Adorno's Negative Dialectic: Philosophy and the Possibility of Critical Rationality (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought)
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.
Judgment 2 is necessarily aware of the inadequacy of judgment 1, and so on. An alternative theory that sees judgments as atomically separated from other judgments could not explain the qualities of knowledge—that is, dynamism and historicality—identiﬁed by Hegel. 32 Chapter 1 Hegel argues in the Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences that to simply arrest our thinking at the complicated moment where dialectical thinking is evident—the moment in which the inadequacy of our judgment is
Acknowledgments I have been very fortunate to receive the help and advice of so many during the time in which I prepared this book. Rüdiger Bubner and Michael Inwood with their comments on and criticisms of an early version gave me the conﬁdence to pursue it further. Michael Rosen read through seemingly innumerable drafts. His belief in the project, his philosophical acuity, and his generosity with time and thought were simply indispensable in getting me to this point. My colleagues and
terms—an “anthropological-materialist” critique.15 This anthropological-materialist critique has two main lines. First, it holds that claims for the reality of the “I think” are incoherent since they are irrevocably committed to the mistaken belief that the “I think” is an individual entity, even though it does not conform to the conditions that make the indexical “I” appropriate. Second, it attempts to demonstrate that the alleged transcendental reality of the “I think” involves an irreparable
the object is objective only by virtue of subjectivity: But even if we grant the legitimacy of starting not with an isolated subject but with the subject-object relation it must then be asked: Why does a subject “require” an object, and conversely? For an extant entity does not of itself become an object so as then to require a subject; rather, it becomes an object only in being objectiﬁed by a subject. A being is without a subject, but objects exist only for a subject that does the objectifying.
When Kant, in the Aesthetic and Deduction, argues that every act of knowledge involves subjective investment he fails to realize that these subjective acts must also, as Adorno puts it, “adjust to a moment which they themselves are not” (ND 142/138). 4. Aristotle, Metaphysics (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993), trans. Hugh Tredennick, Book A, 988a18–993a10 (Aristotle’s criticism of his predecessors). 5. As Ralph C. S. Walker notes of the starting point of transcendental arguments