Law Religion Culture Review

Exploring the intersections of law, religion and culture. Copyright by Richard J. Radcliffe. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 24, 2005

It's a Matter of Interpretation, Part V.

Most of these rules or principles of interpretation presume modernity--a worldview whereby truth can and should be ascertained. By contrast, postmodernism makes such efforts at interpretation of texts irrelevant. In postmodernism, there is no need to divine what a text means because it can be anything you want in accord with your "metanarrative". James Sire explains:

"The term postmodernism is usually thought to have arisen first in reference to architecture, as architects moved away from simple unadorned, impersonal boxes of concrete, glass and steel to complex shapes and forms, drawing motifs from the past without regard to their original purpose or function [endnote omitted]. But when French sociologist Jean-Francois Lyotard used the term postmodern to signal a shift in cultural legitimation, the term became a key word in cultural analysis.

"In short, Lyotard defined postmodern as 'incredulity toward metanarratives. [endnote omitted]. No longer is there a single story, a metanarrative (in our terms a worldview), that holds Western culture together. It is not just that there have long been many stories, each of which gives it binding power to the social group that takes it as its own. ... With postmodernism no story can have any more credibility than any other. All stories are equally valid." (J. Sire, The Universe Next Door (3d ed. 1997), p. 174; emphasis in original.)

Postmodernism has been called the abyss over the precipice. Once it is breached, it's a descent into nothingness. In nothingness, there can be no meaning.