No sooner do I repeat my theme here about how the left created the “post-truth” era, than the New York Times comes along to ratify my thesis. Writing in the Times today, Duke University student Casey Williams wonders, “Has Trump Stolen Philosophy’s Critical Tools?”
For decades, critical social scientists and humanists have chipped away at the idea of truth. We’ve deconstructed facts, insisted that knowledge is situated and denied the existence of objectivity. The bedrock claim of critical philosophy, going back to Kant, is simple: We can never have certain knowledge about the world in its entirety. Claiming to know the truth is therefore a kind of assertion of power.
These ideas animate the work of influential thinkers like Nietzsche, Foucault and Derrida, and they’ve become axiomatic for many scholars in literary studies, cultural anthropology and sociology.
From these premises, philosophers and theorists have derived a number of related insights. One is that facts are socially constructed. People who produce facts — scientists, reporters, witnesses — do so from a particular social position (maybe they’re white, male and live in America) that influences how they perceive, interpret and judge the world. They rely on non-neutral methods (microscopes, cameras, eyeballs) and use non-neutral symbols (words, numbers, images) to communicate facts to people who receive, interpret and deploy them from their own social positions.
Call it what you want: relativism, constructivism, deconstruction, postmodernism, critique. The idea is the same: Truth is not found, but made, and making truth means exercising power.
Game, set, and match. But if you hope that the writer will have second thoughts on postmodernism, you’ll be disappointed. The rest of the article is mush—a perfect display of how today’s liberal intellectual class is trapped within a prison of their own making, utterly unable to see beyond their own short horizons. Which shows how defective higher education is today. Students aren’t acquainted with even the most basic tools to defend the Enlightenment (let alone antiquity) from its willful destroyers.