Re: post-renaissance terminology

Date: Sun Jan 23 2000 - 09:42:25 MST

In a message dated 1/23/00 8:06:57 AM Central Standard Time, writes:

> If the middle ages can be referred to as a 'god centered' view of the world,
> and the renaissance can be referred to as a 'human centered' view of the
> world, then what term is used to describe emerging phase of society ? If
> there is no term, what is the best representing of a society that is
> sentience/conscious centered ? 'sentience centered' ? (think: animal rights
> movements, ethics of Singer, development of autonomous agents, creation of
> new life forms, etc : there is a general trend towards the increased
> understanding of sentience throughout philosophy, and the various moral and
> ethical question as society heads down the path). I disagree with the term
> 'globalisation', because I think (and there it is much written) that
> globalisation has been a continuing process, but only now resulting in a
> 'real' globalisation due to economic conditions and communications
> technology. Hopefully I haven't displayed too much of my ignorance ;-).

I think about this question a LOT, so hopefully, I won't have too much to say
about it :-)

I think a very strong argument can be made that we're actually in a period of
cultural RENEWAL rather than one of complete INNOVATION. Just as many people
in the Renaissance (and since) saw that time as a period of rediscovery and
renewal of humanist values found in some parts of classical culture, I think
our own time is one in which we are returning to the core values of the
Enlightenment. [Note in this regard that I see the Renaissance and
Enlightenment as two distinct chapters in what was, nevertheless, a period
with significant continuity, as well. The first chapter (1450?-1675? or
thereabouts) was primarily characterized by establishing the basics of the
scientific method (culminating in the work of Newton), exploration of the New
World and reformulating the relationship of religion and the state. The
second chapter (1625? - 1815?) was characterized by a rapid application of
the scientific method across many disciplines, the development of many new
and powerful technologies as a result, settlement and development of the New
World and the reformulation of the relationship of the individual and the

In this view, one of the cultural tasks in which we are primarily involved
now is a process of recovering the values of the Enlightenment after what was
essentially a detour that began with the radicalization of the French
Revolution, then accelerated with Marxism and the pathologies of
hypertrophied nationalism and finally burned itself out in the nihilism and
paralyzing relativism of post-modernist "deconstructivism". Seen in this way
transhumanism and extropianism is really just the continuation of something
that was already underway, and is the logical extension of Renaissance and
Enlightenment humanism.

This historical contextualization doesn't lend itself to an easy summarizing
term like "god-centered" or "human-centered", though. Picking out any one of
the major strands of the historical dynamics described above doesn't seems to
miss the richness of the process and risks a too-early "totalizing" effect
(to use a term form the post-modernist vocabulary). In hindsight, perhaps
something like "mind-centered" might end up being true and accurate, so far
as it goes, but I think it's too soon to make such generalizations. If we
can avoid being derailed by reactionaries or destroyed by our own efforts, I
believe there's a good chance that this will be seen as the beginning of the
"extropian" era, using the term in the broadest sense. Ultimately, though,
the notion of this age being "centered" on anything is perhaps ultimately
misleading: It will be a period of increasing diversity and complexity, and
perhaps one without a "center" at all.

      Greg Burch <>----<>
      Attorney ::: Vice President, Extropy Institute ::: Wilderness Guide -or-
                                           ICQ # 61112550
        "We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know
        enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another
       question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species."
                                          -- Desmond Morris

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