Philosophy and Social Criticism 43 (9):932-952 (2017)

Horkheimer and Adorno make claims that imply a complete rejection of the idea of a universal history developed in classical German philosophy. Using Kant’s account of universal history, I argue that some features of the idea of a universal history can nevertheless be detected in the Dialectic of Enlightenment and some of Adorno’s remarks on freedom and history. This is done in connection with the kind of rational self-mastery that they associate with the story of Odysseus. Some claims made by Adorno in particular will be shown to imply that this self-mastery is a necessary condition of a better, freer society, especially in relation to this society’s material conditions. On the other hand, certain essential features of the idea of a universal history are clearly absent in virtue of the ultimate contingency of events and states of affairs that Adorno seeks to preserve. I show that the absence of these features and the preservation of contingency are, in fact, the means of saving the notion of the possibility of progress which informs the idea of a universal history.
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DOI 10.1177/0191453716680127
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Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals.Immanuel Kant - 1996 - In Practical Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. pp. 37-108.

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