Saturday, April 09, 2011

So, Are We "Emancipated"?

Abp Forte of Italy.

The metaphor of light provides us with the most eloquently expressive way of talking about the principle which inspired modernity -- adult reason's ambitious claim of understanding and mastering everything. This project -- which lay at the foundations of the Enlightenment in all its manifestations - maintains that to understand the world rationally means to make human beings free at last, masters and captains of their own future, emancipating them from every possible dependence.

This dream of total emancipation strained forward towards a reality entirely illuminated by the idea as such, where the power of reason may express itself without constraint. Where reason triumphs, there rises the sun of the future; in this sense, it may be said that modernity is the age of light. This heady modern spirit lies behind claims that absolute reason can vanquish every shadow and resolve every difference.

Ideologies tend to impose the light of reason on the whole of reality, to the point of equating ideal and real. In pursuit of this ambition, the "great ideological narratives" ("mega-récits") tended to construct a "society without fathers", where there are no vertical relationships - held unfailingly to imply dependence - but only horizontal ones, of equality and reciprocity. The sun of reason generates liberty and equality, and hence fraternity, in an egalitarianism founded on the one light of thought, which governs the whole world and all life: "liberté, égalité, fraternité" are the sweet fruits of reason's triumph. The critique of the "father-lord" figure thus leads to the complete rejection of God (and also, in a certain sense, of religious leaders). Just as on earth there must be no fatherhood creating dependence, so in heaven there may be no Father of all.

Gee how'd that work out for ya?

Yup. I thought so.

...Inexorably, this all-encompassing dream becomes totalitarian: totality -- as understood by reason -- produces totalitarianism. Neither by chance nor accident, all the enterprises of modern ideology, of right and left, bourgeois and revolutionary, eventually issue in totalitarian and violent expression. And it is precisely this historical experience of totalitarianism that leads to the crisis and twilight of the claims of modern reason: "The enlightenment, in its fullest sense as thought in continuous progress, - affirm Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno at the beginning of their Dialectic of the Enlightenment (1944) - has always aimed at freeing men from fear and making them their own masters. But the fully enlightened earth radiates disaster triumphant"

...In this "night of the world" (Martin Heidegger), what seems to triumph is indifference, a loss of the taste for seeking ultimate reasons for human living and dying. And thus, too, we reach the nadir of the century which has not long ended, that is, nihilism.

Nihilism is not simply a matter of giving up values for which it is worth living, but a more subtle process: it deprives human beings of the taste for committing themselves to a higher cause, of those powerful motivations which the ideologies still seemed to offer. This is the triumph of the mask over truth: even the very values themselves are often reduced to banners hoisted to camouflage the lack of real meaning

Think it's co-incidence that church-goers are more charitable, dollar-for-dollar, than the "Illuminati"?

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