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Keywords:

  • atheism;
  • humanism;
  • antihumanism;
  • secularization;
  • phenomenology;
  • existentialism;
  • structuralism

ABSTRACT

An Atheism that is Not Humanist Emerges in French Thought examines the advent of antihumanism as a cultural figure out of a network of intellectual crises in interwar and postwar France and ties this advent to the more general consequences of secularization in the modern age. Bracketing political judgments, and eschewing dialectical methods, Stefanos Geroulanos shows how the critique of humanism that emerged from disparate quarters of French intellectual life resulted in a series of negative positions that rendered the human void of any conceptual content and thereby unsuitable as a basis for future political action or philosophical investigation. In addition to basing his analysis on two rigorously sketched concepts of his own design, “antifoundational realism” and “negative anthropology,” Geroulanos deploys a striking use of conceptual irony to show how the critical efforts of his protagonists often led to theoretical cul-de-sacs and a heightened measure of existential despondency. The treatment of the emergence of antihumanism as a local phenomenon among a segment of French intellectuals nevertheless encounters problems when it abandons the terrain of historical argument for an engagement with broader metaphysical concerns. By participating in the discourse of its subjects, An Atheism that is Not Humanist finds its way into cul-de-sacs of its own, in which, for example, the ostensibly political bearing of efforts to transcend mere politics for broader considerations of the “theo-political crisis of modernity” remains unclear. Finally, by accepting the terms of the phenomenological diagnosis of metaphysical crisis in the interwar years, the book compromises certain of its genealogical aspirations, especially with regard to the legacy of Third Republic idealism and the specific qualities of post-phenomenological structuralism.