Adorno and the disenchantment of nature

Philosophy and Social Criticism 32 (2):231-253 (2006)
Abstract
In this article I re-examine Adorno's and Horkheimer's account of the disenchantment of nature in Dialectic of Enlightenment . I argue that they identify disenchantment as a historical process whereby we have come to find natural things meaningless and completely intelligible. However, Adorno and Horkheimer believe that modernity not only rests on disenchantment but also tends to re-enchant nature, because it encourages us to think that its institutions derive from, and are anticipated and prefigured by, nature. I argue that Adorno's Negative Dialectics and Aesthetic Theory show how constellations and artworks generate an alternative form of reenchantment which is critical of modernity and its domination of nature. This form of re-enchantment finds natural beings to be mysteriously meaningful because they embody histories of immeasurable suffering. This experience engenders guilt and antipathy to human domination over nature. Key Words: Adorno • disenchantment • domination • enlightenment • modernity • natural beauty • nature.
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