Friday, May 27, 2005

Premodernism, Modernism, and Postmodernism

The historical-idealogical labels "premodernism," "modernism," and "postmodernism" are oftened used today to divide three ages or stages of intellectual history. In Frame's lectures (cited in the previous post), he reproduces an outline from Richard Pratt that offers some helpful ways to think about these three:

I. Standard of Truth

A. Premodern: Truth is discerned primarily through religious institutions and mythology under the guidance of religious leaders.
B. Modern: Truth is discerned primarily through rational and scientific investigation under the guidance of rationalistic philosophers and scientists.
C. Postmodern: Truth is discerned both through mythology and rational-scientific means.

II. Ultimate Reality

A. Premodern: Ultimate reality is spiritual and deeply influences events in the ephemeral physical world.
B. Modern: Ultimate reality is the physical world. If a spiritual world exists at all, it is ephemeral and uninvolved in the events of the physical would.
C. Postmodern: Ultimate reality is both physical and spiritual (personal and impersonal); these dimensions of reality interact in countless ways.

III. Seeker of Truth

A. Premodern: Individuality is discouraged and conformity to community traditions is highly prized.
B. Modern: Individuality of the independent objective scholar (transcendent subject) is prized over conformity to received traditions.
C. Postmodern: Individuality is disdained as self-deceptive, but individuals are encouraged to defy oppressive traditions.

IV. Modes of Communication

A. Premodern: Heavy reliance on oral, ritualized and iconographic communication due to widespread illiteracy and primitive publishing techniques.
B. Modern: Heavy reliance on written communication, especially paper, due to rising literacy and publishing technologies (printing press).
C. Postmodern: Written communication is lowered to the level of other formats, especially the iconographic, due to widespread electronic technologies.

V. Historical Progress

A. Premodern: Widespread mythic meta-narratives depict history in never-ending cycles.
B. Modern: Widespread rational and scientific meta-narrative depict history as progressing toward utopia.
C. Postmodern: Fragmented, heteromorphic multi-narratives depict history as cycles and counter-cycles of cacaphony and harmony.” [Meta-narratives suspected as attempts to oppress victim groups.]