Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 19 (1):175-180 (1996)

“Every angel is terrifying.” Dominique Janicaud evokes this sentence of Rilke in order to illustrate the essentially contextual character of meaning. I shall begin my brief reflections on his book, Powers of the Rational: Science, Technology and the Future of Thought, by situating Janicaud’s thought within the space between two angels, each in its own way terrifying. The first angel is that of angelic rationalism. Angelic rationalism is a strategy for the defense of classical rationalism which vacillates between reason as an actual operation and the essence of reason as an idealization. Reason defends itself, and rightfully so, against the onslaught of the irrational; it evokes the success of the sciences, the accomplishment of modern technology, the fact of modern enlightened politics. When confronted with what one might call the “downside of rational modernity”—the ecological crisis; the possibility of nuclear annihilation; the “iron cage” of modern bureaucracy; the “deficit of meaning” in modern life, and so forth—it switches its focus from reason as an effective force realized in history and intertwined with power, to reason as an ideal, an idealization functioning as an infinite telos of humanity. And for the problems engendered by modern rationality, it prescribes more rationality.
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DOI 10.5840/gfpj199619110
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