Being in law school, about to graduate, I have become incredibly discouraged with the state of the modern world, especially the legal world. Not because of the laws themselves necessarily, but how people approach issues. Especially moral issues. People rarely approach these issues critically. Worse, they rarely approach them with any understanding of foundational principles. The things that really matter are just assumed true, and people beg the question all over the place without even realizing it. Law probably represents a sort of quintessential example of this. Can't come to a philosophically consistent position? Doesn't matter. Just call a previously clueless position "precedent" and rely on it like it justifies your absurdities.
And everyone is so infected with modern philosophical bias (is-ought, induction, mind-body) that you can't even begin to have a real moral discussion. I've never claimed to have all the answers in the world, but it's ridiculous; even beginning to approach serious issues will always devolve into ridiculous rhetoric. There was a guy in class, just the other day, that said, "That's just your opinion!" to another kid's completely reasonable point. Worse, there's this sort of belief that everything that people "used to believe" is stupid and meaningless and without merit. And people go on and on about how we're just evolving, getting on the "right side of history," finally figuring it out, free from arbitrary religious rules.
A significant part of this problem is the fact that people who could be called "traditional" or whatever are often as ignorant or more ignorant than moderns. There are any number of reasons for this. One, they are more modern than they realize going in and are just unintentionally holding on to old ideas without old arguments. Two, they are never, ever trained in anything like real philosophy that could equip them to address modern moral arguments, even by their religious leaders. (I know I wasn't.) Three, they were doomed from the start, as their positions are actually based on very modern, very unjustified positions. (I think this third position is more common than people realize.) So you get suburban Christian moms "defending traditional marriage" without having any clue what that could possibly mean. Any good modern liberal will jump all over her, make memes out of her, and smugly go on with his life. In the past, it seems to me, that this was less of a problem, as things were necessarily top-down (or whatever you want to call it), and everyday folk didn't have to be brilliant Thomists. But today, everyone's up to bat, and philosophy is often way too difficult for everyone to debate, much less make policy from those debates.
This has led me to believe, mostly if not totally, that the modern project can never escape from this. It's not just that people don't know some things. It's that they don't know how to know things. Or, more accurately, that the modern world doesn't prepare them or help them to know things. Perhaps worse, that the modern world inhibits their ability to know things. Philosophy is hard. Very hard actually. Philosophy is nuanced, complex, and probably more difficult than most people can handle. It's not democratic nor is it, at a certain point, for everyone. There are foundational principles that have to be in place before you can do anything with it. You can't just jump right in to complex moral issues midstream. But this is exactly what the modern world does; it doesn't really care about foundations. And these foundations, which some traditionalist may be going on about, are just put in the "marketplace of ideas" along with any other ridiculous claim, even ones without their own foundation. And the democratic system just picks the most popular.
And of course the most popular today is very rarely the most true. And in many ways it doesn't matter if it's the most true. And this idea becomes the foundation for the next thing society tries to figure out. So when someone gets up and says, "No, gay marriage doesn't make any sense; it's like a square triangle," no one, except maybe a lone Thomist in the background, will have any idea what he's talking about. He's dismissed for acting contrary to modern principles, trying to lead the world "into the dark ages," and called a bigot. And of course this will happen. Because philosophy is hard. Very rarely is there nuanced understanding in a gay rights rally. The same goes for a traditional marriage rally.
And the more critically-thinking groups of people, like people on Feser's blog, or some other thoughtful Catholic site, aren't invading or changing society; they're mostly retreating from society because they feel, even if they don't realize it, that it's a lost cause. This isn't necessarily a criticism of them. (I'm one of them!) It's more just a recognition of the reality. And you could probably just look at the breakdown of the groups of people who are really into traditional Thomist stuff, at least in the West, at least from what I've seen: white and male. Rarely non-whites and rarely female. This isn't bad in and of itself of course, and I'm not even calling for some sort of outreach, but it clearly represents a problem. It shows that the groups just splinter off into their protected sects and become one among the many. This has become even worse, I think, with things like the Internet. And it's not like this group (traditionalists) are exactly the ruling class, appealing to transcendent truths and declaring top-down moral principles. In fact, they're usually looked at with serious suspicion as moral guides because of who they are. No matter how right this particular group may be (and I think it mostly is), the modern world doesn't really care.
In other words, I think it's sort of a failed project. It has led to many goods, and there's no doubt of that, but it almost feels like it inevitably will fall in on itself. It will become so incoherent and so self-referential (see the United States Supreme Court) that it will eventually fail to function in any serious way. There will be no real guiding principle outside of itself. I personally don't know what to do about it. I try to fight the good fight, speak the language, appeal to the senses of the modern world, but I really don't know what kind of good it does. Now, I don't like to be the sort of guy who thinks that you can't even start to address the problems, almost like a quasi-conspiracy theorist claiming that the whole thing is rigged, but goodness it's rough. The way it's set up, you can't even begin. I do think that truth will ultimately reign over falsehood. I'm just becoming less certain that it will happen in this society.