Friday, April 6, 2012

The Counter-Enlightenment

I am slowly beginning to identify myself with thinkers of the so-called 'counter-enlightenment'.

Chief among them is John N. Gray. But I've also read and enjoyed Isaiah Berlin, Gray's mentor, and the coiner of the phrase 'counter-enlightenment'.

Generally, it refers to attempts to abandon or do away with the flaws of the Enlightenment project.

The main things that counter-enlightenment wishes to overcome (among others), are the Enlightenment's philosophical anthropology and its philosophy of history. In particular, we need to adopt a historicized view of life, meaning that we can't assume that local/traditional identities are not transient, but are rather constitutive of individuals and communities. Communities cannot subsist on reason alone. They need tradition. Overcoming the Enlightenment's philosophy of history removes removing any idea that history inevitably moves towards progress, or that it moves in any other direction.

I'm not sure what all this means. Or why I'm identifying with it.

But I intend to explore it in my new essay, 'Duty, Agonistic Pluralism, and Historical Pedagogy'.

All of the writers I'll be drawing on present a different form of morality, one not grounded in the Enlightenment, or in utilitarian or regularian analysis.

Who knows.

Either way. I really like John Gray, Isaiah Berlin is cool, and what I know of Alasdair MacIntyre is very exciting. Collingwood seems to have traces of this stuff, although probably not appropriate for him to be called counter-enlightenment.

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