it, is a ship slowly sinking, and few seem aware, or are awake enough to care.
Most people poisoned by post-modern extremes aren’t able identify a hole in the hull, from a shadow in the water.
Whether the ship is sinking or not, is just a matter of your truth versus mine.
For the docile, the rising water devouring the ship could be the result of an increase in the tide, (or for the more conditioned), proof of “apocalyptic climate change”, not the ship’s structural integrity having been compromised.
Such is the nature of post-modern thought. It dismisses evidence-based argument as a fight, and reduces truth to nothingness.
It conditions and sedates, as much as paralyses, fact-based responsible action.
Scruton quipped that the post-modern plausibility structure’s fatal flaw was that any ‘writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him.’
So, Scruton said, ‘don’t.’ [i]
When philosophers reject the ‘goal of truth’ – like Nietzsche and Foucault – they are arguing for the acceptance of falsehoods as truth.
The assumption makes facts pliable; open to interpretation. Thus, the goal of truth is unreachable because truth is merely a plurality of competing perspectives.
The ‘gap between truth and falsehood’ shrinks to the point where neither are distinguishable. The distinction between fantasy and fact is so blurred that skewing fantasy as fact is inevitable.
For example, “the ship isn’t sinking, it’s just your imagination.” Push for further enquiry and you’re bound to be called a “conspiracy theorist,” “fear-mongerer”, or “climate denier!”
Self-destruction and avoidable tragedy aren’t thwarted, they’re embraced.
Harmful and blasphemous lies run free.
The post-modern devaluing of truth injects into society a toxin that C.S. Lewis described as the ‘poison of subjectivism.’
Where Lewis might have applauded the openness of post-modernism to God’s objective Word spoken in time and space as “true myth”, Lewis would reject post-modern praxis as ‘false philosophy.’
Evidence based value judgements, once viewed as ‘rational’ are now dismissed as ‘sentiments, complexes, or attitudes’ produced by a person’s environment, and community traditions.
Good and evil are determined by “feelings.”
Through the subjectivism [let’s call this the navel gazing of Post-moderns], comes (according to Lewis) ‘the disease that will certainly end our species (and in my view, damn our souls) if it is not crushed; the fatal superstition that men can create values, that a community can choose its ideology as men choose their clothes.’
He would add that men and women are confronted by truth, contra to post-modernism’s false claim that men and women create truth.
‘Everyone is indignant’, he says, ‘when they hear the German’s define justice as that which is to the interest of the Third Reich. But it is not always remembered that this indignation is perfectly groundless if we ourselves regard morality as a subjective sentiment to be altered at will.’ [ii]
‘Unless there is some objective standard of good, over-arching Germans, Japanese and ourselves alike whether any of us obey it or no, then of course the German’s are as competent to create their ideology as we are to create ours. Unless the measuring rod is independent of the things measured, we can do no measuring.’ [ibid]
Post-modern society is a tyrant’s paradise.
If truth is a construct, truth is (the Orwellian) “whatever the State says it is.”
If, for example, love can be shaped in man’s image, and has no objective grounding, there’s no solid ground on which to dispute the perverted “love” the tyrant has for owning slaves.
If “love is love” and “truth is whatever someone feels it is” then the hands of good men will be bound, and held back from opposing evil, through laws that call it unloving, and intolerant to do so.
This disarming of the responsible strong man, by the tyrannical, weak man, stops the strong man from living out his responsibilities towards others.
Post-modernism’s post-Christian vices and obsessions taint all it comes into contact with. Those who are detached from objective truth don’t connect well with reality.
Christians, and conservatives alike, have to recognise this, and understand how standing on objective truth, undoes the often, false and manipulative messages of the radical Left.
A failure to recognise this will mean stepping on landmine after landmine, with Christians and conservatives shooting themselves in the foot with the gun the Left hands to them on daily basis.
Culture is won through action, empathy and a willingness to engage.
For Conservatives and Christians to deliver an affective, and attractive counter-culture alternative, nothing less than a full commitment to objective truth, expressed through pathos, logos and ethos will do.
Summed up in Lauren Southern’s admonition of Conservatives,
“Facts don’t care about your feelings, but facts don’t care about anything we do. If we don’t start to acknowledge the fact that humans care about feelings at least as much as we care about facts, we may end up faced with a dystopian hell where power cares neither about your feelings nor your facts.”
The Culture War forced onto the West by an unrelenting belligerent Leftist jihadism, isn’t an emotionless spectator sport. Southern is right.
There are real people in need of hearing objective truth, but are failing to hear it because the approach is compromised by joyless tedium.
Too many who profit from being outraged at the Left, don’t want to be an effective answer to the Left. The status-quo of back-and-forth spite, pads their bottom line.
God is displaced, and with His displacement, so goes objective truth.
Subjectivism is poison. That is the target. Post-modernism is the context.
The battle ground isn’t Left vs. Right, Black vs. White, it’s truth vs. falsehood.
Post-modernism is a liar’s paradise.
So said Nietzsche, ‘when fighting the dragon take heed, lest you become the dragon.’
Conservatives need to stop playing by the Left’s vicious, lifeless rules, allowing themselves to be lampooned as tribal, irrelevant, bitter old cronies, spitting venom from the sidelines.
An attitude adjustment is in order. An affective opposition, is an effective alternative.
As Southern’s return to the public forum has exemplified:
Love your enemy. (Matthew 5:44) Speak truth in love (Eph.4:5). Be above reproach (Titus 1:6-7; 1 Tim.3:2-3).
[i] Scruton, R. 1994. Modern Philosophy Bloomsbury Publishing. (p. 6).
[ii] Lewis, C.S. The Poison of Subjectivism, Christian Reflections, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (pp.90-91)
[iii] Scruton, R. 2014. How To Be a Conservative, (p.83)
First published on Caldron Pool, 2nd March, 2021.
©Rod Lampard, 2021.