Monday, April 04, 2011

GIANTS IN THE LAND - WINDS OF CHANGE AND SANDS OF TIME

Modernism…


1. …begins with the finite “I” as opposed to infinite God

2. …assumes epistemological certainty is both desirable and attainable

3. …employs foundationalism

4. …focuses on method

5. …embraces the assumption of “a-historical universality”

6. …encouraged the rise (increase) of philosophical naturalism

With these six prevailing characteristics of modernism identified by D. A. Carson before us, we can consider certain aspects of the epistemological shift toward postmodernism. Knowing that history does not provide sharp edges to its distinctions, we can say, in a general way, that a postmodern epistemology reverses or revises the six points above. As these blog entries are not designed to provide great amounts of detail I will simply say that influences coming from many sources resulted in weakening longstanding claims in the area of ethics, meaning, truth and value. The Romantic Age in literature shifted attention away from placing value in truth and meaning, turning it to beauty and expression. The rise of existentialism shifted attention away from placing value in truth and meaning, validating our human value in experience and decisions (decisions “unhindered” by moral restrictions). The German, French and Anglo-American academic communities began a trickle-down effect that contributed to major, influential epistemological changes. As we proceed, it is important to realize that there are shards of truth in most of the ideas propounded. Effectively separating the shards of truth from body of lies is an overwhelmingly monstrous challenge.

From Germany, we trace changes in hermeneutical considerations. According to this perspective, one’s background, race, past experience, age, etc. change the way we interpret any text, making it nearly impossible to arrive at objectivity. The nature of “self” changes our conclusions in such a way that no one is neutral. I change the text and the text changes me in a spiraling, irresolvable way. This obviously alters assumptions related to foundationalism and the previous emphasis on accepted methods of study. It is no longer simply “text, tools, conclusion.” We can only expect to arrive at our idea of truth. This model erodes or, when pushed far enough, eliminates objective truth.

In my next entry, I’ll consider the contribution to this epistemological shift coming from France.

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