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By Joshera Rudertsit


Recent decades have witnessed a gradual shift in social thought from more public rationalizing, what Horkheimer and Adorno describe as the "public sphere," to more privatized justificatory processes outside of the scope of the public sphere, Horkheimer and Adorno describe as "individual reason" that creates a false form of consensus. Despite the waning of the public sphere, Horkheimer and Adorno show that the essential function of the Dialectic of Enlightenment is still effective. "[I]n the age of Enlightenment, every social order whatsoever proceeds on enlightenment’s infatuation with itself." Although this discursive enlightenment seems a flicker of its former self, it still exercises considerable influence. According to Overmyer, "this brand of thought does not have a standardised content, and the ideological marker is the absence of an ideology that proselytizes by asserting domination, sexual repression and class power through the use of argument. Instead, its implicit language is one of calm dispassionate observation; its discourse rises up into a decontextualised analysis of thoughtlessness." Despite this separation from rational discourse (excelling in its language apart from discourse), "[i]n having excellent ideas, and the means that is the vehicle of the thought process, the enlightened still claim so do and so appear to speak rationally." This is no longer believable. Discourse is dropped from the ideological model, "specifically, the nexus of state legitimization and discursive power." With its declared independence from the forces of ideology, it equally reattaches its severed ties with the state. To Horkheimer and Adorno, the Enlightenment's pretension of independence from ideology is seen as a projection of the soul.