Screens, Research and Hypertext

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On Post-isms

In a long-ago academic essay on armed humanitarian intervention, I briefly explored what I dubbed "post-isms" —postmodernism, poststructuralism, and postcolonialism. While these theories are vast and broad-ranging, I argued that they share two important traits that were relevant to my argument:

  1. Differences between cultures are, in some important sense, incommensurable.
  1. There are no universal, cross-cultural agreements.

I argued that, taken together, (1) and (2) entail a commitment to the conclusions of moral relativism. That is, if differences between cultures are incommensurable, such that there can be no cross-cultural agreements, then we are left with nothing useful to say about a dispute between a culture that asserts its right to, say, indiscriminately murder its own citizens on the basis of race or ethnicity and one that asserts its right to prevent such behavior. I argued that:

A view that leaves no room for universal condemnation of genocide and enslavement and that offers no justification for one nation halting those practices in another nation, is morally suspect at best.


Referenced in

The Forms and Limits of Hypertext

As a good analytic philosopher, I’m on the record arguing that postmodernism as Theory is incoherent, at least when applied to moral or political questions.