Few thoughtful men or women will deny, as we enter the last two decades of the twentieth century, that ours is truly an Age of Anxiety. Even in an America still uniquely stable and prosperous relative to much of the rest of the world, the general mood is no longer an optimistic one. For many of us the future appears clouded at best, perhaps laden with catastrophes. Clearly all of us are witnesses to, and in some cases participants in, a great turning point in human affairs. We thus find ourselves living in the end of one epoch while at the same time the rough outlines of a new civilisation come into view. Such momentous transformations of the social structure, economy and political landscape are invariably accompanied by, and often preceded by, major shifts of intellectual commitment. In other words, as our world has changed drastically in the twentieth century, basic patterns of thought and philosophical orientation have either reflected, or in some cases even helped to initiate, these changes. In the brief space allotted to us, we will attempt to present a sketch of the most important of these shifts in thought, always keeping in mind that because of the fact that we find ourselves in media res, these observations can be little more than fragmentary perceptions of a reality that has itself not yet been finalised.
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