A Very Short Primer to Contemporary Philosophy

The “Gutenberg Bible”, the first substantial printed book in the West. I see it as a metaphor for faith being shaped by technology, a token of an incipient modernity.
(Image by NYC Wanderer / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Desaturated from original)

Historical modernity and modern philosophy are not in sync. The former begins at that great confluence of inventions, conquests, and discoveries that characterize the second half of the 15th century, most importantly, Gutenberg’s press, the fall of Constantinople, and the discovery of America; the latter begins only in the 17th century with Bacon, Hobbes and Descartes. The Renaissance humanism of the 15th and 16th centuries, as well as the Protestant Reformation can be regarded only as a transitional period leading to modern philosophy proper in the 17th and 18th centuries. After Kant dies (1804), we can say that reason has failed, and that the foundations of the irrationality so pervasive today begin. It is that period of growing irrationality from Kant to after the Great Wars that we will call here contemporary philosophy; the period after that, you can give it the name you want.

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Christian Humanism: The Crisis of Modernity

Our secular society.
(Boekhandel Selexyz Dominicanen, a 13th century Catholic Church in Maastricht, Netherlands, that is now a luxurious bookstore. Image by FaceMePLS / CC BY 2.0 / Desaturated from original)

Jacques Maritain begins his essay “Christian Humanism” telling us how the ideas in the mind of just a few men mold an epoch. That’s the power of philosophy which I have been learning that exists, and which I have ignored all my life.

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