Postmodern or late modern? On the Significance of Louis Duprés The Quest of the Absolute
Faculty of Arts. Philosophy
International journal of philosophy and theology. - Oxford
, p. 233-235
University of Antwerp
The latest book by Louis Dupré, The Quest of the Absolute, is the third and final volume of a trilogy on the intellectual history of modernity. It follows Passage to Modernity (1993) and The Enlightenment and the Intellectual Foundations of Modern Culture (2004). Elegant writing and remarkable erudition go hand in hand with a deep insight into the objectives, achievements and deadlocks of the Romantic movement. It is not possible to look into the overwhelming variety of issues and figures that come to the fore in this book and the trilogy as a whole; instead, this article focuses on Duprés central claim as to the development and significance of modern Western culture, starting from a specific question that time and again recurs as a key motive throughout the three volumes of his trilogy: are we postmodern or late modern? Duprés answer that we are dwellers of a late modern era rather than inhabitants of a postmodern age is dependent on his definition of modernity as a still ongoing event that has transformed the relation between the cosmos, its transcendent source, and its human interpreter. Since we are still standing in the midst of the event of modernity, shaped by the evolutionary process of and the strains and tensions within and between its three waves (humanism, Enlightenment, romanticism), Dupré underlines the necessity to move from hermeneutic to ontological questions. He even explicitly pleads for the rediscovery of a symbolic religious language in a tentative search for its ontological dimension and for a source of significance beyond the realm of human mind. The main question, however, is whether contemporary Western man is still capable of such a rediscovery.