Friday, March 25, 2011


From Gillian Rose's Love's Work, p.125.

'Previously, modern philosophical irrationalism was seen retrospectively by philosophers and historians as the source of the racist and totalitarian movements of the twentieth century. Now, philosophical reason itself is seen by postmodern philosophers as the general scourge of Western history. To reason's division of the real into the rational and the irrational is attributed the fatal Manichaeism and imperialism of the West.

This decision by the intellectuals that reason itself has ruined modern life, and should be dethroned and banned in the name of its silenced others, is comparable to the decision to stop small children, girls and boys, from playing with guns, pugnacious video games, or any violent toys. This brutally sincere, enlightened probity, which thinks it will stop war and aggression, in effect aggravates their propensity. This decision evinces loss of trust in the way that play (fairy stories, terrifying films) teaches the difference between fantasy and actuality. The child who is able to explore that border will feel safe in experiencing violent, inner, emotional conflict, and will acquire compassion for other people. The child who is locked away from aggressive experiment and play will be left terrified and paralysed by its emotions, unable to release or face them, for they may destroy the world or himself of herself. The censor aggravates the syndrome she seeks to alleviate; she seeks to rub out in others the border which has been effaced inside herself.

Philosophers who blame philosophy for the ills of civilisation have themselves lost the ability to perceive the difference between thought and being, thought and action. It is they who expunge the difference between fantasy and actuality, between the megalomania projected on to reason and the irreverent forces which determine the outcome of actual conflicts. They have inflated the power of philosophical reason, conferring on it a suppostitious dangerous potency. It is the philosophers, not reason, who thereby degrade the independence of political realities and contingencies. Terrified of their own inner insecurity at the border between rationality and conflict, between the new academic political protestantism and politics as the art of the possible, they proceed as if to terminate philosophy would be to dissolve the difficulty of acknowledging conflict and of staking oneself within it. To destroy philosophy, to abolish or to supercede critical, self-conscious reason, would leave us resourceless to know the difference between fantasy and actuality, to discern the distortion between ideas and their realisation. It would prevent the process of learning, the corrigibility of experience. The ill-will towards philosophy misunderstands the authority of reason, which is not the mirror of the dogma of superstition, but risk.'

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