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The Era of the Individual: A Contribution to a History of by Alain Renaut

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By Alain Renaut

With the ebook of French Philosophy of the Sixties, Alain Renaut and Luc Ferry in 1985 introduced their recognized critique opposed to canonical figures reminiscent of Foucault, Derrida, and Lacan, bringing less than rigorous scrutiny the whole post-structuralist undertaking that had ruled Western highbrow lifestyles for over 20 years. Their target used to be to safeguard the accomplishments of liberal democracy, fairly by way of simple human rights, and to track the reigning philosophers' mistrust of liberalism to an "antihumanism" inherited more often than not from Heidegger. In The period of the Individual, largely hailed as Renaut's magnum opus, the writer explores the main salient function of post-structuralism: the removing of the human topic. on the root of this pondering lies the assumption that people can't be aware of or keep watch over their simple natures, a premise that ended in Heidegger's mistrust of an individualistic, capitalist glossy society and that allied him in brief with Hitler's nationwide Socialist social gathering. whereas acknowledging a few of Heidegger's misgivings towards modernity as valid, Renaut argues that it truly is however flawed to equate modernity with the triumph of individualism. right here he distinguishes among individualism and subjectivity and, by means of supplying a historical past of the 2, powerfully redirects the process present considering clear of probably harmful, reductionist perspectives of humanity.

Renaut argues that glossy philosophy includes inside itself adversarial methods of conceiving the human individual. the 1st, which has its roots in Descartes and Kant, perspectives humans as topics able to arriving at common ethical judgments. the second one, stemming from Leibniz, Hegel, and Nietzsche, provides people as self sustaining contributors sharing not anything with others. In a cautious recounting of this philosophical culture, Renaut exhibits the resonances of those traditions in additional contemporary philosophers corresponding to Heidegger and within the social anthropology of Louis Dumont.

Renaut's contrast among individualism and subjectivity has turn into an enormous factor for younger thinkers disenchanted with the highbrow culture originating in Nietzsche and Heidegger. furthermore, his proclivity towards the Kantian culture, mixed along with his insights into the shortcomings of modernity, will curiosity somebody keen on contemporary moving cultural attitudes towards liberalism.

Originally released in 1997.

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The one-dimensionality that accounts for much of its attractiveness thus makes Heidegger's history of the subject vulnerable to objections that suggest the need for a thorough reconsideration of the topic. Metaphysics of Subjectivity Foundation or of Philosophical Individualism? A second problem renders this reconsideration indispensable. Perhaps the best way of getting at it is to ask not what Heidegger was aiming at, but what he really managed to contribute to the history of subjectivity by 14 CHAPTER I calling the Leibnizian monadology the true philosophical beginning of modernity, and making the course of all modern philosophy hinge on the monadological idea.

Meaning out of chaos, good out of evil). " If one considers how insistently critics of modern humanism have called into question the values of subjectivity, pointing out the many perverse theoretical a n d practical effects inherent in the notion of the "ruse of reason," 6 9 one begins to realize that some of the best-established commonplaces of contemporary thinking are based on a confusion. In seeing from Descartes to Leibniz, a n d then from Leibniz to Hegel (even Nietzsche), only the progressive t r i u m p h of subjectivity conceived in an unequivocal way, one is liable to miss the close interdependence between certain schemes of thought characteristic of the endgame of the modern history of metaphysics, a n d so fail to appreciate how influential the individualistic drift has been in the history of subjectivity.

This ontological individualism was already expressed in Leibniz's argument concerning individuation. 62 But the foundation for individualism finds fullest scope in Leibniz's doctrine of the identity of indiscernibles. For the principle that "there are in nature no two real absolute beings that are indiscernible"63 is not only, as Bertrand Russell observed,64 set up as a premise of philosophical discourse; it is actually deduced from the principles of contradiction and sufficient reason. Thus: • Since each thing has its own reason for being, there cannot exist two perfectly similar or indiscernible things in nature, as there would indeed be no reason for both of them to exist.

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