Adorno's Concept of Life (Bloomsbury Studies in Continental Philosophy)
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In this important and engaging new book, Alastair Morgan offers a detailed examination of the concept of life in Adorno's philosophy. He relates Adorno's thought in this context to a number of key thinkers in the history of Continental philosophy, including Marx, Hegel, Heidegger and Agamben, and provides an argument for the relevance and importance of Adorno's critical philosophy of life at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Crucially, Morgan offers a new framework for understanding the relation between concepts of life and a critical philosophy.
The concept of life has previously received little attention in Adorno scholarship. However it is a constant theme and problem running throughout Adorno's work, from his early critiques of life-philosophies to his late philosophy of metaphysical experience as the possibility of life. The idea that Adorno's philosophy is in need of or lacking in a fundamental ontology has been the subject of a great deal of critical attention, but this has rarely been examined through an analysis of the concept of life. Furthermore, philosophies of life have seen a resurgence in recent years (particularly with a renewed interest in Bergson's philosophy via the critical reception of Deleuze's philosophy).
Adorno's Concept of Life is a necessary and timely study that offers a distinctive interpretation of Adorno's philosophy, and will be of central interest to anyone working on Adorno. Furthermore, it provides a powerful interpretation of the critical force of Adorno's philosophy, that will contribute to the renewed interest in the concept of life within contemporary philosophy.
released from the grip of conceptual subsumption and figure a new concept oftruth. The question for Adorno is the grounds for the possibility ofsuch a reflection. In an apt metaphor for the dialectics at a standstill, he outlines this procedure as follows: In its microstructure Hegel's thought and its literary forms are what Walter Benjamin later called 'dialectics at a standstill' comparable to the experience the eye has when looking through a microscope at a drop ofwater that begins to teem
which as nature a subject separates itself from nature. The contemplative look that Adorno writes about in terms of a distanced nearness still has an element of too much of the objectifying gaze, therefore a distance without nearness. 36 Adorno's account ofthis 'distanced nearness' is as follows in Minima Moralia: But in the long, contemplative look that fully dis closes people and things, the urge towards the object is always deHected, reHected. Contemplation without violence, the source of aU
history of Lebensphilosophie in terms of its relevance for his writing. Herbert Schnadelbach has identified three variants of life-philosophy: metaphysical life-philosophy, life-philosophy as philosophy of history, and ethical Iife-philosophy.2 Rather th an describing these as types of life-philosophy, it would be more accurate to describe them as elements within life-philosophy, elements that are then given different emphases in different life-philosophies. The first and most important element
sense, indefinable principle becomes the grounding for aH values and norms. Schnadelbach refers to Nietzsche in this context, as the promulgator of a philosophy in which aIl values are overturned on the basis of a loosely and ill-defined concept of life and the living. However, as we will see, Nietzsche's relation to the concept of life is more ambivalent than this, and Adorno's appropriation and critique of Nietzsche is centrally conducted through the concept oflife. 10 Adorno's Concept
to the very forces it is attempting to resist. However, this is not to daim that Adorno's dialectical retention of a subject in the moment ofits dissolution can necessarily enable a more adequate model for thinking a relation between metaphysics, poli tics and life. As Ansell-Pearson points out, the problem for a thinking such as Adorno's that wishes to restrict itself to a negative comprehension of the fundamental contradictions within subject-object relations is that it binds itself as thought