The anti-reason juggernaut of "postmodern" philosophy is sweeping through the world's universities, infecting every academic discipline in its path. Australian historian Keith Windschuttle is one of the few courageous academics to step forward to uphold reason and objectivity. This book provides a rousing defense of history as an objective science and unmasks the destructive ideas of the postmodern irrationalists.
Windschuttle provides an overview of all the major variants of postmodern philosophy, in clear and understandable terms – something, he notes, that has never been done by the postmodernists themselves. The common theme of these philosophies, he concludes, is that scientific induction is invalid, that all truth is relative, and that "we are locked within a closed system of language and culture, which refers not beyond our minds to an outside world but only inwardly to itself."
With respect to history, the postmodernist view is that it is all subjective fiction and that the historian is therefore free to disregard the facts or even to make them up. Windschuttle examines, for instance, how postmodern historians attempt to whitewash and downplay the Aztec practices of human sacrifice and cannibalism, equating them with European practices in order to support the doctrine that all cultures are equal. In another example, Windschuttle shows how post-modernist guru Michael Foucault fabricated facts and misplaced historical events by as much as a century in order to support his contention that a growing acceptance of reason leads to increasing oppression.
The ultimate result of postmodernism, Windschuttle correctly concludes, is "the return of tribalism." By demanding "Respect" for tribal cultures, the postmodernists are sanctioning a return to "differentiating between human beings on the basis of genealogical blood lines, in other words, on racial grounds." By contrast, Windschutle claims, "It is the universalism of Western science that recognizes all human beings the same people with the same origins. ... is Western universalism that is anti-racist, not relativism."
In support of this "universalism," Windschuttle upholds the idea of history a science. He demonstrates the objectivity historical evidence and defends the valididity of scientific induction. (Notably, he rejects the anti-induction ideas of Karl Popper, who is often mistaken as a defender of science.
The author does make his own philosophical errors. For example, he tends to reject all "cultural" explanations of historical events – which he equates with the postmodernists' collectivist determinism – in favor of a more concrete-bound empiricism. Such errors, however, are minor.
This book offers a frighteningly clear portrait of the disastrous implications of postmodernism – and issues an inspiring call to defend science, objectivity and the fundamental values of Western civilization.
This review is courtesy of and copyright © by the Ayn Rand Bookstore.