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Adorno: the defense of Geist

Lecturers: Bryan Cooke and Marc Hiatt

Originally Taught: Winter School 2006

His teacher in composition, Alban Berg, once said to a young Theodor Adorno that he couldn't serve both Beethoven and Kant: he would have to choose between them. We remember Adorno for his textual rather than his musical compositions, yet Adorno never accepted the alternative between art and philosophy as such. Both remained for him key moments of spirit's resistance to barbarism. 

"After the attempt to change the world miscarried", and before, but more famously after Auschwitz, Adorno stubbornly insisted on an intellectual practice meant to hold on to the utopian impulses of thought and music --- and this in a time when even the right to exist of philosophy and art had, as he himself wrote, become a matter for serious doubt.The seminar will introduce this at once most gentle and most dazzling of Frankfurt dialecticians. An understanding of the particular significance for Adorno and his contemporaries of the notion of Geist ('spirit') will equip us to explore themes like the dialectic of enlightenment and the mastery of nature, identity and negative dialectics, the historical situation of the subject and the preponderance of the object, aesthetic and philosophical experience, Adorno's critical reappropriations of Kant and Hegel, and his relations to the work of Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Bloch, Proust, Benjamin and others.