17 08 10 - 23:03Sensate culture brought about the Renaissance, the Reformation, the Enlightenment, astonishing scientific discoveries and technological developments, democracy, capitalism -- in short, the modern world. The entire history of the West since the 14th century has been about the progressive liberation of the individual from all constraint. No one can deny that this has brought about enormous benefits, but there's a hitch, and it's a fatal one.
A further consequence of such a system of truth [sensate] is the development of a temporalistic, relativistic, and nihilistic mentality. The sensory world is in a state of incessant flux and becoming. There is nothing unchangeable in it -- not even an eternal Supreme Being. Mind dominated by the truth of the senses simply cannot perceive any permanency, but apprehends all values in terms of shift and transformation Sensate mentality views everything from the standpoint of evolution and progress. This leads to an increasing neglect of the eternal values, which come to be replaced by temporary, or short-time, considerations. Sensate society lives in, and appreciates mainly, the present. Since the past is irretrievable and no longer exists, while the future is not yet here and is uncertain, only the present moment is real and desirable.
In the introductory chapter of "Triumph," Rieff says that the overturning of Christian civilization has given rise to a civilization in which people wish to retain inherited morality without "the hard external crust of institutional discipline." But this isn't possible, according to Rieff, because any culture survives by the strength of its institutions, and their ability to "bind and loose men in the conduct of their affairs" in ways that are "commonly and implicitly understood." When a culture stops to think about why we do things this way and not that way, and there are no institutions powerful enough to say, in effect, "Because that's the way we do it" -- then you have a culture in decline.
The impact collapse of Christianity as a binding civilizational force in the West cannot be overestimated. We now live in a world where any appeal to idealism is immediately suspect. Writes Rieff: "The question is no longer as Dostoevski put it: 'Can civilized men believe?' Rather: Can unbelieving men be civilized?" That is, can people who do not believe in the existence of objective truth, and the possibility that it can be authoritatively expressed, ever form a durable civilization? - "The Crisis of Our Age," Pitirim Sorokin
From a public note by L.I. on Facebook.