What was the enlightenment? What happened to it? Was it all that important, or relevant even?
This period in history has aptly been called ‘The Century of Philosopohy’, or equally ‘The age of reason.’ It was generally believed that if one could apply the techniques of scientific reason to any problem then it could be resolved. So what went wrong. Why aren’t we all living in a non problem world?
There have been many explanations for this. The one I like best was by a guy called Habermas. He thought that history produced a duality in the seventeenth century. All cultures produced norms, expectations and values. Collectively he called these the lifeworld, an aspect of living reproduced by communication in which human actions are seen as important and significant. The lifeworld is a community, made up of commonality, a social world. But then comes along the system, equally important. But this is where it all falls down. The system is not about community. It is solely practical, its intention is governance and economic control. The lifeworld and the system differ fundamentally. The system functions through the use of money and power. It promotes individual success. There is nothing communal about it. Whilst the lifeworld produced the system they have nothing in common and this fundamental dissonance, this lack of harmony, means in the modern world there are problems galore.
Whilst the age of reason identified a myriad of problems at the same time it produced no prescriptions for any of them.