Bereft of Reason: On the Decline of Social Thought and Prospects for its Renewal

University of Chicago Press (1995)
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In this radical critique of contemporary social theory, Eugene Halton argues that both modernism and postmodernism are damaged philosophies whose acceptance of the myths of the mind/body dichotomy make them incapable of solving our social dilemmas. Claiming that human beings should be understood as far more than simply a form of knowledge, social construction, or contingent difference, Halton argues that contemporary thought has lost touch with the spontaneous passions—or enchantment—of life. Exploring neglected works in twentieth century social thought and philosophy—particularly the writings of Lewis Mumford and Charles Peirce—as well as the work of contemporary writers such as Vaclav Havel, Maya Angelou, Milan Kundera, Doris Lessing, and Victor Turner, Halton argues that reason is dependent upon nonrational forces—including sentiment, instinct, conjecture, imagination, and experience. We must, he argues, frame our questions in a way which encompasses both enchantment and critical reason, and he offers an outline here for doing so. A passionate plea for a fundamental reexamination of the entrenched assumptions of the modern era, this book deals with issues of vital concern to modern societies and should be read by scholars across disciplines. Robert Bellah: "This is an original, incisive, and badly needed book. In prose as vigorous as his argument, Halton addresses issues urgent in many disciplines, as well as in our common culture." "Halton takes the 'ghost in the machine' as a dominant defining metaphor for modern thought and life, and criticizes it with gusto, wit, wide reading, and philosophical acumen."—Robert J. Mulvaney, _Review of Metaphysics_

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Eugene Halton
University of Notre Dame


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