Morals and Modernity

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If the problem persists, please try again in a little while. Durkheim, Morals and Modernity By W. Watts Miller. No cover image. Read preview. Synopsis Thorough and wide-ranging examination of the science of morals, reviving and defending the tradition of a scientific approach to ethics.

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Engages with recent debates on modernism and morality, demonstrating the contemporary relevance of Durkheim's ideas. In his inaugural lecture he says: The real man, whom we know and whom we are, is more complex; he is of a time and place, he has a family, a city, a country, a religious and political faith, and all these and many other concerns come together, combine in a thousand ways, cross and crisscross in their influence so that it is not at first sight possible to tell where one begins and another ends.

Meanwhile, the core ideological proposition of the evangelical Christian movement in the contemporary United States is that the welfare state is the source of modern society's decadence. This Reaganite genealogy of political morals enjoys the explicit and universal endorsement of fundamentalist Christians, who constitute by far the single largest and most politically influential religious group in the United States today.

Given the sudden international dominance of the United States, this arrangement is something of a paradox. It would seem that Christian fundamentalism has accomplished what Nietzsche claimed could only be done by overthrowing Judeo-Christian morality. Another way of saying this would be to observe that since the mid's, Christianity in the United States has been split between fundamentalism and liberalism, and that Nietzsche's critique of Christianity as a type of Sklaven-Moral would apply only the latter.

If Nietzsche's conception of Christianity is descriptively accurate, it would be legitimate for liberal Christian theologians to criticize the alliance between conservative economic doctrine and Christian fundamentalism. Strangely, this would also mean fundamentalism rescues Christianity from the Nietzschean critique by making Christianity more Nietzschean.

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Perhaps Ernst Benz's attempt to subsume Nietzsche within Christian tradition was not entirely wrong, after all. In the contemporary United States, the coincidence of a fundamentalist Christian political movement with the rise to international dominance in political and economic affairs suggests that Weber's analysis of Christianity was largely accurate. Nietzsche's genealogical method is thereby discomfited in its most basic assumption, namely, that Christianity is essentially a form of slave-morality designed to promote the interests of history's losers at the expense of the strong.

For Weber, on the other hand, the United States exemplifies the extent to which the rational bureaucratic organization of modern man can realize the Protestant ideal of transforming the abstractions of religious faith into pragmatic, scientific, and economic accomplishments. In light of contemporary history's apparent refutation of the most basic analytical postulate at the heart of Nietzsche's genealogy of modernity's inversion of moral values, it is tempting to wonder whether errors of a similar type exist, as a result, further down the chain of Nietzsche's unraveling of slave-morality.

Modernity and Morality

This is only one possibility, since even if Nietzsche's genealogy is wrong in its initial analytical premise, it may remain valid in all other particulars. Even given the assumption that the modern United States offers the strange spectacle of Judeo-Christian morality in the service of predatory strength, the defining characteristic of modernity may nevertheless remain the inversion Umkehrung of morals Nietzsche describes. On the other hand, the initial misdiagnosis of Christianity's role in the inversion of values may mean that a similar error appears elsewhere in the Nietzschean genealogy through repetition or as an element within certain deductions.

If we are to discover any errors troubling the remainder of the Nietzschean description of the inversion that characterizes modernity, it will be in structural analogues of the original postulate. If we speculate that the United States today offers evidence contradicting the notion that Christian morals are those of the loser of history, it should follow that unresolved tensions stemming from this original assumption will reappear in other Nietzschean postulates. If we are willing to transgress Gilles Deleuze's emphatic assurance that Nietzsche's thought surpasses all forms of dialectic negation, and confront Nietzsche's initial analytical assumption about Christianity with its dialectical opposite, or in other words with the idea that Christian morality is in fact the opposite of slave-morality, Nietzsche's genealogical analysis may be persistently troubled with further dialectical negation.

In Nietzsche's account, the natural opposition between strength and weakness is repeated, in reversed form, by Judeo-Christian morality. If we have arrived at a historical moment when the triumphant actor of world affairs is dominated by a political faction that explicitly espouses both fundamentalist Christianity and a free-market policy that eliminates the welfare state, it would appear that the source of the reversal of the natural opposition between the weak and the strong was not essentially Judeo-Christian. We are left with the problem of whether the source or cause of the reversal can be identified, and if so, what form it could possibly take.

Indeed, if we simultaneously retain Nietzsche's initial hypothesis and continue to see the combination of international dominance, anti-statist free-market capitalism, and fundamentalist Christianity in the modern United States as its dialectical opposite, it would seem that the inversion of strength and weakness occurs within a given source or subject of moral values.

Charles Taylor: Meaning, Morals and Modernity

We can postulate a Christian subject in whom values are initially inverted and then, later, re-valued. Judeo-Christian religion would have adopted the inversion of morals only in order to discard it as a sort of ruse, in its moment of ultimate triumph. Nietzsche would in some sense merely be the unwitting prophet of an aggressive, predatory Judeo-Christian revaluation of values.

Thus, the figures in which Nietzsche's initial analytical error produces flaws in the resulting genealogical account would be those in which the subject or cause of the inversion of moral values is in question.

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For Nietzsche, just as for Weber, modern subjectivity arises emblematically in the opposition between the integral human being, Ecce Homo , to the specialized, bureaucratic and scientific individual defined by the reduction of productive labor to mere technique. In Zur Genealogie der Moral , these modern, fragmented subjects are figured as "tamed" man-animals, Thiermenschen , yoked to their tasks in society by bad conscience. Bad conscience is the inverted form of animal desire and ferocity, so while the term "man-animals" describes the reduction of the whole human to a rationalized inhuman fragment, it simultaneously refers to the introversion of the fierce, natural, noble qualities Nietzsche qualifies as belonging to the category of the animal.

To restore the original order of things, according to Nietzsche's account, would mean liberating the animal part of man that is noble and strong. Here we run aground on the shoals of a schizoid subjectivity, where the strong and the weak are no longer separable, and the parables of genealogical method fail to describe reality. The Thiermensch is thus the figure that instantiates the inversion of moral values, but this instantiation simultaneously represents the incapacity to be whole, undermining subjectivity.

Causation in the matter of the inversion of morals thus passes from the human subject to the instances of religion, history, and society. The problematic subjectivity of this quintessential figure of modernity's inversion of moral values thereby repeats, as if in a puzzle, the structure of the initial analytical error.

In the figure of the Thiermensch , the animal simultaneously represents the strong and the weak , and in this way would reproduce the initial analytical error of Nietzsche's genealogy. Whether we speak of the cause, origin, or subject of the inversion of moral values, each is equally affected by the initial error that identifies Judeo-Christian morality as the source of the inversion, and as a result, the historical, religious, and social configurations of inverted values are cut loose from the propositional order of the genealogical method.

In other words, what is thrown into doubt most concretely by the hypothesis that Nietzsche's genealogical method suffers from an initial error is the notion that the original form of strength is natural and animal, while the rationalized creatures of modernity are avatars of what was originally unnatural and weak. In the figure of the Thiermensch , the natural — conceived as the order in which values originate — has instead come to represent both the force that undermines the "whole man" and the primal surging force Kraft of nature.

Thus the modern subject is schizoid, by virtue of the fact that no original order may be sought in the sense of a chronological or directional unfolding. It is in fact the chronological quality of modernity, and the difference that opposes it to the time of the original, natural order of things, that now is in doubt.

Nietzschean Christianity, or, an American Foreign-Policy Paradox - Sens Public

Charles Taylor : meaning, morals and modernity. N2 - The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor is a key figure in contemporary debates about the self and the problems of modernity. This book provides a comprehensive, critical account of Taylor's work. It succinctly reconstructs the ambitious philosophical project that unifies Taylor's diverse writings. And it examines in detail Taylor's specific claims about the structure of the human sciences; the link between identity, language, and moral values; democracy and multiculturalism; and the conflict between secular and non-secular spirituality.

The book also includes the first sustained account of Taylor's career as a social critic and political activist. Clearly written and authoritative, this book will be welcomed by students and researchers in a wide range of disciplines, including philosophy, psychology, politics, sociology, anthropology, cultural studies and theology.

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AB - The Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor is a key figure in contemporary debates about the self and the problems of modernity. Charles Taylor: meaning, morals and modernity Nicholas H.

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