The world’s constant evolution and change within society caused modernity’s time frame to be difficult to pinpoint. Perhaps, due to the failure, Michel Foucault’s view of modernity as an attitude rather than a period of time should be reconsidered. After all, what was considered modern one hundred years ago is now considered obsolete.
Immanuel Kant’s An Answer to the Question: What is Enlightenment claimed that immaturity enrooted the issue of man failing to conquer the goal of modernity (Kant 1). For example, he viewed immaturity as a choice to not use one’s understanding, a choice to not grow intellectually, and to not reach one’s full potential. He defined this issue as laziness and steered his audience to understand that maturity comes with hard work and effort.
In response to Kant’s piece, Michel Foucault’s What is Enlightenment, built on the original idea and attempted to end the echoing answer to his question that was asked two centuries ago(Foucault 1). He explained the Enlightenment as an age of the new that dismissed the old which lead to the introduction of modernity. He then took another perspective and questioned if it was a time of understanding and growth, then one can claim that man lives in a never ending cycle of enlightenment. The world is moving, growing, and is never at a standstill. This is the reason why he viewed enlightenment or modernity as an attitude rather than a specific period of time.
Foucault analyzed Baudelaire’s work and added “Modern man, is not the man who goes off to discover himself, his secrets and his hidden truth; he is the man who tries to invent himself. This modernity does not ‘liberate man in his own being; it compels him to face the task of producing himself” (Foucault 8). He further explained that in order to have the attitude of modernity, one must constantly choose to be conscience of growth, the present, and the endless opportunities that life frequently presents to man.
Modernity, a choice in attitude, is rather difficult to posses. It takes practice and time. It is “an exercise in which extreme attention to what is real and confronted with the practice of a liberty that simultaneously respects this reality and violates it” (Foucault 8). In other words modernity is a choice to notice small details, to grow, to prosper, to become conscience of one’s surrounding. It is often practiced and forgotten hours later. Modernity is the reason it is possible to grasp the “heroic” aspect of the present moment (Foucault 7) or the opportunity that may lead one to happiness or despair. It is the choice to take each and every opportunity into consideration since no man is capable of knowing when another moment will present itself. When one has the attitude of modernity, one is conscience of life and moments, open to opportunities, and not fearing the unknown.
Until one takes the leap of courage to accept modernity into daily life, maturity will be out of reach. This is because it is immature to be content with current knowledge and falling into the trap of the glass ceiling. The glass ceiling, referring to the limitless opportunities life presents, is beyond foolish to believe. Life has its own agenda. It is ever changing, moving at a speedy pace.
Nevertheless, this is the reason why it is considered brave to mature and to live life as a student who is viewing the world as a school. Kant received this knowledge when he interrogated the present, the enlightenment, and man. He believed that man must approach this problem in a philosophical matter.
Yet even if man were to approach the problem of modernity and the convenience of immaturity (Kant 1), as Kant refers to it, in a philosophical matter, it is still far too difficult to become consciously aware of ones surroundings without over analyzing life itself. For example, if man is continuously attempting to remind oneself to be conscious of life and the wonderful opportunities it may give, man is not living life, he is just searching for something that may not be there. Man would fail to better himself and grow if one were to take this route. This is why modernity is so difficult to conquer and grasp. This attitude needs balance and this is why looking at modernity from the philosophical point of view is so confusing and, at the same time, so discouraging. Even Foucault himself is not confident that “we will ever reach mature adulthood” (Foucault 15). Reason being, for Foucault’s doubt, is the “problematized relation to things, others, and ourselves” (Foucault 15).
In conclusion, Foucault proved himself and his outtake on modernity as an attitude rather than a point a time. Although living with a modern attitude is extremely difficult and at times unreachable, it is a task that requires work on mans limits, a patient labor giving form to our impatience for liberty (Foucault15). At best man can attempt to have a modernity attitude by balancing a busy life, living in the moment, taking the time to better oneself.