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Is the adventure of Universalizing, emancipatory Culture ["Modernity" as it arose in the West...] over?
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[ The end of Michelangelo Antonioni's film 'L'Avventura' ]
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Is the adventure over?
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[ ] [ ] [ ] As recently as 1935, in his "Vienna Lecture": Philosophy and the Crisis of European Humanity, Edmund Husserl clearly articulated a prospectus for revitalizing "The West" as a vanguard for a universal transformation of the life of humanity, a renewal of every aspect of each individual's personal life in society. He proposed a radically new form of life, in which the "finitude" of all received forms of life (what I call: "ethnicities") would be transcended toward a new self-reflective, self-accountable and ever-again self-reconstructing form of life devoted to shaping itself through and as an "infinite task" of reason (build: cities, in an honorific sense). This project would build upon the accumulated intellectual accomplishments of "The West", from Thales and Socrates, through the Renaissance and Enlightenment, to Husserl's own work and beyond.... Husserl gave his address shortly before the outbreak of World War II, which threatened to destroy all traces of these progressive, emancipatory, rational and universalizing values, and which, in any case, largely put on hold efforts toward realizing these ideals until such time as normal conditions of secure daily life could be reestablished, thus once again freeing up time and resources for the pursuit of higher aspirations. [ ] [ ] [ ]
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A-mentia of "The West"
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We are not talking here about scientific and technological advance (aka "progress"), which have flourished since (and were even fostered by!) "The War" (WWII). The progress of instrumental reason ("how to"/"can do") can coexist with stagnation and even regression of life -- social and personal -- rationality ("what to"/"what for"), and this has largely been the case. Stephen Toulmin argues, in Cosmopolis: The hidden agenda of modernity: In the early modern period (ca. 1600), Western humanity faced a choice between (1) the partial rationality of natural sciences which put to the test only our notions about objects (Galileo's kinematics) but left the ambient form of social life ["political power", etc.] alone (Galileo's abjuration), and (2) the all-encompassing rationality of self-critical humanities (Rabelais, Erasmus et al.), which put to the test everything, including those powerful social institutions in which the investigators and everyone else live and move and have their [in which we have our!] being. "We" set off down the first path, and, by the mid-20th century, this trajectory had led to deep and widespread loss of life meaning (e.g. alienation...), as indicated by even the titles of books such as Robert Lynd's: Knowledge for what?
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Even before the catastrophe of World War II, the efforts of persons such as Husserl were largely to dis-occlude constructive potentialities in Western culture that remained unrealized due to The West, "way back when" (ca. 1600), having taken and then proceeding down with blinders on, the Galilean path -- probing natural forces but obeying social power, instead of the Rabelaisean/Erasmean alternative: probing both natural forces and social power. [I argue that the outcome of going down the Rabelaisean/Erasmean... road-not-taken would not have been to limit what science and technology can do in their own realm (which Ludditism, new Age spirituality, etc. try to do...), but to situate scientific and technological endeavors in a social world that would be increasingly rational in all its aspects (i.e., make good sense to each person as nurturing all his or her abilities and aspirations...) -- political and economic, as well as kinematic.
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The picture above [[ See picture at top of page! ]] is the final scene from Michelangelo Antonioni's 1960 film L'Avventura. Already, in the first decades after the war, many persons whose prosperous comfort should have given them opportunity collaboratively to work toward the goals of the Univeralizing self-accountable Culture so eloquently described by Husserl, instead felt alienated (anomic) and sought distractions from the boredom of their life. This soul- and world-weariness even had cachet (e.g., "existentialism"). At the 1960(?) Cannes Film Festival, Antonioni's film took a back seat to Fellini's La Dolce Vita, another film perhaps even more descriptive of this discouraged spirit of the time, and which introduced the soon to become eponymous character: Paparazzo (ref.: Paparazzi)
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Read quote from Antonioni why he uses rich, leisured persons in his films: Click here.
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Was early 20th century Western artists' fascination with primitive art ultimately destructive not just of 'bourgeois' hypocrisy but also of genuinely humane values of high culture?
[ Where is AOL man going to? ]The ensuing several decades up to the present have seen the "flowering" of forces provocatively inimical to the all-consuming and all too often destructive "advance" of science and technology (partial, "Galilean" rationality). In academe, some earn their paychecks by advocating: "The Meta-Narrative of the Dead White European Males ['The Western Canon']" is no better than non-"Western" ethnic traditions[fn.58[ Go to footnote! ]]; indeed, that the latter are "better" insofar as 'The Western Canon' [along with its cannons!] claims to be better and adduces modern science and technology as powerful evidence for and -- worse -- enforcement of its claims. At street level, persons seek their future in an imagined return to their "roots" -- in ethnic and religious group identification. Neither the academics nor "the people" aspire or, a fortiori, endeavor to realize potentialities that could be dis-closed by studying all cultural forms (including each their ancestors', and, especially, each their [i.e., our] own!) in a disciplined, comparative and critical way, and then situating all this material creatively in relation to their own social context [the community of researchers they thus would become...], to learn from and make use of all of it to build for themselves (ourselves...) a new form of life that "transcends" all the past -- both the traditional and the transitional [Galilean partial rationality], taking from each tradition what is good and leaving (insofar as possible: recycling, repurposing...) the rest (in a kind of "bricolage" radically unlike post-modernist deployment of that word!).
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Meaningful play is the basis of culture.
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[ Leisure: Luxe, calme et volupte is the basis of culture! ]
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E.g.: See my Ed.D. dissertation.
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[ How should we respond to Global Terorism? ]
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How can "The West" fight the new global terrorism?
In addition, are the forces which do not just think, but also act in response to what they perceive (not necessarily entirely wrongly!) as the threat of "modernity" ("The West", etc.) to their form of life. These include fundamentalist Islamist terrorists who aim to destroy "Western civilization" -- already with more than a little success (e.g.: "911"). Dies Irae 
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Even if there were no terrorists or academic detractors (deconstructionists, et al.), would the sheer number of concurrently living persons -- now over 6,000,000,000 -- make the hoped for transformation impossible? Cultural accomplishment is always individual and lives in dialogical, face-to-face community. Culture cannot flourish by proxy, through alienated delegation, e.g., in "representative democracy" (which is a democracy solely of the representatives even when the representatives exert themselves for the benefit of the represented). In addition, environmental pollution and resource depletion may increasingly erode the settled conditions of safe daily life, upon which even individual study and creation depend, whether or not these personally and intimately satisfying endeavors can further have the good fortune to participate collegially in the space of peer speech and action in which social life is governed.
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[ See U.S. 2000 Presidential election Florida vote counting! ]
[ Afrchitect Frank Gehry has fun pretending terrestrial space is warped, etc.! ]
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[ Did early 20th century artists' fascination with primitive art contribute to us becoming less civilized? ]
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[ Go home to Miami modern house with chandelier in kitchen! ]
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[ Plunge into the depths of despair! ]
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"See if there's anything good on...."
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"Why bother?"
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[ On the road to Cyberia.... ]
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True liberal education is free discussion about free discussion, which cultivates the free discussion it itself is.
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I do not have a firm sense of how things are going to proceed, but I am not optimistic -- especially since so few seem to be even trying. To cite one problem, which I think is foundational: We teach young persons "the liberal arts" and "the humanities" in an illiberal and inhumane way: by testing and grading. We can expect persons to appreciate the human[e] potential of these studies only by fortunate accident, against what we are teaching them by example, e.g., that "The Good is beyond Being" is a correct answer on a final exam about Plato, not an appealing idea to explore experimentally by measuring all aspects of one's daily life against it -- including having reasonable hope of being able to change the form of that life when the experiment shows that it does not measure up, i.e., that something merely is and is not really good (those tests and grades, for starters!). --Even many PhD graduates in "the humanities" lack any sense of what a life devoted to authentic cultural self-formation would be like. How can we expect persons to nurture and defend something they are profoundly unaware of?  
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Perhaps the most we can hope for is to be aware of the notions of good things we could have but won't, and to share this realization in the good company of fellow searchers and seekers. Until the end, we can, at least sometimes, discuss these things together and comfort each other. Discussion itself, and to cultivate discussion through discussion, is an aspect of our goal: not just a means to other goals, but itself one of the most important of all goals and a source of comfort. (The ending of Ingmar Bergmann's Film The Seventh Seal describes an end of life which is consistent with the hope for life which I have described here, when all is lost: Please click here and read.)
 
[ Have a leisured lunch at a French cafe! ] [ Have a leisured lunch at a French cafe! ]
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" The lights are going out all over Europe.
We at least shall try to relight them."
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(--Daniel Corbett)
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 [ ]  View intro to this page[ Go to intro to this page.... ]
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 [ Return to BMcC statement of beliefs ] [ ]This I believe (The net)  [[ Go to 'This I believe' page via intro.... ]View intro!]
 [ Think about The Decline of The West! ] [ ]Architecture design: Think about The Decline of The West
 [ Think about the metaphor of life as a journey! ] [ ]"Shipwreck with Spectator" (Life as a journey...)
 [ Think about Freud's essay! ] [ ]Civilization and its Discontents (Sigmund Freud)
 [ Return to BMcC statement of beliefs ] [ ]War Seen from the Grassroot Perspective  [[ Go to 'War Seen from the Grassroot Perspective' page via intro.... ]View intro!]
 [ Read about post-modernism! ] [ ]Notes on Post-modernism
 [ When 'we' lose 'our' mind as a culture! ] [ ]A-mentia of Western civilization
 [ Religious fundamentalists attack secular culture! ] [ ]Dies Irae
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 [ See example of genuinely liberal education! ] [ ]Example of real liberal education (BMcC dissertation process)
 [ Find out how a city can deserve to exist! ] [ ]How a city can deserve to exist (Louis Kahn)
 [ Learn to eat well, enjoy and stay thin.! ] [ ]Learn to eat well, enjoy and stay thin
 [ Think about the duty of communicators! ] [ ]The duty of communicators
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 [ Go play with signifiers! ] [ ]Play with signifiers | Play with CUBORO[ Learn about CUBORO marble run construction system toy! ]
 [ Go to The End of the Internet! ] [ ]The End of the Internet
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[ Go to: The duty of communicators! ]
[ Where is AOL man going? Where are you going? ]
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http://www.cloud9.net/~bradmcc/lavventura.html
Copyright © 2002-2004 Brad McCormick, Ed.D.
bradmcc@cloud9.net [ Email me! ]
14 April 2006 (2006-04-14 ISO 8601)
v05.03
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[ Visit building to study The Decline of The West! ] [ Read Husserl's Vienna Lecture! ] [ Read brief quotes about the meaning of time! ]
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