If there is a world full of objects that are independent of my own body or mind, and if I can only know them through the effects they have on my body’s senses, in turn causing mental states of awareness in my brain where these objects are represented, how can I ever know that these representations correspond to the objects or, in other words, that my perceptions correspond to reality?
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.