Christoph Menke
Goethe University Frankfurt
At a central point in his much-discussed book Real Presences, George Steiner writes of the “mountebank’s virtuosity... of a Hitler,” that realises “a counter-logos which conceptualizes and then enacts the deconstruction of the human.” It was clear to Steiner’s American readers what was meant by this transposition of the term ‘deconstruction’ from the field of aesthetics and philosophy, of literary and cultural criticism, to the context of political and ideological struggle against fascism and totalitarianism in general. Steiner discusses this in another context, but again with all the pathos of confession at his disposal: “I believe that the eclipse of the humanities, in their primary sense and presentness, in today’s culture and society, implicates that of the human.” This creed closes Steiner’s discussion of the “liberals” who are treated with contempt because they preach tolerance in the face of the triumphal procession of deconstruction in the humanities. According to Steiner, such a policy of appeasement once again misjudges the degree of threat to which our social order is exposed: what starts in the humanities ends in society as the nihilistic corruption of binding human values. With the establishment of deconstruction in literary studies at elite American universities, the Occident succumbs to the powers of disintegration and ‘brutalization’ for the second time in the twentieth century—Yale of the seventies and eighties repeats Munich of 1938.
Keywords Contemporary Philosophy  Continental Philosophy  History of Philosophy
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Reprint years 2001
ISBN(s) 0093-4240
DOI 10.5840/gfpj200122219
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