الأسس الفلسفية لنظرية أدورنو الجمالية / The Philosophical Bases of Adorno's Aesthetics



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بسطاويسي, رمضان; Basttawicy, Ramadan

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Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[T. W. Adorno, a member of the Frankfurt School, was greatly influenced by Benjamin's notion of the autonomy of the art work and Horkheimer's notion of the contextual grounds in theorizing. In his central work, Negative Dialectics, he raised the question of the role of philosophy in his time, a period marked by German Nazism and Stalinist dogmatism. The impotence of philosophy and the failure of reason preoccupied him. While admitting the important role of Kant in liberating reason from its theological shackles, Adorno saw Kant limiting knowledge to its instrument -- the mind -- presumed to have its apriori constitution. Adorno, who was inspired by Marx's use of dialectic -- not as a scientific procedure, but as a method for understanding historical transformation -- came to see the role of philosophy not as the expression of an absolute, but as a critique. According to Adorno, Man can concentrate on his struggle with nature for the benefit of all humanity only when exploitation and alienation are ended. However, he saw modern civilization as moving towards an increase of alienation manifested by a rupture between man and his environment. Marx had shown the reinforcing role of superstructure in continuing existing conditions, and Adorno extended this analysis by showing how Western philosophy forged a notion of reason which cemented reification. Repressive structures of the cultural system are internalized: the individual is unable to resist this penetration in a technological set-up, where alternative mechanisms such as the family unit are absent. Thus individuals are tied to a work machine which provides them with consumer goods through which they have the illusion of fulfillment. One's life is wasted on working to achieve these goods. This points to the inhuman feature of mass culture which makes people feel that their own good is tied to a high standard of (technological) living. In this context, the individual cannot experience his uniqueness and specificity in his work, but needs the work to buy consumer goods. Man becomes an object in monopolistic enterprises. Work becomes not an opening of creative potentialities, but a recruitment in the dominant stream. The individual in such a context becomes anxious when he does not fit in the main stream. If the philosophy of Enlightenment calls for the use of reason in everything, Adorno calls for the use of reason in a new domain, that of reason itself: he calls for reason's critique of its role in a structure that perpetuates control and repression. Thus Adorno criticizes a naive notion of Enlightenment which does not comprehend the limits of reason. The Enlightenment's privileging of reason led to the dominance of a binary opposition between reason and nature. This belief in reason is no less mythological than a belief in myths. It led to the use of mathematical formulae and statistics even in philosophy. Mathematical logic becomes supreme at the price of using science and philosophy as instruments for mathematical rule. Reason tries to regulate everything by containment within its confines. However, Adorno does not propose to confront the irrational with something other than reason. The point for him is not to control reality but to criticize it. Art for Adorno possesses a different structure from the rest. He is influenced by Benjamin, and his notion of play, art, and freedom. By resorting to an autonomous activity outside the domain of cultural rules, art can find the lost unity of man, and his fragmented self. This escaping of the social network which evades the dominant ideology allows a sense of communication between individuals. Adorno sees art's specificity in being able to digress from reality. Therefore, its imaginative stride gives it its autonomy through which it can perform freely.]

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