Sunday, April 06, 2008

“Myth is Totality,” as Desire, Part II

Carl offered what appeared to be a relatively straightforward theory of the Enlightenment,

“Enlightenment is the overcoming of myth through critique,”

which turns out to not be at all straightforward unless the theory’s constituent terms can be considered straightforward, which they cannot.

As Orla might say, “it all depends on what is meant by overcoming, myth, and critique.”

What Orla said on March 1, 2008 about an Adorno and Horkheimer quotation would surely apply (mutatis mutandis) to Carl’s theory of Enlightenment as well,

“The theory relies so heavily on the thinking of opposites and differences. The meaning of ‘myth’ depends on the meaning of ‘critique’,and as Derrida would say the process is circular. The opposites relate to themselves rather than to what it purports to describe. And in this system of differences the first is invariable loaded with negative associations."

There is no assurance the words myth,reason,overcoming,totality, or even critique can work as they would need to work to make this theory do something. My fear is that we can pour any amount of time, effort, and thinking into the meaning of Carl’s theory and come no closer to discovering what it is which entices us about the historical Enlightenment, or where our fear of the historical Enlightenment also comes,

“Enlightenment is the smuglumpkikohk of pebersmacknik through spmikregoog.”

If we use the concept of myth, reason or unreason in our theory of Enlightenment, we have to explain what we mean: we have to define these terms. Defining terms is not a difficult matter, and in the case of the term myth, Carl already made a start of it by saying myth is totality. However, what is hard is to define the terms in such a way as to avoid Orla’s above-mentioned criticism, which in part means avoiding arbitrarily defining the terms of the theory; which means to avoid defining the terms of the theory with the definitions having no relationship to reality—-having no relationship outside their own peculiar circularity.


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