Saturday, October 11, 2008

Renan and critique

Le premier sentiment de celui qui passe de la croyance naïve à l’examen critique, c’est le regret et presque la malédiction contre cette inflexible puissance, qui, du moment où elle l’a saisi, le force de parcourir avec elle toutes les étapes de sa marche inéluctable, jusqu’au terme final où l’on s’arrête pour pleurer.

Ernest Renan, L’avenir de la science. Pgs 152-3

It has been argued by Ian Hunter [In Critical Theory in 2006 with responses more recently] that there is something like a tradition of ‘university’ metaphysics, critical in rhetoric and conservative in essence, that includes most saliently a node around Hegel. I wonder if Renan fits into this tradition. Certainly he seems to in this quote, which I think might, with a change in tone and level of irony, be put in the mouth of a 25 year old discovering ‘critique’ today, just as Renan was in 1848 when he wrote this. Although it rings of pseudo-history to me, I wonder if there is something to the psychological continuity associated with 'scientific' and 'critical' philosophy.

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