The most rigorous attack launched against the Enlightenment was elaborated in Max Horkheimer’s and Theodor W. Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment which still inspires contemporary critics of modernity and rationality. Their charge that the Enlightenment, instead of promoting emancipation and humanistic values, had in fact catastrophic effects is based both on a general critique of rationality and an analysis of the thought of philosophers whom they regarded as protagonists of the Enlightenment: Bacon, Spinoza, Kant and De Sade. While their general critique of rationality has been intensely discussed in recent decades, historians of philosophy have rarely paid attention to the question whether the named protagonists of the Enlightenment are in fact appropriate witnesses for the central thesis of the Dialectic of Enlightenment. The aim of this volume is therefore to assess the adequacy of Horkheimer’s and Adorno’s overall picture of the Enlightenment movement and of their interpretation of Bacon, Spinoza, Kant and de Sade.
Original languageGerman
Publisherde Gruyter
Number of pages229
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-11-055500-4
ISBN (Print)978-3-11-055328-4
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Critical theory; philosophy of the Enlightenment; The Frankfurt School


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