« Philosophize This!

Episode #109 ... The Frankfurt School pt. 2 - The Enlightenment

2017-08-25 | 🔗

Today we talk about the Frankfurt School critique of enlightenment style thinking and Herbert Marcuse's book One Dimensional Man. 

Support the show on Patreon!

www.philosophizethis.org for additional content.

Thank you for wanting to know more today than you did yesterday. :)

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hello, everyone, I'm Stephen West! This is philosophies this. Thank you to all of you that support the show on Patreon. You make the show possible for everyone else kind of off topic, because it doesn't really support the show, but thank you to the people that click through the Amazon Non endorsement completely neutral banner located on the front page of the website. Today's episode is part two in a series on the Frankfurt school. I hope you love the show today. Whatever you're, navigating the waters of a set of ideas that you disagree with, which seems inevitable for all of us, given the next couple months of the show. One thing it's really important to consider is to put yourself in the shoes of the people that you disagree with and try to consider where they are coming, With all this one thing I like to do is I like to imagine myself as that other person I like to imagine, I woke up that morning and I was them I sat down with my family at breakfast, I held all the same strong convictions that they do about whatever subject I'm thinking about, and then I like to imagine say I was this person. How would I see my actual self and the views that I have about this.
In other words, what do they think I'm coming from with my views being someone who disagrees with them? the reason I do this exercise is because I know what niche said is true. I realize how strong and of an incentive I have as a person to attach myself to some group or some cause, that's bigger than myself glean A sense of identity from the process feel all the good feelings that come along with fighting against some evil out there in the world, But a necessary part of that whole process is identifying some will that you're fighting against and what that often looks like in practice is finding some evil group of people they are fighting against but here's an important question to ask. If you were them, would you think that you are evil? Do these evil people view themselves like wins cackling, toiling their moustache and some superhero movie, or do these people think that their acting as a force of good in the world seemed like almost always, it's gonna be the ladder and it's an important distinction to make, because if there's some group of people you ve deem to be evil that you want to do away with, you have to
examine your tactics. It's not enough to just be a bundle of emotion screaming at people in the streets or punching someone in the face or bomb and out of existence Do you live on long after any nuclear fallout? You dont do way with an evil idea until you fight and win a war of ideas and you in psychology. One hundred and one says that you don't change people's minds by coming to the conversation label. Them is evil right off the bat, condescending them and screaming at them know they're going to am up and not even consider your ideas, that's just not how ideas spread or Most people change their minds. Ideas spread over me millions of conversations between individual human beings coming together genuine interest in where the other ones coming from, and a desire to show this quote: evil group of people how their true interests align with yours. What I mean is it so easy for it? capitalist to to look at a marxist and say at this utopian istic lazy, lazy, evil. One two: things with you: you're, either too lazy to work, or you are clever enough to come with everybody else and provide value to people. So what do you want to do? You want to work
the World Berne and bring about your evil total. Genius system, that's failed. Every single time has been tried and get another one hundred million people killed. It's so easy for the mark is to look at the capitalist and say look at this gluttonous evil pig living a life of excess. On the backs of what you said, one hundred million people try Try hundreds of millions of miserable workers sewing sleeves undershirts and in making dollars or figurines all over the globe? Just you can sit out under yacht easily taken advantage of the surplus made possible by their exploitation. Odin rap yourself and the flag of hard work is your way of doing it. Now, no matter what side of that you follow. You realize that isn't an anchor depiction of where you're coming from, for example, I am not evil. My name's Bruce and I have a peanut butter business. Look. I was born into a world. We need to make money to survive. I bring thousands of people enjoyment every day by making this peanut butter that they love and not we do. I get to use that money to buy the stuff I want, but I get to employ other people which allows them to go and get the stuff they want and they support their family
This is a symbiotic beautiful system where we help each other as people. Now, your marxist you're, not some lazy, evil, hippy think about it from him. Access perspective. They live every day of their lives, seeing millions of people all around them being exploited, underpaid to go, do jobs if they hate every single day. Are trapped in an economic system is based on an outdated style, a thinking from seventeen hundreds, a marxist talking to a war or in a capitalist society, is similar to talking to a peasant and the feudal system. You can imagine how No matter how many arguments the peasant gave you about how hey well at least have a better than my grandfather who got sold into slavery. I have my family around me, I get to work the land, they look. Look it's a symbiotic beautiful system, they own the land. I worked away. No matter how many arguments the peasant gave you you can imagine wanting to make them aware that things can be better than being. Peasant in the middle ages. What I'm saying is somebody can be mistaken, misinformed or just not agree with you and not be an evil person. We have such a strong
Tendency to do it. But we need a label somebody evil for some belief. They hold it shuts down discourse, it It robs you have the opportunity to potentially learned something from that person or from fine out where they're coming from and helping them see a different perspective. Simona before we have a lot to say about not learning other human beings into these objects of evil, and instead thinking of them is first and foremost fellow human being that are going to the same thing you are, but anyway, continuing from last time be Frankfurt. School was a group of. Here's looking at western industrialized society confused as to why marxist prophecy wasn't coming true if the exploited class, always rises up and overthrow the ruling class, why haven't urban Workers revolution in the west by the time of the into warriors. In Germany, the answer to this question that the Frankfurt school gives is it marks was wrong. Marks over simplified the whole situation. His problem was that he tried to explain the entire history and future of the world solely in terms of economics. In terms of this inevitable dialectical,
process of change was just a matter of time until the exploited class over those ruling class, but much in keeping with the thinking of his time. He fails to take into account the variables of individual human psychology. In other words, what are the members of the exploited class didn't feel like they were being exploited? What if there were somehow way to convince the peasants in the feudal system that everything around them was great and that they were totally free? Would we see any peasant revolts in that world, the Frankfurt school, pulling ideas from Marx, Hagel and more recent revelations and audience Ecology makes the case that the only reason there hasn't been a workers revolution in the West lies the problem of what they call class consciousness. The workers of the west were sort of beware, and beguiled when they saw the cool new stuff humans are able to do now. The capitals and around the power of industry super increase levels of efficiency. The scientific and technological progress capitalism produces that they ve seen. These changes
and have been raised to believe that this stuff is the measure of progress and to suggest how the world is. I do not question it all the while immersed in a system that from birth tells them they are. First and foremost, a worker and consumer media tells him how to act, think and feel programmes into them. False needs. Tells them one product after another to satisfy these false needs. Socially alienates him. Keep them confused and scared, provides them with an illusion of political freedom and through many different types of coercion, get them to never question the fact that all this rapid technical logical progress is only made possible by the exploitation of other human beings, in other words, the workers of the West no longer resemble the free thinking. Proletariat that mark talked about rising up they've, been indoctrinated to love their chains in a sense. Now it's a big accusation: it's going to take a couple. Episodes to unpack where they're coming from maybe the best place to start is to talk about their critique of enlightenment style. Thinking in general, now keep in mind the members of the Frankfurt school are fans of enlightenment touting
They're, not saying reason is bad they're not saying science is bad they're. Just saying there are certain consequences of enlightenment style, thinking that as a species we're not adequately accounting for flash back to the beginning of the enlightenment, Western Europe It's been over a thousand years of religious dogma, and some thinkers are committed to the task of producing an understanding of the world that based on reason, instead of faith, the age of reason, it's often called certain thinkers, the Frankfurt school. What asked the question? What exactly Is it that we're doing when we use our faculty of reason to arrive at an understanding of the world, for example, any conduct, an experiment on a plant or something in it in you arrive at the conclusion. Hey? If I rub this plant over here on this cut, it makes it he'll twice as quickly what were ultimately doing. There is yes reasoning to knowledge about things. But it's always reasoning to knowledge about how we, as human beings, can control nature to our benefit. In other words, instead of being
totally at the mercy of nature like we ve been in the past. Instead of believing that lightning bolt hit that horse over their gods, Zeus is mad. The Broncos beat the cowboys on Sunday, winced use reason to try to understand things in nature, like weather and clouds and electricity, the ultimate hoping that we can control them to our benefit as human beings. Cities the point they want to underscore it's so easy to miss that underlying motivation that we have. You can be that person all day long. Oh I'm a lover of knowledge, all kinds of knowledge, I'm a voracious reader. I never even use the word voracious unless it's about my reading, but with the Frankfurt. I would point out. Is that there's a reason you're not reading in memorizing the phone book? Why? Because you're, not an indian criminal lover of knowledge, whatever. It is your lover of knowledge that is useful to you and that, as a huge effect on the question You ask in the areas you focus on, but so too with the thinkers and scientists back during the enlightenment,
when we use reason to arrive at knowledge. It's not indiscriminate. It is by its very nature, anthropocentric and humanistic. It's all these us trying to understand nature so that we can control it and use it to our benefit. But here's the thing human beings are also a part of nature, And there are no way exempt from this process of using reason to try to understand and better so that we can control them, and this has been a good thing. Historically speaking when John Jack Rousseau makes the claim that the true, sure of human beings is to be noble, savages that are then corrupted by certain aspects of civilization. His him using reason. Tour at an understanding about human beings, so that he can build his political philosophy on top of it and arrive at a a system of government that, yes, controls being In some ways, but benefits everyone overall,. This is a reason based approach to the problem of government. It far superior to a faith based approach to solve that problem like, for example, the divine right of kings, but we have to be aware of the fact
reason itself is pretty narrow in scope and in the business of controlling nature, to the benefit of whoever is doing the reasoning and that, when its applied to the task of trying to decide how people should be oriented economically and politically, even brilliant thinkers reasoning with the best intentions historically have often arrived at systems at harnessed control over this human being section in nature, and do them into rational categories, that within a larger system that I think going to benefit everyone, for example, members of a state within Russo's political system, workers and consumers within a capitalist system, thinkers of the Frankfurt school are making the case that these systems, no doubt help make the world a better place than it was before in the one thousand seven hundred. But here's the thing: it's not the one thousand seven hundred anymore. It isn't outdated laws. Cause to try to use reason to break down and define some giant classification that every human being should think of themselves as from birth. Reason is great, but it has its limitations and tendencies. It's not that we shouldn't use. Reason to best organise our society economically, but we need to be
self aware of these limitations and tendencies does the point what some thinkers and Frankfurt school are getting at here. Is it because reason is always aiming towards harnessing control over aspects of nature that benefit the person doing the reasoning you can imagine how easily, when its applied to the control of human beings that it can develop into fascism this the explanation for how it was possible for the world be technologically and culturally, more advanced and we'd ever been in human history. Only to the vote. Into the most inhuman crisis in history and world war. Two that the natural indian of enlightenment, style reason based thinking is fascism, the more enlightened of a person that you become the more you use, reason de ground, your beliefs and things the less you believe and a constantly determined way that human beings must behave. This is The new got his dead right in a post enlightenment world this world, where there are no moral, substrates and people have a tendency to harness country
all over nature, in a way that benefits them. All it takes is one Adolf Hitler. One person that had a bad childhood never went to therapy like the idea of people chanting, their name and giant posters are their face and controlling people all it takes is one of those four fascism to potentially emerge. Of course, I'm joking about the bad childhood thing, but it's actually not that far off the way the Frankfurt school thought we should be looking at someone like an Adolf Hitler, Theodor Giorno One of the thinkers of the Frankfurt school actually devise a personality test called the California F scale. F standing for fascism remains essentially just a bunch of questions design to determine how fascist or likely to support a fascist. You are now that personality test, in particular, was heavily criticised and flawed, but the point a door, no and other members of the Frankfurt score trying to make fascism may be, naturally were enlightenment style. Thinking goes, but it's not necessarily where it has to go. As a species living in this post enlightenment world? We need to be aware of the increase,
Risk level were at four fascist movements emerging and which abrupt be taken steps towards identifying the Adolf Hitler's when they're an art school. For they become the Adolf Hitler's invading Czechoslovakia where we have to find a bloody war where tens of millions of people die. The thinking behind the F scale was that it takes a pretty extreme psychological outlook on the world to think it's a good idea for you to become the next Adolf Hitler. Maybe if we mandated that everyone take this f scale, tests throughout their life would be able to catch that sort of black and white thinking. That leads you to becoming Adolf Hitler before it actually gets bloody. So again, it's not that we should do away with enlightenment style thinking leads to fascism. It's kind like having a pool installed in your backyard and you have small children around it's not that pools are bad because there's this new danger, we have to consider it's not that you can't have a pool. We need to make sure we put up a good fence around the pool. We need to make sure we develop some
Fascism safeguards to make sure things don't get super out of control like they did in nineteen thirties, Germany. Let's move on to some of the actual critique of modern western society, particularly in the United States. One of the most influential thinkers of the Frankfurt school was a guy named Herbert Makuza. He wrote a book called one dimensional man that would go on to be massively influential in the new left protest of the nineteen sixties. Makuza comes out swinging in chapter one. He says quote by virtue of the way it has organized its technological base. Contemporary industrial society tends to be totalitarian, for totalitarian is not only a terroristic political coordination of society, but also a non terroristic economic, technical coordination, which operates through the manipulation of needs by vested interests. In quote now, you may hear that and think that seems a little extreme. The United States isn't even close to being a totalitarian society. What's Marcus even talking about here's, the definition of totalitarian as given to me by
dictionary, dotcom, totalitarian, adjective one of or relating to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinions and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life. What markers it would say is that you can have your sort, a run of the mill cliche totalitarian society with a government forces citizens to do things, centralized political power, typically a one party system and any political opposition that gets too out as immediately introduced to the bottom of the nearest lake. You can have that you can also have a government that claims not to be totally Terran, but any reasonable person looking at them from the outside would obviously call what they're doing the tallow terrorism look. We're not forcing up
you what you're gonna do all day. You have a choice. You can dig ditches all day you can crush rocks over there all day. You can help build the statue, that's a monument to our Supreme Leader, like any of those whom you can always be on the military and look. We welcome political opposition and our great land. That's why we have democratic elections every year. Yeah. Ninety percent of the vote always comes in for one guy, but that just speaks to how great of a candidate is. Other words a society that masquerades as though it's not totalitarian gives it sit. Since the illusion of freedom without them actually have any choice in the matter at all. Mercosur says that when you take a close look at the United States, when you look at the government and culture exerting control over them however, the citizens, when you look at the illusion of political involvement, that's given to people when you look at the barriers put in place to keep any extreme dissenting ideas out, the United States starts to resume. One of these totalitarian societies, enslaving its people, but instead of the ultimate goal of beings,
The supreme leader can hang out with Dennis Rodman. The goal of this particular totalitarian society is hyper technological progress with breakdown, but let's go talk about the illusion of political involvement that markers referencing. Mercosur would say that one of the inevitable by products of a capitalist system is the conflation of political power with money. You see it all around you. You want to know ever changes? Anything or causes? The reason why it's cuz that's just capitalism. It's always going to happen. Even if it's just in private you, people in companies with the most money, are always going to be able to pay politicians to influence legislation in their favor. These are the people that really have political influence. Coupled with the fact that there is a real demonstrable connection between the number of advertising dollars spent on a political campaign and the number of people vote. For the candidate people get their political opinions from that box in their front room? That gives them all their other opinions. Even you're, the most well intentioned individual in the world, and you wonder, run for Congress and change things from the inside to even
able to sit on the committee's influence will have to change these things. You did twenty. Years in Congress that twenty years of spending your days? Fundraising, because you need money because the way you want elections is by spending more money on smear ads and the person you're running again, it's a some designed around linking money to political influence, maybe you're some billionaire and you ve never been in politics ever know: idea how works on the inside. If you had enough money, you could theoretically cellphone Most of your own campaign and there's a very real chance. You can convince enough people to vote for you just because he ran a lotta tv ads and the people only had two choices. That's another. They markers talks about how to party structure. These two party seemed to disagree on a lot of stuff. They disagree on stem cells and illegal immigration and whether or not we should legalise marriage, I wanna, but workers would want to direct your attention to all the things these two parties do agree on,
That review is a voter, essentially without a choice in the matter that any time you have a bipartisan consensus on anything as a voter, you effectively didn't have a choice. Mercosur would say that the two parties, I really just competing to preserve the existing framework, not actually exploring real all is that may be better for people? Someone might say what are you talking about? We have third party candidates. I voted for one Marcus would say right, they're, just not allowed at the prime time televised debates not covered by any major news outlets. It would require a voter to do and digging to even know who they are. There's, of course, the feeling that you're throwing away your vote when it should be used on the real election. That's going on the existence of these third parties provides the illusion, the diverse array of political opinions to choose from when, in reality, everyone's gonna go back to Fox NEWS and see an end to reinforce their outlook on the world anyway, this is your life to Mercosur. You are living in a society right now or from the more
You're born you are conditioned with the idea that you are first and foremost a worker and the consumer. When your kid people ask you what you want to be when you grow up the implication there being what work? Are you going? be doing that. Will you to get money to consume the things you want to consume the whole public schools Miss designed around the idea that it benefits us as a nation if our children have a baseline of an understanding that will eventually turn them into taxpaying productive citizens pay taxes on earned income from working eight hours a day, paying taxes on consumption. When somebody says you tell me about yourself, the first thing most people offer up that describes who they are, is their work. When Tell me about their work, though often go under
tell you about all the things they like to consume in their free time. Your job in this world is to wake up work for the majority of your day, then come home and consume things that make. You feel just good enough to go back to your job. The next day, also that this engine of hyper technological advancement keeps powering forward. Some you out. There may love your job. You don't feel exploited the reality of the global population. Is it most people? Don't most people don't hate their job? They learned to to accept it as an inevitability day, but they never be doing the stuff if it wasn't required. For for them to earn enough green paper to sustain a living right, Marcus would say: life life is not an end in itself. In the United States in this society you have to earn the right to
life by providing some good or service to people around you and your society, you know it's been set of capitalism that it's a beautiful system as it sort of like a forced, altruism, you give the people around you something they like, or else you starved to death. We all benefit from that we're just human beings engaging and mutually beneficial transactions, giving each other. What we want, Mercosur would say yet exactly. It's forced, altruism, look at how the very structure of capitalism forces people to conform to the way things already are and do not change anything too much. What it means is that in a society where people didn't have to earn green paper or else starve to death picture a society where people just do whatever interest them each day in that world, no idea or activity is too far outside of the status quo, for them to be able to explore it, whereas in a capitalist society, where you give me something, I want, or else you starved to death the existing
culture and what people want dictates the limitations of what you can do and search to reinforce the way the things already are, for example, imagine a culture where nobody saw value in reading and interpret in philosophy. Mercosur would say that, no matter how much you believe that would benefit people's lives and the world to give people free and easy access to philosophy How can we do in a philosophy? Podcast? You need people on Patreon believe in the causes. Well, worlds, you're, gonna, starved to death, and Mercosur says what action happens in reality. Is you don't want to be labeled, a social outcast. You don't want to isolate yourself. So what happens? Is you just conform to provide some good or service? That's endorsed by the current way that the culture is. It perpetuates itself now something out. There might be saying: okay, I don't really think of myself as fundamentally a worker and consumer, and I honestly don't feel this enormous sense of pressure to work, or else I'm going to starve to death and by the way, Marcus. I was going to say this earlier. It's all sounding very conspiracy,
like who's enforcing this world that you're talking about what are you going to tell the bankers or the Illuminati are pulling the puppet strings, making sure I stay conditioned to love my chain so much that I don't even feel like I'm being enslaved. As I'm being enslaved. No Mercosur would say it's far more insidious and that the reality is good people with good intentions, every day are perpetuating the system without even realizing it because they're immersed in it next time we're going to be talking about something. The Frankfurt school calls the culture industry, Theodor Dono and MAX for Keimer we're going to talk about all the different ways. They think movies. Tv shows advertising social media program. You to feel, like you know, Things you don't actually need keeping you alienated from other people chasing something to consume. That's gonna say of your problems. If only you work hard enough to afford it to keep you working and consuming. In other words, another response you may have to Marcus is okay. Let's say that I'm just some wage slave that's been indoctrinated to love my chain. Is there nothing to be said for
the fact that the system works. There's no guarantee in this universe at a political or economic system is going to work. When it's tried fact many have failed in the past. So even if you see me as a slave, even if I am just living in some really clever insidious, totalitarian society, you can't deny that the system works Mercosur technology is improving at a rapid rate society. Ninety nine percent of the time functions well for most people, at least in the United States, there's the possibility of economic mobility. The benefits of this hyper technological progress are distributed to the consumers is something nothing to be said for any of that Mercosur would say you're right, that's one of the most diabolical parts of all this. That attitude Based on rational thought, but it's that attitude that sustains the way that things are Mercosur would say sure rapid technological progress is being made, but is that progress overall as a species, is having the Iphone twelve more important in the paper?
putting it together that are jumping off the factories committing suicide during their lunch break. Yes, the system works, but what we have to sacrifice as a species to be able to achieve that world by the way. Marcus is not saying that we should throw out capitalism tomorrow and implement Marxism and everything's going to be great, no he's not advocating for some revolution to occur. He explicitly says that if, instantly did away with capitalism. It would probably be the greatest catastrophe in the history of the world. You can't just take people that have been condition from birth to look at every aspect of their lives in terms of socially isolated labour and consumption, drop them in a marxist society and expect them to do well know based on their conditioning, nobody's gonna work. There are gonna, be looking for happiness in the wrong place, as they been condition to look for it. If it would be a disaster know if this country ever does away
The capitals model Marco says it's going to happen slowly over the course of generations. It's going to be a slow reawakening, a slow re education of people to be aware of the chains to be aware of the suffering of people that make the system possible to be aware of the ways their behavior has been conditioned and maintained every day of their lives or who's. It would ask is that true freedom.
Transcript generated on 2020-09-30.