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This is the second chapter of The Dialectic of Enlightenment, an excursus on The Odyssey, which is taken up to demonstrate that central notion, since “There is no work which offers more eloquent testimony of the mutual implication of enlightenment and myth than that of Homer, the basic text of European civilization” (45-46). This analysis relies on a formal reading of the text, in that Horkheimer and Adorno aim to elucidate rationalism’s oppressive tendencies by demonstrating the ways in which mythos and epos in the text share an impulse to “domination and exploitation” (45).
Throughout, Odysseus functions as the “bourgeois prototype” (43), whose attempts to conquer nature and preserve himself exemplify the pervasive domination Horkheimer and Adorno see as characteristic of modernity and the modern self. Individuation, identity and subjectivity are among the excursus’s primary concerns. The mythical elements of The Odyssey threaten to sidetrack and destroy Odysseus’s logical, enlightened self, but Horkheimer and Adorno argue that myth and rationalized individual selfhood are not essential, static antitheses; rather, they are dialectically related. The self “in its rigidity molds itself only by way of that antithesis: being an entity only in the diversity of that which denies all unity” (47); self must in fact “derive itself from myth” (48). This focus on the derivation of self should be expected, given Horkheimer’s long-held criticism of the Hegelian Absolute Spirit and suspicion of all pretensions to absolute identity, including Lukács’s description of the subject-object proletariat (Martin 47).
Sacrifice/Cunning: The paramount statement in this section is that “The history of civilization is the history of the introversion of sacrifice. In other words: the history of renunciation” (55).
Incorporating anthropology as well as The Odyssey, the chapter identifies sacrifice as fundamentally deceitful and as a primary node of myth and rationality’s mutual constitution. This section uses the anthropological case of human sacrifice (mythologized and mystified to the extent that irrationality became its rationalization when not driven by necessity) to argue that in the absence of literal sacrifice, one may ritualize self-sacrifice by opposing oneself to nature: “The identically persistent self which arises in the abrogation of sacrifice immediately becomes an unyielding, rigidified sacrificial ritual that man celebrates upon himself by opposing his consciousness to the natural context” (54). This practice produces the cunning subject, of whom Odysseus is the obvious forefather, “Cunning is only the subjective development of the objective untruth of the sacrifice that redeems it” (51).
Horkheimer and Adorno maintain that this self-sacrifice, the “denial of nature in man” is made for “the sake of domination over non-human nature and over other men,” to an extent that is now “tantamount to open insanity” (54). Furthermore, this manner of self-sacrifice is equal to self-destruction and the perpetuation of domination, “Man’s domination over himself, which grounds his selfhood, is almost always the destruction of the subject in whose service it is undertaken; for the substance which is dominated, suppressed, and dissolved by the virtue of self-preservation is none other than that very life as functions of which the achievements of self-preservation find their sole definition and determination; it is, in fact, what is to be preserved” (55). Thus, the fascist hero is “marked by the harsh measures” (56) he has taken to “survive,” or rather to perpetuate domination.
If anybody out there show me a sign
Leaders of the free world blowing on dice
We load our bowls, we close our eyes
When you wish upon a barn star
Deliver us from "nyuck, nyuck" and "hardy har har"
Deliver shady lady luck from the dark arts
She turn a basic straight shooter to a card shark, quick
I'm writing from the plight of the godless
Where pig and swap piety for shinier objects
And pretend to be a perfect pile of science and logic
Though it hasn't got us any less divided and conquered, look
The rock shock still knock on wood
No shame, still aim for the top of the food
My lucky sevens only ever make it up to six
Every three tries Satan kind of wins
Untied shoes aliven a wild goose
The winner is unrelenting, the kindling is fireproof
Got a face for radio, break a mirror every morn
Turn seven years into seven more
Let's differentiate the way we approach the world from human nature in general though. It's not a shared archetype of sorts, but rather a matter of standpoint derived from conditioning and experience. Possibly a choice someone else made for us while we learned to adapt. Right?
While no self was sacrificed...fiction was replaced with a factual discernment that engendered inclusivity and connectivity while retaining individuality...
Insomuch that reference to self as..."The self “in its rigidity molds itself only by way of that antithesis: being an entity only in the diversity of that which denies all unity”...
“Knowing others is intelligence;
knowing yourself is true wisdom.
Mastering others is strength;
mastering yourself is true power.”
I trust that all people at least share the Earth and Sky. Plants are common, with regional differences. Animals; likewise.
Theodor W. Adorno (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
According to Horkheimer and Adorno, the source of today's disaster is a pattern of blind domination, domination in a triple sense: the domination of nature by human beings, the domination of nature within human beings, and, in both of these forms of domination, the domination of some human beings by others. What motivates such triple domination is an irrational fear of the unknown: “Humans believe themselves free of fear when there is no longer anything unknown. This has determined the path of demythologization … . Enlightenment is mythical fear radicalized” (DE 11). In an unfree society whose culture pursues so-called progress no matter what the cost, that which is “other,” whether human or nonhuman, gets shoved aside, exploited, or destroyed. The means of destruction may be more sophisticated in the modern West, and the exploitation may be less direct than outright slavery, but blind, fear-driven domination continues, with ever greater global consequences. The all-consuming engine driving this process is an ever-expanding capitalist economy, fed by scientific research and the latest technologies.
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). They summarize this double perspective in two interlinked theses: “Myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology” (DE xviii). The first thesis allows them to suggest that, despite being declared mythical and outmoded by the forces of secularization, older rituals, religions, and philosophies may have contributed to the process of enlightenment and may still have something worthwhile to contribute. The second thesis allows them to expose ideological and destructive tendencies within modern forces of secularization, but without denying either that these forces are progressive and enlightening or that the older conceptions they displace were themselves ideological and destructive.
A fundamental mistake in many interpretations of Dialectic of Enlightenment occurs when readers take such theses to be theoretical definitions of unchanging categories rather than critical judgments about historical tendencies. The authors are not saying that myth is “by nature” a force of enlightenment. Nor are they claiming that enlightenment “inevitably” reverts to mythology. In fact, what they find really mythical in both myth and enlightenment is the thought that fundamental change is impossible. Such resistance to change characterizes both ancient myths of fate and modern devotion to the facts.
but as the sun was rising from the fair sea 24 into the firmament of heaven to shed light on mortals and immortals, they reached Pylos the city of Neleus. Now the people of Pylos were gathered on the sea shore to offer sacrifice of black bulls to Neptune lord of the Earthquake. There were nine guilds with five hundred men in each, and there were nine bulls to each guild. As they were eating the inward meats 25 and burning the thigh bones [ on the embers] in the name of Neptune, Telemachus and his crew arrived, furled their sails, brought their ship to anchor, and went ashore.
Minerva led the way and Telemachus followed her. Presently she said, "Telemachus, you must not be in the least shy or nervous; you have taken this voyage to try and find out where your father is buried and how he came by his end; so go straight up to Nestor that we may see what he has got to tell us. Beg of him to speak the truth, and he will tell no lies, for he is an excellent person."
"But how, Mentor," replied Telemachus, "dare I go up to Nestor, and how am I to address him? I have never yet been used to holding long conversations with people, and am ashamed to begin questioning one who is so much older than myself."
"Some things, Telemachus," answered Minerva, "will be suggested to you by your own instinct, and heaven will prompt you further; for I am assured that the gods have been with you from the time of your birth until now."
She then went quickly on, and Telemachus followed in her steps till they reached the place where the guilds of the Pylian people were assembled. There they found Nestor sitting with his sons, while his company round him were busy getting dinner ready, and putting pieces of meat on to the spits 26 while other pieces were cooking. When they saw the strangers they crowded round them, took them by the hand and bade them take their places. Nestor's son Pisistratus at once offered his hand to each of them, and seated them on some soft sheepskins that were lying on the sands near his father and his brother Thrasymedes. Then he gave them their portions of the inward meats and poured wine for them into a golden cup, handing it to Minerva first, and saluting her at the same time.
"Offer a prayer, sir," said he, "to King Neptune, for it is his feast that you are joining; when you have duly prayed and made your drink offering, pass the cup to your friend that he may do so also. I doubt not that he too lifts his hands in prayer, for man cannot live without God in the world. Still he is younger than you are, and is much of an age with myself, so I will give you the precedence."
As he spoke he handed her the cup. Minerva thought it very right and proper of him to have given it to herself first; 27 she accordingly began praying heartily to Neptune. "O thou," she cried, "that encirclest the earth, vouchsafe to grant the prayers of thy servants that call upon thee. More especially we pray thee send down thy grace on Nestor and on his sons; thereafter also make the rest of the Pylian people some handsome return for the goodly hecatomb they are offering you. Lastly, grant Telemachus and myself a happy issue, in respect of the matter that has brought us in our ship to Pylos."
When she had thus made an end of praying, she handed the cup to Telemachus and he prayed likewise. By and by, when the outer meats were roasted and had been taken off the spits, the carvers gave every man his portion and they all made an excellent dinner. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, Nestor, knight of Gerene, began to speak.
I haven't read Dialectic of Enlightenment so I probably shouldn't have joined the discussion. I have read The Odyssey so that's what caught my attention. I was thrown off balance by the use of some parts of the story as a metaphor for sacrifice when I remembered that sacrifice is actually covered in its own right in Book III.
As I watched the video I realized that Chris Hedges was discussing the same topics and subject matter that this thread and book being discussed herein cover. A difference is that the journalist is speaking to a broad demographic, whereas Horkheimer & Adorno may have been writing as academics to academics.
If you wanted to you could tell me if Chris Hedges is covering the same subject matter as this thread, and if it seems to you that he is on the same track as Horkheimer & Adorno.
If she had already been sacrificed, then Odysseus et al were being very deceitful and cunning.