Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Bearings Found, Destination Lost: The Impact of Luther and Galileo on World Culture

Prof Manfred Weidhorn.

Traditional society rests on the foundation stones of Revelation, Scripture, Tradition, and Authority as the only ways to access the Truth. Luther replaced the latter two with Individualism, and a century later Galileo made the first two irrelevant to the new modus operandi called "science," replacing them with experimentation. Untold changes follow from this tectonic shift, changes which both men would be shocked and outraged by. One major change is that mankind has gone from a situation of having false bearings but clear destination (heaven or hell) to one in which we have correct bearings but no destination. Another change involves the rise of the idea of progress, with the consequent confusion of technological progress (which clearly exists) with social progress (which probably does not exist). Yet another change has been the triumph of Capitalism, Science, and Democracy working together, but this triumph has created reactions--Communism, Fascism, and, currently, Fundamentalist Islam. The rise of Science, furthermore, would, it was believed, free mankind from religion. Disillusionment with scientific values and results has, however, caused a resurgence of religion, and we now are in a triangular relationship involving Science (the id), Religion (the superego), and the Humanities (the ego trying to mediate between the two).


Prof Manfred Weidhorn  (United States)
Guterman Professor of English
Humanities Division
Yeshiva University

Educated at Columbia University and the University of Wisconsin. Taught at the University of Alabama, Brooklyn College, and, currently, Yeshiva University.

  • Scientific Revolution
  • Religion
  • Social Progress
  • technological progress
  • Traditional Values
  • Individualism
  • Experimentation
  • Democracy
  • Capitalism

(Virtual Presentation, English)