Saturday, January 15, 2005

Adorno and Critical theory (1)

Brunkhorst contrasts modernity of Judaeo Christian tradition (of whose flag bearer are Adorno,Horkheimer and Habermas!!) with an alleged un-modernity of Greek tradition of whose flag barer is Heidegger.

This is an Habermasian move but Brunkhorst fills in details in a lively manner, which is at times insightful and moving.

“[Adorno and Horkheimer] repudiate a privileged and theoretical model of knowing in favour of the project of practically transforming the world, a materialist this-worldly negativism and fallibilism, all these are central themes which they share with Habermas and the pragmatists from Dewey to Putnam. And they are also themes which distance them from Greek thought and its contemplative metaphysics, along with the correspondence theory of truth, all of them ideas which must be ascribed to the other tradition of European self-understanding, that deriving form the biblical thought of the Jewish and Christian monotheism.”

“In redemptive religions, the privileged access to moral insight is destroyed and exposed as the ideology of the propertied male classes. In order to experience injustice, it is not necessary to have the wisdom of well-to-do, worldly-wise old men experienced in matters of power who, worldly-wise old men experienced in matters of power . . . . Only theodicy of suffering pushes through to the true, the moral, and egalitarian concept of justice; injustice which has been experienced becomes the foundation of a moral insight accessible to everyone. Insight into experienced injustice is the privilege of the underprivileged. Behind the veil of ecstasy, the redemptive religions articulate the reflective force of this insight.” (Adorno and Critical Theory, pp. 107-108).

Though any such view is faced with a paradox: If “Insight into experienced injustice is the privilege of the underprivileged” then how such undeniably privileged people as Habermas and Brunkhorst have access to this?

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