Diller on Epistemological “Skepticism” and Defining “Modernism” and “Postmodernism”

As I promised previously, gentle readers, I return to you with more from Kevin Diller’s volume. The snippet that I have to share with you today pertains to defining terms. What does it mean, from an epistemological perspective, to talk about “modernism” and “postmodernism”? I’m not usually a fan of the concept of “postmodernism,” but Diller’s way of defining these terms against the backdrop of epistemological “skepticism” at least helped me understand better – or at least conceive with more clarity and concision than heretofore – what is at stake in this distinction.

So, without further ado, I give you the below.

Kevin Diller, Theology’s Epistemological Dilemma: How Karl Barth and Alvin Plantinga Provide a Unified Response (IVP Academic, 2014), 36 (bold is mine).
The epistemic problem we are after is not the seeming impossibility of knowledge. We accept that knowledge is a human possibility. The skeptic’s requirements for knowledge are unattainable. The skeptic’s requirements are motivated by an idealized conception of the nature of knowledge. It would seem, therefore, that the problem is with the skeptic’s conception of the nature of knowledge. Indeed, rejecting the skeptic’s view of what constitutes knowledge has been the most popular response to the skeptic’s dilemma.

When philosophers of knowledge refer to modernism, they typically have in mind an enterprise that accepted the skeptic’s gauntlet and was optimistic about the possibilities of providing a reasoned solution. Postmodernism in epistemology has generally seen a rejection of the skeptic’s terms in search of a more open view of knowledge. Obtaining this more open view, however, has involved making adjustments to the most fundamental notion in all philosopher: the notion of truth—more specifically, what it means to believe the truth.
What will happen? Will postmodernists successfully redefine “what it means to believe the truth”? Will modernists rally their forces and ride to the rescue? Or will the diabolical scheme of the elusive S.K.E.P.T.I.C. organization and its operatives succeed in overthrowing all possibility of knowledge? Stay tuned (i.e., go read Diller) for the exciting conclusion!

(Hopefully, you read that with the mental voice of the old Lone Ranger series narrator . . .)



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