A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Autumn of the Modern Ages: The Age of Science; the Secular Age; Conclusion

The Autumn of the Modern Ages: Part 6

Eddington is more agnostic about the material world than Huxley ever was about the spiritual world.
-- G. K. Chesterton, The Well and the Shallows

12. The Age of Science. 

Omitted from this bloggery

“The twenty-first century will be religious, or not at all.”  – André Malraux

13. The Secular Age.   

The Middle Ages had invented the Secular State by stripping kings and emperors of their sacred roles and setting up the Church as an independent entity, with her own incomes, her own law codes and courts, her own governance.  “[T]he existence and prestige of the Church,” wrote A.D. Lindsay in The Modern Democratic State, “prevented society from being totalitarian, prevented the omnicompetent state, and preserved liberty in the only way that liberty can be preserved, by maintaining in society an organization which could stand up against the state.” [AL]  But during the Modern Ages, as the State began to assert control over theatrical companies, medical societies, universities, and other formerly independent corporations, it also asserted control over the Church – by sponsoring a heretic (Saxony), by nationalizing the Church within State borders (England), or by re-claiming the power to invest bishops and to block or censor papal bulls (France, Spain).  The result was a series of State-run “Established Churches.”  Cuius regio, eius religio![7] 
The Established Church was a triumph of secularism, not of religion.  Divine Right monarchs appeared during the Age of Reason, not the Age of Faith.  As the Modern Ages progressed – and moderns always progress – the West became steadily more secular in outlook and religion was steadily more brought to heel. 

The Autumn of the Modern Ages: The Age of Representative Art and the Book

The Autumn of the Modern Ages: Part 5

We are mistaken if we suppose that mere commonsense, without any such training, will enable men to see an imaginary scene, or even to see the world they are living in, as we all see it today.
-- C.S. Lewis, The Discarded Image

10. The Age of Representation.   

Medieval art had made no attempt to reproduce the world as it actually appeared to the eye.  The relative sizes of objects were determined by their importance, not by their actual sizes and distances.  Nature was all foreground.  Whatever details the artist meant the viewer to see were shown regardless whether they would really have been visible from the viewer’s perspective. 
But in the 1420s, Brunelleschi, a Florentine engineer, discovered the laws of perspective, and from the Renaissance to the Victorians, artists sought to present the world “as it truly is.”  In his watercolor of a Young Hare, Dürer attempted to draw every hair.  This was impressive, and anticipated the Scientific emphasis on precise and detailed observation of physical reality.  (Art tends to run ahead of science.) The philistines were upset because it wasn’t real art.  We don’t realize it today, but people had to learn to look at painting as representation rather than allegory. 
Figure 7.  Albrecht Dürer.  A Young Hare (1502); Watercolor and gouache on paper;
Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna.

The Autumn of the Modern Ages: The Age of Privacy, the Family, and Schooling

The Autumn of the Modern Ages: Part 4

Who will ultimately control the cameras?”
David Brin, The Transparent Society

7. The Age of Privacy.   

The Middle Ages were public.  Life was lived in the community, not inside houses.  Even the wedding night was public!  That changed with the Modern Ages.  Certain rooms in palaces and workshops were set apart for the king or for the master and his family – and it became understood that courtiers and customers were not to enter these “apart-ments” without invitation.  The word “home” took on its current meaning and “make yourself at home” implied a very intimate friendship.  An interiority developed in people’s ways of thinking: “inspiration” (which comes from the outside) gave way to “imagination” (which comes from the inside).  The great controversies of the Middle Ages had been carried out in large and raucous public debates.  The Modern Ages tended toward memoirs and diaries. 
But privacy was a frail reed.  There was always the competing desire for recognition – and recognition is anything but private.  Peer pressure has always mattered, and matters more to the young than to the mature.  As modern maturity segues into post-modern immaturity, peer pressure will become steadily more important.[1] 

The Autumn of the Modern Ages: The Age of Money, Industries, and Cities

The Autumn of the Modern Ages: Part 3

“Get money; still get money, boy, no matter by what means.”
 – Ben Jonson, Every Man in his Humour. Act ii. Sc. 3.

4. The Age of Money.   

In the beginning of the Middle Ages, money had virtually disappeared from the Transalpine West, although Charlemagne continued to use the old Roman solidus. But by the High Middle Ages, the solidus had been replaced by the ducat, the pound, and the dollar (from thaler, Joachimsthal, where the silver mines were).  With the dawn of the Modern Ages. money was put to work like never before.  The bourgeoisie didn’t just have money, they made money. 
The Age of Money was the Age of Capitalism, but capitalism means the preservation and husbanding of money, and with the rise of democracy this shifted to the spending of money and the consumption of goods, a transition accentuated by the triumph of the will and of the youth culture.  Capitalism fell not to communism, but to consumerism. 

The Autumn of the Modern Ages: The Age of Europe, the Bourgeois, the State

The Autumn of the Modern Ages: Part 2

“We live in the ruins of a civilization, but the ruins are in our minds.” 
– John Lukacs, The Passing of the Modern Age

1. The European Age.   

The Modern Age was a European thing.  Beyond the forests of Transylvania, across the Mediterranean, terms like Renaissance, Age of Reason, Scientific or Industrial Revolution had no traction.  Hungary had its renaissance; Romania did not. France celebrated the age of reason; Algeria did not.
In 1470 Pope Pius II, among others, coined the term European to refer to an inhabitant of that continent, for all practical purposes then synonymous with white and Christian.  Two-thirds of Christendom had been lost to Islam and her horizons had shrunk effectively to the borders of the European continent.  The idea of a European was thus contemporary with the ideas of modern and progress.  At the same time, civilized and cultured began to mean the same thing, and the term primitive appeared by 1540.  This terminological ferment signals the emergence of certain ways of thinking. 
At the dawn of the Modern Ages, white Europeans went forth from their continent and brought their modern civilized progress to every primitive corner of the globe.  Whole continents were settled by Europeans.  Byzantine Russia was drawn into its orbit.  The Jihad faltered and broke at the Gates of Vienna.  And the rest of the world began to imitate European customs, laws, clothing, technologies, architecture, parliaments, and science.  

The Autumn of the Modern Ages: Preface

This is the first of a series of posts on the collapse of the Modern Ages. It uses as its starting point, John Lukacs' essay, At the End of an Age. It was originally envisioned as a fact article for ANALOG, but it became way too long for that. However, as TOF transcribed the final portions of these posts, he realized that he might be able to salvage one part of it: the Autumn of Modern Science for such an article, and so that is reserved from this series. 

TOF also notices in Preview-view that there are whimsical font changes throughout which he has not been able to correct. Go figure.

The Autumn of the Modern Ages
by Michael F. Flynn

“When the world was half a thousand years younger…” 
So began Johan Huizinga’s portrait of the 15th century world: The Autumn of the Middle Ages. “Autumn,” because if the medieval world was fading, it “faded” in a burst of color and drama, and its passing was also a birth: The Renaissance.  [JH]
It wasn’t the first time the West had pulled off this re-birth thingie.  When the world was half a thousand years younger still, Europe had once before been transformed – and more happily so, for the 10th century had seen, in the revival of commerce and town life, in a renewed thirst for knowledge, the fading of a genuinely desperate era.  And five hundred years before that, in “the autumn of late antiquity,” people like Boëthius or St. Augustine would later rightly be styled the last of the Romans and the first of the medievals.  [PB].  
There is nothing magical about that 500-year interval, but…  Another half millennium back and Caesar crosses the Rubicon and the decaying Republic ends in an Augustan rebirth bright enough that men fifteen centuries after found themselves blinded by its light.   
And a half-millennium forward of the Renaissance brings us to…  
Well, today. 

The Ongoing Redef

A couple of interesting stones embedded in the hillside of the slippery slope down which we are presently tumbling presented themselves to TOF's attention recently.