Modern thought(less): Rambling preamble

26 04 2011

Thoughtlessness is a marker of modernity.

That’s a big, vague statement, leaving “thoughtlessness”, “marker”, and “modernity” all undefined. What I’ll be attempting to do, then, in goddess knows how many posts, is to unvague these terms, to ask if there is something about modern thoughtlessness which is distinct from prior/other moments of thoughtlessness, how mindfulness is connected to thoughtlessness, and whatever the hell else pops into me wee little mind about modernity.

Dmf asked how the project on the dawning of modernity is coming along, to which I can only respond: still coming. There will be connections made, however. I’m almost sure of it.

Anyway, since this is the pre-amble, here are a few pre-liminary statements (subject, of course, to revision):

1.We are not yet beyond modernity.

2. Following (1), what is called “post-modernity” is actually a critique of modernity, such that “post-modernity” is a misnomer.

3. Modernity has its own history, such that features which are prominent in one period in one period may be marginal in another.

4. Following (3), some features of modernity may be emergent and/or may disappear over the course of modernity.

5. The role of science, in terms of method, subject, and results, matter in the shaping of modern thought.

6. Modernity has become inseparable from capitalism.

7. The Reformation and Counter-Reformation were crucial in the development of modern thought.

8. Rights-based individualism is an emergent phenomenon and varying property of modernity, that is, the connection between individualism, rights, and modernity must be interrogated, not assumed.

9. Rights-based individualism and capitalism are connected to the phenomenon of thoughtlessness.

10. Mindfulness, as an emergent goal of rights-based individualism, deepens rather than overcomes the phenomenon of thoughtlessness.

Some of these hypotheses are commonly accepted, others, less so, but I wanted explicitly to mark off the ground where the digging will start.

Furthermore, I don’t know that all of these statements will hold up, or that others won’t emerge as more pressing or plausible. These are, at this point, simply educated hunches.

Two other points: One, I was captivated some many years ago by the concept of the palimpsest, so I’m sure I’ll work that in somehow. The hard part will be making sure I don’t mislead myself in my eagerness to deploy the concept.

Two, it is worth mentioning again that this discussion of modern thought is of a specific, European-based phenomenon. I reject the notion that European history comprises the whole of world history, and in writing these posts make no claims about other histories or forms of contemporary thought in the world.

In any case, why does this matter? Maybe it doesn’t. I simply want to make sense, and it seems to me that spelunking into intellectual history is one way to do so.

We’ll see.

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4 responses

26 04 2011
geekhiker

Okay, I’ll admit to being a little confused. Is this more about history, or philosophy?

For the lead statement itself, I’m inclined to agree. I look at the vitriol in so many anonymous comments on the web, unfiltered by editors, nor requiring the the person to put their name by their words, and I’m inclined to agree that thoughtlessness has come to the fore…

26 04 2011
absurdbeats

I’m trying to understand how we think today by looking at how we thought yesterday so: both history and philosophy.

And by “thoughtlessness” I mean something more or other than pig-ignorance or partisan biases or conspiracy-mongering (which may, perhaps, be one way people try to overcome thoughtlessness); it’s closer to—but not the same as—a kind of forgetting, or maybe “erasure” or an active form of not-knowing.

Hm. None of these really work. Perhaps this should be my first post.

26 04 2011
dmf

Arendt thought that to see someone suffering (say from poverty) and not be moved by it was not to Really See It, and she thought of this in terms of something like repression but I’m afraid that this is not what is going on with most folks in such circumstances and to change this would be to resocialize/convert people not to “free” them.

26 04 2011
dmf

ps I meant to convert not free the people seeing not the people suffering

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