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Dec 1, 2021
Why postmodernism was a misstep in responding to Cartesian objectivity
Before postmodernism there was … modernism. The father of the modernist worldview was the 17th-century French philosopher René Descartes who divided the world into the subject and object, subjective and objective. Together with the rise of western science this elevated the authority of objectivity and in turn demoted the significance and authority of the subjective. I am sure the ruling class loved this.
Of course no one likes being told what is true or important so inevitably someone was going challenge this worldview; thank goodness for anarchy. Anarchy is indeed the very antidote to modernism. In the late 20th-century a number of French philosophers started the Postmodernism movement. This was characterised by a rejection of Projected authority; the idea that authority exists outside of the individual in externalised sources. This is reflected in authority of roles such as kings, government officials, armed groups with big sticks, people with lots of money or status, scientists, and parents. In rejecting traditional forms of authority they rejected the notions of morality, objective truth and power structures in general.
However in awakening to and questioning a world ruled by Projected authority post modernism made a mis-step. It assumed that values were now solely “in the eye of the beholder” and that any shared sense of the “true” or “good” was now void. Their misstep was in not understanding the structure of “reality”1️⃣ and therefore to throw out the baby with the bath water.
Truth, hopes and expectations
Values are one “face” of a more complex holonic structure I call a Value-theory.
What is a value from perspective of the level below looks like a theory from the perspective of the level above. For instance if what is important to me is to, say, be happy. And my theory about how to be happy is by, say, winning lotto. And lets say that my theory about how to win lotto is to buy 20 tickets each week. So the value-theory “winning lotto” is a theory to “being happy” and a value to “buying 20 tickets a week”.
Value-theories never exist disconnected from the rest of “reality”, but always in conjunction with a “holonic” connection to a higher-order value. They simultaneously provide “valued direction” as well as a belief (theory) about how to realise that value. Value-theories are “hopeful expectations”. A prediction of what is expected to happen in a given situation embedded between a desired outcome and the current state, thus forming a Triholon-ic structure.
This means that value-theories are always sandwiched between two other layers of reality. Those 2 layers are a more essential value and its realisation in matter. As such value-theories are subject to a measure of “fitness” in terms of their capability to reconcile the “outer” and “inner” layers of their triholonic structure. A value-theory has to be functional; there are no such thing as pure aesthetics (other than the hypothetical ultimate value of reality). A value-theory is only sustainable and viable to the extent that it serves a higher-order value-theory. The moment it stops doing this it becomes dysfunctional.
Of course you can choose any value you like, and indeed you should. What postmodernism brings to the shortcomings of a dyadic modernism is the rightful questioning of the idea that authority exists outside of ourself. The only place where Authority and Authenticity can be reconciled is in the choice of the individual. Only the individual can assert what is important to the individual. But they do so constrained by the triholonic structure of reality which brings the measure of “fitness” in serving higher order value-theories as a constraint to any choice. Every value-theory brings with it a duty to serve something of greater value.
The beautiful intuition of postmodernism is that there are shortcomings in Cartesian modernism that call for a new way of relating to the world. It’s mis-step however in rejecting “projected authority” is in thinking that the answer lies in the obvious opposite of this. In not recognising the need to transform beyond the Dyad it stays stuck at the same level of Opposite thinking. It just moves sideways from one pole to another; from the primacy of the objective to the primacy of the subjective. But both of these are incomplete views. A more encompassing viewpoint that contains them both is required. The fundamental response to the limitations of a Cartesian modernist worldview lie in moving beyond the dyad to the Triad. From here the insights of The law of three bring the Reconciling force. This provides the essential recognition that apparently-opposing Dyads are in fact parts or participants in a larger meaningful whole. This pattern of reconciling triads can be found throughout reality and makes up its fundamental metaphysical ontology as expressed in The 3 potentials of life.
I’m being lazy here in using the term “reality” in that I can’t think of an alternative for now. I know it’s such a big and ill-defined term, and about as dense as modernism-based as words come; my apologies. I’ll come back to this. In the meantime you can read some thoughts about my underlying metaphysical ontology in The 3 potentials of life.