History and Freedom
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History and Freedom : Lectures 1964-1965

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Despite all of humanity's failures, futile efforts and wrong turnings in the past, Adorno did not let himself be persuaded that we are doomed to suffer a bleak future for ever. One of the factors that prevented him from identifying a definitive plan for the future course of history was his feelings of solidarity with the victims and losers. As for the future, the course of events was to remain open-ended; instead of finality, he remained committed to a Hoelderlin-like openness. This trace of the messianic has what he called the colour of the concrete as opposed to mere abstract possibility.
Early in the 1960s Adorno gave four courses of lectures on the road leading to Negative Dialectics, his magnum opus of 1966. The second of these was concerned with the topics of history and freedom. In terms of content, these lectures represented an early version of the chapters in Negative Dialectics devoted to Kant and Hegel. In formal terms, these were improvised lectures that permit us to glimpse a philosophical work in progress.
The text published here gives us an overview of all the themes and motifs of Adorno's philosophy of history: the key notion of the domination of nature, his criticism of the existentialist concept of a historicity without history and, finally, his opposition to the traditional idea of truth as something permanent, unchanging and ahistorical.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 368 pages
  • 156 x 228 x 19mm | 544g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0745630138
  • 9780745630137
  • 410,330

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Despite all of humanitys failures, futile efforts and wrongturnings in the past, Adorno did not let himself be persuaded thatwe are doomed to suffer a bleak future for ever. One of the factorsthat prevented him from identifying a definitive plan for thefuture course of history was his feelings of solidarity with thevictims and losers. As for the future, the course of events was toremain open-ended; instead of finality, he remained committed to aHlderlin-like openness. This trace of the messianic has what hecalled the colour of the concrete as opposed to mere abstractpossibility.

Early in the 1960s Adorno gave four courses of lectures on theroad leading to Negative Dialectics, his magnum opus of 1966. Thesecond of these was concerned with the topics of history andfreedom. In terms of content, these lectures represented an earlyversion of the chapters in Negative Dialectics devoted to Kant andHegel. In formal terms, these were improvised lectures that permitus to glimpse a philosophical work in progress.

The text published here gives us an overview of all the themesand motifs of Adornos philosophy of history: the key notion of thedomination of nature, his criticism of the existentialist conceptof a historicity without history and, finally, his opposition tothe traditional idea of truth as something permanent, unchangingand ahistorical.
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Table of contents

Editor s Foreword xii
Part I History
Lecture 1: Progress or Regression? 3
Notes: The relationship of the lectures to Negative Dialectics; the concept of freedom in Kant and Hegel; the diminishing consciousness of freedom; the meaning of history refuted by Auschwitz; the philosophy of history implies that there is a meaning; cultural morphology (Spengler) and idealism
Lecture 2: Universal and Particular 10
Trend and individual fact Distance from and closeness to detail; progress as a particular Rationality as a universal; rationality as the mastering of nature The concept of universal history; rationality as a form of conflict; Faustian technology and modes of production Hegel s concept of spirit [Geist]; spirit and technical rationality; spirit not primary, but a product The immediate experience of the universal and the universal itself denounced as metaphysics; negativity as a universal
Lecture 3: Constitution Problems 19
The truth of facts Immediacy and mediation; individuality and the untrue universal Simmel s philosophy of history; the problem of constitution (I) The problem of constitution (II) De Maistre; the grounds of knowledge and grounds of reality Hegel s world spirit and the spirit of the age The logic of things and heteronomy
Lecture 4: The Concept of Mediation 29
Facts as a cloak The experience of the speculative; experience of committees Formal sociology; group opinion and social totality French Revolution (I) French Revolution (II); underlying cause and proximate cause: course of history and individual moment French Revolution (III); primacy of the course of history: economy based on expenditure instead of economy based on acquisition ; the theory of historical categories
Lecture 5: The Totality on the Road to Self-Realization 39
Philosophy of history and historiography Parti pris for the universal Hegel s class standpoint In defence of Hegel Reason as unreason; individual interest and species; humanity: public company for the exploitation of nature Conflict in the concept of reason The odious totality
Lecture 6: Conflict and Survival 49
Ambivalence of totality; Marx s optimistic view of history Conflict and totality Theodicy of conflict Conflict and the reproduction of life Conflict and prehistory; the economy or relations of domination Contemplative and revolutionary conceptions of history; the problem of anarchism Defence of nonconformism
Lecture 7: Spirit and the Course of the World 59
The concept of conformism Critique of the hypostasization of concepts; the concept of reason; the irrationality of reason Law and emotional warmth in Hegel; universality in the particular The course of the world and individual conscience; methesis [participation] of the spirit Theodicy of rupture and concrete possibility
Lecture 8: Psychology 69
The concept of the character mask Individuation and socialization Identity and the semblance of reconciliation Sowing one s wild oats Intellectual forms of self-preservation and human breakdown; identification with the aggressor Acquiescing in selfdestruction; concretism; psychology as cement
Lecture 9: The Critique of Universal History 79
The course of the argument The concept of universal history (I) The concept of universal history (II) False mastery and vindication of induction; Hegel s theory of history Freedom and the individual in Hegel The individuality in antiquity and the early modern age History from the standpoint of the victor
Lecture 10: Negative Universal History 89
Benjamin s XVIIth thesis Temporal core and non-identity Continuity and discontinuity History as a gigantic exchange relationship The total state and the rule of competing cliques Dialectic of the particular The concept of chance; the utopia of knowledge Hegel s critique of the totality; course of the argument
Lecture 11: The Nation and the Spirit of the People in Hegel 99
Notes: Spirit of the people and universal spirit; universal history as universal tribunal; pseudo-concreteness; repressive archaisms; anti-Cartesian elements in Vico, Montesquieu, Herder and Hegel; cult of the nation
Lecture 12: The Principle of Nationality 105
The nation: a bourgeois form of organization; departure from natural forms of association The path to delusions of race Progressive aspects of the nation The principle of nationality and natural history The equality of the organization of life today Hegel s theory of national spirit viii contents obsolete; decentralization through technology Germany the belated nation Predominance of the universal over the individual; objective reason split off from subjective reason Infernal machine ; natural history in Hegel
Lecture 13: The History of Nature (I) 115
Notes: Nature and history; history as spirit; the history of nature as a critical concept; Marx, the ironical Social Darwinist; mythical nature of history; first and second nature
Lecture 14: The History of Nature (II) 120
The concept of second nature Nature and history mediated Critique of historicity ; meaning and chance Philosophy as interpretation (I); transience and allegory; philosophy s transition to the concrete; history as secularized metaphysics Philosophy as interpretation (II); hermeneutics Practice thwarted; critique of the metaphysics of time
Part II Progress
Lecture 15: On Interpretation: the Concept of Progress (I) 133
The history of nature, allegory, criticism Secularized melancholy; theory of interpretation; Hoelderlin s The Shelter at Hardt Immediacy as the product of history; Hegel and Marx; art The pleasures of interpretation The concept of progress as a link between philosophy of history and the theory of freedom Critique of nominalism Whether progress exists
Lecture 16: On Interpretation: the Concept of Progress (II) 142
Towards conceptual synthesis Progress as a way of averting catastrophe; the global social subject Kant s idea of humanity Benjamin s critique of progress Progress and redemption in St Augustine Escaping the trammels of the past Progress mediated by society Reconciliation and conflict in Kant; progress as absolutely mythical and anti-mythical
Lecture 17: On Interpretation: the Concept of Progress (III) 153
Jugendstil, Ibsen Decadence and utopia; bourgeois coldness and privileged happiness; dialectics of individuation Decadence and the defamation of sex; Jugendstil and expressionism The domination of nature and the flowering of reason; Kant and Hegel s concepts of reason; myth and demythologization in one The idea of progress in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Two concepts of progress The dialectics of inwardness; critique of the decisionism of existentialist spontaneity Spirit as the repository of progress
Lecture 18: On Interpretation: the Concept of Progress (IV) 164
Static elements of the spirit Progress and mastery of material Philosophical progress Programme of reflection on the nature of philosophy The concept of exchange; exchange and myth Correcting progress Speaking on my own behalf
Part III Freedom
The concepts of freedom and the spell; concentration on free will; freedom as the epitome of resistance to the spell
Lecture 19: Transition to Moral Philosophy 177
Non-existence of freedom in history Individual freedom, social unfreedom Freedom as a historical concept The possibility of freedom in unfreedom The current state of the forces of production Reason and freedom Model and constellation; free will and interiority
Lecture 20: What is Free Will? 187
Notes: Inside and outside reciprocally mediated; will and freedom not to be hypostasized; on pseudo-problems [Scheinproblem]; will and freedom synthesize individual impulses
Lecture 21: Freedom and Bourgeois Society 190
Towards a definition of will: the substratum of freedom Will as the ordered unity of spontaneous and rational impulses; will and a strong ego; non-ego as model of the ego Freedom and emancipation of the bourgeoisie; freedom and psychology The scientific impulse versus demystification; bourgeois ambivalence Theory of freedom as Sunday sermon Freedom in the service of oppression; the psychoanalysis of the super-ego
Lecture 22: Freedom in Unfreedom 200
Freedom as problem and cliche Auschwitz as absolute negation of freedom Guilt Freedom and excessive demands Evil as unfreedom The ageing of moral categories; society and the individual
Lecture 23: Antinomies of Freedom 209
The narcissistic interest in freedom Conformity as the dark side of freedom Impulse, mimesis, irrationality Kant s concept of spontaneity Spontaneity as something transcendental The dialectics of spontaneity; Marx, Rosa Luxemburg Obsessional neurosis; the egoalien ego
Lecture 24: Rationality and the Additional Factor 219
Freud s theory of repression; blindness of the ego Ideology of inwardness The sphere of absolute origins and the subject Critique of the experimenta crucis Kant s gallows in front of the house Kant s card-sharp A priorism or the empirical as determining factor; the construction of the intelligible character
Lecture 25: Consciousness and Impulse 229
Consciousness versus causality Without consciousness, no will Hamlet (I) The medieval ordo: critique of Romanticism; Hamlet (II) Hamlet (III); the additional or the irrational factor The archaic element of the will The archaic transformed Reason and impulse
Lecture 26: Kant s Theory of Free Will 239
Evidence of impulse The problem of theory and practice in Kant; lectures as a genre Kant s historicization of reflections on the moral law Freedom as the determinate negation of unfreedom; Kant s doctrine of freedom as fiction Freedom a paradox in Kant; natura naturans and natura naturata Kant s borrowed ideas of goodness; mediation repressive in Kant Freedom as consciousness of the law
Lecture 27: Will and Reason 249
The dual character of Kant s concept of reason The ontologizing of the will in Kant Kant s false definition of will Defence of formalism, misuse of the concrete; Scheler The concept of character Character and the dissolute [Aufgeloeste] Will and reason
Lecture 28: Moral Uncertainties 258
Ontological validity and ontic genesis mediated Voluntarist and intellectual elements Morality as self-evident; good and evil Will and violence; no moral certainty Solidarity and heteronomy in matters of conscience Universal and individual in moral philosophy Free and unfree Lectures on Metaphysics
Notes 267
References 334
Index of Names 337
Index of Subjects 343
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Review quote

"In an age once more in search of the big picture, Adorno's lecture course on 'History and Freedom' reminds us again of the astonishing contemporaneity of his thought. Combining dialectical agility with a refreshing candour and directness, these lectures represent a major thinker's most open engagement with the meaning of human history, and the disastrous ambiguity of progress." Peter Dews, University of Essex
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About Theodor W. Adorno

T. Adorno, Frankfurt School

Translated by R.Livingstone
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