May 18, 2005


The link occurred to me the other day. Is Adorno & Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment intertwined with Hegel's Enlightenment chapter in Hegel's The Phenomenology of Spirit?

My judgement is that the former is a radicalisation of Hegel's chapter, which is structured on the dialectic of reason as pure insight and religious faith. From what I remember Enlightenment reason construes religious faith as illusion, the projection of human meaning onto material nature, and understands itself as permanent critique.

Then Enlightenment reason as permanent critique of illusion discovers that it has no content and becomes empty when shorn of its bad object.

The third step is that both religious faith and permanent critique are mutually dependent on one another. Permanent critique is systematically dependent on what it seeks to repudiate.

If you replace religious faith with myth then the structure of Adorno & Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment chapter is similar--Hegel's dialectic of faith and pure insight becomes Adorno and Horkheimer's dialectic of enlightenment and myth); but it is stronger---as Enlightenment reason collapses back into myth.

Stronger and more radical because the core thesis is that enlightenment reason seeks through knowing to master and control nature to seek to become independent and free of it.

Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at May 18, 2005 11:55 PM | TrackBack

Gary, my five cents would be that this reminds me of the different Hegel receptions within the western marxist "Vernunftkritik", with differing notions of enlightenment reason being reducible to different Hegel readings (the Enlightenment chapter in the PoS presumably?).

To illustrate this with Adorno/H'heimer vs. Lukacs: For Adorno/H'heimer as well as Lukacs the context of discovery is obviously derived from their anti-fascist stance. But whilst Adorno/H'heimer reduced enlightenment reason to instrumental reason, Lukacs defended it and saw the irrational as being responsible for the "destruction of reason".

In their Hegel receptions then, Lukacs went for a hegelmarxist concept of history with perspective, whilst the Dialectic of Enlightenment represents a precursor to the "negative dialectic" which is in favor of negation (albeit eliminating the negation of negation because of its affirmative relation to the outcome that is to be negated). Feels like Hegel got cut in half and twisted around the aporia of total ideology critique.

Posted by: Mike on May 23, 2005 09:50 PM

Hi Mike,
J.M. Bernstein in his chapter in the Cambridge Companion to Adorno says that Hegel's dialectic of pure insight and religious faith is a reworking of Kant.

Pure insight reworks Kant's concepts without intuitions are empty whilst religious faith reworks Kant's intuitions without concepts being blind.

Bernstein's chapter is entitled 'Negative Dialectics as Faith'

Posted by: Gary Sauer-Thompson on May 24, 2005 09:11 AM
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