International Conference on Mechanical Engineering and Technology (ICMET-London 2011)
127 The Critique of Monological Rationalism against Unlimited Relativism
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The paper presents a critique of monological rationalism as the dominant ideology of modernism without necessarily retreating into a world of unlimited relativism and free interpretation. The critique is based upon analysis of technologically driven social changes. Continual technological progress, especially the advent of communication and information technologies has led to the prominence of the sector of intangibles: services, knowledge items, and cultural goods as the main sector for human economic activity. Customization and user centricity have replaced the mass production paradigm, so characteristic of the industrial era. The Internet and World Wide Web have revolutionized the human discourse process. Nonlinear reading empowers the user to endow the subtext with novel connotations through recotextualization. Spatial and temporal constraints have been overcome through virtual presence possibility and the discursive space has been enlarged. It is suddenly realized that the world out there does not consist merely of objects capable of being recognized through actions, but of subjects that engage in communication and mutual interaction. The dialogic, polycentric nature of these interactions, and the emergent social order that self organizes are characterized by increased levels of complexity and uncertainty. Even the human-environment relations can no longer be conceived as a matter of monological subject-object rationalism of modernism. Decontextualized, formal moral positions can no longer be taken for granted. Instead, we have multiplicity of ethical stances which are historically, socially, and culturally anchored. If consensus cannot easily be achieved through communicative action due to prevalence of complexity and uncertainty, partial affective states, reinforcements, and case based patterns can more easily be established. It is argued that satisficing rather than optimizing strategies will be increasingly adopted in a world where aesthetic-emotional judgment will replace full rationality and deliberation.