Tag Archives: reason

Has humankind really “progressed”, in the Enlightenment sense of the word?

In philosophy, there is a saying, by Hegel, that the owl of Minerva only spreads its wings at dusk. Hence, when we take stock of our situation today, with the benefit of such hindsight, what do we perceive? Has humankind really “progressed”, in the Enlightenment sense of the word? In fact, does “progress” make any…

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The automatic society

It should come as no surprise to learn that we live, and have in a sense always lived, in an “automatic society”. But – and this is a big “but” – digitalisation has not only made it more conspicuous; it has also brought us to the point where this “automatism” confronts human beings with a…

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Cultural embodiments of the life and death instincts in human beings

Since the 19th century, when the heirs of 17th- and 18th-century British empiricism started thinking of the social implications of the empiricist doctrine, that all we know comes from experience, thinkers like Lord Shaftesbury and his ilk have believed that human society was “perfectible”. After all, if society could be arranged in such a way…

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Ethics always comes too late for power

If there is one lesson I have learned from Foucault, it is this: Ethics always comes too late for power. What I mean by this is that human beings – even philosophers – have a tendency to rationalise, in ethical or moral terms, about the actual decisions and choices one makes in the world, and…

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A world without compass

Compared to the Christian Middle Ages, our world is pretty much without compass. By this I do not mean that we should return to the beliefs held during that time – not only would this be anachronistic, but it would conflict fundamentally (and probably violently) with the techno-scientific tenor of the present era. I simply…

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Why people are such inherently conflicted beings

While preparing for a seminar on the roots of contemporary theory among the ancient Greeks, the Hellenistic Romans and early Christian thinkers, I was struck by the way that the different, and divergent, strands of the cultural legacy of the West (as well as of other cultures globally which share some of these roots) explain…

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Star Trek, technology and being human

When I lived in the US, I made sure to catch at least one episode of the original Star Trek television series, conceived by Gene Roddenberry in the 1960s, which has spawned at least 10 feature films to date. Had I wanted to, it could have been up to half a dozen a night, on…

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Foucault on the functioning of discourse in society

If Foucault and other poststructuralist thinkers are right (and I believe they are), one is never outside of countervailing power relations in society, which means that, ineluctably, one is always enmeshed in multilayered, overlapping grids of discourses that function in an ambivalent manner to enable, and simultaneously control, direct, disseminate and domesticate human action and…

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