Modernism, Post-modernism, and Neo-modernism.

Lately I’ve been thinking about three philosophical paradigms that have largely defined the twentieth and twenty-first centuries and how they influence many of the social conflicts in the world today. Many (if not all) of these conflicts can be boiled down to a disagreement over whether we all inhabit the same universe with the same rules, or if we inhabit our own special (but interconnected) universes with different rules for all of us.

Post-modernism brings some legitimate criticisms of early-twentieth-century modernism to the table, but that is its only contribution to thought. As a movement on its own, it is responsible for much of the lack of cohesion among people today. You can’t account for relativism when discussing the shape of the earth.

Relativism has its place in accounting for differences in taste and preference, but not when dealing with things like phyiscs, morality or ideology. As a student of anthropology, I have seen many abhorrent practices defended under the guise of cultural relativism, from Mesoamerican human sacrifice to female circumcision. Any ideologies based in human rights or equality must be based in modernist ideas of universal truths. To believe in equality, you must first believe that all humans are equal on some level. You cannot justify honor killings or other forms of misogyny with cultural relativism.

Early-twentieth-century modernism was infested with racism, ethnocentrism, sexism and other bigotries and predjudices when discussing which ideas were in fact true, (and this criticism is perhaps the only real contribution of post-modernism to discourse) but that doesn’t suddenly mean we can’t all inhabit the same universe with the same rules. These criticisms must be discussed, and the paradigm must be refined according to which of these are legitimate criticisms and which are just nonsense. This is why I advocate a sort of neo-modernist paradigm in which these ideas and criticisms are evaluated with open minds and a rigorous scientific method. One can criticize modernism and science without devolving into hippie magic woo nonsense.