Report of the Club of Rome 2018, Chapter 2.10: “Perhaps we need a new era of Enlightenment”

Original author: Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Anders Wijkman
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New Age of Enlightenment, old rationalism

In the previous sections, the power of the European Age of Enlightenment, which came in the eighteenth century, was mentioned. The greatest figures of the time were David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire, Adam Smith and Immanuel Kant, but the Enlightenment itself was based on the works of such brilliant philosophers as René Descartes, Blaise Pascal, Francis Bacon, Erasmus Rotterdam, John Locke, Benedict Spénos, Montesquieu, G.V. Leibniz, Isaac Newton and others. Together, these figures caused and created revolutionary changes in European civilization.

One of the most revolutionary changes was the separation of the state from the institution of the church. While the existing church did not have special sympathy for independent intellectualism, free from prejudice and superstition, the state looked upon the free thinking and actions of citizens as a great hope for the future. The state also saw in free citizens the main source of scientific effort, technological ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit. And in fact, the eighteenth century witnessed the explosive development of science and technology. Antoine Lavoisier and James Watt were among the first, but after them an avalanche of technological innovations led to an industrial revolution.

The era of the Enlightenment is also credited with freeing the individuality of people from the stifling pressure of the church and the absolutist tendencies inherent in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But this new individualism also led to the gradual disintegration of earlier communities. The common (for example, pastures, forests, fishing grounds) were the basis of the former mode of survival for humans. However, along with the growth of personal well-being and the reassessment of individual achievements, such common benefits were destroyed, privatized, and in some cases destroyed.

For civilizations outside Europe, the shortcomings of the Enlightenment had worse consequences. European armies, colonists and missionaries had already conquered and colonized most of the world during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and the subsequent industrial revolution made Europe and, in particular, the British Empire practically invincible. European superiority and missionary war justified the destruction and killing of the peoples living in the conquered territories. Many alternative traditions and cultures that existed and developed over thousands of years were destroyed. Peter Sloterdijk goes so far as to place all the burden for the horrors of European missionary colonialism on monotheistic religions and compares this period with the mentality of the current Islamic "holy wars".

Of course, the European development of rationalism, science and technology has also become the driving force behind the progress of mankind as a whole. But what has been said about Pope Francis's “Praise to You” encyclical, about our current philosophical crisis and the suicidal features of modern capitalism, should lead the world over to the demand for a new Enlightenment era.

In fact, it has become fashionable to demand a new Enlightenment, but the motives and content are very different. In many cases, this word denotes the revival or modernization of the old Enlightenment concepts of rationalism, freedom, anti-advertising, anti-regulatory, anti-state domination. One of many examples is the British libertarian alliance. Another one is the March for Science of April 2017, in which more than a million protesters against President Trump’s blatant disrespect for facts took part. Marchers emphasized that science supports the common good and calls for evidence-based policies in the public interest.

The reasons presented in section 2 of this book imply a different approach. Of course, rationalism is necessary to expose "fake news" and other unpleasant tendencies, but it is also obvious that it cannot be used to suppress sacred and enduring traditions and system values ​​that are not subject to anatomical analysis.

The heart of the new Enlightenment, Enlightenment 2.0, is unlikely to be located in Europe. It should be drawn to the great traditions of other civilizations. Two diametrically different examples:

  • The Hopi traditions in North America remained essentially stable and stable for 3,000 years. This tribe possesses one of the oldest living cultures in a documented history. They developed a sustainable form of agriculture, maintained an essentially stable population, avoided wars, and became masters in building stone houses. In each of the definitions of sustainability, they would be among the champions. Their most complex religion is based on the idea of ​​a balance between resources, such as water and light, between different nations, between day and night and different seasons, and even between humor and temperance.
  • In most Asian traditions there is a powerful sense of balance, in contrast to the monotheistic dogmatic view, where only one side is right. A balance must be established between rational thinking (brain) and emotional feeling (heart).


Fig. 2.7: Yin and Yang symbol

Yin and Yang

Yin and yang are a symbol of balanced contrast. Mark Cartwright, in his contribution to the Encyclopedia of Antiquity (this is about the project “Ancient History Encyclopedia”, a non-profit educational company, approx. Lane), offers a simplified definition of what is also an integral part of the Confucian cosmological model:
The principle of "Yin and Yang" is a fundamental concept in Chinese philosophy and culture as a whole since the third century BC and even earlier. This principle is that everything exists as inseparable and contradictory opposites, for example, female-male, dark-light, old-young. The two opposites attract and complement each other, and, as the symbol shows, each side is basically an element of the other (represented by small dots). None of the extremes exceeds the other, and since increasing one extreme leads to a corresponding decrease in the other in order to achieve harmony, it is necessary to achieve the right balance between the two poles.

Yin is feminine, black, dark, north, water (transformation), passive, moon (weakness), earth, cold, old age, even numbers, valleys, poverty, softness, and personifies the spirituality of all things. Yin reaches its peak in the winter solstice. Yin can also be represented by a tiger, an orange color and a broken line in the trigrams “I Ching” (or “Book of Changes”).

Yang is masculine, white, bright, south, fire (creativity), asset, sun (power), sky, warmth, youth, odd numbers, mountains, wealth, hardness, and embodies the form of all things. Yang reaches its peak in the summer solstice. Yang can also be represented by a dragon, blue and a solid trigram.

As stated in I Ching, the ever-changing connection between the two poles is responsible for the constant flow of the Universe and life in general. When an excessive imbalance occurs between yin and yang, disasters such as floods, droughts and plague can occur.
This brief description, of course, cannot explain all the richness of the Yin and Yang philosophy, which can also be criticized for typed and, therefore, unfair gender roles or the presence of static features of single-winner games (preferably games with no losers). But this philosophy reflects wisdom in the understanding that opposites can be creative. This wisdom is different from the prevailing Western and Islamic customs, which see opposites as an invitation to decide which one is right (or good) and which is wrong (or evil), which often leads to fierce and cruel enmity. Of course, Western traditions have found balance. In particular, the dialectical philosophy of G.W.F. Hegel

The philosophy of equilibrium, not exclusion

The wisdom of synergy, which can be found between opposites, can also help overcome the lack of an analytical philosophy of science — creating a space for a more future-oriented philosophy. Of course, correct implementation of technical and scientific measurements is necessary; Facts should be treated as facts. But modern physics has shown that the exact measurement of one object can destroy the measurability of its opposite (additional) trait - for example, the Heisenberg uncertainty relation, in which it is established that the momentum and the position of a particle cannot be measured simultaneously with unlimited accuracy. The physical basis of this surprising discovery lies in the fact that the particle also has wave properties that interfere with waves (for example, light) of a measuring device.

Such complementarity can be a discovery for perception of the parallels between modern physics and Eastern wisdom and religions. In his best-selling book, Tao Physics, Fridtjoff Capra, mentioned earlier, who was once an assistant to Heisenberg, showed that Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism deal with inexplicable realities that people call mysticism. At the end of his book, Capra declared that "science does not need mysticism, and mysticism does not need science, but man needs both phenomena."

Complementarity, balance and wisdom synergy between opposites should be milestones on the path to a new era of Enlightenment. Of course, there will be more philosophical steps to overcome the lack of analytical philosophy, egoism, individualism, short duration and other features mentioned by Pope Francis in “Praise to You” as destructive and suicidal from the point of view of our common home. But, of course, there is a short list of topics where an overestimation of equilibrium is required. Most of the topics listed are not new, but they all suffer from a lack of balance at the present time.

The New Age of Enlightenment should work on balance:

  • Between people and nature: This is one of the key messages of this book. In the "empty world" balance was created. In the "full world" is a huge problem. The use of the remaining natural landscapes, reservoirs and minerals mainly as resources for a constantly growing population and the satisfaction of constantly growing consumption is not equilibrium, but destruction.
  • Between short-term and long-term: People appreciate quick needs satisfaction, such as drinking water if you are thirsty, or quarterly financial reports of stock exchange companies. But there is a need for the opposite, to ensure long-term actions, such as policies to stabilize the Earth’s climate. In addition to long-term ethics, short-term incentives are required as a reward for long-term actions.
  • Between speed and stability: Technological and cultural progress benefits from competition for temporary priority. This is the most important criterion for both science and commercial success. “Revolutionary” innovations are highly valued. But speed itself can be a horror for sluggish people, for most elderly people, for babies and for the village (think of the Hopi tribes!). Worst of all, the current dependence of civilization on speed destroys structures, habits and cultures that have emerged in accordance with the criterion of sustainability. After all, sustainability basically means stability.
  • Between the private and the common: The discovery of the human values ​​of individualism, private property and protection against state invasion was one of the most valuable achievements of the European Enlightenment. But nowadays, public goods are much more at risk than private goods. There are dangers to public goods, infrastructures, the system of justice and order. With international competition for low taxes (attracting investors), public goods, as a rule, are neglected and underfunded. The state (public) should establish rules for the market (in particular), and not vice versa. Paul de Grauwe and Anna Asbury clearly described how history generated pendulum oscillations between private domination and state domination. But the story did not bring anything like a balance between them.
  • Between women and men: Many early cultures developed as a result of wars, during which women were primarily trusted to take care of their families and men for protection (or attack). This model of society is outdated. Rian Isler in the book “The Cup and the Blade” offered archaeological information about cultures flourishing in partner models, and also claims in the book “The Real Wealth of Nations” that the usual “wealth of nations” (with male dominance) is almost a caricature of real well-being. Equilibrium cannot be achieved by attracting as many women as possible to positions that were typical of men. But balance can be achieved by changing the typology of official functions.
  • Between justice and rewards for achievement: Without a reward for achievements of society, they can sleep and lose in competition with other societies. But there must be a state-guaranteed system of justice and justice. Injustice, according to Wilkinson and Pickett, as a rule, correlates with undesirable social parameters (see Fig. 2.8), poor education, high crime, infant mortality, etc.
  • Between State and Religion: The great achievement of the European Enlightenment was the separation of the public from the religious leadership, with full respect for religious values ​​and communities. It is necessary to maintain a balance in this aspect. Religions that dominate the public sector are at great risk of destroying human rights and the great achievements of civilization, an independent legal system with independent high courts. The dominance of religion is generally intolerant of people working outside the religious community. On the other hand, states that are intolerant of religious communities tend to lose touch with ethical (and long-term) needs.


Fig. 2.8. Income inequality is correlated with an indicator of social problems in countries with a similar level of wealth (source: Wilkinson and Pickett).

This is a modest and tentative list of the principle of balance. It is possible to name and sketch many other examples of balance. They include the dialectical philosophy of G.V. Hegel, who interprets the historical events of humanity as a thesis, antithesis and synthesis. On the other hand, Ken Wilber (1996) describes the constant tension between the right and left halves of the human brain, calling the achievements of the two halves "Two Hands of God." However, it should be repeated that equilibrium is just one of the features of the new Enlightenment era. The above list is only a modest beginning in the understanding of equilibrium.

To be continued...

Thanks for the translation Butolina Ksenya and Dmitry Zavadskiy. If you are interested, I invite you to join the “flashmob” to translate a 220-page report. Write in a personal or email

More translations of the report of the Club of Rome 2018


Chapter 1.1.1 “Various types of crises and feelings of helplessness”
Chapter 1.1.2: “Financing”
Chapter 1.1.3: “An Empty World Against Full Peace”

Chapter 2.6: “Philosophical Market Doctrine Errors”

Chapter 3.1: “Regenerative Economics”
Chapter 3.2 : “Development Alternatives”
Chapter 3.3: “Blue Economy”
Chapter 3.4: “Decentralized Energy”
Chapter 3.5: “Some Success Stories in Agriculture”
Chapter 3.6: “Regenerative Urbanism: Ecopolis”
Chapter 3.7: “Climate: Good News, but Big problems "
Chapter 3.8:" The economy of a closed cycle requires a different logic "
Gla Va 3.9: “Fivefold Resource Performance”
Chapter 3.10: “Bit Tax”
Chapter 3.11: “Financial Sector Reforms”
Chapter 3.12: “Economic System Reforms”
Chapter 3.13: “Philanthropy, Investment, Crowdsors and the Blockchain”
Chapter 3.14: “Not a Single GDP ...”
Chapter 3.15: “Collective Leadership”
Chapter 3.16: “ Global Government "
Chapter 3.17:" Actions at the National Level: China and Bhutan "
Chapter 3.18:" Literacy for the Future "


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