The Defeat of The Mind
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(Redirected from La Défaite de la pensée)
The Defeat Of The Mind (1987) (La Défaite de la pensée) is a book by Alain Finkielkraut.
- [Finkielkraut's work] is one of the final flowerings of the spirit of Diderot. It teaches again the truths that ignorance can not foster freedom, that Shakespeare is of a different order than a pair of boots, and that rock religion is suicide. (Harold Bloom)
- It’s easy hindsight for us, as it was stunning foresight for Benda, to see that Herder’s conception of the Volksgeist — adopted both by the German romantics (notably not Schiller) and French diehards who still resented the Revolution — was leading toward mid-twentieth-century European fascism. What ought to give us pause is that these issues should have come to have such renewed currency fifty years after the war. Finkielkraut tracks this renewal back to the founding of UNESCO, which was originally built on ideals of liberty and the free exchange of ideas and information. Once it began meeting as an official organization, he says, its agenda began to shift: “What started out as a critique of fanaticism turned into a critique of the Enlightenment.” Enter the anthropologists, notably Claude Lévi-Strauss, whose 1951 essay, “Race and History,” commissioned by UNESCO, was a manifesto for multiculturalism. Lévi-Strauss’s target, naturally, was biological racism. Differences between peoples were matters of “geographical, historical, and sociological circumstances” instead of race. But there was more to it: we were not to see history as a march from barbarism to civilization, but rather were urged to affirm the moral equality of cultures while eschewing as imperialist the very term “civilization.” Though the point, Finkielkraut explains, was to destroy prejudice, “to achieve this goal it was no longer a matter of opening others to reason, but of opening ourselves to the reason of others.” To do this, the West had to repudiate the conceit that it possessed superior thought or values; its was just another culture like the rest of the world’s. --Denis Dutton
- The Betrayal of the Intellectuals (1927), Julien Benda
- This Too a Philosophy of History for the Formation of Humanity (1774) by Johann Gottfried von Herder.
- Cultural pessimism
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