A Bridge to the 18th Century

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Building a Bridge to the Eighteenth Century By: Neil

Neil Postman identifies himself as a "neo-Luddite".
What bothers Postman most is the fact that the great
innovators of this time have no frame of reference
other than their own experience, and that experience
is only that of the 20th century. Advocates of trends
such as information superhighways and economic
globalization appear to know nothing of history,
philosophy and culture; they live digitally in the
hollow present.
Postman assesses different ideas in each chapter:
Chaper One: A Bridge to the Eighteenth Century
Postman heralds the accomplishments of personalities
of the 18th Century, including Goethe, Voltaire,
Rousseau, Diderot, Kant, Hume, Gibbon, Paine,
Jefferson, Franklin, Mozart, Beethoven, Bach, and
Haydn, among many others.
Chapter Two: Progress
Postman summarizes, "The idea of progress is a
product of the Enlightenment. The eighteenth century
invented it… but it also criticized and doubted it and
its limitations and pitfalls. Reason, when unaided
and untempered by poetic insight and human feeling,
turns ugly and dangerous.
Chapter Three: Technology
When assessing various technological advancements,
Postman encourages the reader to be question, "What
is the problem to which this technology is a
solution?" "Whose problem is it?" "Which people and
institutions might be most seriously harmed by a
technological solution?" and finally, "What new
problems may be created because we have solved this
Chapter Four: Language
Postman stresses that the "medium is the message" in
this chapter. He examines the perspectives which our
language forces us to view situations from and alerts
the reader that our language creates an invisible bias
in our thinking.
Chapter Five: Information
"Information" is a relatively modern noun, and
Postman argues that if one searches hundreds of
eighteenth century indexes for the term he will not...
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