‘Odysseus, or Myth and Enlightenment’, by Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer

Join the Deakin Philosophical Society this Wednesday, 19th August from 5-6:30pm in ib3.307 to discuss a chapter from Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment.

This week we continue our engagement with the great texts of the West, but this time by looking at one of the most famous 20th century responses to Homer's Odyssey.

The response is that of Adorno and Horkheimer from THE DIALECTIC OF ENLIGHTENMENT, a book these two Jewish intellectuals and (former-?)socialists wrote in exile, in the USA, in 1943.

The Dialectic of Enlightenment has been described as 'the darkest book of all' because of its central thesis, put squarely in our reading: that enlightenment reverts to myth, and myth (or at least epic) was already enlightenment. This means that the simpler claims of eighteenth and nineteenth century thinkers, and many people today, that modern scientific enlightenment wholly overcomes superstition in the clarity and distinctness of analytic science, are up for reconsideration, even philosophising.

What is the significance of the ODYSSEY, as against the THEOGONY and similar mythical texts? Is the wiliness of Odysseus, as he uses his nous to outwit the goddesses and chthonic monsters, the harbinger of modern 'bourgeois' strategic and instrumental reason? Does the enlightenment of the mind necessarily lead to the sacrifice of human sociability and bodily enjoyment, as much as it overcomes the older orbit of religious sacrifice? These are the questions this remarkable response to the ODYSSEY asks us to consider.

A copy of the text is available for download at JSTOR.


Dylan Nickelson
President, Deakin Philosophical Society

This entry was posted in DPS notices and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply