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Reason and culture /

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Since the 17th century, Western society has had a turbulent relationship with Reason. Descartes set out to reorganize all his opinions in the light of Reason, allowing, as Pascal bitterly reproached him, nothing else. In the course of the centuries which followed, the relationship with Reason became the object of a vigorous, often passionate debate. David Hume declared Reason to be impotent: Immanuel Kant observed that men suffered from 'misology' as the result of their disappointed expectations from Reason: G.W.F. Hegel declared that the main insight of philosophy consisted of the realization that Reason masterminded and guided all history.The debate has not remained restricted to philosophy. Max Weber, the most influential modern sociologist, was obsessed with the distinctive role of Reason in Western society, and the part it played in engendering industrialism. Social anthropologists have been preoccupied both with the universality and the diversity of conceptual thought. Emile Durkheim taught them to ask why all men were rational, whilst Max Weber taught sociologists to ask why some men were more rational than others. This book brings together the philosophical, historical and sociological discussions of rationality and strives to make clear the underlying issues and the continuity of the debate in the various disciplines.

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