- Hardcover: 480 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (January 31, 1989)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0887381979
- ISBN-13: 978-0887381973
- Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,997,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Embattled Reason: Volume 2, Essays on Social Knowledge 2nd Edition
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About the Author
Reinhard Bendix (1916-1991) was professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. He was the recipient of many awards and honors throughout his lifetime, including being a fellow for the Fulbright Program, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Woodrow Wilson International Center Scholar. He belonged to the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy for the Advancement of Science.
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Bendix reveals more of his personal story which provides clear understanding for his conclusions. It seems to make his opinions credible. He starts with a poignant memoir of his father, a lawyer fighting for legality in Nazi Germany.
He was imprisoned and slandered as a Jew and outspoken lawyer. He wrote scholary essays on the effect of preconcieved ideas on legal decisions. His focus was how the (probably) unconscious beliefs controlled the judiciary. The new Weimar republic was operated by judges who were still monarchists at heart.
Bendix lived this as a youth. He presents this as background for the essays that follow. I found this enlightening, persuasive and touching. An excellent start to analysis of social theory.
One chapter is "How I Became an American Sociologist."
His father had "analyzed in ever new ways how the formalities of law and the personal disposition of judges led to inadvertent abuses of the legal system . . . This approach was indebted to Marx's emphasis on the role power plays in every legal system and Nietzsche's emphasis on knowledge as a means to exert power rather than seek truth. Here the reasons given for any action, including judicial decisions and the search for knowledge, tended to be rationalizations and needed to be uncovered as such." (34)
Bendix used his academic career to find the reasons for the German catastrophe. His masters thesis was the question; Can social science answer such questions? Is it really a science? He covers Bacon, Newton, Diderot, Marx, Nietzsche and Weber. Each uncovers valid reason for doubt. The contrasts really clarify the problem.
The next two chapters are "Encounters with Marx" and "A Reading of Tocqueville's Letters". They lived at the same time. The juxtaposition made the both men more interesting. It was easy to grasp the points.
One theme repeated throughout is the change from reason validated by human creation in the image of God and (in contrast) humans as random chemicals with no validation possible. God should be capable of producing a thinking machine. What about chemicals? How is the new 'scientific' world to find a foundation for conclusions?
In fact, this is the overriding goal of Bendix' scholary work. This shows deep insight. Many do not see that, without a Creator, human reason has no place to start. Bendix spent decades researching the source of human, deductive reason. Can an alternate four ndation be found?
One chapter is "Early Christian Claim to Absolute Truth". How did the Christians convince the roman world they had the truth? Covers martyrdom, Constatine, Augustine, Ambrose, Decian and Diocletian persecutions, donatists, catholic church and more. One interesting method of analysis is his use of the Bible as a credible historical source. He must have read and studied it carefully. Showed a good understanding of Jesus and Paul in their world. Not a common technique. Increased my respect for Bendix.
Analysis of Tocqueville through his personal letters is revealing. He wrote concerning his unconquerable instinct for liberty:
"You can hardly imagine how painful, and often bitter, it is to me to live in this moral isolation; to feel myself shut out of the intellectual commonwealth of my age and country." (106)
This liberty is not modern freedom. He explained:
"To persuade men that respect for law, both human and divine, is surely the best way to be free, and that to grant freedom is the best way to ensure morality and religion - such is my object." (109)
Anarchy is not liberty and neither is tyranny.
Presents a chapter on Bacon and Galileo as fathers of the scientific revolution. Provides a chapter on the later trust in mathematics that crossed over to social ideas. The affected much including political goals. . .
"It is a sobering reflection in retrospect that europes mission to civilize the world was at the core of this belief in progress through knowledge, and that the great confidence in this mission was derived from the increasingly mathematical character of science. As the universal language mathematics was the guarantor against retrogression and the reduction of all knowledge to mathematics represented the highest human achievement." (346)
I agree that this change still drives culture.
Bendix is easy to read. His use of contrast, original sources and opposite opinions is appealing and credible. His focus on religion and ideas as the key driver of men and society, after the pattern of Weber, provides insight that materialists cannot find.
The footnotes are arranged at conclusion of each chapter. Enables easy use. Some notes add interesting detail to theme. Erudite without being boring.