Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Post Post-Modernism

Most of today’s influential Western thinkers concur that we have arrived at period called the post-modern era.  The term finds it origin with scientist Michael Polanyi, who expressed the view that a change is needed in Western thought tradition, moving it from objectivism and subjectivism to a less culturally constrained method[1]. Polanyi actually called this concept, “post-critical.”

Polanyi asserted that the way past the present Western modernism is semiotics[2], a concept introduced by Charles Sanders Peirce.  Sander’s semiotic process described a methodology of discerning truth based on the interpretation of the sign or symbol presented by an object or an action.  Sanders asserted that the ideal interpretative process for human reality is one that involves the continuous interpretation of the signs symbols presented by any object or action, each of which is then subject to further interpretation.  In short, Sanders rediscovered an aspect of pre-modern methodology of discerning truth.

However, in real time and space, post-modernism has become primarily a process of deconstructing all that was concluded by the culturally constrained objective/subjective critical modernism. While embracing semiotics it is still sorely lacking.

Why? Because, the Western post-modernism is still captive to subjectivism; while the western post- modern mind has come to reject critical objectivism, it has not come to terms critical subjectivism.  As a rule, the average western person still trusts his own individual intellectual capacities.  In short, most know that everyone is biased; therefore, they choose to go with their own personal biases concluding that ultimate truth cannot be known.

It is precisely at this point in human history that the West needs a dose of Orthodox Christianity to pull it out of the mire.  Orthodoxy would agree with Polanyi and Sanders regarding the value of Semiotics, however, with two additional imperatives. 

1.     The use of signs and symbols to arrive at truth (semiotics) is not merely a private experience; it is a collective or concilliar experience.  The signs have a meaning that is participated in by a general consensus of those who experience them.  The individual intellect must be seen as less able to discern than that of the whole.

2.     The merely intellectual use of signs and symbols to arrive at truth is to be held with suspicion precisely because the main consequence of the fall of man is not primarily angering a law abiding God, but rather of the subjection of the intellect to our personal disorders and dysfunctions (the passions).  Discerning truth is not only a corporate matter, but a looking for the understanding of those who are to a greater degree healed of our common dysfunctions.

The way through to post post-modernism is found in the way that has never changed, Orthodoxy.

[1] Polanyi, Michael, Personal Knowledge (Chicago: University Of Chicago Press; 1974), 6
[2] "Semiotic." Websters College Dictionary (New York: Random House, 1997), 1176

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