Adorno: The Recovery of Experience (Suny Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy)

Adorno: The Recovery of Experience (Suny Series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy)

Roger Foster

Language: English

Pages: 248

ISBN: 0791472108

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Examines the role of experience within Adorno’s philosophy of language and epistemology.

In Adorno, Roger Foster argues that there is a coherent critical project at the core of Adorno’s philosophy of language and epistemology, the key to which is the recovery of a broader understanding of experience. Foster claims, in Adorno’s writings, it is the concept of spiritual experience that denotes this richer vision of experience and signifies an awareness of the experiential conditions of concepts. By elucidating Adorno’s view of philosophy as a critical practice that discloses the suffering of the world, Foster shows that Adorno’s philosophy does not end up in a form of resignation or futile pessimism. Foster also breaks new ground by placing Adorno’s theory of experience in relation to the work of other early twentieth-century thinkers, in particular Henri Bergson, Marcel Proust, Edmund Husserl, and early Wittgenstein.

“…this book is exceptional.” — CHOICE

“This book argues its position clearly, engages incisively with the available secondary literature in both English and German, and establishes a new interpretive position that in some ways corrects and in others enhances the scholarly literature.” — Max Pensky, editor of The Actuality of Adorno: Critical Essays on Adorno and the Postmodern

“This is the most lucid presentation I’ve ever read of Adorno’s work. This is a special achievement because Foster is dealing with one of the most difficult and nuanced aspects of Adorno: his conception of experience in relation to language.” — Tom Huhn, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Adorno


















comes to expression in language, but is not explicitly said within it. In the preface to the Trauerspiel book, this is developed in the form of a view of philosophy as presentation (Darstellung) that develops and arranges concepts in such a way that an idea becomes visible in their arrangement. I want, first, to examine the influence of these reflections on philosophical language, and particularly the idea of presentation as saying more than is contained in the explicit theses of a text, on

arbitrary signifier but rather as a microcosm of historical experience. The concept, in other words, is not simply “put to use” in order to subsume a given content; through language, philosophy tries to recover (to make explicit by putting into words) the experiential conditions of the operation of our concepts.13 Adorno and Benjamin on Language as Expression 73 This idea of philosophical writing as a process, in which the cognitive insight achieved in the movement through the discursive

says that enables it to “bring the suffering of the world to language” (2003a, 158). Spiritual experience, Adorno is arguing, is the experience of the withering of experience in the course of disenchantment. It brings to language the historical experience that underlies the transformation of language into an empty vehicle of communication (or pure signification). An idea of art as the expression of suffering is of course one of the major themes of À la Recherche.18 It is suffering, the narrator

ultimately related to a specific distortion within language. Adorno describes this distortion as the loss of language’s expressive element. Other twentieth-century thinkers in this group include Walter Benjamin, Merleau-Ponty, and also, I would argue, Bergson and Proust.21 All of Adorno’s major works are littered with phrases that describe the task of philosophy in precisely these terms: as bringing something to language (zum Sprechen bringen), “giving voice” to something (zum Laut helfen) or

further evidence for the impossibility of leaping outside 170 ADORNO of the classificatory concept. What makes McDowell’s work especially significant, however, is that it provides a particularly lucid contemporary reading of the philosophic consequences of disenchantment. The failure of this outbreak attempt does not detract from the acuity of insight that enables McDowell to pose the problem of alienation in perspicuous form. What Adorno says about Bergson and Husserl, namely that their

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