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The problems of Modernity (PH917)

This module examines a number of related themes which occupied most of the important philosophers, social theorists and literary figures in central Europe in the early part of the century. These preoccupations generally arose from an increasing disaffection with received patterns of thought inherited from the Enlightenment tradition. The critical 'modernist' response to Enlightenment thought took a variety of forms.

Themes to be considered include the surge of interest in phenomena of the pre-theoretical life-world; the emphasis on the role of affective and/or pre-reflective intentionality, (Nietzsche, Scheler, Sartre); the preoccupation with the relations between technical reason, value and nihilism, (Musil, Heidegger); the analysis of the foundations of modern capitalism and of modern ‘rationalized’ civilization, (Weber, Freud); and various forms of, often conflicted, aestheticism, (Nietzsche, Mann, Musil). Also considered will be the late modernist, existentialist strand of thought which radicalised the self/world divide, often thought constitutive of cultural modernity.


Module Director:

Peter Poellner