Janicaud on Worldly Reason

Since I mentioned his Powers of the Rational this weekend at the RPA, I’ll note two quotes appropriate to that discussion since his book actually is right in my line of sight in my office:

Janicaud was deeply influenced by Heidegger’s account of technicity, but he was attempting to think the contingency of history and the need for a “rationality as partage,” as he called it, that is, a means for thinking that does calculate but can move toward the incalculable (that sound vague, but it’s not an easy book, since it moves through four phases of the relationship between reason and power, with the technical world the [last] stage.

The rationality of worldwide planning has no other way to make room for imponderables than to reduce them to marks of indetermination, and thus it forecasts solely in a linear, expansionistic manner the exploitation of natural resources and the goods of production. (p. 206 of the English edition)

That’s quite out of context, but that gives a sense of what he’s trying to tease out in terms of marking out, like Foucault’s epistemes, the four phases of technical rationality. He wants to move towards a thinking whereby “a world worthy of this name is a world capable of being inhabited” (p. 184). I’m just passing quickly, before heading off to teach Plato (then Foucault, then Africana ethics) and making pit stops at points I marked in the book. He has a great quote from Michel Serres, which really could be an epigram for our introduction to SR book nearing completion:

Dust to dust, the last word of philosophy. We will see the light or we will trespass among the thousand suns of our infernal reason. Passing this threshold, we begin to speak of immortality [or after finitude?–PG]. Of the new science. (Quoted on 140).

Then, finally, getting to Stuart Elden’s point, made well, that we actually give into a certain calculative reason each time we offer but one more set of body counts, etc.:

First world war: 8.7 million dead; Second World War: 40 million. In Hitler’s camps: approximately 7 million victims; in Stalin’s camps: 30 million. The incalculable is there, in numbers at once terrible and meaningless. …We calculate for want of something better. … We face the limits of every phenomenology in the face of this explosion.

This “calculation for want of something better” is perhaps a good epigram for Janicaud’s work on the powers of the rational, and his turn toward a “minimalist phenomenology” as means for thinking the limits of the powers of the rational.


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