Millennials aren’t apathetic or lazy, argues Zachary Fine in the NYT. They are simply paralyzed, and pluralism is one of the causes.

“The art critic Craig Owens once wrote that pluralism is not a ‘recognition, but a reduction of difference to absolute indifference, equivalence, interchangeability.’ Some millennials who were greeted by pluralism in this battered state are still feelings its effects. Unlike those adults who encountered pluralism with their beliefs close at hand, we entered the world when truth-claims and qualitative judgments were already on trial and seemingly interchangeable. As a result, we continue to struggle when it comes to decisively avowing our most basic convictions.”

Millennials find themselves “reeling in the face of choice”: “To affirm a preference for rap over classical music, for instance, implicates the well-meaning millennial in a web of judgments far beyond his control. For the millennial generation, as a result, confident expressions of taste have become more challenging, as aesthetic preference is subjected to relentless scrutiny.”

To protect themselves, “millennials often seek refuge from the pluralist storm in that crawlspace provided by the expression ‘I don’t know.’” Fine knows that this can’t last forever, but doesn’t offer any pathway forward.

The problem here is not simply moral and aesthetic and epistemological evasion. The danger is that millennial paralysis leaves them vulnerable to the machinations of the morally certain who are also morally vicious. Where do they get the tools to resist?

Articles by Peter J. Leithart

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