Item description for Being after Rousseau: Philosophy and Culture in Question by Richard L. Velkley...
In "Being after Rousseau, " Richard L. Velkley presents Jean-Jacques Rousseau as the founder of a modern European tradition of reflection on the relation of philosophy to culture--a reflection that calls both into question. Tracing this tradition from Rousseau to Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schelling, and Martin Heidegger, Velkley shows late modern philosophy as a series of ultimately unsuccessful attempts to resolve the dichotomies between nature and society, culture and civilization, and philosophy and society that Rousseau brought to the fore. The Rousseauian tradition begins, for Velkley, with Rousseau's criticism of modern political philosophy. Although the German Idealists such as Schelling accepted much of Rousseau's critique, they believed, unlike Rousseau, that human wholeness could be attained at the level of society and history. Heidegger and Nietzsche questioned this claim, but followed both Rousseau and the Idealists in their vision of the philosopher-poet striving to recover an original wholeness that the history of reason has distorted.
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Studio: University Of Chicago Press
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 9" Width: 6.16" Height: 0.64" Weight: 0.7 lbs.
Release Date May 15, 2002
Publisher University Of Chicago Press
ISBN 0226852571 ISBN13 9780226852577
Availability 0 units.
More About Richard L. Velkley
Richard L. Velkley is an associate professor of philosophy at The Catholic University of America. He is the author of Freedom and the End of Reason: On the Moral Foundation of Kant's Critical Philosophy.
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Descent of humans Sep 15, 2002
As I picked up this book, I thought of having read an account of pirates on the river Euphrates in Sumerian times, and the constant disruption of the new agriculture with its immense potential, the crisis of the Neolithic giving birth to the State Yet this beginning as a breakthrough to 'freedom in the State', dread phrase, the incident of middle passage from some unknown 'state of nature', is ambiguous, for its recursions, as middle passage, the 'births of the state', produce the phenomenon of Empire, the Assyrian endgame. It is counterpoint to a next 'beginning', the great Axial age of religion, science, philosophy born, notably the birth from renewed republics of democracy in the Greek world, beside the implicit `freedom from history and empire' in the parallel Judaic, at the fringes of empires spawned in the original Mesopotamian field. And the rising tide of slavery, like a progressive disease, coexists with these births of `civilization' unable to check its force. If the figure of Rousseau is controversial, the source of contradictory gestures, it is because he grapples with the new beginning of the modern in terms of its true inherited contradictions, two opposites taken at once, in some version of a dialectic, the opposite chords of the word 'freedom', in a age about to bifurcate into libertarian and collectivist extremes. No mystery then that Rousseau should protest something amiss in the progressions of the state. It long term `evolution' toward mechanization interrupted with new beginnings of freedom is a riddle to confound our `noble savage'. Even in his generation a great birth, or rebirth, of ideas of freedom is occurring, and his tussle with the real concepts before they become slogans is both the signature of his creative genius, and the source of the many wild pitches that have haunted his reputation, even now the object of attack. Nor is it surprising that this duality should give rise to some sort of distinction between civilization and culture, which is the starting point of Richard Velkley's most interesting and very acute Being After Rousseau. This distinction, after Nietzsche, Spengler, and Heidegger, seems almost unrecognizable, but invokes the realm of ... freedom in the individual bound in his civilization. The book opens with two questions: What is the being called the "philosopher"? What is the relation of the philosopher to something called "culture"? And there is a challenge to the foundations of both. And his epigram to the Introduction quotes from The Social Contract, "The great soul of the Lawgiver is the true miracle which must prove his mission". Beside our late philosopher-king we have the individualist and citizen vagrant of the early discourses whose challenge to the Enlightenment is a counterpoint, to deepen it. If Rousseau is the Newton of the mind, perhaps Newton is the Rousseau of physics, for we forget that he exempts the human will from his system of laws. This gesture indicates an understanding the coming scientism will lose, and the problem of human self, wholeness, and purpose Rousseau senses, Kant elaborates, and which German philosophy from Fichte to Heidegger will attempt to resolve. The ambiguity of some transcendental order confounds the need to find the true beginning of culture in the spontaneity of human freedom and creativity, the inner `lawgiver'. The echo in Kant transforms the question, and reaches a peak in the challenge to the transcendent and the metaphysics of self, in the mystery of the ground of its own being, as the logic and categories and their condition in the "I" of apperception. And Kant will find beyond the enigma of the `...self' the connection to the realm of art, and the teleological, in the antinomies of the causal. Beside his conservative critics, Rousseau is now challenged by the sociobiologists in a notable attempt to recast man's emergence with theories of evolution. But at the point where the ethical is to be reduced to the mechanism of natural selection, Rousseau remains stubbornly relevant to the core issue of historical evolution in the descent of man, for the standard Darwinian account resumes the deadlock before the somesuch distinction of civilization and culture. The terms might confuse here, for the distinction of man as creature and man as `civilized' at all would be but an earlier version of this search for the component of culture. And that puts Rousseau into the ring with Darwin very directly. Rousseau is an early evolutionist, what more can be said. The component of evolution, as history, is however the missing dilemma of the whole question, although Kant in his brilliant series of Critiques arrives in his third at the issue of teleology, whose component once again is both social or historical and individual. The question of history is thus unresolved, even as repeatedly addressed, although Kant with his `idea for a universal history' provides the rubric or question to see the resolution as the very preoccupation with `new beginnings' in the `middle passage', the rise of the modern being one of its most recent incidents, and these `poets' its implicit lawgivers. `What is Enlightenment' is both a psychological and an historical question. Indeed the discourse peaks with Kant, and we see in Heidegger, strange golum finding the hidden ring, a looking backward, and an extreme version with one deep insight, the connection to the moment of the birth of philosophy, and the beginningless Being. His complaint that we reify these `gifts' of nature provokes the need for this universal history, and the missing chard Schelling so wishes to elicit from a new metaphysics. Will this be our fate, as we discard the metanarrative of these lawgivers, and their tour de force? This is a highly challenging and valuable work, and braves the impossible of such differing thinkers seen in sequence. One could only complain of the incompletion of the more Herculean effort to treat Hegel, Schopenhauer, and the full scope of this philosophic mystery. One can only be thankful what is offered.