Monday, February 4, 2008


When A.E. Housman described himself, in the poem I have just shown you, as being spiritually and emotionally prepared for "trouble," he had no idea how dark or how long the night would be as all the lights in Europe and, indeed, in large parts of the world, were going out. For fifty years, we in the U.S., Canada, Australia, England, observed from afar (mostly) slaughters and exterminations on an unprecedented scale. Maybe I should have left the 20th century out when I called modernity a success in utilitarian terms. Nevertheless, my question still holds: if modernity is about, among other things, the untrammeled pursuit of happiness, as Hobbes defines that word, what if anything can we say about its future?--as, (as seems to be the case) temperatures and oceans keep rising; the era of cheap energy, water and food ends; the balance of nature turns against us; and more and more states begin to fail? And who or what is the cause of these natural disasters? Isn't that obvious? We have met the enemy and it is us. We in the West invented modernity and we in the West got most of the benefits. Or as Swift would say, we are the ones who creamed off nature and left the sour and the dregs for everyone else to lap up.

If modernity is all washed-up, and that too may be the case, what's next? Will those who call themselves "post-modernists" please step forward? And tell us how, exactly, postmodernity will differ, politically and economically, from modernity? Will the arrival of postmodernity mean, for instance, the end of liberal democracy, the secular rule of law, and scientific inquiry? And please, no more hermeneutical chatter. It does not follow from the fact there are no transcendent goods or truths, that there are no goods and no truths. Here is what C. J. Insole has to say in the latest TLS (2-1-08) in his review of Charles Taylor's book about modernity, A SECULAR AGE: "What if truth is true independently of our stories about it? Well it might be. Just like gravity, it is there anyway, although it will emerge in our stories, and stories will be one of the ways that we can access the truth about it. Disagreement about truth is then just that: disagreement about truth, not a discovery that truth contains within itself disagreement."(p.5)

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