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The Unlearned Lessons Of the Twentieth Century: An Essay On Late Modernity (Library Modern Thinkers Series) Paperback – August 28, 2006


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The Unlearned Lessons Of the Twentieth Century: An Essay On Late Modernity (Library Modern Thinkers Series) + Icarus Fallen: The Search for Meaning in an Uncertain World (Crosscurrents)
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Product Details

  • Series: Library Modern Thinkers Series
  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute; 1 edition (August 28, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1932236473
  • ISBN-13: 978-1932236477
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,529,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Chantal Delsol is a professor of philosophy at the University of Marne-La-Vallée near Paris. Her first book to appear in English was Icarus Fallen: The Search for Meaning in an Uncertain World, the first book published in ISI Books’ Crosscurrents series.

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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Smith on February 13, 2009
Format: Paperback
As a senior citizen,I have sat with my jaw dragging the the floor,trying to understand the revolutionary change in our moral,political,religious,legal,educational lives. Many people are thinking and behaving differently than our generation, but not in the context of a fad, rather in a more profound manner.Delsol's book is a non-polemic deep but accessible essay that illuminates,like no other,the factors that have caused this sea change in our culture.It is probably the finest political/philosophical book I have ever read and should be read by everyone who is asking the question.....What has gone wrong with the mind of the West??????????
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on June 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
In this work, Delsol sets out to expose a potentially lethal contradiction. The belief in the dignity of the individual as a person possessing sacred and inalienable worth survives in our era of late modernity. But it lives within a Zeitgeist bereft of meaning or hope in which collectivist approaches inherited from failed ideologies are still consciously or unconsciously embraced. To secure the concept of individual life as our highest value, it is not sufficient to rhetorically reject the totalitarian idea. It has to be replaced entirely by a structure or framework of meaning in which the sanctity of life inheres.

The author considers the relativism of late modernity as a type of nihilism that offers escape from the rigidity of certitudes that was responsible for the 20th century's death and destruction. She prefers the expression "late modernity" as it merely suggests the completion of a cycle whereas "postmodernity" is saddled with ideological connotations. The concept of lateness need not imply decay or deterioration only but rebirth as well. For example, the decline of the Roman Empire during late antiquity was the era in which stoicism and pantheism were replaced by the humanism of Christianity that it inherited from Judaism.

It is faith, not science that supports the principle of personal dignity, a fragile notion at all times. It relies upon conscience, responsibility, mankind's moral agreement and a clear distinction between the human and the non-human. It is moreover an idea that depends upon a cultural heritage that serves as an antidote to the dystopian 20th century forces of dehumanization that are still operating.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Dennis B. Mulcare on April 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Chantal Delsol distills the unlearned lessons regarding the major twentieth century totalitarian regimes into the last two sentences in this book: "We are not demiurges. We are gardeners." In other words, neither man's essential nature nor reality itself can be fundamentally 'recreated' according to the desiderata of ideologies or through the initiatives of governments. The best that can be sought is the improvement of humanity's well being by 'cultivating' the attributes and possibilities inherent in man's makeup and condition.

More broadly, she analyzes how the more recent trajectories and contemporary dogmas of Western societies and governments confirm late modernity's failure to even confront the associated errors underlying those totalitarian ideologies, at least in a forthright manner. Basically, the generic form and modus operandi of these ideologies persist in the contemporary Western world with new designations for idols, concepts, and techniques. In effect, the same ideological template remains largely in force with substitutions for certain terms:

· idolatry of the state has been replaced by a spurious formulation/application of human rights
· abhorrence of colonialism has been transferred to white Western males
· state practice of terror has been supplanted with that of derision.

Hence, it is most troubling that many core defects of the generic totalitarian ideology are operative today. They persist because the dominant Western elite since the fall of the totalitarian regimes has shared some of their goals/illusions (e.g., the perfectibility of man) and has absolved some of their egregious acts (because "good" intentions ought to override horrific acts/outcomes).
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