The Concept of Enlightenment
Enlightenment is heralded in history as the era where man gained freedom. It is widely praised by most historians because it liberated the medieval mind and managed to cut loose the strings of scholasticism which tied the minds and lives of Medieval Europe. But in the eyes of Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer there are some aspects in the rise of Enlightenment which are worth investigating and analyzing.
Enlightenment aims in liberating human being from fear and installing them as masters of their own fate. It tried to do this by extirpating animism, superstitions and mythologies while promoting logic, science and technology. Concepts are replaced by formulas while causes are replaced by rules and possibility; the local spirits and demons are replaced by heaven and its hierarchy; magical incantations are replaced by physical and natural laws; deity speech is replaced by tautologies; the infinite replaced by mathematical variables; the principle of fated necessity replaced by principle of immanence; and social order is replaced by division of labor. But in doing so, did it liberate the minds of men and eradicated fear?
Knowledge is boundless and limitless. It knows no master yet it can succumb itself to anyone who caters to its desires which is power. During the enlightenment, knowledge reigned supreme over faith but it does not mean that it has attained freedom rather it only became the servant of the bourgeoisie class and the military. It was during this era when invention and discoveries where supported but it was also during this era when countries gave more funds for the improvement of military artillery. There were different types of guns, bombs and ammunitions which were invented and designed. It was prioritized because whoever gains superiority over these devices will rule the world.
Technology is the product of enlightenment. It is the one of the brainchild of man which is both beneficial and harmful to man. Technology is proof how man learned how to use and manipulate nature to dominate and rule over it but in the end he himself becomes dominated by its own product, technology. Technology has produced method and exploitation of the labor of others because without its birth in the world, division of labor would never be impossible.
Industrialization is one of the effects brought by the enlightenment period. Man realized that self preservation is best maximized if we uphold division of labor in society. But by following this system, power in the hands of the clergy were simply transferred to the hands of the owners and manufacturers. It is just a slight twist of characters but the cycle still remains. There is still a ruler and there still exists the slaves.
If I will be allowed to use the phrase of Kuhn, enlightenment is simply a paradigm shift. It is simply a shift of power and interplay of words. It has produced nothing new instead it only devised new concepts. It only placed science on top of the hierarchy and made it the totalitarian ruler. “Anything that does not conform to the standards of calculability and utility must be viewed with suspicion.” (p.3) Science is the ultimate law and whatever contradicts to it is considered taboo in society. Logic and Mathematics are its foundations but in as much as it want to display accuracy it still left the option of possibility lying very near its core. It tried to free the mind from superstitious beliefs but it only transformed these beliefs into scientific theories. It tried to eradicate fear of the unknown but managed to produce more unknown qualities in the process.
Source: The Concept of Enlightenment by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer