The Operating Principles of the Contemporary Social Imaginary: 7. Reflexivity and Self-Love (Happiness)

The concern for one’s own opinion is also indicative of the Enlightenment’s turn inward. This first-person perspective, while anticipated by Plato and Aristotle, is rooted in the work of Augustine. His was a turn to the self. According to Taylor, “It was Augustine who introduced the inwardness of radical reflexivity and bequeathed it to the Western tradition of thought. The step was a fateful one, because we have certainly made a big…

The Operating Principles of the Contemporary Social Imaginary: 6. Progress and the Value Neutrality of Technology

The “modern”mindset also holds that “…as our knowledge becomes both broader and more unified, we will experience continued progress (and they have in mind not only technological progress, but also social, political, and moral progress).”Consider Condorcet’s [1743-1794] optimistic Sketch for A Historical Picture of the Progress of the Human Mindin which he declares that the whole foundation for belief in the natural sciences is this idea, that the general laws directing the…

The Operating Principles of the Contemporary Social Imaginary: 5. Consilience and the Primacy of Information

Another characteristic of Enlightenment thought, also related to the reductionistic methodology, is the notion of consilience. In essence, this is the conviction that all knowledge is unified, i.e., there is one, single pool of interrelated knowledge that can be accessed by anyone using the right methodology. Wilson speaks of the strong form of this idea, namely total consilience, which holds that nature is organized by simple universal laws of physics to which…

The Operating Principles of the Contemporary Social Imaginary: 4. Criticism and a Free-Floating Moral Order

As might have been expected, Enlightenment thought promoted more than the innocent use of reason. It turned into an insistence, a demand, for the freedom to criticize. According to Peter Gay, the Enlightenment’s thinkers defined philosophy as the organized habit of criticism. The philosophes’ glorification of criticism and their qualified repudiation of metaphysics make it obvious that the Enlightenment was not an Age of Reason but a Revolt against Rationalism. The claim…

The Operating Principles of the Contemporary Social Imaginary: 3. Reductionism and a One-Dimensional World

I come now to the third of the six principles that provide the basic operating principles for the contemporary social imaginary. In this case I want to explore the implications and consequences of the reductionist methodology developed by Enlightenment thinkers. Obviously, the use of human reason was (would have to be) governed by certain methodological considerations. This has turned out to be a basically mechanistic, empiricist, and reductionistic method. Hauptli explains this…

The Operating Principles of the Contemporary Social Imaginary: 2. Rationalism and Scientism

I come now to the second of the six principles that provide the basic operating principles that govern the contemporary social imaginary. In this case it has to do with the unfettered use of human reason. As Kant put it, “Sapere Aude! have courage to use your own understanding.”[1]In this case, Kant is speaking not just of the freedomto use reason, but rather of the sufficiencyof human reason itself. As Peter Gay…

The Operating Principles of the Contemporary Social Imaginary 1. Freedom and Individualism

As mentioned in my last post I now want to identify and define the six principles that provide the basic operating principles that govern the contemporary social imaginary. I will look at them in terms of their Enlightenment antecedents, that is, I will review the basic ideas seeded by the tinkers of the enlightenment and then show how those ideas were expanded, changed and popularized. The most fundamental of all Enlightenment characteristics…