Cover of the first edition
|Author||Theodor W. Adorno|
|Original title||Negative Dialektik|
|Translator||E. B. Ashton|
|Pages||416 (Routledge edition)|
|ISBN||0-415-05221-1 (Routledge edition)|
Adorno sought to update the philosophical process known as the dialectic, freeing it from traits previously attributed to it that he believed to be fictive. For Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, the dialectic was a process of realization that things contain their own negation and through this realization the parts are sublated into something greater. Adorno's dialectics rejected this positive element wherein the result was something greater than the parts that preceded and argued for a dialectics which produced something essentially negative. Adorno wrote that, "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 the 'negation of the negation' later became the succinct term. This book seeks to free dialectics from such affirmative traits without reducing its determinacy."
His purpose was to overcome the formal logical limits of previous definition of dialectics by putting into light that new knowledge arises less from a Hegelian unification of opposite categories as defined following Aristotelian logic than by the revelation of the limits of knowledge. Such revelation of the limits of knowledge reaches out to its experienced object ever escaping in its wholeness the simplifying categories of purely theoretical thinking. Thereby he sets into light the possibly essentially epistemological nature of philosophy and its essential link to reality. His reflection moves a step higher by applying the concept of dialectics not only to exterior objects of knowledge, but to the process of thought itself.
To summarize, "...this Negative Dialectics in which all esthetic topics are shunned might be called an “anti-system.” It attempts by means of logical consistency to substitute for the unity principle, and for the paramountcy of the superordinate concept, the idea of what would be outside the sway of such unity. To use the strength of the subject to break through the fallacy of constitutive subjectivity—this is what the author felt to be his task [...]. Stringently to transcend the official separation of pure philosophy and the substantive or formally scientific realm was one of his determining motives."
Adorno's work has had a large impact on cultural criticism, particularly through Adorno's analysis of popular culture and the culture industry. Adorno's account of dialectics has influenced Joel Kovel, the sociologist John Holloway, anarcho-primitivist philosopher John Zerzan, and the Austrian musicologist Sebastian Wedler.
- Adorno, Theodor W. (1990). Negative Dialectics. London: Routledge. p. xix. ISBN 0-415-05221-1.
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We are blaming the method for the fault of the matter when we object to dialectics on the ground (repeated from Hegel’s Aristotelian critics on) that whatever happens to come into the dialectical mill will be reduced to the merely logical form of contradiction, and that (an argument still advanced by Croce) the full diversity of the noncontradictory, of that which is simply differentiated, will be ignored.— Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Preface
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[(The name of) dialectics] indicates the untruth of identity, the fact that the concept does not exhaust the thing conceived.— Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Preface
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Having broken its pledge to be as one with reality or at the point of realization, philosophy is obliged ruthlessly to criticize itself.— Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Preface
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The plain contradictoriness of this challenge is that of philosophy itself, which is thereby qualified as dialectics before getting entangled in its individual contradictions. The work of philosophical self-reflection consists in unraveling that paradox.— Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, Preface
- James Bohman (1999). Robert Audi (ed.). The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 10. ISBN 0-521-63722-8.
- Kovel, Joel (1991). History and Spirit: An Inquiry into the Philosophy of Liberation. Boston: Beacon Press. p. 261. ISBN 0-8070-2916-5.
- John Holloway. Negativity and Revolution: Adorno and Political Activism (2008) ISBN 978-0-7453-2836-2, ed. with Fernando Matamoros & Sergio Tischler