The Kingdom of Man
Genesis and Failure of the Modern Project
352 pages, 6.00 x 9.00
Paperback | 9780268104269 | February 2021
Hardcover | 9780268104252 | October 2018
eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268104276 | October 2018
eBook (EPUB) | 9780268104283 | October 2018
Was humanity created, or do humans create themselves? In this eagerly awaited English translation of Le Règne de l’homme, the last volume of Rémi Brague's trilogy on the philosophical development of anthropology in the West, Brague argues that, with the dawn of the Enlightenment, Western societies rejected the transcendence of the past and looked instead to the progress fostered by the early modern present and the future. As scientific advances drained the cosmos of literal mystery, humanity increasingly devalued the theophilosophical mystery of being in favor of omniscience over one’s own existence. Brague narrates the intellectual disappearance of the natural order, replaced by a universal chaos upon which only humanity can impose order; he cites the vivid histories of the nation-state, economic evolution into capitalism, and technology as the tools of this new dominion, taken up voluntarily by humans for their own ends rather than accepted from the deity for a divine purpose.
Brague’s tour de force begins with the ancient and medieval confidence in humanity as the superior creation of Nature or of God, epitomized in the biblical wish of the Creator for humans to exert stewardship over the earth. He sees the Enlightenment as a transition period, taking as a given that humankind should be masters of the world but rejecting the imposition of that duty by a deity. Before the Enlightenment, who the creator was and whom the creator dominated were clear. With the advance of modernity and banishment of the Creator, who was to be dominated? Today, Brague argues, “our humanism . . . is an anti-antihumanism, rather than a direct affirmation of the goodness of the human.” He ends with a sobering question: does humankind still have the will to survive in an era of intellectual self-destruction? The Kingdom of Man will appeal to all readers interested in the history of ideas, but will be especially important to political philosophers, historical anthropologists, and theologians.
Paul Seaton is associate professor of philosophy at St. Mary's Seminary.
Rémi Brague is emeritus professor of medieval and Arabic philosophy at the University of Paris I and Romano Guardini Chair Emeritus of Philosophy at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (Munich). He is a member of the Institut de France and author of many books, including Curing Mad Truths: Medieval Wisdom for the Modern Age (University of Notre Dame Press, 2019).
"[Rémi Brague] is aiming at something more difficult than a history of ideas. The goal is to lay bare the internal logic of modern hubris, to disinter link by link from the debris of history the chain of ideas that took us from early modern theistic humanism, through atheistic humanism, to today's regnant antihumanism, which expresses itself in art as ugliness and distortion of the human form, and in social science as the program of abortion, euthanasia, and assisted suicide—from early modern utopian dreams to current dystopian nightmares. . . . The book is nothing like a jeremiad . . . Brague is trying to do what a philosopher at the peak of his illustrious career should do, disclose to his reader the underlying logic of the age; not offer answers, but equip the reader to find them. In this he succeeds." —Touchstone
"The story may be familiar in broad outline—the death of God entails the death of man—but it has never been portrayed with both such a thorough command of the broad strokes (for example, masterful compact discussions of canonical thinkers from Francis Bacon to Heidegger) and at the same time a simply amazing wealth of detail, fine brush strokes of testimony from lesser known or practically unknown authors and artists that add vivid cultural flesh to the big story. In the end, the portrait of secular humanism’s collapse upon itself is stark, more than sobering, but informed by an understated but bright hope that humanity’s goodness has 'anchors in the heavens.'" —Ralph Hancock, Brigham Young University
"Concise, clear, and compelling, The Kingdom of Man provides an account of the genesis and failure of the modern project. Although a familiar story, Brague presents it with erudition and detail that is enriching rather than overwhelming and helps us understand who we are today." —Law and Liberty
“. . . it was a delight to turn to Rémi Brague’s The Kingdom of Man: Genesis and Failure of the Modern Project. This is a genuine academic work by a scholar of remarkable erudition.” —Public Discourse
"No one ranges over the history of ideas like Rémi Brague. The Kingdom of Man is not just an index of Brague's astonishing learning but a pulsing inquiry into the dreams of our modern imagination. Those dreams, contends Brague, re-worked reality itself and proposed a human innocence that is proving far from benign." —Graham James McAleer, Loyola University Maryland
“The thousands of slight turns of thought over the centuries leading up to our own... are the subject of Brague’s exposition. The author is, himself, a Catholic who is more of a lamenter than a champion of this story, but his tone throughout is uniformly calm and professorial. His criticism of modern developments, primarily implied or insinuated, is under the surface of the placid text.” —Reading Religion
"Amid the continuing stream of books about modernity, Rémi Brague’s The Kingdom of Man stands alone. His treatment of the modern age is at once complex and unified, rooted in stunning erudition and an ability to construct a compelling narrative. Completing a trilogy that includes previous books on antiquity and the middle ages, Brague provides an account of the sources—textual, political, economic, and ecclesial—of our current world for which there is no substitute and no current competitor." —Thomas S. Hibbs, Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Culture, Baylor University
"Rémi Brague provides in this book a longue-durée historical and philosophical explanation for anyone who has ever wondered about our civilization’s willing spiral into self-destruction. Brague shows that the will to modernity is the will to take control of human nature, isolate it from any cosmological or theological context, and render the truth about it provisional, subject to endless experiment and modification. This is a timely and important book." —James Hankins, Harvard University
"With The Kingdom of Man, Brague completes a trilogy in which he presents a panoramic view of theological and philosophic thought, ‘ancient and modern,’ primarily but not exclusively ‘Western.’ Most such efforts are cringeworthy exercises, superficial and canting, but Brague has read not only widely but with care, profiting from work done by Strauss and his students while maintaining an independent view. . . . A summary of Brague’s argument shows why his book provokes and stimulates." —Interpretation
"The Kingdom of Man deserves an audience as wide as the author’s great erudition, for Brague tells this familiar-enough story of decline in new ways culminating in a clear critique." —Journal of Church and State