Das Ende der Neuzeit

In the new encyclical, Laudato Si’Pope Francis quotes Romano Guardini’s superb critique of the Baconian program of progress through the technological domination of nature in Das Ende der NeuzeitSadly the Neuzeit (modernity) is far from having reached its Ende.

There is a tendency to believe that every increase in power means “an increase of ‘progress’ itself”, an advance in “security, usefulness, welfare and vigour; …an assimilation of new values into the stream of culture”, as if reality, goodness and truth automatically flow from technological and economic power as such. The fact is that “contemporary man has not been trained to use power well”, [ROMANO GUARDINI, Das Ende der Neuzeit, 9th ed., Würzburg, 1965, 87 (English: The End of the Modern World, Wilmington, 1998, 82)]. because our immense technological development has not been accompanied by a development in human responsibility, values and conscience. Each age tends to have only a meagre awareness of its own limitations. It is possible that we do not grasp the gravity of the challenges now before us. “The risk is growing day by day that man will not use his power as he should”; in effect, “power is never considered in terms of the responsibility of choice which is inherent in freedom” since its “only norms are taken from alleged necessity, from either utility or security”. But human beings are not completely autonomous. Our freedom fades when it is handed over to the blind forces of the unconscious, of immediate needs, of self-interest, and of violence. In this sense, we stand naked and exposed in the face of our ever-increasing power, lacking the wherewithal to control it. We have certain superficial mechanisms, but we cannot claim to have a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint. (§ 105)

One thought on “Das Ende der Neuzeit

  1. I am disappointed with the reactions at Rorate Caeli and the Remnant. As you note, Francis’s critique of Bacon really strikes at the root of modernity. It also stays in line with some of the great Integralist/counterrevolutionary thinkers. De Maistre wrote an entire book critiquing Bacon. Bonald lamented the destruction of the forests and countryside in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, many of his critiques where aimed at Adam Smith. Not to mention more recent traditionalist thinkers, like J.R.R. Tolkien, who’s condemnation of industrialism is explicit in his writings. Even Russell Kirk refused to drive an automobile, calling the them “mechanical Jacobins.”

    I hope this anti-technology stain of traditionalism reasserts itself over and against the libertarian strain that many trads still are (unfortunately) enamored with ( for example- a few months ago the Remnant had Judge Andrew Napolitano a vocal anarcho-capitalist, and self-described traditional Catholic who at one time hailed the legalization of SSM as a good thing on national tv- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ajNybaF2-40).

    Liked by 1 person

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