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February 2012 Policy Study, Number 12-3

   

The Idea of "the West" and the Revolt Against It

by Donald Paul Byron Racheter

   

 

Aesthetics Versus Paganism

   

 

Pangle begins our investigation of modern rationalism by tracing in chapter one the roots of thought found in one of the most influential postmodernists, the Frenchman Jean-François Lyotard. We learn that Lyotard reacts against Hegelian rationalism. Hegel portrayed the evolution of human rationalism as history and this process as complete in his day. Lyotard instead appeals to Kant’s aesthetics through the Frenchman Diderot. Under examination, however, we find that Lyotard has appealed to little more than Kant’s august name, for Lyotard truncates the essential groundwork of Kant’s aesthetics, the categorical imperative. Lyotard posits instead his “paganism,” which is a radical feminism. Lyotard rejects all rationalism: classical and modern, theist or atheist. Lyotard appeals to the female child as the antithesis of rationalism because he says reason does not suit women.[47] Lyotard’s conception of justice in his anti-rational paganism is therefore the particular situation in which severe judgment is passed without criteria.[48] In order that we are able to judge if Lyotard is accurate, we need to examine the authors Lyotard appeals to for justification of his claims. The thought of Nietzsche and Heidegger are prominent in Lyotard, so in chapter two Pangle turns our attention to an investigation of the Heideggerian roots of postmodernism.

 

Pangle recounts to us what Nietzsche and Heidegger deem the essential nihilistic outcome stemming from the commitment to the Western science and rationalism which came to be during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Science conceives of itself and all of human existence through certain fundamental categories. Truth is held to be what is intelligible in these categories. All other aspects of existence that cannot fit into these categories are false. The experience of history teaches us that the most precious aspects of human existence cannot be adequately comprehended through such categories. Our search for knowledge of life through science cannot inform these aspects of human existence. To try to do so would compromise truth and inadequately account for human experience.

 

   

 

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