HomeΦιλοσοφια: International Journal of Philosophyvol. 39 no. 1 (2010)

On the Destiny of Moral and Religious Values in Today’s Postmodern Climate

Wilfried Vanhoutte

Discipline: Philosophy



Contemporary society tends to behave very ambiguously towards tradition. Religious and moral customs that are still widely practiced are also often critically questioned or simply abandoned. Similarly, attitudes towards the role of science and technology in today’s global community are highly paradoxical. Some practices reveal a deeply rooted belief in the potentials of science and technology to increase happiness, on both the individual and the collective levels. Other practices and discourses are trying to prove the opposite, recommending to treat the belief in scientific and technical progress as a myth that is mature for de-mythologization (Gianni Vattimo). Traditional myths should be rehabilitated instead. While the former opinion may be traced back to the spirit of modernity, the latter is called “postmodern,” hinting that the modern mentality has either come to an end, or reached a stage of profound transformation. Tradition is then no longer a taboo, but identified as what founds and guarantees a community’s value-system. Only the restoration of basic symbolic distinctions may prevent a culture from sliding into moral arbitrariness, in which only “good feelings” define moral standards and commitments are replaced by a “liberalism of neutrality” (Charles Taylor). A genuine moral and religious renewal may start from the rediscovery of the all-encompassing, mysterious dimension of life.