The problem of experience in Adorno's philosophy and aesthetics

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Singh, Surti
Adorno; experience; philosophy; art and aesthetics; metaphysics
thesis / dissertation description
In taking up Adorno’s concept of experience the aim of this dissertation is two-fold. First, I show that the dominant postmetaphysical interpretation of Adorno’s work fundamentally mischaracterizes the relationship between his concept of experience and metaphysical thinking. Contrary to the standard picture, I argue that rather than inadvertently or naïvely metaphysical, Adorno purposefully draws from and transforms metaphysical thinking within the context of his own material philosophy. By taking the metaphysical aspects of Adorno’s thinking seriously, this dissertation questions the strict division between metaphysical and postmetaphysical thinking in contemporary critical theory. It is only from this perspective that Adorno’s dual concept of experience—that it is something damaged beyond repair and yet able to be salvaged—becomes understandable. Second, I reconsider the relationship between philosophy and art in Adorno’s work. Normally, art is viewed as the arena into which Adorno escapes in order to avoid the metaphysical problems raised by his philosophical concept of experience, and it is often addressed only as an afterthought in many postmetaphysical discussions of Adorno’s work. Opposed to this reading, I argue that the concept of experience is connected to an entirely different understanding of philosophy and art in Adorno’s work, one that maintains the autonomy of the two realms and yet shows a mutual dependency and complex tension between conceptual knowing and aesthetic reflection. I show that this relationship of mutual dependency between philosophy and art is central to Adorno’s conception of a non-dominating rationality necessary for the recovery of experience.