Against Metaphysics Running Amok: Hegel, Adorno, and the Ineffable

In Lisa Herzog (ed.), Hegel's Thought in Europe: Currents, Crosscurrents and Undercurrents. pp. 133 (2013)
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Adorno’s metaphysics as developed in his Negative Dialectics revolves around what he calls the ‘Non-identical’. The Non-identical is essentially ineffable and can only be understood negatively, through Adorno’s method of ‘negative dialectics’. Negative dialectics is Adorno’s answer to Hegelian metaphysics, which he criticises for its ‘consistent resolution of non-identity into pure identity’. While Adorno endorses Hegel’s critique of Kant’s distinction between the realm of noumena and the realm of phenomena, he argues that Hegel is wrong in believing that a speculative identity between thought and being can be achieved in a positive fashion. Human reason, Adorno argues, imposes unity and identity on objects in the world, thus suppressing their uniqueness and making equivalent what is essentially non-equivalent. The way Adorno sees it, ‘dialectics means to break the compulsion to achieve identity’. This paper aims (1) to explain Adorno’s answer to Hegelian metaphysics, (2) to elucidate Adorno’s idea of the Non-identical as ineffable, and (3) to highlight the importance of acknowledging the ineffable in contemporary philosophy. The paper thus expounds Adorno’s answer to Hegelian metaphysics, according to which philosophy must be prepared to bear not only contradiction, but also the ultimate impossibility of resolving non-identity into identity.



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Silvia Jonas
Universität Bamberg

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