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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Modernism and the Rejection of Reason

John C Wright: Modernism and the Rejection of Reason

A reader comments
[regarding a review of a story Mr Wright had written when he was an atheist, in which the reviewer had back-read Wright's current Chrisitian belief into the story]: "One thing about Stoic thought is that in many respects it is more like Christian thought than it is like modern thought in general. If the reviewer is unfamiliar with Stoicism then the mistake would not be entirely surprising to me."

Aha! Your thought I fear is true and right. Modern thought is so eager to reject Christ, that it ends up rejecting paganism as well, not to mention logic, philosophy, objectivity, faith, hope, charity, temperance, moderation, fortitude and justice. It rejects everything, and leave us with nothing.

Modern thought is composed, with innumerable minor variations, with two great main streams: the revolt against the Church in the name of Reason, and the revolt against Reason in the name of Nothing. The first revolt we can call, with no violence to the term, Modernism. The second we can call Postmodernism. There may be more accurate uses of these two terms, but for the purposes of this essay, these are correct in denotation and connotation. The sum of these two streams taken together produces an odd, indeed a horrifically ironic, modern movement. Christianity so successfully adopted an explanation of the world and heaven, that the postmoderns find they cannot reject the heaven they loath, the place of mystic revelation, without also rejecting the world, the place of reason. They are left with an abyss, where neither revelation nor reason reach, a place of pure Nietzschean willpower, a void where the meaningless Self is utterly free to shape the meaningless Nothing into whatever form the empty Self desires. This void is fitliest called Hell. As if they cannot burn down the Cathedral without burning down the Academy.

Why should this be? In every bumper sticker slogan pasted to every half-empty brain, in every television show, paperback novel, and quip by Carl Sagan, science is proposed as the enemy of the Church and the victor over her. Why in the world would the pagan idolaters of science smash their own idols in the fury of their iconoclasm to trample our Christian icons?

The short answer is that the scientific worldview is as Christian as the Great Mass of Mozart, as Christian as Michaelangelo’s David, as Christian as Christmas. I submit that the one cannot be degraded and dismissed without degrading and dismissing the other.

That's just the start of the article; following this introduction is a well-reasoned argument which may help Gentle Reader understand some importanf things about the strange, anti-rational modern and post-modern world in which we all live.

The only (minor) quibble I have with Wright's essay is that some readers may understand him to be saying that Modernism and Post-Modernism are two different things; whereas, Post-Modernism is the logical culmination of Modernism.