Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Solzhenitsyn Among the Postmoderns

I recently wrote an article for the Charles Colson Center about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's approach to postmodernism. Although Solzhenitsyn is best remembered for his books attacking communism, what is generally less appreciated is that he was also a fierce critic of postmodernism.

Don’t be scared off by the term “postmodernism.” The best way to explain it is against the backdrop of “modernism.” As an ideology, modernism it is closely aligned with the worldview of secular humanism, which elevates man and his reason to the center of reality.

In contrast to the pre-modern worldview, which stressed that all human knowledge is a subset of God’s knowledge, modernism emphasized that man is at the center of reality and that unaided human reason can discover absolute truth. Solzhenitsyn challenged this view in his Harvard address, claiming that secular humanist ideas were “the mistake” that was “at the root, at the very foundation of thought in modern times.” He continued:
“I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world in modern times. I refer to the prevailing Western view of the world which was born in the Renaissance and has found political expression since the Age of Enlightenment. It became the basis for political and social doctrine and could be called rationalistic humanism or humanistic autonomy: the pro-claimed and practiced autonomy of man from any higher force above him. It could also be called anthropocentricity, with man seen as the center of all.”
But Solzhenitsyn did not stop by merely confronting Modernism; his message of national repentance also challenged the fashionable postmodernism of the late 20th and early 21st century.

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