By Peter E. Gordon
From the start to the tip of his profession, the severe theorist Theodor W. Adorno sustained an uneasy yet enduring bond with existentialism. His angle 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 concept nonetheless regard those philosophical routines as marginal works―unfortunate lapses of judgment for a philosopher in a different 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 publication on Kierkegaard’s aesthetic to the mature reviews in damaging dialectics, Adorno used to be eternally returning to the philosophies of bourgeois interiority, looking the paradoxical relation among their show up failure and their hidden promise.
Ultimately, Adorno observed in them an instructive if unsuccessful try to discover his personal ambition: to flee the enchanted circle of idealism so one can seize “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 missed bankruptcy within the background of Continental philosophy.
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From the start to the top of his occupation, the serious theorist Theodor W. Adorno sustained an uneasy yet enduring bond with existentialism. His perspective total used to be that of unsparing feedback, verging on polemic. In Kierkegaard he observed an early paragon for the overdue 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.
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Additional info for Adorno and Existence
Already in the dissertation Adorno had distinguished Kierkegaard’s thought from recent trends in existential ontology. But now Adorno no longer cared to associate Kierkegaard with the recent philosophers at all. Instead it was the theological element in Kierkegaard that came to the fore, and with a surprising consequence, for even as this new and more sympathetic reading drew Kierkegaard away from contemporary existentialism it brought him into a horizon of thought with which Adorno felt a far greater affinity.
This critical interpretation first emerged, however, within the framework of the so-called metacritique of Husserlian phenomenology. First published in 1956, the book known in English as Against Epistemology (originally titled Zur Metakritik der Erkenntnistheorie) is considered by many a recondite and merely academic work whose connection to the larger history of critical theory is at best remote. But this reputation is undeserved. ”4 The larger thesis is that Husserlian 40 / Adorno and Existence phenomenology remains of interest chiefly because it signifies the general “crisis of idealism” that Adorno saw as the endgame in modern bourgeois philosophy.
Kierkegaard himself, we should recall, conceives of the aesthetic as merely the first and lowest of the three “stages” (as portrayed in Stages on Life’s Way): The individual passes from the aesthetic to the ethical and finally to the religious as the last and highest stage of life. Adorno’s interpretation refuses to accept this stadial architecture and its manifest subordination of the aesthetic to both ethics and religion. In a gesture of “materialist” inversion, Adorno seeks to show how the aesthetic serves in Kierkegaard’s writing as the hidden though debased infrastructure for philosophical argument.
Adorno and Existence by Peter E. Gordon