To many, the antithesis of modern humanism, which was founded on Enlightenment principals, would be the philosophy of postmodernism. The political Left in America, over the past 45 years or so, has been marred by postmodernism, and the Right has taken advantage of that fact. What started out as an honest and justified consideration for the well-being of cultures ‘other than’ European and American (cultures which often have been historically the victims of European/American colonialism and hegemony), has morphed into an acceptance of double standards by some thinkers.
One might call this the ‘who are we to judge’ effect. The Right, as is its wont, fights back with fundamentalisms of every sort – or what might be called their ‘we alone are to judge’ doctrine. Is there then, a way to understand and implement a progressive humanism which, while Leftist in political orientation, is still Enlightenment based?
That is the question David Detmer tries to answer in his book, Challenging Postmodernism: Philosophy & the Politics of Truth. Challenging Postmodernism is a philosophical treatise which examines the problems with postmodernism and its anti-humanistic implications, and tries to determine whether or not the intellectual Left is indeed guilty en masse of cultural relativism. It then explains how a progressive politic is indeed very much in step with Enlightenment humanism.