Understanding modernism and postmodernism first requires one to comprehend the use of these terms. According to Houffman, these words can be viewed as time periods or as philosophical systems (2008). When discussing them as philosophies, it is likewise paramount to deliberate them as “isms” because each epoch had several diverse approaches. When examining them as time phases, the time periods are defined by the dominant philosophical system of the time. In other words, from the start of history to the 1650's, the dominant way of viewing the world was consistent with the pre-modern philosophical system. However, in late 1650's, pre-modernism was replaced by the modernist mindset. It also marked the time when the transition from modernism to postmodernism occurred. For this case, “Modernism" refers to Neo-Classical and Enlightenment assumptions concerning the role reason (rationality or scientific reasoning), play in guiding human understanding of the human conditions. Postmodernism, however challenges those basic assumptions. There are a considerable difference between these two terms with post-modernism being against virtually all tenets of modernism. The dominant philosophical systems are where the difference of "modernism" and "postmodernism" aptly applies. In postmodern times, for example, there is a predominance of postmodern art, architecture, and philosophy. As philosophical systems, modernity and postmodernity provide two different ways of looking at the world. These differences are well represented in their epistemologies as illustrated by the following examples.
Firstly, modernism takes as real the rational thought while postmodernists believe everything is irrational. Consequently, modernism places sharp prominence on science, while postmodernists are against scientific doctrines. Secondly, modernism accepts as true that there are universal values guiding humanity and are, therefore, future optimistic whereas postmodernists believe that local values singly have meaning. Thirdly, modernists favor organization and reflect the Western and European thoughts of the world; postmodernists places emphasis on Multiculturalism and believe that life is chaotic and fragmented. Modernists believe that life is purposeful. On the other hand, post-modernists are personal and therefore believe that life meanings are relative to one’s experiences and thus subjective. Fourthly, modern thinking concretely defined morality whereas postmodernists hold the truth as relative. Fifthly, the analytical mindset in modernism characterized the modernistic paintings with elegance, streamlined design and simplicity. However, the rhetorical nature in postmodernity sculptured post-modernistic arts with decoration and elaboration. Sixthly, the cause and effect concept determined the modernist view whereas chance defines the philosophy in postmodern times. Lastly, the belief of permanence dominated the modern view of life. As a result, modern thinkers believed that the truth is objective. On the other hand, postmodernists believe in transience of life. Thus felt that the truth is socially constructed and relative.
There is also a clear distinction when analyzing the literal movement of modernism and postmodernism. Modernists assert that the manifestation of social liberty and autonomy are forces that reject the basic predispositions of Enlightenment and Romanticism visions of harmony. Modernist rejected the scientific foundations of Enlightenment because they discounted the attainability of objective truth. They similarly precluded the Romantic concepts of peace and unity because they convinced in that fragmentation and disunity were the only valid elements in the world and within individual consciousness. Postmodernism, however moved current views to a different level by disparaging everything, including the form. They believed in fragmentation and disunity and ventured to find out the underlying principles of such reality.
Houffman, L. (2008). An Overview of Premodernism, Modernism, & Postmodernism. Retrieved November 23, 2014, from http://www.postmodernpsychology.com/philosophical_systems/overview.htm