The Modern Values of Midpointery: A Plea for Conversation

Philosophy 379A

January 9, 2004

In the present age, audiences are not hard to be found, but rather the people that seem to be scarce.

To the Single Individual,

When you first started me thinking about this project, there were so many different possibilities I could have followed. The writings of Kierkegaard inspired and moved me in ways that I hope no college student ever graduates without, and I wanted to write you something that included them all. As I say this however, I sense a familiar lunacy with which I seem to approach many of my academic endeavors. As I began to plot it out, I was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task, though this did not necessarily stand as a reason for it not to be pursued. In the midst of it however, I noticed that all of my potentially inspirational discussions were hinged upon a common contingency, namely, the posture we take when approaching such conversations. I found that you and I could not begin to discuss all that moved me, all that was crucial to your and my existence, without the awareness of our relation to the words being spoken. Naturally, the format of the essay underwent some change, so as to hopefully provide such an opportunity.

The conversation of the present age, while we may pat our backs with pride at the level of diversity and open-mindedness within it, does not reflect that we are aware of (let alone concerned with) the appropriateness of our posture toward the existence in which we all participate, when our relatedness to a given concept is as crucially valuable as the conversation itself. A right relatedness determines our outlook on the rest of life. It determines how we treat ourselves and our fellow man. Existence, Truth, Knowledge, Love, Faith, etc., our relationship to these and more is reflected in our lifestyles, and our relationship to them is indicative of what we believe about them and what will become of us. On the surface this may not seem like such a pressing issue. There may be nothing wrong with our posture toward these things. As anyone could observe however, the habits of lifestyle often grow unnoticed, and it is this assumed habitual living that I am concerned with.

In many ways, our world has become a very innovative and ambitious place. We have come a long way in just over half a millennium when people lived stagnant and unquestioning lives, back before the rumors of progress and modernity had begun to trickle through the civilizations of the world. Where those of the Dark Ages lived in a famine of ignorance, we now swim in seas of information, presumably unimaginable to the people of earlier centuries. Where life before was an oppressive burden for many, today it is a golden opportunity, and while it is easy to say that these distinctions are qualitative improvements in the history of humanity, the possibility for impropriety has by no means escaped these advancements, and certain habits formed during the augment of modernity are incapacitating to the present age.

In this age of golden opportunity, objectivity is the assumed posture of our collective lifestyles. Figuratively speaking, prior to modernity, man was an object of life’s oppressions; conversely, in the present age, life has been reduced to the object while man risen as its authority. We did not breathe life into ourselves yet we act as if we did, treating our existence as if we were self-made beings. These statements may seem melodramatic, taken from the beer-coated breath of a downtown tinker. Nevertheless, this is the posture we have shown in our activities.

This posture of objectivism—or to be expressed by its negative, reductionism—is primarily a development of the modern era. Rather than accept established mores and beliefs, individuals began to question the status quo and found that through empirical efforts they were able to clarify what had only commonly been accepted as truth. The principles of reductionism were key to what has come out of this era of modernity, and is largely responsible for what we now refer to as the scientific method.[*] Reductionism can basically be understood as a method of breaking things