The Rise and Fall of Modern Man

by Jacek Dobrowolski (Author)
©2017 Monographs 100 Pages
Series: Modernity in Question, Volume 9


Award-winning essay in philosophical anthropology meditating on who, in terms of history of ideas, modern western man was, is, and will perhaps become. The author focuses on developments of modern man’s self-knowledge, understood both as concept of his own human nature and as individual self-consciousness, made possible by the idea that each human being is an autonomous rational agent. The book examines how Selfhood and self-governed individuality connect to science and technology, and offers an imaginative exploration of various modern narratives of human singularity, from Robinson Crusoe to Zarathustra, and to contemporary individual Facebook profiles.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • 1. Introduction: Who, Whom, Why and How?
  • 2. The Subject between Extremes
  • 3. Genesis: The Socratic-Platonic Deception or The Irrepressible Need for Immortality
  • 4. Modern Man: The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe
  • 5. The Scientific Foundations of Modern Man
  • 6. The Evolution of Modern Man, Nietzsche’s Moustache, The Fittest Man and the Man Without Qualities, The Four Pillars of Modern Man
  • 7. Evolution and Zoodicy: The Animality of Modern Man
  • 8. Modernity as False Consciousness
  • 9. Technology and the Mind, God-Machine, The Individual vs. Facebook
  • 10. That which Returns
  • 11. The Death of Death and Late Modern Man
  • 12. Selected Bibliography

| 7 →

1. Introduction: Who, Whom, Why and How?

There are two responses to the question of whether science and technology can answer the ancient challenge Know Thyself and both of them are “no”. The first of these negative responses is rather trivial: they cannot because only the self-knowing-self can answer this challenge or not. Only the knowing self. Science and technology can merely assist, hinder or perhaps be neutral in this task, “adding up to zero”, bringing into it as many pluses as minuses. But can science and technology play this role at all? Could “self-knowledge” ever be one of their goals? Even if the final cause of the existence of science and technology—if there is one, and one can reasonably doubt that there is—has anything to do with the ancient commercial slogan of Pythia, it is that the first turn from “knowledge of nature” to “self-knowledge” in the history of Western thought, the Socratic turn, took place under the patronage and as part of the transfer of this slogan from the sacred space of the Oracle to the space of Philosophy. From its very inception Western science and its product in the form of technology followed a different course: the knowledge of what is objective, or nature, as opposed to the course of subjectivity, or what is human. In the very roots of our thinking, which would be difficult to cut off or uproot, there lies a difference between these two, a difference stemming from the perhaps most fundamental dualism of “subject” and “object”. Science, and even more so technology, lack the means to transcend this dualism which precedes them, and they do not have the need to do so.

However, going beyond the triviality of this straightforward remark we assume that the question in fact refers to that “someone” and their self-knowledge as well as to how science and technology, regardless of their own destiny, can be useful to that someone in the task of self-knowing, and, in a slightly different sense, to how the nomothetical sciences and their accompanying technological development impact the ideographic sciences, the humanities. Following this assumption, after a long and winding course, we will arrive at the second “no” which is complex, ambiguous and mediated by a variety of always partial “yes” and “insofar as”. It will in fact be ← 7 | 8 → a kind of “rather not, although…”, which again may seem trivial but, as is usually the case, the pearls lie in the details. Therefore, without feigned embarrassment about the triviality of the point of arrival, let us walk the stages of the road I have sketched in this essay whose main variables will be the “who” and “what” implicit in the titular challenge.

Know Thyself. Know the Ego. This someone, the knowing subject as we have referred to him before, although perhaps prematurely, is undoubtedly a construct and not something out there, simply given. In the course of this essay and the dynamics of its discourse he will be construed and re-construed, far removed from any “naturalness” or immediacy and yet with pretense to a kind of “factual truth” or authenticity. However, this truth or authenticity can only be granted to him through such “categories” as human, person, subject, the I, individual, being, author etc. all of which are highly suspect, always controversial and ultimately groundless, imploding in the ecstasy and divergence of their meanings and subject to numerous crushing deconstructions. Each determination of this someone who is referred to in the essay question will be a choice which has to exclude or ignore something and exaggerate beyond proper measure something else, introducing some deformation—but of what? Of this unknown something, allegedly identical with the one who knows himself, something so complex but at the same time most intimate that it cannot be easily removed, circumvented, forgotten or distanced, even if there is good reason to doubt its reality. We should also remember that not only human individuals can be subjects. The subject may also be God, other spirits, collectives (classes, nations, religious communities, minorities, corporations etc.) and abstract concepts: man as such, modern man, John Doe etc. All of these subjects can turn out to be the addressees of the challenge Know Thyself.

Let us capture the problem with a list. The ancient challenge that we are considering can be directed at:


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2017 (February)
Anthropology of modernity Modern self-knowledge History of individualism Nietzsche's moustache Postmodern subjectivity Anthropology of Facebook
Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2017. 100 pp.

Biographical notes

Jacek Dobrowolski (Author)

Jacek Dobrowolski studied Philosophy and Sociology at the University of Warsaw. A two-time final nominee in the Polish only philosophical essay contest, and winner of main award in 2014. He published three books in philosophical anthropology of modernity.


Title: The Rise and Fall of Modern Man
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
102 pages