The accelerated mind and science

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The accelerated mind and science
The accelerated mind and science

The Accelerated Mind and Science


I admit that the humanities fall short in the spectrum of science. This is actually not a good thing, and there is no malicious intent. In fact, I've already complained in editorials that we weren't offered enough attractive topics in this area. But my call did not yield any usable results at the time.

Now, as if there hadn't already been enough "years" like this, the Federal Ministry of Research has proclaimed the Year of Humanities, and debates about justification promptly break out again. "No more useless!" demanded Harald Welzer in "Zeit". Of course, the weekly newspaper vehemently replicated an advocate of uselessness, the Frankfurt philosopher Martin Seel. He says quite nicely: "The more the humanities try to make themselves useful, the more they lose value."

Of course, this does not mean that they are useless, whether for teacher training, a culture of remembrance or the prevention of violence. However, according to Seel, it is primarily about an “increased awareness of the possibilities of human orientation” and “orientation about our orientations”.

As if to test that, I recently listened to the sociologist Hartmut Rosa (41) from the University of Jena. At the Klaus Tschira Foundation in Heidelberg, he spoke about "Social Acceleration", the subject of his habilitation thesis. The eloquent “young man” flooded you with the contemporary diagnosis that something was wrong with our perception of time. It is paradoxical that we have the feeling that time is running out, that we are always too late before we even start. But how can time be scarce when we are always making time?

The sociologist, who sees himself as a "dromologist", presents all observations that are easy to understand and understand as a speed researcher. As such, Paul Virilio undoubtedly preceded him, who was already thinking about "Speed and Politics" in 1980 and presented his work "Rasender Standstill" in 1992, followed by similar titles. The philosopher Hartmut Lübbe also observed an accelerated “shrinkage of the present” some time ago.

Harmut Rosa calls our time "Runaway World": "The world breaks upon us with the violence of an accident." And quotes how humanities scholars like to do it in excess, alongside Shakespeare, Marx, Engels, Nietzsche (" New barbarism as lack of calm"), Baudelaire or James Gleick. Goethe also once attested to his presence as having a “velociferous” character, with the “greatest calamity of our time, which does not allow anything to ripen”, “that in the next moment one eats up the previous one, wastes the day in the day, and so always out of hand in lives the mouth without bringing anything before itself".

The elite problem, according to Hartmut Rosa again, is not a lack of money but a lack of time. And the “dysfunctional side effects” of our addiction to time? The traffic jam is just a symptom. Depression as a stress reaction increases, the depth of experience decreases with the density of experience. It is probably true that the hunger for gaining time preceded technical acceleration: the stagecoach of the 17th century was accelerated by changing horses more frequently. And waiting has become completely unbearable today, whether on the bus or on the Internet.

But what is behind it? Hans Blumenberg viewed "life as the last chance". Rosa's thesis: In secularized modernity, the acceleration of living conditions is a panic reaction to the certainty of death. All hope is therefore placed in life before death. Only then will death no longer appear as the great final annihilator of options. And this is the only way to experience the accelerated movement as a pleasurable gain in autonomy.

During the discussion, someone pointed out that "Zeitvertrieb" is a very German word. It remains open how the biological perception of time, that time flies faster in old age, affects the social runaway world. One also wished for more precise empirical evidence in order to base such a universal cultural diagnosis on more than just a gut feeling. And alternative cultures, like the Amish or the Nicomars? Yes, their awareness of time has little to do with our accelerated modern age. But: "The price for an exit will be higher."

And so we live in a paradoxical time: We are constantly gaining time and don't know what to do with it. At the same time, we no longer get to the things that are important to us because we no longer know exactly what is important to us. Says Ödön von Horváth: "I'm actually quite different - but I rarely get around to it."

Reinhard Breuer

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