Critics of Rationalism: Call for Papers

Editors: Gene Callahan and Lee Trepanier

In the first half of the twentieth century, the rationalist tide had reached its high mark. The arts, so it was held, were to be revolutionized according to rationalist precepts. In architecture and city planning, rationalism would sweep away that unnecessary clutter of old prejudices that restrained traditional architecture and customary urban organization and build the modern, functional buildings and communities that people truly needed. Child-rearing also was to be brought into accord with ‘scientific’ principles. And, with the Soviet Union seen as setting the example of a shining city on a hill, society as a whole was to be transformed into a utopia by tossing aside all attachment to atavistic customs and ancient moral relics and proceeding to design social affairs from first principles.

But World War II, the Holocaust, the Gulag, the failure of urban renewal projects, and other dismal outcomes of the rationalist program have considerably dimmed its popularity. However, the evidence of those practical failures would not have been as convincing as it was—perhaps it was the case that we just had not found the proper rationalist program yet?-- if not for the existence of a theoretical diagnosis of the malady. That diagnosis was provided by a number of thinkers in the mid-twentieth century. The aim of this collection is to compare and contrast the ideas of some of the leading critics of rationalism: Eric Voegelin, Michael Polanyi, F.A. Hayek, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Gilbert Ryle, Michael Oakeshott, Alasdair MacIntyre and others. While each can be seen as a critic of rationalism, were they each attacking the same thing? In what senses did their analyses overlap, and in what senses did they differ? Clarifying these issues will provide important insights into this major intellectual trend of the past century.

The plan is to first publish the papers at the web site Voegelin View, and then in a collected volume. (We already have two interested publishers.) The volume is almost complete, but we seek several more manuscripts by the end of the spring of 2017 to fill out the collection. We seek papers relating the work of any two (or more) of the above thinkers. The papers may be a direct comparison of their thoughts on rationalism, or they might consider their evaluations of each other’s thought.

Please send proposals to:
Gene Callahan:
Lee Trepanier: