The Second Enlightenment Has Emerged: We Should Call It What It Is
Have you ever noticed that there’s no convenient, sufficient, or satisfying way to pull all the threads together of all the inter-related branches of wisdom that we’re always talking about? despite the fact that they all seem to be part of the same movement: a movement of cutting-edge wisdom?
The movement is no less than the Second Enlightenment. And I think that’s what we should start calling it.
It would be a way to pull all the disparate threads together and show their connectedness to each other and their significance in the context of human history. And I think this idea should be spread until citizens and the media start asking the question, “What is this Second Enlightenment everyone is talking about?
There’s an excellent article on American enlightenment thought at the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a peer reviewed academic resource.
Two of the six key ideas of the movement were deism and scientific progress. Deism was the idea that God is revealed through an understanding of the universal laws of nature, and that reason is the best tool for discovery, not religious dogma or the authority of custom and tradition. And whether in regard to political philosophy or scientific progress, the men of the Enlightenment believed that rational argumentation and the free exchange of ideas was the best means by which deeper truths were discovered. We are the extension of the process that they began.
But the men of the first Enlightenment were only at the dawning of an intellectual movement. There are things we understand today that they couldn’t have possibly understood. The breadth and depth of our understanding is rapidly expanding. There are many new fields of thought that would astound them: human consciousness, social science, systems theory, complexity theory, collective intelligence through open-source collaboration, rapidly advancing technology. The list is virtually endless. And it’s not just these specialties in themselves that are significant but the way they reflect on one another and inform one another, which is creating a new emerging reality that I think can rightly be called the Second Enlightenment.
The confluence of all these new ways of understanding seem to be approaching something like critical mass and creating a breathtaking synergy that would have been unimaginable in the times of the first Enlightenment. It’s clear that we are now entering a new dimension. Knowledge and understanding are no longer expanding incrementally but exponentially, multidimensionally, and in transdisciplinary ways. It’s as if the universe is unfolding before our eyes. It’s as if we finally hit the magic combination on a slot machine and an endless stream of coins is spilling out in the way of advanced understandings. This is a tremendously exciting time, and because of the number and magnitude of the incredible ramifications of this new stage of awareness I think it rightly deserves to be called the Second Enlightenment.
And I think that the sooner we start thinking of all these various threads of wisdom, and describing them, in that context—–in the context of the Second Enlightenment—–the sooner we will be able to convey the difficult and complex big picture to broader society; because as well all know, the big picture is easy to feel but hard to convey.
So the sooner we convey the big picture in this context the sooner everyone else will feel it. Then the average citizen will begin to see the connections between all these threads for themselves. Then the light will dawn upon them too, and a ray of redemptive light will enter into their darkness the way it entered into ours.
The term, the Second Enlightenment, needs to become as common as air. That may be the only way that all the ideas of all these cutting-edge visionaries will ever break through into mainstream media and thereby public awareness.
I agree, there is something wrong with the outcomes of the (First) Enlightenment. My dilemma is not between the First and the Second Enlightenment but between Second Enlightenment or Post-Enlightenment. The First Enlightenment has brought light into the dark, and so our world become black (“Endarkened”) and white (Enlightened). Post Enlightenment needs to bring forward colours into our theories, as well as in practices. So I bet on Post-Enlightenment (complexity). http://www.sdeval.si/knjige/index.php/en/
Phi Beta Iota: Alvin Toffler recognized this as the PowerShift of the millenium. His book, Powershift: Knowledge, Wealth, and Violence at the Edge of the 21st Century was the first to depict the loss of power by hierarchies and the rise in power of collective networks. Other books followed, including another by Toffler, Revolutionary Wealth: How it will be created and how it will change our lives.
Amazon Charles Stross, Accelerando (Singularity) (Ace, 2006)
Amazon Vernon Vinge, Across Realtime: The Peace War, Marooned In Realtime (Nelson Doubleday, 1986)