Melzer's take on "historicism"

“From Burke to Foucault, [the counter-Enlightenment] emphasizes and heightens the conflict between reason and society, although now putting primary blame on the former instead of the latter. It attacks rationalism for such varied social evils as political doctrinairism and utopianism, the uprooting of tradition and inheritance, violent revolution, intolerance, persecution, colonialism, and totalitarianism. But, again, it engages in this political critique of reason, heightening the conflict between rationalism and society that this conflict is somehow an aberration, mistake, another problem to be solved. Harmony is possible.” – Philosophy Between the Lines, pp. 86-87

I cannot pretend to have read every single "counter-Enlightenment" thinker; for instance, I have barely glanced at Foucault. But this does not strike me as a sound critique of the ones with whom I am familiar. It is very contentious to cite these thinkers for "heightening" the conflict between "reason and society": First of all, many of them, such as Oakeshott, view rationalism as eminently unreasonable. For them, what exists is not a conflict between "reason and society," but between the irrational creed of rationalism and society. And if they are correct, a position that Melzer himself could at places be read to take, then it is nonsense to claim they are "heightening" this conflict: they are trying to dissipate it.


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