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The Rise and Fall of Modern Man


Jacek Dobrowolski

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.

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8. Modernity as False Consciousness


Modernity, like no other epoch in world history, is characterized by the fact that science and technology significantly determine humanity and the self-understanding of man. This is perhaps most salient in the recognition that the ultimate truth of humanity and the dominant perspective on it have turned out to be materiality, biology and carnality. The modern era is the history of how reason abandons the metaphysical interpretation of being and discovers being as what is natural—it creates scientific inquiry and develops technology. The principal message of enlightened modernity, in terms of human self-knowledge as well as practice and self-emancipation, is that man is a living/material entity. Evolutionary-Nietzschean vitalism is a form of radical materialism. Another form of materialism understood as a specifically modern science is Marxism. For several good reasons, Marxism should not be readily dismissed in the debate over the slogan Know Thyself, which only appears not to be subversive or dangerous for the status quo.

When it comes to the relationship between science and technology seen as products of human labour on one hand, and man himself and human nature, on the other, Marxism enriches the modern worldview with a new perspective: the view from below, from the lowest of the low, from the level which for Plato and many other philosophers was always the bottom rung of being, hardly perceivable from the heights of free thought, the view which unmasks and compromises these heights by asking about their proper material possibility conditions...

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