Visualization of narrower problems
The principle features of modernism are that (a) reality is not personal; (b) its order is the result of deterministic laws; (c) humans can understand the laws governing this order; (d) mastering this understanding leads to mastery of nature through technological design which aims to maximize utilities; (e) all meanings are reducible to one level which in itself has no significance; (f) nature has only instrumental resource value and no meaning.

Modernism holds the philosophy of reductionistic empiricism and technological supremacy and, particularly in the West has expressed itself in a variety of cultural forms, from the arts to engineering. The underlying theme of the Modernist approach is that the world in itself is void of consciousness, value and meaning. All things, persons included, are reducible to their component parts (atomism) which obey neat, tight, fully determined, mechanistic laws. The world is treated only as resource, and values can be reduced to subjective, cultured human responses which are primarily emotive. These emotions are also explained by the Modernist in terms of social theory, but ultimately in terms of neuro-physiological entities and their function. Sociobiology reduces social processes to biological ones; chemistry reduces biological processes to chemical interactions; chemical interactions in turn can be reduced to the elements of physics. Physics, the Modernists thought, was the final line of reduction which would terminate with material objects, [viz] atoms which interact only mechanically.

Modernism itself is not modern, but clearly the controversies about modernity are more prominent in some civilizations than others, and nowhere have they been so acute as in our time.

Modernism as a broad intellectual movement cannot easily be pigeonholed. The enemy of blind faith, modernism nevertheless gave birth to the great eschatologies like Marxism, Freudianism, even Darwinism, which reimposed faith more relentlessly than any Pope. And it is far more complex than is implied by mere reductionism. On the other side, science has made the modern world a more complex and ambiguous place. The incoherence of modernism has given rise to a longing for integrity, wholeness and meaning, notably amongst those of "new age" persuasion. In intellectual life this longing has often been labelled "neoconservatism", although "neoliberalism" is perhaps a better description because there is little room for genuine conservatism in the restless modern world.

1. Modernism is captive of its own materialistic and atomistic mythology precisely because it believes myths are prescientific descriptions of the world which require analysis and reductive explanation. In this process their broader significance is lost. Modernism does not see that its own approach is based on myth -- the myth of the finality of the approach of reductive atomism and the myth of the machine. This also produces the most dangerous side of modernity -- the disappearance of taboos. For example, although the technique of transplanting organs has saved many lives, there is a kind of horror in a world in which dead bodies will be no more than a store of spare parts for the living or raw materials for various industrial purposes.

2. The roots of modernism lie in Weimar Germany and the ideological exhaustion after the war. The only difference between pre-war and post-war modernism is that a happy ending has been added to the nihilism that is common to both. The good, the true and the beautiful have been displaced by the amoral, the relative and the banal.

4. Modernization has entailed a considerable substitution of formal institutions and objective knowledge for culture and cultural knowledge as we commonly think of them.

5. In theological enquiry, historicism tends to appear for the most part under the guise of "modernism". Rightly concerned to make theological discourse relevant and understandable to our time, some theologians use only the most recent opinions and philosophical language, ignoring the critical evaluation which ought to be made of them in the light of the tradition. By exchanging relevance for truth, this form of modernism shows itself incapable of satisfying the demands of truth to which theology is called to respond. (Papal Encyclical, Fides et Ratio, 14 September 1998).

6. It is one of the cleverest devices of the Modernists (as they are commonly and rightly called) to present their doctrines without order and systematic arrangement, in a scattered and disjointed manner, so as to make it appear as if their minds were in doubt or hesitation, whereas in reality they are quite fixed and steadfast. For this reason it will be of bring their teachings together here into one group, and to point out their interconnection, and thus to pass to an examination of the sources of the errors, and to prescribe remedies for averting the evil results. To proceed in an orderly manner in this somewhat abstruse subject, it must first of all be noted that the Modernist sustains and includes within himself a manifold personality; he is a philosopher, a believer, a theologian, an historian, a critic, an apologist, a reformer. These roles must be clearly distinguished one from another by all who would accurately understand their system and thoroughly grasp the principles and the outcome of their doctrines. (Papal Writings, Pascendi Dominici Gregis: On the Doctrine of the Modernists, 8 September 1907).

(F) Fuzzy exceptional problems