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Richard J. Bernstein THE RAGE AGAINST REASON Recently, a number of phflosophers including Alasdair Maclntyre, Richard Rorty, Paul Ricoeur, and Jean-François Lyotard have reminded us about die centred (and problematic) role of narratives for philosophic inquiry. I say "reminded us" because narrative discourse has always been important for philosophy. Typically, every significant philosopher situates his or her own work by telling a story about what happened before he or she came along— a story that has its own heroes and villains. This is the way in which philosophers are always creating and recreating dieir own traditions and canons. And die stories that they tell are systematically interwoven with what they take to be their distinctive contributions. Consider Aristotle's narrative in die first book of me Mdaphysics about the insights and blindnesses of his predecessors in grasping the multidimensional character of our scientific knowledge of causes. Or — to leap to the contemporary scene — think of the story that logical positivists told us about the confusions and linguistic blunders of most of their predecessors — with a few bright moments of anticipation of their own radical program for reforming phdosophy. Or again, there is the powerfully seductive story diat Husserl tells where the entire history of philosophy is viewed as a teleological anticipation of die new rigorous Wissenschaft of transcendental phenomenology. There is a common rhetorical pattern in these narratives. They tell stories ofanticipations, setbacks , and trials, but they culminate with the progressive realization of truth and reason, which is normally identified with what die philosopher/ storyteller now sees clearly — a "truth" which his or her predecessors saw only through a glass darkly. There is also die genre of philosophic narratives which has become so fashionable in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and has dramatically reversed diis pattern. They tell of relentless decline, degeneration, catas186 Richard J. Bernstein187 trophe, and forgetfulness. A "classic" instance of this is Nietzsche's geneological unmasking of the "history" of reason, truth, and morality which culminates in the dominance and spread of a pernicious all-encompassing nihilism. But we also find variations of this pattern in Maclntyre's saga of the decline and degeneration of moral phdosophy and moral life since me Enlightenment. And — as we shall see — diis is die way in which Heidegger reads (in his "strong reading") the destiny of Western philosophy and metaphysics which is interwoven with the history of the forgetfulness and concealment of Being. It is not my intention to develop a typology of narrative patterns in philosophy, although I am convinced that such a typology would be extremely üluminating. Rather I want to set a context for what I will attempt to do in this article. For I want to oudine a narrative — or more accurately and modestly — a narrative sketch. Even diough I will be schematic, my tale is a complex one for several reasons. First, because it is a narrative about narratives, specifically narratives which themselves relate stories about the development of reason, or what thinkers such as Weber and Habermas call "rationalization" processes,1 Secondly, because it is a narrative that isolates different story lines, a plot and a counterplot that stand in an uneasy and unresolved tension with each odier. Thirdly, because it is not one of those narratives where all the loose threads are neady tied together at die end — or to switch metaphors, there is no grand Aufhebung because it is essentially an unfinished story. In the spirit of this prologue let me introduce die four main characters ofmyfirst story line, and tell you what I hope to achieve. The names of the main characters are Condorcet, Weber, Adorno, and Heidegger. My aim is to confront some deeply troubling contemporary questions, for I want to understand why today there are so many "voices" screeching about Reason. Why is there a rage against Reason? What precisely is being attacked, criticized, and damned? Why is it diat when "Reason" or "Rationality" are mentioned, they evoke images of domination, oppression, repression, patriarchy, sterility, violence, totality, totalitarianism, and even terror? These questions are especially poignant and perplexing when we realize that not so long ago, die call to "Reason" elicited associations with autonomy, freedom, justice, equality...


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