This volume of lectures on aesthetics, given by Adorno in the winter semester of 1958–9, formed the foundation for his later Aesthetic Theory, widely regarded as one of his greatest works. The lectures cover a wide range of topics, from an intense analysis of the work of Georg Lukács to a sustained reflection on the theory of aesthetic experience, from an examination of works by Plato, Kant, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and Benjamin, to a discussion of the latest experiments of John Cage, attesting to the virtuosity and breadth of Adorno's engagement. All the while, Adorno remains deeply connected to his surrounding context, offering us a window onto the artistic, intellectual and political confrontations that shaped life in post-war Germany. This volume will appeal to a broad range of students and scholars in the humanities and social sciences, as well as anyone interested in the development of critical theory.
Editor's Foreword LECTURE 1The situationThe possibility of philosophical aesthetics todayThe connection between philosophy and aesthetics in KantHegel's definition of beautyAesthetic objectivityA critique of 'aesthetics from above'On the methodThe problem of aesthetic relativityThe objectivity of aesthetic judgementAesthetic logicThe irrationality of artThe work of art as an expression of naïvetéBasic research in the field of aesthetics LECTURE 2Not a set of instructionsThe individualist prejudiceTalentResistance to aestheticsThe poles of aesthetic insight: (a) Theoretical reflection; (b) The experience of artistic practiceAgainst cultivatednessThe riddle characterA justification of the philosophy of art'Aesthetics' is equivocalNatural beauty and artistic beautyHegel's turn away from natural beautyUnresolved aspect to natural beauty LECTURE 3The elusiveness of natural beautyThe model character of natural beautyAuraThe experiences of something objective'Mood'The mediation of natural beauty and artistic beautyThe historicity of natural beautyThe sublime in KantAesthetic experience is dialectical in itself 'Disinterested pleasure' LECTURE 4Special sphere of aesthetic semblanceThe taboo on desireSublimationDissonance'Spring's command, sweet need'MimesisImitationTransition LECTURE 5The separation of art from the real worldPlay and semblance'The world once again'Art as 'unfolding of truth'The negation of the reality principleExpression of sufferingThe participation of art in the process of controlling natureTechniqueProgress LECTURE 6Does art merely express what has been destroyed?Restoring the bodyStart from the most advanced artThe expressive ideal of expressionismPrincipium stilisationisConstructionThe dialectic of expression and construction LECTURE 7Nature is historicalConstruction and formA critique of the creator roleThe aversion to expressionThe reduction of the individualFalling silent after AuschwitzThe crisis of meaningThe limits of construction LECTURE 8The crisis of meaning (contd.)Giving a voice to mutilated natureExpression of alienationDefamiliarizationConsistency of constructionAleatory musicThe problem of characters LECTURE 9The Platonic doctrine of beautyIntroduction to an interpretation of the PhaedrusEnthousiasmosBeauty as a form of madnessBeing seizedPain as a constituent of the experience of beautyNot a definitionIdeaThe subjectivity of beautyThe imitation of the idea of beautyThe aspect of danger in beauty LECTURE 10Interpretation of the Phaedrus, contd.The paradox of beautyThe image of beautyAffinity with deathElevating oneself above the contingent world Kant's theory of the sublimeThe sensual and the spiritual in artForce field LECTURE 11Ontology and dialectic in PlatoThe relationship between beauty and artThe aspect of uglinessThe aspect of sensual pleasureAesthetic experience'Throw away in order to gain!'The meaning of the whole LECTURE 12RecapitulationEnjoyment of artThe inhabitantFetishismAesthetic enjoymentThe suspension of the principium individuationisUnderstanding works of art LECTURE 13Reflective co-enactmentAesthetic stupidityTranslation, commentary, critiqueThe spiritualization of artConstructivismThe dialectic of sensual and spiritual aspects in the work of art LECTURE 14Spiritual contentThe structural contextForce fieldThe allergy to sensual pleasureAesthetics without beauty LECTURE 15Correcting the definition of the work of artAlienationReference to the object in visual art'Abstract' artForm as sedimented contentLoss of tensionTheoretical preconditions of artistic experience LECTURE 16Beauty and truthNaturalismTruth of expressionCoherenceNecessityThe idea of beauty as something internally in motionHomeostasisThe mediated truth LECTURE 17Subjectivism and objectivism in aestheticsHegel's critique of tasteThe physiognomy of the aestheteGoût quamd mêmeAccumulated experienceFashion LECTURE 18A critique of aesthetic subjectivismA critique of psychological aestheticsMethodologyThe immediacy of subjective reactions is mediatedThe consumption of prestigeThe emotional relationship with art LECTURE 19Recapitulation'The Tired Businessman's Show'Conceptless synthesisThe cognition of artDefensive reactions to modern art LECTURE 20RecapitulationThe rancour of those left behind towards new artSemi-literacyThe alienation of modern art from consumption is itself socialLukács's pseudo-realismThe concept of ideologyKant's subjectivismA critique of the theory of aesthetic experienceThe ambiguity of the work of art LECTURE 21Recovery of the truthThe idea lies in the totality of aspects'... being completely filled with the matter'ExperienceThe psychology of the artistEmpathyThe work of art as objectified spiritArtistic production Adorno's Notes for the Lectures Editor's Notes Index
"Adorno's lectures provide a fascinating glimpse into the philosophical workshop where his ideas were forged and developed, and this lecture course on aesthetics from the late 1950s is no exception. With an irrepressible sense of intellectual adventure, Adorno argues with the giants of the German tradition in the philosophy of art, interprets Plato's theory of beauty in the Phaedrus, and struggles to make sense of the music of John Cage. He offers a virtuoso series of variations on his central claim that, in art, we experience reason 'in the form of its otherness', as a 'particular resistance' to the instrumental rationality which dominates our lives." Peter Dews, University of Essex "These lectures are much more than an early record of Adorno's path toward his late, uncompleted masterwork, Aesthetic Theory. They represent an independent and often revelatory statement of his thinking on aesthetics in the late 1950's. This book is an indispensable addition to the English-language reader's understanding of this central thinker." Michael Jennings, Princeton University
Theodor W. Adorno (1903-1969), a prominent member of the Frankfurt School, was one of the most influential thinkers of the 20th century in the areas of social theory, philosophy and aesthetics.
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