Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason

Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason

Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason

Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason

Synopsis

This ground breaking work explores the genealogical analysis of the discourses of reflection. Barry Sandywell traces the differences between the traditional discourses of reflection and the experiences of reflexivity in everyday, social and philosophical thought. Brilliantly organised and abounding with astonishing insights, Reflexivity and the Crisis of Western Reason offers a fundamental challenge to our normal ways of viewing social thought.

Excerpt

In the following preface I provide an account of some of the central concerns and major themes of Volume 1 and an indication of the content and argument of subsequent volumes. the guiding intention of this multivolume project is to rethink the nature of social and philosophical inquiry in the light of the radically reflexive character of human action, temporality, and discursive self-formation. To simplify a very complex story, my major contention is that existing theories of the self, action, community, and reality have studiously underplayed and, in many cases, completely ignored the reflexive configurations of human experience, language, and social praxis in world-making processes. This blindness toward the reflexive practicalities of human life-in-the-world has predisposed mainstream theorizing and research in the human sciences to elaborate profoundly reductive images of social existence which, in turn, have authorized uncritical frameworks of inquiry and objectivistic epistemic practices. Nineteenth-century sociological thought, for example, repeatedly tried to secure its status as a science of social formations by laundering its subject matter—structures of meaningful human relations and self-activity—of their ontologically embodied, temporal, and relational properties. Moreover, by identifying with empiricist and rationalist metalogics—especially those taken to be essential to scientific epistemology—the human sciences have facilitated their own cooption for technocratic, instrumental, and social engineering purposes. We might recall that the fundamental idea of sociological discourse—the concept of the social system as a complex structured whole—is the product of a technical metaphor. No doubt a similar case can be made for the limited ontological conceptions of the self, culture, and reflexive existence within the research frameworks of history, literary criticism, and the humanities. While the larger story I unfold concerns the vicissitudes of ‘value’, ‘selfhood’, and ‘alterity’ in everyday life, the substantive focus concerns practices that have developed methods of self-understanding by problematizing their own procedures and presuppositions.

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