Ecstasy and Altruism
This chapter focuses on postmodernism as a revolt against modes of rationality that make foundational claims, that is, as an attack upon what Jean-François Lyotard calls “grand narratives”, by which he means comprehensive epistemological schema, as well as all-encompassing theories of emancipation. As a social and cultural practice, postmodernism can pit social epistemology against commonsense arguments that endorse altruistic action. By highlighting extreme situations in the twentieth century, it brings into high relief the contrast between the radical altruism of those who place themselves at the disposal of the other, become hostage to the other, and those who respond with tepid benevolence or, worse yet, contribute to harming others. The postmodern saintly life as a new path in ethics is not a proposal to revert to an older hagiographic discourse, least of all to hide behind its metaphysical presuppositions. It is instead a plea for boldness and risk, for an effort to develop a new altruism in an age grown cynical and hardened to catastrophe.
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