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Old 09-01-2016   #11
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Re: Against the Enlightenment

Quote Originally Posted by R.P.Dwyer View Post
I take the Enlightenment outlook as:

1. The belief that reason and science should be our guide and can solve problems.

2. A belief in the material betterment of the general population.

3. The spread of knowledge and education throughout the population.

4. Support for individual freedom. I was going to say that meant support for representative government, but then I remembered the concept of Enlightened absolutism: Enlightened absolutism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Others might give the example of the British rule of Hong Kong--called "benign neglect"-- as congruent with the Enlightenment. Basically let the people go about their lives in peace and freedom.

Romanticism is seen as a reaction to the Enlightenment. While the Enlightenment stresses the universal, Romanticism stresses the particular. While I place myself in the Enlightenment camp (though I enjoy reading supernatural/weird fiction!), I have been thinking lately that there is some measure of truth in Romanticism. I see part of Romanticism as stressing the importance of religion, the nation, the ethnic group, and one's kin. I've come to the conclusion that these resonate with humans on a psychological and even biological level. The main controversies today deal with the nation state, with immigration, with religion, with culture. I think now that the Enlightenment had somewhat a blind spot in regard to this.
Funnily enough, I hadn't been thinking of Romanticism, but it is, of course, highly relevant.

I can also link this back to the opening post by linking here to an older interview with Houellebecq in which he talks about Romanticism:

http://www.theparisreview.org/interv...el-houellebecq

It's quite long, so some may wish to skip to the end, from the question, "What do you think is the appeal of your work, in spite of its brutality?"

ôSpecialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved." - Max Weber
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Old 09-02-2016   #12
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Re: Against the Enlightenment

Seems relevant:

https://www.theguardian.com/commenti...P=share_btn_fb

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The answer, he argues, was in a new kind of religion: humanism – a belief system that “sanctifies the life, happiness and power of Homo sapiens”. So the deal that defined modern society was a covenant between humanism and science in which the latter provided the means for achieving the ends specified by the former.

And our looming existential crisis, as Harari sees it, comes from the fact that this covenant is destined to fall apart in this century. For one of the inescapable implications of bioscience and information technology (he argues) is that they will undermine and ultimately destroy the foundations on which humanism is built. And since liberal democracy is constructed on the worship of humanist goals (“life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” by citizens who are “created equal”, as the American founders put it), then our new powers are going to tear liberal democracy apart.

ôSpecialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved." - Max Weber
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Old 09-03-2016   #13
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Re: Against the Enlightenment

Weird fiction & Enlightenment/humanism: i recently read 'Ghosts' by John Banville, and there are many dark & even Ligottian elements to it, not the least of which is the suggestion that the whole tale itself is a solipsistic vision of the narrator in which he himself may turn out to be no less ghostly and, in the end, nonexistent than the other characters. What separates a work such as this from a lot of other Weird fiction that does get categorized as such, is the fact that here the writing seems more carefully modulated to encompass many states of mind & ways of seeing/experiencing things. While certainly elegiac in tone, 'Ghosts' seems less attached or tied to that tone; where it is dark, it is gently so; where it is misanthropic, it is polite enough to know that thereby it devalues its own judgement. As in all good Gothic novels, the landscape is merely a function of the narrator's mental state, but as these states change, so does the writing accomodate such shifts. What i'm getting at is that, paradoxically, it is often the work that starts from a perceived centrality or importance of the human predicament, that will sometimes offer the broader vista & as such will be more Cosmic in scope, while the Cosmic horrors of the current school of weird fiction by comparison seem to descend in ever narrowing patterns into a gnostic solipsism that is not Cosmic at all but exactly the size of a human mind shrunken to a prison by its all too human frailty and fears.

Just a thought.

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Old 09-04-2016   #14
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Re: Against the Enlightenment

By the way, I thought it might be worth emphasising what the Guardian article I posted throws into the mix: The idea that it might be precisely science (or a certain consequence of our understanding and use of it) that is the greatest enemy of the Enlightenment (or of all that is humanistic in it).

ôSpecialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved." - Max Weber
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Old 09-04-2016   #15
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Re: Against the Enlightenment

Ibrahim, shrewd and insightful comments about Ghosts, a novel I loved when I first read it 22 years ago. Thanks for sharing them. As I'm sure you know, it's a sequel of sorts to The Book of Evidence, a novel of more outright despair and nihilism.

Banville, though, has no time for weird fiction/horror etc and has expressed his contempt for Poe and others, and would be aghast to be categorised as such. Sadly, ever since TBOE and Ghosts, which were his highpoint in my opinion, his writing has become more safe and domestic.
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Old 09-04-2016   #16
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Re: Against the Enlightenment

My copy of Ghosts is the omnibus edition that has Ghosts wedged between the book of evidence and Athena ( which to my mind is the darkest of this trilogy).

Banville also writes crime books under the Benjamin Black moniker as you undoubtedly know, Malone, and has oddly made several deprecating comments about the genre, which further points to LitFic's obsession with class.

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Old 09-04-2016   #17
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Re: Against the Enlightenment

And re:Enlightenment/Science &pc.
The need to describe all human experience in terms specific to only one area of human endeavour seems foolish when one thinks about it. It is as useless to make art according to religious precepts as it is trying to engage in philosophy on the basis and with the language of scientific materialism, & vice versa, yet here we are in the 21st century where it is all but demanded of us that we see and read the world in scientific terms only.

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