Lectures on Negative Dialectics: Fragments of a Lecture Course 1965/1966
Theodor W. Adorno
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This volume comprises one of the key lecture courses leading up to the publication in 1966 of Adorno's major work, Negative Dialectics. These lectures focus on developing the concepts critical to the introductory section of that book. They show Adorno as an embattled philosopher defining his own methodology among the prevailing trends of the time. As a critical theorist, he repudiated the worn-out Marxist stereotypes still dominant in the Soviet bloc – he specifically addresses his remarks to students who had escaped from the East in the period leading up to the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Influenced as he was by the empirical schools of thought he had encountered in the United States, he nevertheless continued to resist what he saw as their surrender to scientific and mathematical abstraction. However, their influence was potent enough to prevent him from reverting to the traditional idealisms still prevalent in Germany, or to their latest manifestations in the shape of the new ontology of Heidegger and his disciples. Instead, he attempts to define, perhaps more simply and fully than in the final published version, a ‘negative', i.e. critical, approach to philosophy. Permeating the whole book is Adorno’s sense of the overwhelming power of totalizing, dominating systems in the post-Auschwitz world. Intellectual negativity, therefore, commits him to the stubborn defence of individuals – both facts and people – who stubbornly refuse to become integrated into ‘the administered world’.
These lectures reveal Adorno to be a lively and engaging lecturer. He makes serious demands on his listeners but always manages to enliven his arguments with observations on philosophers and writers such as Proust and Brecht and comments on current events. Heavy intellectual artillery is combined with a concern for his students’ progress.
liberates us from thinking; we have no mode of cognition at our disposal that differs absolutely from the controlling type, a fact which intuitionism is desperate to escape from, but in vain. Philosophy that sets out to imitate art, that aspires to become a work of art itself, is doomed from the outset. It would have to postulate a claim to identity: the idea that its object would be absorbed into it because it would endow its own procedure with a supremacy that entitles it to organize the
alone something of the hope of the name is perpetuated. The language of philosophy approaches this name by negating it. What it criticizes in the words, in particular their claim that they possess the immediate truth, is almost always the ideology of a positive, existing identity of word and thing, the secret superstition of every idealism. The latter trivializes the Absolute about whose infinitude it rhapsodizes or which  it undertakes to define; the (34, cont.) irreversible secularization
Against Epistemology. The passage in question is to be found in Husserl's Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 7, p. 215: ‘Uncovering the sense-genesis of judgements signifies, more precisely, an unravelling of the sense-moments that are implicit in and belong essentially to, the sense that has plainly come to light. Judgements, as the finished products of a “constitution” or “genesis”, can and must be asked about this genesis. The essential peculiarity of such products is precisely that they are senses
very characteristic of identity philosophy, that verum index sui et falsi,13 in other words, that the true and the false can both be directly read off from the true, is a proposition whose validity we cannot accept; but that the false, that which should not be the case, is in fact the standard of itself: that the false, namely that which is not itself in the first instance – i.e. not itself in the sense that it is not what it claims to be – that this falseness proclaims itself in what we might
its own in contrast to allegedly shallower ones. It is especially true – and I believe that this cannot be said often or emphatically enough in Germany today – that all the talk about depth and the appeal to deep-sounding phrases no more guarantees philosophical depth than a picture can acquire metaphysical meaning because it reproduces some metaphysical mood or other or even depicts metaphysical events; or than a work of literature can acquire metaphysical meaning because it speaks of