chapter  4
12 Pages

Modernity and Its Archive: The Principle of Insufficient Reason

WithBo Isenberg

This chapter discusses two major theoretical discourses of modernity: classical modernity and postmodernity. The principle of insufficient reason tells us that a historical process, event, or action could have been otherwise – or not at all – since it lacks a sufficient, absolute reason or foundation, such as God, tradition, myth, or man’s reason, so much stressed by the Enlightenment. Classical modernity – represented by figures such as the early Lukacs, Kracauer, Simmel, Weber, Freud and Musil, and above all Nietzsche – continues to constitute the horizons of contemporary philosophy and theory. The term classical modernity has its origins in aesthetics and more specifically in the history of art. Classical modernity as intellectual and critical discourse was the exceptional reflexive consciousness of an exceptional epoch. Postmodernity thus extensively shares classical modernity’s diagnosis of modern culture. Classical modernity, in particular its minor currents which stressed their affirmation of modernity as culture of contingency, is the future’s past, the past of postmodernity.