Logic: The Vaccine for
Postmodernism
Copyright by Norman Geisler 2010
Outline
I. What is Postmodernism?
II. What is Foundationalism?
III. What are the First Principles?
IV. What’s Wrong with Postmodernism?
Outline
I. What is Postmodernism?
A. History of Postmodernism
1. Premodern—before 1650
(Metaphysics)
2. Modern—1650 to 1950
(Epistemology)
3. Postmodern—1950 to present
(Hermeneutics)
Illustration: An Umpire—
Pre-modern: “I call ‘em like they are.”
Modern: “I call ‘em like I see ‘em.”
Post-modern: “They ain’t nothing till I call ‘em.”
B. Forerunners of Postmodernism
1. Hume’s radical empiricism
2. Kant’s agnosticism
3. Kierkegaard’s fideism
4. Nietzsche’s atheism
5. Frege’s conventionalism
6. Wittgenstein’s non-cognitivism
7. Husserl’s phenomenologicalism
8. Heidegger’s existentialism
9. Wm. James’s pragmatism
Derrida’s deconstructionism
Outline
I. What is Postmodernism?
A. History of Postmodernism
B. Forerunners of Postmodernism
C. Contrast with Modernism
C. Distinction of Postmodernism
Modernism
Postmodernism
Unity of thought
Rational
Conceptual
Truth is absolute
Exclusivism
Foundationalism
Epistemology
Certainty
Author’s meaning
Structure of the text
The goal of knowing
Diversity of thought
Social and psychological
Visual and poetical
Truth is relative
Pluralism
Anti-foundationalism
Hermeneutics
Uncertainty
Reader’s meanings
Deconstructing the text
The journey of knowing
Outline
I. What is Postmodernism?
A. History of Postmodernism
B. Forerunners of Postmodernism
C. Contrast with Modernism
D. Nature of Postmodernism:
Atheism
Postmodernism is a condition where [since
God is dead] “anything is possible and
nothing is certain” (Vaclav Havel).
Friedrich Nietzsche 1844-1900
“God is dead. God remains
dead. And we have killed him.
How shall we, the murderers
of all murderers, comfort
ourselves?” (“The Madman” in
Gay Science, 125).
God
“God is Dead”-1. Epistemologically--Kant
2. Mythologically—Nietzsche
3. Dialectically—HegelAltizer
4. Linguistically—Ayer
5. Phenomenalogically—Husserl
6. Existentially--Sartre
7. Cognitively—Wittgenstein
8. Hermeneutically—Heidegger/Derrida
Note: Many of these also believe
God is dead actually (2, 3b, 4, 7, 6, 8b).
Jacques Derrida: Post-Modernism
The Man: A French Jew.
His Views: There is no fixed
objective meaning or truth in
a text. Every text must be
deconstructed and then
reconstructed with meanings
as the reader determines.
1930-2004
His writings:
Of Grammatology (‘67); Speech and
Phenomena (‘67); Writing and Difference
(‘67); Limited Inc. (1970); Post Card: From
Socrates, Freud and Beyond (1972);
Specters of Marx (1994).
Paul-Michel Foucault (1926-1984)
Influenced by: Kant, Nietzsche,
and Husserl.
Died: Age 58 of AIDS.
He Wrote:
Madness and Civilization (1961)
Death and Labyrinth (1963)
The Order of Things (1966)
Discipline and Punish (1975)
Archaeology of Knowledge 1976)
History of Sexuality (1976-1984)
E. The Result of Postmodernism:
Relativism
If there is no Absolute Mind, then there is1. No absolute* truth (epistemological relativism)
2. No absolute meaning (semantical relativism)
3. No absolute history (reconstructionism)
If there is no Absolute Author, then there is—
4. No absolute writing (textual relativism)
5. No absolute interpretation (hermeneutical relativism)
If there is no Absolute Thinker, then there is—
6. No absolute thought (philosophical relativism)
7. No absolute Laws of thought (anti-foundationalism)
If there is no Absolute Purposer, then there is—
8. No absolute purpose (teleological relativism)
If there is no Absolute Good, then there is—
9. No absolute right or wrong (moral relativism)
*Objectively true always for everyone and everywhere.
All Absolute Value Died with God
• “Without God and the
future life? How will man
be after that? It means
everything is permitted
now” (The Brothers
Karamazov (NY: Vintage,
1991, 589).
No Moral Law-Giver, No Moral Laws
1905-1980
“I knew myself alone, utterly
alone in the midst of this wellmeaning little universe of yours.
I was like a man who’s lost his
shadow. And there was nothing
left in heaven, no right or wrong,
nor anyone to give me orders”
(Sartre, The Flies, 121-122 in
No Exit and Three Other Plays).
Huxley Supports Sexual License
“The liberation we desired
was simultaneously
liberation from a certain
political and economic
system and liberation
from a certain system of
morality. We objected to
the morality because it
interfered with our sexual
freedom” (End and
Means, 272).
A Worldview
Without
God
“Man is the product of causes
which had no prevision of the end
they were achieving…. His origin,
his growth, his hopes and fears,
his loves and his beliefs, are but
the outcome of accidental
collocations of atoms…. All the
noonday brightness of human
genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death
of the solar system…. Only within the scaffolding
of these truths, only on the firm foundation of
unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation
henceforth be safely built” (Bertrand Russell, “A
Free Man’s Worship,” in The Basic Writings of
Bertrand Russell, 67).
Outline
I.
What is Postmodernism?
The Root: Atheism
The Fruit: Relativism
Outline
I.
II.
What is Postmodernism?
What is Foundationalism?
A. Definition: Foundationalism is
the view that there are fundamental
self-evident first principles which form
the basis of all our knowledge.
Outline
I.
II.
What is Postmodernism?
What is Foundationalism?
A. Definition
B. Difference:
1. Foundationalism: Truth is based in
self-evident First Principles.
2. Postmodernism: There are no selfevident First Principles of knowing
(Anti-Foundationalism).
Outline
I.
II.
What is Postmodernism?
What is Foundationalism?
A. Definition
B. Difference
C. Distinction
1. Deductive Foundationalism
a. Statement: All truths are deducible
from self-evident first principles)
b. Proponents (Spinoza/Descartes)
2. Reductive Foundationalism
a. Statement: All truths are reducible to
(based on) self-evident first principles.
b. Proponent (Thomas Aquinas)
1. Deductive Foundationalism
A. Its Operation (like Euclidian Geometry):
a. Begins with self-evident axioms.
b. It deduces all truth from these axioms.
B. Its Problems:
a. Not all axioms are necessary
(Different axioms are possible).
b. Logically necessary axioms are empty
(They yield no knowledge about reality).
1) “All triangles have three sides” (does
not tell us there are any triangles).
2) “All husbands are married” (does not
tell us there are any husbands).
2. Reductive Foundationalism
a. Every statement not evident in itself
must be evident in terms of
something else.
b. But there cannot be an infinite regress
of non-evident statements.*
c. Hence, there must be a first selfevident statement in terms of which
non-evident statements are known to
be true.
*An endless regress of explanations is
an attempt to explain away the need
for an explanation.
Outline
I. What is Postmodernism?
II. What is Foundationalism?
III. What are the First Principles?
A. First Principles Defined (in Reductive view)
1. A self-evident statement, or-2. A statement where the predicate term is
reducible to the subject term.
a) All triangles have three sides (#1 below).
b) Every contingent being has a cause (#2).
1) Contingent means could not-be.
2) But non-being can’t cause being (# 5).
B. Some First Principles Listed
1. Law of Existence: “Being is” (i.e., Something exists).
2. Law of Identity: “Being is being” (B is B).
3. Law of Non-Contradiction: “Being is not non-being”
(B is not non-B).
4. Law of Excluded Middle: “Either Being or non-being”
(Either B or not B).
5. Law of Causality: “Non-being cannot cause being”
(Non-B --/ being).
6. Law of Analogy: “An effect is similar to its efficient
cause” (B--->b).
Outline
What is Postmodernism?
I.
II. What is Foundationalism?
III. What are the First Principles?
IV. What’s Wrong with Postmodernism?
A. It can’t be thought consistently
B. It can’t be spoken consistently
C. It can’t be lived consistently
A. It can’t be thought consistently
1225-1274
“If there were an infinite
regress in demonstration,
demonstration would be
impossible, because the
conclusion of any
demonstration is made
certain by reducing it to
the first principle of
demonstration” (Aquinas,
Commentary on the
Metaphysics of
Aristotle, 244).
A. It can’t be thought consistently
1. Every attempt to deny first principles
uses them in the very denial.
a. “Nothing exists” implies something
exists (namely, the person denying
it).
b. “Being is not being” assumes that
the term “being” is identical to
itself, otherwise the negation
would not be of the same thing.
c. “Contradictories can both be true”
assumes that the contradiction of
that statement can not be true.
A Self-Defeating Statement
“I don’t exist.”
“Then who said that?”
A Self-Defeating Statement
“Opposites can both be true.”
“Is the opposite of that true?”
A Self-Defeating Statement
“I can’t speak a word in
English.”
“Didn’t he say that in English?”
A. It can’t be thought consistently
1. Every attempt to deny first principles
uses them in the very denial.
2. Relation of logic and God.
a. Ontologically (order of being)—God
is the basis for logic (logic follows
from His rational nature).
b. Epistemologically (order of knowing)
—Logic is the basis for knowing God.
Note: God is the basis for logic, but logic
is the basis for our knowledge about
God.
First Principles Lead to God
Jonathan Edwards
1703-1758
1. Something undeniably exists
(e.g., I do) (#1).
2. Nothing cannot cause
something (# 5).
3. Therefore, something eternally
and necessarily exists.
4. A personal, intellectual, and
moral being undeniably exists
(e.g., I do).
5. Hence, a personal, intellectual,
moral, eternal, and necessary
Being exists (i. e., God).
Note: Edwards used 1-3.
Famous Former Atheist
Anthony Flew
“It is simply inconceivable
that any material matrix or
field can generate agents
who think and act…. A
force field does not plan or
think. So…the world of
living, conscious, thinking
beings has to originate in a
living Source, a Mind”
(There is a God, 183).
Outline
I. What is Postmodernism?
II. What is Foundationalism?
III. What are the First Principles?
IV. What’s Wrong with Postmodernism?
A. It can’t be thought consistently
B. It can’t be spoken consistently
A Self-Defeating Statement
“Words cannot express
meaning.”
“Then what do these words
mean?”
A Self-Defeating Statement
“There is no objective truth.”
“Is that an objective truth?”
A Self-Defeating Statement
“There is no objective
view of history.”
“Is that an objective
view of history?”
A Self-Defeating Statement
“There is no objective
interpretation.”
“Is that an objective
interpretation?”
Problem with Postmodernism
As It aims at something else,--
--It kills itself!
Answering an Objection
Objection: Postmodernism is not
making any truth claims.
Response: Then why write books?
The Claim to Make no Truth Claim
“You can argue with a man who
says, ‘Rice is unwholesome’: but
you neither can nor need argue
with a man who says, ‘Rice is
unwholesome, but I’m not saying
this is true.’ I feel that this
surrender of the claim to truth has all
the air of an expedient adopted at the
last moment. If [they]…do not claim to know any
truths, ought they not to have warned us rather earlier
of the fact? For really from all the books they have
written…one would have got the idea that they were
claiming to give a true account of things. The fact
surely is that they nearly always are claiming to do
so. The claim is surrendered only when the question
discussed…is pressed; and when the crisis is over the
claim is tacitly resumed” (Lewis, Miracles, 24).
Outline
What is Postmodernism?
I.
II. What is Foundationalism?
III. What are the First Principles?
IV. What’s Wrong with Postmodernism?
A. It can’t be thought consistently.
B. It can’t be spoken consistently.
C. It can’t be lived consistently.
C. It can’t be lived consistently
1912-1984
“All men constantly and
consistently act as though
Christianity is true…, Modern men
say there is no love, there is only
sex, but they fall in love…. Actually
—every moment of his life—he is
acting as though Christianity were
true and it is only the Christian
system that tells him why he can,
must, and does act the way he
does” (He is There and He is not
Silent, 70-71).
Atheist Admits His Need for God
"I needed God.…
I reached out for
religion, I longed for
it, it was the remedy.
Had it been denied
me, I would have
invented it myself”
(The Words, 102, 97).
Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980)
Atheist Albert Camus:
“For anyone who is
alone, without God
and without a
master, the weight of
days is dreadful”
(The Fall, 133).
Nietzsche: To an “Unknown God”
“Unknown one! Speak. What wilt
thou, unknown-god?… Do come
back With all thy tortures! To the
last of all that are lonely, Oh, come
back!… And my heart’s final flame
--Flares up for thee! Oh, come
back, My unknown god! My pain!
My last--happiness!” (Thus Spoke
Zarathustra, Part Four, “The
Magician”).
Agnostic Bertrand Russell
Letter to Lady Ottoline
• “Even when one feels
nearest to other people,
something in one seems
obstinately to belong to
God...--at least that is how I
should express it if I
thought there was a God. It
is odd, isn’t it? I care
passionately for this world
and many things and
people in it, and yet…what
is it all?” There must be
something more important
one feels, though I don’t
believe there is” (my emphasis).
Marx is Dead!
“God is Dead;
Marx is dead, and I
am not feeling too
well either” (Time
cover, European
edition, 1978).
Friedrich Nietzsche 1844-1900
“I hold up before myself the images of
Dante and Spinoza, who were better at
accepting the lot of solitude. Of course,
their way of thinking, compared to mine,
was one which made solitude bearable;
and in the end, for all those who
somehow still had a “God” for
company.... My life now consists in the
wish that it might be otherwise …and
that somebody might make my “truths”
appear incredible to me…” (Letter to
Overbeck, 7/2/1865).
Hume Couldn’t Live His Skepticism
“Most fortunately it
happens, that since reason
is incapable of dispelling
these clouds [of doubt],
nature herself suffices to
that purpose, and cures me
of the philosophical
melancholy and
delirium…” (A Treatise on
Human Nature 1.4.7).
David Hume (d. 1776)
Hume Couldn’t Live His Skepticism
“I dine, I play a game of backgammon,
I converse…; and when after three or
four hours’ amusement, I would return
to these speculations, they appear so
cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I
cannot find in my heart to enter into
them any farther” (ibid. 1.4.7).
Will Durant and Son
• “I survive morally because
I retain the moral code that
was taught me along with
the religion, while I
discarded the religion….
You and I are living on a
shadow…. But what will
happen to our children…?
They are living on the
shadow of a shadow”
(Chicago Sun-Times 8/24/75
1B).
"What's Wrong with Humanism?"
•
The British Humanist Magazine charges that
Humanism is almost "clinically detached from
life." It recommends they develop a humanist
Bible, a humanist hymnal, Ten Commandments
for humanists, and even confessional
practices! In addition, "the use of hypnotic
techniques--music and other psychological
devices--during humanist services would give
the audience that deep spiritual experience and
they would emerge refreshed and inspired
with their humanist faith..." (1964).
Hymns for Postmodernists
“The wise man built his house upon the sand.”
Hymns for Postmodernists
“The wise man built his house upon the sand.”
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jean Paul
Sartre and nothingness”!
Hymns for Postmodernists
“The wise man built his house upon the sand.”
“My hope is built on nothing less than Jean Paul
Sartre and nothingness”!
“Open my eyes that I may see,
More of my own subjectivity.
Help me, Derrida, ever to be
All absorbed in uncertainty.
Then I’ll know what it is to be
Lost forever in postmodernity.”
Atheists Evaluate Atheism
Durant: It is a “shadow of a
shadow.”
Nietzsche: It is not “bearable.”
Camus: It is “dreadful.”
Sartre: It is “cruel.”
Hume: It leads to “delirium.”
The Main Point: Poat-modern atheism is
not only unthinkable and unspeakable,
but it is unlivable.
Atheist Albert Camus:
“Nothing can
discourage the
appetite for divinity
in the heart of
man” (Camus, The
Rebel, 147).
Pascal: God-Sized Vacuum in Heart
“What else does this craving,
and this helplessness, proclaim
but that there was once in man a
true happiness, of which all that
now remains is the empty print
and trace? This he tries in vain
to fill with everything around
him… though none can help,
since this infinite abyss can be
filled only with an infinite and
immutable object; in other
words by God himself”
(Pascal, Pensees # 425).
Real Needs Call for Real Fulfillment
Dr. Francis Collins
“Why would such a
universal and uniquely
human hunger [for God]
exist, if it were not connected
to some opportunity for
fulfillment?... Creatures are
not born with desires unless
satisfaction for those desires
exists. A baby feels hunger:
well, there is such a thing as
food. A duckling wants to
swim: well there is such a
thing as water” (The Language
of God, 38).
Freud: Theists Create the Father
Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
“What is
characteristic of
illusions is that they
are derived from
human wishes.” As
for “religious
doctrines,” “all of
them are illusions
and insusceptible of
proof” (The Future of
an Illusion, 49-50).
Vitz: Atheists Kill the Father!
“Indeed, there is a
coherent psychological
origin to intense
atheism” (p. 3).
“Therefore, in the
Freudian framework,
atheism is an illusion
caused by the Oedipal
desire to kill the father
(God) and replace him
with oneself” (p. 13).
Sartre Dismissed God
"I had all the more
difficulty of getting rid of
him in that he had
installed himself at the
back of my head.… I
collared the Holy Ghost in
the cellar and threw him
out; atheism is a cruel and
long-range affair; I think
I've carried it through. I
lost my illusion” (The
Words, 252-253).
But God Did Not Dismiss Sartre!
“I do not feel that I am the
product of chance, a speck
of dust in the universe, but
someone who was expected,
prepared, prefigured. In
short, a being whom only a
Creator could put here”
(National Review, 11 June,
1982), 677.
The Solution to Postmodernism?
Thomism!
Other Baker
Books
www.NormGeisler.com
Evangelicals need to stop singing:
“Should Old Aquinas be forgot and
never brought to mind.”
The Cure for
Postmodernism is--
The Vaccine of Thomism
Administered by the Angelic Doctor
All Absolute Value Died with God
“If there is no [God or]
immortality of the soul,
there can be no virtue
and therefore everything
is permissible” (Bantam
Books [1970], 95).
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