Adorno's Practical Philosophy

Adorno's Practical Philosophy : Living Less Wrongly

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Adorno notoriously asserted that there is no 'right' life in our current social world. This assertion has contributed to the widespread perception that his philosophy has no practical import or coherent ethics, and he is often accused of being too negative. Fabian Freyenhagen reconstructs and defends Adorno's practical philosophy in response to these charges. He argues that Adorno's deep pessimism about the contemporary social world is coupled with a strong optimism about human potential, and that this optimism explains his negative views about the social world, and his demand that we resist and change it. He shows that Adorno holds a substantive ethics, albeit one that is minimalist and based on a pluralist conception of the bad - a guide for living less wrongly. His incisive study does much to advance our understanding of Adorno, and is also an important intervention into current debates in moral philosophy.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 302 pages
  • 153 x 230 x 20mm | 500g
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Reprint
  • Worked examples or Exercises
  • 1107543029
  • 9781107543027
  • 1,080,059

Table of contents

Introduction; 1. The whole is untrue; 2. No right living; 3. Social determination and negative freedom; 4. Adorno's critique of moral philosophy; 5. A new categorical imperative; 6. An ethics of resistance; 7. Justification, vindication, and explanation; 8. Negativism defended; 9. Adorno's negative Aristotelianism; Appendix: the jolt - Adorno on spontaneous willing.
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Review quote

'Freyenhagen has written a lucidly argued, patient, and relentless defense of Adorno's negative ethics that provides both an excellent addition to the secondary literature on Adorno, and, more importantly, a spirited intervention into current debates in contemporary moral philosophy. This work will be of interest to scholars and graduate students working in the area of moral philosophy, making available as never before the bold structures of Adorno's negative ethics, and with its clear and direct writing and argument, this work would be entirely suitable for advanced undergraduates.' J. M. Bernstein, The New School for Social Research 'Fabian Freyenhagen has written an exceptionally clear, insightful, and comprehensive treatment of Adorno's intense dissatisfactions with modern societies. This is likely the best philosophical reconstruction of Adorno's actual, often unstated and unclear 'moral theory' that we will ever get, and that certainly makes this an important book. Both defenders of Adorno and his critics will now have a much better picture of Adorno's basic normative commitments and why he felt entitled to them.' Robert Pippin, University of Chicago 'Freyenhagen's diligence is extraordinary. Just about every proposition in Adorno's writings with normative import is painstakingly considered.' The Times Literary Supplement 'Freyenhagen offers a sustained and nuanced defence of what he calls Adorno's 'negativism'. Essentially an anti-utopian epistemology, it shows how radical social criticism is still possible despite the mystifying effects of oppressive social relations.' Marx and Philosophy Review of Books '[An] intricate, tightly focused study ... Recommended. Advanced graduate students and researchers.' M. Donougho, Choice 'In this significant contribution concerning the practical concerns that orient Adorno's overall project, Freyenhagen corrects the common understanding of Adorno as a melancholic, pessimistic thinker by reconsidering his engaged confrontations with the systematically produced pathologies of capitalistically and bureaucratically managed social life.' Eric S. Nelson, Journal of the History of Philosophy
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About Fabian Freyenhagen

Fabian Freyenhagen is a Reader in Philosophy at the University of Essex. He is co-editor (with Thom Brooks) of The Legacy of John Rawls (2005) and (with Gordon Finlayson) of Disputing the Political: Habermas and Rawls (2011), and has published in journals such as the Kantian Review, Inquiry, Telos, and Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
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