Monday, March 16, 2009

Imported Post: Absolute Truth

Originally posted: Saturday, February 21, 2009

I've been working on an idea for a novel, and have been casting a wide net. Recently Post Modernism got caught in the mesh and I took a look. While I've written about relativism before, it again gave me pause. Post Modernism can be defined as that school of thought that came after 'modernism.' Well, that's self-evident. Specifically it is a branch of philosophy that holds there are no absolute truths--we are stories without authors--everything must be approached with skepticism.

From there we get moral relativism, I would guess.

Well it makes me damn bilious. While I find the far right wing completely bankrupt intellectually and ethically, I find the far left wing completely bankrupt morally. This sounds like just the ticket for far left wing professors who want to stick it to the establishment, by questioning its most cherished traditional values.

What I don't understand about the school of thought, and I'm completely eager to be taught, is when does the skepticism and the questioning stop? When do you get an answer?

And when do you accept truth as being a priori? I think it's a-priori that murder is wrong. I would object to murder on ethical and moral grounds because if Decartes is right, and my capacity to think defines my humanity, then my murder would deprive me of my ability to think, and by extension, my being.

By questioning absolute truths, see, I think that most people in academe would want to limit that to traditional truths. They wouldn't want to contemplate skepticism from the other side of the spectrum. Such as, "Torture can be justly applied in certain circumstances." or, "Genocide can be a legitimate tool for social engineering."

I do think there is a place for legitimate skepticism in most areas of human endeavor--especially the arts. It's perfectly fine to question the absolute truth that every wall must meet in a right angle (architecture) or "all plays must conform to the unities of time and place," or "All novels must be sub-divided in equal parts called chapters." By questioning the norm, we can often make great leaps of logic and aesthetics. The humanities flourish when questioned. But we cannot ignore experience in our questioning. We cannot question whether genocide is moral because we know empirically, posteriori, that it is not. There is no epistemology like experience.

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