Adorno (The Routledge Philosophers)
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Theodor W. Adorno (1903-69) was one of the foremost philosophers and social theorists of the post-war period. Crucial to the development of Critical Theory, his highly original and distinctive but often difficult writings not only advance questions of fundamental philosophical significance, but provide deep-reaching analyses of literature, art, music sociology and political theory.
In this comprehensive introduction, Brian O’Connor explains Adorno’s philosophy for those coming to his work for the first time, through original new lines of interpretation. Beginning with an overview of Adorno’s life and key philosophical views and influences, which contextualizes the intellectual environment in which he worked, O’Connor assesses the central elements of Adorno’s philosophy.
He carefully examines Adorno’s distinctive style of analysis and shows how much of his work is a critical response to the various forms of identity thinking that have underpinned the destructive forces of modernity. He goes on to discuss the main areas of Adorno’s philosophy: social theory, the philosophy of experience, metaphysics, morality and aesthetics; setting out detailed accounts of Adorno’s notions of the dialectic of Enlightenment, reification, totality, mediation, identity, nonidentity, experience, negative dialectics, immanence, freedom, autonomy, imitation and autonomy in art. The final chapter considers Adorno’s philosophical legacy and importance today.
Including a chronology, glossary, chapter summaries, and suggestions for further reading, Adorno is an ideal introduction to this demanding but important thinker, and essential reading for students of philosophy, literature, sociology and cultural studies.
difference to be developed between Adorno’s notion of totality and social holism (of the kind just brieﬂy described). For Adorno society has become a totality. Its totalistic character is not an inevitable or desirable development. (We will return to this when considering Karl Popper’s criticism of Adorno.) Adorno’s thoughts on the totalistic operations of society fall into three strands: (1) facts are ‘mediated’ within a social whole or totality (facts cannot be explained as atomized units,
experience to be a process in which the subject can eﬀectively identify objects in the sense of fully determining them through the concepts which are applied to them: identity thinking, he claims, says what something comes under, what it exempliﬁes or represents and what, accordingly, it is not itself. The more relentlessly our identarian thinking besets its object, the farther will it take us from the identity of the object. (ND 149) Adorno sees identity thinking as a form of behaviour which
Adorno argue, cannot be superseded by or translated into pure practical reason. Freedom and morality 145 Summary Adorno claims that the modern concept of autonomy has evolved within the dialectic of enlightenment. Human autonomy was a means of achieving emancipation from nature and authority. But as rational freedom it was inﬂuenced by the model of rationality that had brought success to scientiﬁc endeavours. Eventually, according to Adorno, the very notion of what it is to be a rational
(Kant 2001: §47, 188). (The opacity of an aesthetic genius’ ideas renders them, according to Kant, inferior to those of the scientiﬁc genius whose concepts are rationally communicable. Adorno comments: in Kant ‘the aesthetic is subordinated to the primacy of discursive logic’ (AT 164).) The creative process is not, though, an indeterminate productivity. It is undertaken within the space of the established norms of art. These norms appear to delimit the content of the genius’ aesthetic
(AT 244) The experience of the ‘loss of footing’ is not an injury of selfhood. Again, it is a release from the restricted self of autonomy after which agents ﬁnd themselves experiencing in a fulﬁlling way, thanks to their own activity, what they cannot anticipate and what they have not constructed. It is that moment of shock, Adorno writes, that ‘rescues subjectivity … by the negation of subjectivity. The subject, convulsed by art, has real experiences’ and, consequently, ‘true happiness’ (AT