Philosophy ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 11-1-2023


In my dissertation, I argue that Hegel, Adorno, and Horkheimer develop theories of modern sacrifice grounded in their critiques of modern reason—what Hegel calls “the Understanding” and Adorno and Horkheimer call “instrumental reason.” I contend that these thinkers recognize the process of rational cognition, which abstracts conceptual data from empirical reality and establishes the dominance of the universal over particular phenomena, as a sacrificial process—a view supported by their routine description of this process using the language of violence and death. However, this sacrificial conception of modern reason isn’t metaphorical: when read alongside their analyses of discursive cunning, an instrumental linguistic practice that detaches the speaker from their worlds, as well as their ideological analyses of the Reign of Terror and the Holocaust, it becomes clear that Hegel, Adorno, and Horkheimer recognize the isolating and destructive movement of modern reason as materially expressed in the modern world via bloodshed.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Adrian Johnston

Second Committee Member

Ann Murphy

Third Committee Member

Paul Livingston

Fourth Committee Member

Jay M. Bernstein

Fifth Committee Member

Rebecca Comay




Hegel, Critical Theory, Dialectic, Sacrifice, Modernity, Reason

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