By Stefanos Geroulanos

(retail quality)

French philosophy replaced dramatically within the moment area of the 20th century. within the wake of worldwide battle I and, later, the Nazi and Soviet failures, significant philosophers equivalent to Kojève, Levinas, Heidegger, Koyré, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, and Hyppolite argued that guy may now not fill the void left by means of the "death of God" with no additionally calling up the worst in human background and denigrating the honour of the human topic. In reaction, they contributed to a brand new trust that guy should still now not be seen because the foundation for life, suggestion, and ethics; fairly, human nature turned depending on different ideas and buildings, together with Being, language, inspiration, and tradition. This argument, which was once to be paramount for existentialism and structuralism, got here to dominate postwar inspiration. This highbrow heritage of those advancements argues that at their center lay a brand new atheism that defied humanism as inadequate and eventually violent.

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By working on different sorts of moments—at times diachronically, at times by centering on specific texts, moments, or intellectual events, at times emphasizing philosophical analysis and at others cultural history—I hope to address a number of different historiographical questions, such as, How does one trace something like a transformation of atheism? Could philosophical projects as different as the ones considered here be seen to participate in Introduction  such a transformation? How does such a transformation bring to life the midcentury political critiques of humanism, and how does it affect, and get shaped by, frequently unsystematic and even quotidian contemporary conceptions of “the human”?

On a fourth, What is man? 32 Humanism could then be defined as the mobilization of a foundationalist concept of man. 33 Already in the 1930s, partisans of a negative approach to philosophical anthropology would announce a “death of man”—a trope and theme whose intellectual force and significance would not relent until the 1980s. ”34 To the 1960s as an explicit and even victorious moment of negative anthropology’s coming of age, and in order to show the dependence of these texts on a series of elaborations dating to the 1930s, I add two earlier and far less-known stages.

44 The aforementioned difficulty of sifting through humanisms with the aim of distinguishing one’s object of study, one’s target, or one’s exact intellectual adherence, often led writers to attempt broader and simpler definitions—some of which had wide-ranging consequences and considerable disregard for the historical details and ambiguities of the rise of humanism. During the 1930s, a strategy widespread among politically engaged intellectuals was to regard all claims to humanism except their own as misguided and violent, reject them en masse, and then counter their supposed failure via a definition that usually amounted to a condensed and exciting summa of their political hopes and arguments.

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