By Peter E. Gordon
From the start to the tip of his occupation, the severe theorist Theodor W. Adorno sustained an uneasy yet enduring bond with existentialism. His angle 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 air of mystery of pseudo-concreteness and neo-romantic kitsch. Even within the straitened rationalism of Husserl’s phenomenology Adorno observed a useless try to separate 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 another way celebrated for dialectical mastery. but his continual 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 experiences in unfavourable dialectics, Adorno was once eternally returning to the philosophies of bourgeois interiority, looking the paradoxical relation among their take place failure and their hidden promise.
Ultimately, Adorno observed in them an instructive if unsuccessful try and discover his personal ambition: to flee the enchanted circle of idealism to be able to seize “the primacy of the object.” routines 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 mild in this ignored bankruptcy within the heritage of Continental philosophy.
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Additional resources for Adorno and Existence
Already it bears many of the characteristic themes that would remain at the fore of Adorno’s negative thinking throughout his career: the critique of bourgeois idealism, an aesthetic and formal preference for the essay as against the system, a complaint against the positivistic and reified prestige of the noninterpretative “given,” and—perhaps most of all—the constant and repeated assault on the doctrine of constitutive subjectivity. ”2 Considered as a matter of philosophical doctrine, it seems fair to say that the problem of constitutive subjectivity is associated most of all with the legacy German idealism.
The former head of the Institute for Social Research, Karl Grunberg, had just stepped down, and Max Horkheimer, at just thirty-five years of age, had recently been promoted to professor of social philosophy at Frankfurt; in 1930 he was appointed director of the institute, a position he would retain until Adorno replaced him in 1953. The philosophical friendship between them was already well established— Adorno and Horkheimer had first met in the early 1920s—and it was a partnership that would remain the animating heart of critical theory well into the postwar era.
58 This conclusion is especially remarkable insofar as it points toward a concept that would only grow in significance for Adorno himself over the coming years. ” Although this passage does not invoke Kierkegaard by name, its governing conceptual contrast—between despair and redemption—reminds us that Adorno was still drawing upon a philosophical lexicon that Kierkegaard had helped to create. ”59 Repeating an argument from the 1940 lecture, this famous passage from Minima Moralia suggests that mere existence must never claim our highest allegiance and that the “mirror” of philosophical reflection must not trap us in a repetition of this existence but should instead reveal its negativity, thereby awakening hope for an unrealized possibility existence denies.
Adorno and Existence by Peter E. Gordon