The Path to Post-Modernity, or, 'God is Dead and We Did It for the Kids!'
24 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2009
Date Written: July 3, 2009
This paper attempts to present a 'time line' of the increasing levels of doubt and anxiety about the path of 'Progressive Civilization' from the heyday of Victorian liberalism in the early 19th Century to the rise of postmodernism in our day. It does so by tracking a line of thought through John Stuart Mill, Lord Bryce, Matthew Arnold, Henry Adams, Friedrich Nietzsche, Martin Heidegger and Walter Lippmann. It uses the quip coined by the Yippie leader Abbie Hoffmann in the 1960's as a symbolic phrase for the terminus to which the "Idea of Progess" has led us in the 21st Century. The argument is that over the time period covered the most serious observers became increasingly aware of the disappearance from modern society's horizon of any idea of a transcendent meaning within which it could explain and justify to itself its own deepest purposes. The necessity for a persuasive 'metaphysics' which could show why the modern western experiment is a good thing became increasingly evident in inverse proportion to its philosophical availability. Note: This paper was delivered at the University of Maine on April 27, 2009 under the auspices of the Program in Western Civilization and American Liberty directed by Michael J.Palmer the Abraham Lincoln Professor of Political Philosophy in the Department of Political Science at the University of Maine.
Keywords: postmodernism, Nihilism, Liberalism, progress, subjectivism, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Mill, Lippmann
JEL Classification: B1, B25, B3, B31, N, Z1, Z12
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation