Horkheimer_&_Adorno_--_Ch_1,_Dialectic_of_Enlightenment

Horkheimer_&_Adorno_--_Ch_1,_Dialectic_of_Enlightenm...

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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. Enlightenment’s program was the disenchantment of the world.* It wanted to dispel myths, to overthrow fantasy with knowl- edge. Bacon, “the father of experimental philosophy,” 1 brought these mo- tifs together. He despised the exponents of tradition, who substituted be- lief for knowledge and were as unwilling to doubt as they were reckless in supplying answers. All this, he said, stood in the way of “the happy match between the mind of man and the nature of things,” with the result that humanity was unable to use its knowledge for the betterment of its con- dition. Such inventions as had been made—Bacon cites printing, artillery, and the compass—had been arrived at more by chance than by systemat- ic enquiry into nature. Knowledge obtained through such enquiry would not only be exempt from the influence of wealth and power but would establish man as the master of nature: Therefore, no doubt, the sovereignty of man lieth hid in knowledge; wherein many things are reserved, which kings with their treasure cannot buy, nor with their force command; their spials and intelligencers can give no news of them, their seamen and discoverers cannot sail where they grow: now we govern nature in opinions, but we are thrall unto her in necessity: but if we would be led by her in invention, we should command her by action. 2 The Concept * of Enlightenment
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2 The Concept of Enlightenment Although not a mathematician, Bacon well understood the scientific tem- per which was to come after him. The “happy match” between human understanding and the nature of things that he envisaged is a patriarchal one: the mind, conquering superstition, is to rule over disenchanted nature. Knowledge, which is power, knows no limits, either in its enslave- ment* of creation or in its deference to worldly masters. Just as it serves all the purposes of the bourgeois economy both in factories and on the bat- tlefield, it is at the disposal of entrepreneurs regardless of their origins. Kings control technology no more directly than do merchants: it is as democratic as the economic system* with which it evolved. Technology is the essence of this knowledge. It aims to produce neither concepts nor images, nor the joy of understanding, but method, exploitation of the labor of others,* capital. The “many things” which, according to Bacon, knowledge still held in store are themselves mere instruments: the radio as a sublimated printing press, the dive bomber as a more effective form of artillery, remote control as a more reliable compass. What human beings seek to learn from nature is how to use it to dominate wholly both it and human beings. Nothing else counts. Ruthless toward itself, the Enlighten- ment has eradicated the last remnant of its own self-awareness. Only
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Horkheimer_&_Adorno_--_Ch_1,_Dialectic_of_Enlightenm...

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