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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Scattered Thoughts on the Dialectic of Enlightenment,Horkheimer/Adorno

Enlightenment becomes contains the Seeds of it's own

Enlightenment is Totalitarian.
Could this be due to Hubris, to a lack of Humility?....the

Enlightenment gave rise to Certainty, that at long last, Man had

overcome Fear...of Death, of the unknown...And that in that

Self-Satisfaction,Man, as Master of Fate,lay the reassertion of Mythos.
Specifically, the Myth that Man has Overcome.
The falsehood of this Belief is apparent in the Feeling engendered by

the Pale Blue Dot.
We saw our insignificance in the vastness of the cosmos, and recoiled

in Fear...which we had thought to be vanquished.
The preenlightenment world of demons and gods gave way to a new form of

Duality, Subject/ well as a new Hubris...that we can Know,

for Certain.
The Enlightenment kicked the Gods out of Heaven,and in their place,

erected new Gods...a Mythology of Knowledge, Universalism...then

Positivism.But we keep finding new Unknowns...the Universe is

exceedingly Large, both Within and Without...and the ever expanding

bubble of our collective Knowledge cannot contain it.
The Enlightenment took over the function of Myth that seeks to Explain,

to banish Uncertainty, and thereby, Fear.
Pointedly, even Enlightened people Die, eventually.
Turns out we are not Gods...and , in this sense, never can be.
The Turning Away from this unpleasant Truth, the denial of it's

importance, and the lack of a means of Accepting our ultimate Fate, is

what doomed the Enlightenment to become Myth.
We demystified the World, and left no room in our conceptualisation for

The thought occurs to me, in the middle of the first essay, that what

was left out of the Enlightenment Project was ,really, apprehended,

long ago.
Socratic Perplexity.
I know that I do not know.
Wonder, Awe, was excised.
Instead of observing the stars,for their own sake, we sought to

Understand....and when we ran up against the limits of our Knowledge

(ever expanding as it may be) we recoiled.
Perhaps the Species was not yet ready for much as it

pains me to admit.
So we invent Totalitarianism...Fascism...we pretend at Certainty, so

that we may ignore our Uncertainty, and the Fear of Death, the Unknown,

that seems hardwired into us.
What Hubris.

We have applied the Enlightenment to what used to be the domain of Religion...after killing God, we sought to replace Him with Reason, Universalised.
The problem we face, in my estimation, is: How do we Accept the essential Meaningless of Existence, without falling into Decadence and Nihilism?
If the only Objective Meaning to the Universe, and our very Existence, is the Meaning we do we learn to accept this...?
How do we not panic, react with terrific Violence, in the face of Meaninglessness?
I have said before that my own experience with the Mystical, the Ineffable, led me to appreciate that there is, indeed, a "Thing behind Things"....what most would call God...but that that Thing doesn't care one whit about is entirely Indifferent.
The task is to reconcile, to our individual satisfaction, these Terrible Truths.
Ecclesiastes is my favorite book in the bible, for this very reason..."All is Vanity...and vexation of Spirit..."
Instead of recognising and accepting the Meaninglessness,and being OK with applying our own Meaning...we assert our presumed Specialness...despite the Irrationality of such an endeavor.
Universalism is the enlightenment's fatal flaw.
We cannot all be Philosophers...yet we all feel the need, as per the Enlightenment's Promise, to be Special.
Hence the ads on late night TV dealing with weight loss, tooth whitening..profits from one's home...all without sacrifice or reflection...
We attempt to give Meaning to a Meaningless Existence, by applying more Triviality.
When this, necessarily, does not satisfy, we turn away the Mind.
Hence, the Willful Ignorance so prevalent in our "Enlightened", Post Historical Age.
We, despite our pretensions, are Beasts...rolling and fucking in the mud.
Do we, therefore, abandon Enlightenment?
On the contrary, as in Habermas, I reckon we need precisely More Enlightenment....and most importantly, we must learn to get over ourselves.
Every generation has figured itself to be the Last, the Point to which all of Creation was directed.
Progress, as Myth.
The humility that I prescribe was present in the Pre-Indoeuropean Gylanic Culture.
(as near as we can tell)
One can find it, quite readily, in the Worldview of many Native American groups...
They didn't feel a need to Master Nature...which, when one gets down to it, is the unstated Purpose of Enlightenment...conquering Fear,the Unknown, the Capricity of the Not-Man.
When Decartes separated Subject from Observer, he was simply restating the Augustinian Duality that had gone before...which was, in it's turn, a restatement of the Common Wisdom of previous cultures.
Duality, Dichotomy, Man as somehow Separate from Nature, is the legacy of the Kurgans....and is, at root, a rebellion against Death.

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