Non-Fiction Books:

Postmodernism, Reason and Religion


Paperback / softback

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Postmodernism, Reason and Religion by Ernest Gellner

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On questions of faith, Ernest Gellner believes, three ideological options are available to us today. One is a return to the genuine and firm faith of religious tradition. The other is a form of relativism which abandons the notion of unique truth altogether, and resigns itself to treating truth as relative to the society or culture in question. The third, which Gellner calls enlightenment rationalism, upholds the idea that there is a unique truth, but denies that any society can ever possess it definitively. The first option - religious fundamentalism - is particularly strong in Muslim socities, and Gellner investigates why this is so. He finds the explanation in the relationship between high culture and low culture within Islam, where the high culture, previously the achievement of the minority, has now become the pervasive culture of the entire society. This high culture, within Muslim societies, performs a function very similar to those performed by nationalisms elsewhere. The second option - relativism - is exemplified in the west by the postmodernism movement. Gellner is highly critical of postmodernism, arguing that it indulges in subjectivism as a form of expiation for the sins of colonialism. The objectivity pursued as an ideal by social science during the colonial period was in fact a tool of domination, and that a subjectivist relativism is a way of freeing oneself from that. Gellner explores the strengths and weaknesses of the third option, the option he prefers, arguing that this works only on assumption of inner compromise, and a seperation of truth taken seriously from truth used as a kind of cultural decoration. Learned and stimulating, Professor Gellner's book is an important contribution to our understanding of postmodernism and the relations between Islam and the West. It will be of great interest to anyone concerned with the ideological condition of contemporary society.
Release date NZ
August 6th, 1992
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
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