from Breakpoint, November 3, 2015
Surveying our cultural landscape, it’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the defining characteristic of modern Western culture, at least in the United States, is that it is unserious. Now, by “unserious” I don’t mean that we should walk around with a furrowed brow and only talk about Kierkegaard or nineteenth-century German Romanticism. What I’m referring to is the nihilism of what German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche called “last men,” apathetic creatures without any great passions or commitments.
As philosopher Thomas Hibbs wrote in his terrific book, “Shows About Nothing,” last men live lives characterized by a“state of spiritual impoverishment and shrunken aspirations.”
Last men live to be amused and gratified. As R.R. Reno wrote in the latest issue of First Things, they may retain the “human desire for truths worthy of our devotion,” but since, as Hibbs noted, they don’t believe that any “religious or moral code is credible,” they settle for, in Reno’s words, “holding small truths with great vigor.