Academic journal article German Quarterly

Adorno and Heidegger: Philosophical Questions

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Adorno and Heidegger: Philosophical Questions

Article excerpt

Macdonald, Iain, and Krzysztof Ziarek, eds. Adornoand Heidegger: Philosophical Questions. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008. 221 pp. $21.95 paperback.

This collection of ten essays joins the handful of books and dozens of articles to have addressed the question of what philosophical significance might best be made of the curious relation between the works of Adorno and Heidegger. The intriguing affinity readily surmised in their shared interest in such overarching concerns as the question of metaphysics, the problem of modern technological rationality, the fragile thoughtlessness of subjectivity, or even the peculiar character of the work of modern art, is offset by the sheer lopsidedness of their engagement with each other's work: while Adorno wrote and commented extensively on Heidegger's philosophical project, the latter claimed late in life never to have read the writings of the former. This current collection thus represents an admirable effort at bringing the two thinkers into a series of productive proximities with one another while nonetheless implicitly - and, surprisingly often explicitly - drawing the limits to any further integration of their ideas.

The topics selected by the ten contributors resolve mostly into the three prominent areas where the continuities between Heidegger and Adorno are best detailed. And indeed these topics - art, Hegel, modernity - often complement and overlap one another. Thus Nicholas Walker's very fine essay, "Adorno and Heidegger on the Question of Art: Countering Hegel?," makes use of the spirit of Hölderlin's philosophy of art, in contrast to Hegel's, to suggest that Adorno and Heidegger share a post-Hegelian, aesthetically inflected, conception of reconciliation: "Hölderlin can describe art and the philosophy that attempts to illuminate it, in a very Adornian spirit, as a paradoxon , a kind of active service, or Dienst, that responds to something we have not created ourselves - something that is not simply 'the work of human hands,' but nonetheless needs such a response to be fully itself " (104). And though reconciliation is doubtless a key component of Adorno's conception of modernist art, Krzysztof Ziarek's probing essay, "Beyond Critique? Art and Power," advocates for a power opposite that of reconciliation: radical critique. Ziarek argues that central to Adorno's Aesthetic Theory is the relation of art to critique, and that art, especially in the guise of Adorno's treatment of aesthetic form, is primarily a phenomenon that calls into question the validity and extent of any and all forms of critique already available in social life. …

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