Religion and Philosophy

After Modernity: Three Possibilities

As of 2022, we live in a world of competing post-modernities. Post-modernity, a politically and emotionally charged word if there ever was one, will, for our purposes, simply mean “what comes after modernity.” This assumes an understanding of “modernity”, which is in short supply. To explore the question, “what is modernity?”, in detail, look here, but for a tldr I quote from the article:

“Beginning with Rene Descartes’ Discourse on Method, modern philosophy, and, consequentially, modern thought as such, came to privilege methodological reasoning over personal/experiential reasoning. Humans can get things wrong, and with the Hundred Years War being so recent for Descartes, humans can get religion and its application very wrong. To rely on personal authority leads to religious dogmatism, and to rely on personal experience gives you outmoded physics as in the case of Aristotle. What is needed is to separate epistemology from the subject and bring it into the object. Here is the birth of “subjective vs objective.” What your priest or pastor says, what your own observations of nature are, is subjective. Why? Because these authorities are grounded in the subject, be it the trustworthiness, or competence, of your religious elder, or the trustworthiness of your senses and abstractive powers. Methodology, be it that of Descartes, Locke, Newton, or Kant, is objective. Why? Because the authority of a method is independent of any subject and is grounded in the object called method.

Notice how in Kant’s ethics moral truths are discovered through the application of the categorical imperative. Instead of learning that it is wrong to lie from your elders or the Bible, in Kant’s ethics you discover that lying is wrong by reasoning that if you universalize that behavior then it becomes clear that lying ought to be avoided. Subjective (authority) is replaced by objective (the method of the categorical imperative). It is not only the authority of elders or the Bible that is done away with in favor of method, but also personal judgement. Aristotle’s ethics assumes that the person in question is capable of recognizing when a behavior is in excess (such as brashness) or defect (cowardice), and also capable of determining when that behavior is appropriate/within the mean between excess and defect (courage). This too is done away with in favor of method.

The emphasis on method in modernity has saturated the world to such a degree that it is not uncommon to find “defenders of tradition” and “opponents of the modern world”, railing against subjective morality. Though we can use words differently than has been intended historically, implicit in any condemnation of “subjective morality” is the condemnation of the subject’s ability to correctly ascertain ethical truths.”

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