Logical Arguments and Critical Theory (Pluckrose/Lindsay

I’ve mentioned critical theory here before and I said I’d come back to it again. In this post, I want to mention another helpful resource on critical theory: Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay. This isn’t a Christian book and I don’t agree with everything in it. However, I do recommend it for Christians who want more information on critical theory from scholars who have some serious and legitimate concerns with it and other Theory or theories (postcolonial theory, queer theory, critical race theory, etc.).

This is a massive topic and I don’t have time or space to get into it all here. However, I do want to share a section where the authors note how Theory has its roots in postmodernity. This quote has to do with postmodern cultural relativism and Theory. It’ll help answer this question: “Why don’t logical arguments work with some people who embrace the agenda of the far left?”

Because, in postmodern Theory, truth and knowledge are believed to have been constructed by the dominant discourses and language games that operate within a society, and because we cannot step outside our own system and categories and therefore have no vantage point from which to examine them, Theory insists that no one set of cultural norms can be said to be better than any other.

For postmodernists, any meaningful critique of a culture’s values and ethics from within a different culture is impossible, since each culture operates under different concepts of knowledge and speaks only from its own biases. All such critique is therefore erroneous at best and a moral infraction at worst, since it presupposes one’s own culture to be objectively superior. Moreover, Theory insists that, although one can critique one’s own culture from within the system, one can only do so using discourses available in that system, which limit its ability to change. Which discourses one can use is largely dependent on one’s position within the system, therefore critiques can be accepted or dismissed depending on a political assessment of the status of the critic’s position.

In particular, criticism from any position from any position deemed powerful tends to be dismissed because it is assumed either to be ingorant (or dismissive) of the realities of oppression, by definition, or a cynical attempt to serve the critic’s own interests. The postmodern belief that individuals are vehicles of discourses of power, depending on where they stand in relation to power, makes cultural critique completley hopeless except as a weapon in the hands of those Theorized to be marginalized or oppressed.

Cynical Theories, p. 41.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015