Modernism is the reason and the answer, an exploration outside the predefined boundaries. Virginia State University describe modernism as” the project of rejecting tradition… to create forms for no other purpose than novelty.” But a world with no rules is not an entirely comfortable life for most of us, and so dawned the post-modern age, with which we can observe a compilation of modern-freedom and conservative constraints. Post-modernists are skilled in combining polarised philosophies and creating an unstable, almost explosive marriage between them.
Philosophers all! These geniuses of religion and culture, lazy cafes, smoke filled rooms with cushions in place of seats, discussing, arguing and philosophising the nature of existence. Such people are separate from the rest of the population, great intellectuals with one foot in the clouds, and no firm foot in reality. But is it really such an abstract exercise in futility? I believe we live side-by-side with post-modern ideals, for example:
1. Quantum theories on the nature of light and elementary particles. A mind-bending combination of classical particle theory with quantum wave theory. Very real consequences on solid-state computing, nanotechnology, medicine and many other physical sciences.
2. Software / systems design. Software development is a constant race to develop the new, the novel. And yet, as creatures of comfort, very few of us are happy with radical change. So we have this dynamic need for new solutions, employed within old architecture / frameworks. To me, this seems decidedly post-modernist.
So is post-modernism as great step forward, or a tentative one? On one hand, it is a little like a young child at the beach, bravely walking towards the sea and running away from the approaching wave. Testing the water, but comforted by the safety of the shore. On the other hand, post-modernism could be seen as truly enlightened; an unjudging combination of the conservative old and radical new. Or is post-modernism a theory that describes an increasingly politically correct society, a philosophy of ‘fence sitters’?