Someone once made the comment “We don’t know who discovered water but we’re pretty sure it wasn’t a fish.” The analogy has direct reference to contemporary life. Like fish in water, we are the last to discover the surrounding water-like “medium” that envelops our times. A good argument could be made that this medium is dominated by postmodernism. This philosophy and its domination of the modern worldview is brilliantly explored in the short book Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault by philosopher and professor Stephen Hicks.
Interestingly, the techniques and methods of postmodernism that have brought it to prominence have also worked to make it less visible to analysis and inspection. Hicks places postmodern’s roots in the reaction to the objective, reason of the Enlightenment and the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. As Hicks observes:
“Kant was the decisive break with the Enlightenment and the first major step toward postmodernism. Contrary to the Enlightenment account of reason, Kant held that the mind is not a response mechanism but a constitutive mechanism. He held that the mind— and not reality—sets the terms for knowledge. And he held that reality conforms to reason, not vice versa. In the history of philosophy, Kant marks a fundamental shift from objectivity as the standard to subjectivity as the standard.”
The shift is evidenced in the art and music of the 20th century but the major entry point into modern culture has been through the academic system and the literary device of rhetoric. One might laugh at the theories of people like Foucault, Derrida and Lyotard. But their ideas have slowly enveloped the academic world and then flowed outside the universities to flood all areas of modern culture. Those who laugh at this proposition need only spend a few hours reading this brilliant book by Stephen Hicks.