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Max Horkheimer (1895 – 1973)


German-Jewish philosopher-sociologist, famous for his work in critical theory as a member of the "Frankfurt School" of social research.
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Max Horkheimer
Notwithstanding their attacks on the basic conception of rationalism, on synthetic a priori judgments, that is, material propositions that cannot be contradicted by any experience, the empiricist posits the forms of being as constant.
Horkheimer quotes
If by enlightenment and intellectual progress we mean the freeing of man from superstitious belief in evil forces, in demons and fairies, in blind fate — in short, emancipation of fear — then denunciation of what is currently called reason is the greatest service reason can render.
Horkheimer
Although the formulations of science now offer the most advanced knowledge of nature, men continue to use obsolete forms of thought long discarded by scientific theory. In so far as these obsolete forms are superfluous for science, the fact that they persist violated the principle of the economy of thought, that characteristic trait of the bourgeois temper.




Horkheimer Max quotes
At present, when the prevailing forms of society have become hindrances to the free expression of human powers, it is precisely the abstract branches of science, mathematics and theoretical physics, which ... offer a less distorted form of knowledge than other branches of science which are interwoven with the pattern of daily life, and the practicality of which seemingly testifies to their realistic character.
Horkheimer Max
No criticism can be brought against a branch of technical science from outside; no thought fitted out with the knowledge of a period and setting its course by definite historical aims could have anything to say to the specialist. Such thought and the critical, dialectical element it communicates to the process of cognition, thereby maintaining conscious connection between that process and historical life, do not exist for empiricism; nor do the associated categories, such as the distinction between essence and appearance, identity in change, and rationality of ends, indeed, the concept of man, of personality, even of society and class taken in the sense that presupposes specific viewpoints and directions of interest.
Max Horkheimer quotes
Men have been released from [concentration] camps who have taken over the jargon of their jailers and with cold reason and mad consent (the price, as it were, of their survival) tell their story as if it could not have been otherwise than it was, contending that they have not been treated so badly after all.
Max Horkheimer
With the abolition of 'otium' and of the ego no aloof thinking is left. ... Without 'otium' philosophical thought is impossible, cannot be conceived or understood.
Horkheimer Max quotes
The characteristic activity of science is not construction, but induction. The more often something has occurred in the past, the more certain that it will in all the future. Knowledge relates solely to what is and to its recurrence. New forms of being, especially those arising from the historical activity of man, lie beyond empiricist theory. Thoughts which are not simply carried over from the prevailing pattern of consciousness, but arise from the aims and resolves of the individual, in short, all historical tendencies that reach beyond what is present and recurrent, do not belong to the domain of science.
Horkheimer
If this truth has once and for all been discarded and men have decided for integral adjustment, if reason has been purged of all morality regardless of cost, and has triumphed over all else, no one may remain outside and look on. The existence of one solitary "unreasonable" man elucidates the shame of the entire nation. His existence testifies to the relativity of the system of radical self-preservation that has been posited as absolute.
Horkheimer Max
A man discovers what he is actually worth in this world when he faces society as a man, without money, name, or powerful connections, stripped of all but his native potentialities. He soon finds that nothing has less weight than his human qualities. They are prized so low that the market does not even list them. Strict science, which acknowledges man only as a biological concept, reflects man’s lot in the actual world; in himself, man is nothing more than a member of a species. In the eyes of the world, the quality of humanity confers no title to existence, nay, not even a right of sojourn. Such title must be certified by special social circumstances stipulated in documents to be presented on demand.
Max Horkheimer
The hypostasis of the particular methods of procedure employed by natural science ... results in the view that all theoretical differences which rest on historically conditioned antagonisms of interest are to be settles by a “crucial experiment” rather than by struggle and counter-struggle. The harmonious relation of individuals to one another becomes a fact, therefore, that has even more general character than a law of nature.




Max Horkheimer quotes
When scientists take part in activity they transform themselves from scientists into acting beings, that is, they become elements, data, facts; as soon as they reflect on their activity, however, they are re-transformed into scientists. The trained specialist qua scientist looks upon himself as a chain of judgments and inferences; qua member of society, he regard himself as a mere object. The same holds for everyone. The individual is divided into innumerable functions, the interconnection of which are unknown. In society a man is pater familias under one aspect, business man under another, thinker under a third; to be more precise, he is not a human being at all, but all these aspects and many more in an inevitable succession.
Max Horkheimer
Bourgeois society is ruled by equivalence. It makes the dissimilar comparable by reducing it to abstract quantities. To the enlightenment, that which does not reduce to numbers, and ultimately to the one, becomes illusion.
Horkheimer quotes
Leibniz’s theory on the subject as substantia ideans in the sense of a causative agent of decision and acts stands much closer to a materialist interpretation of history than does a philosophy which reduces the thinking subject to the role of subsuming protocol sentences under general propositions and deducing other sentences from them.
Horkheimer Max
The metaphysical apologia at least betrayed the injustice of the established order through the incongruence of concept and reality. The impartiality of scientific language deprived what was powerless of the strength to make itself heard and merely provided the existing order with a neutral sign for itself. Such neutrality is more metaphysical than metaphysics.
Horkheimer Max quotes
The disparagement of empirical evidence in favor of a metaphysical world of illusion has its origin in the conflict between the emancipated individual of bourgeois society and his fate within that society.
Max Horkheimer
Logical empiricism holds the view, notwithstanding some its assertions, that the forms of knowledge and consequently the relations of man to nature and to other men never change. According to rationalism, too, all subjective and objective potentialities are rooted in insights which the individual already possesses, but rationality uses existing objects as well as the active inner striving and ideas of man to construct standards for the future. In this regard, it is not so closely associated with the present order as is empiricism.
Max Horkheimer quotes
When even the dictators of today appeal to reason, they mean that they possess the most tanks. They were rational enough to build them; others should be rational enough to yield to them.
Max Horkheimer
The blessing that the market does not ask about birth is paid for in the exchange society by the fact that the possibilities conferred by birth are molded to fit the production of goods that can be bought on the market.
Horkheimer Max
When an active individual of sound common sense perceives the sordid state of the world, desire to change it becomes the guiding principle by which he organizes given facts and shapes them into a theory. The methods and categories as well as the transformation of the theory can be understood only in connection with his taking of sides. This, in turn, discloses both his sound common sense and the character of the world. Right thinking depends as much on right willing as right willing on right thinking.
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