Proposition (1): there is no such thing as objective truth; all “truths” are culturally relative.If one believes that there are no objective truths, then it follows that nothing you can say is objectively true, not even the statement that “there are no objective truths.” What sort of statement, then, is Proposition (1) if it is not objectively true? Is it rhetorical hot air? Is it akin to fictitious statements in poetry or novels? If not, what?
Moreover, why should anyone believe you? What justification do you offer to people to believe this proposition, if you do not even assert it as an objectively true statement?
Even worse, if Proposition (1) were true, then it would follow that all the propositions of Postmodernism are not objectively true, but merely “subjectively” true within the Postmodernism subculture. There is no reason why hostile people from other cultures or subcultures need believe them.
But why, then, when people criticise Postmodernist doctrines do the Postmodernists react with hysterical outrage and act like their core beliefs are objectively true and their critics are wrong?
If they took their beliefs seriously and they were consistent, they would say this in response to critics:
“Of course, it is true that all Postmodernist beliefs are not objectively true and are only relatively true within the Postmodernist subculture. Therefore within your own subculture your epistemological beliefs are true.”The trouble with this, however, is that it cannot evade the following questions:
(1) why, then, should anyone who is not a Postmodernist believe the Postmodernist beliefs and what justifications can Postmodernists offer to their critics? What, for example, can the Postmodernists say to genuine Nazis to dissuade them from their beliefs?Let us start with (1).
(2) it cannot evade the issue that we live in a mind-independent world with a high degree of regularity and consistency, and that language can refer to and represent that reality. If language can represent reality, then it is but a short step to the correspondence theory of truth and objective empirical truths.
If Postmodernist truth relativism and cultural relativism were taken seriously, then it follows that all the “truths” of official Nazi culture – racism, authoritarianism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, and German racial supremacism – were valid within Nazi culture and Nazi culture was equal to all other cultures (for that is the clear consequence of believing that all cultures are equal).
On what grounds, then, do Postmodernists object to the ideas of Nazi culture? How would they argue against it? They cannot, for example, argue that the Nazi belief that certain races are genetically inferior to other races is objectively false, for the unhinged Postmodernist core belief is that there are no objective truths (and that includes no objective empirical truths in science).
Even worse, the Postmodernist associated belief is that all cultures are equal and of equal value. So, once one beleives that, it is not possible to object to Nazi culture on moral and aesthetic grounds (especially when moral relativism is also a tenet of Postmodernism!).
Now let’s move to point (2). The analytic philosopher John Searle gives a powerful argument for this:
“The problem that all these guys [namely, postmodernists and poststructuralists] have is that once you give me that first premise—that there is a reality that exists totally independently of us—then the other steps follow naturally. Step 1, external realism: You’ve got a real world that exists independently of human beings. And step 2: Words in the language can be used to refer to objects and states of affairs in that external reality. And then step 3: If 1 and 2 are right, then some organization of those words can state objective truth about that reality. Step 4 is we can have knowledge, objective knowledge, of that truth. At some point they have to resist that derivation, because then you’ve got this objectivity of knowledge and truth on which the Enlightenment vision rests, and that’s what they want to reject.”As Searle points out, once we admit that there is an ordered reality independent of our thoughts about it, and that we can use language consistently to refer to objects and processes in that reality, then the other steps follow.
Postrel, Steven R. and Edward Feser. 2000. “Reality Principles: An Interview with John R. Searle,” Reason (February)
Many of our words, and the concepts they represent, can and do refer to objective things in reality, and clearly many concepts we have (signified by words or sounds) are constrained, limited and defined by reality. For example, the modern English word “zebra,” as understood by competent speakers of English, cannot simply refer to hedgehogs: the concept signified by the word “zebra” really is constrained by mind-independent things we see in reality.
Or, as some analytic philosophers would say, language can be isomorphic to thought (including concepts and ideas), and in turn language can indirectly correspond and refer to reality (Schwartz 2012: 182), as is also argued by modern linguists and in the discipline of evolutionary epistemology. Objective truth follows from the way language can describe or picture reality. This leads us directly to the most convincing theory of truth: the correspondence theory.
And once we recognise the reality of objective empirical truths, we have a basis by which rational human beings can resolve their differences, settle disputes, correct errors and, above all, rationally deal with political, social, cultural and economic disagreements.
By contrast, Postmodernists have no such strategy – all they have is truth relativism and cultural relativism, utterly intellectually bankrupt concepts.
Schwartz, Stephen P. 2012. A Brief History of Analytic Philosophy: From Russell to Rawls. Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, UK.