THE END OF THE MODERN AGE by Allen Wheelis

THE END OF THE MODERN AGE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Wheelis (The Desert, 1970 and Illusionless Man, 1966) takes a beguiling excursion through the labyrinths of intellectual history from the 16th century when Descartes and Galileo pronounced the world knowable to the early 20th when Heisenberg and Einstein overthrew mechanism -- and God the benign clockmaker -- with the sober tidings that the division between subject and object had been lost in the lab and even the movements of electrons bespoke indeterminacy as the condition of the universe. Somewhat disingenuously Wheelis assumes that the Newtonian world view (fatally ruptured in the pre-World War I era) has survived intact in the popular mind and the great modern heresy -- the deification of objective and neutral science -- still flourishes enabling Galileo's descendants to rake in vast sums for bomb research. Like Carl Becker he is tilting at the windmills of the Enlightenment, pressing home -- can it be -- Hume's grudging discovery that reason serves passion and ""all our ends are lodged in faith."" Skeptical and speculative, he seems to endorse the counterculture's dim yearning for ""something holy"" to combat the illegitimate coercion of computer-derived knowledge. ""All the great and fundamental questions are answered, if at all, only by leap of heart, by deepest feelings, by faith."" Like his earlier works, The End of the Modern Age disputes ""our dream of hidden order"" and denies the quest for extrinsic authority. ""We live in an old chaos of the sun"" wrote Wallace Stevens; Wheelis provides an elegant exegesis of Faust's comeuppance.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 1971
Publisher: Basic Books