Lectures on Negative Dialectics: Fragments of a Lecture Course 1965/1966 / Edition 1

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This volume comprises one of the key lecture courses leading up to the publication in 1966 of Adorno's major work, Negative Dialectics. These lectures focus on developing the concepts critical to the introductory section of that book. They show Adorno as an embattled philosopher defining his own methodology among the prevailing trends of the time. As a critical theorist, he repudiated the worn-out Marxist stereotypes still dominant in the Soviet bloc – he specifically addresses his remarks to students who had escaped from the East in the period leading up to the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Influenced as he was by the empirical schools of thought he had encountered in the United States, he nevertheless continued to resist what he saw as their surrender to scientific and mathematical abstraction. However, their influence was potent enough to prevent him from reverting to the traditional idealisms still prevalent in Germany, or to their latest manifestations in the shape of the new ontology of Heidegger and his disciples. Instead, he attempts to define, perhaps more simply and fully than in the final published version, a ‘negative', i.e. critical, approach to philosophy. Permeating the whole book is Adorno’s sense of the overwhelming power of totalizing, dominating systems in the post-Auschwitz world. Intellectual negativity, therefore, commits him to the stubborn defence of individuals – both facts and people – who stubbornly refuse to become integrated into ‘the administered world’.

These lectures reveal Adorno to be a lively and engaging lecturer. He makes serious demands on his listeners but always manages to enliven his arguments with observations on philosophers and writers such as Prouvést and Brecht and comments on current events. Heavy intellectual artillery is combined with a concern for his students’ progress.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The best introduction to Adorno's thought is Adorno's lectures:patient and expansive, they provide the darkest corners of histhought with light and air. Aiming to elaborate the basicassumptions and working method behind his philosophical practice ingeneral, these lapidary lectures touch on many of the mostdifficult aspects of Adorno's philosophy."
J. M. Bernstein, New School for Social Research
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745635095
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/17/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Theodor Adorno was a member of the Frankfurt School.

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Table of Contents

Translator's Note ix

Editor's Foreword xi

Lecture 1 The Concept of Contradiction 1

After Paul Tillich's death

Plan and intention of the lecture course

Negative dialectics and the logic of disintegration

Contradiction in the concept

Logic as a coercive force to bring about identity

Contradiction in the object; antagonism in society; mastery over nature

Idealist, materialist and negative dialectics

Lecture 2 The Negation of Negation 12

Abstract subjectivity and social objectivity

The negation of negation as a positive; Hegel's critique of positivity

Critique of Hegel's vindication of institutions

Against the fetishization of positivity as such

The actual is not rational

Critical theory and negative dialectics; philosophical criticism of the hypostasis of spirit

Lecture 3 Whether Negative Dialectics is Possible 22

The ideology of the positive; reified thought

Resistance to reification, determinate negation, immanent critique

The positive as an aspect

Hegel's philosophy circular; Falsum index sui et veri

Critique of synthesis

The concept of system (I)

Lecture 4 Whether Philosophy is Possible without System 33

The concept of system (II)

System and systematization Heidegger's latent system

Negative dialectics as secularized system

The unifying aspect and resistance of the positive; analysis of the singular and the power of system

Enforced provincialization

The eleventh Feuerbach thesis today

Lecture 5 Theory and Practice 44

The transition to practice a historical failure

Marx's concept of science; the definition of philosophy

The forces of production and the relations of production in conflict

Against the cult of practice

Interpretation as critique; philosophy and revolution; referring science back to philosophy

Left Hegelianism and thinking as a mode of behaviour

Lecture 6 Being. Nothing. Concept 55

Philosophy as self-criticism

The philosophy of the non-conceptual; 'a pause for breath'

The mastery of nature and social domination

No identity of thinking and being

Indeterminate and indeterminateness in Hegel

The self-reflection of the concept; the concept and the non-conceptual; formal or substantive philosophy

Lecture 7 'Attempted Breakouts' 65

Formalism and chance; Heidegger's archaic tendencies

Hegel's existent being [Seiendes] as a concept; Krug's 'quill' and Freud's 'dregs of the phenomenal world'

The non-conceptual as the neglected factor; the micrological method

Bergson and Husserl

Bergson's 'images'; Proust puts Bergson to the test; Husserl's conceptual realism

The failure of historical attempts to break out; the task of a breakout through self-reflection

The idea of infinity; against 'exhaustion'

Lecture 8 The Concept of Intellectual Experience 76

The concept of infinity in idealism

The finitude of categories; against the claim to infinity

On a philosophy of 'openness'

The concept of intellectual experience: experience vs. deduction; the experience of the new; the meta-critical turn against first philosophy

The relation of works of art to the philosophy of art

Dialectic of enlightenment; philosophy's fallibility in principle

Lecture 9 The Element of Speculation 87

Relation to the empirical; intellectual experience and spiritualization

Earnestness and play

The uncontrolled, irrationality and the mimetic element; the affinity between philosophy and art

Intuition, inspiration, association

Concept and non-concept

The concept of speculation; the speculative element in Marx

'The metaphysics of the forces of production'

Lecture 10 Philosophy and 'Depth' 98

Essence and appearance; speculation and ideology

Philosophy as 'resistance'

The theodicy of suffering; suffering and happiness

The invocation of depth or metaphysical meaning

Critique of the thesis of the meaningful; 'inwardness'

Resistance to bleating

Depth: the expression of suffering

Lectures 11 to 25 Negative Dialectics 111

Adorno's Notes: expression and presentation, thinking as negativity

Second reflection, making concrete

'Strait-jacket', relation to system

Bourgeois ratio and system a Exchange principle and system, critique of system

Ambiguity of system

System and fragment, immanence and transcendence

The subject within objectivity, the concept of the qualitative

Truth as concrete

Relativism, the fragility of truth, truth unfathomable

Dialectics and firm ground; against synthesis

Unity and multiplicity

Negative ontology of perennial antagonism

Method and the creation of content

Principle of domination, Existentialism

Spontaneity in Sartre, Sartre's 'Götz', language and history

Additional Notes 178

Thing, concept, name

Against the current



Plato's Cratylus

Linguistic precision

Knowledge and utopia

Thought and non-being

Appendix: Towards a Theory of Intellectual Experience 183

Notes 211

Bibliographical Sources 260

Index 263

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