Thinking back on my philosophy and theology studies (and reflecting on my recent crash course on world religions), it seems that humanity is alternatively pulled in a number of different cultural/ideological directions--but a finite number. In fact, a relatively small number. I have no pretensions to the discovery of laws. But if I could play the armchair anthropologist for a moment, I might delineate these directions thusly:
Animal - Individual
Tribal - Group
Classical - Universal
Premodern - Undifferentiated Inclusive
Modernism - Differentiated Exclusive
Postmodern - Differentiated Inclusive
Mythos - Animistic
Monism - Mystical
Monotheism - Religious
I believe that this model may be somewhat adequate to describe cultures, movements, ideologies, religions--virtually any shared lebenswelt, no matter the size, purpose, duration--understanding that such delineations are more or less artificial in themselves.
A note on "modernity". I have a very specific understanding of the term. It includes the following features:
- The elimination of teleology and analogy from the sphere of science, i.e., as sources of true knowledge that is binding across individuals.
- The development and absolutization of a general method of acquiring knowledge based on observation and organization of data.
- The cultural absorption of this epistemology and the dramatic response to it. Note that much of what is called "post-modernity" retains essentially modernistic epistemology; it is only the ambivalent disavowal of certainty within the same framework.
Also, a note on the "Ultimate Orientation". I borrowed Ratzinger's differentiation of religions that can be found in his Truth and Tolerance, but I adapted it. Ratzinger claimed that, from mythical consciousness, a civilization may develop in three different directions: the monotheistic, the "mystical" (i.e. monist), or the rationalistic. I would suggest that the only difference between the rationalistic (read: atheist, irreligious, skeptical) and the mystical (monist) tendencies are whether the society has adapted an exclusive (modernist) or an inclusive (premodern/postmodern) epistemology.
My adaptation does involve an anachronism, since according to Ratzinger, post-mythical Rome was rationalist; the stories of the gods were considered "useful" rather than "true". Ancient Rome was already applying a sort of "Ockham's Razor" to the validity of the Odyssey and the Illiad. But I see no problem in suggesting that Descartes and his modernist heirs were preceded by skeptics who were their primordial archetypes.
I understand that this post is sketchy and disorganized. These notes are for my own recording.