A Post-Modern World?

by Stephen McAndrew

Today there is much talk about how we live in a post-modern world. What does that mean? What does it mean to assert that we have moved from modernism to post-modernism? Has the nature of truth changed or just our view of it? What was the motivation for this change – whatever it is?
Let us define the terms. Modernism is the view that asserts that there are objective truths out there to be discovered. It maintains however that these objective truths are material truths that can be discovered by empirical scientific discovery.

Modernism, marked a change from what went before as it explicitly rejected the existence of spiritual or metaphysical truths; modernism was driven by the Enlightenment and the explosion of scientific discoveries that followed. In other words, that everything about our world, where we came from, art, love, hate and the morality that binds us could be discovered and broken down into material, empirical terms.

Before modernism the prevailing view was that our world had a material as well as a metaphysical or spiritual dimension. It was also held that we humans had a dual nature – a material physical body and a spiritual soul. [1] The traditional answer to why we have a drive to be good, to why we are exhilarated by great art, to why we dream of utopia, was that these concepts, which were grounded in a higher spiritual reality, touched our souls in an intangible way. Throughout much of the world it was believed that Christianity explained this higher reality.

The end goal to which modernism was travelling was to make sense of the world without metaphysics – without God. Modernism wanted to answer these questions about morality, art, love and human aspiration, without resorting to positing the existence of a Supreme Being. But modernism concerned with only examining the tangible proved not to be so good at explaining the intangible.

The end point of modernism in a philosophical sense was logical positivism, a philosophical movement that held that any statement that was not a logical tautology or that could not be empirically tested and verified was meaningless. [2] This left ethics, art, love out in the cold.

Post-modernism is a reaction to the failure of modernism…


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