​​​​David Sprintzen

Critique of Western Philosophy and Social Theory

The “existential” drama at the heart of the modern world is the result of a truly cataclysmic transformation in our institutions and modes of belief. It rivals in scope and significance, if it does not surpass, the transformation occasioned by the “Scientific Revolution” of the 16th and 17th Century. Few can still doubt – even if they do not yet appreciate -- the comprehensive and global scope of this “Second Scientific Revolution." Our fundamental modes of thought and action, institutional structure, personal identity, economic development, and relation to nature, all require radical revision if human life on this planet (and beyond) is to survive and prosper. We are thus confronted with a world whose structures of meaning and corresponding institutional foundations are being undermined, thus presaging a revolutionary transformation. That transformation, however unclear at present, cannot fail to be radical and comprehensive. My work critically evaluates its nature, outlines the structures of an alternative world view and develops the contours of the social and institutional order it suggests. It then seeks to provide practical strategies by which we may reasonably hope to meet the challenges confronting contemporary civilization.

Reviewer’s comments:

“David Sprintzen's book is an ambitious, learned, probing, daring, and controversial work, reflecting decades of Sprintzen's thinking and action in regard to many of life's most engaging metaphysical, existential, and social issues. Convinced that we are experiencing the ‘death throes’ of the ‘modern Western world,’ Sprintzen assiduously offers us the contours of a global metaphysical and cultural transformation that is struggling to give birth to a ‘new world.’ In the process, he criticizes modernity's substance- or object-oriented reductionist metaphysics, unabashedly dismisses religion as outdated through scientific progress, and outlines an alternative naturalistic but non-reductive metaphysics of ‘emergence.’ Using that as base, he radically deconstructs and indicts the theory and practice of free market capitalism, atomistic Individualism, the New Colonialism, and all forms of exploitative social competition. His distinct call to all of us is to effect a transformation of values and social institutions coherent with his proposed field theory. Agree or disagree (I do, at times!) with Sprintzen on any given issue, yet his book brings pause to modernity's metaphysical or societal assumptions, and returns us to the task of cultivating and/or restoring human dignity. Open inquirers must not overlook this challenging book.”--Ronald E. Santoni, Maria Barney Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Denison University, Life Member of Clare Hall, Cambridge University, and Associate Fellow of Berkeley College at Yale, and author of Bad Faith, Good Faith, and Authenticity in Sartre’s Early Philosophy and Sartre on Violence: Curiously Ambivalent.


Dear David,

Just a quick note to let you know that I have been using your wonderful book in my graduate course in liberal studies (LS 810: "Self and Society") this term. It was the final book in a five book series that ran from Rousseau's two discourses, to Dewey's "Human Nature and Conduct," to Freud's "Civilization and its Discontents," to Arendt's "The Human Condition," to Ernest Becker's "Escape from Evil," and finally to your "Critique of Western Philosophy and Social Theory." The remainder of the course now will consist of student discussions about the current state of play in the self-society dialectic as grounded in contemporary America and Canada.

It was also a very good thing that the paperback copy of your book was available for purchase. The students loved what you had to say and already have gotten into some great discussions about various ways of working with some of your ideas -- several of them are involved in social interest groups and organizations and many are politically active at municipal, provincial, and national levels.

Jack Martin, Professor of Psychology and Liberal Studies at Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia.