Polemic Paper against the Postmodern Doctrine

This paper tackles logical fallacies in the Postmodern Doctrine. This paper further discusses the impact that these fallacious principles have on modern society while maintaining the view that Postmodernism is inefficient.

Although the Postmodern or Popular Doctrine crystallized in the mid-1970s (Tom, 2009), its roots trace back to the 17th century when nations were born and great minds first thought of independence and freedom from the fetters of a seemingly manipulative institution. Postmodernism argues that truth is relative to ones culture and upbringing. It is arrogant to believe that you have THE truth. However, despite the popularity and mass appeal of the postmodernist views, this worldview argument lends itself to various criticisms, among which the logical fallacies associated with its principles.

Logical Fallacies in the Postmodern Doctrine
Argumentum ad verecundiam. The fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam is an appeal to the authority of a single person or an authoritative source.

In the Postmodern Doctrine, this authority may be anything from the individual himself whatever group he belongs to that he considers a source of authority, such as his religion, country, local community, family, or even his circle of friends. Rohde (2000) says that postmoderniststend to take on as truth what their peer group or community believes. Local, specific or personal truth is always the basis of a postmodernists arguments. The fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam is committed because the community that the postmodernist is in, or any other group that he considers to be authoritative, does not at all predicate the validity or the truth of his claims. Hence, if a postmodernist group, such as a particular New Age group, maintains that a certain law such as The Law of Attraction applies to every part of the universe, and maintains that this is true for the New Age group itself is an authoritative source, the claim then becomes fallacious. Authority is never absolute and the authority that specifically comes from a certain New Age group is no exception.

The fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam is usually somehow resolved by postmodernists by appealing to science and scientific proofs in order to make an effort to appear objective and claim validity for their beliefs. However, if a group with which postmodernists identify has strong value structures, they will tend to hold these values (Rohde, 2000), which simply means that instead of considering raw objective scientific data, postmodernists tend to maintain their fallacious beliefs and use every available scientific evidence to prove their objectivity and validity. The problem here is that if a postmodernists thesis is fallacious in itself, then no amount of objective evidence will validate it. Chances are the objective evidence that he will most likely find will also be fallacious claims that favor his stance.

Argumentum ad populum. The fallacy of argumentum ad populum is committed when one uses the opinion of the majority as basis for the validity of his own claims. The fallacy rests on the possibility that the majority can be wrong and, in such a case, cannot warrant for the validity of a particular claim. In particular, a postmodernist commits such a fallacy when he glorifies the claims of his own group and maintains that such claims are valid for they are held by the majority, regardless of whether this majority is the majority of his own group or the majority of all humans. Barnhart (1994) states that hegemony assumes the role of power established by the postmodernists, acting as a social construct that promotes the existence of the group.

There is, however, a slight logical problem with the postmodernists point of reference. There is therefore no reason why a postmodernist should promote the existence of his group (Barnhart, 1994) and his tendency to hold its values (Rohde, 2000) because it is said that the chief characteristic of postmodernism is that reality is whatever is real to the individual (Web Design Worldview, 2008) and the belief in the perfectibility of man (Tom, 2009). Who then is the true postmodernist  the individual who defends the views of his group, or the one who defends his own views regardless of those of his group

Another problem is the postmodernists view of reality. If postmodernists say that those that accept a reality are conformists and not postmodernists (Tom, 2009), then it does not agree with the statement that postmodernists tend to hold the values or reality of the group with which they identify (Rohde, 2000). This very claim of postmodernists that they do not subscribe to any reality does not at all entitle them to hold dear any reality or value of the group they are in as well as any other personal reality.

Still one more problem is the postmodernists lack of definiteness when it comes to its definition of a group. Judith Butler, author of the controversial 1990 book Gender Trouble, says it is wrong to collectively identify people with a certain group for there are so many other elements in a personthat a fixed identity would be unjust (as cited in Tom, 2009). She even defined women as an idea which is multiple and continuous and not a category. This is another challenge for the postmodernists  to define their so-called idea of a group. Nevertheless, the lazy advocates of postmodernism would just most likely claim that the ideas of Butler just happen to be different from their own truths.

Argumentum ad hominem. An argument that commits the fallacy of argumentum ad hominem introduces a personal attack on the person who presents the argument. A postmodernist commits such a fallacy when he argues that the beliefs of another group or individual are false simply because they directly or indirectly contradict his, and this he expresses through a personal attack on the particular system where such a belief has come from. The fallacy rests upon the contention that one persons argument is false simply because there is something objectionable about him. Similarly, Argumentum ad hominem is the fallacy that postmodernists commit when a number of them would criticize the systems of faith and religion and dismiss them as false or negative simply because they are perceived to lack the idea of personal freedom.

Rohde (2000) says that postmodernists do not appreciate statements that are perceived as negative or lacking in appreciation of personal freedom and that postmodern theorists have traditionally concerned themselves most fundamentally with an attack on positivistic, macrophenonemal theory (Barnhart, 1994) such as the theories upon which religions are founded. Postmodernists have repeatedly attacked belief systems they would consider to be stifling of freedom, such as a grand narrative like Christianity, and have made efforts to argue for the existence of a multiplicity of theoretical standpoints (Barnhart, 1994). Dr. Mary Klages (2003) gives us a practical definition of postmodernism it is the critique of grand narratives, the awareness that such narratives serve to mask the contradictionsinherent in any social organization and practiceand favorslocal events, rather thanglobal concepts. However, Klages dismisses these local events as always situational, provisional, contingent, and temporary, making no claim to universality, truth, reason, or stability (2003).

There is, however, a contradiction here. If the Postmodern Doctrine states that truth is relative to ones culture and upbringing, then it follows that postmodernists ought to respect the relative beliefs of any other group of people, be it big or small. And if this is so, then what would justify the attacks of postmodernists on the grand narratives such as Christianity Criticizing the beliefs of an institution like Christianity is no different from criticizing the belief of an individual or group whose sentiments postmodernists would defend. Similarly, defending the beliefs of an individual or group is logically no different from defending the beliefs of an institution like Christianity, which is anyway just another group, only that it is bigger. This contradiction is perhaps either caused by the postmodernists lack of clear definition of their idea of a group, or it could be that postmodernists simply love and celebrate incoherency, anarchy, disorder, and indeterminacy (Tom, 2009).

The institutions criticized by postmodernists react to these criticisms not through a similar attack but rather through a strengthening of beliefs. In fact, Klages (2003) believes that one of the consequences of postmodernism seems to be the rise of religious fundamentalism, as a form of resistance to the questioning of the grand narratives of religious truth. Postmodernism, instead of bridging gaps, has somehow intensified conflict and differences between individual and institution. Hence, postmodernism has seemingly zero practical value in building society. All it has is the potential to destroy it.

Equivocation. The fallacy of equivocation is committed when the same word is used in two different ways without specifying the exact sense with which it is used. In postmodernism, such a fallacy is committed when terms like group and freedom are misinterpreted because they may be defined deficiently.

Postmodernists claim that truth is relative to their culture and upbringing and that if a group with which they identify has strong value structures they will also tend to hold these values (Rohde, 2000). The keyword here is group and it is the value structures of the group he belongs to that the postmodernist should naturally hold on to. However, how different is this word group with the Christian group whose value structures a lot of people would also hold on to Clearly, the postmodernists have not defined the idea of a group and have somehow not realized that the grand narratives, such as church laws, whose values they oppose and the mini-narratives, such as personal circumstances, to whose value structures they adhere  are actually two examples of a group with members who, based on postmodernism, would naturally adopt and defend the value structures of their own respective groups.

Rohde (2000) states that Postmodernists desire the freedom to express and live their own personal morals and lifestyles. The keyword here is freedom, and the use of this word in the aforementioned statement predicates an expression of ones own personal morals and lifestyles. How different is this word then from a Christians freedom to express his own personal morals and lifestyles More importantly, how different is the original use of the word from the freedom of an institution, such as the Christian church, to express and teach its own ideals Freedom, as used by the postmodernists is not clearly defined. The meaning and general use of the word is absolute. Perhaps, there are only two ways to solve the equivocation fallacy on freedom One is to limit its definition to purely individual freedom so as to exclude the group and finally deprive the institution of freedom and the other one is for the postmodernists to admit that it is only they and no one else who should have freedom, so that whenever they have to mention freedom in the context of their beliefs, one may know that this is a concept that only the postmodernists lend themselves to. The next problem then would be the definition of a postmodernist.

Argumentum ad misericordiam. The fallacy of argumentum ad misericordiam is committed when someone appeals to the emotion of his listener in order to accept his views. This same fallacy is committed by the postmodernist when he emphasizes claims that man is being dominated and controlled by institutions so that he would appear deserving of his assertions. He would appeal to pity by saying that for a very long time, individuals were overall dominated by tradition and strong solid institutions like the Roman Catholic Church (Tom, 2009) and that this very thing gives him a good reason to express his feelings, move away from the established norms (Tom, 2009) and label the doctrines of institutions, such as the church, as stifling of freedom.

The postmodernist usually has his convictions based on the modern notion that each individual was important and each individual had a choice about their position (Tom, 2009). Any violation of this principle, or any effort on the part of the institution to inculcate and instill its doctrines in the individual, will somehow most likely put the latter in a position deserving of pity.

The postmodernists appeal to pity in his convictions, as well as his consequent excuse for putting his interests and beliefs above those of the nation, religion or community he is in, is similar to a thiefs attempts to manipulate other peoples compassion after he has been arrested for stealing money for his ailing child. The fallacy of argumentum ad misericordiam brings to mind the idea of justice, and justice in the eyes of a postmodernist is the recognition of the rights of the individual, whatever the commission of these rights would result in. On the other hand, the postmodernist idea of injustice seems to be the seemingly manipulative efforts of the church and state in shaping the individuals mind and his actions. From the aforementioned statements we can therefore conclude that the postmodernist view of justice is also unjust in itself, in that it always assumes that the individual is good and the institution is evil. It is very much similar to blaming all car drivers for the increasing number of road fatalities, without even considering road condition and people who carelessly walk through the traffic. Similarly it is also similar to condemning sellers of illegal drugs without taking into account all those drug users who just cannot stop buying them and would even threaten the sellers to kill them if they stopped selling drugs.

Counter Arguments to the Thesis
However, despite the fallacies directed against the Postmodern or Popular Doctrine, this worldview argument serves a very practical purpose in everyday human life. It may be true that the Postmodern Doctrine is fallacious but it is on this doctrine that the idea of human consideration and understanding is based. When someone tells a friend that he is right because of his culture and upbringing, his statement may naturally sound fallacious nevertheless, it is this particular statement that makes one consider and understand the situation his friend is in, as well as the reasons behind his belief and the circumstances surrounding it.

Perhaps another good counterargument to the thesis is that the Postmodern doctrine, no matter how seemingly fallacious it is, is definitely considered the basis for certain nationalistic and individualistic ideals and virtues. One cannot be a good American if he does not believe that his culture is right. In a similar way, one cannot develop into a strong and confident individual if he does not believe in himself and in his own righteousness.

To summarize, the principles of the Postmodern or Popular Doctrine, are logically fallacious. The fallacies committed by postmodernists include argumentum ad verecundiam, argumentum ad populum, argumentum ad hominem, the fallacy of equivocation, argumentum ad misericordiam. Despite the practicality of the worldview argument on an individual and national level, the mere presence of the fallacies in the arguments of postmodernists implies two things that their beliefs and convictions are false, or that they are weak. Either way, the foundations of the Postmodern Doctrine are not logically sound, hence does not practically benefit the society.


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