This might be a history question as much as a philosophy question but is there something profoundly distinct about the 20th and late 20th century that represents a distinct break from the past that is unlike any other break from the past in terms of its general significance? I honestly feel that is the case but then perhaps every century has felt that way.

No doubt many people feel, particularly around the turns of centuries, that something big/new/different is unfolding. But whether something big etc IS unfolding is probably only something that can be appreciated in retrospect, historically, long after the fact -- by historians, as you suggest. We tend to look back and see major shifts (cultural, intellectual, political etc) with the rise of the renaissance, and then the enlightenment -- whether that is just our tendency to carve things up into neat categories and narratives in retrospect, or in fact reflect "real changes", is a matter for the historians and philosophers of history to debate ... So to respond to your question more directly: first you must specify exactly the ways in whcih you think the 20th century marks a distinct break (cultural, intellectual, political, esp. technological i'm sure). Then you must meanignfully, on the basis of historical research, examine the kinds of distinct breaks earlier periods have displayed -- and then you must compare them! .... (What do you mean by 'general significance', after all? How do you even compare in any quantitative way the 'significance' of (say) the rise and spread of Christianity in the early centuries of the C.E. with the rise/spread of technology, electricity, the computer, in the late 20th? Why must we even attempt to rank these things in the first place?)

hope that's useful --


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