Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Can anyone tell me what the passage from the "Dialektik der Aufklärung" actually says. I've been reading it for ten minutes and I can't work it out. I sincerely doubt its the translation either. I'm not trying to be glib but if someone is trying to draw some kind of intellectual equivalence between the enlightenment and the "mythical" they need to have some powerful arguments and the 'argument' seems completely opaque to me.

I think that people do mischaracterise passionate atheists like Dawkins and Hitchens because they isolate the militant style from its ultimate source. In a vacuum the militancy may seem irrational or deranged  - but in Dawkins' case its an extention of his work on evolution and zoology for Hitchens probably his Trotskyist abhorence of 'reaction'. Dawkins' passion is for the brilliance of evolution by natural selection and religious belief however mild, undermines the theory (however much people want to believe otherwise).

I am more sympathetic to Dawkins militant views on religion after reading The Selfish Gene and The Ancestors Tale than after reading The God Delusion.

by lemonwilmot (lemonwilmot at gmail.com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 01:13:21 PM EST
I had the same impression over the quote. You have to accept some very shady premises to follow their argument, which, I agree, does not withstand scrutiny. Unfortunately, it is out of context. Nevertheless the Wiki English version of the link alleges a portrayal of Enlightment as some sort of Democritic atomism that I find churlish and superficial.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 05:39:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I'm tired - that's enough long replies for tonight - so I'm happy just to say (for now) I agree with you two :-)  

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Tue Jan 22nd, 2008 at 07:04:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Public service announcement: I am trying to explain. Please respect the implicit ratio of explanation :-) Try to understand, do not look at these as points which you should argue about. Unless you wish to offer alternative explanations :-)
It would only appear as if the enlightened worldview is superior to the mythical. In reality, both approaches would be closely connected.

Would, according to H&A. I struggle with tranlating the konjunktiv. This part should be relatively clear, otherwise. Instead of opposition, there is connection.
The ideal of enlightenment is the rational explanation of the world in order to control nature. In it, understanding is replaced by the formula.

What H&A are saying is that enlightenment implies a striving to instrumentalise our grasp of nature, so that it can be used for controlling nature. This is exemplified by the formula (quantitative research). By understanding, they presumably mean a grasp of nature that is an expression of our interrelation with it.
Through the argumented defense of the mythical interpretation of the world, the principle of rationality would already be acknowledged. As a result, it would get stronger with each confrontation.

Here H&A are saying that rationality and myth have different rationalities, basically, although we perhaps should not think of myth as having a rationality, strictly speaking. But by trying to defend myth through rational argument, you have already ceded the ground. Unless you transcend that mode of argumentation, like rg regularly manages :-)

We show, do not explain. But I have not mastered that allusive language yet!

"As being and an event, enlightenment only recognises that which can be encompassed in the unit; its ideal is the system, from which all and everything follows."

I actually mistranslated this quote (slightly): instead of 'the unit', I wrote 'an event'. Not too dramatic in terms of meaning, but the sentence looks better now. "Was durch Einheit sich erfassen last" can also be translated as "what can be compassed through unitariness". If you are familiar with anti-foundational criticism, you might see where this is headed. Instead of criticising a copernican point from which things can be developed, H&A criticise the system which seeks to define everything as points; units.
All gods and qualities should be destroyed.

I'll refer to ChrisCook's diary here.
In this, it overlooks that myths are already a product of the enlightenment. "As commander over nature, the creative God and the ordering intellect are alike."

This is best understood by the allegory of the Greek gods, standing on Mount Olympus and looking at the world, fixating everything with their gaze. In their eyes was the determinate definition of reality as it really is. The ordering intellect seeks to make itself external to reality in order to determine, to attain the view of the gods, in turn, according to H&A, to then have the power of the gods.
They have the same roots, as "myths like magical rites hold themselves to have a repetitive nature."

Here I think H&A state that science has ritual elements (for instance, the eternal cycle of impovement) at its roots. This is a bit thin, so you should perhaps conceive of it more as an overtone or colour in the origin.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 06:46:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for putting in the effort to explain a H&A's paragraph. As it is contingent to my remark, allow me a personal reflection. I simply find that phrases such as
The ideal of enlightenment is the rational explanation of the world in order to control nature. In it, understanding is replaced by the formula.

are utterly berift of interest or significance. Out of fairness to H&A I would rather read it in context in the remote hope that there may be a smattering of argumentation to justify it. Beyond that, assertions such as this are irrelevant to my admittedly meager cognitive grasp of what is around me.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 06:09:46 PM EST
[ Parent ]

The ideal of enlightenment is the rational explanation of the world in order to control nature. In it, understanding is replaced by the formula.

The problem statements like this is that they merely reflect the prevalent myth (in the sense of widely believed but untrue) about the Enlightenment. The statement is more applicable to 19th c. positvists.

It's like the similar myth that the Renaissance represented a radical break with the "dark ages", not now accepted by experts.  Cf.:

 A central difficulty in understanding this sort of anti-Enlightenment critique is identifying
exactly what is being criticized. It has become increasing apparent in recent scholarship that the European Enlightenment of the eighteenth century is hardly a unified movement. It consists of many different tendencies in several countries, and it covers a variety of disciplines and practices. Although the Enlightenment rejects orthodoxy in religion, eschewing doctrinaire traditions and teachings, it counts among its advocates deists, theists, pantheists, agnostics, and atheists. The Enlightenment is often identified with republican politics and even revolutionary movements, but there was no consensus among its supporters with regard to political systems or world views: monarchists and democrats, nationalists and cosmopolitans, could all lay claim to enlightened opinions. And in the realm of art and aesthetics there was an array of preferences voiced among enlightened thinkers: from the strict adherence to neo-classical style and universal rules, to the advocation of the subjective expression of human emotions. There were enlightenment thinkers whose primary concern was the natural sciences; others focused on theology and philosophy; still others believed in the supreme importance of the human, psychological, and social sciences. It is thus no wonder that Johann Friedrich Zöllner, late in the Enlightenment in 1783, expressed confusion and dismay about the very identity of the movement everyone seemed to know and acknowledge, but no one seemed able to define.


From the general to the particular - a key Enlightenment figure - Diderot, editor of the Encyclopédie (my street named after him, the French do value their culture). Not much narrow rationalism to control nature here:

It may seem unusual for artists to present work in an exhibition under the name of an art critic. But Denis Diderot was no ordinary critic. Diderot is a key French Enlightenment figure, famous as an important theatre critic, novelist and polymath thinker who used the Annual Painting Salons to construct his Philosophy on art and culture. As the first modern art critic, his ideas had a huge impact in the sphere of French culture. His ideas of tableau and mise-en-scene as a theory of `staging' (relevant now not only for painting and theatre but also cinema, photography and video performances) have endured. The notion of sensibility that he developed (introduced the viewer's body into the meaning of a picture), have been taken up by many thinkers since and form the basis of much modern thinking about experience in art.


But of course we'll go on hearing how all those things which Diderot did had to wait for the supposed radical break from narrow rationalism of the Romantic movement.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 06:37:05 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You've made Diderot all the more fascinating and entertaining. Excuse me while I open a bottle and toast to his dear memory.
by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 06:58:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If you didn't read it at the time, you might like my diary "Haunted by Philosophers", which has more on Diderot:


Enjoy the bottle - drink to absent atheists :-)

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 23rd, 2008 at 07:22:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can read the first chapter, via this page
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jan 24th, 2008 at 03:15:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]


Occasional Series