Comments on Jonathan Lear’s Radical Hope (Harvard: 2006)
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Comments on Jonathan Lear’s Radical Hope (Harvard: 2006)

  • Author(s): Dreyfus, Hubert L.
  • et al.
Abstract

Cultural devastation, and the proper response to it, is the central concern of Radical Hope. I address an uncertainty in Lear’s book, reflected in a wavering over the difference between a culture’s way of life becoming impossible and its way of life becoming unintelligible. At his best, Lear asks the radical ontological question: when the cultural collapse is such that the old way of life has become not only impossible but retroactively unimaginable,––when nothing one can do (or did) makes sense anymore,––how can one go on? In raising this question, Lear’s book is a remarkable breakthrough; it comes close to raising the crucial ontological question of how to deal with the total collapse of a culture, and it may well become a classic by starting a conversation on the question: How should we live when our own culture is in the process of actually collapsing? Lear suggests that [w]hat would be required … would be a new Crow poet: one who could take up the Crow past and—rather than use it for nostalgia or ersatz mimesis—project it into vibrant new ways for the Crow to live and to be. (p. 51) [w]hat would be required … would be a new Crow poet: one who could take up the Crow past and—rather than use it for nostalgia or ersatz mimesis—project it into vibrant new ways for the Crow to live and to be. (p. 51) Later Heidegger had a similar suggestion for us and I try to spell it out briefly.

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