Not sure whether this is the right place for this question, but anyways, Wikipedia states:

"Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking." (source)

As someone with a background in mathematics and science, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to make out of this statement. Are we trying to reject logic? What is the Wikipedia article trying to express with this? Thanks.

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    Can you elaborate on what relations to logic you see here and what is it that worries you about this statement? Also, the quote says "rejected" not "regretted". Corrected that for you. – Eliran May 30 '16 at 20:39
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    i've never read anything but would suggest it's more about e.g. rejecting the characterisation of man as rational, rather than disposing of his rational tools... rethinking their importance ? – user6917 May 30 '16 at 20:45
  • So, sort of like saying mankind's decisions are ruled by psychological facts rather than by reason? – Jack Maddington May 30 '16 at 21:40
  • But what is meant by Enlightenment thinking? Of course we all know Enlightenment existed. Are we saying Enlightenment people may not have used their brains to think? What is this modernism business really getting at with all of this? – Jack Maddington May 30 '16 at 21:42
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    Looking at the article, this appears to be about modernism the art movement rather than modernism the philosophical era of Locke, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Butler, and Hume. (and depending on how you dice it Kant and Hegel et al). – virmaior May 30 '16 at 23:58

It is hard to see a direct link between modernist poetry and painting (the actual content of Wiki's article) with (philosophical) Elightenment, and it is particularly baffling the footnote attached to the quoted statement:

Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and many modernists rejected religious belief [footnote: "[James] Joyce's Ulysses is a comedy not divine, ending, like Dante's, in the vision of a God whose will is our peace, but human all-too-human...." Peter Faulkner, Modernism (Taylor & Francis, 1990). p 60.]

There is a so-called Postmodernist philosophical movement, initiated by The Postmodern Condition of Jean-François Lyotard:

The book introduced the term 'postmodernism', which was previously only used by art critics, into philosophy, with the following quotation: "Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity towards metanarratives".

Among the metanarratives criticized by Lyotard are reductionism and teleological notions of human history such as those of the Enlightenment and Marxism. These have become untenable, according to Lyotard, by technological progress in the areas of communication, mass media and computer science. Techniques such as artificial intelligence and machine translation show a shift to linguistic and symbolic production as central elements of the postindustrial economy and the related postmodern culture, which had risen at the end of the 1950s after the reconstruction of western Europe. The result is a plurality of language-games (a term coined by Ludwig Wittgenstein), of different types of argument. At the same time, the goal of truth in science is replaced by "performativity" and efficiency in the service of capital or the state, and science produces paradoxical results such as chaos theory, all of which undermine science's grand narrative.

Disclaim: I personally suggest to use the word modernism with a pinch of salt...

Some titles randomly selected:

and many more...

  • well i've read bits and pieces on modern poetics. all in the english language. i find it difficult to pinpoint any one concern with the modern project; if anything that could link to the "question", then perhaps a pessimism (with the world wars, the failure of the empire, etc.). – user6917 May 31 '16 at 7:43
  • Mauro, what do the works you quote have in common that ties them under the common mantra of modernism. I am still trying to grasp what modernism is. When you say "with a pinch of salt", what aspects of modernism are you saying we should doubt? – Jack Maddington May 31 '16 at 15:48
  • So does modernism equal criticism and skepticism of misunderstood areas of science combined with a pessimistic view of where these would lead? – Jack Maddington May 31 '16 at 16:11
  • We should doubt the "informativeness" of the use of the "catchword" modernism when applied to many different manifestation of human culture and society... – Mauro ALLEGRANZA May 31 '16 at 19:26

Well I wouldn't be surprised if this answer is vetoed as "original research", but there is likely a strong vein of pessimism running running through English language modernism.

I think you can see this in Yeats' poetry, in Eliot, and in a way Pound too ("Oh my England"). All the important artists were writing about the modern condition, and post its beginnings in the so called "fin de siecle" absorption of the French avant garde, the former of which I think enjoyed their apocalyptic and godless fate, modernism does tend to strike me as quite bitter, if not resigned.

I tend to read the grand aesthetic questions through Adorno's confusion on the failure of the Russian revolution, which sees the modern world as thoroughly awful, and finds redemption only in the (illusory) criticism of it, through art. He wrote on Beckett, especially, when dealing with literature as opposed to music.

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So we have here anyway, a skepticism, without faith. And the enlightenment was in the thrall of both, I think, placed interior to the other anyway.

  • So is modernism all about criticizing the state of the art / current state of affairs, without suggesting any viable or coherent alternatives, whether ideological or other? – Jack Maddington May 31 '16 at 15:42
  • What systematic aspects of life was Beckett trying to explain, and how did Beckett do with it? – Jack Maddington May 31 '16 at 15:45
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    adorno would i think say yes to your 1st question, if unconsciously about that to artists. beckett's plays incorporate, if not explain, stuff like despair and confusion. while e.g. endgame may be said to have no +ve meaning, it is a parody of different dramatic categories (hero / anti-hero / humour) unlike formless dada, i.e. not meaningless, and can still be about life – user6917 May 31 '16 at 21:26

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