Postmodern Doubt

Your friend wants to know: “I understand you have a basically trusting attitude towards knowing things.  But this strikes me as naive.  Don’t you watch The Daily Show?  Have you been in a cave while the postmodern deconstructionists dismantled, piece by piece, the problems of modernity?  Are you unaware of the personal and cultural biases which we all bring into this world?  How can you sustain such a basic trust in coming to know things?”

As strange as it is, what we need to notice about this response is how consistently our friend has rightly assumed she understands reality.  For instance, she is assuming: 1) she basically understood what you communicated, 2) you will understand what she says, 3) she knows what is communicated on The Daily Show and by postmodern thinkers, 4) she has assessed these sources of information against her other experiences and discerned what was true and what was false, and 5) that all of this allows her to make a powerful argument which should lead you to be suspicious of knowing more things.  And she expects you to know something more after talking with her.

As inconvenient as it is for her argument, she has to rely on a basic trust in coming to know things in order to discern truth from error.  It is like standing on the second floor of a house and saying, “There cannot be a foundation to this house!”  Her own trusting attitude, in the midst of an argument that we should be suspicious, shows us how fundamental this basic trust actually is and how frequently we rely on it.

At the same time, while there is no need to retreat from our trusting attitude, we can gladly strengthen it.  It is by learning from trial and error that we progress.  We can deliberately slow down our investigation into what is real or true in areas like politics, cross-cultural understanding, and areas of specialized study.  We progress in each of these areas because, in our learning, we maintain a basic posture of trust that we are at least coming to know what different perspectives are on a given issue.