The Politics of Rationality : Reason through Occidental History book cover
1st Edition

The Politics of Rationality
Reason through Occidental History

ISBN 9781138194533
Published December 1, 2015 by Routledge
240 Pages

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Book Description

What are reason and rationality? How significant are recent postmodernist and neuroscientific challenges to these longheld notions? Should we abandon a belief in reason and an adherence to rationality? Or can reason and rationality be reformulated and reframed? And what does politics have to do with how we think about reason and why we act more or less rationally?

The Politics of Rationality differs from other books with "reason" or “rationality” due to its historical, political, depth-psychological, and multidisciplinary approach to understanding reason through history. 

Charles P. Webel eloquently clarifies the links among ideas, their creators, the relevant mental processes, and the political cultures within which such important concepts as reasons and rationality take hold.  He demonstrates how reason and rationality/irrationality have become what they mean for us today and proposes a way to rethink reason and rationality in light of the withering critiques leveled against them.  In doing so, he presents a "history of reason and rationality" by examining the intellectual and political contexts of four representative theorists of reason and rationality-- Plato, Machiavelli, Kant, and Weber—and by addressing contemporary challenges posed by postmodernism, depth psychology, and neurophilosophy.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Reason within Occidental History. 1. From the Deed to the Word: Reason and Rationality in the Discourse of Ancient Occidental Intellectuals, Especially Plato. 2. From the State of Reason to Raison d'État: Machiavelli and the Historicity of all Ideals. 3. Kant: The Architectonic of Reason. 4: Max Weber: The Disenchantment of Reason with the Domination of Rationality. Conclusion: History within Reason.

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Charles P. Webel is currently a professor at the University of New York in Prague. He has taught philosophy, psychology, intellectual history, and politics at the University of California at Berkeley, the University of South Florida, California State University at Chico, Saybrook University, and Harvard University. He was also Director of the Centre for Peace Studies at the University of Tromso, Norway, and he graduated from the Psychoanalytic Institute of Northern California.


"‘Reason’ is one of the most contested concepts of our time. With deftness and with real historical and exegetical scholarship, as well as with great range, Charles Webel carefully negotiates these troubled waters, showing a path between the absurdities of rank post-modernism and the narrownesses of rank scientism. What emerges is a philosophical history of rationality that will be of interest to students and scholars alike. I recommend this book."

Rupert Read, University of East Anglia

"Does reason still have a place in a postmodern world? Charles Webel—historian of ideas, philosopher, psychologist, and social critic—answers this question in the affirmative. I cannot think of another author who could weave together so much diverse material so elegantly and so persuasively. Webel's subtle and balanced defense goes a long way toward redefining rationality as a moral force and rescuing it from its enemies. Those who want to understand not only how we got to where we are, but also the way forward should read this book."

Charles Lindholm, Boston University

"... this is an insightful work, of particular use for assignment to intelligent undergraduates and graduate students, useful as a survey by non-specialists, and worth the time of specialists as a thoughtful reading."

David Randall, Political Studies Review