Why so much hate for postmodernism?



There is a lot of hate for postmodernism on YouTube. Is this hate justified? Or is it just becuase postmodernism makes people uncomfortable. I guess what I am asking is "does postmodernism have any powerful critiques against it?"

Scott Simmons

Posted 2017-07-12T00:59:27.890

Reputation: 189


You could try the wikipedia page for critiques of postmodernism to start. From what I've seen, most of the time that postmodernism comes up in recent discussion, it comes up in the context of stuff like feminism (Jordan Peterson loves throwing the word around, along with "Marxists"). The reason he (I think incorrectly) uses the term is because postmodernism is often associated with a rejection that truth is objective. That is probably the biggest critique of it, that it itself takes pride in asserting the subjectivity of truth.

– Not_Here – 2017-07-12T01:36:55.887


It's also important to know that the word means different things in different contexts. There's philosophical postmodernism and there's literary postmodernism, for example. You can read the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's article on postmodernism here.

– Not_Here – 2017-07-12T01:41:25.333

1I suspect this may be better addressed in the context of an American political/cultural debate. I don't mean that to be dismissive. It could be treated philosophically, but it might clear up the matter more quickly to distinguish, at least crudely, from the philosophical sense. And then to see if that was the one, after all, that was wanted. The word often has a simple connection to cultural relativism and so-called multiculturalism, Left-leaning politics. It's connected to deeper issues, but one may not mean anything but the political sense. – None – 2017-07-12T19:25:07.220

1@Dwarf except that relativism is embraced increasingly by the right in the US - like KellyAnne Conway's "alternative facts" or Newt Gingrich's assertion that what mattered wasn't that violent crime rates had dropped but that people felt like they were rising even if the statistics said otherwise. – Alexander S King – 2017-07-12T21:09:21.067

That's true, you are right. I avered that in my comment bellow, on Scalia. Everyone is nihilistic these days, as Heidegger long ago said. We live in the End of Metaphysics. Though, I would say, multicultarilism actively advertises this 'relativism', though with its own deceptions and double talk, while Right conceals it, and disavows it. Think of Lyotard, form which the term largely stems. Surely a thinker of the Left! I believe we are coming close to another Weimar, which was the freest moment in human history hither to. When all this becomes generally visible. – None – 2017-07-12T21:17:34.327

@Dwarf -Well now, I think we're about to move on to the Beginning of Metaphysics. We need to do this to obliterate postmodernist relativistic post-truthism. Not that I have much idea of what the words 'postmodernism' and 'post-truth' actually mean other than as an expression of ignorance.and a license to believe any old nonsense. – None – 2017-08-10T11:59:03.613

Hate for postmodernism is the heart of postmodernism. – Drew – 2021-02-23T23:39:09.527



Here are three reasons (there may be more):

  • The Analytic/Continental divide (some might say feud - see here for example): At the beginning of the 20th Century, two schools (or more accurately, two opposing styles) of writing in philosophy emerged: The Analytic style which was popular mostly in English speaking countries, and the Continental style, which consisted mostly of French and German philosophers. Postmodernism fell under the Continental style, and hence was often ridiculed by English speaking academics and students. A famous confrontation within this overall feud was the Searle/Derrida dispute.
  • The Science Wars: Postmodernism was associated with the strong programme whose adherents held that science is a social construct, i.e. scientific truth is determined by sociological and cultural considerations, in the same way that political systems or religious beliefs are. Obviously this didn't sit well with many scientists or scientifically-inclined philosophers, who opposed and ridiculed the strong programme and postmodernism in general. See the the Sokal affair.
  • Postmodernist philosophers are notorious for writing in a difficult to read, idiosyncratic style, and are frequently accused of deliberate obscurantism. See this post and answers within.

Additional, unsourced reason: Postmodernism is associated with the left, especially the radical left. So it gets a lot of hate from right wingers.

Alexander S King

Posted 2017-07-12T00:59:27.890

Reputation: 25 810

4A further question is what anyone means by postmodernism. It is often a synonym for "relativism" in many critiques that lambast it. – virmaior – 2017-07-12T03:54:25.193

1@virmaior Although postmodernism has become identified with deconstructionists such as Derrida, postmodernism is essentially those philosophical schools that arose in the postmodern era. The Postmodern era started when the Russian and American armies met in Berlin. First time in history that non-European armies controlled all of Europe. The prior era was the age of modernity that started with the Renaissance. – Swami Vishwananda – 2017-07-12T05:51:11.247

3@SwamiVishwananda that's an interesting but highly debatable definition of postmodernism. Sources? – virmaior – 2017-07-12T07:40:04.080

@SwarmiVishwananda I think you're putting the cart before the horse there. Post-modernism, along with many expressionistic art styles like the Dadist film movement, arose out of a belief that a society the could allow the carnage of 2 world wars had no intrinsic value. The post-modern era starts when it does because that is the origin of post-modernistic though, not the other way around. – JonS – 2017-07-12T09:46:57.797

@virmaior true. That was one of the main gripes in the science wars. – Alexander S King – 2017-07-12T16:03:59.967

@virmaior If I had a referable source it would be an answer not a comment. I think it was a UofC philosophy professor many years ago that made the comment to me. – Swami Vishwananda – 2017-07-13T04:49:31.000

2It seems that postmodernists disguise as Left (with themes like diversity, etc), but are actually favoring the Right. Why? When they attack modern science, they are attacking the only force strong enough to counterbalance organized monotheism. They are defending the same obscurantism that made organized monotheism thrive. Also, when they say "each one has its own truth", they are dividing people, and this is good to who's in power now. "Unity makes strength" is a Left motto, and postmodernism goes straight against it. Chomsky's critics are in that line, and Chomsky is anything but rightist. – Rodrigo – 2017-07-31T00:25:29.010

It is indeed ironic that it gets a lot of hate from right-wingers, since as far as I can tell, the whole thing started on the right! There have been numerous posts recently by Rodrigo on postmodernism, and on one of them there was discussion of the history of the movement. My own feeling, regarding my observation of trends in America only, is that this "fad" is on the way out. And again, with some irony, the fact that it's fading will hurt the right more than the left! – Gordon – 2017-08-19T12:13:21.350

Anything that makes the left less silly is bound to hurt the right. To get an alternative view from mine, read Vattimo, Of Reality. He suggests we need weaker thought than even postmodernism to fight the "violence of metaphysics", the violence of one fixed view imposed by a ruling class. I have paraphrased Vattimo. – Gordon – 2017-08-19T12:26:33.407

Btw Alexander, in no way am I seeking to argue with your post. I just think the whole history of the concept of postmodernism and how it got spread about, and how it has developed is fascinating. – Gordon – 2017-08-19T19:10:16.513


I'll try to offer a brief sketch that moves from what I take to be "overarching" (more inclusive) complaints to more specific ones. Please keep in mind that I am, personally, very dissatisfied by most of Postmodern thought; I'm not trying to hide that fact or pretend to distance myself from judgment.

Postmodernism, at its most basic level, is a critique of Modernism. This critique is motivated by a dissatisfaction with philosophical Liberalism, which amounts to a distaste for capitalism and an appreciation of individualism, among other things. It's obvious that people who consider these "Enlightenment values" to be good (useful, respectable, fair, successful) will already, at this relatively nascent stage, be suspicious of Postmodernism. This suspicion is not unique to "right-wingers" or what the average American calls "Republicans" because this critique flows from Classical Liberals, Libertarians, many Democrats and everyone who is opposed to most of contemporary Progressivism.

Related to this is the Postmodernist's attitude toward science and rationality. Social constructivism, a distaste for "totalizing statements", and skepticism about objectivity, indifference, and progress are very important features here. To be frank, I think a lot of this stems from misunderstanding what these terms mean and what role they play in scientific investigations. "Objectivity" is parsed as "unchanging, universal truths", "indifference" is considered an anti-human (or life-negating) emotion, "individualism" is thought to be identical to selfishness and opposed to solidarity, and rationality is seen as an oppressive tool of the patriarchy. To be fair, I really do think that the concept of objectivity is horribly inflated and mis-used by scientists and lay people, but there are alternatives! We can all be fallibilists about knowledge (even the kind that arises out of empirical and formal efforts) without being skeptical about science and rationality.

Another feature is relativism and subjectivism. This is related to constructivism and probably stems from it. Moral judgments are relative to cultural practices and reality itself is sometimes considered as having no residue of perception-independent stuff. Gender fluidity might not be related but the attitude is similar: since gender is a social construct, we can find ourselves anywhere along a spectrum. However, there are alternatives here as well: instead of becoming relativists, we can become fictionalists about morality and gender. As I mentioned earlier, many of these attitudes are the result of misunderstandings ... ones that might possibly arise as a result of not exploring the intellectual landscape very thoroughly.

Please don't take this as a complete critique of Postmodernism. I can't clarify all of my attitudes and arguments here, and it's obvious that adherents will categorize these things differently.


Posted 2017-07-12T00:59:27.890

Reputation: 143

1One can take this back somewhat further to Hegel, and show the failure of Progress to reach a definitive formula. One way of doing things in political life as the result of completing the teleology of Nature. When that fails, the praise of radical diversity comes in, radiant enjoyment of difference as such. The dark side of radical openness is sheer license. – None – 2017-07-12T19:42:55.337

1""individualism" is thought to be identical to selfishness and opposed to solidarity" I think one can say Liberalism is still pursued by the radicalism of post-modernism. The claim is that Liberalism has stagnated. But, Communism (rather than autocratic Socialism) and anarchism are the logical result of increased individualism, i..e, withering of the state. Individualism can refer to civil rights, 'the people' over the 'power vertical', the 'evil' State or Government. Ambiguity in usage of "Individual". – None – 2017-07-12T19:54:02.380


I think a lot of this "hate" could arise from an intuition about the fundamental incongruity of saying there is no such thing as justified true belief, and ascribing any truth value to that judgement. Perhaps the "hate" is motivated by a kind of will to show that if that is what postmodernism purports to say, and also say about itself, that it is true, then it is fundamentally dissatisfying to someone if what they care about is finding out what is true. Postmodernism could appear to make a mockery of all pursuit of truth, through problematising the term "truth" as its kind of reason for being (at least, that is how it could appear).


Posted 2017-07-12T00:59:27.890

Reputation: 782

1In this sense it is used depreciativly as a synonym for nihilism. & for"sinister" political activities. Especially in Rightest critiques of the Left. & even the Rightests tacitly undermine this, e.g., the right-left spectrum doesn't maintain itself. It devalues... In fact, rightest methods are just as nihilistic, or post-modern, Justice Scalia was a good figure showing that, ostensibly maintaining old traditions, in the pretense of Originalism, which is actually a a radical undermining of the legal tradition in the form of a legal philosophy (in a register that didn't exist in former times). – None – 2017-07-12T19:38:21.320


The severe lack of epistemology in postmodernism as a school of thought is troublesome, to say the least--topple that with the added layer of obscurantism and it makes it nearly impossible to criticize as a philosophy and movement.

Jed I.

Posted 2017-07-12T00:59:27.890

Reputation: 67

I give it and it`s adherents a pretty good excoriating. See my answer. – TheDoctor – 2017-07-31T03:42:13.157


It seems that postmodernists disguise as Left (with themes like diversity, etc), but are actually favoring the Right. Why? When they attack modern science (examples here, here, here and here), they are attacking the only force strong enough to counterbalance organized monotheism. They are defending the same obscurantism (be almost impossible to read and understand seems to be a rule - examples here, here and here) that made organized monotheism thrive. Also, when they say "each one has its own truth" (examples here, here, here and here), they are dividing people, and this is good to who's in power now. "Unity makes strength" is a Left motto, and postmodernism goes straight against it. Chomsky's critics are in that line, and Chomsky is anything but rightist.

Now, if many critics come from the Right political wing, then they are 1) part of the plot, or 2) equally fooled.


@Not_Here asked for references, so here is the first. The core of Noam Chomsky's critic against what is called Postmodernism:

I've dipped into what they write out of curiosity, but not very far, for reasons already mentioned: what I find is extremely pretentious, but on examination, a lot of it is simply illiterate, based on extraordinary misreading of texts that I know well (sometimes, that I have written), argument that is appalling in its casual lack of elementary self-criticism, lots of statements that are trivial (though dressed up in complicated verbiage) or false; and a good deal of plain gibberish.

And I almost forgot, the clearest critique of all:

enter image description here


Posted 2017-07-12T00:59:27.890

Reputation: 1 364

2Do you think you can find any sources that you can cite or quotes you can use to help express your point? As it stands this answer is just you asserting your opinion declaratively. – Not_Here – 2017-08-01T08:14:01.217

@Not_Here Thank you. Which ones do you think need reference: they attack "modern science", they're almost impossible to read and understand, they say "each one has its own truth"? I'll find the reference for Chomsky critic, while I wait for your answer. – Rodrigo – 2017-08-01T13:03:45.857

@Not_Here Do you really think any of the above asks for references? To me they're plain obvious to anyone who had even a small contact with Postmodernism. I'd appreciate if you could answer, since you bothered to comment in the first place. – Rodrigo – 2017-08-18T03:11:12.593

1The best way to answer questions on this site is to provide sources for the claims you're making, "to me they're plainly obviously..." That doesn't matter because people will find this question who are not familiar with postmodernism, the point is to provide a well written and as close to objective answer as possible, not to assume the person already understands what you're saying so they blindly trust your opinion. And no, there's no need to answer a question that already has a high voted accepted answer. And to that point, Alexander has tons of references in his answer. – Not_Here – 2017-08-18T05:40:58.283

@Not_Here You too like to play the blind? Alexander really seems to believe that "Postmodernism is associated with the left". I'm giving material to think the contrary is actually how it all started. If this is useless, maybe that's really because you're not here to think. – Rodrigo – 2017-08-19T04:02:20.763

Alexander didn't say "postmodernism is leftism" he said "postmodernism is *associated* with the left, therefore it gets hate from the right" and that is absolutely true. The question asks "why do people hate postmodernism" and a valid answer to that question is "because a lot of people misuse the word to be synonymous with 'the belief that truth is relative' therefore they mistakenly associated it with all of the political left because that's how they view the left." Notice that nowhere in that sentence did I say "and they're correct." – Not_Here – 2017-08-19T06:25:39.407

As for "not being here to think" I'm assuming that you mean something like "you're not here to be honest in your pursuit of philosophical truth" or sown thing like that and, for the millionth time this is not a forum where people do philosophy, users don't have a responsibility to answer every single question. If im being honest the question of "why do people hate postmodernism"is a boring and bad question that isn't about postmodernism. It's not asking "what are critiques of pm" it's asking "why do people not like pm?" That's a boring and, in my opinion, not useful question. – Not_Here – 2017-08-19T06:30:43.460

@Not_Here He said it's associated with the left in a completely uncritical way. I know this too, and also think how could the left be so stupid as to buy it, since making people hate science may only, in the long run, be favorable to capitalists (and the way the banking system is ruling the world now more than ever, the single possibility of 2008 crisis, the way it happened, the ISDS clause of TPP almost being approved, all prove they've succeeded). And don't tell me those first authors didn't mean that, because they created a school that does exactly that, and that now dominates the West. – Rodrigo – 2017-08-19T11:43:28.367

@Not_Here About it being a "boring" and "bad" question. One thing is an idea being criticized, other very different is it being hated. The OP expressed something observed in the real world (and it seems that the "elite users" here read so much, and so boring texts, that have no time to live in the real world at all!). He observed a phenomenon and is trying to make sense of it. In what world this would be considered bad philosophy? Only in a religious world, where real philosophy is treated as the enemy -- what actually and sadly seems to be the case in this site. – Rodrigo – 2017-08-19T11:47:49.273


See my review of S. Hicks critique of postmodernism. Links in article to book. Here: https://ruminations.blog/2017/07/08/review-hicks-postmodernism/

matthew rapaport

Posted 2017-07-12T00:59:27.890

Reputation: 19

1Hello and welcome to Philosophy.SE! Do you think you can expand your answer so as to provide more information instead of being a "click here" type of answer? As it stands it seems more like a promotional post for your blog. – Not_Here – 2017-08-03T02:38:16.040

Well I appreciate it Matthew – Scott Simmons – 2017-08-03T07:00:42.757


I can't really speak for its philosophy at all, though it is often feminist, or relativistic, etc.. Postmodern art, post conceptual art, can at least appear to be lazy and tasteless, especially in its desire to shock or surprise.

In literature there are many definitions of it, which doesn't get us very far in saying why people dislike it. So e.g. Calinescu says it's difficult to distinguish it from popular culture, because post modernists want public acclaim. This sort of thing gets talked up especially by Marxists. So Eagleton thinks that the movement claims or appears to have abolished all alienation in one stroke, closing us off from realising quite how bad things are.

I do really like some writers who are broadly speaking postmodern, but this status is usually contested either by themselves or the critics.


Posted 2017-07-12T00:59:27.890



Postmodern philosophy is -broadly- characterised by a skepticism towards all-encompassing metanarratives. From my point of view, its detractors grossly exagerate and misrepresent its claims and purposes, and most of them have not made the slightest intellectual effort in order to understand. Most of the accusations of absolute relativism, nihilism and rejection of science are plainly wrong. Let's take the example of Derrida : In an interview book with French historian Elisabeth Roudinesco (**De quoi demain ? **) he explicitely states that he was frustrated by the french intellectual life of his youth with Sartre and Merleau-Ponty at Ecole Normale Supérieure because he felt that epistemology was overlooked.

Also, when mentionning the Sokal affair, one often omits Derrida's response, and swiftly considers that the verdict of "debunking" is irrevoccable.

Let me include it here :

"Le Monde asks for my comments on Alan Sokal and Jean Bricmont’s book Impostures intellectuelles, although they consider that I am much less badly treated in it than some other French thinkers. Here is my response: This is all rather sad, don’t you think? For poor Sokal, to begin with. His name remains linked to a hoax—”the Sokal hoax,” as they say in the United States—and not to scientific work. Sad too because the chance of serious reflection seems to have been ruined, at least in a broad public forum that deserves better. It would have been interesting to make a scrupulous study of the so-called scientific “metaphors”—their role, their status, their effects in the discourses that are under attack. Not only in the case of “the French”! and not only in the case of these French writers! That would have required that a certain number of difficult discourses be read seriously, in terms of their theoretical effects and strategies. That was not done. As to my modest “case,” since you make a point of mentioning that I was “much less badly treated” than some others, this is even more ridiculous, not to say weird. In the United States, at the beginning of the imposture, after Sokal had sent his hoax article to Social Text, I was initially one of the favorite targets, particularly in the newspapers (there’s a lot I could say about this). Because they had to do their utmost, at any cost, on the spot, to discredit what is considered the exorbitant and cumbersome “credit” of a foreign professor. And the entire operation was based on the few words of an off-the-cuff response in a conference that took place more than thirty years ago (in 1966!), and in which I was picking up the terms of a question that had been asked by Jean Hyppolite.1 Nothing else, absolutely nothing! And what is more, my response was not easy to attack. Plenty of scientists pointed this out to the practical joker in publications that are available in the United States, and Sokal and Bricmont seem to recognize this now in the French version of their book—though what contortions this involves. If this brief remark had been open to question, something I would willingly have agreed to consider, that would still have had to be demonstrated and its consequences for my lecture discussed. This was not done. I am always sparing and prudent in the use of scientific references, and I have written about this issue on more than one occasion. Explicitly. The numerous places where I do speak, and speak precisely, about the un-decidable, for instance, or even about Godel’s theorem, have not been referenced or visited by the censors. There is every reason to think that they have not read what they should have read to measure the extent of these difficulties. Presumably they couldn’t. At any rate they haven’t done it.One of the falsifications that most shocked me consists in their saying now that they have never had anything against me (cf. Liberation, October 19, 1997: “Fleury and Limet accuse us of unjustly attacking Derrida. But no such attack exists”). Now they are hastily classifying me on the list of authors they spared (“Famous thinkers like Althusser, Barthes, Derrida, and Foucault are mainly absent from our book”). This article in Liberation is a translation of an article in the Times Literary Supplement, where my name, and only mine, was opportunely omitted from the same list. In fact this is the sole difference between the two versions. So in France, Sokal and Bricmont added my name to the list of honorable philosophers at the last minute, as a response to embarrassing objections. Context and tactics obligeni More opportunism! These people aren’t serious. As for the “relativism” they are supposed to be worried about—well, even if this word has a rigorous philosophical meaning, there’s not a trace of it in my writing. Nor of a critique of Reason and the Enlightenment. Quite the contrary. But what I do take more seriously is the wider context—the American context and the political context—that we can’t begin to approach here, given the limits of space: and also the theoretical issues that have been so badly dealt with. These debates have a complex history: libraries full of epistemological works! Before setting up a contrast between the savants, the experts, and the others, they divide up the field of science itself. And the field of philosophical thought. Sometimes, for fun, I also take seriously the symptoms of a campaign, or even of a hunt, in which badly trained horsemen sometimes have trouble identifying the prey. And initially the field. What interest is involved for those who launched this operation in a particular academic world and, often very close to that, in publishing or the press? For instance, a news weekly printed two images of me (a photo and a caricature) to illustrate a whole “dossier” in which my name did not appear once! Is that serious? Is it decent? In whose interest was it to go for a quick practical joke rather than taking part in the work which, sadly, it replaced? This work has been going on for a long time and will continue elsewhere and differently, I hope, and with dignity: at the level of the issues involved."

This doesn't strike me as an unreasonable response. It is very appealing to dismiss Derrida, as his writings are nortoriously purposefully difficult, as he aims to carry a meta-reflection on writing. (If any french speakers read this, I encourage them to listen to the France Culture Radio interviews of Derrida)

I understand the frustration linked to postmodernism, but I think that the hate it gets far exceeds the healthy criticism it deserves.This is mostly due to the continental/analytic feud.

I would like to conclude by commenting on the main issue of some of analytic philosophy and the associated positivism, mainly that it cannot be self-justified. The assuption that, since all valuable knowledge comes from science, philospohy must either become a science (of some sort) or die is itself non-scientific. Carnap's declaration (which I've used several time) that "Metaphysicians are musicians with musical talent" is not a scientific fact, despite its rhetorical appeal.

From my point of view, philosophy is not a cumulative knowledge, but a dialectic tool, and the insight of postmodernism shouldn't be so easily dismissed.

Nathanaël GIROD

Posted 2017-07-12T00:59:27.890

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