the radicality of the Kantian and Fichtean break with the modern rationalist, especially Cartesian tradition
'Modern, market-based, liberal democratic, technology-fueled, post- colonizing societies, in other words, create and demand attention to all sorts of “problems,” most of them straightforwardly practical or political, and so calling for corrective or progressive action. But it remains the case that a deep, widespread suspicion lingers in academic and art culture that reformist reactions to such practical problems are naive and inevitably complicit in the very ills one might be attempting to reform, or that the psychological or spiritual failures visible in such societies are not “solvable practical problems” at all. Such suspicions are often expressed in the language of post-Hegelian European philosophy, and are either indebted to or are best expressed in the terms of, many spectacularly influential claims made by Nietzsche or Heidegger. Modernity itself is in such discussions treated as “not what it claims to be” and such charges involve or are based on a philosophical critique.
Paying attention to the details of such a story is important for a number of reasons. For one thing, I try to show, in many such older and newer debates the way objections arc posed, positions characterized, narratives narrated and so forth involve what are by now a large number of conventional readings and very settled, accepted histories, and these are almost all inaccurate and misleading about the original modernist options. There are straw men, vague shadows, distorted portraits, and potted narrations everywhere in such debates. Or there is, suspiciously, too much too easily achieved consensus among almost all participants about the terms of “the modem failure,” especially the putative failure of the attempt at autonomy, and about the failure of any sort of radical self-grounding philosophical project or any complete human self-sufficiency (of the sort I claim is proposed within the classical German tradition). This consensus is widely shared across a diverse spectrum, by those who believe that traditional Enlightenment modernism had entered a decisive end-game stage, even terminated in nihilism, those who believe it is an uncompleted project and can be completed with an appropriate “paradigm shift” (from consciousness to inter-subjectivity and communicative practices), those who offer only a permanently negative reaction to what was regarded as an oppressive but likely permanent culture of narrow rationality and homogeneity, and many others who, while not direct participants, are also highly skeptical of any aspiration for the autonomy and the radical “self-rule” associated with modernism as an ideal. That consensus about failure or self-deceit (re-emerging again in those European thinkers influenced by Freud, or by Freudians like Lacan) concerns the supposed limitations of the philosophical self-understanding at the heart of the modernist project, the so-called “philosophy of subjectivity,” especially a putatively “self- determining” and “autonomous” subjectivity. Such a philosophy, almost everyone seemed to agree, was naively confident of the self-sufficiency and power and autonomy of human reflection, was caught in various “reflective” paradoxes in attempting to account for itself, led to some anomic, fragmented world of detached, community-less individuals, was trapped by an all-determining and severely distorted “picture” (the “mirror of nature”), was linked unavoidably with the project of technological mastery, the will to power and a profound forgetfulness, was caught in a deep confusion about the relation between transcendental and empirical accounts (could not account for how such a subject was both condition of and also in, or also an object in, a world), and was subject to various relativistic and wildly idealistic implications.
There is a very great limitation in this received picture. Most importantly, the radicality of the Kantian and Fichtean break with the modem rationalist, especially Cartesian tradition, the move from mentality as substance to mindedness as spontaneity and like-mindedness as a social achievement, has never been properly appreciated in the, let us say, post-Niétzschean and post-Heideggerean context. That is the basic thesis of the following essay; that at least one aspect of the dissatisfaction's discussed stem from a rather undramatic aspect of the tradition: a lack of self understanding, hasty and crude categorizations, too staged a drama of heroes and villains. This means that the central practical issue at stake in debates about the philosophy of the subject or of consciousness or of will, freedom and the possibility of a free life, has not been well posed and so has hardly been deconstructed, archeologically exposed, or destroyed.'
Robert B. Pippin - Modernism as a Philosophical Problem
from the online blog