October 08, 2006

Polanyi as the cure for postmodernism

More than any other strictly secular philosopher, I regard Polanyi as the cure for what fails us in the form of postmodernism. Although not in any way overtly religious, his thinking is entirely compatible with the Judeo-Christian metaphysics that fruitfully underpinned western civilization for hundreds of years before the voracious tenurmites began eating away at the foundation. Most importantly, Polanyi manages to correct the deficiencies not just in the excesses of postmodernism, but in the equally problematic results of the enlightenment rationalism that Eliot describes thus:
Endless invention, endless experiment,
Brings knowledge of motion, not of stillness;
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
All our knowledge brings us nearer to ignorance,
All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
But nearness to death no nearer to God.
Where is the Life we have lost in living?
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?
The cycles of Heaven in twenty centuries
Bring us farther from God and nearer to the Dust.
In his body of work, Polanyi covered a broad range of subjects in an exceptionally lucid way, including economics, political theory, philosophy of science, epistemology (how we know what we know), meaning, morality, religion, and the nature of art...
One of the problems with our enlightenment science is that it served to make progress appear so inevitable that “the stage was set for utopian aspirations to run their course unhindered by the very forces that in an earlier age would have moderated them--and perhaps even strangled them in their infancy. Indeed, one might well describe the twentieth century as the bloodiest period of utopian political experimentation the world has ever witnessed” (MItchell). Related: The God that Did Not Fail: How Religion Built and Sustains the West, and The End of Commitment: Intellectuals, Revolutionaries, and Political Morality in the Twentieth Century posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:26 AM 9 comments One Cosmos Under God Robert W. Godwin

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