Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Postmodern Distrust of Reason

Postmodernists like to use the well-known illustration of blind men describing an elephant to show that reason has a fatal weakness. Each man felt only part of the elephant and concluded that the entire elephant felt like their limited sample. But the failure of the blind men was not a failure of reason; it was a failure of reasoning. The men applied reason poorly and got poor results. But reason is not discredited by poor usage any more than Beethoven’s music is discredited by poor performances.

But let’s go a step further and say that every blind man felt the elephant’s side and each had such strong preconditioned biases that the reports varied wildly. One said it felt like a stone wall, another like the bark of a tree, and yet another like peanut butter. Although none of these highly subjective reports would help anyone understand the truth about an elephant, none would affect the true reality of the animal. The elephant would exist objectively with textures and features that retained their specific character regardless of all reports to the contrary.

Truth exists objectively even if no one apprehends it accurately. Denying or ignoring this fact is at the core of the postmodern error.

1 comment:

David Porter said...


I enjoyed your thoughts on this subject. So much, in fact, that I wrote a little piece myself contemplating this.

Here is the link: