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A Postmodern Critique of the Age of Enlightenment

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Postmodernity is the leading resistance to any hegemonic theory, and the belief in a progressive motion of the world, which claims for false coherence and universal applicability. Pivotal to the postmodern understanding of society is the belief that the Enlightenment’s totalizing principles; the appeal to positivism and experimentation in science, to rationality promoting explanation and progress, and the ability to represent reality, have been fatally undermined. The present paper attempts to provide the historicity of such disillusionment towards the modern enterprise which was supposedly to hail progress and better the human condition. The reliance on the major thinkers that both constructed the multidisciplinary revolution of the Age of Enlightenment will be provided along with the opponents and critics of such a project. The paper also attempts to evaluate and call into doubt the ineluctable progress of reason which sounds tragically paradoxical after Auschwitz and Hiroshima. It polemically sheds light on the fact that modernity not only failed to grant a level of social and political well-being within social formations, through the application of science and technology, but it also made the Holocaust and the atomic bomb possible. The project of rationality and emancipation was extended to the point where it appeared to coincide with its own destruction.

Key Words: Age of Enlightenment, Francis Bacon, John Locke, Postmodernism,  Stephen Bronner, Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Thomas Hobbes,

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