Was Adorno trying to destroy the enlightenment? I have no idea on and not read the dialectic of enlightenment, just bits on negative dialectics and aesthetic theory, and some secondary sources. I'm not just asking why but also how and what.

  • maybe this question is just too "weird". i might delete?
    – user63756
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 1:27
  • See sec. 2 of "Theodor Adorno". With some Horkheimer fellow, he wrote a book whose opening contains the following passage: "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 radiates under the sign of disaster triumphant.” Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 2:27
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    The SEP articles continues: "Contrary to some interpretations, Horkheimer and Adorno do not reject the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. Nor do they provide a negative “metanarrative” of universal historical decline. Rather, through a highly unusual combination of philosophical argument, sociological reflection, and literary and cultural commentary, they construct a “double perspective” on the modern West as a historical formation (Jarvis 1998, 23)." Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 2:28
  • Relevant: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/92675/…
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


No, he was not trying to "destroy" enlightenment. In the preface to Dialectic of Enlightenment the authors mention a "positive" conception of enlightenment: "The critique of enlightenment given in this section is intended to prepare a positive concept of enlightenment which liberates it from its entanglement in blind domination" (xviii). They don't ever get to it in that book, but Adorno's Negative Dialectics and Aesthetic Theory are it.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 24, 2023 at 17:02
  • I'd really like to see a source for that last claim. From my reading, it cannot be a determinate "solution" (since that would itself be a form of domimation [Herrschaft]) but it becomes pretty obvious to me that it is about constant liberation and process (hence dialectics) from the book itself.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Commented Oct 25, 2023 at 19:36
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    Sherratt, for example, links DoE with ND when she writes: "Negative Dialectics is a project that can be seen as an extension of the thesis developed by Adorno and Horkheimer in Dialectic of Enlightenment, in which they demonstrate the deleterious effects of the growth of instrumental rationality" (doi.org/10.5840/ipq199838167).
    – Ryan
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 2:08
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    Stone, too, makes the connection: if DoE is a story of the disenchantment of nature, then "Adorno’s Negative Dialectics and Aesthetic Theory show how constellations and artworks generate an alternative form of re-enchantment which is critical of modernity and its domination of nature" (doi.org/10.1177/0191453706061094).
    – Ryan
    Commented Oct 26, 2023 at 2:11

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