Sure.otseng wrote:Slopeshoulder, what is your definition of modernity? I think differing definitions is where the source of disagreements lie.
At it's most basic, it would be the overall thrust of thought, learning, discussion and consensus that began with Descartes and continues until now, or say 50-80 years ago if you include post-modernity as a separate development after Wittgenstein (as I do).
As to content, because it's so vast, and includes such opposed movements as idealism, empiricism, positivism, romanticism, pragmatism, analytic philosophy, phenomenology, rationalism, existentialism and deconstruction, it's hard to nail down anything consistent beyond broad themes. Some are very very hardcore regarding verifiability, where others are more sanguine (many moderns and postmoderns are deeply religious!). But here are a few themes that seem like safe bets that concern most moderns:
- the value of human reason (senses, logic, experimetation), in the face of supersition, magic, alchemy
- the value of human experience and judgment in the face of inherited assumptions
- the idea of evolution or progress in understanding
- This is crucial: the difficulty, yet the importance, of finding "foundations" of knowledge that we can all agree to and which might form the basis for more elaborate ideas. Indeed, all the major movements mentioned above, as well as others, are defined by how they tried to solve this (senses, ideas, feeling, experience, cognition, etc)
- the value of freedom of inquiry subject to peer review (as flawed as the inquirers may be)
- a sense of provisionalism regarding truth
As modernity became post-modernity, new themes were brought to bear:
- as universal foundations are proving really hard to find, and we've had little luck, it seems that we're better off looking for meaning rather than truth
- as perspective is always limted, and often dileneated by gender, race, economics and power, as well as the way in which these slip into language and perception themselves, it would appear that truth or meaning is not universal, but rather local, and often unjust and incomplete.
- biology, physics, language, and politics may have more to teach us about how we find meaning, especially as they are all so flaky when you look at them closely.
So modernity says to premodernity, "Hey, forget your magical beliefs and superstitions. They don't add up." And a LONG discussion between theology and philosophy, myth and science ensued, complicated by comparative religion. It did well when it clarified and matured religious thinking (as it did for many modern theologians) and when it spared us from countless kooky notions (human sacrifice anyone?); but sometimes it got very parsimonius and arrogant about what would even be considered true at all and seemed to pur perfect knowledge ahead of human happiness. We see this latter trend among "strong atheists," positivists, rationalists, and reductionists.
But POST modernity says to modernity, "well, science and logic are themselves limited, flawed, and self-undermining at times; they are just one discourse among many, with an appropriate role and innapropriate roles. NO, we can't allow for incredulous nonsensical opinion to pass itself off as fact. HOWEVER, first, you moderns don't know everything you think you know. And second, the premoderns might have lacked modern knowledge and education, but they had brains, and common sense. And some of them were sublime in their thinking. So maybe what they said made sense as metaphor, poetry, and was deeply meaningful and valuable." All this led to neo-orthodoxy, post-liberalism, and paleo-orthodoxy on the right, and a certain pluralism and mythopoetic sensibility on the left.
There is no ONE way to be modern or post modern when it comes to any single scriptural, theological, ethical, or doctrinal issue (and this makes a fascinating and endless study). But both do say that things that stand outside of experience and the laws of physics need some good and honest support. So they both reject fundamentalism. Firstly because it flies in the face of modern advances in all the sciences, social sciences, and humanities, and secondly because it seems to flatten the richness of religion itself, especially the bible, turning it into magic tales or some kind of mechanistic rulebook rather than a endless font of meaning and maturation.
Interestingly, every time a religious person tries to present evidence, they are buying into modernity, often with disastrous and embarassimg results. I refuse to do it. Instead, I always recommend that it's better to give up some childish beliefs for the sake of modernity, while building deeper beliefs in the context of post-modernity.
While she wrankles fundamentalists, I must say that Karen Armstrong does a stupendously good job of elaborating this in several of her books over the past 10-15 years. Had she written 25 years ago, I might not have had to spend 5 years in school studying all this stuff. Yes, she has a few big blind spots, but the good well outweighs the bad.
I hope that helps. Thanks for asking. BTW, the name's Bill.