Postmetaphysical Conundrums: The Problematic Return to Metaphysics in Horkheimer’s Critique of Instrumental Reason

New German Critique 48 (3):1-30 (2021)
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The role of metaphysics in critique stands as a defining issue for the Frankfurt School theorists. Max Horkheimer himself claims that metaphysics serves as an instrument of domination, leading him to develop an interdisciplinary mate- rialism as a postmetaphysical alternative. Critics such as Georg Lohmann con- tend, however, that Horkheimer’s critique of instrumental reason is aporetic insofar as it undermines all metaphysical claims while implicitly making them. Since Horkheimer narrowly equates metaphysics with identity thinking, this article argues that his appeal to nonidentity thinking as the foundation for critique is better understood as a form of antimetaphysics. This, however, leaves Horkheimer no better situated, since antimetaphysics remains a variant of metaphysics. While Horkheimer reproduces the techniques of domination he sought to avoid, this lapse into metaphysics warns of the difficult path that postmetaphysical thinking must navigate between the antipodes of metaphys- ical and antimetaphysical positions.
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