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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Seminal contribution, but postmodernists will detest it, 13 Feb 2004
This review is from: How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture (Paperback)
This is an enormously important contribution to the history of ideas. Unfortunately it runs in the opposite direction from most post-modern thought, so many of today's 'alternative' thinkers who would be Schaeffer's natural audience are likely to disregard it.
Schaeffer's basic thesis is that there is a flow to history and culture, and that this is rooted in the way people think. Therefore, by charting the flow of ideas from the Romans to the time of the book's writing, he attempts to account for how modern culture developed. One could paraphrase this quest by saying 'to know where we are going, we must know where we have been'.
Schaeffer's assessment is that up to a point, the history of philosophy proceeded by someone critiquing the previously accepted worldview and then replacing it with their new theory. However, from a particular moment, thinkers wrote to dispose of previous theories and replace them with nothing.
Schaeffer was writing before postmodern thought became popular. Modernism has been defined as 'the fear of memory', and Schaeffer makes a compelling case for this without actually using the phrase. However, Postmodernism can be defined as 'the fear of explanations', or, more particularly, the fear of metanarratives which attempt to explain everything. This is a development which Schaeffer predicts.
'How Should We Then Live?' is itself just one of those metanarratives. Readers who are unquestioningly committed to the postmodern anti-dogma will find this a hugely disappointing book, and will resent its attempts to make sense of the past two thousand years.
This is a pity, because this book is probably the most compelling challenge to postmodern worldview. Anybody serious about questioning today's questioners would do well to read it.
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