Some say the characteristics of the Enlightenment were three: reason, individualism, and scepticism. Arising as a sea change in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a way of shaking off the religious grip of Rome and also the entry into democracy as a way of escaping kings. Much honor was given to the pre-Christian thought of the Greeks, which was taken to be introspective reason by intelligent men who had time (i.e. wealth) to think about life.
I've left it behind. This happened in two ways. First of all, the scientific method combined with the industrial revolution to give birth to a technology unlike anything earlier: that of the computer and also access to penetrating observation of the very tiny, the immense, and the very deep past, all of which showed us a very different world from factual observation. It was terrifying.
Second was that sceptical analysis of everything taken for granted, especially in writing, revealed a second underlayer of self-serving expectation that skewed what we had thought was factual. Realizing the hatred and rage just under what had seemed reasonable meant a need to rethink what was hurting people so much. Also terrifying.
Probably the third was the growing realization of how human ability is developed, how brains work, what psychology tells us about so many perceptions that we thought were "true" but are not. This is particularly cutting when looking at sex and violence. Both are blunt and boundary-breaking, maybe without a goal. Again, terrifying.
It takes a bit of courage to be Post-Enlightenment because no longer are we Papa's Little Darling who can rely on intervention. On the other hand, nothing is ever over. It all continues on, maybe in new form.
Objections to anything as startling as Post-Enlightenment are a lot stronger than any new construct so far. Observing the death of God and the birth of what seems to be disorder, those who define science in a concrete precedent-bound way fear too much possibility. Those who are individual-prioritized by the status quo, fear that community will oppress them.
The third disruption is often the ploy of being trivialized and misunderstood as being shallow emotion and popularity. Mommie-thinking for the entitled. It persists as sentimentality. The beginning of this movement in the '60's and 70's was cleverly stamped out by enjoying it -- but then not funding it. Yet it persisted among those who knew how to use freedom and creation.
I don't like the idea of going beyond something known and once taken as a cornerstone of understanding, like Enlightenment, without having something positive to replace it. Part of the trouble is not having a consensus name for this new way of looking at the world. I'm not prepared to name it here, but thinkers I respect offer certain stable and productive principles that may carry us past the present confusion and binary conflicts. (Humanism is still Enlightenment thinking.)
POST ENLIGHTENMENT THEORIES:
1. Everything is a process. There are no permanent "things". What seems as solid as a chair is actually whirling particles of electromagnetism and something that seems as eternal as a mountain is moving in very slow but incremental ways. A human being is a trajectory with a downward slope at the end. This can seem bitter until accepted and the realization comes that this is like a symphony it only preventing us ever from being locked down. Only dissipated by time or force.
2. Existence is omni-inclusive and co-existent. The most startling example is that all "living" things (a subcategory of existence) share the genomic code of self-replication in part or in whole. It is the development and sharing of this code that makes some creatures into barnacles and others into elephants, some into wind and others in limestone. Tiny variation is all that separates humans in their skins. What happens to one tiny part happens to everything in the most real way by changing them in addition, reintegrating everything.
3. Sin and evil are concepts enforced by human institutions and therefore are human constructs. They are real, but imposed on reality rather than arising from it. Suffering and oppression are likewise human. The stones know nothing about it. Because it is human, it is negotiable, UNDER the culture.
4. Consciousness is interaction between a living creature and existence. It is determined and limited by the nature of awareness. Two interactions expand awareness: love and meaning. (Meaning was formerly called "religion" which I restrict to mean institutions that have codified and subsequently policed awareness. Awareness includes interactions, physical actions or micro-relationships such as the humanities.
5. Stigma is an irrational understanding in the social realm. What matters is not that you do it but that you activate it for the right reasons. It's a biological given.
1. What matters is the moment, here and now. Take care of it.
2. Morality is the largest consequences in terms of expanding and enriching life. It is conditional and shifting but there are principles. Do your best. We all fall short.
3. Concepts like "owning", "money", "compensation", "education," "justice" will need to be renegotiated. Let go of hierarchy and hegemony.
4. Equity of existence means eliminating poverty, because if a few people are still too poor to thrive, they are distorting all of society.
5. This is not a mosaic -- it's an ecology. That means that everything is an interacting process. To reconcile two things one must think about what they will be like, where they are going, rather than what and where they are now.
6. This is not a replacement but an inclusive development, still keeping the "best" of Enlightenment. (Some people still haven't figured out Enlightenment.)