Mises Review 11, No. Stephen Hicks has written a trenchant and provocative book on a vital topic, but I undertake this review with reluctance. I may unleash against myself that direst of all fates for a reviewer—a profusion of critical letters. The reason for my fear will emerge later, but to preserve suspense I shall address some themes in the book out of the order in which the author has placed them. As befits a good philosopher, Hicks tells us exactly what he means by postmodernism: "Metaphysically, post-modernism is anti-realist, holding that it is impossible to speak meaningfully about an independently existing reality.
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Some flaws but, in the end, an interesting read. In this way, it might be fair enough to say that Kant destroyed philosophy in order to save it, but to argue that everything was hunky-dory before Kant wrote the Critique is simply false.
Also, there is an ever-present subtext of appeal to motive throughout the whole book. Kant sacrificed objectivity to save religion from empiricism. Kierkegaard sacrificed reason to also save religion from scrutiny. Heidegger folds in being with nothingness because of self-loathing. And, finally, postmodernists destroy language and, by extension reason, to prevent substantive demonstration of the validity of capitalism as triumphant over socialism or, in other words, to prevent the effective rejection of utopian idealism.
Hicks refuses to believe than anyone involved in the transition from Kant and Rousseau to Derrida and Rorty believed that they were genuinely involved in a passionate search for truth. Each was an opportunist, a sophist, trying to wring political, theological, and economic consequences from the bowels of epistemology, ontology, and linguistics.
A stretch, to say the least. At the same time, he does a great job showing the would-be enormous coincidence that nearly all postmodernist thinkers are leftist collectivists. Instead of merely marveling at this phenomenon, Hicks delves into the thought and shows, quite powerfully, the connection between the historical development of differing strains of anti-liberal, collectivist political movements and the corresponding ideologies utilized to support them.
The most recent manifestation, deconstruction and absurdism, is just an overwrought tantrum of the utter failures of socialist implementation over the last years. He is writing a polemic about an enormous subject that is designed to be accessible most readers, so I, at least, am willing to tolerate his seeming glibness.
The purpose of the book is to make a compelling case that philosophy has been defined by political ideology, itself rooted in the dreams of willful men more interested in high-minded visions of human perfectibility than the murky lessons of actual history, and it achieves this purpose.
Some flaws but, in the end, an interesting read. In this way, it might be fair enough to say that Kant destroyed philosophy in order to save it, but to argue that everything was hunky-dory before Kant wrote the Critique is simply false. Also, there is an ever-present subtext of appeal to motive throughout the whole book. Kant sacrificed objectivity to save religion from empiricism.