Pensée post-moderniste et relativisme cognitif

an open column about this subject by Ralph Dumain
jeudi 17 juillet 2008
par  cilalp_france
popularité : 100%

Emission du dimanche 8 juin 2008

http://librepenseefrance.ouvaton.org/spip.php?article228

My grasp of French is very poor, but from what I remember from high school combined with crude computer translation, I more or less understand the content of this article. It is quite difficult to understand what intellectual/ideological life is really like in a foreign country, because what succeeds in crossing national and linguistic boundaries is usually determined by fashion, power, and economics.

I am quite familiar with this debate in the USA, and in fact I know Alan Sokal (and I knew people upset by his expose of Social Text), and I once had a few harsh words for Bruno Latour in person. However, I don’t really know what impact elite French philosophers have on the ideological life of average (educated) French people. In particular, the relationship between the intellectual universe of freethought in France (which I don’t know much about, as the only thing we’ve heard from France here is the Atheist Manifesto by Michel Onfray, which hints at a different intellectual environment than what we have here) and fashionable intellectual trends, is something we do not have the opportunity to learn anything about.

The intellectual world of Anglo-American atheism and "continental" philosophy (and social theory) do not cross paths, except in those venues, such as www.butterfliesandwheels.com, where "fashionable nonsense" is subject to criticism or superficial ridicule, by philosophically trained or inclined individuals who are also partisans of scientific rationality (and usually nonbelief).

Hence it is interesting to see the same debate taking place in France itself, though I have no real idea of how different intellectual lineages rub up against one another there. After all, not only are the positions held by different ideological trends different, but the range of political/social/historical discourse permitted in the public sphere may be different, broader or narrower than ours in key respects. I am certain that McCarthyism and the Cold War permanently constricted the discourse permissible in the United States and affected the course of the ideological development of "humanism" and "atheism" in the USA. I guess that in France the decisive historical-political factors are different— secularism on the left and Catholicism on the right ? Here of course there is no left. The little bit of social democratic welfare state gains we made, effected by what we used to call "liberalism" and the labor movement that impelled them, are gone, and today’s "liberals" are often more conservative in matters of social class than many of yesterday’s conservatives. Thus the entire political landscape of the USA has shifted to the right, constricting the ideological environment in which American atheists, freethinkers, and humanists can function or even are able to think. What is considered "scientific" is restricted to the natural sciences, and critical social theory has no place in organized American atheism or humanism.

Best, Ralph Dumain


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