Friday, February 29, 2008

Prologomina to any future discussion of Jesus

Prologomina for any Future Discussion Of the Historical Jesus

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History is Probablity

"Topos" is a Greek word that means "location" or "seat." Where is the location of historicity? What is the exact ponit at which one can say "this is historicity?" But there is a more fundamental question implied in finding the topos of historicity, and that is "what is the crucial point at which historicity takes on theological meaning?What aspects of being histoircal are so crucial that, if other wise proven to be not histoircal, the Christian faith would cruble?

All history is probability. No one can empirically prove an "historical fact," for that would require being able to repeat the experiment or to otherwise witness the event for oneself. Obviously history by its nature as part of times arrow does not allow either of these options. Thus history is a non-empirical social science. WE can't go back in time and watch George Washington cross the Delaware, but we can assume that he did so because we have documents that refer to it which contain eye witness testimony and which we have no good reason to doubt.

For this reason history is a matter of documents. Those we call "historians" were writing in the time of Christ, such as Tacitus and Josephus, but they were not professionals nor academics. History as an academic social science has only existed since the 19th century. As a science history still has a ways to go and it will never be the sort of science that one might find in sociology or biology. The major theorists of an academic discipline of history writing in the late 19th century, set forth the model that history is a matter of what can be documented from the past. For this reason history is primarily a matter of documents, but that means that there are huge cracks in our understanding that can never be filled. For that reason historians assess the nature of historical "fact" as a form of probability. George Washington probably did exist and he probably did cross the Delaware to fight the Hesseians at Princeton (and other places) but that is no more an empirical fact that Christ resurrection from the dead. The probably of Washington crossing the Delaware is much higher historically speaking than that of the Resurrection, but it is no more certain in an absolute sense. Yet when all historians agree to it we can place a very high degree of confidence in it and we speak of it as a "fact" because we assume that it is one.

The problem is that when one attaches religious significance to a document some certain group of people will decide that this is intrinsically to be doubted. What these people don't understand is that 90% of what we know about the ancient world comes to us from documents that one could doubt for the same reasons that atheists usually doubt the Bible (because they are recorded in religiously polemical documents).

Consider the case of Jospehus. Most atheists assume that Jospehus is an authority to be trusted and few people anywhere would assert that he didn't exist. This is because we have no reason to suspect that he didn't, and he is our basis for knowledge of about 80% of what happened in the first century. But one could argue that Jospehus didn't exist, or that most of his writings were made up. Using the same criteria that Christ myther's use for deciding that Christ didn't exist or that 90% of what is reported about him was made up, one can make the same kinds of arguments. First, Josephus' writings must have been controlled by Christians from an early period because we have no texts with totally lack the bits about Jesus. If that was made up then certainly Jo's works were controlled by Christians from the earliest times. Now secondly, Jeosphus gets wrong the year that the Roman legions of Vespasian left Palestine, but Jo was there so how could he get that wrong? It must be that his works are made up! The whole of Jospehus works were made up to advocate the Jewish-Christian cause and that explains the passage where he says he got his friend off the cross before sunset, that was put in there to show that Joseph of Aramethia could do the same with the body of Jesus. Why else does he use the name Jospeh so much like the name Jospheus?

Of course I'm being sarcastic. None of these arguments hold water and no historian would accept them, but they cannot be disproved! It's just that historians don't waste their time with BS conspiracy theories or silly assertions. It is also the case that since Josephus forms the bulwark of our knowledge about that period, historians are not eager to lose his testimony. The point is that the same criteria could be used to dislodge Jospehus as have been advocated to dislodge the New Testament (minus the textual proof of redaction, but there some evidence of redaction in some of Jospehus, consider the Slavic and Arabic manuscripts)!

The point is that in deciding the nature of historical fact we cannot let such things as "this document is a religious polemic" decide the matter. We have to assume that the presence of a document is enough to tell us something about the situation under which is was written, and that knowing something about who wrote a document and why, tells us something about the situation. Just being able to point out that a document is religious and is written for religious reasons, even polemical ones, is not enough to assume that the document is forgery or that it has not historical merit or information in it.

Thus we cannot rule out the historicity of the Gospels based upon these criteria. We have to formulate more specific textually critical reason for rejecting the documents of the New Testament. Now of course such reasons exist and are talked about among textual critics, But they don't just blindly rule them out merely because they are the New Testament.

Thus, we have to accept a certain probably about the historicity of the New Testament documents which can be established by textual criticism, but the basic assumption has to be that there is some basis in historical fact, that the writers have some connection with a tradition and that they understand themselves to be in that tradition. We cannot assume that they are engaging in pernicious motive or just making things up. After all, any history could be the result of such a plot but if one assumes this than one doesn't have scientific examination of what happened in the past. To have that one must assume that some things form the past can come to us form those who set out to record at least their understanding of what happened.

Not Historical but History making>

The category "history making" is not one used by historians. It is the brain child of German Theologian Jurgen Moltmann from the University of Tubengin. The reason for it is not to "make something true" as has been charged. It is not to over come a dirth of hard evidence, as has been charged on certain message boards. The reason for the category is to overcome a cheat, to get around a cheating argument by European intellectuals. The Marxists historians argue that since history is founded upon naturalistic principles and upon documentary hypothesis (as set out by Marx in The German Ideology) one cannot do history on the basis of the supernatural. Thus the resurrection could never be an historical question because it can never assumed by historians that it happened.

This is true, but it's still cheating in a sense. Because it means that no matter what the truth of that event it can never be understood in the way that Christian doctrine would assert because it just can't be part of history (remember history is not what "really" happened but the interpretation of the documentary trail of what happened).

So Moltmann says "OK we will just change the rules. Instead of grounding our understanding in the category of 'historical nature' we will ground it in the category of 'history making.'" The belief shaped history in the sense that history was shaped by the tradition which understood itself to be witness to the resurrection. Thus it is not the historicity of the event itself that we seek to prove. This can never be proven, it can only be embraced as an act of faith because we cannot go back in time and watch it happen. But we can embrace a certain probabilistic sense of it happening and we can understand it as the self identity of a community which went on to shape history as a result of its understanding of that event. There had to be, therefore, some kind of event for the group to have some kind of self understanding in relation to the event. That means that the arguments about the resurrection must become an attempt to assess the probabilities of various theories as to the nature of this event which prompted such a self definition among the community.

What matters is not history but the history making aspects. That is, it is not an historical question, Was Jesus the son of God? Did he raise from the dead? These are not things that can be proven historically, they are not part of history because they involve transcendence of the naturalistic framework under which history is assumed. That does not mean that I don't believe them, but it does mean that proving them is less important than living them. Should anyone think this is not sufficiently intellectual to justify the brain power it takes to grasp it, it's probably not, but just trying actually doing it. The point is that there is no intellectual shame in an existential encounter with the object of ultimate concern. So that is what really matters, that the teachings bestow Grace, that the church understood itself as the recipient of Christ's teachings (and with no small amount of confirming evidence form history) and it doesn't matter that it isn't "proven" or that the resurrection isn't considered historical. It is history making, history was shaped around that concept and around the churches understanding of itself as the guardian of Jesus' teachings.

Historical fact Vs Historical perspective

Since historical facts are probability in the fist place, the nature of any historical fact is not a matter of absolute proof but of the best evidence forming a degree of confidence in a probabilistic assertion. This means that naturalistic ideology will exclude the possibly of the resurrection a pariori, it also means that we can bring back in a certain probability based upon the category of the history making self understanding of the group.

But it also means that what matters more in terms of the resurrection is not historical fact but historical perspective. This is an observation only a theologian could love. It is not a view point of an historian, but since my first love was theology, I embrace it as a tenet of theological understanding. The historical persecutive I have cultivated tries not to impose the category of "fact" upon the claim of the resurrection, but to create spaces in which the claim can be held as a tenet of faith based upon its history making character. That means, I think it really happened, but the question is how to talk about it really happening when it is to be considered so improbable? Well, that is purely an ideological matter and depends more upon metaphysical assumptions to rule it out rather than any real historical evidence that would rule it out. Through the metaphysical assumption I make I rule it back in, but not as imposed "fact," rather, as the thing with which I fill the spaces created by the history making nature. In other words the history making concept is how we fill the cracks left between the probabalistic assertions of inductive reasoning.


Now what does all of this mean? It means first of all that I don't have to prove the resurrection in order to hold it as a doctrine and a tenet of faith. It also means that I can ground its true theological significance in the symbolic value of its transforming aspects without proving it as "fact" because for me it is an existential fact. I am transformed by it, thus for me it is a fact, if not a historical fact, then an existential one.

Nevertheless, I think the evidence does point to it as an actual fact, a literal resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from the dead, but the important thing about that is its theological significance as a symbol. The fact that I think it really happened, although important, is only secondary in terms of having to prove things. I can prove that the affects of believing it are real.

That also means that I don't have to worry about all the details of the New Testament documents being in place. I assume that these documents were not written by those whose names they bare, and I assume that many of the details, are out of place chronologically and perhaps are only suggestive of the actual events. None of that matters in terms of transformative value.

Thus, the real topos of historicity is not in the stories and not in the documents but it is in the tradition which preserved the documents. The leaders of that tradition chose the documents based upon their connection with the original group withwhom the deposit of Christ's teachings were fist entrusted, the Apostles. Thus, we can assert that there is in some sense an historical core to the documents even if we are in the dark as to the exact nature of that core.

What ultimately matters is that the documents themselves are not understood within the tradition as literal epistemology but as a means of bestowing Grace. If Grace is bestowed to the reader then this is all that can be asked in terms of the reason for their preservation. This is all that need be accomplished.*

Nevertheless, we can come at this with an historical persecutive and ask what the documents do tell us about the history of the situation. That Jesus really did die on the cross that that his teachings really were indicative of the Kingdom of God puts a force behind the symbolic value that increases the efficacy of that, and that makes them indicative of a truth which can be demonstrated within a reasonable field of historical probability.

The historicity of Jesus is important, but the question is, what is important about it? Is it really so important to know that on a certain day Jesus did and said this or that? Or is it important to know that we have a generally accurate perception of the kinds of things Jesus did and the basic core of his teaching available to us? I contend that some historical elements are more important than others..

The Topos of Historicity"Topos" is just a fancy Greek term used in arts and hummanities circles for "place," or "location." I bring this up because I think what is most important is the understanding of and acceptance of the Tradition itself. I think the tradition is the safe guard of the historicity. This means that rather than some sort of historically empirical proof (of which there is no such thing) that Jesus really gave the sermon on the mount, the important thing is that the tradition loaded those teachings into its understanding of Jesus from an early period and to be a member of the community means to accept that teaching. This is so because this is what works. To accept Jesus, to accept God's grace through the mediation of Christ's atonement is transformative and offers a power for living which resolves the basic human problematic. The proof of that is in actually doing it, actually receiving it, not in historical arguments.

The Theological Lodown:

As I have said before, I believe that there is one universal experience of the Divine that stands behind all religions. The individual God figures in reach religion don't matter because they are preceded by this experience which is more basic, and they are created by cultural construct through which this experience must be flitted. But that is what happens when man tries to reach out to God mostly unaided. What happens when God decides to make one clear unmistakable statement that demonstrates exactly who he is and what he wants? Perhaps the best way to do that would be to come and tell us himself. That's what I believe happened with Jesus.

Now that still leaves problems of the ambiguity of language. But what is unambiguous is the actions. Not only are the actions of Jesus reflective of the divine in such enstances as forgiving the woman caught in adultery or in healing the sick and so forth, but they are unmistakable in his atonement on the cross. This is a statement of God's solidarity with humanity. That God would be willing to die for the sins of humanity and to die as one of the lowest in the social order demonstrates that God is on our side and is willing to identify with our lot, which is what solidarity is all about. Now never mind the fact that "it didn't hurt cause he was God" and silly arguments like that. The point is that it is a clear expression of God's willingness to identify with us. The only problem is that we have to return the favor and identify with him. It's still a search that can only concluded in the heart. So we must still make a decision and place our solidarity with God through giving our lives to Christ (Romans 6). But it works both ways and all we need to is examine the case to see that. Once having done that we receive transformation and we resolve the problematic involved in being human and that's what really matters because that is a lived experience and can be seen by anyone, it is not a matter of empirical evidence or of demonstration in an "objective" way. I'm not saying the history doesn't matter, and I do believe the historical stuff form the Gospels.

But what matters more than proving it as history is what it means to accept it as history. It doesn't mean being able to prove it (and in fact nothing in history is proven in the way that it is in science--all history is probability in a sense). What matters about accepting the history is understanding what it does for one to accept it. When one finds that this is the case and it does actually mediate transcendence one can find that the claims are at least true. They may or may not be true in a literal historical sense (and I think most of them are) but they are true in a transformative sense. If one is transformed than it would seem to be the point, the whole point involved in why would want to investigate religion in the first place. How to choose a tradition. Now as I have said, it is not a question of which religion is true but of which has the efficacy (I am speaking phenomenologically here--not theologically). That means, all religions mediate transformation to some degree, but some do so better than others. Human sacrifice for example is a less efficacious method, because it involves the necessity of cruelty and murder, and a grace oriented religion is more efficacious because it is more accessible to all. There are two such religions and two only: pure land Buddhism and Christianity. We can compare those two later. But in my view that is the reason to prefer a particular tradition, and to prefer the tradition with which I identify; because it mediates transcendence through Grace, which means one need not be good enough to merit God's favor. That makes it more accessible and in a sense it may make it more transformative. As Jesus said "he who has been foreign much loves much. We can open a new one to do the historical stuff (and don't worry, I will).

____________ *For a discussion transformative value (or Sacramental rather than epistemological understanding of the Scriptures) see Canon and Criterion in Christian Theology, by Willam Abrham, Oxford, 1998/2002.

For discussion of History making see Jurgan Moltmann, Theology of Hope,New York: Harpers, 1967

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Re-Thinking The Bourgeois Subject, Toward the Sensibilities of Freedom.

J.L. Hinman

from Netations(the journal I used to publish) fall of 1997.

either traditional Marxism, nor postmodernism, grasp the dynamic nature of the cultural and economic process shaping the consciousness of the bourgeoisified subject. Traditional Marxists tend to view the process from a transhistorical perspective; class conflict within a framework of economic determinism, and to deal with the bourgeois subject by creating its own "socialist man." Postmodernism, to a large extent, seeks to evade the problem by eliminating the subject altogether. Both camps fail to produce a dynamic critique of the process, and both fail to translate what they do understand into a consciousness capable of resisting bourgeoisification. The industrial production mode of late capitalism necessitates a total way of life that shapes people into alienated consumers and reduces all personal and social values to economic commodity. The only hope for re-thinking the left is to cultivate sensibilities of freedom that create new possibilities and new ways of life.

Traditional Marxism always tried to work the other way around, to have the revolution, to produce a society capable of forging the "new humanity," and then to produce a free individual, one whose freedom is predicated upon the Vanguard, the state, and the party line. This is like wanting to have a child, and then to consummate the marriage. Moreover, capitalism has delivered the goods, and bound the consciousness of the subject to itself as supplier. It has produced:

...a social totality integrated under the universal form of commodity production. Under the domination of the commodity structure, a phantom objectivity is conferred upon human relations, transforming social relations into relations between things; subjectivity, the consciousness, comes to reflect and reproduce this system of domination, giving it the character of a `second nature.' 1

In other words, the mode of production shapes a total way of life that revolves around commodity. This process, rather than labor alone as in traditional Marxism, creates the bond of social relations. This ensemble forges an obedient subject. Within that framework class struggle and exploitation exist as historical contingencies. The alienated subject is itself a product of the way of life.2

The problem, then, is to cultivate sensibilities capable of transforming the production mode, or at least capable of resisting reduction to commodity, but an individual who is, nevertheless, capable of social solidarity, and to foster such an individual without imposing another "totalizing" and tiresome party line. An examination of three very different thinkers, each of which has contributed to the discussion in a major way, may yield new possibilities: Michel Foucault, Moishe Postone, and Herbert Marcuse. This is not an attempt to create a synthesis of the three, nor to harmonize them, but an explication of their contributions to the discussion might yield a direction in which to move. These three are chosen because each has a foothold in postmodernism, and yet in some sense maintains a critique of the forces which transform individuals into objectified subjects.

To begin with the current situation, the postmodern cultural critique has replaced Marxism as the major "cutting edge" outlook in the academy. Nevertheless, in its attack on the subject, it has not only failed to engage the problem, but leaves the individual open to co-optation by commodifying forces. Moreover, it ignores the nature of capitalism. As Postone points out, the crisis in traditional Marxism does not obviate the need for a critique of capitalism and its latter transformations: "globalization and concentration of capital that has taken place on the new, very abstract level, far removed from immediate experience and apparently, for now, beyond the effective control of the state;"3 it is also marked by the re-emergence of "manifestations of industrial capitalism," such as global economic dislocations and intensified rivalry between capitalists.4 Yet, at a time when the Marxian critique should be carried further, in new ways, the baton has been handed on to postmodernism, in some ways to the detriment of the left.

The postmodern attack on the subject, despite its roots in Nietzsche and Freud, began in earnest with Derrida, Foucault, Althusser, and other thinkers coming out of the student revolt in France, May of '68.5 At that time, Herbert Marcuse's theory in One-Dimensional Man (1964) had already had a profound influence upon that generation of thinkers. Much of the rhetoric of May '68 was aimed at saving the individual from the role of "cog in the machine."6 In subsequent years, however, what began as an attack on the bourgeois subject became an attack on many of Marcuse's approbations; freedom, consciousness, reason, and the individual. The Postmodern attack on the subject contributes to the death of the left by ridding it of its view of "humanity," its organizing principles, and its ability to propose grand theory ("meta-narrative").

Notions such as "class struggle," "the proletariat," and "new humanity," are discarded, along with their 18th century antecedents, the free individual, human reason, and the social contract. All such notions are seen as "logocentric," or as grounded in "totalizing" first principles.7 Postmodernism replaces such notions with an ethics and social agency based upon "difference." While it may be necessary for fighting racism, and while it is beneficial to value differences in people, without a common binding experience around which to organize solidarity, the left has fragmented even further.8

The postmodern attack upon the subject proceeds from Derridian principles, beginning in the late '60s with his attempt to deconstruct Husserl's notion of the intentionality of the speaker, in order to fulfill Heideggerian assumptions about the myth of presence. Derrida debunked the rationality of the core self, and opened a revolution against the Kantian transcendental ego. Nevertheless, this move had already been made in 20th century philosophy, from Heidegger, to Sartre, to Roland Barthes, but with Derrida it somehow became the orthodoxy of the day.9 The attack proceeds from the breakdown of coherent meaning in the deconstruction of the myth of presence, and extends itself into the mind of the individual; "not only my meaning, indeed, but I myself: since language is something I am made out of, rather than a convenient tool I use, the whole idea that I am a stable, unified entity must also be a fiction."10

Extreme versions of a social constructivist position have created a "postmodern individual, "one which sounds suspiciously like Marcuse's "one-dimensional man." Pauline Marie Rosenau's reading of the "postmodern individual is one who "...will not be held accountable for events, actions, outcomes; nor will s/he be the author of `caring' relationships (humanist) or creative individualism...pursuing a personal quest for meaning but making no truth claims for what results. S/he looks to fantasy, humor, the culture of desire, immediate gratification." 11 Richard Rorty, working explicitly from Derridian assumptions, posits a hypothetical individual, the "liberal ironist," who would inhabit his "liberal utopia." Because there is no truth "out there," no description of the world that might gain privilege over other descriptions of reality, Rorty's ironist is one who mouths the bromides of the community, eschews actually harming anyone, and knows in his/her heart that all values are merely "metaphors," the rhetoric of a relativistic language game.12 Such an "individual" would never stand against the community based on a principle of belief, in other words, the perfect citizen of the third reich.

The "skeptical" postmodern non-subject, despite approbations of "openness," and disapprobations of hierarchical truth claims, seems ripe for co-optation and exploitation (especially the bit about immediate gratification). "The postmodern individual" abhors unity, commitment, or a consistent political outlook. This "individual" is "open to recruitment in diverse and contradictory causes and social movements."13 All big brother need do is package co-optation in the guise of gratification (or cast a rock idol as a South American dictator's wife) and political naivete will deliver a mass audience of postmodern hipsters.

Trends in advertising already demonstrate the extent to which many new products are sold in a counter-cultural package.14 In Marcuse's theory, advertising is one of the main tools for rendering the masses one-dimensional. Frederick Jameson argues that the postmodern "fragmentation of the subject" creates a consciousness in art and literature which mirrors that of consumer society.15 "Jameson believes that...postmodernism replicates, reinforces the logic of consumer capitalism, the emergence of present-day multinational capitalism."16 While a major trajectory of postmodernism does seem to turn a blind eye to the process of co-optation, some postmoderns seem to offer alternatives.

Foucault seems to represent some hope from within the postmodern view, since his major concern was to uncover the forces in culture and history which cause people to constitute themselves as objectified subjects.17 He charts three modes of this process: 1) through scientific inquiry 2) what he calls "dividing practices" --the subject is divided from others, as with insanity and sanity, sickness and health, criminals and "good guys"; 3) "the way a human being turns him-or herself into a subject," as with sexuality.18 He sought to understand forms of resistance against different types of power. Such power relations as Foucault studied in oppositional forms include: men/women, parents/children, psychiatry/mentally ill, medicine/population, to name a few.19 He chose these struggles precisely because they threatened the value of the individual, while at the same time imposing upon him/her a kind of individuality defined by others through abstraction and institutionalization. 20

Foucault was a constructivist, maintaining that, "...[the self] is an illusory function of power relations."21 "Foucault's intention was to show...that the human subject is not given with permanent structures that constitute or condition reality, but is produced historically from its social world."22 Foucault's position has led his interpreters, such as David F. Gruber, to read into his work an anti-individualist position. "... [His] observations on the intertwinement of liberalism's individuality with its apparent opposite suggest that the current task for thinking and for action is not yet another attempted revivification and return to the individual, but instead is the rejection of and resistance to, the individualities that we are..."23 Gruber's own reading, however, offers nothing in return for the self, and no clear idea of the result; zombie-like, "we would exit our liberal individuality, not by simply transcending or rejecting it, but by working through it...we would experience, not an emancipation and actualization of our individuality, but an emancipation form our individuality," [emphasis his]. Just what that means, he never says.

Moreover, the constructivist position is not to be confused with an anti-individualist position per se. We constitute ourselves as subjects.25 "Again, it is we who are doing it, not having it done to us."26 But he distinguishes between the construction given us in society, the creature of the "code" of interpretation in public discourse which is interpreted by others as "individual," and the thing (in myself) doing the constituting in subjection to the code. 27 Moreover, contrary to Gruber, Foucault did call for the creation of a new form of individuality:

We have to imagine and to build up what we could be to get rid of this kind of political "double bind," which is the simultaneous individualization and totalization of modern power structures. The conclusion would be that the political, ethical, social, philosophical problem of our day is not to try to liberate the individual from the state, and from the state's institutions, but to liberate us both from the state and from the type of individualization which is linked to the state. We have to promote new forms of subjectivity through the refusal of this kind of individuality which has been imposed on us for several centuries.28

He saw the imposed individuality as an extension of Pastoral power, the power of the confessional, taken over by the state after secularization, and translated into "the helping professions," institutionalized authority, and diffused authority.29

Nevertheless, Foucault does not offer any clues as to how we might go about finding a new individuality. More to the point, he seems to be content to replace the individuality we reject with nothing at all. For Foucault, power is not a force which suppresses an inner core self, the self is not some true nature that must emerge in the absence of power; "power is positive...power knowledge...that which constructs the self. The self is the effect of power rather than that which is repressed by power."30 Still, according to what has been said above, it seems that the self as the effect of power might alter the power relations through resistance and do some self shaping, but this would require an analysis of resistance.

When pressed to give an account of rebellion in light of the constructivist position, however, Foucault is unable to do so. He attributes this function to "an inverse energy," a "discharge," a "something" in "the social body, in classes, groups, and individuals themselves which in some sense escapes relations of power."31 On the other hand, one cannot cultivate a "discharge," or a "something." Moreover, to put it in these terms dismisses the notion of resistance; resistance is not a hope for further possibilities, but an anomaly, to be explained away. For this reason, Gad Horowitz argues that Foucaultian radicalism can only be saved from co-optation if it is combined with some form of Marcusian understanding.

Marcuse should help to bridge the gap between the need for a Marxist awareness, and postmodern concerns, since he shares many of the assumptions of postmodernism: a background in Heideggerian phenomenology (which means a'deconstruction' of "the logic of domination"), as well as a crucial role in the creation of identity politics, 32 and the attack on the subject itself. His view of the self is too grounded in modernity to be called "postmodern," though it does share certain elements of postmodern concern. On the one hand, he assumes human reason and rationality, and he does so in such a way as to allow a meta-narratival explanation of civilization and repression. On the other hand, he also shifts the basis in human reason from logos to Eros; the basis of human being is thus found in "irrational" libidinality, logos is the "reason of domination."33 On this point Marcuse shares a common Heideggerian background with Foucault, Derrida, and many other Postmodern luminaries. Logos, as metaphysical arche, abstracts reality and subjugates the world under rationalizing reductionism.

In Eros and Civilization, Marcuse sketches a Freudian-based idea of the development of human being from "animal man," through a "transformation of his nature," that results in civilized values. Humanity develops through the procurement of civilization; from immediate satisfaction, to delayed satisfaction, from pleasure to restraint of pleasure, from joy to toil, from absence of repression to security.34 While Postmoderns tend to use Freud to emphasize the disjunction between reason and irrationality,35 Marcuse transforms Freudian theory into socially critical theory, with his own notion of "surplus repression." The reality principle creates a differed gratification in order to allow orderly social functions. The requisite sublimation of the pleasure principle creates a complex network of sublimations that form the basis of the theory in One-Dimensional Man.

Material need creates repression, upon which the reality principle is based. Scarcity dictates that libidinal need be diverted to productive labor. While Western society has achieved a vast increase in productive labor, such that toil is no longer required on the same scale as that of the pre-industrial era, the institutionalization of repression through political ideology has created "surplus" repression.36 Dissent grows out of the libidinal impulse; the urge to dream of a better world is rooted in the pleasure principle. Sublimation through surplus repression means negation of the urge to change, and the ability to dream of alternatives. In One-Dimensional Man, he argues that society is organized around a social project which, like a black-hole in space, sucks into itself all alien forms of thought; co-opting dissent, dismissing as irrelevant anything that cannot be central to its purpose, and bending public as well as private consciousness to its ends.37 Under these conditions life becomes a one-dimensional hegemony of technical production. Social criticism withers away, and critical theory languishes in a vacuum.

In order to revive the fortunes of the Marxian critique, Moishe Postone has proposed an overhaul of Marxian analysis, in view of certain postmodern concerns. Postone believes that he can save the current situation by altering the way in which Marx is understood, replacing the misconceptions of traditional Marxism, upon which critical theory is based. In Time, Labor, and Social Domination, he offers a reading of Marx so radical that it defies all Marxist convention. That Postone opens a dialogue with postmodernism, and that he intends to do so, is seen in the theoretical frame he has chosen for the enterprise: "this reinterpretation treats Marx's theory of capitalism less as a theory of forms of exploitation and domination within modern society, and more as a critical social theory of the nature of modernity itself. Modernity is not an evolutionary stage toward which all societies evolve, but a specific form of social life that originated in western Europe and has developed into a complex global system."38 He claims for his reading that it is less totalizing, and he presents a critique of and alterative to the bourgeois subject, but to get to that, the reader must slog through a lot of Marxist economics.

Postone's reading is largely based upon the Grundrisse, a latter work (1857-58) that most card carrying Marxists tend to dismiss as a long footnote. Postone demonstrates that Marxists' use of Marx's categories, such as market, labor, exploitation, ownership and the means of production, are historically specific and not transhistorical.39 He presents two basic arguments in defense of this reading: (1) that ownership and distribution of wealth were, for Marx, sub-sets of the larger question of the production mode; (2) he re-interprets the labor theory of value, not as Marx's attempt to construct a political economy, but an attempt to critique political economy.

Marx's notion of the mode of distribution, argues Postone, includes capitalist property relations. As Marx stated, "the laws and conditions of the production of wealth and the laws of the distribution of wealth are the same laws under different forms, and both change, undergo the same historic process; are as such only moments of a historic process."40 Postone states, "If Marx considers property relations to be relations of distribution, it follows that his concept of the relations of production cannot be fully grasped in terms of capitalist class relations, rooted in the private ownership of the means of production and expressed in unequal social distributions of power and wealth. Rather, that concept must also be understood with reference to the mode of producing in capitalism."41 This move places the production mode center stage, and renders ownership as a secondary feature, the latter growing out of the former.

As for Postone's second major point, the re-interpretation of the labor theory of value, he argues that value based on wage labor is the real contradiction in capitalism. Traditional Marxists have always insisted, as a primary tenet of their doctrine, that ownership is the major contradiction. But, says Postone, value is not based upon ownership (that is the distinction between value and material wealth), but upon labor time (we are paid for the time we work). Nevertheless, "value becomes anachronistic in terms of the potential of the system of production to which it gives rise; the realization of that potential would entail the abolition of value."42 In other words, capitalism contains its own historical negation; its assumption of value is far outstripped by its actual production capacity, and the generation of material wealth.43

The force of the historical negation allows for a transformation of the structure of capitalism. The real contradiction in capitalism is that between value and the production mode, not merely labor and management. He uses this point to undermine the notion of the transhistorical struggle between labor and management over ownership. Since class conflicts are grounded in the historical moment, they are socially constructed, not economically deterministic, and therefore, subject to change. "Marx's analysis distinguishes between the actuality of the form of production constituted by value, and its potential--a potential that grounds the possibility of a new form of production."44

He uses this point to attack Marcuse, although not by name. Postone does not deal with Marcuse in the elaborate way that he deals with other Frankfurt thinkers, yet he does clearly attack Marcuse.45 "If capitalist society is not thought of as a unitary whole and its social forms are not considered `one-dimensional' one can analyze critical and oppositional forms of consciousness as socially constituted possibilities."46 He argues that any analysis (obviously Marcuse's) which views capitalism as a social totality, "only reified and deforming," and seeks alterative consciousness only outside of capitalist forms, "...implicitly positioning a privileged position for critical thinkers whose knowledge inexplicably has escaped social deformation...cannot account for its own existence and must present itself in the form of a tragic stance or avant-garde pedagogy."47 Foucault makes the same argument about the privileged position of critical theory.48 Thus, Postone offers two criticisms of critical theory: (1) It is based upon pessimistic assumptions (the totality of capitalism); (2) it assumes a privileged position.

To answer these two points in reverse order, however, Marcuse never says that one-dimensional society sprang fully clothed with the birth of capitalism. He clearly describes one-dimensional thought as an unfolding process, one which did not always dominate society. In the early industrial phase of capitalism, feudal and primitive ways of life, which had been held over, did at least mitigate the "totalizing" aspects of capitalism. Moreover, he points out that the growth of technology, the mass media, and the domination of thought by technical facility create qualitative differences which never before existed in human consciousness.49

The categories of critical social theory were developed in a revolutionary era, and were based upon oppositional and negative concepts which defined contractions in 19th century European society [Negations].50 As Marcuse points out, categories such as `society' expressed conflict between the social and political spheres, antagonism between people and the state. Categories such as `individual,' `class,' `private,' `family' denoted forces which made their own demands upon people's lives and were not yet integrated fully into the hegemonic process. "With the growing integration of industrial society, these categories are losing their critical connotation, and tend to become descriptive, deceptive, or operational terms."51 Not only is society controlled by a single dominant hegemony, but even thought categories themselves become narrowed in such a way as to revolve around technical production.

Marcuse referred to this process of narrowing categories as "one-dimensional thought."52 Under this rubric he places all forms of scientific reductionism, operationalism, behaviorism, positivism, and the "totalitarian universe of technological rationality."53 The basic forms of thought he sees in conflict, however, are "linear logic" vs. "dialectical logic," or "the logic of domination" vs. "the logic of protest." He demonstrates the circular nature of operational thinking in P.W. Bringman's analysis of the concept of length. Length is defined by the process of measurement used to determine length. "The concept is synonymous with the corresponding set of operations."54

He goes on to quote Bringman; "to adopt the operational point of view involves much more than a mere restriction of the sense in which we understand the concept, but means a far-reaching change in all our habits of thought, in that we shall no longer permit ourselves to be used as tools in our thinking concepts of which we cannot give an adequate account in terms of operations."55 Marcuse's own example of the flood of operationalism in the social sciences, the reduction of "mind" to brain function alone, is today a major tendency, as evidenced by the flood of reductionist "brain science" material in recent years. Human beings are merely sacks of chemicals with electricity flowing through them.56 Through technical rationality logic itself has become "the logic of domination,"57,/SUP> a notion similar to the postmodern concern with "totalizing" and oppressive "logocentrism." In Eros and Civilization, Marcuse indicts logos as the topos of rationalizing domination.58

Postone's first argument is based on this view of one-dimensional society as a "totalizing" and unitary whole. Since capitalism is one-dimensionalizing, the only hope is to seek forms outside of its trajectory (through counter-culture and critical theory). Postone, on the other hand, offers the "true" Marxian contradiction from within capitalism itself; (value vs. production) will inevitably result in negation. But, Postone himself observes that the current form of hyper-capitalism ("global") is returning to its older forms, while moving beyond the scope of even governmental correction. If production outstrips value (workers produce a lot more than the value of their labor time) and the system still grows, expands, retrenches its commitment to technological production, then obviously the mere contradiction alone is not enough. The inertia of the system, plus its ability to shape consciousness, implies the need to tease out a contradiction on some other grounds.

The worker is too far removed from the overall production process, and the assumptions of production based upon value are too deeply rooted to enable change without a critique based upon something more. Consciousness must be changed enough to enable rejection of the influences of commodified life, before anyone will take seriously the notion of altering the mode of production. To wait for the inevitable change within capitalistic contradiction may mean suicide for the planet. Moreover, Postone speaks as though Frankfurt thinkers have no sense of capitalism's self-negation, but think of the "increasing instrumental rationalization of modern life as the ...irreversible results of a fate-like development."59

Marcuse's assumptions, however, are Hegelian. Reality is understood as a series of competing possibilities, and their fruitions; the negation, and the negation of the negation. Truth is not necessarily what is.60 Granted, the logic of protest is defeated before it can ever begin its work because it is a priori in contradiction to the established order. The logic of technological domination understands reality as that which is, and trains people in society to understand that which is as that which should be. Any notion of competing possibility is excluded. Granted, "that happy consciousness, the belief that the real is rational and that the system delivers the goods--reflects the new conformism which is a facet of technological rationality translated into social behavior."61 The rationality of the real is guaranteed by scientific technique. Capitalist society is the negation of further possibility. Nevertheless, Marcuse saw the potential for capitalism's own negation.

Every formation carries within itself the seeds of its own negation (this is the "negation of the negation" upon which revolutionary change is predicated--the revolutionary a priori). The Marcusian critique is aimed at teasing out this negation. Toward this end, Marcuse sought transcendent critical principles (TCP's), notions from beyond the commodified realm which, when brought into the closed realm of discourse through critique, create cracks and openings for new possibility.62 The real issue between Marcuse and Postone, then, is one of strategy, not a philosophical debate between determinism and constructivism, even though Postone sees it that way. The strategic difference is one of either predicating the contradiction upon social forms of capitalism, or upon capitalism itself.

Still, an approach can be forged which draws upon all three thinkers: Foucault, Marcuse, and Postone. Not that the three can be "synthesized," but a cogent position can be formulated which is informed by dialogue between the three. With Postone, one can agree that the mode of production is the binding force of social relations. "According to Marx, the dual function of labor in capitalism as abstract labor and as concrete labor, constitutes the fundamental structuring form of social life in capitalism--commodity. He treats the commodity as a socially constituted and constituting form -- `subjective' as well as `objective'-- of social practice."63 The mode of production, however, is sustained, not by pure economic theory, but by operational thinking and technical production.

Operationalism is translated into technical production, which in turn is translated into commodities at the level of the general public, through consumer products. The linch-pin of the system is its ability to reduce everything to a form of commodity, and to supply society with a never ending flood of better and better products. To support the production mode, mass audiences are created and handed over to advertisers; the process through which supply and demand regulates the harmony of society by creating demand in order to sustain itself.64 The mode of production creates a way of life which shapes consciousness, absorbs all competing desires, and forges the identity of the bourgeois subject. "Self-determination, the autonomy of the individual, asserts itself in the right to race his automobile, to handle his power tools, to buy a gun, to communicate to mass audiences his opinion, no matter how ignorant or aggressive it may be."65 In this light, right wing anarchy (libertarian politics and militia groups) are not revolutionary forces, but militantly one-dimensional consumers demanding more fast cars, guns, and power tools through fewer taxes.

We do constitute ourselves as subjects, and we do so in relation to power, economic forces, and the general material trammels best described as "the way of life;" all an upshot of the mode of production. This is not to say that the mode of production causes the subject in a deterministic way, but the process of living in a commodified society creates pressures which herd us into making choices: not to continue education, or not to take it up at all, to become our jobs, to narrow our interests, not to think about what we are doing, to sell out, to sell ourselves, to allow ourselves to become the products we consume.66

The process turns on alienation and necessitates compliance and co-optation of the individual mind. Through alienation the worker is stripped of the social cement necessary for solidarity with his/her fellow workers. As C. Wright Mills put it, "alienated from production, from work, he is alienated from consumption, from genuine leisure."67 The worker is alienated from production because he/she is separated from the total process, trained for a job rather than educated, expected to achieve a certain way of life and certain level within that way; overworked, underpaid, and subjected to an ever growing pace of social life which leaves no time for reflection or understanding. With free time, the worker has "fun," "happy hour," he/she meets his/her social obligation to be entertained. Thus, the worker is alienated from genuine leisure, from his/her own mind, and through the illusion of upward mobility, from class consciousness (and thus, from solidarity). No one is a worker, no one aspires to belong to the exploited class.

The consequences of this way of life are both subtle and devastating. The reasons for an easier way of life are forgotten; the system becomes and end in itself. "A comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom prevails in advanced industrial civilization, a token of technical progress...the rights and liberties which were such vital factors in the origins and earlier stages of industrial society yield to a higher stage in this society: they are losing their traditional rationale and content."68 Freedom of thought, speech, and conscience, as well as free enterprise, were, according to Marcuse, critical ideas designed to replace an outmoded culture with a more rational one. In late capitalism, however, the rights and liberties are bent to the service of the system, and the latter, elevated to the level of the social project.

Since we constitute ourselves as subjects, we can choose resistance, we can constitute ourselves as other kinds of subjects. Marx, via Postone's reading, provides an alternative model to that of the liberal or bourgeois subject. According to Postone, "The notion of the Social individual expresses Marx's idea that overcoming capitalism entails overcoming the opposition between individual and society."69 Marx's critique of individual and society, as Postone points out, is not limited to either a critique of the atomized bourgeois individual, nor a blind embrace of the collective. "This notion does not simply refer to a person who labors communally with other people; rather, it expresses the possibility of every person existing as a full and richly developed being."70 The social individual would be an individual whose individuality, while original and truly self-constituted, is given to the group freely in solidarity. The great theologian Paul Tillich, who was a Christian socialist, makes the same point--though not about Marx--in The Courage to Be.71,/SUP>

The postmodern attack on the subject often leaves one with the impression that there are only two possible alternatives; either the acquisitive, self-seeking atomized individual, or the faceless representative of an oppressed group. These are not, however, the only two options. While it would not be possible to spell out the form the social individual would take, without resorting to the sort of totalizing option Foucault abhorred, it is possible to frame a model for values which transcends both limited perspectives, and produces an individual who freely joins in the solidarity of the group.

Unfortunately, there is a "catch-22" to this notion of the "social individual." The social individual is a product of a transformed mode of production. Postone says, "a necessary condition for the realization of this possibility is that the labor of each person is full and positively self-constituting..." 72 Postone argues that, according to his reading of Marx, capitalism is "a social formation in which social production is for the sake of production, whereas the individual labors in order to consume. My discussion thus far implies that Marx envisaged its negation as a social formation in which social production is for consumption, whereas the labor of the individual is sufficiently satisfying to be pursued for its own sake."73 How is society to move from working to consuming, to a condition in which work is sufficiently satisfying to be pursued for its own sake, when everything in society, the total way of life, all theory, all sublimated desire, and all consciousness tells us that the point of labor should be to consume, that consumption is not only good, fun, and necessary, but it is what is, therefore, it is what should be?

When critical theory seeks alternative consciousness in social forms which are not "capitalist social forms," it is not resigning in defeat, it is simply seeking to re-define the situation, which is the only way to escape a catch-22. After all, there are no "capitalist social forms," there is no "capitalist society," there are social forms in a society which has been commodified and subjugated by capitalist assumptions. Society must change the basic assumptions about life if it is ever to move beyond its present commodified state, and to circumvent the process of one-dimensionality which is gaining hegemony. As stated, society formerly contained other forms, other claims upon the allegiance and time of the individual. In seeking to move some of those forms back to center stage, critical theory is only seeking to expand the realm of discourse, to open new possibilities for the cultivation of a consciousness which values freedom above consumption.

The first two steps are: (1) to make a critique; (2) to bring into the closed realm of public discourse, values and axioms from beyond the commodified realm, counter-claims upon the allegiance and consciousness of the masses [the two stated goals of our journal]. In so doing, Foucault and Postone offer valuable tools. Foucault offers an understanding of how power relations predicate consciousness of the subject, and a critique of the individuality imposed upon society. The social individual can be brought in as a model, and one can begin working toward that model prior to an overhaul of the means of production. The social individual is an alterative to the faceless postmodern, or the acquisitive modern. Marcuse, however, offers the critical theory to tie these tools together into a critique capable of opening up new possibilities for fundamental change.

We cannot change the mode of production prior to a change in consciousness; thus, we cannot produce the ideal of the social individual in concrete reality. But, we can strive to alter social relations in such a way as to bring about a consciousness which will allow an overhaul in the mode of production eventually; we can push for a real educational system rather than job-training and baby sitting; we can conduct a dialogue through critique; we can engage in concrete social praxis (action and reflection) aimed at opening the closed realm of discourse, we can move toward the ideal of the social individual though subscribing to the theory (if not the journal) of Negations.


1 Barry Katz, Herbert Marcuse And The Art of Liberation: An Intellectual Biography. Verso, 1982, 63.

1 Barry Katz, Herbert Marcuse and The Art of Liberation: An Intellectual Biography. Verso, 1982, 63.

2 Moishe Postone, Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory. London: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 388.

3 Postone, 12.

4 Ibid.

5 Luc Ferry and Alain Renaut. French Philosophy of The Sixties: An Essay on Antihumanism. Trans. Mar H.S. Cattani, Amherst: The University of Masschusetts Press, 1990. Original publication France, Gillmard, 1985.

6 Ibid., xxi.

7 For an excellent article on the influences that postmodernism has had on the Left, and some of the newer theories that are replacing traditional Marxist doctrines, see Susan Heckman, "Radical Plural Democracy: A New Theory for the Left?" Negations Vol. I no. I (Winter 1996), 41-58.

8 Trudy Steuernagle, "Marcuse, the Women's Movement, And Women's Studies," in Maracuse: From the New Left to the Next Left. ed. John Bokina and Timothy J. Lukes, University Press of Kansas, 1994, 89-106.

9 Robert Solomon, Contenintal Philosophy Since 1750: The Rise and Fall of the Self. History of Western Philosophy Series, no. 7. Oxford University Press, 1988. see also, John Sturrock, Structuralism and Since: From Levi-Strauss to Derrida. ed. Sturrock, Oxford University Press, 1979, 53.

10 Madan Sarup, An Introductiory Guide to Post Structuralism and Postmodernism. Athens, Georgia: Univeristy of Georgia Press, 1989, 37.

11 Pauline Marie Rosenau, Post-Modernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions. Princeton University Press, 1992, 53.

12 Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

13 Rosenau, 53.

14 Tome Frank, "Dark Age: Why Johnny Can't Dissent," Baffler, 1995.

15 Frederick Jameson, The New Left Review, No. 146, 57.

16 Sarup, 145. Sarup inturpreting Jameson on the postmodern subject.

17 This is how Foucault defines his own task in "The Subject and Power."

18 Foucault, "The Subject and Power," in Michel Foucault: Beyond Structualism and Hermeneutics. Second ed. Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983., 208.

19 Ibid., 211.

20 Ibid., 212.

21 Dan Latimer, ed. Contemporay Critical Theory. New York: Harcourt, Race, Jovanovich, 1989, 103.

22 David Couzens Hoy, Introduction, Foucault: A Critical Reader. ed. David Couzens Hoy, New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986, 4-5.

23 Dan F. Gruber, "Foucault's Critique of the LIberal Individual," The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. LXXXVI no 11, Nov. 1989, 615-621, 615.

24 Ibid., 621.

25 Foucault, "The Subject and Power," 208, 211,212.

26 Ian Hacking, "Self-Improvement," Hoy, op. cit. 236.

27 Ibid.

28 Foucault, in Dreyfus and Rabinow, op. cit., 216.

29 Ibid.

30 Gad Horowitz, "The Foucaultian Impasse: No Sex, No Self, No Revolution," Political Theory, Vol. 15, no. 1, Feb. 1987, 62.

31 Sarup quoting Foucault, op. cit. 91.

32 Steuernagle, 94.

33 Katz, 47.

34 Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry Inot Freud. New York: Vintage Books, 1955, 12.

35 Rosenau, 44.

36 Katz, 150.

37 Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964. ix-xvii.

38 Postone, 4.

39 Ibid., 20.

40 Marx, Grundrisse, 832, in Postone, op. cit. 22.

41 Postone, 23.

42 Ibid. 26.

43 If I understand Postone, there is a problem with his notion of the contradiction. it seems that his contradiction of labor time vs. production is still just a function of ownership. Workers are paid for their time because they don't own the means of production. Time is still part of labor power, which is essentially what workers are selling. As long as worker's pay is part of overhead, it is still payment for labor power.

44 Ibid., 28.

45 Postone's attack on the Frankfurt School mainly centers on Pollock and on Horkheimer, although he brands the lot of them, including Marcuse, as "pessimistic," which is a standard criticism.

46 Ibid., 38.

47 Ibid., 38-39.

48 Issac D. Babus, in Lukes, op. cit. 107.

49 Marcuse, ODM, 43.

50 Ibid., xiv.

51 Ibid.

52 Ibid., 123.

53 Ibid.

54 Ibid., 13.

55 Ibid.

56 For examples of this flood of reductionism, reducing the human mind to mere brain function, see Daniel Dennett, Consciousness Explained. Boston: LIttle Brown and Company, 1991. also see Michael Gazaniga, Nature's MInd. New York: Basic Books, 1992.

57 In Eros..., Marcuse begins a theoretically analysis of the notion of logos as "logic of domination," in a way similar to the Derrida notion of the logocentric, or the metaphysical arche. This is because of their mutual influence in Heidegger. In ODM, he applies the notion of the "logic of Domination" to scientific applications and to rhetorical applications.

58 Marcuse, EAC. 47.

59 Postone, 41.

60 Robert W. Marks, The Meaning of Marcuse. New York: Ballentine Books, 1970, 3.

61 Marcuse, ODM, 84.

62 This is a summary of the Negations "Manifesto," (Vol I no.I) which was based on Barry Katz work on Marcuse, op. cit.

63 Postone, 385.

64 Herbert Marcuse, Essay on LIberation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969, 12.

65 Ibid.

66 Two litteral examples of the way in which we become products: 1) in the way tv audiences are handed over to advertizing for ratings, the audience becomes the product, the advertizer becomes the consumer; 2) in GRE scores and the awarding of dipolmas, degrees, ect. we become products, industry (even the academic industry) becomes the consumer. But I say "we become the products we consume" to the extent that our self-worth and status as members of society becomes based on what we own, our selves become predicated upon the ownership of goods.

67 C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination. London: Oxford University Press, 1967 (originally published 1959), 170.

68 Ibid., 1.

69 Postone, 32.

70 Ibid.

71 Paul Tillich, The Courage to Be. The Fontana LIbrary, Theology and Philosophy, Nisbet & Co. Ltd. 1952, Fontana 1962. While Tillich does not speak of Marx in this passage, he develops a very similar concept to that of the "social individual," in having "the courage to be a part of" and "apart from" the group. He was a Christian Socialist.

72 Postone, 32.

73 Postone, 33.

Special Thanks to Susan Heckman for discussions on the early phase of this article. Her advice was most helpful.


Ferry, John Luc and Alain Renaut. French Philosophy of the Sixties: An Essay on Antihumaism. Trans. Mary H.S. Cattani, Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1990. Original publication France, Gallimard, 1985.

Foucault, Michel. "Subject and Power," in Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, second ed. ed. Hubert Dreyfus and Paul Rabinow, University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Frank, Tom. "Dark Age: Why Johnny Can't Dissent," Baffler 1995.

Gruber, Dan F. "Foucault's Critique of The Liberal Individual," The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. LXXXVI no 11, Nov. 1989.

Hacking, Ian. "Self-Improvement," in Foucault: a Critical Reader, David Couzens Hoy, ed. Basil Blackwell Publisher, 1986.

Horowitz, Gad. "The Foucaultian Impasse: No Sex, No Self, no Revolution." Political Theory, vol. 15, no. 1, Feb. 1987.

Hoy, David Couzens. Introduction, Foucault: A Critical Reader edited by David Couzens Hoy, New York: Basil Blackwell, 1986.

Katz, Barry. Herbert Marcuse And The Art of Liberation: An Intellectual Biography. Verso, 1982.

Latimer, Dan. ed. Contemporary Critical Theory. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1989.

Marcuse, Herbert. Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry into Freud. New York: Vintage Books, 1955.

_____. Essay on Liberation. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969.

_____. One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. Boston: Beacon Press, 1964.

Marks, Robert W. The Meaning of Marcuse, New York: Ballantine Books, 1970.

Mills, C. Wright. The Sociological Imagination, London: Oxford University Press, 1967 (originally 1959).

Postone, Moishe. Time, Labor, and Social Domination: A Reinterpretation of Marx's Critical Theory. London: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

Rorty, Richard. Contingency, Irony, And Solidarity. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Rosenau, Pauline Marie. Post-Modernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions. Princeton University Press, 1992.

Sarup, Madan. An Introductory Guide to Post Structuralism and Postmodernism. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 1989.

Solomon, Robert C. Continental Philosophy since 1750: The Rise and Fall of the Self. History of Western Philosophy Series: no. 7. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

Tillich, Paul. The Courage to Be. The Fontana Library, Theology and Philosophy, Nisbet & Co. Ltd. 1952, Fontana 1962.

Steuernagle, Trudy. "Marcuse, The Women's Movement, And Women's Studies," in Marcuse: From the New Left to The Next Left. ed. John Bokina and Timothy J. Lukes, University Press of Kansas, 1994.

Sturrock, John. Structuralism and Since: From Levi-Strauss to Derrida. ed. Sturrock, Oxford University Press, 1979.

Read about my legs


Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Albert Schweitzer and the Death of Civilization

Albert Schweitzer

This is probably the best article I ever wrote. It was published under the name J.L. Hinman (my name) and published in Negations, Winter of 1998. That was the academic journal that I published. It was peer reviewed. I know it's long, but hey this is my real work here. This is my academic career. In a couple of days we will get back to God stuff. Although I believe this is theological.

... The ethical ideas on which civilization rests have been wandering about the world, poverty stricken and homeless. No theory of the universe has been advanced which can give them a solid foundation...--Albert Schweitzer

Before there was Mother Teresa, there was Albert Schweitzer. At the time of his death in 1965, he was the household symbol of the best sacrificial instincts in humanity, a man who gave all he had to serve among the poorest of the poor. Unlike Mother Teresa, however, Schweitzer gave up not one, but four brilliant careers to became a doctor in equatorial Africa. Today he is chiefly known for his medical mission, and secondly as the theologian who shaped our modern view of early Christian eschatology.1 Yet, in addition to being a theologian, minister, and concert organist, Schweitzer was also a philosopher. Yet today, his philosophy has been forgotten. When he went to Africa, it became easy to tuck him away as a convenient symbol of humanitarian sacrifice, and to ignore the bothersome notions which had shocked thinkers of his day: Schweitzer argued (as early as 1900), that civilization was already dead, and that we live in a barbarous society. In so arguing, he anticipated much of Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man, and C. Wright Mill's notion of the "cheerful robot," as well as the decline which now besets our society. In 1923 he published, The Philosophy of Civilization2 While many of Schweitzer's ideas are quaint, seemingly outmoded, even naive, they contain a profound nature. In an age when "civilization" is either vilified as hierarchical, exploitive and environmentally unsound, or it is reduced to a sociological examination of cities, it may help to know that, at least according to Schweitzer, we are beating the wrong dead horse. Schweitzer argues that the concept of civilization has been forgotten, and the material infrastructure which accompanied it historically has been put over as the thing itself.

Schweitzer was born on January 14th, 1875 at Kayserberg in Upper Alsace, his father was a minister from a long line of ministers, and he was the older cousin of Jean-Paul Sartre. He grew up in Gunsbach in the Muster valley. In October of 1893 the young Albert became a student at Strasbourg University. He attended the lectures of Heinrich Julius Holtzman (New Testament), Wilhelm Windelband, and Theobald Ziegler (history of Philosophy), all of whom became his academic advisers and close personal friends.3 In July 1899 he took his doctorate, and shortly after that he began a position on the theological faculty at Strousbourg, and another position as an assistant minister at a small church near by. He began work on his best known book, Quest of the Historical Jesus4 in 1901, it was published in 1906. By that time, he had already declared his intention to become a jungle doctor (which he announced to family and friends in October of the previous year). The decision was a bombshell for all who knew him, (Ziegler burst into tears) and everyone tried to discourage the idea. Schweitzer himself said that the decision was based on a natural realization one morning as he woke up, he had been allowed a happiness and success that the vast majority of people never know, and now it was time to do something concrete for the happiness of others.5 He began work as a medical student in 1905, while continuing to do some of his greatest theological scholarship, including a revision of the Quest. Some where along the way he also found time to write a book on Bach, and a book on Organ building. He continued his intellectual work and music throughout his life, writing The Philosophy of Civilization while a jungle doctor in Africa (completing the work in 1923).

The Philosophy is divided into two parts, The Decay and Restoration of Civilization (also published as a single volume by Unwin books) and Civilization and Ethics. In part I, Schweitzer argues that we live in a barbarous society because the concept of civilization has been forgotten. The notion has become confused with the trappings of the material infrastructure of civilization; the "modern" industrialized world of technological production. But, civilization is not merely in-door plumbing, telephones, and sky scrappers, it is a notion built on ethical assumptions. In part II, Civilization and Ethics, Schweitzer deals with a long and detailed analysis of the failure of ethical thinking which led to the decline of civilization. Schweitzer defines Civilization as "the sum-total of progress made by `mankind' in every sphere of action and from every point of view, in so far as this progress is serviceable for the spiritual perfecting of the individual. It's essential the ethical perfecting of the individual and the community" (translation notes, 69). This definition, is fraught with the baggage of a terminology long outdated, and laced with the metaphysical assumptions of an age which we are coming no longer to understand. Nevertheless, it encodes the philosophical givens of Schweitzer's day ("progress," "individual," "spiritual"); they are anathema in our time. Rather than try and unpack these definitions at this point, because that would require unraveling an entire world view, it would be better to use them operationally at the moment, and to explain Schweitzer's use of them in the context of his notion of civilization.

For Schweitzer, civilization consists in the efforts of individuals, as part of the mass, to overcome the struggle for existence and to establish favorable conditions for living. But, "favorable conditions for living" involve more than food and housing, but also the situations in which the artistic and intellectual ("spiritual") freedom of the individual can flourish as well.6 The struggle is twofold: to overcome the limitations imposed by nature which make living burdensome (physical survival), and that of conflicts between people. This latter suggests the necessity of ethical content, it also implies something more than mere survival, since humans seem to be constituted such that mere survival is not enough. We also create culture, and when culture reaches a level such that the intellectual and artistic is able to flourish, and the ethical level obtains a degree of moral excellence, we are civilized (Decay, 41). Schweitzer's notion of "progress" was not Hegelian, not based on some inevitable telos, but based upon a more practice desire to solve problems. In the late 19th century, however, according to Schweitzer, the grand metaphysical systems of the day collapsed, and in so doing, took the ethical assumptions they had co-opted with them. Having stripped the "spiritual" dimension from the equation, all that remained was a physical definition of civilization; civilization came to be seen as overcoming nature and establishing highly organized and viable living conditions in a purely physical sense. In other words, the totality of the twofold struggle is reduced to its material components alone, and the concept of civilization is limited purely to its material dimension.

Schweitzer saw the results of the loss of civilization taking shape in concrete interactions between society and the material conditions imposed by economic forces. "[hindrances to civilization] are to be found in the field of spiritual as well as economic activity, and depend above all on the interaction between the two" (9). Civilization is the result of people thinking out the ideals of progress and fitting them to the concrete situation of their lives (Ibid.). Civilization, therefore, depends upon freedom of thought and action. "Material and spiritual freedom are closely bound up with one another. Civilization presupposes free men [and presumably women] for only by free...[individuals] can it be thought out and brought into realization. But today both freedom and the capacity for thought have been diminished" (10). Just as C. Wright Mills and Herbert Marcuse7 would argue four and five decades latter, Schweitzer saw an inverse correlation between freedom and capacity for thought on the one hand, and the rise of material abundance and prosperity on the other (Ibid.). The struggle for abundance, the imposition of material conditions for survival in an industrialized society, and ideas of self-interest which result from this way of life, subsume the ideals of civilization, and the energy and time it takes to ponder them.

In much of his analysis Schweitzer sketches out a sense of modern life which anticipates Marcuse's One-Dimensional Man. In the opening lines of that work, Marcuse speaks of "a smooth, easy, reasonable democratic unfreedom...,"8 so Schweitzer observers, "...through revolutions in the conditions of life...[humans] become in ever greater numbers, unfree instead of free" (87). He sketches an historical development of capitalism with almost Marxian overtones.

The type of man who once cultivated his own bit of land becomes a worker who tends a machine in a factory; manual workers and independent tradespeople become employees. They lose the elementary freedom of the man who lives in his own house and finds himself in immediate connection with Mother Earth. Further, they no longer have the extensive and unbroken consciousness of responsibility of those who live by their own independent labor. The conditions of their existence are therefore unnatural. They no longer carry on the struggle for existence in comparatively normal relations in which each one can by his own ability make good his position whether against Nature or against the competition of his fellows, but they see themselves compelled to combine together and create a force which can exert better living conditions (87-88).

Perhaps Schweitzer lacked Marx's faith in the nature of class struggle, but he understood that the industrial age, in so far as it had crated a streamlined version of class antagonisms, and moved workers from their own sphere of life and work, into the factory or the office as cogs in the machine. As Marx stated, "The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly revolutionizing the instruments of production, and thereby the relations of production, and with them the whole relations of society... all that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned."9

Moreover, the pace and tension of this way of life, a life that counterfeits civilization in the techniques which have built the material apparatus of a once civilized society, place such demands upon our mental energy and time that the ideal of civilization, and the practices of freedom are forgotten. In time we come to accept the material abundance and the rigors of maintaining the infrastructure as a replacement for the thing itself. "Overwork, physical or mental or both is our lot. We can no longer find time to collect and order our thoughts. Our spiritual dependence increases at the same rate as our material dependence" (88). He speaks of the growing power of the state, of the increase in political organization, and economic forces which strangle the individual and necessitate conformity (Ibid.). While Marx sees class struggle as an inevitable result of capitalistic ownership, Schweitzer sees it as a threat to peace, a problem necessitated by growing industrialization and the greed of ownership. Where Marx saw class struggle as a logical social outcome, Schweitzer saw it as a necessary although problematic and dangerous reaction to a situation which had no other solution, yet he places the blame squarely on the shoulders of the capitalists: " was machinery and world commerce which brought about the war (WWI) "(Ibid.). But in the final analysis, he is arguing that all of these ills, class oppression, war, and economic deprivation, are the result of losing the concept of civilization, and of mistaking the historically bound material conditions which accompanied it for the thing itself.

Schweitzer argues that in so far as workers are separated from the total production process, the individual becomes a mere "cog in the Machine." This holds true for office work as well as factory work. The office worker shuffling papers (or pounding the key board) is also left out of the over all production process, so that there is no sense of craftsmanship, no sense of the overall purpose. A mentality is cultivated in which the "bottom line" is all that matters. The reason for producing the product in the first place is lost. Profit margins become the reason for all our endeavors. As people become their jobs, plan careers around orbitrating production problems and maintaining cost effectiveness, etc. the notion grows gradually that the commodified product is the standard model against which all of life may be judged. "Excellence" in life becomes greater efficiency in production.

The resulting affects upon popular culture transform leisure time and entertainment into even greater anti-civilizing forces. Predicting the sound-bite and the "dumbing down" that we now see all around us, he comments on the simplification of newspapers compared with those of the nineteenth century, the result of time constraints on readers (12). He speaks of how the worker must spend leisure hours in vein entertainment since his/her energies have been drained to the point that any serious contemplation is futile "To spend the time left to him for leisure in self-cultivation, or in serious...[conversation] or with books, requires a mental collectedness and self-control which he finds difficult" (11). Schweitzer's words reflect an interest in books as a part of mass culture which is unknown today. Of course, they didn't have as many ways to waste their time in 1923, and so they tended to read more. But, the nature of an ever expanding entertainment and leisure market have meant a totally different way of life, one in which it is natural to expend energies on fruitless and pointless entertainments, and attempts at serious conversation are often a serious social transgression.

As civilization is lost conceptually, it is replaced conceptually by a shift to the organizational structure of its own physical infrastructure. Organizational structure comes to be seen as civilization itself, and organizational strategies come to replace ideals. Learning and thinking become specialized and segmented(16). On this point he anticipates C. Wright Mills argument that the rise of organizational bureaucracy limits freedom. As the arms of bureaucracy stretch forth, as workers lose the global vision of their activities, the goals and ends of their lives, they come to rationalize their lot in the overall scheme of things. The opportunity to reason about life is replaced with rationalization, no one can follow the big picture. The system takes on a life of its own, even the leaders, "like Tolstoy's generals, only pretend to know what's going on." (Mills, op. cit.). Specialization of knowledge and scientific reductionism are the result of the decay of our concepts of civilization. "Most clearly perhaps in the pursuit of science, we can recognize the spiritual danger with which specialization threatens not only individuals, but the spiritual life of the is carried on now by teachers who have not a wide enough outlook to make their scholars understand the interconnection of the individual sciences, and to give them a mental horizon as wide as it should be" (13).

In the latter part of the 20th century, these trends in education and reductionist thinking have reached critical mass, they have created a situation in which the loss of a concept of civilization creates further erosion of civilizing forces. A hefty portion of the work of professors now consists in trying to fill in gaps left by the educational system. Still more alarming, however, is the realization that the educational system itself is being dismantled and replaced with a corporate training system. A study by the National Alumni Forum found that two thirds of the colleges and Universities answering the survey do not require English majors to learn the Western literary canon. The emphasis has been shifted from Homer and Dante to boxing stories, gangster films, and soap operas. Only 23 of 67 schools responding required Shakespeare.10 It is not that society will fall apart because people don't read Shakespeare, but, the perpetuation of civilization as a concept requires at least passing familiarity with the greatness of the past. When Graduate students can spout off reams of regurgitation about Derrida or Lyotard, but have never heard of Dante, there might just be an indication that something is wrong. As it will be argued further down, civilization is passed on through the tradition of letters. Knowing the tradition as a continuous chain of literary and philosophical links is part of the process of maintaining it (and losing the links, Schweitzer argues, is part of the problem). While many of the respondents site student choice as the main reason for dropping requirements of canonical writers, others refer to the trendy ideologies of the day (Ibid.). The canon is hierarchical, we must not privilege one writer over another. Of course the effect is that boxing stories are privileged over Faulkner or Joyce.

More and more, universities are becoming the servants of corporate finance. Originally, state universities were conceived as a way for working class kids to get a college education. As the consequences of Reagan's tax revolt continue to work their magic, however, fewer tax payers are willing to foot the bill. Education is no longer viewed as a means of passing on a repository of knowledge in culture, but merely a means of job training. State Universities are more often forced to seek private funding, which ties them to corporate needs and expectations. The results of this trend are devastating for academic freedom. "Knowledge that was free, open and for the benefit of society is now proprietary, confidential and for the benefit of business. Educators who once jealously guarded their autonomy now negotiate curriculum planning with corporate sponsors... [emphasis mine] ...Professors who once taught are now on company payrolls churning out marketable research in the campus lab, while universities pay the cut-rate fee for replacement teaching assistants... University presidents, once the intellectual leaders of their institutions, are now accomplished bagmen."11

Moreover, the avenues of learning which once offered the working class a means of entry into the rarefied world of letters, are being dismantled. As a case in point, the State University of New York, (SUNY) once offered affordable education to the poor, and many students who began in the humblest of circumstances wound up getting Ph. D's. But, SUNY is being taken apart, it's funding curtailed, and it's future tied to corporate leadership. Mayor Rudy Giuliani has called for an end to open admissions at CUNY, (City University of New York) which is also being overhauled. "In recent months, SUNY and CUNY have come under a barrage of attacks from anti-tax activists and right-wing think tanks and from the Republican politicians whose budget-cutting frenzies they feed..."12 Solomon documents the involvement of the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation (a mega funder of right-wing think tanks) Scaife Family Foundations, the Manhattan Institute, and many others. The major reason for "reform" cited by the Mayor, is that the system is a failure--remedial courses, only 9% of the students graduate in four years (which is true of most baccalaureate graduates now days, as the Center for Educational Statistics shows (Ibid. 6) and only 1% from the cities community colleges in two years. The content of courses is also sited, the emphasis upon popular culture rather than the classics, but the "reformers" are not replacing these remedial courses with Dante and Milton. They infuse corporate need into University life, and orient the program along the lines of a job training program. "They speak of the degrees they grant as `products' and their students as `customers' and insist upon `productivity measures' that are more appropriate to widget manufacturing than to broadening students' knowledge and critical faculties."13

While academics try to justify abandonment of the Western tradition of letters with the most ideologically trendy line, the economic realities lurking behind the problem speak for themselves. The American publishing industry is going under, with sales of adult hardcover trade books slipping 7% in one year (1996-1997). The sale of Randomhouse to the German company Bertelsmann is a prime example. It is not that publishers are selling so few books that they can't stay in business, rather, the expectations of booksellers are not being met. Publishing has changed profoundly over the past 30 years. "Today's books are more like grocery products than works of literature. Publishers scrutinize an author's sales history and before buying a new title they consult with the marketing and sales departments about the books chances."14 As the concept of civilization collapses, art and literature are reduced to commodities. A rash of corporate takeovers in the `80s and early `90s transformed the publishing industry. "Under corporate ownership, the cultural appeal of books began to give way increasingly to bottom line considerations. Media czars, expecting books to yield the same 15%-20% profits as their other current businesses..." (Ibid.). Thus, publishers try to compete with other forms of media by holding publishing hostage to market research. While there is a valid question of causality involved here--is the failure to teach and respect the canon the cause or the result of this cultural drift away from serious reading?--it is not hard to see that Universities and other institutions of "higher learning" are doing precious little to prevent the consequences. Not only are the very people who should be furthering the tradition, seeking the theoretical means to justify its demise, but the University itself is imperiled.

One might add to the litany the state of the arts. While the explosion in small presses has brought with it an abundance of very prosaic poetry and a flourishing small press movement, the situation for artistic institutions is very different. "Every major cultural institution, from the metropolitan Museum of Art to the New York Public Library to Lincoln Center would collapse immediately if it were at the mercy of market a handful of entertainment conglomerates have become the main suppliers of cultural products, and even popular arts, it is argued, have suffered under their watch."15 "High culture," is an acquired taste. Society is no longer very interested in passing on that taste, thus, the market cannot support it. As we grow more dependent upon market forces, the emptiness of the culture begins to feed upon itself. The educational system must work twice as hard, it must battle both the tax revolt, and the culture itself; a culture which has been taught to despise learning and thinking. Without the concept of civilization, all aspects of life are reduced to commodities, and the commodification becomes the only valid pursuit, dominating all taste, all vision, and all aspirations.

The common link in each of these problems is between the loss of civilizing influences and their affects upon society. Each new problem which emerges becomes in turn a new source of the loss of civilization. Popular culture is a good example. As the culture itself takes on a reduced aspect in its "spiritual" milieu, (capacity for free thought and artistic expression), the resulting popular culture creates mazeways through which the next generation grows up even more separated from the ideals and pursuit of civilized life. The next generation grows up thinking of civilization as freeways and flush toilets, with no concept that it could be an ideal of behavior or of individual thought, and with no concept that spare time might be a source of intellectual renewal, rather than the chance to play. As C. Wright Mills remarked, alienated from work, the average person is alienated from leisure.16 The generation after that grows up thinking of civilization as one of those old fashioned hierarchical things we were smart to get rid of, and the generation after that one will grow up never knowing the term existed. The specialization of knowledge is an even better example. While specialization itself is necessitated by technological advancement, the disconnected nature of knowledge results from the loss of a global view. We do not have "learning," we merely have "information," because the ideals of having a civilization are missing. Students are not taught to have an inter-related world view, but to cram bits of knowledge into their heads so that they might find a job. The University ceases to be a "little universe," but becomes a honeycomb of specialized interests, and increasingly the pet project of industry. In turn, knowledge becomes even more specialized under the demands of meeting the burden of the already overly specialized fields. Thus, the loss of civilization becomes a "snowball" effect. Ultimately, however, Schweitzer traces the original core of the snowball back to the failure of 19th century philosophy.

"Ethics and Civilization," Part II of The Philosophy, is a survey of Western ethical thought (Socrates to Schweitzer himself). The survey of ethical thinking is crucial because, in Schweitzer's view, civilization is primarily an ethical matter, thus, he must explain its failure in terms of an ethical failure in Western thought. Throughout Western history, but especially in the 19th century, thinkers had tried to ground their ethical axioms in metaphysical systems, or in an understanding of the workings of the world. But, axioms based on these principles never succeeded in achieving any sort of consensus, or withered away with the systems upon which they were based. A mere understanding of the world fails to connect the axiom to any principle of grounding, and stems from the failure to achieve a metaphysical system. Metaphysical systems, however, only succeed in creating a dualism; subjecting experience of life to knowledge of the world, or abstractions which subjugate reality to the dictates of the system. Thinkers such as Hegel and Fichte tied ethical thinking to their systems so closely that, in Schweitzer's view, when those systems collapsed, ethical theory went with them (3).

Fichte, Hegel, and other philosophers, who for all their criticism of rationalism, paid homage to its ethical ideals, attempted to establish a similar ethical and optimistic view of things by speculative methods, that is by logical metaphysical discussion of pure being and its developing into a universe...doing violence to reality in the interest of their theory of the universe...Since that time the ethical ideas on which civilization rests have been wandering about the world, poverty-stricken and homeless...The age of philosophical dogmatism had come definitely to an end, and after that nothing was recognized as truth except the science which described reality. Complete theories of the universe no longer appeared as fixed stars; they were regarded as resting on hypothesis, and ranked no higher than comets (4).

(103). When the idealist systems collapsed and their ethical valuations went with them, the resulting vacuum was filled by the only metaphysical system still standing, that of scientific reductionism.

There were attempts at constructing a "scientific" ethics, biological and sociological.These attempts Schweitzer denounces as absurd, "there is no such thing as a scientific system of ethics, there can only be a thinking one." Thus, Western thought was left with an outlook which was pessimistic in relation to understanding anything beyond the mere physical workings of the world. For Schweitzer, this attempt at constructing "biological ethics" is symptomatic of the cynical approach of modernity itself.

Though pessimistic, modernity garbs itself in the disguise of optimism; a hallow, empty technological optimism based purely on control of the material conditions of life and a relationship to "things," (96-97). It is a pessimistic view because it gives up on an understanding of life, and despairs of knowing anything save the mundane aspects of control within the immediate material world. It substitutes instead, mere manipulation for actual understanding, "information" for real knowledge, and buying power for freedom. The false optimism of modernity is the essence of one-dimensionality. The result is the notion of civilization which we know today, the technical production of civilization's infrastructure, the world of "modern convenience," the thing Gilligan and the cast-aways wanted to get back to when they spoke of "getting back to civilization." In this sense the 1939 world's fair mentality, which predicted the brightest future for humanity based on technological fixes for everyone, was the most pessimistic view in human history. The view of civilization which seeks domination over nature is, in reality, a counterfeit notion of civilization, one which wearies the happy persona of material convenience and prosperity over a nature mired in despair.

Just as civilization is primarily ethical, so Schweitzer argues that the state of ethical theory in his day reflected the pessimistic roots underlying the er zots notion of civilization. What he had reference to, in 1923, was the rise of "emotivism" with G.E. Moore, at the turn of the century. Emotivism tried to rid ethics of its "emotive" aspects and to replace them with "scientific" ethics. One of the emotive aspects being replaced was the concept of morality. Schweitzer had also seen the early rise of linguistic analysis. In the decades that followed the publication of the Philosophy, the linguistic analysis of Year and Dewey brought in a purely descriptive form of ethical theory; normative ethics were dismissed as "outmoded." The situation today has not changed radically since the emergence of the descriptive trend. While there are normative ethics being done, especially in areas such as medical ethics, animal rights, and feminist ethics, and while many ethicists still try to ground their axioms in one principle or another (reason, nature, etc.) there is no common consensus. Then, there are the Derridians, who feel that any sort of grounding principle is, a priori, impossible and even oppressive. The pessimism of the Derridians and the "negative" side of postmodernism is a logical conclusion to that of modernity. Postmodernism, for good or for ill (and it is both) stems largely from a disillusionment with modernity. This pessimism is reflected in Derridian based versions of postmodern ethical theory.

The works of Richard Rorty are a prime example of this pessimism. Like Schweitzer, Rorty is disenchanted with metaphysical idealism. Rorty wants to present the notion of a "liberal utopia" free from the cruelty of the past; ethical, open, and democratic, and based, not upon the logocentric clap-trap of the past, but upon a Derridian reading of social need. He determines that since there are too many good descriptions of the world, and since no one of them can gain leverage enough to be privileged as truth, there is no truth.17 Since there is no truth, there is no telos to move toward. Therefore, one should simply mouth the bromides of the community while holding fast in one's heart the realization that all ethical values are false. Values are merely metaphors for lack of truth; or for the desires and will of the community. No thought is given to the nature of the community, to its justice, or lack there of.18 When confronted with the charge that he is merely relativizing ethical judgements, he answers: "...My strategy will be to try to make the vocabulary in which these objections are phrased look bad, thereby changing the subject, rather than granting the objector his choice of weapons and terrain by meeting his criticisms head on" (when the subject is saying something Rorty likes, it becomes "she--" obsessively).19 While he does stipulate that the beliefs of his "utopia" would be fostered by "free and open encounters" and that cruelty would be abolished, (along with religion of course) he also stipulates that "what comes to be believed" in the community would define the nature of truth.20 While this is no different from the current socially constructed reality, in which "truth" is "what has come to be believed," Rorty puts a spin on it which takes his "utopia" a step further into barbarism. "To see one's language, one's conscience, one's morality, and one's highest hopes as contingent products, as literalizations of what once were accidentally produced metaphors..." defines truth seeking in the "liberal utopia."21 In this context he is not simply speaking of being open minded, he is talking about giving away our most cherished self-definitions and sense of personal telos.

Rorty's views, while not intended to be representative of the current state of ethical theory, seems to be symptomatic of modernity's one-dimensional thinking. First, he closes the realm of discourse around the social project, maintaining his "liberal utopia," to the point that all truth and value is a mere function of the desires of "the community" (whatever that is). Secondly, he states that in his utopia no one would compare competing values to determine their moral worth, because, after changing the "vocabulary" "there will be no way to rise above the culture, language and institutions, and practices one has adopted and view all these as on a par with all the others."22 (Italics mine). Presumably, this means limiting discourse to the immediate localized community, with no reference to a larger tradition, since truth is merely the metaphor of communal desires, and no larger tradition posses anything we need in the way of "truth;" in other words, what Marcuse calls "a closed realm of discourse," the basic condition of one-dimensional society.23 Moreover, Rorty goes on to quote Donald Davidson as saying that one cannot look beyond language and culture.24 Rorty bends this quotation out of context, to imply that there is no need to compare competing values, because all values are mired in the same social constructs (therefore, capitalism is socialism, black is white, good is evil, ect.).Of course, Davidson is speaking of the necessity of language to thought (no intentionality of the speaker--Derrida's argument in Speech and Phenomina), while Rorty is speaking of imposing a particular social agenda through the manipulation of his vocabulary--which amounts to little more than a subtle Orwellian manipulation of thought, which is then defined as "free exchange" because it occurs within Rorty's blessed community. And what of the nature of the community, what if it is a fascistic community? No doubt, after the advent of "Rortyspeak" that will no longer be a danger.25

Schweitzer offers an alternative to such cynicism, one that is heavily dominated by three influences: Nietzsche, Schoupenhouer,26 and the 18th century philosophes. While he was a Christian theologian, he is able to embrace such a strange collection of interests because his theology represents the best in an otherwise problematic revisionary tradition, that of 19th century German liberalism.27 Thus, he combines the life-affirmations of Neitzsche with the ego purging of Schopenhauer. He jettisons the Dimonic fury of Neitzsche, and the life-escaping tendencies of Schopenhauer. Thus, in a sense, he creates a positive and selfless Nietzschian Ubermenche.28 From the 18th century he takes a love of reason as framed by a love of nature (nature=reason, "natural light") which is the cornerstone of an elemental thinking that results in his own "nature mysticism."29

But, the philosophical outlooks which he struggles against are Hegelian idealism and scientific reductionism. Schweitzer loved science, and undertook some scientific study in his youth (he did become a doctor). What he opposed, however, was the fragmentation of science into a reductionistic attitude which ignored a global philosophical view, and which reduced the experience of human being to mere description of the world. For Schweitzer, ethical thinking must proceed in an "elemental way," from "life-view" to "world view "(221-235). "Dr. Schweitzer himself defines worldview (`Weltanschauung') as the sum-total of the thoughts which the community or the individual think about the nature and purpose of the universe and about the place and destiny of...[humanity] in the world."30 While he embraces the search for a weltanschauung, he is concerned that world view be predicated upon "life view" rather than upon a theory of knowledge. The mistake he finds again and again in Western thought, as with Hegel and the idealists, is to try and base too much upon epistemology and metaphysics. World view is given in life-view. But, Western thought has tried to work things the other way around, to predicate a view of life on the metaphysical structures of its world-view. (75-77). The subjugation of life-view to Weltanschauung creates several problems for ethical thinking, and for civlization.To predicate the view of life (that is, one's understanding of his/her own life, its purpose and goals, in relation to the context or his/her life-world) upon a metaphysical world-view, is to impose preconceived categories upon reality.

Even though he never used the term "phenomenology," he demonstrates a phenomenological attitude, which can be seen in the development of his understanding of religious experience which eschews abstraction and systematizing, and proceeds from an attempt to allow the phenomena to suggest their own categories out of the experience of human being in concert with nature. "The Essence of Being, the Absolute, The Spirit of the Universe [Hegelian] and all similar expressions denote nothing actual but something conceived in abstractions which for that reason is also absolutely unimaginable. The only Being is that which manifests itself in Phenomena" (4). Schweitzer's ethical thinking was derived from this sense of "phenomenological oppression" of the "will to live." Knowledge derived from the will to live is rooted in our experience as human being, and thus should allow reality as we perceive it to dictate the categories of thought to us. "My knowledge of the world is a knowledge from outside, and remains forever incomplete. The knowledge derived from my will-to-live is direct, and takes me back to the mysterious movements of life as it is in itself" (282). In order to avoid the mistakes of idealist systems, ethical thinking must "not lapse into abstract thinking, but must remain elemental, understanding self-devotion to every form of living being with which it can come into relation" (307). Schweitzer's "elemental thinking," proceeds from one's own inward experience of the will-to-live, turned outward toward a "reverence for life." The term "will-to-live," which is a Schpenhaurian term, sounds as though it refers only to the struggle of an organism for its own survival, but, even though it is rooted in this notion, Schweitzer turns it outward, toward concern with the survival of others. It is an optimistic and intuitive (pre-cognative, pre-given) sense that life is important, has meaning, and can be approached through goodwill, toward the betterment of all life.

The will-to-live prompts an attitude of affirmation of all life, through an immediate organic connection (280). The will-to-live can remain on the level of struggle for survival, in a pessimistic outlook, but it can also be taken to a higher level through the recognition of life in the midst of all life. He rejects as arbitrary first principles such as Descartes' Cognito, but instead, grounds his ethics in an "immediate" and "comprehensive" fact of consciousness, "which says, `I am life which wills to live, in the midst of life which wills to live.' This is not an ingenious dogmatic formula. Day by day, and hour by hour, I live and move in it...Ethics consists in my experiencing the compulsion to show to all will-to-live the same reverence as I do to my own" (309). Thus, in order to turn outward toward others the urge to protect the will-to-live, Schweitzer does not resort to some means of abstract logical or metaphysical first principle, but he begins with an organic sense of reality. There is an urge to protect life, there is compassion toward others, these are pre-given, pre-cognitive realizations. When we do start to think about them, however, they form the basis of a morality. "There we have given us that basic principle of the moral which is a necessity of thought; it is good to maintain and encourage life, it is bad to destroy life or to obstruct it," (Ibid.).

The seeds of reverence for life must be cultivated, as they grow through society, by means of civilization. In so doing, the civilizing tendencies of reverence for life levin the culture, through a higher application of life-affirmation. Since protection of life involves a desire for the individual to flourish, quality of life must be protected as well. The highest quality of life involves freedom, and the opportunity of the individual to be fulfilled. Thus, reverence for life is expanded to form the basis of a social philosophy. It promulgates values beyond those of mere survive, such as peace, freedom, and social justice: Schweitzer was perhaps the first philosopher to support a philosophical basis for animal rights, and he castigates all of Western philosophy for not "taking animals seriously."31 He supported a reverence for nature, which furnishes the basis for an ecological outlook, and he saw domination of nature as the product of the counterfeit notion of civilization (333).32 Finally, he denounced the thinking of his time which saw people of color as less than fully human and fully deserving of all the rights of humanity. Schweitzer understood this failure to overcome the bigotry of the past as the result of civlization's demise, (The Decay, 32). He argues that civilization is not merely the privilege of an elite, and that the masses do not exist simply to provide the elite with the obtainment of their goals. Through a progressive approach to reverence for life the principles of the highest quality of life and human dignity are extended to all people (335).33 Thus, Schweitzer's social agenda culminates in reverence for life as the basis for solidarity with the poor and the worker, and perhaps an approach to some form of social democracy (he does hint at this, but does not spell it out) (Ibid.).

The immediate connecting link between an ethics of life-affirmation and a social agenda is the "outmoded" twin combination of civilization and "progress." This is a dangerous pair. In Schwetizer's day it had come to mean tearing down the natural world and imposing mechanical and human-structures upon all of life; these terms, "civilization" and "progress" came to justify everything from the exploitation of the worker, to the ecological devastation of urban sprawl. These twin values are the bain of the ecology movement, and they are the epitome of everything Schweitzer was against, but of course, not the way he uses the terms! It should be clear by now what he meant by "civilization;" the ethical content of the struggle to improve life on every level, form physical survive, to artistic freedom and moral excellence. The links from life-affirmation, to civilization, to social agenda run like so: life affirmation equals affirmation of quality of life for others, the struggle to improve and obtain such quality creates the affects of civilization, and civilization itself secures the goal of a social agenda because it is, part and parcel, the building of a way of life in which the values of human dignity, freedom, etc. are being cultivated. These values are being cultivated, or we do not have civilization. They are cultivated through the exercise of civilization upon culture, both in its popular and "higher" forms. Schweitzer is saying, if we have civilization, and we are aware of what it means, we are working on making things better for people; "making things better" includes not only housing and jobs, but also voting rights and political involvement, as well as symphony orchestras and artistic exhibitions, because these improve the quality of life, and they are expressions of our search to come to terms with our human being.

Progress in the Schweitzerian sense means, not flush-toilets or imperialistic expansion of markets, In the 19th century, progress came to be conceived of as a rumbling fright train which ploughed under everything anyone could care about, as it moved inexorably toward some undefined, lofty, abstract goal; in the film version of H.G. Wells' Things to Come, the tortured denizens of a "Buck Rodgers" style future utopia howl "how long must we endure this progress? Wont you let mankind rest?" (this is just before the first manned trip to the moon is made in a giant bullet fired from an enormous cannon--supposedly in the 21st century). Progress came to be seen as a rationalization for the bad effects of development, when woods are destroyed for the sake of freeways, "well, that's progress, you can't fight progress." "Progress," in Schweitzer's view, is not an inevitable march toward some ill-defined state of affairs which no one wants and which makes everything "perfect" by making life unlivable. As Simone Weil point out, the image of progress which views its inevitability as economic expansion comes, not from an ideal, but from the necessity of expanding economic production, which is itself necessitated by the need to constantly diversify production and therefore labor.34 Economic expansion is confused with civilization because it involves expanding the infrastructure of civilization, which is all that is left of the concept after reductionism. The infrastructure of civilization [the er zots civilization--material production] is a necessity, a practical result of organized living conditions, but it must be thought of only as one means of mediating the concept of civilization, not a substitute for the thing itself, and it must be curtailed to accommodate nature. Nor was Schweitzer trying to lay out a grand theory of history, his use of the term "progress" does not imply an inevitable telos, no "footprints of God in the sands of time."

Progress was, for Schweitzer, the development of an understanding of life-affirmation which constantly seeks to expand the concept and work out its meaning on a higher level [i.e., as we move from the rudimentary level of physical survival, to the "spiritual" level, freedom, artistic expression, and making these things part of our world view and available to everyone--we are making "progress"]. Schweitzer believed that the organic connection of this elemental thinking, the basis in experience of life-affirmation, was a more solid foundation than had been attempted in Western thought since the enlightenment. He defines progress in civilization as "supremacy of reason over the dispositions of men" in the struggle for life. By that, of course, he means moral supremacy, not megalomaniacal control (the Decay, 41). He admits that the relative progress we accrue in the struggle to survive over the conditions of nature brings with it also disadvantages of putting us at odds with nature (Ibid.). The "supremacy of reason"35 is the ability of life-affirmation to mitigate conflict and to secure peace, (Ibid.).

Schweitzer mediates his view of reason with a realization about its shortcomings. Like the early 19th century romantic opposition to the Aufklarung and to rationalism "we can see...the world dominated by a barren intellectualism, convictions governed by mere utility, a shallow optimism, a great deal of the opposition which it offered rationalism, the reaction of the early 19th century was right..."(Decay, 78). As we are children of both romanticism and the enlightenment, we still view rationalism as arid, and from the enlightenment, we cling to a shallow optimism based upon our understanding and manipulation of the physical world. Rationalism, for Schweitzer, was not the stolid enterprise the romantics made it out to be, but it had to be tempered with life-view. Rationalism, for Schweitzer, must involve a passionate living out of insights gained from the phenomenological attitude of live-view amid a rational framework of world view.36 An appropriate image for Schweitzer's notion of the failure of rationalism might be taken from Goethe's Faust, part II, where the workmen set to building an earthly paradise with picks and shovels. They set out to build a new world with primitive tools which were little better than anything previously known. Like those workmen, rationalism laid a good foundation with the first implements it found, but when it became apparent that the task was too great, and a finer set of tools was needed, it refused to seek anything else. Rationalism purported to interpret the world based purely on reason alone, yet it refused to venture into any territory beyond that which could be established by its own procedures and assumptions. When confronted with an avalanche of questions it couldn't answer, rationalism became overwhelmed and gave way to escape into romanticism and then idealism (Decay, 80).

The crucial role of reason and progress in Schweitzer's theory are their relation in building "world view." His entire analysis of the loss of civilization hinges on the assumption that we have lost the capacity for world view and have began to think that we can get along without one, or that we do not need one which embraces anything more grandiose than utility. Worldview is essential in restoring civilization, because we are, as a society, ultimately limited by the world view in which we live. World view is the conceptual limit upon our ability to infuse into society an attitude of struggle toward civilization. "That world view is optimistic which gives existence the preference as against non-existence and thus affirms life as something processing value in itself. From this attitude to the universe results the impulse to raise its highest level of value. Thence originates activity directed to the improvement of living conditions of individuals, of society, of nations and of humanity, and from it spring the external achievements of civilization..." (Decay, 83). As C. Wright Mills observed, the loss of rational capacity handicaps people in thinking about the goals and ends of their lives; people come to live for nothing more than the role of "cog in the machine" (op. cit.). So Schweitzer ends The Decay, and again ends The Philosophy with the argument that, in order to re-claim civilization, individuals must once more take up the question of the ends and goals of their lives. In other words, and he puts it in corny fashion, "we must think about the meaning of life" (82).

Of course, this question is going to be played out in light of metaphysical assumptions; but it is only in contemplating the nature and "meaning" of life that we can formulate an understanding of how our lives, both individual and communal, fail to serve the good, both for ourselves as individuals and as members of a community, and to understand how our lives have been circumvented and rooted into the good of an uncaring and pointless system. Our lives are lived in service to a false utility, one which only seeks the temporal security of an elite, and which replaces reason with mere rationalization about the role we play in maintaining that system. It is only through returning to an understanding of human being and communal being that we can free ourselves from this technological serfdom. This is the rudimentary beginning of world view. Reason is essential because it motivates and elevates the line of thought from mere rationalization to real searching. The notion of progress is essential because it provides the connecting links from the lot of one person that of society, and from the notion of survive alone, to that of quality of life.

While Schweitzer clearly thought in terms that employ all the modernist buzz-words that are bound to open problems in the current Postmodern climate, "reason," "progress," "civilization," etc., he was not nieve or unsophisticated in his use of these terms. He understood the limitations of reason, the pretense of rationalism, and the tendencies of humanity to construct rationalizations which justify its frailty. Nor does he use these terms in the way that most Postmoderns object to, "civilization" is not lionized environmental destruction or imperialist expansion, "reason" is not a mask for the pretense of an "all-knowing" hierarchy with an imposed agenda, and "progress" is not an inevitable march toward some pre-set metaphysical goal. In a certain sense reviving Schweitzer's view can be accomplished through a change in vocabulary. Rather than "progress," one might speak of "change," or opening up possibilities. The concept of progressive change in Schweitzer's view is not necessarily in a temporal direction, but moves from a more basic level of survival to a "higher" level of "spiritual" accomplishment. Progress is not a movement of history toward a goal, but the movement of society toward dealing with loftier questions and furnishing more sophisticated needs. This does assume, of course, that aesthetic and ethical "needs" are somehow "higher," as though they are more than mere accidental constructs but exist already and await fulfillment. That implies a certain take on human nature, and it means that reason serves a crucial function because human nature is such that reason is its orbitor. All of this smacks of a kind of metaphysical assumption many today are unwilling to make.

Schweitzer was, after all, a child of the enlightenment, and of the 19th century. By all standards, his ideas are "outmoded" and "quaint:" his praise of reason is truly a praise of reason, logocentric and rational. His notion of progress is progressive, and assumes that certain states of affairs are to be valued, others dissolved. His notion of civilization does require idealistic assumptions; on the whole, Schweitzer's view does require one to say that some things are better than others. There is no way around this reality, and if that is enough to kill Schweitzer's project before it can be re-born, that is probably the way he would have it, rather than pretend that it is just more pre-Postmodern language game in modernist garb. Moreover, there are even bigger problems with Schweitzer's view than his 19th century roots.

First, one might argue that all this talk of life-view and will-to-live is fine, but the link from one's own will to live to the externalized desire to protect the will-to-live of others fails to furnish a real grounding for an ethical system, to the same extent that any other basis in grounding has failed. Even more tenuous is the link from protecting will-to-live, to a full blown social agenda. By the time we are dealing with actual social policy, many re-interpretations can take place. One person's social betterment is another person's Orwellian nightmare. There is no guarantee that all members of society are going to agree on the nature "letter living," at Schweitzer's "higher level," and there is every reason to think they wont. Secondly, one might ask, is not this not merely a case of the saint asking everyone else to be a saint? Nevertheless, the alternative seems to be staying on the course which is rapidly transforming this planet into an environmental hell with the growing possibility of wars of mass destruction. In any case, Schweitzer might be viewed as just a starting point, a springboard to new directions, and a point of departure for re-examination of our assumptions about the goals and ends of our social existence.

It is easy to dismiss Schweitzer, his ideas really are based on the assumptions of a by gone era. His notions of nature could easily be taken to task by the Derridians, because they are undermined by other statements about controlling nature for survival. His notion of civilization assumes enlightenment notions of reason, and human nature. Moreover, our society is far too jaded to sit around thinking about the "meaning of life," we prefer our lives to be meaningless, and we work at making them appear that way. Schweitzer himself was aware of this, and expressed the notion, in Out of My LIfe and Thought, that his ideas would be forgotten because he was working against the spirit of the age. Nevertheless, as he puts it in The Decay:

But, perhaps it may be objected, we shall end in the resignation of agnosticism, and shall be obliged to confess that we cannot discover any meaning in the universe or in life. If thought is to set out on its journey unhampered, it must be prepared for anything, even for arrival at intellectual agnosticism....Still this painful disenchantment is better for it than persistent refusal to think out its position at all....There is, however, no necessity whatever for such an attitude of resignation. We feel that a position of affirmation regarding the world and life is something which is in itself both necessary and valuable. Therefore, it is at least likely that a foundation can be found for it in thought. Since it is an innate element of our will to live, it must be possible to comprehend it as a necessary corollary to our interpretation of life...we must strive together to attain a worldview affirmative of the world and of life...may become retempered, and thus become capable of formulating, and of acting on, definite ideals of civilization... (The Decay, 91).

This does not mean, however, that Schweitzer has nothing to offer. His notion of civilization is a point of departure, a place to begin thinking about the re-birth of civilization. In this context, there are two notions which are most crucial to consider: reverence for life, and the conceptual meaning of civilization. Taken together, they set up the realization that, however jaded, we are capable of being good to the other. We are capable of finding reasons to value life, and to find meaning in the over all scheme of things, even if we have to invent it (and there are those of us who think that we don't have to invent it). Civilization, then, is the struggle to free ourselves of encumbrances which would mire us in cynicism, and to work out the meaning of being good to others. Civilization is an organized playing out of that struggle, one which communicates itself, through the development of culture, to future generations who must come to understand the value of what has been gained and extend it into their own situation. The fear is that, having lost the concept, having reduced civilization to mere material convenience, humanity to genetic effects, and human experience to numbers, we might at worst lose the capacity to engage in this struggle, and at best, we wont be capable of taking part in it. The hope is, that by restoring the conceptual content of civilization, we might open the possibility of better things. Working out the particulars of what all of this means is the function of this journal, we invite dialogue.


1 He shaped the modern view of the historical Jesus. In the 19th century Christ was seen as a 18th century rational man, just a bright fellow who understood reason in way not unlike the way in which Voltaire or Kant understood it. Schweitzer realized that Jesus of Nazareth was rooted in a 1st century Palestinian context, and as such, saw his own mission as eschatological; it was the end of times, the Kingdom of God would soon manifest on earth, God would call the Romans to account for their oppression of the Jews, and the Jews to account for their faith, or lack thereof. In short, Schweitzer placed Christ in the milieu of an essene or zealot, whose mission was quasi-political, and based on the late hour in human history. This is still the basic historical view which dominates theology in the liberal protestant tradition, and which informs liberation theology. See In Quest of the Historical Jesus.

2 Albert Schweitzer, The Philosophy of Civilization. Translated C.T. Campion, Buffalo, New York: Prometheus Books. 1980 (originally 1923). The work is divided into two sections, the "Decay and Restoration of Civilization," and "Ethics and Civilization." Unwin has published the first section as an independent volume entitled The Decay and Restoration of Civilization. Because this is the main text used in this paper I am using parenthetical notes for that source, and documenting other sources as textual end notes.

3 Holtzmann was famous for the "Marcian hypothesis," the theory that the Gospel of Mark was written first, and that the others follow its basic plan and outline. This theory has become the standard outlook in Biblical scholarship, and is considered such a basic aspect of knowledge that the few scholars who still dare to challenge it are outside the mainstream view. Schweitzer's schooling was disrupted for a brief bought of military service. He took his Greek New Testament with him on maneuvers, and managed to do such valuable work that he made a major contribution to the synoptic problem, and earned the respect of Holtzmann, even though it contradicted part of his own theory. For all biographical information, see Albert Schweitzer, Out of My Life and Thought. New York: Mentor Books, originally published by Henry Holt and co. no copy right date given, the Post Script dates from 1932 and 1947.

4 Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede. New York: MacMillan, originally 1906, MacMillan paperbacks 1961, eighth printing, 1973.

5 Albert Schweitzer, Out of My LIfe and Thought. New York: Mentor Books, no date given, 69.

6 The word "spirit" is, of course, the German word giest--which is usually translated as "mind." But it can mean more than mind. Paul Tillich says that it refers to the total "dynamism of the individual." (see The History of Christian Thought). It is artistic, intellectual, and ethical sensibilities, and Schweitzer uses the term in all of these senses.

7 C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination.

8 find

9 Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto. New York: International Publishers, 1948, 12.

10 Fewer U.S. Colleges Make English Majors Study Leading Writers," The Dallas Morning News, Sunday, Jan. 5., 1997, 6A.
It is not my wish to open this can of worms in this paper. The doctoral program in which I have been ensconced these past several years is one which prides itself on the trendy view point of multiple readings and alternate canons, so I am well aware of this kind of thinking. My main point is just that it is great to let new works into the canon, let's let everything in that we can, and it is fine to understand the notion of multiple readings, I don't have the only true reading. But, without an understanding of what came before, these concepts lose all meaning (and they will eventually lose their avant guard value). Moreover, we should not forget what came before, preserve the greatness of the past, while finding new greatness.

11 John Harris, "Universities for Sale," This Magazine (Sept.) 1991.

12 "Enemies of Public Education," Alisa Solomon with Deirdre Hussey, Village Voice Education Supplement, April 21, 1998, 2.

13 Ibid. 4.

14 "The Book on Bertlesmann," by Stacy Perman, with Andrea Sachs and Peggy Salz-Trautmann. Time, April 6, 1998, 54-56.

15 Edward Rothstein, "Nays and Ayes for Capitalism as Purveyor of Culture," New York Times, Monday, April 27, 1998,

16 C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination.

17 Richard Rorty, Contingency, Irony, Solidarity. Cambridge: Cambridge Univeristy Press, 1989, 4-5.

18 Ibid., 61.

19 Ibid. 44.

20 Ibid., 68.

21 Ibid., 61.

22 Ibid., 50.

23 Ibid., 50.

24 Rorty, 50.

25 Rorty has backed away from the position in Contingency, Irony, Solidarity, and has changed his tune quite a bit. See the book review in this issue, "Having his Cake and Eating it too," by Kevin Mattson. Nevertheless, has Rorty changed his tune because he really saw the problems with his book, or because the community is now mouthing a different set of bromides?

26 With the influence of Schoupenhouer, Schweitzer draws upon the thinking of the East, he especially liked Chinese thought, he was well read in a host of Chinese thinkers, and seems to like Lao-tse and schwan-tse the best. He was also well read in Indian thought.

27 Tillich traces the line from Lessing and the Socinians of the 18th century, through Strauss, Schleiermacher, to Weiss, Schweitzer, and finally to Baultmann. This tradition fought against a calcified orthodoxy and in favor of a liberal version of textual criticism. (Tillich, 292). It is very problematic in that it tends to be deistic at its roots, a charge most of its defenders might deny. As is reflected in this essay, Schweitzer's own view seems somewhat deistic, and almost in anticipation of the latter Whiteheadian style of process thought which came to be process theology.

28 Schweitzer never uses this term in connection with his own thinking, only as a description of Neitzsche's thought. He is not really trying to create his own Ubermenche, and lacks the aristocratic exclusion of Neitzsche.

29 He admires the French philosophes, and the British Minute philosophers. His favorite ethical thinker of the late 17th-early 18th century England is Schaftisbury, whose notion of natural goodness in connection with nature influenced the French, Dederoit, Condorcer, and others.

30 Campion, in Philosophy..., trans. notes, 68.

31 This quotation is found in the Philosophy, section, Ethics and Civilization.

32 "From our knowledge comes power over the forces of the power we obtain over the forces of nature we do indeed free ourselves from nature and make her serviceable to us, but at the same time we also thereby cut ourselves loose from her, and slip into conditions of life whose unnatural character brings with it manifold dangers" (333).

33 One way in which Schweitzer was not ahead of his time was in his total lack of consciousness in terms of women. He rarely even mentions women, and he writes in the vernacular of his day, so that in statements about human dignity for everyone, he invariably phrases it in a way that would be sexist in our day (dignity for "men"). But, one might easily extend the concept, women are, after all, part of life, and are possessed of the will to live.

34 Find

35 Schweitzer's love of reason, rationalism, and the enlightenment is not apt to win him much approval in the current Postmodern climate. And unlike the situation with the terms "civilization" and "progress," when Schweitzer uses the term "reason," he means pretty much "reason" as we understand the term. Nevertheless, his attitude toward reason is not as odious to Postmodern assumptions as one might think. He was not so nieve as to imagine that "reason" alone offered any sort of "objective" window on reality, and he agreed with the image romanticism painted of the results of rationalism as arid and barren and suppression of the inner life. But, for Schweitzer, those were the results of rationalism as it was practiced, not the limits of what reason might be for us if we understood elemental thinking. Schweitzer was a nature mystic, he saw reason as the foundation of a mystical journey, and he understood the limitations of privileging reason as the only orbitor of reality. (see the Decay, 74-84).

36 "And yet, although the two [reason and mysticism] refuse to recognize each other, the two belong to each other./it is in intellect and will, which in our nature are mysteriously bound up together, seek to come to a mutual understanding. The ultimate knowledge that we seek acquire is knowledge of life, which intellect looks at from without, and will looks at from within. Since life is the ultimate object of knowledge, our ultimate knowledge is necessarily our thinking experience of life. But this does not lie outside the sphere of reason, but within reason itself. Only when the will has throughout its relation to the intellect, has come, as far as it can into line with it, it in a position to comprehend part of the universal will to live and part of being in general...reflection, when pursued to the end leads somehow to a living mysticism...which is a necessary element of thought" (Decay, 81).

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