Pluckrose and Lindsay begin Cynical Theories (2020) by anticipating criticism from leftist academics. Some will accuse them of being racist right wingers (which they are clearly not). Others will derisively assert that the authors are deluded by a white, male, Western, heterosexual construction of knowledge. “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”, their critics will argue.
The master’s tools are reason, logic, science and liberalism, which have built the incredibly sturdy, majestic house of Western Civilization – it’s not perfect, but we’re extremely lucky to live in it. Postmodern philosophy tries to tear down our house but realizes it cannot do this with the “tools” of liberalism (democracy, universal human rights, legal equality for all, freedom of expression, respect for the value of viewpoint diversity and honest debate, respect for evidence and reason). It’s a good house. The only problem is that there has been limited access to it – that doesn’t mean we should tear it all down. “Equal access to rubble is not a worthy goal”, they write. So, let’s embark on a journey through bad ideas threatening to destroy our very very very fine house.
The first two chapters explore the origins of wrong postmodern thinking:
Chapter 1 – Postmodernism
Chapter 2 – Postmodernism’s Applied Turn
The next five focus on specific fields of grievance studies:
Chapter 3 – Postcolonial Theory
Chapter 4 – Queer Theory
Chapter 5 – Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality
Chapter 6 – Feminisms and Gender Studies
Chapter 7 – Disability and Fat Studies
The last three chapters explore the evolution of these ideas and presents the book’s conclusion:
Chapter 8 – Social Justice Scholarship and Thought
Chapter 9 – Social Justice in Action
Chapter 10 – An Alternative to the Ideology of Social Justice
It’s shockingly clear that none of these ideas are new. The authors cite countless articulations of the shameless intellectual bankruptcy of postmodernism. For example, endnote 22 in Chapter 1 points to Stephen R. C. Hicks’ book Understanding Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault (2004). It details the outrageous ideological pivots and the abandonment of truth in leftist thinking.
Another, older pounding of postmodernism is on pgs. 395-410 of Richard Tarnas’ The Passion of the Western Mind (1991). I remain astonished that supposedly smart people continue to push this crap even as the wrongness of it all keeps getting exposed. Recall that we worked through “The Three Great Untruths” in The Coddling of the American Mind (2018) here from 11/27/18 to 12/31/18. Cynical Theories (2020) arrives at the importance of that book in Chapter 9. We’ll be there in 9 weeks. Next Tuesday, we enter Chapter 1 – where in the world did postmodern ideas come from?