I’m writing this because I wanted to internalize a quick argument that I picked up from reading Myron Penner’s Christianity and the Postmodern Turn. Penner edited the work, which hosts interactions between Merold Westphal, John Franke, James KA Smith, R Scott Smith, Doug Geivett, and Kevin Vanhoozer on the relationship between postmodernism and Christianity.
James KA Smith asserts that we can’t get outside of language and know an objective extra-linguistic world. Everything is mediated through language, so we can’t know the world in and of itself. One of the respondents to Smith asks this question: Now, are pomos making this sort of claim about reality’s essence or just from within their particular community’s language games? If they’re making the claim about reality’s essence then they’re assuming what they’re claiming can’t be known: knowledge of an objective extra-linguistic world. If they’re not making a claim about reality’s essence then they’re just making claims from within their own community’s phantom theatre of language parlour tricks. So, why should I accept their view? They’re just making a claim from within their own community’s world, and I’m most likely not a part of said community. And if I’m part of a different linguistic community, then I talk a different language and inhabit a different world. So, who cares?
Obviously, Jamie Smith and others want to say much more than the banal observation that their particular communities talk in certain ways. After all, they’ve written so much to get those of other linguistic communities to see as they do! But, their methodology ( = we can’t go out and observe the world as it really is due to linguistic barriers) betrays what they’re trying to say: Pomo philosophers see the world the right way, and other don’t.