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Modernity and Our American Heresies by Peter Augustine Lawler.

America, some of its critics say, has less grounding in tradition than any other nation in history. The German philosopher Martin Heidegger said that the United States and the Soviet Union were metaphysically indistinguishable in their technological orientation, in their understanding of nature as nothing but resources to be exploited. The Canadian philosopher George Grant, influenced by Heidegger, claimed that the United States has wholly given itself over to technology, defining human purpose as nothing more than the acquisition of power. All genuinely political life — and all philosophy, theology, and other forms of contemplation — have disappeared from America. For these not-entirely-friendly foreign critics, the United States is the country mostly wholly in the thrall of the technological “how” at the expense of any reflection on the “why” of humanly worthy purposes.

If, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn claimed, it is characteristic of the modern West to have “ceased to see the purpose” that should be the foundation of human life, it is perhaps in America that the lonely and demoralizing consequences of modern emptiness are most advanced. Beneath our therapeutic happy-talk and technologically optimistic pragmatism, a critic like Solzhenitsyn can hear the howl of existentialism. Americans have “nothing” — nothing but inarticulate anxiety — with which to resist the “something” — the measurable effects — of technological progress.


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