Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Enlightenment, Counter-Enlightenment: Multiplicity-Enlightenment

Dr. Spinoza initiated this blog with a comment which has troubled me very much.

In his very first post in the Enlightenment Underground, entitled Going Underground, he said,

“The resurgence of the Counter-Enlightenment, on many different fronts (some of which are even at war with one another), has pushed the Enlightenment into an apologetic and defensive mode. Here begins a new kind of resistance. ”

I took this statement to mean that Dr. Spinoza had been somehow intellectually and emotionally convinced into being FOR the ‘Enlightenment’ – and that the aim of this blog would be to counter the Counter-Enlightenment—to work to push the Enlightenment out of its “apologetic and defensive mode,” into an aggressive and offensive mode.

Dr. Spinoza isn’t a particularly aggressive or offending person, so I had my doubts just how deeply his commitment to being FOR the Enlightenment would go – he’s far more intellectually and emotionally convicted of an attitude of total neutrality to ever be a gung-ho advocate FOR “Enlightenment” or any other kind of thinking.

However this may be, of the stances we may assume toward the Enlightenment, there are many more than these three: ‘neutrality,’ and being FOR, or AGAINST.

As Foucault said,

“But that does not mean that one has to be ‘for’ or ‘against’ the Enlightenment. It means precisely that one has to refuse everything that might present itself in the form of a simplistic and authoritarian alternative: you either accept the Enlightenment and remain within the tradition of its rationalism ( this is considered a positive term by some and used by others, on the contrary, as a reproach); or else you criticize the Enlightenment and then try to escape from its principles of rationality ( which may be seen once again as good or bad.) And we do not break free of this blackmail by introducing ‘dialectical’ nuances while seeking to determine what good and bad elements there have been in the Enlightenment.” – M. Foucault, essay: What is Enlightenment

(NB: In this last sentence, Foucault distinguishes his thought of the Enlightenment from that of Adorno and Horkheimer as found in their The Dialectic of Enlightenment.)

However, it does not follow that in refusing everything that might present itself in the form of simplistic and authoritarian alternative of for or against, we adopt neutrality, for as Foucault goes on to say,

“I have been seeking, on the one hand, to emphasize the extent to which a type of philosophical interrogation—one that simultaneously problematizes man’s relation to the present, man’s historical mode of being, and the constitution of the self as an autonomous subject—is rooted in the Enlightenment. On the other hand, I have been seeking to stress that the thread that may connect us with the Enlightenment is not faithfulness to doctrinal elements, but rather the permanent reactivation of an attitude—that is, of a philosophical ethos that could be described as a permanent critique of our historical era.”- M. Foucault, essay: What is Enlightenment.

Such an attitude, such a philosophical ethos, such a reactivation, is not a way of being ‘neutral.’

What I want to show is that this attitude and philosophical ethos is a ‘pragmatics of the multiple’; that the REPETITION WITH DIFFERENCE of the Enlightenment is the repetition of the Enlightenment with the difference multiplicity-thinking renders to that older Enlightenment thinking heavily imbued, inflected and deflected by 'totalizing' and 'oppositionalizing' conceptual forces.


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What are the main ideas of the Counter-Enlightenment and what does each idea mean? Also, according to August Comte's Sociological Theory, how does it express both Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment ideas?

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