Sunday, October 23, 2005

Anti-Affirmative Action Redaction
Jeff, whilst continuing his ongoing explication of the Miers debate, links to this post at “The Trigger” excoriating Hugh Hewitt, which in turn links to this post by Stanley Kurtz re: Hewitt/Miers, which makes reference to an op-ed Mr. Kurtz penned back in February of 2001 entitled Academic Postmodernity & the SATs, which is the impetus for my current post. Follow all that?

Perhaps it is a pursuant to mine own narcissism that I would outline the path I took to that piece. Regardless, I would dub the op-ed in question as mostly spot on. Read it post haste. Here’s a juicy bit:
No one wants to think of themselves as a temporary exception to proper academic standards. So the beneficiaries of liberal condescension quickly became the carriers of a new ideology. The rise of academic postmodernism, with its assumption that classic democratic principles are just a cover for white, male, heterosexist, first-world power, is directly attributable to affirmative action. The only way to preserve self-respect as an exception to standards of academic excellence and democratic principle was to mount an attack on those very principles and standards.
My parents are of the generation comprising those “who entered our colleges and universities with the avowed goal of "subverting" them” and who “are now at the apogee of their influence”. For this and other reasons, I feel I have some familiarity with the genesis of their weltanschauung, and I can’t simply buy, in its entirety, the tidy package Herr Kurtz wraps up for us. I accept and endorse the thesis that affirmative action and its philosophical antecedents really do pose a threat to meritocracy and individual freedom, but it strikes me as at best an oversimplification to suggest that postmodernism rose primarily as a beard for an affirmative action’d studentry.

I submit that postmodernism was a (admittedly poor) response to the very real shortcomings of the enlightenment paradigm. I’m a big fan of the enlightenment paradigm incidentally, but it clearly and fully fails to explain a great deal of the human experience, and where it is useful (which is to say in a lot of places) it still leaves one wanting. Philosophical Materialism, for example, is a wonderful context within which to make useful predictions about phenomena, but who but the most dogmatic materialist can accept that love is merely a product of neurotransmission and nothing more? What is the more? I don’t pretend to know, but if the historically steady evolution of human knowledge is any guide, how can one be content to consider the enlightenment paradigm the apotheosis thereof?

I will not aver postmodernism as the new paradigm; I think it amounts to essentially a devolution. However, much in the same way that businesses which refuse to respond to market trends die, the old-guard of the enlightenment write their own death notices when they stubbornly refuse to recognize that postmodernism is not merely epiphenomenal to youthful rebellion. Something will supplant the reigning paradigm, and while it won’t be “postmodern,” the avatars of enlightenment orthodoxy can provide us little clue as to what will be its countenance.

posted by Malaclypse the Tertiary at 11:09 PM ·

Smart Blogs:
(in no particular order)
Deinonychus Antirrhopus
The Knowledge Problem
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Kolkata Libertarian
Andrew Sullivan
Little Green Footballs
Dave Barry
Libertarian Samizdata
Balloon Juice
Discount Blogger
Truck and Barter
Peking Duck
The Gweilo Diaries

Ludwig von Mises Institute
The Cato Institute
Junk Science
David Friedman
Tech Central Station

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