Notes on “The Destruction of Reason”

Monday, 4th August, 2014

book details

The Destruction of Reason
Georg Lukács
1962 (tr. 1980)


This was a gruelling, depressing read. I am full of respect for Lukács for sifting through so much complete drivel (Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Spengler, Heidegger, and so on). I’d never read any of these people before and I had naively assumed they were proper philosophers (as they are presented in the mainstream media).

Lukács traces the history and the development of irrationalist philosophy from the French revolution right through to Hitler, with an epilogue on the post-war US, with its increasing shoddiness and cynicism and anti-humanism.

I couldn’t help notice similarities with contemporary developments: the denigration of democracy; the celebration of irrational political action (like the infantile Occupy movement); of apostasy (like the whistleblowers); the almost medieval approach to morality; temper-loss and name-calling in place of debate; …


Because of its nature as a critique and a warning, this book doesn’t open up so many new horizons as the Hegel book did. However there were three clear avenues:

  • Two heroes mentioned stand out: Rosa Luxemburg (obviously not new to me) and Georges Politzer (completely new to me).
  • “German Classical Humanism” (p530): Herder and Humboldt. These two popped up repeatedly while I was reading for my PhD (on Vygotsky and Ilyenkov) all those years ago (the early 90s).
  • I need to do something to correct my patchy knowledge of 19th century history, esp. the years 1848 and 1870.

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