Nietzsche, the Beatles and the Rise of Postmodernism

studying the effect of ethical and propositional relativism on modern culture at large...

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Nietzsche, the Beatles and the Rise of Postmodernism

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily and your are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:8-10).



Postmodernity, the contemporary world-view, or philosophical/ideological weltanschauung held by most Americans today, postulates that the perceived normative societal standards of reality, morality and propositional truth, are in fact, merely arbitrary sociological controls created by a passé and fast waning Judeo-Christian majority. And unlike Modernism, Postmodernism starts from the assumption that grand utopias are impossible. It accepts that reality is fragmented and that personal identity is an unstable quantity transmitted by a variety of cultural factors. Postmodernism advocates an irreverent, playful treatment of one's own identity, and a liberal society.

In present day America, the effects of the cultural ascendancy and widespread cultural prevalence of the postmodern worldview can be felt in almost aspect of civic discourse and interpersonal engagement. The Postmodern ideology, that widely disseminates the view that truth and morality are inherently relativistic, essentially governs almost every aspect of our daily lives. This ethical and propositional relativism, where nothing is held to be right or wrong or true or false, has greatly affected our contemporary secular education system, entertainment industry and every other mode of social engagement.

Like the ominous and ubiquitous artificial intelligence created social control known as the “Matrix” in the popular film trilogy created and directed by the Chicago born Wachowski brothers, the postmodern ethos permeates everything in American culture today.

Lawrence Fishburne as Morpheus in the first “Matrix” film, said,

The Matrix is everywhere; it's all around us, here even in this room. You can see it out your window or on your television. You feel it when you go to work, or go to church or pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.


Similarly, Postmodernism is all around us and its bankrupt relativistic tentacles are reaching throughout the entirety of Western Civilization. But, how did it get this way? How did postmodern relativism become the over arching ideological milieu and ethos of an entire civilization? How did right become wrong and truth falsehood so quickly in American culture?

The astute observer of American cultural and philosophical trends will acknowledge that relativism became the predominate outlook of our citizens over time through the influential writings of the such purveyors of existentialism and nihilism, as Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche and Jean-Paul Sartre whose views were widely disseminated throughout popular culture through such influential rock and roll bands and the Beatles. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:

Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher of the late 19th century who challenged the foundations of traditional morality and Christianity. He believed in life, creativity, health, and the realities of the world we live in, rather than those situated in a world beyond. Central to Nietzsche's philosophy is the idea of "life-affirmation," which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines which drain life's energies, however socially prevalent those views might be. Often referred to as one of the first "existentialist" philosophers, Nietzsche has inspired leading figures in all walks of cultural life, including dancers, poets, novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and social revolutionaries

Sartre (1905-1980) is arguably the best known philosopher of the twentieth century. His indefatigable pursuit of philosophical reflection, literary creativity and, in the second half of his life, active political commitment gained him worldwide renown, if not an admiration. He is commonly considered the father of Existentialist philosophy, whose writings set the tone for intellectual life in the decade immediately following the Second World War. Among the many ironies that permeate his life, not the least is the immense popularity of his scandalous public lecture "Existentialism and Humanism," delivered to an enthusiastic Parisian crowd October 28, 1945. Though taken as a quasi manifesto for the Existentialist movement, the transcript of this lecture was the only publication that Sartre openly regretted seeing in print. And yet it continues to be the major introduction to his philosophy for the general public. One of the reasons both for its popularity and for his discomfort is the clarity with which it exhibits the major tenets of existentialist thought while revealing Sartre's attempt to broaden its social application in response to his Communist and Catholic critics. In other words, it offers us a glimpse of Sartre's thought "on the wing." After surveying the evolution of Sartre's philosophical thinking, I shall address his thought under five categories, namely, ontology, psychology, ethics, political commitment, and the relation between philosophy and the fine arts, especially literature, in his work. I shall conclude with several observations about the continued relevance of his thought in contemporary philosophy both Anglo-American and "Continental."


Søren Kierkegaard (b.1813, d. 1855) was a profound and prolific writer in the Danish "golden age" of intellectual and artistic activity. His work crosses the boundaries of philosophy, theology, psychology, literary criticism, devotional literature and fiction. Kierkegaard brought this potent mixture of discourses to bear as social critique and for the purpose of renewing Christian faith within Christendom. At the same time he made many original conceptual contributions to each of the disciplines he employed. He is known as the "father of existentialism", but at least as important are his critiques of Hegel and of the German romantics, his contributions to the development of modernism, his literary experimentation, his vivid re-presentation of biblical figures to bring out their modern relevance, his invention of key concepts which have been explored and redeployed by thinkers ever since, his interventions in contemporary Danish church politics, and his fervent attempts to analyse and revitalise Christian faith. Kierkegaard burned with the passion of a religious poet, was armed with extraordinary dialectical talent, and drew on vast resources of erudition.


The effects of these philosophers have been great and every aspect of present day American culture has been influenced to believe that there is no such thing as absolute truth and morality and that we are left completely alone to create our own reality.

The great difficulty with the Postmodern worldview is that it is inherently and demonstrably self- contradictory and self- refuting. When the Postmodernist argues that there are no ethical and propostional truths, he or she instantaneously lapses into a contradictory and self refuting statement, for in saying there are no absolutes, he or she has made an arbitrary appeal to a fixed standard they just said did not exist, hence lapsing into nonsensical language.

The existence of moral and propostional absolutes is self evident in nature and govern every aspect of our world and to say otherwise is to lapse in self contradiction. Postmodernism fails to be a convincing worldview since it borrows from the absolutist worldview filled with a fixed standard of reality, propostional truth and ethical norms, to say such norms or standards do not exist.

What is self evident in creation is that such Biblical absolutes do exist;

Without the God of the Bible, the God of authority,the God who is self-contained and therefore incomprehensible to men, there would be no reason in anything. No human being can explain in the sense ofseeing through all things, but only he who believes in God has the right to hold that there is an explanation at all."

Dr. Cornelius Van Til, "Why I Believe in God"

"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse."(Romans 1:20)

"For in him we live and move and have our being."(Acts 17:28)

"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name." (John 20:31)