For centuries, the Marquis de Sade’s blasphemous works, full of detailed and elaboration of sordid sexual perversions, were dismissed as the ravings of a rotten and corrupt mind. His life was a never-ending scandal, and now his name is immortalized as sadism – the compulsion to achieve sexual satisfaction by inflicting pain on others.Continue reading de Sade
As the doyen of the French Enlightenment, Voltaire has come to exemplify the Age of Reason.Continue reading Voltaire
Nothing but Sophistry and Illusion
We often designate the 18th century as the Age of Enlightenment or the Age of Reason due to the pervasive confidence in rationality and the burgeoning optimism that distinguished the era. According to many virtuosos of rationalism, the possibility of mitigating all of our problems – social, psychological, and material – seemed not just feasible but inevitable.Continue reading Nothing but Sophistry and Illusion
A new philosophy of the human sciences
Several years ago, I was in deep discussions with a theologian about the base to superstructure model. He declared it to be no longer feasible after the age of information, where the Internet has reversed this model, and the base is no longer the foundation of the superstructure. Originally in the Marxist model, the base shaped the superstructure – both relations of production (where the capitalist takes advantage of the worker) and means of production (material required to produce – machines, factories, land, owned by capitalists) determine education, religion, family, media, politics. The superstructure in turn maintains and legitimates the base. However, the Internet actually inverts this model by changing the relations of production – the worker gains power and takes advantage of capitalists, and the means of production are disseminated via the internet. Now, this was a neat revamp of a classic model, but I took another look: perhaps this is not just a cute insight, but a crucial one that applies to the rest of the human sciences. Continue reading A new philosophy of the human sciences
You don’t have to be a cynic
Becoming a cynic is not an indication of a failure of character, or an anomalous individual event in today’s culture, for it is actually symptomatic of modern culture. Cynicism is essentially the result of the Enlightenment, which spelled the end of Christian dogma by destroying its ideals, absolutes, truths. As the Enlightenment progressed in its demystification of ideals, nihilism emerged form its wake. But one ideal was spared: the subject, which grounded all critiques and including positive ideas like Kantian ethics.
Prior to the Enlightenment, Christian metaphysics was true (i.e., the bible holds truths, the word of God, etc.). But the Enlightenment brought to the end to all that with critiques that decimated these aforementioned absolute truths. However, where the enlightenment has been a “melancholy science” (pace Adorno) it only exacerbates melancholy. We need something that doesn’t depress us and sinks us into cynical reasoning. We need a new critique that’s also a gay science, as opposed to the sad sciences of the enlightenment that took away all the ideals we used to believe in. Sure, this critique is also an attack, but it holds an attitude against making people miserable or depressed. Continue reading You don’t have to be a cynic
“Man” is a recent invention on the verge of its expiration date
“….as the archaeology of our thought easily shows, man is an invention of recent date. And one perhaps nearing its end. If those arrangements were to disappear as they appeared… as the ground of classical thought did at the end of the eighteenth century, then one can certainly wager that man would be erased, like a face drawn in sand at the edge of the sea.” (Order of Things, p. 387)
Man is an epistemological concept that did not exist during or before the Classical age, because “there was no epistemological consciousness of man as such.” (p. 309) Continue reading “Man” is a recent invention on the verge of its expiration date
The Irony of Enlightenment, part II
The irony of the Enlightenment
The irony of the Enlightenment: Immanuel Kant, the late 18th century thinker, was indisputably the greatest philosopher of Enlightenment. But it is also interesting to note that his critical philosophy project resulted in a devastating blow to the foundation of Enlightenment itself- our trust in reason. The faculty of reason is essentially an impulse for the unconditioned condition, and constantly urges our understanding on. Kant made it clear that man will never know the true nature of reality, and is limited to mere appearances. Despite being championed as the great icon of Enlightenment, with his transcendentalism he set the ball rolling down the mountain of truth and shattered the ideals of the gilded age at the bottom, in the gulch of the 20th century.
We are picking among the remnants for whatever remains salvageable. The consequences of such absurd praise of reason or rationalism in Enlightenment resulted in two great wars in the 20th century, which were committed at the source of naturalistic humanism. Reason and rationalism, secular reasoning especially never achieved its vast promise of transforming a superstitious culture into a rational utopia. At least some of us realize that within this massive failure, liberation is never of the human, but always and only in a negatory manner: from the human. Where does that leave us? The ghost of a lost innocence haunts the age in the form of postmodernist reflections.