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Uncertainty In Modern Thought (1918 1939)

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Uncertainty In Modern Thought (1918 1939)

  1. 1. UNCERTAINTY IN MODERN THOUGHT (1918-1939) Eastview High School – AP European History McKay et al, 8 th ed. – Chapter 28, The Age of Anxiety
  2. 2. Essential Questions <ul><li>Why did doubts emerge concerning the belief in human progress during the 1920s? </li></ul><ul><li>Who were the major thinkers and works which influenced the search for meaning in the post World War I society? </li></ul>
  3. 3. Uncertainty in Modern Thought <ul><li>The effects of World War I on modern thought </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Western society began to question values and beliefs that had guided it since the Enlightenment. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many people rejected the long-accepted beliefs in progress and the power of the rational mind to understand a logical universe and an orderly society. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Paul Valery wrote about the crisis of the cruelly injured mind; to him the war (“storm”) had left a “terrible uncertainty.” </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>New ideas and discoveries in philosophy, physics, psychology, and literature encouraged this general intellectual crisis. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Modern Philosophy – Nietzsche <ul><li>The traditional belief in progress and the rational human was attacked by Nietzsche, Bergson, and Sorel before 1914 . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Nietzsche believed that Western civilization was in decline because of Christian humility and an overstress on rational thinking at the expense of emotion and passion ; he believed that a few superior supermen had to become the leaders of the herd of inferior people. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Put forth the idea that “God is dead” – murdered by lackadaisical modern Christians who no longer really believe in him. </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Modern Philosophy – Bergson <ul><li>Henri Bergson added to this the idea that immediate experience and intuition are as important as rational and scientific thinking. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>According to Bergson, a religious experience or a mystical poem was often more accessible to human comprehension than a scientific law or mathematical equation. </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Modern Philosophy - Sorel <ul><li>Georges Sorel argued that socialism, led by the elite, would succeed through a great violent strike of all working people. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Sorel characterized Marxian socialism as an inspiring but unprovable religion rather than a rational scientific truth. </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Differing Schools of Philosophy <ul><li>Logical empiricism, as defined by Wittgenstein, claimed that philosophy was nothing more than the logical clarification of thoughts —the study of language; it could not answer the great issues of the ages such as the meaning of life. </li></ul><ul><li>Existentialism, first developed in Germany by Heidegger and Jaspers, and then by Sartre and Camus in France, stressed that humans can overcome the meaninglessness of life by individual action . </li></ul><ul><li>Existentialism was popular in France after the Second World War because it advocated positive human action at a time of hopelessness. </li></ul><ul><li>Logical Empiricism </li></ul><ul><li>Existentialism </li></ul>
  8. 8. The Revival of Christianity <ul><li>The loss of faith in human reason and in continual progress also led to a renewed interest in the Christian view of the world. </li></ul><ul><li>Before 1914, Protestant theologians, such as Albert Schweitzer, stressed the human nature of Jesus and turned away from the supernatural aspects of his divinity ; they sought to harmonize religious belief with scientific findings. </li></ul>“ The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” — Albert Schweitzer
  9. 9. Post WWI Christian Revival <ul><li>Danish religious philosopher Soren Kierkegaard’s (1813-1855) rediscovered work helped to revive fundamental Christian belief after World War I </li></ul><ul><li>A revitalization of fundamental Christianity took place after WWI . </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Kierkegaard was rediscovered ; he had criticized the worldliness of the church and stressed commitment to a remote and majestic God. </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Barth and Marcel <ul><li>Karl Barth stressed the imperfect and sinful nature of man and the need to accept God’s truth through trust, not reason. </li></ul><ul><li>Catholic existential theologians, such as Gabriel Marcel, found new hope in religion by emphasizing the need for its hope and piety in a broken world. </li></ul>
  11. 11. The New Physics <ul><li>By the late nineteenth century, scientific advances and their implications had greatly influenced the beliefs of thinking people. </li></ul><ul><li>Prior to the 1920s, science was one of the main supports of Western society’s optimistic and rational worldview. </li></ul><ul><li>The challenge to Newtonian physics by scientists such as Planck and Einstein undermined belief in constant natural laws . </li></ul>
  12. 12. Max Planck <ul><li>Planck’s work with subatomic energy showed that atoms were not the basic building blocks of nature. </li></ul><ul><li>Planck demonstrated in 1900 that subatomic energy is emitted in uneven little spurts called “quanta.” </li></ul>
  13. 13. Albert Einstein <ul><li>Einstein postulated that time and space are relative, the universe is infinite, and matter and energy are interchangeable . </li></ul><ul><li>This link provides a demonstration of his theory: http://youtube.com/watch?v=V7vpw4AH8QQ </li></ul>
  14. 14. The Heroic Age of Physics <ul><li>The 1920s were the “ heroic age of physics .” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Rutherford split the atom. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Subatomic particles were identified, notably the neutron. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The new physics described a universe that lacked absolute objective reality; Heisenberg claimed that instead of Newton’s rational laws, there are only tendencies and probabilities . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>In short, science seemed to have little to do with human experience and human problems . </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Freudian Psychology <ul><li>Prior to Freud, it was assumed that the conscious mind processed experiences in a rational and logical way . </li></ul>
  16. 16. <ul><li>id ego </li></ul><ul><li>superego </li></ul>Sigmund Freud & Psychoanalysis <ul><li>According to Freud, human behavior is basically irrational. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The key to understanding the mind is the irrational unconscious (the id), which is driven by sexual, aggressive, and pleasure-seeking desires. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Behavior is a compromise between the needs of the id and the rationalizing conscious (the ego), which mediates what a person can do, and ingrained moral values (the superego), which tell what a person should do . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Instinctual drives can easily overwhelm the control mechanisms; yet rational thinking and traditional moral values can cripple people with guilt and neuroses . </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Many interpreted Freudian thought as an encouragement of an uninhibited sex life. </li></ul></ul>behavior
  17. 17. Twentieth Century Literature <ul><li>Novelists developed new techniques to express new realities. In the twentieth century, most major writers adopted the limited, often confused viewpoint of a single individual. </li></ul><ul><li>The postwar moods of pessimism, relativism, and alienation influenced novelists . </li></ul><ul><li>Literature focused on the complexity and irrationality of the human mind. </li></ul><ul><li>Writers such as Proust embraced psychological relativity —the attempt to understand oneself by looking at one’s past. </li></ul><ul><li>Novelists like Woolf, Faulkner, and Joyce adopted the stream-of-consciousness technique , in which ideas and emotions from different time periods bubble up randomly. </li></ul><ul><li>Some literature, such as that of Spengler, Kafka, and Orwell, was anti-utopian —it predicted a future of doom. </li></ul>
  18. 18. Questions for your review <ul><li>Which thinkers challenged the rationality of thought concerning the human condition? </li></ul><ul><li>What is logical empiricism (Wittgenstein) ? </li></ul><ul><li>What were Nietzsche’s basic beliefs? </li></ul><ul><li>What were Bergson’s basic beliefs? </li></ul><ul><li>How did Sorel view Marxian socialism? </li></ul><ul><li>What arguments did Sartre stress? </li></ul><ul><li>Who were the influential authors of the existentialist movement? </li></ul><ul><li>Who was a leader in the Christian revival after WWI? </li></ul><ul><li>What was Einstein’s greatest theoretical contribution? How did this challenge Newtonian physics? </li></ul><ul><li>What did authors such as Proust, Joyce, & Faulkner write about? </li></ul><ul><li>What were Spengler’s main arguments? How would you characterize Spengler? </li></ul>

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