Each era of human history presented its unique challenges and benefits, shaping and influencing culture as the culture answered those unique challenges. We ask ourselves and decide as a culture of subcultures just how we will live. Each phase or era has commonalities concerning proper conduct, correct reason and process, the nature of reality and valid knowledge. Most people recognize the Ancient Greeks and the Hellenistic Period. I’m going to skip forward to more modern day eras, and eras within eras. Modernism, the common thought governing the industrial revolution, science and ethics at the turn of the last century was rather hopeful. The outlook was positive and objectivity became all important. Science and technology as well as acquired knowledge provided man with power to transcend his circumstances. People are seen as basically good and subjective aspects of man became secondary considerations. Science and knowledge would save us, and secular humanism thrived under these conditions.
After decades of the emptiness of atheism and humanism, mankind still could not transcend his circumstances. Preference for objective fact and the dismissal of the subjective aspects of life left man ever more aware of the “God shaped void” that Blaise Pascal described. Throw in relative morality and situational ethics, and people become ripe for change. Existentialism enters on the scene, exploring the loss of connection and transcendent sense, spiraling down into nihilism. External, absolute reality can be a depressing thing without acknowledgement of man’s dynamic sense of soul and spirit. Technology explodes and culture reacts. Postmodernism followed from and grew out of the nebulous disappointment following WWII, complete with loss of central and organizing principles for the culture, complete with ambiguity, disconnectedness, diversity and contradiction. In this sense, postmodernism was an extension of modernism but also a critical rethinking of the ideals of modernism without all the optimism.
How then do we rise to the challenge of finding value in the world, regaining a sense of transcendence and find direction for the future under these conditions?
Hint: Tune in next week for the next episode. Same bat time. Same bat channel.