The Genie out of the Bottle
The Making of Modern Man
How philosophy runs through society
Philosophy is not confined to intellectual discussion; it is found in architecture, graffiti, advertising and pop music. With that as his starting point, Ger Groot has written a cultural history and guide, with Western philosophy in prime position. Both popular and highbrow art, culture, paintings, novels and music are as important to his panoramic survey as are the classical treatises of the philosophical canon.
The central question is what happens when God ceases to be the anchor of our existence. Since René Descartes, human beings have had to decide for themselves what kind of creatures they are. Take the discovery of perspective in painting: instead of depicting the world through the eyes of an all-seeing God, painters began to find ways of expressing the human point of view. Groot argues that modern self-awareness, as articulated by Locke, Rousseau, Schopenhauer and Heidegger, is as likely to be found in the music of Bach and Stravinsky, as it is in black metal, ‘Monty Python’ and films by Ingmar Bergman. His book is illustrated; audio chips and other supplementary material can be found on www.degeestuitdefles.com.
Ger Groot used to lecture on modern philosophy to first-year students, which explains his ability to explain complex theories clearly, yet without sacrificing nuance. The search for new solid ground after ‘the death of God’ remains challenging. ‘Profound uncertainty has taken hold of us about our place and destination in reality, and therefore about the nature, purpose and intelligibility of that reality,’ Groot writes. His history of ideas and culture is an important source of insight in that uncertainty, especially in its exploration of our capacities and limitations as human beings.