Autonomy After AuschwitzAdorno, German Idealism, and Modernity

Autonomy After AuschwitzAdorno, German Idealism, and Modernity

Martin Shuster

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780226155487

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Kant’s notion of autonomy remains influential and important, not only for his immediate successors, but also well beyond them. This notion, however, is exposed to a powerful critique in Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. This book specifically takes up this critique in order to insert Theodor Adorno as a forceful and urgent voice within the German Idealist tradition. It is argued that in doing so, we gain deeper insight into Adorno as much as German Idealism. For example, Adorno’s critique shows how Kant’s rational theology is essential to his Critical project, while at the same time, Adorno’s own notion of autonomy aims exactly to navigate between the Scylla of Kant’s rational theology on the one hand and the Charybdis of the dialectic of enlightenment on the other. Thereby in constant dialogue with Adorno’s two greatest interlocutors, Kant and Hegel, this book elaborates Adorno’s elusive notion of autonomy, all within the normative environment of a world ‘after Auschwitz.’ Equally important to the book’s aims, however, is a running dialogue with contemporary Anglo-American philosophy (including contemporary appropriations of German Idealism). In this way, with Adorno’s notion of autonomy, the book considers Adorno’s moral psychology, philosophy of action, and ethical theory, ultimately situating Adorno as an important voice in contemporary discussions.