My philosophical musings are dominated by a deep concern that has taken root within the recesses of my contemplative faculties. This unease stems from a troubling observation that delineates an increasing separation of science, morality, and art from the commonality of the modern world, leaving them in the hands of experts alone. In this disheartening context, I fear that the remnants of the cultural modernity project have dwindled to a flimsy and insubstantial resemblance, equivalent to the abandonment of modernity’s very essence.
The chasm that has developed between science and the general public is a source of genuine concern. Once celebrated as a means to improve the human condition, scientific progress appears to have been relegated to the confines of academic and research institutions. The language of science, now highly specialized and esoteric, is frequently incomprehensible to those outside its domain. Therefore, it becomes increasingly difficult for the average person to engage in meaningful dialogue with scientists and comprehend the profound implications of their discoveries.
Simultaneously, it appears that morality has been relegated to the domain of experts and professionals. Currently, ethical decisions that affect the lives of countless people are shrouded in secrecy and hidden from public view. The average person, who possesses innate moral intuition, is left with a sense of disempowerment and helplessness. A select few have been entrusted with our society’s moral compass, eroding the concept of shared ethical responsibility and fostering a disconnection from the very fabric of our collective existence.
Concurrently, the realm of art, once regarded as the embodiment of the human spirit and a reflection of societal aspirations, has become a commodity for the exclusive consumption of a privileged minority. The art world has degenerated into a confusing labyrinth of critics, curators, and collectors who wield substantial influence over what is deemed valuable and culturally significant. The authentic voices of ordinary people, yearning to be heard and comprehended, are drowned out by the cacophony of elitist opinions and pervasive market forces. The pursuit of truth and beauty has been replaced by conformity and commercial viability, resulting in the sterilization of artistic expression.
In light of these unsettling occurrences, I feel compelled to express my deep concern over the emergence of anti-modern ideas in alternative cultural circles. It is disheartening to observe the rejection of cultural modernity ideals combined with a touch of premodern sentiment gaining traction among those who seek an alternative to the current order. Despite the fact that countercultures emerge in response to perceived injustices and inequalities, it is of the utmost importance to examine their underlying ideologies with the utmost scrutiny.
The phenomenon of Tendenzwende, denoting a new ideological shift, manifests itself in the realm of politics, particularly in Germany. Postmodernists and premodernists appear to be forging an unexpected alliance, a convergence of disparate ideologies united by their opposition to cultural modernity’s foundational principles. By rejecting grand narratives and truth claims, postmodernism finds an unlikely ally in premodernist ideas that romanticize the past and seek comfort in tradition and established norms.
This alliance exemplifies the intricate complexities of our time period. When confronted by the relentless march of progress and the perceived erosion of societal values, many individuals experience disorientation and disillusionment. However, I am extremely concerned about the long-term effects of this convergence. The abandonment of modernity, which embodies the virtues of reason, progress, and individual autonomy, threatens the very foundations of our society.
At its core, the cultural modernity project aimed to liberate individuals from dogma and tradition, enabling them to think critically and determine their own destinies. While it is undeniable that modernity has had flaws and contradictions, I remain convinced that the solution lies in a critical engagement with its principles as opposed to a complete rejection.
We must resist the allure of romanticized narratives of the past and relativism. Instead, we should focus on reclaiming the ideals of cultural modernity by forging meaningful connections among science, morality, art, and the lived experiences of average people. The reservoirs of knowledge held by professionals and experts must not be separated from society’s collective intelligence. It is our responsibility to cultivate a culture of dialogue and mutual respect in which the perspectives and concerns of the larger community enrich the insights of specialists.
Over the course of human history, people have persistently sought to make sense of their existence, engaging in a never-ending search for truth and significance in a world that often appears confusing and elusive. This existential odyssey spawned the cultural modernist project, which elevated reason, progress, and individual autonomy as the guiding principles of human endeavor. It aimed to endow individuals with knowledge, liberate them from oppressive systems, and ignite the pursuit of truth in all of its multifaceted manifestations.
On the path to modernity, however, we have encountered unexpected obstacles and unintended outcomes. In some cases, the institutions and systems that were designed to promote enlightenment and progress have become sources of exclusion and alienation. Science, once revered as the herald of truth, can often appear remote and inaccessible, cloaked in a vocabulary that is beyond the comprehension of the average person. Morality, which ought to serve as the shared foundation of our social fabric, has been relegated to the domain of experts, inducing apathy and helplessness among the masses. Regarding art, which ought to serve as a medium for individual and communal expression, it has been commercialized and constrained by the whims of a select few.
When I consider these obstacles, I am reminded of the inherent interdependence of human endeavors. Science, morality, and art are not distinct domains, but rather integral, interdependent aspects of our existence. Inseparable components of the human experience, expressing our innate curiosity, yearning for moral guidance, and instinctive drive for self-expression and communication. If we confine them to separate spheres, we risk losing sight of their profound interdependence, thereby diminishing our own global perspective.
Therefore, it is imperative to reclaim and redefine the cultural modernity project. We must cultivate a society in which scientific knowledge is disseminated in an approachable manner, ethical decisions are made collectively and informed by a multiplicity of viewpoints, and artistic expression is revered as an indispensable means of communication and self-discovery. Only by integrating these aspects of the human experience can we truly forge a future that honors our shared humanity while utilizing the transformative potential of modernity.
Esteemed reader, I cordially invite you to participate actively in this intellectual and cultural endeavor. Let us challenge the artificial barriers that have kept science, morality, and art from the general public’s view. Engage in conversations, both within and beyond the traditional bastions of expertise, that foster an inclusive and collaborative approach to knowledge and bridge the gaps between disciplines. Let us acknowledge the potency of our own agency in shaping the world we inhabit, and work ardently toward a cultural modernity that authentically embodies the values of enlightenment, empathy, and collective progress.
Jürgen Habermas, “The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere” (Germany)
Charles Taylor, “Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity” (Canada)
Zygmunt Bauman, “Liquid Modernity” (Poland)
Richard Rorty, “Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity” (United States)
Michel Foucault, “The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences” (France)
Terry Eagleton, “The Illusions of Postmodernism” (United Kingdom)
Hans-Georg Gadamer, “Truth and Method” (Germany)
Marshall Berman, “All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity” (United States)
Slavoj Žižek, “Living in the End Times” (Slovenia)
Bruno Latour, “We Have Never Been Modern” (France)