Charlotte Baumann on Martin Shuster’s “Autonomy After Auschwitz”


MARTIN SHUSTER | Autonomy after Auschwitz: Adorno, German Idealism, and Modernity | Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014


By Charlotte Baumann

In his book Autonomy After Auschwitz, Martin Shuster interprets Adorno’s conception of freedom via Kant and Hegel. Fittingly, his discussion therefore revolves around the concept of reason—or perhaps that should be reasons plural, as we read about a “space of reasons” (p. 29), different “chain[s] of rational reflection” (p. 82), “distinct form[s] of giving reasons” (p. 157), and “the possibility of taking one’s reasons as reasons” (p. 168).

My discussion of the book will focus on this tiny, seemingly innocuous difference signalled by the plural s after the word ‘reason’ and related terms. The difference recurs throughout the interpretation of German Idealists and thinkers like Adorno who were inspired by their work. Robert Pippin claims, for example, that Hegel’s Logic brings out the general conditions that must be met by different “categorical frameworks” (Pippin 1990:847) or “absolute forms” (Pippin 1990:843) (while, to my knowledge, both Kant’s table of categories and Hegel’s absolute form are singular, that is, one rather than many).
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