A Path for Moderns

Reading philosopher Simon Critchley is always stimulating, so I was unable to resist buying his contribution to the OUP Short Introductions series: Continental Philosophy. In reading the introductory chapter I was immediately struck by the parallels with Gabriel Josipovici’s central thesis is What Ever Happened to Modernism?

[…] the problem for us moderns is clear: in the face of the disenchantment of nature brought about by the scientific revolution, we experience a gap between knowledge and wisdom that has the consequence of divesting our lives of meaning. The question is: can nature or indeed human selves become re-enchanted in such a way that reduces or even eliminates the meaning gap and produces some plausible conception of a good life? The dilemma seems to be intractable: on the one hand, the philosophical cost of scientific truth seems to be scientism, in which case we become beasts. On the other hand, the rejection of scientism through a new humanization of the cosmos seems to lead to obscurantism, in which case we become lunatics. Neither side of this alternative is particularly attractive. Towards the end of this book, I will try and suggest a middle path.

5 thoughts on “A Path for Moderns

  1. >"…in the face of the disenchantment of nature brought about by the scientific revolution, we experience a gap between knowledge and wisdom that has the consequence of divesting our lives of meaning."I've heard this claim for so many years now, and have even uttered it myself. But I'd like to see good, compelling reasons advanced in its defense, because I no longer buy it.Not even close.I should like to be shown one astrophysicist or evolutionary biologist or even a continental philosopher who's "disenchanted" by nature and suffering from loss of "meaning." Then I'd like to be shown the connection between understanding how the world works and said spiritual wreckage. I don't buy it.Cheers,Kevin

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  2. >How can you tell? If presented with a philosopher, continental or otherwise, who claims that the disenchantment of (not by) nature has lead to a divestment of "meaning," how do you prove his position is indefensible? How, beyond words, written or spoken, do any of us demonstrate empirically a loss of "meaning?"

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  3. >"How do you prove his position is indefensible?"Well, the rejection has to take the form of an argument. But this is hard because proponents of the view that science = disenchantment = loss of meaning haven't offered a good argument to be rejected. So I'm left with my immediate experience. My geologist/biologist friends, for instance, absolutely marvel at the world and suffer an enthusiasm akin to ecstasy, whenever we go backpacking.It's contagious, and I suffer, too.Have a good weekend.Cheers,K

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  4. >KevinI'm sure Critchley (and Josipovici) are able to fully appreciate the sublime in nature. The disenchantment to which they refer is more metaphysical:"Weber argued that the Reformation was part of a historical process, ‘the disenchantment of the world’, whereby the sacramental religion of the Middle Ages was transformed into a transcendental and intellectualised religion, which led to the removal of the numinous from everyday life."The Josipovici quote is purloined from Steven Mitchelmore's recent review of What Ever Happened to Modernism? at This Space.I'm having a great weekend, thank you. Enjoyed Gaugin's new exhibition today. Hope you are enjoying your weekend.

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  5. >But why do we need the "numinous," whatever it's metaphysical significance, to lead rich, meaningful lives?It's that gesture that I find troubling.I'll drop by later in the week!Cheers,Kevin

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