One of the major themes of this blog is the Enlightenment Philosophy verse the Romantic/Postmodern/Modern Philosophy. While the problem is a lot more complex than that, let me explain the different philosophies that I'll reference throughout this blog.
Enlightenment Philosophy - Truth, Reason, and SCIENCE!
An "Enlightened Philosophy" is any philosophy rooted in the era of Enlightenment, or the Age of Enlightenment. The Age of Enlightenment refers to a culture movement in the 1800s that was every bit as diverse as it was, well, enlightened. According to Immanuel Kant, an Enlightenment philosophy, the enlightenment was... "The emancipation of the human conscious from an immature state of ignorance and error." There's some argument over what exactly the Enlightenment entailed, being as diverse a movement as it was, but I generally agree with Kant on this one: it's when people woke and started thinking for themselves. There are several different forms of enlightenment philosophy, but the one that I adhere to is the French Continental Form, which is one of boundless optimism, but the one thing all forms of the Enlightenment have in common is a strong optimism about the future, and a belief in progress and science as the source to cure all ills for humanity. I often consider myself a Transhumanist; transhumanism as an ideology and a philosophy is rooted rather firmly in Enlightenment Philosophy, and most of the posts I'll do will in some form or another be rooted in Enlightenment philosophy.
The current political "heirs" to the Enlightenment today would be progressives, although some Libertarians also count as heirs to the philosophy (for all the issues I have with Ayn Rand, her philosophy is certainly one rooted in Enlightened thought.)
Here, use spark notes to find out more about the Enlightenment. It's not cheating, I promise. You won't get caught, and the more knowledge you have, the better off you are.
Romanticism and the Counter-Enlightenment Philosophies
Romanticism sprouted in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Romantic movement was a counter-Enlightenment movement; one that, like the rest of the counter-Enlightenment movements, were "relativist, anti-rationalist, vitalist and organic", according to Isaiah Berlin, who's credited with inventing the term. Where the Enlightenment would stress rationality, the Romantics would stress intuition and imagination. Romantics were not all overly-emotional dimwits, however; there was a lot of good that came out of the Romantic era, and the belief that the imagination held rule over all and that there was an untamed beauty about nature created some astonishingly good poets and authors. John Keats, Lord Byron, Percy Shelley, and other famous literary figures made their mark during this period.
As a philosophy, however, Romanticism is remarkably lacking. The anti-rationalist and relativist approach to the world undermined Enlightened rationalism and the scientific method, our only real tool for learning more about the world around us.
In the meantime, you can find out more about Romanticism and it's awesome who's-who list of poets and authors here: Romanticism. Meanwhile, the rest of the Counter-Enlightenment Philosophies would only be so good; the largest criticism from them was opposed to the scope of Enlightenment reason: some will charge that it inflated the scope of reason. Others will charge it narrowed it. A lot of criticism aimed at the Enlightenment comes from sources of relativism, who question the capabilities of science to describe the world or somehow feel that it's removing the beauty of the world by explaining it (romanticism was especially bad for this), thereby proving Kant's description of the Enlightenment to begin with (the liberation of modern man from the ignorance and error of darkness and the unknown). Other accusations are leveled at the misuse of Enlightenment ideas (which I will let stand; fair accusations are fair accusations. However, abuse does not negate use, nor does it mean that Enlightened Philosophies are somehow wrong because individuals abused them) and the seemingly anti-religious, atheistic (most Enlightened philosophers were actually deists) nature of the movement. Berlin has stated that the modern descendant of the Enlightenment is monism, while the modern descendant of the counter-Enlightenment has been pluralism. I disagree vehemently; Enlightenment philosophy has lead to the creation of technology that has made our life better, and the counter-Enlightenment has no claim on science or scientific theory, which is based on rationalism and materialism, both of which are descendants of the Enlightenment. You can being to see where the split is at now.
Realism - the last redoubt of the Enlightenment
Every movement has a counter-movement, and the Romantics were no different. Arising to question the Romantics were the Realists, who embodied some of the ideas of the Enlightenment that the Romantic and counter-Enlightenment philosophies worked hard to wipe away. Realism believes in an objective reality, while objecting the over-emotional and over-imaginative Romantic movement. Realism arose in France, but quickly spread, and is widely recognized for it's artwork, which sought to be "objectively realistic." The heart of the movement was that there was certainty in the world, and that certainty could be captured in words, in paints, or otherwise on paper. There are other associated terms to go with it, such as Social Realism, Regionalism, and Kitchen-Sink Realism. These, however, generally refer to the art involved. Realism was not so much a philosophy as it was an outgrowth of Enlightened ideas made manifest in artwork, in much the same way that Romanticism strongly resembled an outgrowth of Counter-Enlightenment ideas made manifest in artwork.
Modernism and Postmodernism: Nothing is certain, not even this statement
Arising in the early part of the 19th century, Modernism was a flat out rejection of the lingering sentiments of Enlightenment (through Realism), as well as a flat out of a benevolent, all-powerful creator God. Modernism rejects tradition, and opted instead to embody what it believed the new social, political, and economic standards of their era. Modernism is an "umbrella term", much like counter-Enlightenment, which incorporates movements such as the Dada movement, the surrealist movement, minimalism and postminimalism, and pop art. The movement really picked up after World War II. Futurism is often considered a modernist movement, as well. Modernism in generally rejected tradition, stressed freedom of expression, radicalism, and primitivism. It is generally accused of being reductionist, while others (including many of the movement), accused it of becoming institutionalized. By the 1950s and 60s, Modernism was inescapable for the most part, in the form of either cinema, architecture, or art work. The rejection of Modernism started to formulate during this period, however, which leads us to our next topic...
This term does not have a good reputation on this blog. While I feel that modernism had some high points (the reductionist view point, the emphasis on freedom of expression, and the move to reject the idea of a interventionist, or theistic, God), Postmodernism took the whole world and flipped it upside down. To the post-modernist there is no objective truth, and any observations are merely a way of shuffling the deck. It is the penultimate-example of relativity, which so many on the left throw themselves into with relish. Postmodernism gave us the idea that reality may not be all we see, and that science is just one tool in a bunch of tools.
In short, Postmodernism, through it's irrational criticism of science, reason, and rationality (Google "Science Wars" for more information on this), gave us all the problems we have today with the political right: David Barton style historians, Creationists, Intelligent Design proponents, Historical Revisionists, and individuals who can lie, while claiming that they're telling a truth nobody wants to see (Birfers, 9/11 Trufers, et. al.)
While it may sound like I have it out against postmodernism (I do), I also got my first real understanding of philosophy by being dunked head first in postmodernism. Like everything, postmodernism is not all evil, useless, or destroying the fabric of western society as we know it. The linguistic application for postmodernism - crafted first by Derrida - is very useful in understanding language. This is called "Deconstruction," and it's been incredibly important when applied to literature as well (creating works like The Watchmen and The Dark Knight, among other comic series. It's also responsible for the Dark Age of Comics, so take from that what you will). Likewise, application of postmodernism criticism on the soft sciences can help further understand things, by positing differences from a relativistic view point (for instance, history, anthropology, and archeology all benefit from having the postmodernism approach applied. There was more than one morality or truth back then, and it helps to remember that. There is no more than one truth to gravity. If you jump from a 120 story building, you will fall. You will likely be seriously injured. This is why it's only good in application to soft sciences.) Postmodernism enhances a sense of cynicism about the world, but not to the degree that Romanticism did. In some ways, one could see Modernism and Postmodernism as descendants from the Romantic movement, but they're different enough to stand out from one another.
Which brings me to my last philosophy...
Post-Modern Enlightenment - aka my blog
Yes, I am egotistical enough to call this a new philosophy. It probably isn't, and there's probably a name for it already, but this is the only name I'm familiar with. This is the philosophy you'll find on this blog. I take an Enlightenment approach to the world tempered by some aspects of Romanticism, Modernism, and Postmodernism. I am firmly optimistic about the future, and have a strong and solid faith in humanism and in progress, knowing that technology has only improved the quality of life with each passing generation and strongly believing it will continue to do so. I believe in the power of the imagination, so long as it's held in check by reason, and the freedom of expression of both, because you can't have an imagination if you don't have any reason to compare it again. I make use of deconstruction techniques when I argue and debate, and believe that relativity is best applied in small doses to the soft sciences, but holds no place in the hard sciences. There is objective truths, there are objective moralities (that is, the moralities that make a civilization work. If they stop a society from working, they're obviously immoral; for instance, a society that gave way to rape, slaughter, and murder would not be much of a civilization, now would it?)
The irony today is that many of the movements that claim to project an absolute truth do nothing of the sort. The current Religious Right has many of their techniques taken right out of the playbook of postmodernism criticism; especially their criticism of science. The irony being that they will criticize postmodernism while using it against their enemies. The current Republican Party takes quiet a bit out of the modernist and postmodernist approach to media and language; that words have no inherent meaning and, with enough repetition, can mean anything I want them too (thus, we get things where "empathy" becomes a defining trait among the Nazis, and rationalism and reason are held slave to a belief in an objective truth as described by a book several thousand years old riddled with inconsistencies). The goal of this blog is to highlight the toxic spread of this anti-rationalism, rooted out of the modernist, postmodernist, and ultimately the romantic and counter-Enlightenment movement of the past, using Enlightenment and the more useful points of romanticism, modernism, and postmodernism to do it.