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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

On Pre-Moderns, Moderns, and Postmoderns

We like to call ourselves modern and postmodern, but we are essentially grappling with the same philosophical problems which exercised the thinkers 200 years ago. When our philosophy is mostly pre-modern, there is no justification for using the labels modern or postmodern. Here’s an interesting paragraph from Gertrude Himmelfarb’s The Roads to Modernity: The British, French, and American Enlightenments (Page 235):

The sociology of virtue, the ideology of reason, the politics of liberty—the ideas still resonate today. But they carry with them the accretions of more than two centuries of historical experiences and memories. And other ideas now compete for our attention: equality, most notably, but also nationality and ethnicity, class and gender, cultural diversity and global homogeneity. If the three Enlightenments ushered in the modernity—or at least a new stage of in modernity, or new variations on modernity—the postmodernists may be justified in calling this a postmodern age. Yet the ideas of virtue, liberty, and reason did not originate in modernity; nor have they been superseded or superannuated by postmodernity. We are, in fact, still floundering in the verities and fallacies, the assumptions and convictions, about human nature, society, and the polity that exercised the British moral philosophers, the French philosophes, and the American Founders.

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