By Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno

Dialectic of Enlightenment is certainly the main influential ebook of the Frankfurt college of serious concept. Written in the course of the moment international warfare and circulated privately, it seemed in a broadcast version in Amsterdam in 1947. “What we had got down to do,” the authors write within the Preface, “was not anything lower than to give an explanation for why humanity, rather than getting into a really human nation, is sinking right into a new form of barbarism.”

Yet the paintings is going a long way past an insignificant critique of latest occasions. traditionally distant advancements, certainly, the beginning of Western heritage and of subjectivity itself out of the fight opposed to traditional forces, as represented in myths, are attached in a large arch to the main threatening reports of the present.

The e-book is composed in 5 chapters, in the beginning look unconnected, including a couple of shorter notes. a few of the analyses hindrance such phenomena because the detachment of technological know-how from useful lifestyles, formalized morality, the manipulative nature of leisure tradition, and a paranoid behavioral constitution, expressed in competitive anti-Semitism, that marks the bounds of enlightenment. The authors understand a standard aspect in those phenomena, the tendency towards self-destruction of the guiding standards inherent in enlightenment idea from the start. utilizing historic analyses to clarify the current, they exhibit, opposed to the history of a prehistory of subjectivity, why the nationwide Socialist terror was once now not an aberration of recent historical past yet used to be rooted deeply within the basic features of Western civilization.

Adorno and Horkheimer see the self-destruction of Western cause as grounded in a historic and fateful dialectic among the domination of exterior nature and society. They hint enlightenment, which break up those spheres aside, again to its legendary roots. Enlightenment and fable, accordingly, usually are not irreconcilable opposites, yet dialectically mediated characteristics of either genuine and highbrow existence. “Myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology.” This paradox is the elemental thesis of the book.

This new translation, in line with the textual content within the whole version of the works of Max Horkheimer, includes textual variations, observation upon them, and an article dialogue of the location of this paintings within the improvement of severe idea.

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Extra resources for Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments (Cultural Memory in the Present)

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Precisely by virtue of its irresistible logic, thought, in whose compulsive mechanism nature is reflected and perpetuated, also reflects itself as a nature oblivious of itself, as a mechanism of compulsion. Of course, mental representation is only an instrument. In thought, human beings distance themselves from nature in order to arrange it in such a way that it can be mastered. Like the material tool which, as a thing, is held fast as that thing in different situations and thereby separates the world, as something chaotic, multiple, and disparate, from that which is known, single, and identical, so the concept is the idea-tool which fits into things at the very point from which one can take hold of them.

Nature, before and after quantum theory, is what can be registered mathematically; even what cannot be assimilated, the insoluble and irrational, is fenced in by mathematical theorems. In the preemptive identification of the thoroughly mathematized world with truth, enlightenment believes itself safe from the return of the mythical. It equates thought with mathematics. The latter is thereby cut loose, as it were, turned into an absolute authority. “An infinite world, in this case a The Concept of Enlightenment 19 world of idealities, is conceived as one in which objects are not accessible individually to our cognition in an imperfect and accidental way but are attained by a rational, systematically unified method which finally apprehends each object—in an infinite progression—fully as its own initself.

The reduction of thought to a mathematical apparatus condemns the world to be its own measure. What appears as the triumph of subjectivity, the subjection of all existing things to logical formalism, is bought with the obedient subordination of reason to what is immediately at hand. To grasp existing things as such, not merely to note their abstract spatial-temporal relationships, by which they can then be seized, but, on the contrary, to think of them as surface, as mediated conceptual moments which are only fulfilled by revealing their social, historical, and human meaning—this whole aspiration of knowledge is abandoned.

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