Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Martin Jay, "Adorno in America." 1984

Rather than reduce Adorno to any one star in his constellation, be it Western Marxist, elitist mandarin, aesthetic modernist, or whatever, we must credit all of them with the often contradictory power they had in shaping his idiosyncratic variant of Critical Theory. 

Adorno was a Western Marxist, elitist mandarin, aesthetic modernist. If he could be read as any one alone, he'd have been forgotten. 

If you can't read a text against itself you're reading for work, like a bureaucrat reading a report. It's private reason. Adorno was a conservative. Like Eliot in his office, he's a Burkean bureaucrat, a pedant of historical romance. Wallace Stevens was Mallarmé as an insurance executive. These are contradictions that can only be resolved as art.   

repeats. "Doing philosophy

Although he took a keen interest in the great British philosophers - he later discovered and edited some new letters by Hume - he shared Cassirer's dismay at the blinkered approach of the analytical philosophers who dominated the Oxford scene: ignoring the historical context of thinkers such as Leibniz, the only thing they wanted to know was whether his statements were true according to their own criteria.

Overall, Seaford’s book is interesting, insightful, and combines expertise in ancient sources with careful reasoning. It certainly offers an invaluable discussion of the origins and cultural contexts of early Greek philosophy. But Seaford’s concern with the historical explanations of Greek philosophy suggests that his book may not appeal to scholars interested exclusively in the philosophical content and argumentation of Presocratic texts. The author often explicitly minimizes intellectual explanations of a philosopher’s views in favor of socio-political, religious, and psychological factors (219; 253–4; 273). In fact, he insists that comprehending the relevant cultural factors is necessary for understanding Presocratic metaphysics. We must, he maintains, avoid treating ancient philosophy as if it were created in a “historical vacuum” (10), even if this threatens most Presocratic scholars' "control of their subject and the autonomy of 'doing philosophy'"

And again

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