By Peter E. Gordon
From the start to the tip of his profession, the serious theorist Theodor W. Adorno sustained an uneasy yet enduring bond with existentialism. His perspective total was once that of unsparing feedback, verging on polemic. In Kierkegaard he observed an early paragon for the past due flowering of bourgeois solipsism; in Heidegger, an impresario for a “jargon of authenticity” cloaking its idealism in an charisma of pseudo-concreteness and neo-romantic kitsch. Even within the straitened rationalism of Husserl’s phenomenology Adorno observed a useless try to become independent from from the prison-house of consciousness.
Most students of serious idea nonetheless regard those philosophical routines as marginal works―unfortunate lapses of judgment for a philosopher another way celebrated for dialectical mastery. but his power fascination with the philosophical canons of existentialism and phenomenology indicates a connection way more efficient than mere antipathy. From his first released ebook on Kierkegaard’s aesthetic to the mature experiences in adverse dialectics, Adorno was once endlessly returning to the philosophies of bourgeois interiority, looking the paradoxical relation among their appear failure and their hidden promise.
Ultimately, Adorno observed in them an instructive if unsuccessful try to become aware of his personal ambition: to flee the enchanted circle of idealism which will take hold of “the primacy of the object.” workouts in “immanent critique,” Adorno’s writings on Kierkegaard, Husserl, and Heidegger current us with a photographic negative―a philosophical portrait of the writer himself. In Adorno and Existence, Peter E. Gordon casts new and unusual gentle in this overlooked bankruptcy within the heritage of Continental philosophy.
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Additional resources for Adorno and Existence
Philosophy and Actuality It is a major conceit of “The Actuality of Philosophy” that academic inquiry has entered an endgame in which the obsolete ambitions of philosophical idealism must at last be set aside. ” Animating idealism in all its forms, Adorno claims, was the thesis of the autonome ratio, the principle that thought can generate all of reality from out of itself. This principle has begun to disintegrate even though the illusory belief that “the power of thought is sufficient to grasp the totality of the real” still holds much of academic philosophy in its grip.
In his autumn 1965 lectures on negative dialectics, Adorno opened the first with a eulogy to his former professor who had died just a few weeks before: Tillich had combined a “genuinely irenic temperament” with “the greatest resoluteness” in personal conduct. “His open-mindedness,” Adorno recalled, “did not prevent him from drawing the necessary conclusions when what was at stake was the need to show whether or not he was a decent human being. ”23 By the time Adorno began to revise the dissertation for publication, the political scene was beginning to show signs of serious fracture and “decency” grew increasingly rare.
Moreover, such aesthetic categories reflect the social and historical situation of the author himself and thus reveal the historical conditioning of a philosophy that would deny to history any genuinely philosophical meaning. Consider, for example, the figure of the nonreligious sensualist, or, alternately, the literary aesthete or flâneur (as Kierkegaard later characterized his own situation when writing Either/Or), both of which function throughout Kierkegaard’s work as antitypes to the integrity of religious existence.
Adorno and Existence by Peter E. Gordon