Following up on Wednesday’s post, here are some more observations about our cultural moment, in a slightly more academic vein, from Mars Hill Audio, by Ken Myers. I highly recommend taking the time to digest this, and think about its implications. Notice especially how Myers takes Cam Newton’s criticism of media morality, and explains the actual philosophical basis for it all, and what it means for us.
One of the defining characteristics of modern Western culture is that its artifacts, practices, and institutions convey the belief that there is no intrinsic meaning in the universe. In the words of sociologist Daniel Bell, to be modern is to embrace “the proposition that there are no ends or purposes given in nature; that the individual, and his or her self-realization, is the new standard of judgment; and that one can remake one’s self and remake society in an effort to achieve those goals.”
The reigning belief of modern culture is that each individual is the sovereign maker of meaning. Where premodern cultures assumed a Creator and Governor who established cosmic order to which human societies and individuals must conform, modern culture denies the existence of such an order and encourages each individual to assert his or her own order.
This organizing idea of modernity has several prominent cultural consequences. The most dramatic of these is the radical reorientation of the purpose of cultural institutions. Historically, cultural forms served to establish boundaries for belief and behavior based on assumptions about the nature of things. But since there is, for modern culture, no nature of things to guide us, cultural institutions now serve to equip each individual with as much freedom and power as possible so as to assert his or her own account of meaning. Premodern cultures were systems of restraint; modern culture is a system of liberation.