I’m intrigued by the reinterpretation of “end of the world” Hanz describes. I wonder if some of the difficulty in understanding what he means is due to a reluctance to let go of a literal understanding of that phrase and a hesitance to push too hard into that heretical reinterpretation.
With apologies to Hanz if I’ve read too much of my own opinion into his article, I’d like to share my thoughts on this new understanding of “end of the world” to see if it resonates with anyone.
In the article, Hanz describes the transition from premodernity to modernity as a sort of “end of the world”. The premodern world where people saw themselves at the whim of gods and devils and understood right and wrong in terms of communal morality (Loyalty vs. Betrayal, Authority vs. Subversion, and Sanctity vs. Degradation) has come to an end in that it is no longer primary.
Modernity has taken over. As a result, we now think of ourselves as independent and for the most part free to choose our own path in life and after. We understand right and wrong primarily in terms of individual morality (Care vs. Harm and Fairness vs. Cheating). We live in a disenchanted world meaning while ancient people performed rain and fertility ceremonies to gain divine favor for better crops, we create irrigation systems, use meteorological science, and apply pesticides and fertilizer. Or, for example while ancient people prayed, offered sacrifices, and performed rituals for healing, we consult a medical doctor who uses modern diagnostic tools and evidence based medicine to help us heal.
Premodern ideas didn’t completely end. They are still very prevalent from the sports fan who wears a lucky hat on game day, to the church praying for a sick member, to arguments for complex moral conflicts based on biblical authority. We have transcended and included these premodern ideas in our modern context.
So, the “end of the world” for modern humans might not refer to an actual destruction of the physical world but an end of the primacy of the modern world view.
What comes next? Despite modern liberal fears and authoritarian attempts, I don’t think it will be a complete regression into premodern ideology (even if this is a temporary result of the tumultuous transition). I have found most hope in those describing a new integral way of thinking where the best aspects of each stage of our human development are carried forward and included in an integral approach that transcends the polarization and violence of our modern era.