MARTIN SHUSTER | Autonomy after Auschwitz: Adorno, German Idealism, and Modernity | Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014
By Henry Pickford
Martin Shuster’s Autonomy after Auschwitz is an ambitious and impressive work, from which I have learned a great deal. It is ambitious because it aims to situate Adorno’s thought within both specific contexts of the German Idealist tradition (Kant’s theoretical and practical philosophy, Hegel’s philosophy of history) and within a certain region of contemporary Anglophone philosophy oriented around Wittgenstein and neo-Aristotelianism. Shuster’s work is impressive not least because of the extent to which those ambitions are realised. The book undertakes not only a novel and expansive reading of Adorno’s practical and moral philosophy in relation to Kant, on the one hand, and Cavell, on the other, but also a careful exposition of Kant’s changing conception of the highest good within his rational theology, and a re-interpretation of Hegel’s philosophy of history to complement Adorno’s moral theory. My focus here will be on a central line of argument that connects Chapter 1 to Chapter 3 and centers on autonomy, agency and action. Shuster reads Horkheimer and Adorno as claiming that Kantian autonomy itself undermines agency, and then reconstructs Adorno’s moral theory as a response to that deficiency. Shuster and I first discussed these issues on a panel at the meeting of the Association for Adorno Studies in New York City in October 2015, and again on a panel at the Pacific conference of the American Philosophical Association in April 2016; I want to thank him for his clarifications at those events, and for continuing the conversation now. Read more
FABIAN FREYENHAGEN | Adorno’s Practical Philosophy: Living Less Wrongly | Cambridge University Press 2013
By Christian Skirke
Fabian Freyenhagen’s masterful book, Adorno’s Practical Philosophy, offers an exceptionally clear and philosophically rich defence of Adorno’s perspective on ethics. I have great sympathies for Freyenhagen’s project; and, given the depth and detail of his book, writing a critical review of it is an especially challenging and rewarding task.
In what follows, I want to take issue with two central aspects of Freyenhagen’s defence of Adorno. First, he provides a metaethical argument which centrally involves the claim that Adorno’s perspective on ethics is explanatory; it is in light of this claim that Adorno’s perspective is said to amount to an ethical minimalism which provides us with better explanations than other views for the moral challenges we face under difficult historical circumstances. And Freyenhagen contends, second, that this ethical minimalism is best brought home, at the level of normative ethical theorising, as a negative Aristotelianism. Read more