The Situation of the Modern Subject

  • Thomas de Zengotita
Part of the Political Philosophy and Public Purpose book series (POPHPUPU)


To prepare for an adequate account of “the postmodern,” Chap.  2 describes the contours of “the modern” in phenomenological terms—as a particular way the subject is constituted in relation to nature and society. Descartes and Galileo serve as exemplars of the original moment, showing that Cartesian dualism expressed philosophically a relation that was also essential to the natural sciences and to Protestantism. A subsequent section on Locke and the Enlightenment focuses on the social aspect of that relation as it was realized culturally, technologically, and politically—the “project of progress” was launched. Then, an outline of the “evolutionist” views of Hegel, Comte, and Spencer shows how moderns who persisted in that project of progress were obliged, after the traumas of the French and Industrial revolutions, to jettison the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries’ image of Nature’s plan as a synchronic blueprint and conceive of it instead as a determined historical process of development, an unfolding. Finally, the Romantic reaction to the Enlightenment is described in terms that strikingly anticipate “postmodernism” as we know it today.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Thomas de Zengotita
    • 1
  1. 1.New York UniversityNew YorkUSA

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