Modernity as Metaphysical Collapse
Matthew Hanley on the work of Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce, who foresaw that the failed Marxist revolution would be reborn in sexual liberation.
The Catholic Thing
Fleeting amusement might be found in observing how international elites will account for their conflicting commitments if transgendered athletes compete in the Rio Olympics next month – i.e. men competing in women’s events, as has already happened in localized competitions. But there is no real consolation in realizing that people do not easily renounce their illusions. It’s still better to seek consolation in the love of wisdom.
I’ve been making my way through a collection of writings by the late Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce (1910-1989), mainly from the early 1970s, available now in English for the first time in a compilation entitled The Crisis of Modernity. It is not an elementary book, not one that I, at any rate, glide through, but it’s studded with gems that orient the reader towards the sources of our current predicament.
Some of his themes are familiar and the direness of our situation isn’t a new revelation. But his depth and originality are helpful, not because his assessment of the Western soul is rosy, but because it rings true.
image He regards tottering modern society – variously termed: affluent, permissive, or technocratic – in bleak terms. It is “necessarily mendacious,” and like Marxism itself, presupposes rather than results in atheism.
What emerges, perhaps above all, is that our current crisis is fundamentally metaphysical in nature. Modernity is a grand project of negation: the very order of being – as classically understood – has been shunned for theories that emphasize right praxis in time; history has become the lens through which things are assigned value. Fulfillment “lies in front of us, not above us,” and whoever speaks of eternal metaphysical truths is branded a reactionary.
With a defining air of superiority to what came before, modernity necessarily entails a radical break with the past – which Del Noce stresses is viewed, baselessly, as irretrievable. There can be no going back to the old way of thinking because it has been surpassed. But going back to what, specifically? To the supernatural, to religious transcendence: this means that “the religious event of the Incarnation stops being regarded as the decisive turning point of historical existence,” as Sergio Cotta, one of his Italian contemporaries, put it.