… is that they are simply incorrect. The post-modernist viewpoint holds that reality is all there is. I tend to look at them as radical existentialists; with the idea being, it’s not that they can’t define “essence.” It’s that they claim it doesn’t exist. The ones I know claim to be living in reality, but they have no idea what that is.
They speak of “reality,” “the universe,” and “the visible universe” as if they were all the same thing. They are not. From your point of view, they are close enough in some respects. For example, the distinction between your personal reality and our shared reality here on Earth is almost moot. But to be perfectly clear about it, to really believe in the post-modernist viewpoint, you must be willing to ignore certain facts. To give an example, most of us blithely go through life ignoring the fact that clocks go slower in orbit than they do on the surface of the earth. The engineers that design GPS devices don’t have the luxury of ignoring the relativity of time. The rest of us, including the post-modernists among us, can go on believing that GPS works by magic.
That’s a trivial example, but I would submit that post-modernists are also required to ignore things that aren’t trivial. Consider the whole “existence vs essence” thing. I imagine a post-modernist fellow would define existence as the time we spend living in material reality. Here’s the problem: he can’t define any of those things.
- Time, in that context, is so purely personal, it’s practically meaningless. It’s how many times you can say “banana.” What does that have to do with anything?
- He can’t define “life” or “spend.” Mostly because he doesn’t understand thermodynamics. If he did, he would have to redefine “life.” I don’t think he would be able to reconstitute his argument from there. (I’m not sure about that, but since I haven’t yet met a postmodernist who has any idea what “thermodynamics” means, I haven’t had a chance to try out my argument.)
- He can’t define “material,” a word I believe to derive from the same root as “matter.” Which technically doesn’t exist.
- His notion of “reality” amounts to little more than a shared delusion.
- As for “in,” I think Einstein is saying that the correct word would be “on.”
- What’s this “we” business? Can he define “human”? Does he have some way of bifurcating “definition” from “essence”? In particular, I’m eager to hear one’s definition of “intelligence”; especially if he can frame his answer using the word “information.” (See #2)
I’ll drill down into each of these in due course, but one thing should be obvious.
He’s saying nothing.
I swear, I think humankind is evolving in wrong direction. We are getting stupider and stupider with each passing generation. Sometimes I think Sartre was the last intelligent human being on earth. The difference between me and your average post-modernist is, I will at least admit I didn’t understand the guy the first time around.
He was joking, people. Setup: The question of life is the question of your existence. Don’t worry about your essence, get out there and live. Punchline: Life is a precious gift, enjoy it. The joke is, you can’t enjoy it without an appreciation of your essence. Get it?
My definition of a post-modernist: someone with absolutely no sense of humor. My other definition of a post-modernist: someone who should at least consider cracking a book every once in a while.
It’s not a question of being able to prove the existence of the unseen. It’s a question of how to make decisions in the face of incomplete information. Coming up with a reasonable set of operating assumptions isn’t as easy as it looks, but it’s necessary.