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Carnal Enlightenment: The Myth of Enlightened Reason and Two Carnal Conceptions of the State

Hrvoje Cvijanović ; Fakultet političkih znanosti Sveučilišta u Zagrebu, Zagreb, Hrvatska

Puni tekst: engleski pdf 122 Kb

str. 76-93

preuzimanja: 663



The state in the modern sense ought to appear as the instrument of Reason
able to control the passions. This is the modern myth of the state which has
been fortified through the age of Enlightenment. However, the concept of ‘enlightened
reason’ that lies behind the idea of the state is just a myth and thus
is false. Rather, the modern state becomes the highest embodiment of ‘carnal
reason’. As such, carnal reason manifests itself through the idea of self-preservation
or life-preserving in general which feeds on human desire for domination
over nature and over human beings themselves. Thus, the modern state
provides the framework for the carnal discharge of sadistic passions in the
name of the myth of ‘enlightened reason’. The argument is that the Enlightenment
deceptively presented its goals as the cravings of Reason while deliberately
concealing its carnal foundations. Namely, I differentiate between
the sado-masochistic core of the Enlightenment and its rhetorical or intellectual
mask. The life-preserving drive that inevitably transmutes into comprehensive
destruction of the self, as well as destruction of the others and of the
entire environment, is upheld through the legal framework of the state. I argue
that it is this carnal reason that provides the foundation for the modern state,
as opposed to the historically propagated ideal of ‘enlightened reason’. However,
if the state represents the ultimate embodiment of ‘carnal reason’, there
are at least two possible responses to that condition. The first response recognizes
‘carnal reason’ as an obstacle for the fulfilment of the Enlightenment’s
ideals or as a betrayal of the idea of the state. This is the criticism developed
by Horkheimer and Adorno in their diatribe on the Enlightenment and on the
state, both of which are described as totalitarian and life-denying. On the other
hand, the carnal conception of the state, separated from the burden of moral
argument, is defended by Carl Schmitt as the fact of the political. Two carnal
conceptions of the state represent two different articulations which should be
juxtaposed and illuminated.

Ključne riječi

Enlightenment; state; carnal; Adorno and Horkheimer; Carl Schmitt

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