The more I learn of the Inklings’ outlook on Modernity, the more I come to love them. I know I’ve written about Lewis’s The Abolition of Man previously in this space, and I should read them (and write) about them far more often. What is most impressive and accurate to me about the approach that is as clear in the most esoteric and unknown Inkling works as it is in the Tolkein inspired movies, is the profound sense that some humanity has been lost in Modernity. Modernity (which is a word thrown around too often but also not often enough) as a phenomenon in itself is glossed over too often and too quickly, especially by “international Relations” scholars, a category to which I belong. (n.b. The proximate cause of this is a dreadfully famous essay by Martin Wight. I’ve discussed the ultimate cause in a post on Descartes, Hobbes, Schmitt, and Strauss). I suspect because Tolkein, Lewis, Barfield, and Williams wrote novels, or poetry, or literary criticism, and because the art of rhetoric had already been unjustly discredited and its study fallen into disuse that Political Science neglected the commentary on politics, society, technology, economics, &c. that is so clearly running through everything they’ve written. What has my attention at the moment is Barfield’s essay “The Coming Trauma of Materialism.” A quote:
“Materialism” in my title means, not any materialist philosophy … but the mental habit of taking for granted, for all practical purposes and most theoretical ones, that the human psyche is intrinsically “alienated” from nature in the manner indicated, a habit so inveterate as to have entered into the meanings of a great many common words and thus to have become accepted as common sense itself. Materialism in this sense is not, for instance, incompatible with deep religious conviction. The habit is one which owes a good deal to a certain secondary consequence of Cartesianism that is not often recalled or alluded to.”
Again, I’ll remind about the previous post on the makros anrhopos vs. the retreat into consciousness. The retreat does not take for granted the intrinsic alienation of psyche and physics. To thwart my own confusion, materialism is compatible with deep religious conviction because of the transformation of common sense. Modernity and its sciences take a leap of faith. What Barfield says two paragraphs later about Darwinism is simply magisterial, and speaks directly to something that I can only describe as an “Enlightenment of Biology.” Even in this small passage above we see the basis of a grammatology and a post-modernity, but a post-modernity that first returns to the past before progressing. No small feat, and still ignored. Whatever. I still have papers to mark and a dissertation to write.