An Atheism that Is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought by Stefanos Geroulanos

By Stefanos Geroulanos

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French philosophy replaced dramatically within the moment sector of the 20th century. within the wake of global struggle I and, later, the Nazi and Soviet failures, significant philosophers comparable to Kojève, Levinas, Heidegger, Koyré, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Hyppolite argued that guy may now not fill the void left by way of the "death of God" with no additionally calling up the worst in human background and denigrating the honour of the human topic. In reaction, they contributed to a brand new trust that guy may still not be considered because the foundation for life, idea, and ethics; fairly, human nature grew to become depending on different thoughts and constructions, together with Being, language, concept, and tradition. This argument, which was once to be paramount for existentialism and structuralism, got here to dominate postwar inspiration. This highbrow historical past of those advancements argues that at their center lay a brand new atheism that defied humanism as inadequate and eventually violent.

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Rather than lead to a world marked by equality and freedom, rather than signal the triumph of Western Spirit, European humanism had overcome religious submission only to lead to the “great cemetery” of World War I and to the “despair” of the 1920s. In a political culture marked by the war, as well as by increasing political divisions, this was a movement aiming at a general rejection of the status quo, and thus, it located the human precisely in what this culture was destroying. During the decade that followed The Temptation of the West, French intellectuals became obsessed with denouncing bourgeois humanism and announcing possible ways out of its supposedly destructive implications.

If European Man was the heart of a culture and a system of thought, and if this culture and system of thought were rotten from the inside, did this mean that man was in fact dead? In the course of his intellectual career, Malraux would time and again invoke this question only to turn around and find a solution for it in the political or metaphysical causes he championed. 3 On each of these occasions, Malraux first raised the specter of a death of man and then justified his politi-  the 1930s cal and his literary-metaphysical pursuits as the only possible escape from this doom.

This reading allows us to understand Kojève’s cardinal place in the theological and philosophical construction of French antihumanism. Chapter 4, “Inventions of Antihumanism (1935),” approaches the maturation of the early phenomenological attack on transcendence and classical humanism as this took place in writings of Emmanuel Levinas, Georges Bataille, and Jean-Paul Sartre in the period 1935–36. These authors worried about the reality in which man finds himself trapped as a result of the demise of transcendence.

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