In this lecture I argue that Adorno’s peculiar stance and position in and toward the society he criticized is best characterized as ‘atopian’, in the sense in which Pierre Hadot uses this term in respect of Socrates. I argue that this is crucial to his conception and practice of critical social theory. I go on to this in the context of the idea of ‘transcendental homelessness’ as it plays out in German philosophy from Hegel and Novalis through to Heidegger, Lukács and Adorno.
In 2005 Habermas advanced a view of the role of religion in public “institutional translation proviso”. He takes the view to be an alternative to the Rawlsian idea of public reason, an alternative that is superior in that it convincingly answers two objections he takes to apply to the Rawlsian view, namely that it puts unfair burdens on religious citizens and that it wrongly impugns their identity. (In my view, neither applies to Rawls’s view properly understood.) Virtually all commentators, whether for or against Rawls, argue that Haberma's’s position is essentially no different from Rawls’s. To Rawls’s defenders, Habermas’s position is, to the extent that it is tenable, unoriginal. To Rawls’s critics, it is untenable because vulnerable to the just same objections that apply to Rawls. I show that all these critics are mistaken about the propinquity to Rawls’s theory, and about its status as normative, theory. The similarities are merely terminological, and Habermas’s terminology is deeply misleading. The distinctiveness of Habermas’ view comes into sharp focus when it is viewed in the light of his own theory of law, and his criticism of Rawls. It is at its weakest where he attempts (needlessly in my view) to make it answer the two objections.
Adorno’s critical theory has been haunted for 50 years by a serious objection. There are three variants of this objection: namely that it suffers from a political deficit; that it has no relation to political praxis; and that it contains a political contradiction. I examine the evidence for and against the serious objection. I show that and why, for various reasons, the many versions of this objection fail to hit the mark, and also why recent attempts to defend Adorno from this objection also fail. In the end, I claim that there is indeed a deficit, and that there is a political contradiction though it is not what it is usually claimed to be. I offer some thoughts about why this matters, and make a comparison on between Adorno and his younger colleague Habermas.
Adorno rightly thought of Negative Dialektik as his major work of philosophy. The book that he dubbed his “fat child” is notoriously difficult, and as problematic as it is intriguing. In this article I lay out two of its central problematics. The first concerns Negative Dialectics as (and against) metaphysics; the second pertains its tacit ethical or moral dimension. I shall set out these two problematics in such a way that each illuminates the other. It will also allow me some reflections on Adorno’s conflicted stance towards humanism: on the sense in which endorses humanism, and the sense in which he rejects it. I shall argue that Adorno’s humanism contains a moral notion of solidarity that plays a pivotal role in Negative Dialectics. Together, the idea of the human, and the notion of solidarity it contains, can when suitably interpreted, explicate and justify what Michael Theunissen calls Adorno’s positive premise in Negative Dialectics, and can do so in a way that is broadly consistent with his negativism.