Are the aspirations of The Enlightenment under threat from A New Dark AgeThe Enlightenment was supposed to be The Dawn of The Age of Reason. It was hoped we would throw off our prejudices and...

Are the aspirations of The Enlightenment under threat from A New Dark Age

The Enlightenment was supposed to be The Dawn of The Age of Reason. It was hoped we would throw off our prejudices and illogical fears. That we would aspire to learning and logic and liberal humanism. Are we?

Or have we lost our way? Is modern society heading away from the humanistic principles of The Enlightenment towards a new dark age?

Expert Answers
amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Interesting and intelligent question.  As long as there are humans, there will be fears--deemed "illogical" or not.   Humans have always feared what they do not understand--comets, sunrise or sunset, death, disease, etc.

Likewise, humans are naturally greedy and power-hungry.  In a capitalistic society, one would be hard-pressed to find a person completely devoid of these qualities.  It is the nature of the beast to compete...perhaps from the Dark Ages when we all had to tromp to the forest instead of the local grocery for our meat?  From this comes prejudice and judgment.  The Lord of the Flies is an excellent example of this.  Jack and the hunters weren't satisfied being led by Ralph...they wanted to play and resist the responsibilities that would be best for the whole group.  As a result, anarchy broke loose and there was no government except cruelty and fear--civilization ceased to be, and logic, reason, and self-reflection were murdered.  Piggy, Ralph, and Simon were all deemed unpleasant and unworthy-- Jack's prejudice against them grew and spread throughout his "tribe" until the three were exterminated.  Ralph was lucky to escape with his life, and perhaps he is the beacon of hope for all humanity. 

In addition, living in large communities, we are bound to disagree with one another.  The majority will not agree with the minority and vice-versa.  Compromise can be hoped for and worked on, but is not guaranteed.  Take the countries in the Middle East, for example.  You would think after thousands of years of close community they would be able to live peacefully and without fear of suicide bombings.  Countries from all over the world have sent emissaries to help them with treaties which are always broken. 

Perhaps, all things being equal (economy, education level, social equality, patience, etc.), humans will be able to one day agree to disagree and leave it at that. 

enotechris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In response to #2 - How is The Lord of the Flies and example of a Capitalist society?  Your description read like Soviet Russia under Stalin.  If we're always disagreeing with each other in large communities, we should live in small communities. No matter what size community, if you're not working towards everyone's best interest (including your own) you are damned from the start.  Perhaps the communities in the Middle East shouldn't live so close together after thousands of years of strife, but maybe both sides love the blood sports. Maybe I'll be a suicide bomber and get my 72 virgins in the afterlife. Good deal if this life looks so grim.  And who are these foreign devils coming here to interfere with my holy purpose?

Why doesn't that kind strife happen here?  Why are we technologically advanced?  Why are we even able to have this discussion over the Internet? We had an Enlightenment. 

They didn't.  And what's worse, they don't want one.

All things are never equal.  To ram equality down everyone's throat destroys the characteristics that make each of us individually human.  Utopia you don't get.  Ever.   Attempting to create one puts Hell on Earth.  So if you don't get Utopia, what's the next best thing?  

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
In some ways, it does seem like we are going backward. I doubt that we will ever reach true enlightenment, and I don't think we ever have. Even with all of our experience, education and technology, we seem to be losing whatever ground we made in the 20th century. People are more closed-minded than ten years ago, and ready to reverse our social progress.