Chapter

The Modernist Revolt

David E. Shi

in Facing Facts

Published in print July 1996 | ISBN: 9780195106534
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199854097 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195106534.003.0014
The Modernist Revolt

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Modernism arose out of a widespread recognition that Western civilization was entering an era of bewildering change. New technologies, new modes of transportation and communication, and new scientific discoveries combined to transform perceptions of reality and generate dramatic new forms of artistic expression. What once were perceived as formidable absolutes about the physical universe dissolved under the pressure of perplexing new scientific theories. In the process, the very solidity of reality evaporated in a steam of doubt about the truth of appearances. As the French mathematician Henri Poincare declared, “all that is not thought is pure nothingness.” The shared beliefs about the nature of things that were so central to 19th-century realism were breaking down. People could no longer take for granted that their impressions of the phenomenal world held true for others. The subjective emphases of the new physics found a ready parallel in the philosophical speculations of William James and Henry James.

Keywords: modernism; Henri Poincare; nature; realism; William James; Henry James

Chapter.  12068 words.  Illustrated.

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