Aside from two texts translated into English and published in the United States in 1809 and 1817 under the approbative supervision of Thomas Jefferson (1743–1846), the works of the 1806 American Philosophical Society inducted French philosopher Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de Tracy (1754–1836), despite having provided the first comprehensive formalization in history of the concept of ‘ideology,’ have since been subjected to an inexplicably severe neglect by Anglophone audiences. Spanning the interstice between the better known theologically apologetic sensualism of his mentor Etienne Bonnot de Condillac (1715–1780) and more closely attended psychological inquiries of his younger colleague Maine de Biran (1766–1824), Tracy’s rigorously secular and anti-psychological analysis of ‘ideology’ coined the term to denote a ‘science of ideas’ investigating how sensorially based cognitive processes of ideation must inform the epistemological determinations and interrelations of such fields as general grammar, formal logic, volitional theory, political economy, and ethical pragmatics, amongst others. With its vast yet clearly wrought and meticulously compiled systemic scope, Tracy’s work merits close reconsideration today if for no other reason than that predominant contemporary references to an increasingly ubiquitous and contentious plurality of ‘ideologies’ arguably cohere most only in terms of their consistent negation of Tracy’s initiating determination of ‘ideology’ as a necessarily singular and general topic of primarily epistemological relevance. This first complete translation into English of the first volume of Tracy’s Elements of Ideology seeks to contribute to an alleviation of the complex dilemmas fomented by such normative refusals of Tracy’s founding concept of ‘ideology’ as an analytically dialogical (as opposed to synthetically dialectical) mode of inquiry aimed toward fathoming provisionally comprehensible causes and effects (and not any metaphysically ‘absolute’ origins or ‘final’ ends) of ideational reasoning. Through a broad consideration of how ‘faithful’ translational representations of the content of texts as long-neglected yet trenchant as Tracy’s may require more extensive reliance upon qualitatively ‘resuscitative’ than quantitatively ‘archaeological’ hermeneutic criteria, the translator’s introduction assesses currently normative refusals of the Tracyan conception of ‘ideology’ as symptomatic of entrenched post-Hegelian preferences for using dialectical forms to rhetorically present transcendental and thus irrational magnitudes (e.g. ‘the infinite’) as rationally comprehensible quanta. While such dialectical presentations may engender effective if disingenuous ‘sublations’ of the antinomies dividing incommensurable orders of knowledge, Tracyan ‘ideological’ analyses are more specifically aimed toward indefinitely negotiating such aporiae as dialogically constitutive conditions of possibility for discursive representation in general. A translation of the last completed chapter of Elements has also been appended to illustrate the kinds of pragmatic observations Tracy eventually extrapolated from the epistemological insights elaborated in the work’s first three volumes.
Keywords: Antoine Louis Claude Destutt de Tracy, Ideology, French Enlightenment Philosophy, Sensualism, Condillac, Deconstruction, Derrida, Foucault, Hegel
|Advisor:||Tabas, Bradford Samuel|
|School:||The American University of Paris (France)|
|Source:||MAI 56/02M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude, comte, French Enlightenment, Ideology, Translation|
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