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  • So, here's from Pages 5 and 6 of the Introduction to the Dialectic of

  • Enlightenment. Man's likeness to god consists in

  • sovereignty over existence. In lordly gaze.

  • In the command. So, here we see that the enlightenment,

  • as Horkheimer and Adorno see it, makes the human subject the the replacement of

  • God. Following the enlightenment program,

  • getting rid of the transcendent, getting rid of the transcendental dimension.

  • But in man's replacing God, it, man becomes the agent of, that gives

  • commands. Give, is the subject that decides what

  • will happen. And the only thing that counts is

  • understanding or knowledge is the power to make things happen through

  • quantitative methods. Enlightenment, they write, is a dictator.

  • Page 6. Human beings purchase the increase in

  • their power. With estrangement from that over which it

  • is exerted. That's the, you can see this, the kind of

  • the, the legacy of Marcus here, can't you, that that we purchase the increase

  • in power with extrangement from that over which it is exerted.

  • We have more power but we are aliened from the thing that we're trying to

  • understand in the first place. Enlightenment stands in the same relation

  • to things as the dictator to human beings.

  • They have a particular dictator in mind in the 1940s, right.

  • He knows them to the extent that he can manipulate them.

  • That, That, that's the core of their objection.

  • Knowledge becomes the ability to manipulate things.

  • And that, will eventually sew the seeds of our own destruction.

  • Not even eventually, it's happening. That's what they see, right?

  • They see modern technology being used for mass killings, modern technology being

  • used for efficient murder, modern technology being used for control of, of

  • people against their interest. And that's a great victory[LAUGH] all

  • right, for enlightenment, because it shows I really do understand, because I

  • can manipulate. That, that's really the gist of it.

  • If you can only show you understand something by your power of manipulation

  • understanding is linked to tyranny. And, and that's how they explain the

  • persistence of domination. Let's go back to their words.

  • on page nine, this is a point they make about equality and uniformity.

  • Here's what they say. Each human being has been endowed with a

  • self of his or her own different from all others, so that it could all the more

  • surely be made the same. I'll come back to this.

  • But because that self never quite fitted the mold, enlightenment throughout the

  • liberalistic period has always sympathized with social coercion.

  • Enlightenment has always sympathized with social coercion.

  • The unity of the manipluated collective consists in the negation of each

  • individual and the scorn poured on the type of society which can make people

  • into individuals. that gets hard to follow, I realize.

  • The the the language is a little dense. But, I want you to see is that they,

  • their point is that the persistent pursuit of equality actually creates the

  • grounds for more coercion. Then you're, as students we, we can

  • remember some of the, not to far back, standardized testing.

  • Right? Standardized testing is suppose to treat

  • everybody the same because but equality is a good thing, everybody will be

  • treated the same. But of course standardization also

  • provides the, the tools for control. Right, making everybody the same makes

  • them easier to control. Social coercion is the tip, is the best

  • way to manipulate the thing you're trying to understand.

  • And if you're trying to understand society, manipulating society, coercing

  • society, into the mold you want. is, what is going to allow you to show

  • that you have real knowledge. Adorno and, Horkheimer are, are concerned

  • that the pursuit of equality will actually erase difference because we

  • want. We want to treat everyone the same.

  • We have to find ways, either through medication, through political control,

  • through infringements on freedom of expression, to, to make everybody

  • comfortable, everybody happy, everybody controlled.

  • This is the totalitarian state, not yet named as such.

  • that they see growing around them, especially in fascism, but not only in

  • fascism. In the enlightenment that even the

  • liberal democracies see at, at the core of the political regimes.

  • One of the things that Horkheimer and, and Adorno argue in, in this introduction

  • to Dialectic of Enlightenment. Is that, is that, there is no alternative

  • to enlightenment, that, that, that people in modernity can imagine in respectable

  • terms. That is, that is all forms of knowledge

  • are pulled into the enlightenment mold. Are pressured to conform to the

  • scientific model of understanding. The technological model of understanding.

  • There is no alternative to it. The technological model, the scientific

  • model of understanding will debunk religion.

  • It'll debunk political pieties. It'll debut magic of course.

  • It'll In other words it, it wants subsume all things within its paradigm.

  • And for Horkheimer and Adorno that's what makes it a myth.

  • That it, it, it wants to, it wants to provide an explanation for every form of

  • cognition. There's nothing outside the

  • enlightenment. so here's from, we're getting towards the

  • middle of the essay, Page 11. Human beings believe themselves free of

  • fear when there is no longer anything unknown.

  • So, when you can have explanations of everything, human beings believe that we

  • are free from fear. This has determined the path of

  • demythologization of enlightenment. Enlightenment is mythical fear

  • radicalized. One of their few short, punchy sentences.

  • Enlightenment is mythical fear radicalized.

  • That is to, in order to defeat fear, they make anything that's not fitting into

  • the, the enlightenment paradigm an object of fear.

  • so positivism, what they call positivism sees every other kind of intellection,

  • every other kind of thinking process. As being somehow corrupted by religion

  • and magic, which are objects of disdain or kind of a, an a dawn a thing of fear

  • they see. And this is clear around Page 19 to 20 of

  • the essay. They see the triumph of the quantitative

  • as being part of this mytholigized enlightenment process.

  • Insofar as you have the triumph of the quantitative, what they call positivism,

  • this scientistic paradigm of enlightenment.

  • They see that knowledge always will reproduce the status quo.

  • This is around Page 20. They write, the actual is validated,

  • knowledge confines itself to repeating it.

  • Thought makes itself mere tautology. The more completely the machinery of

  • thought subjugates existence. The more blindly it is satisfied with

  • reproducing it. Enlightenment thereby regresses to the

  • mythology it has never been able to escape.

  • What they mean here is that our scientistic ways of approaching the world

  • are only validated by mirroring the world as it is.

  • Rather than trying imagining the world as it might be, rather than taking critical

  • perspective on the status quo, the positivists quantitatively orientated an

  • enlightened mode of thinking. Horkheimer and Adorno argue Reproduces

  • the reality in front of us. That's the only thing that counts as, as

  • possible and as real. And so, knowledge, rather than being used

  • to steer change of the status quo, in the enlightenment mode, knowledge just

  • reproduces what's right there in front of the investigator.

  • So this subsumes the thoughtful person in the status quo.

  • It subsumes the person who is reaching for difference.

  • For alternatives in the current reality. it creates the conditions.

  • For total control through enlightenment or scientific modes of action.

  • Everything is used to increase the powers of manipulation and domination.

  • Those are what are called rational procedures.

  • From Horkheimer and Adorno's perspective. [FOREIGN].

  • [FOREIGN]. [FOREIGN].

  • They're writing again in the, in the mist of World War II, that publishes just at

  • the end of World War II, they are desperately trying to understand why we

  • participate in our own domination. And the answer in part is we think we're

  • being rational when we participate in our own domination, that's what it means.

  • To be rational is to reproduce the status quo.

  • We had a candidate for presidency in the United States very recently, while I'm

  • teaching this class, who made fun of President Obama for saying that he wanted

  • to keep the seas from rising. I don't know if you remember his phrases

  • for those of you who follow American electoral politics, that somehow was

  • crazy to try to keep the seas from rising.

  • We just want to do, we just want to work with what's out there in the world, he

  • was saying. He was being more rational, more

  • reasonable, so it seemed. That was his appeal.

  • But that's because you just not rational or reasonable discourse reproduce what's

  • happening and what's happening is global warming.

  • If what's happening is the sea levels are rising, well, you can't do anything about

  • that. That would be the rational response is to

  • just not try to do anything about it. Not try to change but try to mirror

  • reality. That mode of mirroring reality of

  • reinforcing the status quo reinforces domination and oppression, Horkheimer and

  • Adorno argue. Is there an alternative?

  • Well, again, we are readin just a small peice of a small book for this class.

  • But Horkheimer and Adorno and many of the Frankfurt School people, they really

  • focus on diagnosing the problem and not in giving you solution.

  • But still, towards the end of our essay in the in the Pages 25 and following,

  • they do suggest some, some ways out. Some, some, some escapes, perhaps.

  • Of this mode of, of thinking.

So, here's from Pages 5 and 6 of the Introduction to the Dialectic of

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B2 H-INT enlightenment horkheimer adorno status quo rational knowledge

From Critical Theory to Postmodernism, part 2 of 4

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    BBT   posted on 2014/10/04
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