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Enlightenment and Philosophers’ Opinions in This Regard Research Paper

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Habermas and the former associates of the Frankfurt School had put forth a critical theory that was fundamentally different and new knowledge in the area of enlightenment goals in modern times. Such knowledge is distinguished with the natural sciences as being basically reflective in that the awareness that it provides shows us the path to enlightenment as per our actual pursuits and the freedom from our unsuspecting manners of internal and external coercion (Mehtab Dere, 2009).

The first theories and hypotheses in this regard are available in the works of Freud and Marx. The vast changes that happened in Europe after the 16th century such as the inventions that took place of several new techniques of production, the rise of nation-states, colonization of new regions, the homogeneity brought about in time, and progress made in linear perspectives brought about newer ways of viewing, explaining and understanding of different happenings through the understandings of the social sciences.

This pattern led a large number of thinkers to come out with theories in regard to the phenomenon of change. They put forth a wide range of ideas that dealt with the vitally significant issues pertaining to social life that came to be called sociological theories (Stephen K. White, 1989). The two factors that influenced and led to the creation and popularity of the sociological theories were essentially the intellectual and social forces prevailing during the time. One of such intellectual forces was the enlightenment that came about with the introduction of sociological theories (John J. Macionis et al, 2002).

According to Foucault (1984), enlightenment is, ” the moment when humanity is going to put its own reason to use, without subjecting itself to any authority; now it is precisely at this moment that the critique is necessary since its role is that of defining the conditions under which the use of reason is legitimate in order to determine what can be known, what must be done, and what may be hope, enlightenment is the age of the critique” (Foucault, 1984).

This was characterized as the attitude of modernity. This kind of modernity has been squeezed between pre-modernity and post-modernity and Foucalt has pictured it as a kind of approach rather than an epoch-making development. Kant described enlightenment as being a kind of exit which is best explained by the darkness in a cinema hall which is often disturbed and taken up by the flashes of reality on the screen in being much different from the reality that we are aware of, while at the same time there is a red exit sign which makes us aware of the escape route in case of a fire. The calm of the darkness makes us feel comfortable and entertained while making us forget our problems for some time.

Kant also said that we may be scared to face our own shadow in the dark and that the man who is truly enlightened will never be scared of shadows. It is quite natural to be scared of shadows but theoretically, such an approach is open to be critically examined. A philosophical attitude is required to conduct such an exercise, which was in fact propounded by Focault. This enabled people to make a critical examination of the self and to analyze their limits and research on their transcendental potential.

The central question to explore in this regard relates to the paradox which shapes modernity and to discreetly analyze the social influences that they have on society (David Kolb, 1991). The uniting theme in this matter becomes the influence of modernity as created for society. The most pertinent issue in this regard pertains to the paradox of modern capitalistic communities in different fields of activities.

One aspect of the theories in this regard relates to empirical realities whereby qualitative and quantitative data are analyzed during empirical investigations. The other aspect which is imperative pertains to the views developed by the Frankfurt School critical theories which defend the theorizing on an elaborate basis with the point of reference being made secondary in comparison to the current empirical realities.

It is widely believed that the loopholes in the theories are primarily responsible for the reactions happening in the short term in regard to the pedagogical discussions. A genuine stand can be arrived at by conducting independent research by detaching from the current situation so as to avoid becoming prejudiced and influenced by a large number of opinions and theories currently making the rounds (Michael E. Zimmerman, 1990).

Enlightenment refers to the modern system of thinking that aims at emancipating people from self-created and socially planned heteronomy. As per the core insights of the critical theories in this regard, social freedom is construed to be associated with enlightenment.

The connotation of enlightenment implies the strengthening of the goodness prevalent amongst humans in society. Thus enlightenment becomes a process whereby human beings seek wisdom so as to get freedom from the different kinds of dependencies, whether they are internal or external, inflicted by self or by society. It is the procedure by which humans become more matured by way of destroying the authorities of tradition and the popularity of myths. Enlightenment aims at liberating people from fear and domination from myths. However, it is pertinent to note that such a practice did become mythology that enslaved people by replacing the myths pertaining to the old world order as engineered by society.

According to Habermas, there is a definite tendency of positive actions being taken in the modernization process and this tendency indicates the likelihood of logical communications and discussions in helping towards the development of moral and social awareness to the extent that people are able to initiate transparency in realistic discourses on social justice. The Frankfurt School argues that modernity entails the possibilities of overcoming antagonism amongst people and between people and institutions.

This likelihood is related to the realistic recognition and reciprocity in three aspects; primary relationships such as friendship and love, legal relationships pertaining to rights of people, and the value systems in the community such as solidarity. The Frankfurt School examines such parameters explicitly and outlines the importance of the differences quite convincingly. It has a tradition of relying on heterogeneous research and has common standards in addressing all agents and the diverse formulations of critical theories. These principles become the forces behind the research in matters pertaining to enlightenment goals.

The philosophical reflections and experiential sciences are related to each other and the research in this regard is directed towards a social critique of the unjust social frameworks. The Frankfurt School endeavors to take into account the expectations, requirements, and moral convictions of individuals that have to live in social structures with the widespread prevalence of unjust practices.

Marxism is the basic political philosophy put forth by scholars of the Frankfurt School such as Habermas, Adorno, Marcuse, Lowenthal, Hokheimer and Benjamin (M. Horkheimer et al, 2002). The maximum influence in the Frankfurt School comes from Habermas and Adorno amongst others. Habermas was a post-World War II German philosopher who wanted to complete the unfinished project of modernity. He upheld civil liberties and equality amongst the masses and argued against postmodernism.

He believed that social democracy has immense potential. The Frankfurt School believes in authentic culture instead of the mass culture propagated by other philosophers. Such a culture produces satisfaction, depoliticizes the working class, and controls the prospects of economic and political goals thus creating a Utopian space in making the world be imagined as a better place. There is a promise for the future and it allows people to renew their energy levels. In the viewpoint of the Frankfurt School, the post-modernist declaration that sociology should abandon the enlightenment goals of modernity leads to threatening of the culture industry (Richard Hooker, 1996).

Contrary to postmodernist views, philosophers such as Habermas and Adorno present modernity as a dream for enlightenment and insist that political structures must be rationalized in order to criticize domination (Timothy McGettigan, 2000). They disagree with the concepts of post structural critique of reason and find potential and value in reason. They see norms as being realistic in allowing people to communicate. In referring to the bourgeoisie they point out that although they gained immense wealth and social authority, political power and land were not acquired by them. The Frankfurt School requires governments to win over the war of public opinion in accommodating reason.

There is no scope for the rejection of reason which should be integrated fully into normal life. They dub the post structural and post modern thinkers as young conservatives that are unnecessarily tied to modernity that should be despised. The work of the Frankfurt School has been valorised and criticized but it cannot be denied that they add immense meaning to the statement that enlightenment goals of modernity should not be abandoned. Above all, they uphold equal protection under the laws, universal rights and economic justice (Lawrence, 1988). Indeed, Habermas and the Frankfurt School were on the right path in propagating that the enlightenment ideals were an ongoing project and very useful as aims, but were a little Utopian in not being realistic in the real-world sense.


David Kolb, The Critique of Pure Modernity: Hegel, Heidegger, and After, 1991, University Of Chicago Press.

Foucault, Michel, What is Enlightenment. The Politics of Truth, 1997, Edited by Sylvere Lotringer. USA: Semiotext.

John J. Macionis, Ken Plummer, Sociology, 2002, Prentice Hall.

Lawrence E. Cahoone, The Dilemma of Modernity: Philosophy, Culture, and Anti-Culture, 1988, State University of New York Press.

Mehtab Dere, The Misinterpretation of Modernity, 2009, B C Journal of International Affairs.

M. Horkheimer and T. W. Adorno, Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments, 1947, edited by G. S. Noerr, translated by E. Jephcott, Stanford University Press, 2002.

Michael E. Zimmerman, Heidegger’s Confrontation with Modernity, 1990, Indiana University Press.

Richard Hooker, Crisis of Modernity, 1996. Web.

Stephen K. White, The Recent Work of Jürgen Habermas, 1989, Cambridge University Press.

Timothy McGettigan, The Virtues And Limitations Of Postmodern Theory, 2000, Theory and Science.

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