1000 Wells

Written on January 04th, 2007 by Shawn Anthony

I randomly pulled an ethics book from its shelf this morning, after my morning devotions. I flipped to a very provocative page re: the issue of postmodernism, and its relationship and/or affect upon ethics, which has been a strong and obvious theme in discussions concerning Christianity and Christian ethics of late, at least here on this weblog. The content I read deserves to be quoted in full. It is simple, rich and, as I stated earlier, provocative:

There are alternative postmodernist visions of our ethical future which are less bleak (in contrast to postmodernistic ideas such as Supermarket Slavery, Post-Marxist Critical Theory, etc.). Richard Rorty (b. 1931), the American pragmatist philosopher, suggests that everyone accept and celebrate the postmodernist vision in which any notions of “knowledge” and “objectivity” have vanished. Thinkers and writers must become Romantics who invent their own private “ethics of taste”. Postmodern intellectuals should now adopt a playful distrust of large-scale moral truths and Utopian visions, and cultivate an ironically detached attitude to all human beliefs, including their own.

1. We can therefore pursue a life of curiosity which will be comic, playful, free and inventive.

2. It’s an existential or Nietzschean vision in which the individual is on a continual quest for “self-enrichment” and “self-enlargement” in a world of relative values.

So Rort’s morality is a private one, not much concerned with group welfare - which probably leads to a kind of political quietism. But if there are to be no more ethical “grand narratives”, as Lyotard claims, perhaps playful deconstruction and irony are all that is left? Perhaps.

Work Cited: Robinson, Dave, Chris Garratt, and Richard Appignanesi. Introducing Ethics. New York, NY Lanham, Md.: Totem Books; Distributed to the trade in the U.S. by National Book Network, 1997.

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