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Jüdische Geschichte und Kultur



Dunkle Denker: Jewish Readings of the Counter-Enlightenment

29.05.2018 – 30.05.2018

International Workshop | Historisches Kolleg München | May 29/30, 2018

Organized by the Department of Jewish History and Culture at Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich, co-sponsored by the Program in Critical Theory, University of California at Berkeley

The Enlightenment plays a rather ambivalent role in modern Jewish history. While its major proponents refuted centuries-old religious prejudices and endorsed values such as the rule of law, personal liberty and social equality, Voltaire and his companions were at the same time fierce critics of Rabbinic Judaism and an ascribed “Jewish nature.” Some even denied the Jews the right of full legal emancipation and gave voice to antisemitic accusations.
In light of this, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer argued that the Enlightenment so far is incomplete. Against the background of the Holocaust, they famously detected a negative “Dialectic of Enlightenment,” a conjunction of human progress and social domination in the form of a “rational irrationality.” During and after the catastrophe, Jewish philosophers in particular were fascinated by the philosophers of the “Counter-Enlightenment” (Isaiah Berlin) in order to uncover the negative potential of the Enlightenment itself. Resting upon Heraklit’s notion of the Dunkler Denker (dark thinker), Counter-Enlightenment philosophy seemed to provide deep insights into the hidden nature of modernity: “The dark writers of the bourgeoisie, unlike its apologists, did not seek to avert the consequences of the Enlightenment with harmonistic doctrines,” concluded Adorno and Horkheimer in their masterpiece Dialectic of Enlightenment. They continued that those thinkers “did not pretend that formalistic reason had a closer affinity to morality than to immorality. While the light-bringing writers protected the indissoluble alliance of reason and atrocity, bourgeois society and power, by denying that alliance, the bearers of darker messages pitilessly expressed the shocking truth.”
The workshop addresses numerous examples of Jewish readings of “dark men in dark times” (Hannah Arendt), from Niccolò Machiavelli and Joseph de Maistre to Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche to Martin Heidegger and Carl Schmitt. It is concerned with the motives and strategies of Jewish philosophers in their contentions with those who reject equality, freedom and the priority of reason. Hence, the workshop seeks to identify a “Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment” in Jewish readings of their most ferocious adversaries.

Um Anmeldung bis zum 22. Mai wird gebeten unter juedische.geschichte@lrz.uni-muenchen.de

Die Tagung findet am 29. und 30. Mai 2018 statt und beginnt um 19 Uhr im Historischen Kolleg in der Kaulbachstraße.


Tuesday, May 29, 2018

7:00–7:15 pm
Michael Brenner (Munich)
Introduction and Welcoming Remarks

7:15–8:30 pm
Peter E. Gordon (Harvard)
The Utopia of Reason Shines the Brightest in the Dark: The Frankfurt School and the “Dark Writers of the Bourgeoisie”

8:30-10:00 pm

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Panel I
Fania Oz-Salzberger (Haifa/Munich)

9:00–9:45 am
Philipp Lenhard (Munich)
The Failure of the Haskalah: Isaiah Berlin and the Jewish Enlightenment

9:45–10:30 am
Thomas Meyer (Munich/Berlin)
Two Dunkle Denker: Leo Strauss and His “Thoughts on Macchiavelli”

10:30-11:00 am
Coffee break

Panel II
Noam Zadoff (Bloomington/Innsbruck)

11:00–11:45 pm
Daniel Weidner (Berlin)
Deception and the Dark Side of History. Gershom Scholem and the Dialectics of Counter-Enlightenment

11:45–12:30 pm
Karin Stögner (Vienna/Frankfurt am Main)
The Eternal Recurrence as a Collective Dream of Modernity: Walter Benjamin on Baudelaire and Nietzsche

12:30–2:00 pm
Lunch break

Panel III
Annette Meyer (Munich)

2:00–3:30 pm
Martin E. Jay (Berkeley)
Further Adventures of the Dialectic of Counter-Enlightenment: Cultural Marxism, Political Correctness and the Demonization of Critical Theory

3:30–4:00 pm
Concluding Discussion