Do You See What I See? Universal Translation, the Postmodernist Lens, and Implications for Educational Research

Jeffrey Hankey


Abstract: In this philosophical paper, I make a case for the enduring utility of postmodernism as a lens through which to critique basic assumptions about knowledge and reality. I use this lens to tackle the contradictions built into so-called universal norms and values, which I argue are necessarily local and particular. This focus on the paradoxical structure of the universal informs my exploration of two related issues—the sense of practical paralysis, or inability to act, that seems to accompany postmodernism’s incredulity toward universals, and the role of the ethical educational policy researcher, paralysis notwithstanding. Accordingly, I problematize universalist claims about principles of human resilience as well as access to formal education, with an eye to the indefinite suspension of truth-claims. I contend that educational policy researchers have a responsibility to actively engage with the tensions of philosophical problems and conclude by suggesting what sorts of ethical imperatives might be cultivated by a responsible educational policy researcher in working to reconcile the so-called truths of science and the doubts of postmodern philosophy.


postmodernism; universalism; ethics;

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Last updated November 2 2018