Thursday, June 26, 2008

Symposium on Emmanuel Eze's ON REASON. SYMPOSIA Special Issue (2008).

Eze, Emmanuel Chukwudi. On Reason: Rationality for a World of Cultural Conflict and Racism. Durham: Duke UP, 2008 (forthcoming). Here is a description of the book offered at Amazon.Com:
Given that Enlightenment rationality developed in Europe as European nations aggressively claimed other parts of the world for their own enrichment, scholars have made rationality the subject of postcolonial critique, questioning its universality and objectivity. In On Reason, the philosopher Emmanuel Chukwudi Eze demonstrates that rationality and, by extension, philosophy, need not be renounced as manifestations or tools of Western imperialism. Examining reason in connection to the politics of difference--the cluster of issues known variously as cultural diversity, political correctness, the culture wars, and identity politics--Eze expounds a rigorous argument that reason is produced through and because of difference. In so doing, he preserves reason as a human property while at the same time showing that it cannot be thought outside the realities of cultural diversity. Advocating rationality in a multicultural world, he proposes new ways of affirming both identity and difference. Eze draws on an extraordinary command of Western philosophical thought and a deep knowledge of African philosophy and cultural traditions. He explores models of rationality in the thought of a broad range of philosophers from Aristotle, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, and Thomas Hobbes to Noam Chomsky, Richard Rorty, Hilary Putnam, Jacques Derrida, and Cornel West. He considers portrayals of reason in the work of the African thinkers and novelists Chinua Achebe, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, and Wole Soyinka. Eze reflects on contemporary thought about genetics, race, and postcolonial historiography as well as on the interplay between reason and unreason in the hearings of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He contends that while rationality may have a foundational formality, understanding of its foundation and form is dynamic, always based in historical and cultural circumstances.
Here is an extract from John Pittman's review:
Eze is perhaps best known for his critical reading of Kant’s anthropological writings and the philosophical ‘raciology’ they contain, in his important article, “The Color of Reason: The Idea of ‘Race’ in Kant’s Anthropology.” He extended that critique to include Hume as well in his edited volume on Race and the Enlightenment. Indeed, Emmanuel Eze was the contemporary writer who most consistently explored the issue of the racial logic of the founding thinkers of the European enlightenment. In Achieving our Humanity: the Idea of a Postracial Future (2001), Eze extended that inquiry, discussing at length the history of race conceptions in European thought, arguing that the modern origins of philosophical racism in Europe lie in the writings of Hume and Kant, and reflecting on the cultural issues faced by Africans in the diaspora. He was something of a ‘hardliner’ on the role of modern European philosophy, arguing both that the racism that ravaged Africa and produced the horrors of the middle passage and New World slavery was a modern invention underwritten by the ‘greats’ of the modern philosophical tradition, and that the philosophical foundation of the ‘Enlightenment project’ was itself compromised by the pervasive racialization of the social thought of its celebrated founding figures. He emphatically rejected the suggestion that “we ‘separate’ the ideal from the real [Enlightenment], holding on to one while rejecting the other.” (Eze 1997, 12). “It is more appropriate,” Eze claimed, ”to consider Africa’s experience of the ‘Age of Europe’ as the cost of Occidental modernity” (Eze 1997, 13). There were signs his hard-line attitude had softened by the time Achieving our Humanity was written. There he justified his concerns about what he saw as Kant’s racializing of reason by referring to himself as one of those “who do not wish to continue to see the word ‘universalism’ regarded as a curse word (to damn nonwhite cultures or as an expletive against white cultures) [and] are interested in separating true from false universalism” (Eze 2001, 81). On Reason (2008) can be seen as Eze’s constructive response to his abiding concern with the consequences of European enlightenment’s racialization of reason: if no nonracialized version of European philosophy’s method can be recuperated, then we must look elsewhere for a truly universal account of reason.
Read the rest of the review here:

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