Thursday, May 14, 2015

Reflections on the Core: Epilogue - The Romantic Revolution

    I am starting the read this book, and it already feels like a great dessert to the amazing "Contemporary Western Civilization" course I took this year.
... “But the relationship between the between the two cultural paradigms has always been a dialectical, not cyclical. The romantics were not repeating their ancestors. On the contrary, they brought about a cultural revolution comparable in its radicalism and effects with the roughly contemporary American, French, and Industrial Revolutions.
By destroying natural law and by reorienting concern from the work to the artist they tore up the old regime's aesthetic rule book just as thoroughly as any Jacobin [a 18th century political French club] tore down social institutions. In the words of Ernst Troeltsch​: "Romanticism too is a revolution, a thorough and genuine revolution: a revolution against the respectability of the bourgeois temper and against a universal equalitarian ethic: a revolution, above all, against the whole of the mathematico-mechanical spirit of science in western Europe, against a conception of Natural Law which sought to blend utility with morality, against the bare abstraction of a universal and equal Humanity." [Unquote Troeltsch]

As will be argued in the subsequent chapters, it was Hegel who captured the essence of this revolution in his pithy definition of romanticism as "absolute inwardness" [absloute Innerlichkeit - in German - אינערליכקייט]. It will also be argued that its prophet was Jean-Jacques Rousseau​: if not the most consistent, then certainly the most influential of all the eighteenth-century thinkers.
Writing in 1907, Lytton Strachey​ caught Rousseau's special quality very well: "Among those quick, strong, fiery people of the eighteenth century, he belonged to another world -- to the new world of self-consciousness, and doubt, and hesitation, of mysterious melancholy and quiet intimate delights, of long reflexions amid the solitudes of Nature, of infinite introspections amid the solitudes of the heart." Percy Bysshe Shelley, who derided the philosophes as "mere reasoners," regarded Rousseau as "a great poet."
- Tim Blanning​, The Romantic Revolution, pg. XVI-XVII


    I am not new the philosophy, and neither to enlightenment. However, until this year when I took this amazing course covering all its classics from Plato and The Greeks, Epicurus, Epictetus, and the Bible, to Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, William E. B. DuBois, and the Frankfurt School - until now, I knew about it, but I did not know it. Now, at least I know what I don't know. It gave me the basics skills on how to go on and read, analyze and understand on my own the philosophical mind of our human kind, and how to look at the world and its civilization/s. 
Yet, that is when I realized that something is missing.
    We read all about the Scientific Revolution, all which brought about the American and French Revolutions that with no doubt were a clear effect of the mind blowing thinkers who implanted the ideas on what they were build. In turn, these events are what make up "Contemporary Western Civilization." BUT, there is so much missing. If that is all, than we get the clear feeling that this is over. It looks like the times when great thinkers led the masses are over. I read lately Al Gore’s amazing book “The Assault on Reason,” that cries out on the lack of intelligence in today's politics and public civic discourse, and it is almost heart breaking. We are taught that all these great revolutions that got us out from the so called "Dark Ages" were a direct result of the power of reason and critical thought (and with no doubt, they were), and today, so many do not adhere to that. Our masses our moved by art, not by philosophy.
    Here I think I found the missing piece, and the answer. The Romantic Revolution (that I only started to read), seems to offer a great epilogue to all these critical thinkers, and a beacon of hope for our future. This part of the 17-18th centuries revolution, that arguably, is now at its peak, is missing from the classical education of contemporary thought. Yet when added, adds it all up. I guess we need to focus on that more, and adore it more.

    On a more personal level, I think the romantic revolution is the answer to the New Age Atheists (to quote Rabbi Arthur Green​ in Radical Judaism: Rethinking God and Tradition​) who cannot grasp how and why, in the age of reason, people will still run after religion, almost in a fanatic way. Over a century after Nietzsche rightfully declared the "Dead of God," at a time that denying evolution is not faith, but rather ignorance, religion seems far from death. Again and again, people who openly declare that they don't really believe in any kind of traditional God/s (a great account on that can be found in the above mentioned Radical Judaism), go after religion. In classic philosophy, that doesn't make any sense.
Is it really simply ignorance?
    I think this book, and train of thought can provide some kind of baseline thinking, and a wonderful approach and how to approach it.
    We romanticize religion not because we want to stick to an old time faith based on divinity, revelation, and superstition, but because we follow enlightenment. In addition to the Political Revolutions, the Scientific Revolution, the Philosophical Revolution, we have to take into account the Romantic/Artistic Revolution. Here he got the full picture.
    These are just my thoughts after reading a bit, I will look on this as a pre-view., and a potential topic for a in depth exploration of "The Death of God: The Rebirth of Religion."
    Yes, in ideal we can get rid of the old fashioned name calling such as God and religion altogether. But Romanticism is teaching us to art value of it. Using these old names is not old fashioned, but rather an enlightened fashion.

* Note: this is a long post that might look annoying to some. I think that a lot of people wouldn't know what the heck I want, but I had to share my thoughts. *