THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE, #23–High Modernism and The Rise of Post-Modernist Philosophy.

By Robert Hanna

“FUTUREWORLD,” by A. Lee/Unsplash

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This book, THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE: Uniscience and the Modern World, by Robert Hanna, presents and defends a critical philosophy of science and digital technology, and a new and prescient philosophy of nature and human thinking.

It is being made available here in serial format, but you can also download and read or share a .pdf of the complete text–including the BIBLIOGRAPHY–of THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE FUTURE HERE.

This twenty-third installment contains sub-sections 2.2.4 and 2.3.1.

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We know the truth not only through our reason but also through our heart. It is through the latter that we know first principles, and reason, which has nothing to do with it, tries in vain to refute them. (Pascal, 1995: #110, p. 28)

If there is any science humankind really needs, it is the one I teach, of how to occupy properly that place in [the world] that is assigned to humankind, and how to learn from it what one must be in order to be human. (Rem 20: 45)

Natural science will one day incorporate the science of humankind, just as the science of humankind will incorporate natural science; there will be a single science. (Marx, 1964: p. 70, translation modified slightly)

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

A NOTE ON REFERENCES TO KANT’S WORKS

PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

0. Introduction: Science, The Four Horsemen of The New Apocalypse, and The Uniscience

0.0 How Uncritical and Unreformed Science Is Literally Killing The Modern World

0.1 My Aim In This Book

0.2 The Uniscience and Pascal’s Dictum

Chapter 1. Natural Piety: A Kantian Critique of Science

1.0 Kantian Heavy-Duty Enlightenment and The Uniscience

1.1 Kant’s Neo-Aristotelian Natural Power Grid

1.2 Kant, Natural Piety, and The Limits of Science

1.3 From Kant’s Anti-Mechanism to Kantian Anti-Mechanism

1.4 In Defense of Natural Piety

1.5 Scientific Pietism and Scientific Naturalism

1.6 How to Ground Natural Science on Sensibility

1.7 Sensible Science 1: Natural Science Without Natural Mechanism

1.8 Sensible Science 2: Natural Science Without Materialism/Physicalism

1.9 Sensible Science 3: Natural Science Without Scientism

1.10 Frankenscience, the Future of Humanity, and the Future of Science

Chapter 2. This is the Way the World Ends: A Philosophy of Civilization Since 1900, The Rise of Mechanism, and The Emergence of Neo-Organicism

2.0 Introduction

2.1 Wrestling with Modernity: 1900–1940

2.1.1 Six Sociocultural or Sociopolitical Developments

2.1.2 Two Philosophical Developments: Classical Analytic Philosophy and First Wave Organicism

2.1.3 Architectural and Artistic Trends

2.2 The Historical Black Hole, The Mechanistic Mindset, and The Mechanistic Worldview: 1940–1980

2.2.1 Formal and Natural Science After 1945, The Mechanistic Mindset, and The Rise of The Mechanistic Worldview

2.2 The Emergence of Post-Classical Analytic Philosophy

2.2.3 The Two Images Problem and its Consequences

2.2.4 Modernism and Countercurrents in the Arts and Design

2.3 The Philosophical Great Divide, Post-Modernist Cultural Nihilism, and Other Apocalyptic Developments: 1980–2022

2.3.1 The Rise of Po-Mo Philosophy

Chapter 3. Thought-Shapers

Chapter 4. How To Complete Physics

Chapter 5. Digital Technology Only Within The Limits of Human Dignity

00. Conclusion: The Point Is To Shape The World

APPENDICES

Appendix 1: A Note on The Löwenheim-Skolem Theorem, “Skolem’s Paradox,” and Neo-Organicism

Appendix 2: A Neo-Organicist Approach to The Nature of Motion

Appendix 3: Sensible Set Theory

Appendix 4: Neo-Organicism and The Rubber Sheet Cosmos

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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2.2.4 Modernism and Countercurrents in the Arts and Design

At the same time, [after the end of World War II,] high modernism triumphed in the applied and fine arts. This version of high modernism took its cues from the modernist movement that had taken shape during the pre-war years. Notably its purist, austere esthetic and its focus on pure composition proved to be lasting influences in the arts. Not surprisingly, extreme reduction plays an important role in the arts during the 1950s-1970s, recapitulating and renewing a central trend in the earlier works of the Bauhaus, De Stijl and the Russian Suprematists. This recapitulated-and-renewed trend, in turn, led naturally to the establishment of artistic conceptualism: the idea, in a nutshell, is that the artist exhibits a concept or idea in the most direct and “pure” way possible. The minimalist works of Donald Judd, Soll LeWitt, Richard Serra, and Richard Long fall squarely within this tradition, but equally so the varieties of abstract painting practiced by Jackson Pollock and many others during in this period. In keeping with the modernist emphasis on method, the artist-at-work or “in action” became a recurrent artistic theme as well. Performances of artists like Carl Andre, Rosemary Castoro, Joseph Beuys, and William Kentridge already point forward to the importance that the notion of “procedures” would acquire in postmodern art. At the same time, a cultural countercurrent against the artistic tendencies of modernist culture was already taking root, with Pop Art works like Andy Warhol’s Brillo boxes and David Hockney’s collage paintings.

The mechanistic mindset also permeated the creative culture of architecture and design. So-called “process models” of design activity were developed by Allen Newell, Herbert Simon, Charles Eastman, Horst Rittel, and Melvin Webber (Asimow, 1962; Newell, 1967, 1979; Eastman, 1969; Simon, 1969; Simon and Newell, 1972; Rittel and Webber, 1973; Rittel, 1988). The core tenet of consistent and complete decompositionality did not hold for creative processes, so this generation of theorists postulated the existence of another class of problems for which different decision strategies were needed — namely, the so-called “wicked problems.” The terminology itself is revealing, for such problems are “wicked” from the mechanistic-decision-theoretic viewpoint only, which is to say that the problematic facts do not neatly conform to the solutions offered by the formal and natural sciences. In any case, this research program took place fully under the auspices of the mechanistic worldview, with the explicit goal of mathematizing and modelling behavior. And although the serious limitations of these mathematical models were clearly visible to anyone with eyes to see, this was not recognized by those committed to the research program and to its heavy funding by governments, espeially for military purposes, and by private corporations, thereby highlighting once again the pervasive influence of the mechanistic mindset, in its intimate relationship with the military-industrial-university-digital complex and The Hyper-State.

While modernism as an architectural approach reached its peak with the influence of CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) and the development of the International Style, other voices also began to criticize its monotony and its dogmatic claim to universality, as well as the chasm between imagined modernist utopias and everyday life. Jane Jacobs’s 1961 book The Life and Death of the American City was a classic in this respect, as were Lewis Mumford’s 1948 essay Prefabricated Blight, Elizabeth Gordon’s 1953 editorial“The Threat to the Next America,” and Peter Blake’s 1964 God’s Own Junkyard. Apart from these influential works, a new generation of architects started to question the premises of the modernist project. Some of these writers were sympathetic to modernism, while others rejected its core claims. Matthew Nowicki’s 1951 Origins and Trends in Modern Architecture, and Bruno Zevi’s pleas for an organic architecture, as well as the radical proposals of Archigram, all attempted to open up the narrow agenda of architectural modernism in the 1950s to 1970s. The most radical change of direction was perhaps initiated by the trio consisting of Robert Venturi, Denise Scott-Brown, and Steven Izenour, who published their 1972 book on the potentials of vernacular, everyday architecture, titled Learning from Las Vegas. All in all, this work epitomized and expressed a simmering cultural sentiment: the tensions of a universal, rationalist modernity were untenable, and a new road forward had to be found.

2.3 The Philosophical Great Divide, Post-Modernist Cultural Nihilism, and Other Apocalyptic Developments: 1980–2022

2.3.1 The Rise of Po-Mo Philosophy

By the early 1980s, the philosophical Great Divide between post-classical Analytic philosophy and so-called “Continental” philosophy was fully in place; and Richard Rorty and others more or less systematically fused post-structuralism, deconstructionism, and what was left of Deweyan pragmatism (Rorty, 1982a; Hanna, 1983), into philosophical post-modernism (Rorty, 1983), aka Po-Mo, which also began to dominate in the applied and fine arts, and in Comparative Literature and Humanities Departments at colleges and universities worldwide, by vigorously rejecting and replacing modernism in all its forms, but especially high modernism. Po-Mo also gradually fused with what was left of 1970s New Left and emerging identity politics in the USA, thereby creating, inside the American professional academy, the social-institutional powerhouse of identitarian multiculturalism by the mid-90s (Rorty, 1994), which then became a juggernaut by the turn of the millennium, and finally a hegemonic ideology, by the end of first two decades of the 21st century (Mann, 2019). By 1950, existential phenomenology had been discredited by Heidegger’s association with the Nazis (Sluga, 1993), together with Sartre’s and Merleau-Ponty’s close associations with French Marxism after 1945; and during the early Cold War and McCarthy era from the early 1950s into the early 60s, the professional academy was gradually purged of any remaining so-called “Continental” philosophers who might have been brave or influential enough to challenge the hegemony of the post-classical Analytic mainstream in any noticeable way (McCumber, 2001, 2016). So by the 1980s — mainly in order to hold onto their comfortable tenured jobs, upper middle-class lifestyles, and relatively high professional academic social-status — like tragically unfortunate slaves who have “internalized the oppressor” (Freire, 1970), the remaining Continental philosophers inside the professional academy mostly gave up their trouble-making ways, gradually outsourced leftist Existentialism to writers, artists, and literary critics outside the professional academy, replacing their erstwhile Marxism or anarcho-socialism with a politically harmless “life-style” radicalism in the post-1968 French academic mode, while also jumping on the French-driven theoretical bandwagons of post-structuralism, deconstructionism, and Po-Mo.

In 1996, all these bandwagons ran headlong into The Sokal Hoax. Alan Sokal, a physics professor at NYU, submitted a deliberately nonsensical article to the cultural studies journal Social Text, which was then accepted and duly published. The article “argued” that quantum gravity was a linguistic and social construct. Three weeks later, Sokal revealed that the article was a hoax, and that the entire setup was to test the intellectual integrity and rigor of the emerging postmodernist elite (Wikipedia, 2022f). Professional academic so-called “Continental” philosophers and other purveyors of Po-Mo were, thereby, publicly shamed and scandalized by The Hoax. An anticipation of this public shaming and scandalizing had already been delivered in the 1970s and 80s by the post-classical Analytic philosopher John Searle, via his extended vituperative debate with Jacques Derrida in the pages of various journals and books.

Leaving aside its, at times, risibly impenetrable jargon and rhetoric, however, in a deeper sense and indeed fundamentally, Po-Mo is alienating, anti-rationalistic, and culturally nihilistic (Paans, 2020b). Its program can best be described as “diversified modernism” (Jencks, 2010), or alternatively, as “a philosophy of suspicion.” According to this view, just as humanity was not the center of the universe after Galileo’s discovery, and just as Darwin had dethroned the human species from the top of the animal hierarchy, so too Freud had argued that hidden, unconscious drives steer and direct the supposedly rational human being, and so too Nietzsche had declared a war on a universal, God-guaranteed morality. Po-Mo’s final steps in dismantling the modernist world-picture were intended to stress that all grand societal visions are nothing more than grand narratives or grand récits (Lyotard), that meaning is endlessly postponed in the play of signs (Derrida), or that reality is inaccessible and merely a hyperreality (Baudrillard). Or, alternatively, by demonstrating that every social institution is nothing but an instrument for coercively forming individuals according to covert, oppressive, preconceived ideals (Foucault).[i]

As a consequence of The Sokal Hoax together with the fundamental alienation/anti-rationalism/cultural nihilism of Po-Mo itself, from the turn of the new millennium forward, in another twist of “internalizing the oppressor,” leading so-called Continental philosophers began to compete with, and mirror, Analytic metaphysics and scientific naturalism, by developing doctrines like Alain Badiou’s mathematics-driven metaphysics, Ray Brassier’s and Quentin Meillasoux’s versions of “Speculative Realism,” “Trans-Humanism,” and “NeuroHumanities.” Nevertheless, on the side of their oppressors, their social-institutional slave masters, from the mid-90s and especially since the mid-00s, post-classical Analytic philosophers have also had to share social-institutional power with, and even cede social-institutional power to, the professional academic identitarian multiculturalists. In turn, the culturally nihilist tendency of Po-Mo-driven identitarian multiculturalism came to full fruition during the campus protests during the 2010s, led by students but also supported by many faculty members, who demanded emotional comfort and safety, restrictions of all speech that were actually or potentially offensive to their cultural sensibilities, and especially that the militant social-justice command of “diversity, equality, and inclusion” be applied to the philosophical canon (Lukianoff and Haidt, 2015). Whatever the specific issue involved, the basic idea and upshot was to assert their newly-acquired coercive authoritarian social-institutional power, and to extend the benefits of belonging to this social-institutional power grid to all and only those who actively collaborate and comply with an identitarian multiculturalist view of morality, politics, society, and the world in general.

NOTE

[i] The key works in which these ideas are developed include (Foucault, 1973, 1991, 2001, 2002; Lyotard, 1984; Baudrillard, 1991, 1994; Derrida, 1998, 2001).

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