Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Truth and fiction

Every generation is impacted by a dominant philosophy or way of seeing the world. When that philosophy is taken to its extreme, the next generation searches for another philsophy to counter the old one. As for my generation (Y), I think we are yet to see or even acknowledge the dark side of the post-modernist philosophy we've been brought up on.

Now I don't want to trivialise the need for a counter-philosophy to modernism, which made all sorts of dodgy claims and resulted in pretty awful events. However, I think the general population is still giving tacit approval to post-modern thought. Perhaps at a scholarly level, there is change a-foot, but they're definitely still subscribing to its basic tenets in schools, and universities. The inevitable pendulum is yet to swing.

I think what we haven't acknowledged fully in the public sphere is that the post-modern approach to the world is especially hollow as it erodes the very foundation of existence: that truth can be known. It creates an unliveable world in which there is no truth, and no meaning.

But we all know there is more than meaninglessness, otherwise we would not bother to get out of bed. But we're trained to play down meaning, to refuse to give credence to any particular idea because well hey, it's just one perspective and all opinion are valid. It's interesting to note my generation is the generation of grassroots campaigns and user-defined media. Doesn't sound like apathy or pluralism in action to me.

Anyway, I recently read this article by Simon Leys (who, by the way, supervised Kevin Rudd's honours thesis back in the day) which I think illuminates well the paradox post-modernism tries to explain away. He argues there aren't multiple truths, but multiple judgements about the truth. He also talks at length about the way imagination is needed to understand the truth of a situation, and that mere facts don't always reveal truth. I definitely recommend giving it a read.

Here's a sample:
"The fact is, these two arts - history writing and fiction writing -
originating both in poetry, involve similar activities and mobilise the same faculties: memory and imagination; and this is why it could rightly be said that the novelist is the historian of the present and the historian the novelist of the past. Both must invent the truth."


Drew said...

even acknowledge the dark side of the post-modernist philosophy

because hey, don't you know, we're all on the dark side, like, together.


My phd deals with some of this stuff...

sophg said...

I'd like to understand more of what you're researching, but I think it might be a little beyond me!