Thursday, 13 December 2012

Charles Peguy

I was stimulated to post something on Charles Peguy after hearing an interesting paper at a conference in Italy over the summer by Pete Candlor of Baylor University in Texas (some of the ideas posted here are derived from his paper). Peguy is interesting because he offers a critique of modernity that is both Christian and Socialist in equal measure. Peguy was writing at the turn of the last century and like Nietzsche his is one of the chief prophets of our age. According to Peguy, modernity is radically against us as human beings as it has handed us over to nihilism without recompense. The modern world, in his view, is radically anti-human and it is so because of its failure to synthesise the temporal and eternal in way that has rendered live liveable. In his view, only in relation to eternal is humanity capable of freedom and so modern freedom, that is based upon recognition of a necessary finitude, is essentially illusory. As he states, in modernity the monuments celebrate freedom but the modern world itself oozes slavery (an acute philosophical observation, if ever there was one). Of course, the idea that modernity has engendered a new form of slavery was integral to Marx's critique of contemporary capitalism - but Peguy digs deeper than Marx and examines the ontological basis of modern servitude. For Peguy, this servitude is the result of mistaken conception of humanity, one the fails to grasp the humanity is most fully human only in relation to the eternal and the infinite. Peguy prefigures much contemporary critical thought (that is currently attempting to reinstitute the infinite as a basis for social critique). He also explores ideas in a philosophical poetics, a much neglected literary form for conveying philosophical issues. Neil Turnbull