Peter Leithart: Modernity as Ingratitude

…modern philosophy arises from a rejection of tradition. Modern philosophy is a tradition of the rejection of traditions, or as Gadamer put it, a prejudice against prejudices. Seen from the perspective of Heidegger’s Pietist slogan, modern philosophy arises from a refusal to receive. Descartes sitting in his German room in front of his fire trying to escape every thought he has ever received from outside his own head – that is modernity’s founding act of ingratitude. In this respect, postmodernism (at least in some forms) is an intensification of modernity, an even more radical ingratitude toward the inheritance we have received. And much of modern and postmodern thought and culture have been an exploration and enactment of ingratitude – Freud’s Oedipal complex, Harold Bloom’s literary Freudianism, the various revolutionary ideologies and movements that have drenched the past centuries in blood, etc. (link)

This is even more profound than Leithart realizes. What is true of the philosophers is true of man in general.

In fact, in Romans, Paul places the failure to thank God at the beginning of the cascade down into moral decadence which marks entire cultures, ending in widespread disorder of the affections (i.e. homosexuality).

At the stage of natural theology, when the child (and father of the man) who may never have been exposed to biblical revelation gazes out on the starry sky, his heart takes an epistemological fork which biases his every knowing act from that point on. He will either suppress the thankfulness that arises naturally within his bosom, and therefore of necessity replace it with something else, or he will address the unknown Person who made the big pretty thing before him.

Then, for the next 70 years, he extrapolates that primal epistemological act in a life-long confirmation bias.

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