By Peter E. Gordon
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 past due flowering of bourgeois solipsism; in Heidegger, an impresario for a “jargon of authenticity” cloaking its idealism in an air of secrecy of pseudo-concreteness and neo-romantic kitsch. Even within the straitened rationalism of Husserl’s phenomenology Adorno observed a useless try and cut loose from the prison-house of consciousness.
Most students of severe idea 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 continual fascination with the philosophical canons of existentialism and phenomenology indicates a connection way more efficient than mere antipathy. From his first released e-book on Kierkegaard’s aesthetic to the mature reviews in detrimental dialectics, Adorno was once perpetually 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 become aware of his personal ambition: to flee the enchanted circle of idealism so one can grab “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 surprising gentle in this ignored bankruptcy within the background of Continental philosophy.
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Extra info for Adorno and Existence
And yet the political moment of the book’s composition merits our attention. The Kierkegaard Reception in Germany Kierkegaard has long occupied a contested and symbolically overdetermined place in the German philosophical imagination. 12 Yet Kierkegaard’s name spread beyond the circle as well. 16 As we shall see, the question of an “inverted” theology, uniting both Kierkegaard and Kafka, would become a decisive theme in Adorno’s mature philosophical work. 17 Beginning with Der Römerbrief (The epistle to the Romans), first published in 1918 and extensively revised in a second edition in 1922, the Swiss theologian Karl Barth ignited a firestorm of controversy and religious enthusiasm for a new species of antihistoricist theology that broke sharply from the “culture Protestantism” of the later nineteenth century.
But we should not neglect the philosophical continuities with Adorno’s earlier work. The metaphor of reflection (the bourgeois mirror) that in Adorno’s dissertation had once revealed Kierkegaard as an ideologue of helpless interiority was now a feature of the very society against which Kierkegaard rebelled. This shift of perspective meant that even Kierkegaard’s antidemocratic sensibility might be assigned a critical meaning. ”53 It is perhaps easy to understand why Adorno, recently displaced from Germany, would have felt moved to see in Kierkegaard an anticipation of his own condition as a critic of modern society.
Although it is admittedly a “metaphor of technical life,” the apartment serves as the figure of the “temporal present” and as nothing less than the setting of “eternal preparedness” for Christian redemption. Thus a quotidian element of nineteenth-century existence reveals itself in Adorno’s interpretation as a key to Kierkegaard’s entire philosophical doctrine. 42 Starting Out with Kierkegaard / 27 Needless to say, this kind of social and materialist criticism suggests a strong divergence of philosophical perspective between Adorno and Kierkegaard.