What is Modernity?


Early Modernity
Late 1500s - 1800s

Optimism • Science •
Individuals • Nations • Freedom


The Slave Ship
British Empire
JMW Turner, 1840

I. What is Modernity?

  • A Positive Break with the Past
  • Rationalism
    • Classical: Reality is best revealed in metaphor and narrative.
    • Modern: Reality can be described precisely and correctly!
  • Individualism
    • Classical: Authority invested in holy men and tradition.
    • Modern: Authority invested in individuals to read scripture (and the world) for themselves.
  • Sovereignty of Nations
    • Classical: Our king (sovereign) is the source of civilization. All outsiders are barbarians!
    • Modern: We are separate nations, each sovereign, co-equal, and interdependent.
  • Freedom


II. Modern Rationalism gives rise to the Scientific Revolution

  • 🇮🇹DaVinciOnly idiots argue by appealing to authority. Think for yourselves! #MakerFaire
  • 🇵🇱Copernicus: We are not the center of the universe. #SunRules
  • 🇬🇧Bacon: Alhazen was right! Experimentation is the key to knowledge! #ScientificMethod
  • 🇮🇹Galileo: My telescope proves Coperinicus was right! Oh, wait. Nevermind. #Inquisition
  • 🇩🇪Kepler: I think I’ve figured out how the planets move! #CloserIsFaster
  • 🇫🇷Descartes: Doubt every claim until it cannot be doubted! #KnowledgeFromDoubt
  • 🇬🇧Newton: @Kepler: the same thing that pulls the moon also makes apples fall! #Gravity
  • 🇬🇧DarwinScience has given us the most useful description of the natural world ever. #Evolution
  • 🇺🇸Tesla: I’ve got this electricity thing figured out. Shout out to @ElonMusk! #AlternatingCurrent
  • 🇩🇪Plank: I’m so good at math I just figured out how atoms work. #QuantumMechanics


Shakespeare’s Hamlet

What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!

III. 1500s: Individualism gives rise to the Protestant Reformation

  • 🇳🇱ErasmusBoth God and humanity are worthy of study. #Humanism
  • 🇩🇪LutherReligion is a private and voluntary experience. #Protestants
  • 🇫🇷CalvinChristianity = Scripture. Faith. Grace. No Pope! #Presbyterian
  • 🇬🇧ElizabethEngland’s gonna have it’s own Church now. #KJV


IV. 1500s: Humanism fundamentally changes the Arts

  • The Image
  • The Form
    • Medieval: Anonymous artisans create static holy images (800s, StRemy). Free-standing sculpture was rare.
    • Modern: Star artists rise to prominence, adding realism and depth to expensive showpieces (1499, Michelangelo).
  • The Stage
    • Medieval: The Greek theater is replaced with morality plays (e.g. Passion Play). Jews were often villianized.
    • Modern: Passion plays fade out. Elements such as character, plot, and language are elevated (e.g. Shakespeare).
  • The Song


V. 1648: The Reformation gives rise to the Nation-State

The Thirty Years’ War ends with the Peace of Westphalia. Catholic and Protestant regions decide to recognize each other
as co-sovereign states, rather than continue an endless series of religious wars with no apparent victor. 1/3 of Europe is dead.

In the 1600s, the world is ruled by the kings of Europe, the Russians, Chinese, Indians, Ottomans, Persians, and Mughals.
Each emperor, sultan, or king thought of his throne as the wellspring of order in the world. A century later, the United States is formed under Westphalian principles. These seven sociocultural regions still represent competing worldviews today.

These are the seven sociocultural regions, identifiable by their unique culture, religion, and political system.
These regions are based in Washington, Berlin, 
Beijing, New Dehli, Riyadh, Moscow, and Tehran.


✝️ Western Europe: Ancient Roman Empire / European Union

  • Religious Identity (1648): Western Christian (Catholic & Protestant)
  • Political Center: London, UK | Followed by: Paris, Berlin, Vienna
  • 1648: the Dutch Republic, France, Spain, Sweden, and some German (HRE) princes
  • 1801-1871: UK, Switzerland, Italy, Germany
  • Sphere of Influence: Europe, North Atlantic & Mediterranean


🇺🇸The U.S. (& the Anglosphere): Post-Colonial Nation States

  • Religious Identity: Modern Freedom of Religion
  • Political Center: Washington D.C. | Followed by: NYC, LA, Toronto
  • 1776: becomes first British colony to gain independence under Westphalian doctrine
  • America’s Sphere of Influence: Western Hemisphere & 800+ military bases overseas
    • English Commonwealth: Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Ireland, & New Zealand, Southern Africa


☯️China: Ancient Qing Empire

  • Religious Identity: Confucianist / Buddhist
  • Political Center: Beijing, China | Rivals: Japan, South Korea, Singapore
  • Post-Empire: 1911, Republic of China / 1949, Communist Revolution
  • Sphere of Influence: East Asia, Pacific Rim


🕉️India: Ancient Empire of Ashoka (Commonwealth Nation)

  • Religious Identity: Hindu / Buddhist
  • Political Center: New Delhi, India | Followed by: Mumbai, Kolkata
  • Post-Empire: 1947, Republic of India
  • Sphere of Influence: Central Asia, Indian Ocean


☦️Eastern Europe: Medieval Russian Empire

  • Religious Identity: Eastern Christian (Orthodox)
  • Political Center: Moscow, Russia
  • 1917: U.S.S.R. / 1991: Russian Federation
  • Sphere of Influence: former Soviet countries, Black Sea, Arctic Sea


☪️Sunni Bloc: Medieval Ottoman Empire

  • Religious Identity: Sunni Muslim
  • Political Center: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia | Followed by: Egypt, Turkey
  • Post-Empire National Development
    • 🇬🇧 Ottomans -> British until...
      • 1922-32 | Egypt, Iraq
      • 1946-48 | Jordan, Israel ✡️, and Palestine
    • 🇫🇷,Ottomans -> French until…
      • 1946 | Lebanon, Syria
      • 1956-62 | Morocco, Tunsia, Algeria
  • Sphere of Influence: Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia


☪️Shia Sphere (Iran): Ancient Persian Empire

  • Religious Identity: Shia Muslim
  • Political Center: Tehran, Iran
  • Post-Empire: Islamic Revolution (1979)
  • Sphere of Influence: Iran (95% Shia), Bahrain (70%), Iraq (65%), Yemen (45%), Lebanon (30%)

Other Powerful Modern Economies
The top 30 world economies align into 7 regions, except for these…

  • 3: Japan – Nonreligious / Buddhist
  • 9: Brazil  – Western Christian (top South American economy)
  • 15: Mexico  – Western Christian
  • 16: Indonesia – Sunni Muslim
  • 21. Argentina  – Western Christian
  • 26. Thailand – Buddhist
  • 27. Nigeria  – Western Christian (top African economy)



VI. The (Competing) Promises of Modern Universal Freedom

  • 🇬🇧 HobbesOur practical need for ethics will save us! #SocialContract
  • 🇬🇧 LockeThe Greeks had it right! Power to the people! #Democracy
  • 🇫🇷 Rousseau: The city corrupts the soul! Country living will save us! #Commune
  • 🇺🇸 Jefferson: Each man will save himself by pursuing his own happiness! #America
  • 🇬🇧 Smith: Our profits will save us! #Capitalism
  • 🇩🇪 Marx: Getting rid of ownership will save us! #Communism
  • 🇫🇷 Napoleon: Religion is what keeps the poor from eating the rich! #Atheism

  • Fascism: an authoritarian leader will save us
  • the Free Market: unregulated business will save us
  • Nationalism: ignoring other countries will save us
  • Pluralism: our diversity will save us
  • Republicanism: small government will save us
  • Social Democracy: regulating and taxing the rich will save us
  • the Singularity: A.I. will overcome and save us
  • Transhumanism: technological evolution will save us