Art as a Form of Negative Dialectics: 'Theory' in Adorno's Aesthetic Theory

Author's Department

English & Comparative Literature Department

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

The Journal of Speculative Philosophy

Publication Date



Adorno’s dialectical approach to aesthetics is perhaps understood better in terms of his monumental work, 'Aesthetic Theory,' which attempts to relate the speculative tradition in philosophical aesthetics to the situation of art in twentieth-century society, than in terms of purely theoretical claims. This paper demonstrates that Adorno embraces the Kantian thesis concerning art’s autonomy and that he criticizes transcendental philosophy. It also discusses how Adorno provides the outlines for a dialectical conception of artistic truth in relation to his argument with Hegel. Adorno’s assessment of the Enlightenment is linked to his interpretation of twentieth-century literature. The conclusion of this paper emphasizes the political implications of Adorno’s position when the philosopher approaches art as a sign of historical truth.

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