Traces of a Different Color. Adorno, Normativity, and Immanent Critique

Public lecture by Peter E. Gordon.

According to the well-known Hegelian dictum, philosophical knowledge seeks to recognize the rationality in conditions that have already gained their full actualization: it paints »gray on gray.« In Negative Dialektik, Adorno takes exception to Hegel’s claim, because it would seem to prohibit the possibility of critique: »Consciousness,« he writes, »could not despair at all over what is grey, if it did not harbor the concept of a different color, whose scattered trace is not lacking in the negative whole [Bewußtsein könnte gar nicht über das Grau verzweifeln, hegte es nicht den Begriff von einer verschiedenen Farbe, deren versprengte Spur im negativen Ganzen nicht fehlt].« The practice of immanent critique therefore demands that we reject the interpretation of Adorno’s philosophy that ascribes to it a species of totalizing negativism. The negative whole is not seamless or harmonistic; it is shot through with immanent traces that indicate a normative surplus or unrealized possibility.

The event will be in English.

Peter E. Gordon is Amabel B. James Professor of History at Harvard University.

Ort: Casino-Gebäude, R. 1801 (Renate von Metzler-Saal), Campus Westend