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Experiments Against Reality: The Fate of Culture in the Postmodern Age
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
In these 17 essays, Kimball examines the influences that have shaped contemporary Western culture, re-evaluating the role of prominent authors, intellectuals and cultural commentators. The lively writing focuses on literature and literary criticism more than philosophy. Sixteen figures are subjected to his remarkably balanced and non-partisan scrutiny. Beginning with the poet T E Hulme, they include John Stuart Mill, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, T S Eliot, Auden, Wallace Stevens, Robert Musil, Elias Canetti, Foucault and Francis Fukuyama.

In his elegant introduction, Kimball observes that in sabotaging the notion of truth, the real aim of the deconstructionists was to undermine the concept of value. This explains postmodernism's appeal to mediocre academics unable to make a worthwhile contribution to knowledge. Declaring that truth is false and ignorance is knowledge, they embraced the inversion that the prophet Isaiah warned against: 'Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put bitter for sweet ...'

The concept of "value" had to be stripped of meaning in order to deny the universal validity and applicability of Western values. The real objective was to replace them with the "truths" of the 1960s counterculture, Kimball asserts. However, if truth does not exist as these nihilists claim, then their own views -- like those of the Khomeini fan Foucault who claimed that truth is merely a function of power -- cannot be valid either.

The author condemns society's refusal to judge and emphatically rejects the politically correct linguistic codes of the humanities in academia. He refuses to employ their assumptions, redefinitions, inversions, neologisms, scare quotes, paradoxes, gullibility, sneering tone or perverted tolerance. The refusal to criticize results in moral impotence, the practical results of which are visible in Europe where a sinister second society has sprung up amongst alienated immigrant communities. This hidden culture of hatred indulges in barbaric practices in the absence of law enforcement as revealed by Claire Berlinski, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Bruce Bawer, and Chantal Delsol in her books The Unlearned Lessons Of the Twentieth Century and Icarus Fallen.

When Kimball finally turns his attention to philosophy, he demonstrates how intellectuals like John Stuart Mill, Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell, Wittgenstein, Heidegger and even the conservative Roger Scruton evades modernity's moral imperatives. Foucault's grotesque equivalence between oppression & freedom, Sartre's dehumanizing, impersonal concept of "The Other" and Hegel's rambling dialectics are all exercises in evasion, attempts to force reality into neat paradigms instead of bravely facing its messy and inexplicable manifestations. In his masterpiece Explaining Postmodernism, Stephen Hicks offers illuminating insight into the aforementioned thinkers and their ilk.

In conclusion, Kimball discusses this mindset's sabotage of historical truth, reason and scientific rationality as well as the degeneracy of artistic expression. His arguments uproot the theoretical foundations of the criticisms invented by relativist purveyors of deconstructionist, multiculturalist, structuralist, environmentalist and feminist studies. The emerging roots reveal the ways in which postmodernist thinking has impoverished our culture, confused our epistemology and promoted a cluster of ideological mutants engaged in internecine warfare.

The pathology of Sinisterism is evident in its neverending effort to subvert the Word. Leftist thought derives from a primordial lie which betrays the sacred covenant between language and reality. Instead of being a vehicle for transmitting truth, language is manipulated in order to gain power. Thus leftist thought functions in a parallel dimension which is diverging ever more sharply from reality. Kimball's writings draw on a formidable arsenal of rhetoric to counteract this onslaught on language. His shield is the unassailable criterion of history whilst his weapons include the power of beauty, the force of reality and the antidote of common sense. It is inspiring to witness the way he wields the shield and the sword of the Word with consummate skill to devastating effect.

Other works of interest that offer different perspectives on the theme of intellectual deception include The Reckless Mind by Mark Lilla, Intellectual Morons by Daniel Flynn and Last Exit to Utopia by Jean François Revel. Theodore Dalrymple's Our Culture, What's Left Of It examines the west's cultural decay, whilst Ophelia Benson's Why Truth Matters presents a compelling case for taking back and restoring truth to the exalted position where it belongs.
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