Part 1: Order, Disorder & Attempts to Re-impose order on our Society
During the Enlightenment, there was a general trend of attempting to impose order onto the fractured world of the Middle Ages. Throughout the 18th century, there was increasing attempts to place mathematical structure onto nature. Examples of this increasing structure and order are the following: Newtonian physics, the optimization principles of classical dynamics, absolute space-time, symmetry principles/conservation laws, musical structure (i.e. the 4-part structure of symphonies, the ABABA or similar structure of various musical forms: theme&variation, rondo, sonata allegro, etc…), the non-contradiction within logical structure (i.e. inability to reach contradictions with the propositional calculus), and the growth of a middle class with a Protestant work ethic and an international focus. I think that we can all agree (even though there were some under-currents of chaos within the 18th century) that the thinkers of the Enlightenment tried just a little too hard to impose order onto a world that is both ordered and chaotic.
However, this structure and order did not last long. In the 19th and 20th century, the French Revolution failed to replace the previous structure of the Church&Aristocracy with a secular, egalitarian democracy. On the musical front, by the end of Beethoven’s life in 1827, he effectively destroyed the structure of musical forms that the Enlightenment had built up. The first two movements of his 3rd symphony announced that the world of purely rational, logical order had died, and that we all needed to enter a new world of heroic struggle for creativity. And while the imposition of order over chaos returned throughout Beethoven’s works, his final symphony ended not with rational order of the classical form, but with the hope of a social utopia of brotherly love (echoing the love from God). This musical turn to creativity over logic, of disorder over order, and utopia over reality was continued by Berlioz, Mahler, Stravinsky and many others. (In fact, most of us today can’t even tell the difference between dissonance and consonance, and many of us today would rather die than be forced to say that reality is better than fantasy.) In addition, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection effectively destroyed the idea of absolute morality, cultural truth, justification for political power, and a personal God. And I’m not exaggerating here. If you take Darwin’s theory of natural selection to its full conclusions, you are lead to the belief that there is no good or evil (only survival), that God did not play an active role in creating humans (i.e. we are accidents), that there is no real claim to power (just the strong using force over the weak), and that there is no cultural truth because every strand of DNA or every meme is still evolving and ever changing (i.e. there is no constancy and no political/cultural structure that can justify itself because we might be able to evolve a better structure in the future.)