(KINDLE) [Nostalgia for the Absolute] by George Steiner


Nostalgia for the AbsoluteI d hoped Pretty unclear ending the search for truth via science and reason or something to replace the loss of Christian certainty God is Dead Doubling down on the Enlightenment despite truth being potentially harmful Didn t leave much to hope for but Steiner also seems to shrug at the current possibilities His conclusion reminded me of the first paragraph from Lovec Summary as we seek philosophies and cosmologies to fulfill our need for the absolute we find there is nothing entropy Here s a pick me upper Two deities two gods To Overwhelming Agencies Govern overwhelming agencies govern divide our being said Freud Love and death Eros and Thanatos The conflict between them determines the death Eros and Thanatos The conflict between them determines the of existence of procreation of somatic and psychic evolution But finally the contrary to all intuitive instinctive expectations to all our hopes it is not Eros not love but Thanatos who is stronger who is close to the roots of man What the species strives for finally is not survival and perpetuation but repose perfect inertness In Freud s visionary programme the explosion of organic life which has led to human evolution was a ind of tragic anomaly almost a fatal exuberance It has brought with it untold pain and ecological waste But this detour of life and consciousness will sooner or later end An internal entropy is a work A great uietness will return to creation as life revers to the natural condition of the inorganic The consummation of the libido lies in death p20The book is a little dated at times cold war ideologies and his gloss of Marx Freud and Levi Strauss tended to be frustrating Five lectures on the decline of Christianity the death of God and its effects on Western civilizationSteiner examines three modern mythologies which attempt to fill the gap the hunger for absolute truth left by the decline of religion Marxism Freudian psychoanalysis and Levi Straussian anthropology A mythology in Steiner s by the decline of religion Marxism Freudian psychoanalysis and Levi Straussian anthropology A mythology in Steiner s of the word has an easily recognizable beginning and development a prophetic vision preserved in canonical texts later disciples and prophets develop the teaching there is a passionate conflict between sects each believing they present the truth that they are the genuine heirs to the founding prophet competing with dangerous and deluded heretics The mythology presents a total explanation. The alternate mythologies Marxism etc and fads of irrationality astrology the occult Steiner argues that this decay and the failure of the mythologies have created a nostalgia for the absolute that is growing and leading us to a massive cla. Of history and humanity s place in the cosmos uite often it claims that the analysis is based on science though it will tend to be unfalsifiable and so not ualify as claims that the analysis is based on science though it will tend to be unfalsifiable and so not ualify as scientific theory The mythology has its own vocabulary its own rituals and legends and imagery His examination of Marxism is particularly effective eg We recognise in the history of Marxism each of the attributes We have the vision of the prophet and the canonical texts which are beueathed to the faithful by the most important apostle We find a history of ferocious conflict between the orthodox heirs to the master and the heretics an unbroken family of fission from the time of the Mensheviks to Trotsky and now to Mao Each time and this is the theological scenario a new group of heretics breaks away and it always says look we have the real message of the master listen to us the sacred texts have been corrupted the Gospel is in our eeping don t listen to the church at the centre How familiar all this is to students of the history of Christianity Marxism has its legends Marxism has its vocabulary Marxism has its emblems its symbolic gestures just like any transcendent religious faith It offers a complete explanation of man s function in biological and in social reality Above all it offers a contract of messianic promise concerning the function in biological and in social reality Above all it offers a contract of messianic promise concerning the The fourth lecture examines modern superstitions and irrationality astrology UFOs occultism Eastern mysticism repackaged and hollowed out for Western audiences This lecture is lighthearted Steiner is having a good rant about things that clearly piss him off In the final lecture he talks about the history of scientific truth a relatively short

history and how 
and how from the Enlightenment onward hoped that the pursuit of scientific truth would replace religious myths and mysteries Alas the pursuit of scientific truth subject to falsification experimental proof and logical constraints is not something that can ignites the passions of all hearts He discusses whether the truth when discovered will actually be beneficial to humanity I found this lecture a somewhat unsatisfying conclusion though it does have neat closing paragraph The truth I believe does have a future whether man does is much less clear But I cannot help having a hunch as to which of the two is importan. Sh between truth and human survivalUltimately he suggests that we can only reduce the impact of this collision course if we continue as disinterestedly as possible to ask uestions and seek answers in the face of our increasingly complex worl. .

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George Steiner died yesterday His brilliant and wise literary and cultural critiue will be greatly missed I have commented on his book Nostalgia for the Absolute here Not an uninteresting book considering the topics it hovers upon But incomplete and incoherent The only issue where I disagree with Steiner is his all too uick dismissal of what he calls orientalism but I can imagine that back then it involved *a lot of superstitioussuperficial beliefs and practices and maybe still but probably a *lot of superstitioussuperficial beliefs and practices and maybe still but probably a less I would say he s being rather eurocentric thereBut overall very good I came on this book through a tweet by Marc Andreesen where he claimed that it handily explained a Marc Andreesen where he claimed that it handily explained a of modern day Weltschmerz The central thesis is controversial but rings true Scientific rationalism induced the death of Christian religion in Western Europe and the popularity of aliens communism eastern religion Freud and structural anthropology can be explained as a direct replacement of the role religion used to fillIn fact George Steiner goes one step further and calls these movements meta religions or mythologies that share ey traits with religion I bought this CBC Massey lecture when it first appeared a couple of millennia ago 1974 75 It was important for me in that it was only after reading it that I first framed my own deeply rooted skepticism I agreed with Steiner up to the point of his discussion of scientific truth Then I took a large piece of paper stuck it up on the wall of my apartment and wrote I don t believe in anything Still don t I think It definitely pointed out the impossibility all systematic philosophy for me Good book for those who are into a myth A good short book that seems thoroughly sensible The gist is that the author argues that the major intellectual movements he calls them mythologies of 20th century stem from a reaction to the spiritual vacuum left in the wake of the rise of scientific rationalism The first four sections are attempted take downs of Marxism Freudian psychology L vi Straussian anthropology and occultism respectively I m not informed enough on any of the topics to say whether the author is successful The final section deals with the Pursuit of Truth as the new ultimate hot thing Had I to do it over I d skip the first four sections Not as profound as. Writer and scholar George Steiner's Massey Lectures are just as cogent today as when he delivered them in 1974 perhaps even so He argues that Western culture's moral and emotional emptiness stems from the decay of formal religion He examines. ,