Adventures of the Dialectic. (Northwestern University by Maurice Merleau-Ponty

By Maurice Merleau-Ponty

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What inspired the pioneers of capitalism was not the philosophy of enlightenment and immanence, the joy of life, which will come later. The ''righteous, strict, and formalistic" character that brought them success can be understood only in terms of their sense of a worldly calling and in terms of the economic ethic of Puritanism. Many of the elements of capitalism exist here and there in history; but if it is only in western Europe that one finds the rational capitalistiC enterprise in the sense that Weber defines it, this is perhaps because no other civilization has a theology which sanctifies daily labor, organizes a worldly asceticism, and joins the glory of God to the transformation of nature.

It assumes that we can clarify the choices of others through our own and ours through theirs, that we can rectify one by the other and finally arrive at the truth. There is no attitude more respectful, no objectivity more profound, than this claim of going to the very source of history. History is not an external god, a hidden reason of which we have only to record the conclusions. It is the metaphysical fact that the same life, our own, is played out both within us and outside us, in our present and in our past, and that the world is a system with several points of access, or, one might say, that we have fellow men.

The transcendental condition of all cultural science is not that we find this or that culture valuable but the fact that we are "cultural men," endowed with the capacity consciously to take a position with regard to the world and to give meaning to it. 6 Historical understanding thus does not introduce a system of categories arbitrarily chosen; it only presupposes the possibility that we have a past which is ours and that we can recapture in 5. Karl L6with, "Max Weber und Karl Marx," Archiv filr Sozialwissenschaft und Sozialpolitik, LVII (1932).

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