1) Uncertainty in modern thought
a) The effects of World War I on modern thought
i) Western society began to question values and beliefs that had guided it since the Enlightenment. ii) Many people rejected the longaccepted beliefs in progress and the power of the rational mind to understand a logical universe and an orderly society. (1) Valéry wrote about the crisis of the cruelly injured mind; to him the war ("storm") had left a "terrible uncertainty." (2) New ideas and discoveries in philosophy, physics, psychology, and literature encouraged this general intellectual crisis. b) Modern philosophy
iii) The traditional belief in progress and the rational human was attacked by Nietzsche, Bergson, and Sorel before 1914. (3) 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. (4) Bergson added to this the idea that immediate experience and intuition are as important as rational and scientific thinking. (5) Sorel argued that socialism, led by an elite, would succeed through a great violent strike of all working people. iv) The two main developments in philosophy were logical empiricism (logical positivism) in Englishspeaking countries, and existentialism on the Continent. (6) 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. (7) 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. (8) Existentialism was popular in France after the Second World War because it advocated positive human action at a time of hopelessness. c) The revival of Christianity
v) Before 1914, Protestant theologians, such as 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. vi) A revitalization of fundamental Christianity took place after World War I. (9) Kierkegaard was rediscovered; he had criticized the worldliness of the church and stressed commitment to a remote and majestic God. (10) Barth stressed the imperfect and sinful nature of man and the need to accept God's truth through trust, not reason. (11) Catholic existential theologians, such as Marcel, found new hope in religion by emphasizing the need for its hope and piety in a broken world. d) The new physics
vii) Prior to the 1920s, science was one of the main supports of Western society's optimistic and rational worldview. viii) The challenge to Newtonian physics by scientists such as Planck and Einstein undermined belief in constant natural laws. (12) Plank's work with subatomic energy showed that atoms were not the basic building blocks of nature. (13) Einstein postulated that time and space are relative, the universe is infinite, and matter and energy are interchangeable. ix) The 1920s were the "heroic age of physics."
(14) Rutherford split the atom.
(15) Subatomic particles were identified, notably the neutron. (16) 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. (17) In short, science seemed to have little to do with human experience and...