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Lectures on Negative Dialectics: Fragments of a Lecture Course 1965/1966 [Paperback]

Theodor W. Adorno , Rolf Tiedemann , Rodney Livingstone

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Book Description

1 Aug 2008 0745635105 978-0745635101 1
This volume comprises one of the key lecture courses leading up to the publication in 1966 of Adorno's major work, Negative Dialectics. These lectures focus on developing the concepts critical to the introductory section of that book. They show Adorno as an embattled philosopher defining his own methodology among the prevailing trends of the time. 

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"The best introduction to Adorno′s thought is Adorno′s lectures: patient and expansive, they provide the darkest corners of his thought with light and air. Aiming to elaborate the basic assumptions and working method behind his philosophical practice in general, these lapidary lectures touch on many of the most difficult aspects of Adorno′s philosophy." J. M. Bernstein, New School for Social Research  

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This volume comprises one of the key lecture courses leading up to the publication in 1966 of Adorno′s major work, Negative Dialectics . These lectures focus on developing the concepts critical to the introductory section of that book. They show Adorno as an embattled philosopher defining his own methodology among the prevailing trends of the time. As a critical theorist, he repudiated the worn–out Marxist stereotypes still dominant in the Soviet bloc – he specifically addresses his remarks to students who had escaped from the East in the period leading up to the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961. Influenced as he was by the empirical schools of thought he had encountered in the United States, he nevertheless continued to resist what he saw as their surrender to scientific and mathematical abstraction. However, their influence was potent enough to prevent him from reverting to the traditional idealisms still prevalent in Germany, or to their latest manifestations in the shape of the new ontology of Heidegger and his disciples. Instead, he attempts to define, perhaps more simply and fully than in the final published version, a ‘negative′, i.e. critical, approach to philosophy. Permeating the whole book is Adorno’s sense of the overwhelming power of totalizing, dominating systems in the post–Auschwitz world. Intellectual negativity, therefore, commits him to the stubborn defence of individuals – both facts and people – who stubbornly refuse to become integrated into ‘the administered world’. These lectures reveal Adorno to be a lively and engaging lecturer. He makes serious demands on his listeners but always manages to enliven his arguments with observations on philosophers and writers such as Proust and Brecht and comments on current events. Heavy intellectual artillery is combined with a concern for his students’ progress.

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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Resource for Readers of Adorno 11 Feb 2014
By TheMicrologus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Since nobody has reviewed this book so far, I thought I'd offer a note about it. “Lectures on Negative Dialectics” primarily contains material from the last of four courses Adorno taught before publishing his important late work, “Negative Dialectics.” The main text includes a series of chapters which combine edited transcriptions of Adorno's lectures with his original lecture notes. The book also includes a great short introduction to the concept of negative dialectics written by the book's editor, Rolf Tiedemann, and as an Appendix, a 30-page or so long text that looks to me like a draft version of the Introduction to the final book.

One important note about the material from the lecture course: only the first ten lectures were recorded, so no transcripts are available for lectures 11-25. The lecture notes for all of the classes do survive and are included. One limitation of this is that his notes tend to be simple and short, at times comprised of simple phrases or reminders to mention a particular text. For this reason, the notes tend to be a tad thin without the transcripts. Obviously, this isn't something that can be fixed, but it's still a bummer.

In terms of philosophical content, the book is pretty stunning. Adorno was a wonderful lecturer who brought both rigorous philosophical work and a concern for clarity into the classroom. At times, he spends significant time responding to students' questions or objections, which is immensely useful for simplifying his often complex thoughts. Anyone interested in Adorno will also find reading his lectures delightful just in terms of the somewhat different view they give of Adorno: in front of the classroom, he is far more sentimental and personable than the uncompromising intellectual who comes through in his published texts.

Certainly though, what is most exciting about this book is its germinal relationship to the final text of Negative Dialectics. During classes, Adorno often tries out arguments that later surface in implicit or explicit form in the published text. At other times, he focuses on aspects that get less attention in the last text. In this sense, it's a must-have accompaniment to readings and re-readings of Adorno's thought.

In the end, this is a nifty book that offers a number of things to readers. It's especially invaluable if you are considering working your way through Negative Dialectics for the first time – No line-by-line commentary exists that I know of, so this is probably as good at it gets for now. Reading a few lectures before digging into the text will go a long way towards getting you situated with some of the things Adorno is trying to do with negative dialectics. But there are number of ways to read it, so I'd recommend it for pretty much anyone interested in Adorno's thought.
4.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary Collection 2 May 2014
By Steiner - Published on Amazon.com
This is an excellent place to get a clear explication of Adorno's critical project in Negative Dialectics. Here we see very detailed attempts to explain his resistance to Hegel's so-called "positive dialectic," which proceeds determinately through the negation of the negation. Identity thinking, that is, the resolution of contradictions between logical concepts in a totality that results as the absolute, is shown to be structured according to a tendency to abstract from the concept in advance--Adorno points to the way in which in the Science of Logic, Hegel begins with the category of Being, and then of course revealed to be Nothing, or abstract indeterminacy. However, Adorno's critique hinges on the realization that Hegel slips from formulating Nothing as indeterminacy to Nothing as "indeterminateness" as such, thereby revealing the abstract motion of the logic as pre-structuring the resolutions of determinate negation. Concepts are not only contradictory in the sense that there is a contradiction between concepts, but the concept is contradictory in its very relation to the object. Negative Dialectics is the attempt to articulate the mediation of the subject-object relation through the logic of dialectics, but without its completion in the absolute. This collection goes some length in accounting for the problems and concepts that such a project raises.
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