Adorno's Negative Dialectic: Philosophy and the Possibility of Critical Rationality (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought)
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The purely philosophical concerns of Theodor W. Adorno's negative dialectic would seem to be far removed from the concreteness of critical theory; Adorno's philosophy considers perhaps the most traditional subject of "pure" philosophy, the structure of experience, whereas critical theory examines specific aspects of society. But, as Brian O'Connor demonstrates in this highly original interpretation of Adorno's philosophy, the negative dialectic can be seen as the theoretical foundation of the reflexivity or critical rationality required by critical theory. Adorno, O'Connor argues, is committed to the "concretion" of philosophy: his thesis of nonidentity attempts to show that reality is not reducible to appearances. This lays the foundation for the applied "concrete" critique of appearances that is essential to the possibility of critical theory.To explicate the context in which Adorno's philosophy operates -- the tradition of modern German philosophy, from Kant to Heidegger -- O'Connor examines in detail the ideas of these philosophers as well as Adorno's self-defining differences with them. O'Connor discusses Georg LucÃ cs and the influence of his "protocritical theory" on Adorno's thought; the elements of Kant's and Hegel's German idealism appropriated by Adorno for his theory of subject-object mediation; the priority of the object and the agency of the subject in Adorno's epistemology; and Adorno's important critiques of Kant and the phenomenology of Heidegger and Husserl, critiques that both illuminate Adorno's key concepts and reveal his construction of critical theory through an engagement with the problems of philosophy.
time-determination. In other words, the 24 Chapter 1 consciousness of my existence is at the same time an immediate consciousness of the existence of other things outside me” (CPR B276). What Kant is trying to establish is that the ultimate claim by the Cartesian that consciousness is more immediately known and is thus more certain than outer objects can be seen to rest upon a false assumption, for our temporal consciousness cannot be separated from these outer objects, and in knowing
which lies beneath the façade of immediacy, of the supposed facts, which makes the facts what they are” (ND 169/167, my italics). Furthermore, Adorno stipulates, at one point, that if we are going to establish the priority of the object then the object cannot be understood as the thing-in-itself: “Priority of the object can be discussed legitimately only when that priority—over the subject in the broadest sense of the term—is somehow determinable [bestimmbar], when it is more than the Kantian
suggests, through his revamping of Hegel’s model of experience, is that the very structure of experience contains a critical logic and that this process—which is the basis of rationality—has to be retrieved in order to enable us to confront the modes of consciousness through which we engage our environment. Otherwise we lapse into the “unthinking inertia” described by Hegel. 1.3 Positive Experience? Disagreements with Hegel It is for this reason that experience needs to be understood in a
just 114 Chapter 4 these functions of judgment, in so far as they are employed in determination of the manifold of a given intuition. Consequently, the manifold in a given intuition is necessarily subject to the categories” (CPR B143). In a useful footnote Kant makes it clear that determination is to be seen as equivalent to spontaneity (the context of this deﬁnition is not important here): “. . . I cannot determine [bestimmen] my existence as that of a self-active being; all that I can do is
consider brieﬂy the motivations and reasons behind Husserl’s rejection of psychologism. The real business will then be to see what Adorno makes of these reasons. Dallas Willard has pointed out that there are seemingly irreconcilable tendencies in our efforts to describe the nature and origin of logic. He sees a certain paradox arising between the two following tendencies: (1) “[T]he non-normative statements made by logicians engaged in their business both are about, and draw their evidence from