By Peter E. Gordon
From the start to the top 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 air of mystery of pseudo-concreteness and neo-romantic kitsch. Even within the straitened rationalism of Husserl’s phenomenology Adorno observed a useless try and separate from from the prison-house of consciousness.
Most students of severe thought nonetheless regard those philosophical routines as marginal works―unfortunate lapses of judgment for a philosopher another way celebrated for dialectical mastery. but his chronic fascination with the philosophical canons of existentialism and phenomenology indicates a connection way more effective than mere antipathy. From his first released booklet on Kierkegaard’s aesthetic to the mature stories in adverse dialectics, Adorno used to be endlessly 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 observe 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 strange mild in this overlooked bankruptcy within the background of Continental philosophy.
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Additional info for Adorno and Existence
22 Although Adorno felt only the most qualified admiration for Tillich’s own contributions to existential religious philosophy, he shared Tillich’s broadly socialist perspective on contemporary politics. In his autumn 1965 lectures on negative dialectics, Adorno opened the first with a eulogy to his former professor who had died just a few weeks before: Tillich had combined a “genuinely irenic temperament” with “the greatest resoluteness” in personal conduct. “His open-mindedness,” Adorno recalled, “did not prevent him from drawing the necessary conclusions when what was at stake was the need to show whether or not he was a decent human being.
27 In sharp contrast to Scholem, Benjamin himself offered a more favorable response. ” But while Barth had seen in Kierkegaard an unabashedly religious rebel, Heidegger had exploited Kierkegaard for his own nontheistic and purely existential analytic of being-inthe-world. Meanwhile, Benjamin wrote, Adorno’s interpretation broke with existential convention in exposing “the hidden elements of idealism” that lay buried in Kierkegaard’s work. ”28 Starting Out with Kierkegaard / 21 On this point Benjamin was a discerning reader indeed.
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.