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Adorno and the Ends of Philosophy



Adorno and the Ends of Philosophy

Andrew Bowie

ISBN: 978-0-745-67159-8 October 2013 Polity 288 Pages


Theodor Adorno’s reputation as a cultural critic has been well-established for some time, but his status as a philosopher remains unclear. In Adorno and the Ends of Philosophy Andrew Bowie seeks to establish what Adorno can contribute to philosophy today.

Adorno’s published texts are notably difficult and have tended to hinder his reception by a broad philosophical audience. His main influence as a philosopher when he was alive was, though, often based on his very lucid public lectures. Drawing on these lectures, both published and unpublished, Bowie argues that important recent interpretations of Hegel, and related developments in pragmatism, echo key ideas in Adorno’s thought. At the same time, Adorno’s insistence that philosophy should make the Holocaust central to the assessment of modern rationality suggests ways in which these approaches should be complemented by his preparedness to confront some of the most disturbing aspects of modern history. What emerges is a remarkably clear and engaging re-interpretation of Adorno’s thought, as well as an illuminating and original review of the state of contemporary philosophy.

Adorno and the Ends of Philosophy will be indispensable to students of Adorno’s work at all levels. This compelling book is also set to ignite debate surrounding the reception of Adorno’s philosophy and bring him into the mainstream of philosophical debate at a time when the divisions between analytical and European philosophy are increasingly breaking down.

Preface vii

Acknowledgements ix

Introduction: Contemporary Alternatives 1

1 Negative Philosophy? 22

2 Contradiction as Truth-Content: Adorno and Kant 38

3 Immediacy and Mediation: Hegelian and Adornian Dialectics 54

4 Nature 75

5 Freedom 96

6 Aesthetics and Philosophy 135

Conclusion 175

Notes 189

References 198

Index 205

"Bowie combines a massive range of reading with an extraordinary power of lucid exposition, and it is hard to see how the task of turning Adorno into an intellectual peacemaker could have been better achieved."
New Humanist

"Bowie's book is a highly illuminating and insightful treatise on the philosophy of Theodor W. Adorno and on its critical potential with respect to much of contemporary philosophy. In particular Bowie shows with Adorno why art is not just one of many possible topics of possible philosophical reflection, but has a philosophical significance of its own which is neglected in most of contemporary aesthetics."
Albrecht Wellmer, Free University, Berlin, Adorno-Prize Winner 2006

"Bowie's distinctive and original treatment puts Adorno in sharp focus, while also offering a synoptic view of the general state of contemporary philosophy. Bowie clarifies Adorno's relation to the post-Kantian tradition and engages sympathetically yet critically with Adorno's remarkable project. The result is enlightening and highly engaging."
Sebastian Gardner, University College London