Transcending Herbert Marcuse on Alienation, Art and the Humanities Essay

Transcending Herbert Marcuse on Alienation, Art and the Humanities Essay

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Transcending Herbert Marcuse on Alienation, Art and the Humanities (1)


ABSTRACT: This paper discusses how higher education can help us in accomplishing our humanization. It looks at the critical educational theory of Herbert Marcuse, and examines his notion of the dis-alienating power of the aesthetic imagination. In his view, aesthetic education can become the foundation of a re-humanizing critical theory. I question the epistemological underpinnings of Marcuse's educational philosophy and suggest an alternative intellectual framework for interpreting and releasing the emancipatory power of education.

"Truth is ugly. We possess art lest we perish of the truth."

Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power #822

What is the relationship of truth to beauty, learning to art, political education to human flourishing? Philosophers from Confucius and Aristotle to John Dewey and Paulo Freire have investigated, as the axial human problem, how education is to help us in accomplishing our own humanization. The contemporary search for a genuinely critical theory and an authentically democratic society continues that project. But what can make theory critical, education liberating, society democratic?

It is necessary to theorize our society critically if we are to have a vehicle for correctly informed transformative practice. The problem is that much of what is called critical theory today is rooted in ideas developed by Herbert Marcuse, Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, and Georg Lukacs. What I want to argue here is that their work has tended to formulate a particular approach to aesthetic educationand a unique version of a philosophical humanismwhich is then presented as critical theoryagainst the debilitating fragmentation ...


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...88); Jurgen Habermas, "Von Lukacs zu Adorno: Rationalisierung als Verdinglichung," in Theorie des kommunikativen HandelnsBand I (Fft: Suhrkamp, 1981).

(4) Karl Marx, Das Kapital(Stuttgart: Alfred Kroener Verlag, 1965) p. 52.

(5) Aeron Haynie, Imperialism and the Construction of Femininity in Mid-Victorian Fiction(Gainesville: University of Florida, Ph.D. dissertation, 1994).

(6) Martin Heidegger in Marcuse's notes to seminar, "Heidegger, Einfuhrung in das akademische Studium. Sommer 1929" Herbert Marcuse Archiv of the Stadt- und Universit. tsbibliothek, Frankfurt, Catalog # 0013.01, p. 6.

Works Cited

1941 RR Reason and Revolution, Hegel and the Rise of Social Theory (Boston:Beacon, 1960).

1972 CR Counterrevolution and Revolt (Boston: Beacon, 1972).

1978 AD The Aesthetic Dimension, Toward a Critique of Marxist Aesthetics (Boston: Beacon, 1978).

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