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Title: Magic, science and modernity
Author: Perrett, Clive
ISNI:       0000 0004 2697 6968
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2000
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This thesis is a cross-disciplinary and wide ranging project which attempts to answer a simple but difficult question: how did it come about that by the mid C20 the human race was (unintentionally) on the edge of the possibility of self-destruction as a result of its own ingenuity - as a result either of civilisation-induced ecological breakdown, or of wars using weapons of mass destruction, or of both? The question is explored by considering "conundrums" of modernity, which include various C20 problematisations of modem science, and by analysing what I call three "myths" of modernity : Marlowe's play, Dr Faustus, Shelley's novel, Frankenstein and James Cameron's film, Terminator H. Common themes from all three texts are explored, with particular regard to questions of marriage and gender. I look at debates about the origins of modem science, and about the nature of science in the present day with particular regard to the relation between magic and science. I undertake a "case study" which looks at different and contrasting accounts of the life and work of the C 16 occult philosopher Cornelius Agrippa, and I study some of his writings, paying particular attention to his writings on women and marriage. I consider some Marxist and post-Marxist critiques of science, in particular Adorno and Horkheimer's notion of "enlightenment returning to mythology" and the epistemological theory of Alfred Sohn-Rethel that science studies nature "in commodity form". I connect these critiques to Marx's theory of commodity fetishism and to the "magical" ethos of modern advertising. I consider various modem theological and "new age" critiques of science, from the work of the Islamic scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr, to critiques made by the Christian scholars Philip Sherrard and Jim Garrison and the philosopher physicist Fritjof Capra. I consider questions relating to the "two cultures", and to the division of labour in modernity, and concerning occultism and modem literature. I conclude that the central problem is the manner in which science broke free of both metaphysics and ethics in a way which lost touch with the human, in particular with the centrality to human society of the primary human relationship between male and female, and that the growth of modern science was intrinsically connected with the development of capitalism. My thesis offers a re-consideration of the manner in which this "break" took place, with particular regard to what the "occult philosophy" of C16 Europe contained which ceased to be included within science but migrated into art and literature. I argue that this creates the schizoid culture of modernity with its multitude of incompatible discourses, and that a symbiosis of modern science and capitalism has developed which generates the apocalyptic and destructive possibilities which may endanger the survival of civilisation. My thesis argues that it is this symbiosis which needs to be understood, and challenged, for human society to have a future.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available