June 9, 2009

THE INSIGHT WHICH INNOCULATED THE ANGLOSPHERE...:

REVIEW: of LAST ­RITES By John Lukacs (Gerald J. Russello, Spring 2009, Wilson Quarterly)

Lukacs is perhaps best known for his conviction that human knowledge is “partici­pant,” and for holding that the barrier set up by Enlightenment thinking between subject and object is an illusion. History, properly considered, is not concerned with attaining objectivity, but with seeking understanding. “The ideal of objectivity is the total, the antiseptic separation of the knower from the known. Understanding involves an approach, that of getting closer. In any event, and about everything: there is, there can be, no essential separation from the knower and the known.” Drawing on his lifelong engagement with the work of the physicist Werner Heisenberg, Lukacs finds even scientists improperly focused on false “facts” in creating an illusory objectivity. For what makes a scientific fact of interest is primarily that we are there to observe it, and, as Heisenberg taught, our very observance changes the observed event ­itself.

This may seem simply postmodern avant la lettre, but to label it that would be to mistake Lukacs’s point. All does not dissolve into subjectivity. Because we are historical beings, our understanding of the past and the world around us must be a deeply moral and humbling enterprise. Humans invested the universe with meaning, according to Lukacs, and we are responsible for what we do with it. “The universe is such as it is because at the center of it there exist conscious and participant human beings who can see it, explore it, study it.”


...against Modernity



Posted by Orrin Judd at June 9, 2009 2:17 PM
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