Our generation is one where we are used to living with instability. In the area of politics, economics, education, and the ever changing state of technology, we are shaped by the sense of contingency in our thinking. Absolutes, seem to be an absurd concept for us. We do not even expect stability in the relational arenas where it is traditionally thought of as necessary: marriage, inter-personal friendship, fellowship in church...etc.
This is reflected in the intellectual expressions of our generation. While we continue to engage with questions with our mind, we engage with them at a particular way, with a particular attitude. Our culture teaches us that all absolute truth claims about reality are either suspicious, or is only one among many false gods that as modern man we learnt, is devoid of any real significance. Further, it teaches us that intellectual foundationalism: the idea that if thoughts flow out of a solid a priori rational ground - à la René Descartes' clear and distinct thoughts, then they must be reliable, trustworthy and true - is fundamentally a suspicious argument. Our generation questions and doubts the very presupposition that ground of meaning, or foundation, is possible at all. And if possible, and such a ground developed, we doubt that such ground is of any unique significant interest to us: it is just one among many possible ground.
Why is this analysis important? It is because it shows that the tendency to live a pluralistic life with instability is deeply rooted in our culture, and the world that we interact with daily. The modern West is characterised by the rediscovery of the importance of the human mind: rationality, if applied correctly, can lead to human flourishing in his existence - the motto of Enlightenment. Our generation, however, is characterised by the rediscovery of the corruption of man: since there is no trustworthy man at all, not even one, we doubt even the most basic feature in our thoughts - the ground from which one can have meaning, purpose and sense in our thoughts. Absolute pluralism, if one follows through all its consequences, is essentially equivalent to absolute skepticism. By definition, if one commits to the claim that there is no unique, absolute ground that is common to human thought, intuitive enough to avoid any further doubt, the logical consequence is that every ground that claims to be a ground, must have equal legitimacy (equally true or equally false in this case does not matter at all - since we cannot know).
In theological language, if modernism is founded on the rediscovery of man as imago dei, the image of God, communicated through the accessible divine revelation in scripture understood by rational reason, then our generation is founded on the rediscovery of the fallen man, communicated through the divine revelation in experience. For the moderns, the reformation has laid down a ground that enables the Enlightenment to proceed - a principle which justifies our claims that knowledge is actually possible by asserting that knowledge of the divine God is possible through scriptures using our rational minds. For our generation, the two world wars and the power struggle between man and his innovation - the machine - through the industrial and technological revolution, have served as the source of our return to absolute pluralism. Grounded on a collective existential, historic experience, our generation is born.
The key point of this analysis, is that while in the modernist generation, rationality is on the forefront of our existential agenda as man, in our generation it is out of sight, and replaced by our personal and collective experience. By this I mean, what man identifies as a person in life, has moved from the realm of truth in the form of idea and reason, to the realm of truth in existential experience. This is a seismic shift that has occurred as a historical event - we can argue about the precise historical origin of the shift, but we cannot deny the relevance of the shift to our generation.Pui Him Ip, 2011-12 Apprentice
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