<br /><br />Be careful here--history is circular and already we see the beginnings of a return to tradition and history as we become disillusioned by modernity. Hence all these young people wanting to study classics, a change which is especially noticeable in North America where the classics have been in dire straits--we are now seeing revival of classical methods of education. We are also seeing more people drawn to orthodox religion, which in itself is a fascinating shift. <br /><br /><br />As members of a society it's a different thing all together. Though I would definitely not say that our culture is in demise because we no longer live in a society that values tradition very highly. <br />
<br /><br />Are you equating tradition with oppression??? Wow... I don't think I have anything to say to that. <br /><br /><br />In fact I don't think I could stand living in such an oppressive society. Although it's sad to see some old traditions go, I would be terrible if some hadn't gone (traditionally a woman's place is in the kitchen...). <br />
<br /><br /><br />Again, atheistic philosophy is a relatively new thing. As we all know, the ancients were mainly polytheistic, and until the so-called "enlightenment", western philosophy was always more or less monotheistic--whether or not ethics was based on their theism is another question.<br /><br />Don't get too comfortable with modern philosophy... it is already on its way out ;)<br /><br />You must also remember that philosophers used to have to accept the supremacy of the church or face a painful death. Now I'm not saying they were all atheists, but they couldn't just go around saying god didn't exist in a big style. Anyway, as William already pointed out, even if they did believe in God, that doesn't mean that they tried to base their ethics on God. Take Kant for example... he believed in God, and yet his ethics model has nothing to do with God.
<br /><br />Demise? Are we demising? I hadn't noticed.<br /><br />I realize this is a very common view - I succumb to it myself on some<br />days - but I'm not sure it's justified. Moralists have been decrying<br />the moral state of contemporary society for as long as people have<br />recorded their complaints. This is doubtless justified. Humans<br />aren't perfect, and improvement is always possible, and very possibly<br />always advised. But the idea that each generation has been uniquely<br />depraved is also a common complaint, and this I feel is less justified<br />most of the time. I don't believe in Golden Ages. Not in a million<br />years would I choose to live in the time of Homer, or of Christ, or of<br />the Buddha, or indeed any other past age. (Of course, brief visits to<br />satisfy linguistic curiosity would be more than welcome. )<br /><br />But much of the history of western society is about crisis-driven<br />renewal. The fundamental idea of Christianity is quite explicitly a<br />radical break from the past: a new covenant for all, ending in the<br />total annihilation of this bad world and the construction of a new,<br />just, humane world. This idea has driven so much intellectual and<br />political history of the west: peasant movements in the middle ages,<br />the foundation of religious orders, the reformation and<br />counter-reformation which had such vast political impact. Many<br />political movements from the 1700s until now on are framed in<br />chiliastic terms.<br /><br />Even Marxism, though shorn of specific religious reference, is clearly<br />of Judeo-Christian parentage: an ever more evil world run by depraved<br />oppressors leading to a time of terrible persecution followed by a<br />historically inevitable vast and bloody battle between Good<br />(workers) and Evil (capitalists), in which Evil will necessarily be<br />vanquished and after which the Good live in a new, just world free of<br />suffering and oppression.<br /><br />Even certain branches of environmentalism frame their warnings in<br />apocalyptic terms, but have opened their definition of the Elect to<br />all life on earth, not merely humans, and more radical conceptions<br />omit humans from the elect entirely. But the catastrophism is<br />basically the same, including a tendency to contemplate the suffering<br />of the non-elect with unseemly relish.<br /><br />But there's nothing uniquely modern about people trying to break with<br />the past. Everyone who has lived with injustice probably wants to<br />break with the past.<br /><br />It's only modern, western society which tries its hardest to<br />cut itself off from its own history and tradition--to its own<br />demise.
<br /><br />Nor is there any reason to insist it is necessarily good.<br /><br />As you say, each generation is influenced deeply by the culture and<br />traditions into which it is born. I freely admit that I accept one<br />cultural idea from the Western tradition which owes its origin to<br />religious beliefs and that is this:<br /><br />Progress is possible. Humanity can, through its own toil and<br />good-faith effort, improve itself.<br /><br />Please note that I take this to mean that progress will always be<br />possible as long as there are humans around to worry about things. I<br />would not dare to suggest that we've got everything right in 2003, or<br />even that we'll have everything right in 3003. For 1000s of years<br />slavery was acceptable to most people. Until not too long ago<br />citizens of the United States voted for pro-slavery presidents. Most<br />would not, I suspect, do so in the 2004 election if such a candidate<br />becomes available.<br /><br />Some traditions are awful. I've been in parts of Texas where instead<br />of saying "thank you" to someone for passing the salt they say "mighty<br />white of you." I was stunned the first time I heard that, and<br />apparently my facial expression was quite the thing. I didn't have to<br />say anything. The face I made was enough to get the person I was<br />dining with to actually think about what he'd just said, for<br />the first time in his life.<br /><br />As part of humanity's long-term project of self-improvement, every<br />generation is going to challenge some traditions. Some will be<br />accepted. Some will be discarded, including some many people hold<br />dear. Traditions are part of our history, and should certainly be<br />included in deliberations about Life, the Universe and Everything - it<br />let's us see where people have gone before - but there's no reason to<br />give it any unique status in our deliberations.<br />Guess what? Tradition is not bad,
<br /><br />Are you actually suggesting that the number of people who believe something changes the truth?<br /><br />Between this contigent view of reality and the disbelief in objectivity I suddenly find I have to confront the idea the post-modernism has made its way to church. <br /><br />Please say it ain't so!Be careful here--history is circular and already we see the beginnings of a return to tradition and history as we become disillusioned by modernity. Hence all these young people wanting to study classics, a change which is especially noticeable in North America where the classics have been in dire straits--we are now seeing revival of classical methods of education. We are also seeing more people drawn to orthodox religion, which in itself is a fascinating shift.<br /><br /><snip><br /><br />Don't get too comfortable with modern philosophy... it is already on its way out
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