Can you comment on the critique of the Cartesian subject presented in a book I am reading? I do not know how deep the author’s understanding of Descartes is or is not. That is my problem.
Here is my summary of the book’s argument so far as I understand it. What do you think of it?
1. Racialization is constitutive in the discourse of modernity. Therefore it persists despite multiple declarations of its irrationality.
2. This is so because the cogito, modernity’s founding moment, depends upon a division between interiority (the mind that thinks) and exteriority (that which lies outside the mind), and it privileges the mind (the mind comes first, its existence is the first certainty).
3. To emerge, this modern (universal) subject requires a non-modern (non universal, racialized) Other. Because racialization is necessary to the emergence of this subject, we cannot escape racial thinking. [I would have said this subject GETS raced, but that is in part because I want it to be capable of de-racing. The author says it cannot be. That is the whole point of the book.]
Here are my comments, on which you can comment if you wish, but I do not ask it, as it would take time.
1. This goes counter to the Habermasian idea of modernity as an incomplete project. It suggests that the exclusion of the colonies from the French Revolution makes sense in the modern paradigm, since modernity could only be extended to those endowed with universality; and that the original United States, with both democracy and slavery, makes sense for the same reasons. That explains why racial others have not yet been allowed to attain full subjectivity in these societies, and why the world has been divided as it has into central and peripheral countries. These situations are then, according to this author, not accidents or errors, but inevitable in the modern episteme.
2. In an apparent paradox “universality” cannot exist without an Other, so there is no universal subject except in the sense of the Kantian transcendental subject which, as we know, corresponds only to the transcendental realm. The “universal” subject, the modern subject who knows and thinks in more practical areas of life, according to this author is not universal but has an identity: it is a white man from the global north.