Meaning and Appreciation
Time and Modern Political Life
Michael A. Weinstein
Purdue University Press
The great crisis of twentieth-century philosophy has been the loss of meaning as a criterion for conduct. With the collapse of the historical sociologies of the nineteenth century and their replacement by relativistic doctrines, contemporary thought has retreated to the fleeting present moment as the ground for describing action. In Meaning and Appreciation, Michael Weinstein traces the history of the failure of historical meaning, showing how the disappearance of collective purpose has altered our sense of time and made us aware that we are the creators of our time perspectives. Drawing upon the vitalistic tradition of Bergson, Weinstein returns to the intuition of the durée and argues that beneath practical life, we are rooted in successive lived presents. Weinstein identifies the lived present with appreciation, arguing that the life of expression, not nihilism, lies beyond the wreckage of historical teleology.
The climax of Weinstein's work is an original vision of human existence, in which our essence is to express one another to ourselves. Vindicating our intrinsic sociality against the abstract and mechanistic claims of both individualism and collectivism, the author argues that our destiny is not to project meanings into a symbolic future, but to attend to and care for one another in the present. Weinstein's sensitive analysis offers new insights into such contemporary movements as existentialism, the sociology of knowledge, and cultural philosophy, evaluating all of them in terms of the fundamental tension in our society.