A correspondent asked me to comment on this, which is philosopher John Searle’s review of a book on relativism and constructivism. This is somehow supposed to reveal to us the problems with the postmodern turn. Instead, what this piece by Searle reveals is how easy it is to tear down straw-men rather than actually deal with the arguments one opposes.
Here is the straw-man constructed by Searle: “The Postmodern turn means there is no true objective mind-independent reality, but rather that we construct or create reality based upon our own cultural, experiential, and preconceived ideas and notions—much of it created by the very language we use.” Or, some basic variant of this sort of take on postmodernity.
Now, I will grant that there are some out there who believe stuff like this or something similar, but so what? Anyone familiar with the actual literature knows this isn’t representative of what the great majority of legitimate postmodern philosophers/theologians are trying to communicate.
Jamie Smith makes the same point here. The bottom line is that Searle and others like him clearly do not know what they are talking about as far as what the postmodern turn means and they do not understand the best and legitimate thinkers who have articulated its contours and meaning.
Let’s be clear: A legitimate Postmodernism HAS NOTHING to do with the idea that there is no true objective mind-independent reality or that we create our own reality or “facts.” It DOES NOT mean that what is true for the American Indians as far as believing their ancestors came from the earth is as true as the theory those same ancestors migrated across the Bering Strait. Postmodernism DOES NOT mean what’s true for me might not be true for you when we are speaking of matters like distance to the sun or 2+2=4.
Who knows, maybe one of these days Searle and others like him will actually try to understand postmodernism and quit flailing at straw-men.