Half-formed thoughts, not fit for the front page. I would link post but I don't actually know if it's worth reading.

I saw this post today, and it reminded me of The Dialectic of Enlightenment by Max Horkheimer and Theodore Adorno (linked in this post), which I read excerpts of in a history class once.

The book was written to reconcile what appeared contradictory: modernity began with the seemingly liberal values of the Enlightenment, and ended (when this was written in 1947) with totalitarian regimes.

Adorno and Horkheimer were part of the Frankfurt School, a philosophical school and a sort of neo-Marxist think tank. They were heavily influenced by Hegel and also associated with psychoanalysis. The idea of "Critical Theory" arose from this group (though the modern usage of this seems quite different to me?).

Their central claim in The Concept of Enlightenment chapter (page 22) is that "Enlightenment is totalitarian," and that what seemed like a contradiction was in fact far from it.

I've picked out some bits that seem tangentially related to EA:

Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. Yet the wholly enlightened earth is radiant with triumphant calamity.

What human beings seek to learn from nature is how to use it to dominate wholly both it and human beings. Nothing else counts.

For enlightenment, anything which does not conform to the standard of calculability and utility must be viewed with suspicion. Once the movement is able to develop unhampered by external oppression, there is no holding it back. Its own ideas of human rights then fare no better than the older universals. Any intellectual resistance it encounters merely increases its strength. The reason is that enlightenment also recognizes itself in the old myths. No matter which myths are invoked against it, by being used as arguments they are made to acknowledge the very principle of corrosive rationality of which enlightenment stands accused. Enlightenment is totalitarian.

Human beings purchase the increase in their power with estrangement from that over which it is exerted. Enlightenment stands in the same relationship to things as the dictator to human beings. He knows them to the extent that he can manipulate them. The man of science knows things to the extent that he can make them. Their “in-itself ” becomes “for him.” In their transformation the essence of things is revealed as always the same, a substrate of domination. This identity constitutes the unity of nature.

Magic implies specific representation. What is done to the spear, the hair, the name of the enemy, is also to befall his person; the sacrificial animal is slain in place of the god. The substitution which takes place in sacrifice marks a step toward discursive logic. Even though the hind which was offered up for the daughter, the lamb for the firstborn, necessarily still had qualities of its own, it already represented the genus. It manifested the arbitrariness of the specimen. But the sanctity of the hic et nunc, the uniqueness of the chosen victim which coincides with its representative status, distinguishes it radically, makes it non-exchangeable even in the exchange. Science puts an end to this. In it there is no specific representation: something which is a sacrificial animal cannot be a god. Representation gives way to universal fungibility. An atom is smashed not as a representative but as a specimen of matter, and the rabbit suffering the torment of the laboratory is seen not as a representative but, mistakenly, as a mere exemplar. Because in functional science the differences are so fluid that everything is submerged in one and the same matter, the scientific object is petrified, whereas the rigid ritual of former times appears supple in its substitution of one thing for another.

I don't really have many conclusions, but I found this recurrence from the Frankfurt School to the EA Forum interesting!





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Curious why people are downvoting this? If it's some substantive criticism of the work I'd be interested in hearing it.

If it's just because it's not very thought through, then what do you think the "not front page" function of the forum is for? (This might sound accusatory but I mean it genuinely).

One of the reasons I posted was because I wanted to hear thoughts/criticisms of the work overall, since I felt I didn't have a good context. Or maybe to find somebody who knew it better. But downvotes don't help with this.