File spoon-archives/lyotard.archive/lyotard_2001/lyotard.0106, message 62

Date: Fri, 15 Jun 2001 18:41:36 +0100
Subject: Re: Tantalizing times - arguing for atheism....

Eric, Hugh and Don etc

The reactionary turn in contemporary philosophical and thinking about
culture derives from the moment when the myth, the fiction of the subject,
(the self) returned to the centre stage, in its many types it is supposed to
represent the sovereignty of the human subject over itself and its world.
Those who, philosophers (Luc Ferry, for example) amoungst others, found it
unacceptable that the subject of  philosophical and cultural thinking had
shifted because of the onslaughts of Marxists, Neitscheans, the descendents
of Freud, Hegalo-Marxists, Althussarians, structuralists,
post-structuralists and the legions of others. Those who have worked so hard
against this work, have expended a great deal of effort in placing centre
stage the human subject – marvellously centred, pure and unified, with the
great range of human feelings… To make this more than  concrete they promote
the return to spirituality, engaging at great length with the discourses
borrowed from religion, defining what it is to be human in terms derived
from religion, effectively of course Christianity, is used to inject the
spiritual into the everyday. The reactionary neo-Kantian turn of Ferry who
along with the other new philosophers has a strong relationship with the
work of Burke, Hobbes and others – the return, and it is a return that they
are engaged in, to the certainties of the divine.

Three elements have returned, as reactionary thoughts always return, to
centre stage. Firstly the human subject. Secondly the return to spirituality
and religion, Thirdly the adoption of reactionary ideologies descended from
the original counter-revolutionary thinkers. They firmly locate their
thinking in a metaphysics related to the state and religion. The ending of
the enlightment project was constructed as the end of the ‘objective
development of science that refuted the claims of religion’, the shift back
into the divine and the religious is an attempt to return to an earlier
certainty – with the results that we return to conservative ideological

see below:

> 3. Isn't your whole argument concerning atheism and anti-theism closer
> to being a modernist project, rather than an instance of postmodernism.
> It seems to me very close to the Enlightenment project which claimed the
> objective development of science had refuted the claims of religion. Now
> that the social, cultural and political assumptions inherent in this
> epistemology have been made more explicit, science and reason no longer
> seem to occupy such a privileged role.

This rests on the following fundemental misunderstanding of the scientific
project, the enlightenment version proposed science as being in some sense
truth in the sense descended from religion, as divine and perhaps absolute.
The post-modern variety (in the sense that we live in post-modern times...)
has returned to the understanding that scientific truth is always

It is interesting however that current reactionary philosophical thought
reacts strongly against scientific work on the body, genetics and cloning
referring to it in ways that unthinkingly invoke the spirit of facism, but
at the same time applauding the bombing of Kosovo, and often the imposition
of state controls on the reproductive body...

> 4. I think religion is not merely an historical project or a grand
> narrative, but an open project, one that is not yet unfinished.  In my
> view, the various religions are attempts to answer various questions
> differently framed...

No definitely not. "I define postmodern as incredulity towards
metanarratives. This increduality is undoubtedly a product of progress in
sciences: but that progress in turn presupposes it. To the obsolescence of
the metanarrative apparatus of legitimation corrosponds, most notably, the
crisis of metaphysical philosophy and of the unicersity institution that in
the past supported it... The narrative function is losing its functors, its
great hero, its great dangers, its great voyages, its great goal..." Does
not this opening moment in the post-modern text not work for religion and
the collapse of the legitimation of the dominant institutions. ...

The origins of religious myths all derive from the inevitability of death
and suffering.

> I also think that the current legislation regarding marijuana, peyote, LSD
> etc. is
> basically a form of religious persecution.

Sorry - what ?

> Part of the reason I don't want to give up on the God gene just yet is
> that I feel in my gut that religion (in the good sense) opens us up to
> the mystery of such radical experience in a way that implicitly calls
> into question the social construction of the human.

> Religion points to the imagination and our social imaginary.

Apt really: since the social imaginary refers to collective values that
provide for unitary meaning but are logically unprovable.




Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005