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Title: Metaphysical Foundations and Enchanting Coincidences
Author(s): BURMS, Arnold
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 8    Issue: 4   Date: 2001   
Pages: 307-318
DOI: 10.2143/EP.8.4.503837

Abstract :
One of the many things William Desmond’s book offers is a penetrating analysis of modernity. Let me first sketch it in the barest possible outlines. The scientific outlook favours an objectifying standpoint. Nature, when objectified, loses its relevance for the human quest for meaning. Final causes are no longer seen as part of objective reality. Within this perspective nature is reduced to a network of effective power: what is left is a field of neutral forces. This objectification of external reality leads to a subjectification of value. Values are no longer the expression of an objective ethos we must revere and respect; they are merely the expression of radically contingent subjective preferences. Human beings cannot really live in this equivocity. When external reality is emptied of any value, something else has to become the source of absolute value:that something else is the subject. The need for something of absolute value leads to the idolizing of the ideal of autonomy. A radically autonomous subject is invited to approach external reality from a strictly instrumentalist viewpoint. Instrumentalization is finally extended to human reality itself. The desire to be fully autonomous ultimately becomes the desire to transform oneself, to create oneself. In this way this ideal of autonomy, which presents itself as freedom from alienation,brings about a new kind of alienation. Our own bodily and mental reality are seen as material to be transformed, to be used — to be used for what? Instrumentalization becomes paradoxically a goal in itself.

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