Social Scientist. v 20, no. 235 (Dec 1992) p. 53.


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SHASWATI MAZUMDAR

Habermas and the Post Modernist Critique of the Enlightenment

In Brecht's play Life of Galileo, a young monk explains to Galileo the reasons why he supports the papal decree against the results of Galileo's researches on the planetary system showing that it was not the sun that moved round the earth but the earth that moved around the sun:

My parents were peasants in the Campagna, and I grew up there. They are simple people. They know all about olive trees, but not much else . .. They are badly off, but even their misfortunes imply a certain order . . . There is a regularity about the disasters that befall them ... They have been assured that God's eye is always on them—probingly, even anxiously—that the whole drama of the World is constructed around them so that they, the performers may prove themselves in their greater or lesser roles. What would my people say if I told them that they happen to be on a small knob of stone twisting endlessly through the void round a second-rate star, just one among myriads? What would be the value or necessity then of so much patience, such understanding of their poverty? What would be the use of Holy Scripture, which has explained and justified it all—the sweat, the patience, the hunger, the submissiveness—and now turns out to be full of errors? No: I can see their eyes wavering, I can see them leffing their spoons drop, I can see how betrayed and deceived they will feel. So nobody's eye is on us, they'll say. Have we got to look after ourselves, old, uneducated and worn-out as we are? The only part anybody has devised for us is this wretched earthly one, to be played out on a Hny star wholly dependent on others, with nothing revolving round it. Our poverty has no meaning: hunger is no trial of strength, it's merely not having eaten: effort is no virtue, it's just bending and carrying. Can you see now Why I read into the Holy Congregations decree a noble motherly compassion, a vast goodness of the soul?

To this Galileo retorts:

Delhi University, Delhi

Social Scientist, Vol. 20, No. 12, December 1992



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