EMERGENCE OF AUTONOMOUS MAN IN THE WEST

BETWEEN THE 15TH AND 19TH CENTURIES

 

                  The intellectual and cultural developments from the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution ended the cultural Hegemony of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe and established the individualism of Secularism and Science in the WestŐs New Faith!  This was the emergence of the Modern Mind and NewtonŐs equations (world machine).  John Locke and The French Enlightenment Philosophies took NewtonŐs equations and extended them to the Human Realm.  (La Metrie, Man, The Machine; Locke, Hume (supernatural miracles), Adam Smith (economics), Wolff, Kant (established the New World View, displacing the classical sources of knowledge about the universe), Hegel (existentialism, phenomenology, Marx).

 

                  The Conscious and Autonomous Man was confident in his own judgments, sceptical of orthodoxies, rebellious against authority and responsible for his own belief and actions; he was conscious of the distinctions between Man and Nature (artistic powers and individual creators); assured of his capacity to comprehend and control another.  He rejected the God of creation, providence, and miracles.  There was a limit of the method of empirical science, esp. the Industrial and Democratic Revolution, the rise of the West to Global Hegemony (missions).  FreudŐs Trinity (Marx was not mentioned)--Copernicus (creation), Darwin (man) and Freud (sin, alienation, salvation).

ScienceŐs Ultimate Triumph Over Classical Christendom

in Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism

 

                  (1)  In contrast to the Medieval Cosmos, which was created and sustained by continuous providential guidance of a personal and omnipotent God, Classical Liberalism, in the form of Kahler, Schleiermacher and David F. Strauss, et.al. expressed the modern universe as impersonal and governed by the Laws of Nature and understandable only by mathematical equations.  GodŐs  removal from natureŐs arena was expressed in Deism and Atheism!  The Creator/Architect was less a God of love, miracles, redemption or historical intervention than a Supreme Intelligence and first cause in a causal universe.

 

                  (2)  Christian Dualism (Spirit/Matter) stressed the supremacy of spiritual transcendence over the material and concrete Great Inversion--Physical World.

 

                  (3)  Science of the 17th-19th centuries replaced the God of Christianity as the preeminent intellectual authority as Definer, Designer, Judge and Guardian of cultural world view.   Modernism is based on man as the highest intelligence.  Empiricism did the same with the material world.

 

                  (4)  Universe possessed an intrinsic order fine tuned for human environment (anthropic principle/cosmology) which did not come emanating from intelligence in which the human mind could directly participate (patterns of universe via human minds own resources) order universe/nature/culture decoded order but socially constructed (Sociology of Knowledge Thesis).  The rationally empowered capacity manipulate impersonal forces and material objects in nature become the paradigms of human relationship to the world (Pantheism and Environmental concern).

 

                  (5) Order of Modern Cosmos was comprehensible in principle of manŐs rational and empirical sources alone while other aspects of nature are emotional, aesthetic, ethical, volitional, relational, imaginative, etc. were regarded as irrelevant or distortional for an objective understanding of world mastery was material improvement (industrial revolution, things and personal identity).

 

                  (6)  Classical cosmology was Geo-centric finite and hierarchical surrounding Heavens and Transcendent forces (celestial movements astrology, reading the stars).  Fall of Geocentric cosmic and the rise of the mechanistic paradigm.  Astronomy was severed from astrology. Bodies of the universe possessed no powers via meaning to life.  Material objects, products of mechanistic principle have no special relation either to human existence or any divine reality.  It was opaque material not the visible expression of spiritual realities

 

                  (7)  With the integration of the theory of evolution and its multitude of consequences in other fields eg. nature/destiny of man.  NatureŐs transformation were now exclusively attributable to natural causes and empirically observable processes what Newton had accomplished for the physical cosmos, Darwin building an intervening advances in geology and biology and later by MendelŐs work in genetics, accomplished for organic nature random variation, natural selection, servants of fate and Darwinian evolution presented a second final vindication of the intellectual impulse established in the scientific revolution.

 

Darwinian Evolution Presented a Seemly Final Vindication of

the Intellectual Impulse Established in the Scientific Revolution

 

                  The belief that the universe was purposefully designed and regulated by divine intelligence, a belief foundational to both classical Greek (pantheistic) and Christian world views.  The Christian doctrine of ChristŐs divine intervention in human history, the incarnation of the Son of God, the Second Adam, the Virgin Birth, the Resurrection, the Second Coming seemed implausible in the context of an otherwise straightforward survival, oriented Darwinian evolution in a vast mechanistic Newtonian cosmos.  Equally implausible was the existence of a timeless metaphysical realm of transcendence.  With nature the sole source of evolutionary direction and with man the only rationally consciousness of evolutionary direction with man the only rational conscious being in nature, the human future lay emphatically in manŐs hands.

 

                  Modern ManŐs independence--intellectual, psychological, spiritual--was radically affirmed with increasing deprecation of any religious belief or institutional structure that would inhabit manŐs natural right and potential for existential autonomy and individual self expression.

 

                  The Christian view of the goal of knowledge of God as essential, unification of man with the cosmos and its divine intelligence.  With man, who found through the power of autonomous human intellect, modern man set out on his own, determined to discover the working principles of his new universe, to explore and further expand its new dimension and to realize his secular fulfilment.

 

 

                  There were more complex and more paradoxical portraits of the Modern Sensibility: (1) Romanticism, (2) Existentialism, (3) Phenomenology, (4) Freudian psychoanalysis, (5) conflict between Historicism and Positivism.

 

Modern/Post ModernismŐs Impact On Education

 

                  An enormous narrative displacement took place between Modernism and Post Modernism.  Here we encounter one of the greatest epochal transformation in the history of the Western Mind.  The central prophet of the Post Modern mind was Friedrich Nietzsche, with his radical perspectivism, his sovereign critical sensibility, and his powerful, poignantly ambivalent anticipation of the emerging Nihilism in Western Culture--the inner trial and imprisonment.  The extreme psychological isolation and the eventual paralyzing madness, suffering at the birth of the post modern era of Nietzsche who signed his last letters, ŇThe crucifiedÓ as one who died at the dawn of the twentieth century.

 

                  What is Post Modern is extremely ambiguous.  The Post Modern mind may be viewed as an open ended, indeterminate set of attitudes that has been shaped by Pragmatism, Existentialism, Marxism, and psychoanalysis to feminism, hermeneutics, deconstruction and post empiricist philosophy of science, eg. Thomas KuhnŐs Paradigmatic Revolution, anti science and revisionist history.  The plasticity and constant change of reality and knowledge, a stress on the priority of concrete experience over fixed abstract principles, and a conviction that no single a priori thought system should govern belief or investigation on Human Knowledge is Subjectively determined by a multitude of factors; that objective essences, on things in themselves, are neither accessible nor ontologically positive; and that value of all truths and assumptions must be continually subjected to direct testing.  The critical search for truth is constrained to be tolerant of ambiguity and pluralism and its outcome will necessarily be knowledge that is relative and fallible rather than absolute and certain.  the quest for knowledge must be endlessly self revising by testing against subjective and objective consequences!  What?  This quest clearly presupposes a meta narrative for critique which is totally rejected in the post modern maze.

 

                  The human capacity for concept and symbol foundation is recognized as a fundamental and necessary element in the human understanding, anticipation and creation of reality (see my essay ŇThe Sociology of Knowledge ThesisÓ).  The prevalence of the Kuhnian concept of paradigm in current discourse is highly characteristic of Ňpost modern thoughtÓ reflecting a critical awareness of the mindŐs fundamentally interpretive nature.

 

                  Continuing advances in anthropology, sociology, history and linguistics have underscored the relativity of human knowledge, bringing increased recognition of the Eurocentric character of Western thought, and the cognitive bias produced by factors such as class, race, and ethnicity.  Especially penetrating in recent years has been the analysis of gender as a crucial factor in determining and limiting what counts for truth claims.  Various forms of psychological analysis, cultural as well as individual, have further unmasked the unconscious determinants of human experience and knowledge. 

 

                  Many factors have converged to produce this intellectual position; it has been the analysis of language that has brought forth the most radically sceptical epistemological currents in the post modern mind and it is these currents that have identified themselves most articulately and self consciously as post modernism.  NietzscheŐs analysis of the problematic relation of language to reality, C.S. PeirceŐs semiotics, positing that all human thought takes place in signs; Ferdinand de SaussuerŐs linguistic positing the celebrating relationship between words and objects, signs and signified, WittgensteinŐs analysis of the linguistic structuring of human experience, HeideggerŐs existential linguistic critique of metaphysics, Edward Sapir and B.L. WhorftŐs linguistic hypothesis that language shapes perception of reality as much as reality shapes language, Michael FoucaultŐs genealogical investigations into social construction of knowledge and Jacques DerridaŐs deconstructionism, challenge the attempt to establish a secure meaning any text.  The upshot of these several influences, particularly in the post modern academic world, has been the dynamic dissemination of a view of human knowledge and discourse that radically revitalizes human claims to a sovereign or enduring truth and that thereby supports as emphatic revision of the character and goals of intellectual analysis.  This impact of post modern educational themes is crystal clear.  The very essence of multicultural pluralism in Outcome Based Education (Goals 2000, Multiculturalism) upon the foundation of these prophets of nihilistic pluralism that we enter the fourth and perhaps greatest shift in educational philosophy in the Western world.  Nothing less than the Scriptures as GodŐs inspired, authoritative revelation and the teaching/preaching (Evangelism/Missions) mandate is at stake.  (See my essay, ŇNarrative Displacement Between Modernism and Post ModernismÓ) (J.D. Strauss, Lincoln Christian Seminary, Lincoln, IL)

 

JDS