Reason after Its Eclipse: On Late Critical Theory

Martin Jay
Berkeley Book Chats
Reason after Its Eclipse Book Cover
Wednesday, May 4, 2016 | 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm
Geballe Room, 220 Stephens Hall
  --
United States

Professor of History Martin Jay specializes in European intellectual history and critical theory. His book Reason after Its Eclipse examines the overlapping, but not fully compatible, meanings that have accrued to the term “reason” over two millennia, focusing on moments of crisis, critique, and defense of reason.

After surveying Western ideas of reason from the ancient Greeks through Kant, Hegel, and Marx, Jay engages at length with the ways leading theorists of the Frankfurt School—Horkheimer, Marcuse, Adorno, and most extensively Habermas—sought to salvage a viable concept of reason after its apparent eclipse. They despaired, in particular, over the decay in the modern world of reason into mere instrumental rationality. When reason becomes a technical tool of calculation separated from the values and norms central to daily life, then choices become grounded not in careful thought but in emotion and will—a mode of thinking embraced by fascist movements in the twentieth century. Jay explores at length the communicative rationality advocated by Habermas and considers the range of arguments, both pro and con, that have greeted his work.

After an introduction by Professor of Philosophy Hans Sluga, Jay speaks briefly about his work and then opens the floor for discussion.