James Schmidt, Professor of History, Philosophy, and Political Science
Boston University, in this essay clears up some of the confusions and doubts that have for too long been cast on both Horkheimer, and especially Adorno’s work and their relations to Kant and the Enlightenment. Well worth the read… it may surprise you!
Schmidt brings clarity and insight in a way that sends you back to those originals to reread and rethink and re- see (not a revisioning, but rather an envisioning) just what they were up too. I’m glad to see Adorno’s work being investigated again. He’s had a great influence on my own thinking over the years (although I admit until recently I’d not reread his works ). I read him heavily for music theory and aesthetics in my younger years, but have of late been spending more time on the political, sociological, and philosophical tracts – along with many of the others of the Frankfurt Institute. Either way… read Schmidt, he has a keen eye and is a closer reader of this tradition he terms the Persistent Enlightenment!
Over the last decade or so, the publication and translation of Michel Foucault’s lectures at the Collège de France have led to a broader reconsideration of how his work ought to be understood. But, unless I’ve missed something, the publication and translation of Theodor Adorno’s lectures at the University for Frankfurt have generated considerably less interest. In part, the difference is not entirely surprising. Foucault’s influence has, if anything, grown since his death, while Adorno’s work tends to be regarded with an ambivalence tempered by incomprehension. But the neglect of Adorno’s Frankfurt lecture is unfortunate, if only because (as is also the case with Foucault’s lectures) they sometimes help us to avoid misunderstanding what he was trying to accomplish in his published work. For example, consider his 1959 lectures on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and, in particular, the discussion of Kant’s relationship to the Enlightenment.1 What we find…
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