The Ethical-Ontological Foundations of Modernity
Modernity is the guiding ethos of our day, not only in the broad scope of our culture but also within the discipline of psychology. Traditionally, scholars have understood modernity as the rejection of Medieval authoritarianism and a new dependence on reason, namely as an epistemological revolution. But modernity’s roots extend deeper than a reliance on rationality. The abysmal failures of the Thirty Years War in the wake of sectarian violence aptly demonstrated the need for a non-sectarian ground for discussion. Above and beyond the need for a universal ground for discourse, the rejection of an inherent cosmic order that informed the Catholic and Protestant cultures cleared that path for the development of a non-sectarian valuation. With this rejection came a new valuation of certainty, not in the sense of epistemological certainty, but in the sense of ontologically securing in advance how beings will appear—e.g., as particles in motion. This prevailing ontological attitude set the stage for modernity’s homogenization of temporality through a linear metaphor with its inherent homogenization of space. By establishing in advance how beings will appear in the scientific project, modernity also inaugurated a new valuation of the world: the valuation of objective, third-person experiments over subjective, introspective descriptions, of calculative utility over inherent goods, etc. These analyses are meant to elucidate the ethical and ontological foundations of modernity in order to understand how psychology, as a discipline, should respond to the culture of modernity. When psychology is viewed in light of this ethical/ontological interpretation of modernity, we may deduce three important implications: 1) that we must examine modernity’s valuations more than its dogmas, 2) that these valuations are contingent and not sufficient for psychology’s existence as a discipline, and 3) that alternative valuations and ontologies must be adequately understood before being used to substantiate non-traditional claims, that zeal should not step beyond understanding.Granted, this presentation is specifically geared towards those who do not accept modernity as an acceptable approach to psychology (which, incidentally, is a stark minority in psychology at the moment), so it will have limited appeal. But since I'm going into this knowing that fact, hopefully I can present the material in such a way as to defuse at least some of the objections that I don't doubt will come up. On that point, I'm glad to send my paper in its current state (I need to cut it at least in half in order to get within the 10 min mark for the presentation) for comments, suggestions, and criticisms to anyone who requests it.
I'm excited and hope this will be a good learning experience.