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Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault
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Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  1,363 ratings  ·  198 reviews
Tracing postmodernism from its roots in Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant to their development in thinkers such as Michel Foucault and Richard Rorty, philosopher Stephen Hicks provides a provocative account of why postmodernism has been the most vigorous intellectual movement of the late 20th century. Why do skeptical and relativistic arguments have such power in the ...more
Paperback, 230 pages
Published April 1st 2004 by Scholargy Publishing
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Anthony For a direct response to Hicks' text, I would highly recommend this video, which shows the consistently poor scholarship and at times abject misinterp…moreFor a direct response to Hicks' text, I would highly recommend this video, which shows the consistently poor scholarship and at times abject misinterpretation of not only postmodernist, but modernist and pre-modernist philosophies:

In general, it is best to read the primary texts if you want a clear representation of the ideas, but it might get tricky when it comes to more obscure works where you might want to look into secondary literature. A good place to start would be the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy which will provide an overview with sources you can follow up on.(less)

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Dan Rera
Dec 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, philosophy
Good book. Some flaws but, in the end, an interesting read.

I didn't care for his encapsulation of Kant and the transcendentalist endeavor. He didn't seem to grasp the power of Hume's criticism/empiricism. Hicks would rather put the blame on Kant's shoulders (in part, it seems, simply because Kant is German and it fits better into his Anglo vs Continental dichotomy) than dignify that Hume was the real problem child of empiricism and that Locke's dogmatism was, to many, incapable of withstanding t
Jul 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
What an awful, awful book. Equating postmodernists with leftists and then claiming they 'more often than others' (who the fuck is others?), engage in authoritarian 'political correctness' and more often incorporate rage and anger in their argumentation.

Oh and for the love of christ on a crutch Dvorkin never said that.
vi macdonald
Sep 12, 2018 rated it did not like it
Almost spectacularly moronic.

Not only an impressively wrong headed, bad faith reading of postmodern thought, but Hicks decides whip out his idiotic interpretations of pre-enlightenment, enlightenment, and modernist thought while he was at it.

The fact anyone is seriously taking this impressively bad scholarship seriously is both a testament to the influence of Lobster Lad and how ready people are to latch onto literally any source that “justifies” their worldview, no matter how poorly informed
Douglas Wilson
Dec 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: politics, philosophy
Stephen Hicks is some sort of Objectivist or Randian, and so that should be said right up front. And this means I do not know how he managed to get that many rocks onto his magic epistemological carpet, and still less do I know how he got it to fly like that. But let us assume his craft was flight-worthy . . . Hicks spent the entire book beaning postmodernists with rocks. He has a good arm, and is a nice shot. I haven't enjoyed a book this much in quite some time.

Hicks provides an essential serv
Mahmoud Awad
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Austrian Economists, people who shout "ad hominem" over dinner conversation
Shelves: reference
Another comical presentation of that fundamental libertarian inability to differentiate Nazism from Bolshevism. Shape your expectations accordingly.
Jan 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: philosophy, history
Explained the genesis and developments of postmodernist theory to philosophy-averse me. I never stayed up till 3am for a philosophy book before.
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: politics, philosophy
Carl Jung used to say, 'People don't have ideas, ideas have their people.' Postmodernism has pierced the minds of its victims, possessed them and controlled them.

Postmodernism is filled with superstition and it's explicitly anti-science, anti-reason, and anti-logic.

The people that come up with these theories are truly pathological.

Postmodernism is the Alex Jones of philosophy.
Martin Rundkvist
Mar 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
Hicks's history of Kantian philosophy is competent, but his constant Ayn Rand libertarian attacks on the Left are tiresome. Turns out that when he says "socialism collapsed", he means "Michel Foucault felt disillusioned when he learned about Stalin's mass murders in the late 50s". ...more
Ali Arabzadeh
Jan 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
Its superficial and useless !
Philip of Macedon
By titling this book Explaining Postmodernism, Hicks is being overly gentle toward the postmodernist dogma, since his handling of the material warrants the more apt title of Vanquishing Postmodernism. Word for word, page for page, this is the most substantial and coherent philosophy-critical text I've read. Where other works will waste time and space and become bogged down in semantics and jargon and insider lingo, this book cuts straight to the point with powerfully worded and clearly written p ...more
Mark Alexis
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Reading Stephen Hicks' Explaining Postmodernism left me wondering whether (some) people haven't become too smart for their own good, yet also reminded me of the adage that a smart person is not the same as a wise person.

In this book, Mr. Hicks traces postmodernism back to its intellectual roots. For those unfamiliar with the subject, postmodernism is the twentieth-century philosophical movement, still dominant and pervasive in academia today and with tentacles reaching deeply into our wider soci
Griffin Wilson
Sep 14, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: ph-postmodern, worst
A more accurate title might be "Explaining Postmodernism: Misreading Philosophers from Rousseau to Foucault." This work will fit nicely into my 'worst' shelf, never did 5 minutes go by without a comical misinterpretation, erroneous conflation, or blatant falsity surrounding any number of philosophers and their ideas, particularly Kant, Nietzsche, Hegel, Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, and 'the postmodernists' (which is really a useless and unhelpful category) in general.

To any fan of this book I c
Bry Willis
May 12, 2019 rated it did not like it
Stay away from this book unless you are looking to confuse yourself to the concept of postmodernism. This is textbook example of poor scholarship.

I couldn't finish this book. The chapters I read so misrepresented the authors and their positions, I would have no idea what to accept as valid. In some cases, it was apparent that Hicks could not have read the work he was 'explaining'; rather, he was engaged in some sort of game of telephone, and his explanation and ensuing critique were of some non
Ben De Bono
This might be one of the most important books for understanding our world today. Postmodern thought has been making inroads into the mainstream of western culture for decades, but we're only now beginning to see how pernicious it actually is. Its claims and strategies aren't easy to understand - let alone combat - unless you understand its philosophical pedigree. Stephen Hicks does a phenomenal job in laying that out in a way that's extremely readable without sacrificing depth.

The book came out
Jake Desyllas

Why did an anti-enlightenment, anti-reason movement called "postmodernism" develop in the mid 20th century? And why were all the leading theorists of postmodernism from the far left wing of politics? Hicks presents a brilliant answer to these questions in a very clear and easy to read style. He argues that postmodernism emerged as a rhetorical strategy of committed socialists once the failure of socialism could no longer be ignored. Rather than change their views, many devoted socialists chose t
Jun 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating thesis, with two surprising claims. First that postmodernism's abandonment of reason is the endpoint of a line of philosophy that begins with Kant, who (in Hick's account) was the first to denigrate reason. Ironically, Kant was attempting to carve out a safe space (pun intended) for religious faith. But without reason to partner with faith, faith can become capricious and egoistic. Second, the crisis of socialism provided the need for postmodernism's leap into the dark of nihilism. ...more
James Henderson
This book is an excellent introduction to both the philosophical foundations of Postmodernism and the history of its battle with the Enlightenment outlook. The author analyzes the views of specific philosophers who provided the ideas that led to contemporary postmodern thinkers; including brief summaries of the views of each. Comparative charts are provided along the way that are helpful in assessing different views and changes in philosophy over time. He elucidates the links between the ideas o ...more
Omar Ali
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
A very lucid and devastating criticque of contemporary postmodernism. The author (or so it seems, I am not familiar with his other works) is pro-individual, pro-liberty and pro-capitalist, but even if you disagree with all three, you will find this book useful. The survey of the roots of modern postmodernism in earlier anti-enlightenment philosophies is very informative and well worth reading.
And its only 4.99 on kindle, so you can put it on your phone and read bits and pieces at leisure (which
Mickey Hernandez
Apr 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
If I could I would give this book a 4.5. It was a fantastic elucidation of traditional Marxist, Neo-Marxist, and Post-modernist ideas. It also provided a good amount of background from thinkers such as Rousseau, Kierkegaard, Kant, Nietzsche, and other authors who influenced 19th and 20th century thought. The criticism of Post-modernist and Marxist thought is, in my opinion, mostly sound. For my money, it identifies a lot of what is wrong, or at the very least, inefficient and inadequate, with so ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A challenging read, but worth the effort. With every chapter, more fell into place in my mind regarding how we got where where we are today with everything from vicious political rhetoric, universities as hothouses for leftist ideologies, the irrational popularity of patently ugly art, to the rise of nihilistic thinking that often leads to unspeakable acts of violence.
Dec 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It's basically a companion piece to Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Hicks explained the rise of postmodernism through history and philosophy. Each Chapter is dedicated to a specific era of philosophy and showcasing just how the evolution of irrationality came about. Starting from Rousseau, Hicks went on to explain the failings of Kant, Hegel, Heidegger, Derrida, Rorty, Foucault, Dewey and Nietzche. The best part of the book was the chapter titled "Socialism in Crisis", which simply sho ...more
Thore Husfeldt
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a splendid little book! Lucid and informative. I particularly liked the historical overview of philosophical precursors to 20th-century postmodernism, which I found concise and illuminating. This author makes no attempt at hiding his monumental contempt towards the intellectual and moral failures of its subject. Recommended—if somebody can point to this book’s “good twin” (i.e., an equally concise description of postmodernism from somebody who actually likes it), I’d be happy to read it. ...more
Daniel Schwabauer
Apr 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent overview of the historic roots of postmodernism

Much of this book is spent in summarizing the philosophers who set the foundation for Marxism and post-modernism. While the overview is helpful, the middle is also a bit of a slog, especially for someone not enthusiastic about the (admittedly important) differences between those philosophies. The "slog" is why I gave it four stars instead of five. Light reading it isn't.

That said, the author makes an excellent case for the origins and d
Roman Skaskiw
Oct 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the most important books I've read. Its big idea is a comparison of the evolution of socialist thought to enlightenment thought.

When enlightenment logic and reason was perceived as a threat religion, a series of "counter-enlightenment philosophers" waged a war on logic, reason and truth.

This tradition continued in the 20th century when the catastrophe of socialism became too great to ignore, the post-modernism picked up the counter-enlightenment tradition and waged a war on the very tools
Jack Gardner
Jun 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: philosophy
Explaining the Seemingly Inexplicable

Greatly appreciate this very readable exposition, by a rational mind heroically treading where others become repulsed and confused. Makes understanding this opaque intellectual jungle enjoyable.

Informative - even essential - for understanding 20th century culture, its unraveling, and continuing influences. Reviews the long history and identifies the leading characters in the development of this "philosophy." Highly recommended.

The expanded edition's essay on
Oct 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
if you don't know about postmodernism this book is a good start. despite the fact that the author is biased against postmodernism he still uses definitions from original literature of PM philosophers. now I feel fairly prepared to converse about general ideas of PM philosophy. ...more
Nate Weger
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Resentful Cain and Righteous Abel

Review of Explaining postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault by Stephen Hicks

My attention was directed to this book by Jordan Peterson but I had first heard about 'postmodernism' listening to Ravi Zacharius on YouTube.

Although Stephen is not shy letting the reader know what he thinks of postmodernism from his 'rational' philosophical perspective I think that he is even handed in articulating at least where it comes from and its basi
In Search of the False Dichotomy

What exactly is “postmodernism”? Essentially, it is the denial that an objective reality exists. For those who hold this view, words themselves are a meaningless game. So when they challenge the use of the term “postmodern”, remember they are playing their favourite game. I am not going to play. “Postmodern” is fine by me as a label for this way of thinking.

This book an account of how the systematic questioning of objective reality developed over the centuries, in
This is an interesting book which tries to explain the success of postmodernism. Unfortunately I am not as erudite as I should be so I cannot claim to know whether or not the author is making false claims against Kant, Foucault, Heidegger and Derrida. (The one mistake I did notice was a minor one: he wrote that the famous German author and war veteran Ernst Jünger was wounded 3 times when it was in fact 17 times).

Hicks is arguing that following the enlightenment there came a reaction to it and
Ryan Murdock
Aug 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An essential book for understanding the extreme polarization we're currently seeing in the West, with its quagmire of political correctness, bitter identity politics, censorship and de-platforming of speakers at universities, and the incredibly persistent zombie of a failed socialism that just won't die.

Hicks offers convincing arguments for how we got to this point, and where the split occurred in both the philosophical literature and politics. Unfortunately, he stops short of offering solutions
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Professor of Philosophy and the Executive Director of the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship at Rockford University, Illinois. He is the author of several books, a documentary, and essays in magazines and scholarly journals. He received his honours BA and MA degrees from the University of Guelph, Canada, and his PhD in philosophy from Indiana University, Bloomington. Professor Hicks teaches co ...more

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“In postmodern discourse, truth is rejected explicitly and consistency can be a rare phenomenon. Consider the following pairs of claims. On the one hand, all truth is relative; on the other hand, postmodernism tells it like it really is. On the one hand, all cultures are equally deserving of respect; on the other, Western culture is uniquely destructive and bad. Values are subjective—but sexism and racism are really evil. Technology is bad and destructive—and it is unfair that some people have more technology than others. Tolerance is good and dominance is bad—but when postmodernists come to power, political correctness follows. There is a common pattern here: Subjectivism and relativism in one breath, dogmatic absolutism in the next. Postmodernists are well aware of the contradictions—especially since their opponents relish pointing them out at every opportunity. And of course a post-modernist can respond dismissingly by citing Hegel—“Those are merely Aristotelian logical contradictions”—but it is one thing to say that and quite another to sustain Hegelian contradictions psychologically.” 7 likes
“why is it that that prominent segment of the Left—the same Left that traditionally defended its positions on the modernist grounds of reason, science, fairness for all, and optimism—is now voicing themes of anti-reason, anti-science, all’s-fair-in-love-and-war, and cynicism? ” 5 likes
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