As much as these sorts of topics smack of Graham Harman sensibility (“Philosophers Who Were Also Lovers of Tea: The List” or “The Most Underrated Philosopher of Lower Bavaria” etc etc), I was listening to some music by Nietzsche (info below) and it occurred to me that I know of several philosophers who also happened to be composers. By “philosophers” here I mean “known primarily as philosophers” and I exclude all the composers who might be considered as philosophically inclined. Here’s my very short list: Continue reading

Theodor W. Adorno: One Last Genius (New Book)

Theodor W. Adorno

One Last Genius

Detlev Claussen

Translated by Rodney Livingstone

This Is Not an Adorno T-Shirt: New Adorno Biography and Review

This morning I came across this passage from Adorno‘s introduction to Negative Dialectics:

The un-naive thinker knows how far he remains from the object of his thinking, and yet he must always talk as if he had it entirely. This brings him to the poing ot clowning. He must not deny his clownish traits, least of all since they alone can give him hope for what is denied him. Philosophy is the most serious of things, but then again it is not all that serious.

It’s hard not to think of a certain Slovenian thinker when I read this, but from all accounts, Adorno was not a clown. Harvard UP has published a new book about Adorno by Detlev Claussen entitled Theodor Adorno: One Last Genuis (the HUP website has some exerpts). Here’s the blurb from Harvard University Press:

He was famously hostile to biography as a literary form. And yet this life of Adorno by one of his last students is far more than literary in its accomplishments, giving us our first clear look at how the man and his moment met to create “critical theory.” An intimate picture of the quintessential twentieth-century transatlantic intellectual, the book is also a window on the cultural ferment of Adorno’s day—and its ongoing importance in our own. The biography begins at the shining moment of the German bourgeoisie, in a world dominated by liberals willing to extend citizenship to refugees fleeing pogroms in Eastern Europe. Detlev Claussen follows Theodor Wiesengrund Adorno (1903–1969) from his privileged life as a beloved prodigy to his intellectual coming of age in Weimar Germany and Vienna; from his exile during the Nazi years, first to England, then to the United States, to his emergence as the Adorno we know now in the perhaps not-so-unlikely setting of Los Angeles. There in 1943 with his collaborator Max Horkheimer, Adorno developed critical theory, whose key insight—that to be entertained is to give one’s consent—helped define the intellectual landscape of the twentieth century. In capturing the man in his complex relationships with some of the century’s finest minds—including, among others, Arnold Schoenberg, Walter Benjamin, Thomas Mann, Siegfried Kracauer, Georg Lukács, Hannah Arendt, and Bertolt Brecht—Claussen reveals how much we have yet to learn from Theodor Adorno, and how much his life can tell us about ourselves and our time. Continue reading

The Ideal of Being Grown Up: Remarks on Adorno.

In Aesthetic Theory Adorno describes the situation in modern art in terms of the “culture industry” (the theme that has already received some attention in Adorno and Horkheimer’s joint effort in Dialectic of Enlightenment).  The opening section of AT, which is provisionally labeled “Situation,” discusses the present situation in art and art theory.  Here the idea of the “culture industry,” among other interesting engagements, receives a following formulation:

They push for deaestheticization of art [Entkunstungdearting?].  Its unmistakable symptom is the passion to touch everything, to allow no work to be what it is, to dress it up, to narrow its distance from its viewer.  The humiliating difference between art and the life people lead, and in which they do not want to be bothered because they could not bear it otherwise, must be made to disapper: This is the subjective basis for classifying art among the consumer goods under the control of vested interests.  If despite all this, art does not become simply consumable, then at least the relation to it can be modeled on the relation to actual commodity goods. [16-17, Hullot-Kentor trans.]

“The humiliating difference” and “consumable” are two phrases that immediately (at least for me) jump out of this description of the present situation (still present, I believe, and thus the incredible relevance of almost everything Adorno has to say about art) – take, for example, “modern music” – Alex Ross, whose book The Rest Is Noise I whole-heartedly endorse, poses the problem in a following way: Continue reading