Borrowed Authority and “Pomo” problems: Part One


Offering a serious critique of the postmodern mind is becoming a bit like learning algebraic theorems. Just when you’ve put your finger on one of the “tenets”, an advocate simply changes a variable and “viola!”, you haven’t quite solved for p. In fact, postmodernism is by definition a system of ever-changing variables as numerous as its adherents. In the hallowed halls of postmodern thought, truly objective knowledge is unattainable. Should anyone dare to imagine that they’ve discovered a kernel of information free of personal subjective bias they are, well in a word, picayune.

One particular frustration of mine is the postmodernist’s (hereafter referred to as “pomo”) very bad habit of defending themselves in utter disregard for their own rules. Allow me to illustrate. A pomo does not accept any ideology as objective and consequently authoritative. They will engage in “mutually beneficial dialogues” so long as all involved admit to bringing subjective views which carry no absolute authority. Then, without warning, they borrow authoritative speech to assert their ideas and marginalize opponents for naively believing in objectivity.

Now listen…if you’re going to be a consistent pomo, you must learn to sleep in the bed you’ve made. Nothing you declare, argue, postulate, defend, or teach as universal is allowed! By your own admission, the views you advance (even those regarding your opponents) are riddled with subjective biases that must be embraced before any “true” ground is gained. You can never “declare” anything as though it were true in any objective sense. Every argument you make is merely a game of wits, accomplishing nothing except to amuse the players. You must never even hint at a proposition with any authority, for you have considered authoritative speech unhealthy. Should you ever teach, please qualify every notion with the statement “this is just my biased opinion and should not be considered important enough to follow”.

(Editor’s note: part two will offer a few examples of this “borrowed authority” trend).

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2 responses to this post.

  1. Personal biases are unavoidable. The Psychologist Carl Rogers’ method was to eliminate the therapist as a personality in a therapy session, thereby eliminating the bias of the therapist. [Side note: Research has proven his method cannot totally remove therapist bias from a session.] Rogers has an interesting quote from his book, On Becoming A Person (pg 23-24): “Experience is, for me, the highest authority. The touchstone of validity is my own experience. No other person’s ideas, and none of my own ideas, are as authoritative as my experience. It is to experience that I must return again and again, to discover a closer approximation to truth as it is in the process of becoming in me. Neither the Bible nor the prophets ~ neither Freud nor research – neither the revelations of God nor man – can take precedence over my own direct experience. [….] My experience is not authoritative because it is infallible. It is the basis of authority because it can always be checked in new primary ways. In this way its frequent error or fallibility is always open to correction.”
    Can you see why Rogers’ method was called ‘Person-Centered therapy”? At least Rogers’ truth was open to correction. Unlike our (lack of-) thinkers today who desperately cling to their claim that personal experience is the only knowable truth. Therefore ‘we must live with contradictions even within our own ideas because each truth is different and equally valid.’ Instead of searching for absolute truth, people today seek mutual truth or experiential-shared truth. The lack of logic as a guide hampers all contemporary thought.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts David…but the problem with Rogers’ assessment is the following statement:

    “My experience is not authoritative because it is infallible. It is the basis of authority because it can always be checked in new primary ways. In this way its frequent error or fallibility is always open to correction”

    “Checked” against what? Someone else’s experience? This proves nothing and constitutes no substantive evaluation. Without a rational set of absolute, objective references there can be no declaration of an “error” or its solution. Contrasting one experience with another may yield interesting distinctions, but nothing truly authoritative has actually been gained. We might look at Rogers’ assertion this way: One cannot be “open to correction” if it can never be determined that one needs it.–>

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