From Vita contemplativa to Vita activa : Modern instrumentalization of theory and the problem of measure
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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International Journal of Philosophical Studies 9 (1):19 – 40 (2001)
In this paper I examine three historically significant readings of the epochal transition from the Middle Ages to the modern world: that provided by Alexandre Koyré in From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe , that of Hans Blumenberg in The Legitimacy of the Modern Age and that of Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition . Each of these readings isolates crucial aspects of the epochal transition which contribute to an understanding of the loss or transformation of traditional measures for knowing and doing consequent upon the shift from the contemplative to the active life. Blumenberg provides a philosophical explanation for the cosmological shift which Koyré describes, while Arendt thematizes the dangers inherent in the loss of an ethical measure which accompanies this transition. Yet both Blumenberg and Arendt conclude that the search for a world-immanent epistemological measure, which would allow us to gauge the adequacy of our descriptions of the world, is not simply a problem for the modern philosopher to address, but rather an impossibility already abandoned in the transition to the modern age. I argue that, on the contrary, such a measure is a requisite of the modern scientific enterprise.
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