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By Peter E. Gordon

From the start to the tip of his occupation, the serious theorist Theodor W. Adorno sustained an uneasy yet enduring bond with existentialism. His perspective total was once 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 severe thought 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 power fascination with the philosophical canons of existentialism and phenomenology indicates a connection way more effective than mere antipathy. From his first released publication on Kierkegaard’s aesthetic to the mature reports in unfavourable dialectics, Adorno used to be perpetually returning to the philosophies of bourgeois interiority, looking the paradoxical relation among their occur failure and their hidden promise.

Ultimately, Adorno observed in them an instructive if unsuccessful try to notice his personal ambition: to flee the enchanted circle of idealism on the way to snatch “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 background of Continental philosophy.

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8 Adorno himself later wrote of his Kierkegaard: Construction of the Aesthetic that from the very beginning its impact on German letters was compromised, if not wholly eclipsed, by “political disaster [Unheil]. The book was not forbidden and continued to be sold, even while the author had been denaturalized. Perhaps it was protected by the censors’ inability to understand it. ”9 To be sure, we should not permit this retroactive description wholly to determine our own reading of the book. After all, Adorno’s own philosophical reflections proceed at a level of negative-dialectical complexity that obviates any such reduction.

34 With this rather striking argument, Adorno sought to reveal an unlikely resemblance between Kierkegaard and the great architect of nineteenth-century philosophical systematicity. Starting Out with Kierkegaard / 25 Aesthetics and Interiority To develop this interpretation of the material and historical underpinnings of Kierkegaard’s work, Adorno offers an extensive analysis of the poetic-metaphoric figure of the mid-nineteenth-century bourgeois dwelling, or intérieur, images of which recur throughout Kierkegaard’s early writings.

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.

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