by: E. L. Doctorow

Important Quotations Explained

Why do you suppose an idea which had currency in every age and civilization of mankind disappears in modern times? Because only in the age of science have these men and their wisdom dropped from view. I'll tell you why: The rise of mechanistic science, of Newton and Descartes, was a great conspiracy, a great devilish conspiracy to destroy our apprehension of reality and our awareness of the transcendentally gifted among us. But they are with us today nevertheless. They are with us in every age. They come back, you see? They come back!

In this quotation from Chapter 20, J.P. Morgan discusses the effect of technology on society as well as on the nature of the individual, a theme which manifests itself in many different instances in Ragtime. With increasing urbanization, industrialization, and mechanization, the turn of the century led many, especially the laborers who were so profoundly and directly affected, to question the benefits of such technology. In suppressing individualism, technological advancements and science in general, Morgan argues, also contribute to a loss of spiritual sensitivity. However, Morgan ultimately believes in the power of the "transcendentally gifted" to retain their importance, despite the barriers presented by the modern world.