Paradise haunts the Biblical West. At once the place of origin and exile, utopia and final destination, it has shaped our poetic and religious imagination and informed literary and theological accounts of man’s relation with his creator, with language and history. For Kant, Paradise was the inaugural moment for the rise and progress of reason as the agency of human history, slowly but certainly driving humanity away from error and superstition. Nietzsche described it more somberly as the very embodiment of the conflict between humanity and its beliefs.
In Earthly Paradise, Milad Doueihi contemplates key moments in the philosophical reception and uses of Paradise, marked by the rise of critical and historical methods in the Early Modern period. How do modern debates around the nature of evil, free will, and the origin of language grow out of the philosophical interpretations of Paradise as the site of human history? How do the reflections of Spinoza, Pierre Bayle, Leibniz, and their contemporaries inform our current ideas about the Biblical narrative of the Fall? Is Paradise the source of human error or an utopian vision of humanity itself?
Anyone who wants to understand the ethical turn in modern philosophy, or the intellectual roots of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, needs to read Doueihi's account of the philosophical conditions under which our ideas of paradise developed and were at last overthrown. In this lucid study, beautifully translated by Jane Marie Todd, Milad Doueihi, argues that while the earthly paradise belongs to myth, it is a myth around which our most vital thinking continually turns.
Milad Doueihi's beautiful book does not seek to lift the mystery over earthly paradise. He shows, with select erudition, how this history prior to history informs the foundations of modernity. This modernity, while it is inaugurated with a contestation of the authority of the Bible, inherits and depends upon the same Biblical categories it seeks to undermine.
Milad Doueihi's essay shows that a theological and erudite past can rejoin, through singular ways reconstructed here, some of the essential interrogations of our present. Although our sense of modernity may suffer from it, there are living cultural units that only mastered erudition, and the subtlety of analysis, allow us to reconstruct in their slow but certain elaboration.
- 192 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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