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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 perspective 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 charisma of pseudo-concreteness and neo-romantic kitsch. Even within the straitened rationalism of Husserl’s phenomenology Adorno observed a useless try to become independent from from the prison-house of consciousness.

Most students of serious thought nonetheless regard those philosophical workouts as marginal works―unfortunate lapses of judgment for a philosopher differently celebrated for dialectical mastery. but his power fascination with the philosophical canons of existentialism and phenomenology indicates a connection way more efficient than mere antipathy. From his first released booklet on Kierkegaard’s aesthetic to the mature reviews in adverse dialectics, Adorno was once perpetually returning to the philosophies of bourgeois interiority, looking the paradoxical relation among their show up failure and their hidden promise.

Ultimately, Adorno observed in them an instructive if unsuccessful try and notice his personal ambition: to flee the enchanted circle of idealism with the intention 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 unexpected mild in this missed bankruptcy within the heritage of Continental philosophy.

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It is an aesthetic-material sign in Kierkegaard’s writing for the “simultaneity” to which everything external and historical has been reduced so as to secure immunity against all historical conditioning. The bourgeois apartment thus serves as a sign of the “subjective thinker” who wishes to isolate him- or herself 26 / Adorno and Existence from society. ”38 But the intérieur for Kierkegaard is not only the scene of seduction and bourgeois interiority. ” Ironically, as a construct of bourgeois property that offers an illusory dream of existence without semblance, the intérieur itself remains a realm of pure artifice, even while it offers itself as a realm where all artifice will fall away.

But before doing so it is important to acknowledge that in Adorno’s eyes Kierkegaard did not and in fact could not turn his complaint concerning reification onto the path toward sociohistorical emancipation. This is because the individual who announces this complaint remains trapped in a state of asocial dissociation. ”46 The polemic against society thus remains doubly asocial, both at the level of metaphysical preconditions and at the level of social consequences. ” Like the intérieur, the mirror serves as the perfect symbol of Kierkegaardian inwardness that, when looking beyond itself, only discovers a repetition of its own solitude.

Thus Adorno takes special note of a revealing passage from “The Diary of a Seducer” in Either/Or: “Environment and setting still have a great influence upon one; there is something about them which stamps itself firmly and deeply in memory, or rather upon the whole soul, and which is therefore never forgotten. However old I may become, it will always be impossible for me to think of Cordelia amid surroundings different from this little room. . ” It is an aesthetic-material sign in Kierkegaard’s writing for the “simultaneity” to which everything external and historical has been reduced so as to secure immunity against all historical conditioning.

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