The Project of Modernity
The project of modernity has been characterized succinctly as follows:
From its beginnings, the project of the moderns entailed two conceptions of reason; the first was technical-instrumental reason whose vision was strikingly captured by Descartes' phrase that the task is "to render ourselves masters and possessors of nature." The second conception of reason was a moral-practical one, emphasizing that only those norms are valid and worthy of consent which autonomous individuals would freely choose to live by. What constituted the distinctiveness of the "classical moderns," from Descartes to Kant, from J. Bentham to Saint Simon, and from John Locke to J. S. Mill, was the conviction that moral and political autonomy could only be attained by unleashing the powers promised by the scientific-technological use of reason. Not only was there no incompatibility between autonomy and the mastery of nature, moral progress and scientific growth, but the first presupposed the second.' 1
Furthermore, this project of the moderns is widely held to have exhausted itself.
The critiques of Friedrich Nietzsche and Max Weber, for example, emphasize that reason exercised solely or primarily in its instrumental capacity, in order to maximize the manipulation of nature, threatens to reduce human beings, as subjects of reason, to the status of the objects they seek to manipulate. In a similar vein, Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer have attempted to chart how the project of modernity entails a dialectic of Enlightenment whereby objectivating reason