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Resisting Adorno, Revamping Kant

Resisting Adorno, Revamping Kant

(p.107) 7 Resisting Adorno, Revamping Kant
Aesthetics at Large
Thierry de Duve
University of Chicago Press

This chapter offers a polemical Auseinandersetzung with Theodor W. Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory and his philosophy in general. The chapter’s premise is the realization of how much Adorno was torn between Kant and Hegel, and its main thrust is the desire to salvage his best philosophical insights from Hegelianism. “Reconciliation,” “affirmation,” and “dialectics” are examined under that light. Kant’s “free play of imagination and understanding” is reinterpreted in terms that Adorno would have endorsed, reading transcendental conditions as sedimented historical determinations. Thanks to Adorno, ugliness and its feeling, pain, are given a place in Kantian aesthetics, which Kant and orthodox readings of the third Critique failed to acknowledge. Adorno’s famous claim that poetry was impossible after Auschwitz is read as a mistaken consequence of the “fact” that sensus communis is not a “fact.” Finally, Adorno and Horkheimer’s indictment of the Enlightenment as having led to Auschwitz is debunked with the help of Lacan’s reading of “Kant with Sade.”

Keywords:   reconciliation, Auschwitz, dialectics, free play imagination/understanding, G.W.F. Hegel, Immanuel Kant, Jacques Lacan, Marquis de Sade, Theodor W. Adorno, ugliness

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