Reenchantment of the World, The

Morris Berman
The Reenchantment of the World is a perceptive study of our scientific consciousness and a cogent and forceful challenge to its supremacy. Focusing on the rise of the mechanistic idea that we can know the natural world only by distancing ourselves from it, Berman shows how science acquired its controlling position in the consciousness of the West. He analyzes the holistic, animistic tradition—destroyed in the wake of Scientific Revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—which viewed man as a participant in the cosmos, not as an isolated observer. Arguing that the holistic world view must be revived in some credible form before we destroy our society and our environment, he explores the possibilities for a consciousness appropriate to the modern era. Ecological rather than animistic, this new world view would be grounded in the real and intimate connection between man and nature.

Reviews

Reviewed: 2020-05-28
With its talk of gurus, cults, and psychoanalysis, this book is clearly situated in the malaise of the failure of the Sixties. And while Berman for the most part dismisses the woo and authoritarianism, he still falls for the trap of individual solutions for collective problems that were rampant at the time. More concisely, we're alienated because the material conditions of our lives are alienating. Outside of dropping out and actually changing daily life (maybe), no amount of individual readjustment is going to fundamentally alter that.

What's confusing is that Berman seems to know this. He cites the rise of capitalism in the 1500s as the beginning of the Cartesian worldview, which the whole book is an attempt to overthrow/negate. So far, so good. But if that's the case, then how does he think anything we do individually within this society will get us out of that? While he occasionally pays lip service to changing society, it's clearly not his focus, and I think he forgets the connection between an exploitative society and its objectifying/alienating worldview.

While I appreciate his critiques of science, they seem off. For one, he is confused by the double-slit experiment in quantum mechanics. No, our presence does not cause any change in particles. Probability, and not our presence in the experiment, is what determines where particles will be in this experiment. But hey, many people make that mistake.

Feyerabend's Against Method covers much of the same ground as this book, and does so within science itself. I recommend it over this one.
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@frimerke
@frimerke completed #reenchantmentoft... on 2017-11-07