Negative Dialectics

Negative Dialectics

Negative Dialectics

Negative Dialectics


This is the first British paperback edition of this modern classic written by one of the towering intellectual of the twentieth century. Theodor Adorno (1903-69) was a leading member of the Frankfurt School. His books include The Jargon of Authenticity , Dialectic of Enlightenment (with Max Horkheimer), and Aesthetic Theory


Negative Dialectics is a phrase that flouts tradition. As early as Plato, dialectics meant to achieve something positive by means of negation; the thought figure of a “negation of negation” later became the succinct term. This book seeks to free dialectics from such affirmative traits without reducing its determinacy. The unfoldment of the paradoxical title is one of its aims.

What would be the foundation, according to the dominant view of philosophy, will here be developed long after the author has discussed things of which that view assumes that they grow out of a foundation. This implies a critique of the foundation concept as well as the primacy of substantive thought-a thought of whose movement the thinker becomes aware only as he performs it. What it needs is secondary under the rules of the intellectual game, which always remain applicable.

A methodology of the author's material works is not all there is to this book; no continuum exists between those works and it, according to the theory of negative dialectics. The discontinuity will be dealt with, however, and so will the directions for thought to be read in it. The procedure will be justified, not based on reasons. To the best of his ability the author means to put his cards on the table-which is by no means the same as playing the game.

In 1937, when the author had completed his Metakritik der Erkenntnistheorie, the last chapter of that publication moved Walter Benjamin to remark that one had to “cross the frozen waste of abstraction to arrive at concise, concrete philosophizing.” Negative Dialectics now charts such a crossing in retrospect. In contemporary philosophy, concretion would mostly be obtained on the sly. By contrast, this largely abstract text seeks no less to serve authentic concretion than to explain the author's concrete procedure. As the latest esthetic discussions feature the

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