Music as Secularized Prayer: On Adorno’s Benjaminian Understanding of Music and its Language-Character

Comparative and Continental Philosophy 10 (3):205-220 (2018)
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ABSTRACTIn this essay I draw attention to conceptual similarities in Walter Benjamin’s and Theodor W. Adorno’s reflection about language, with special attention to Benjamin’s 1916 essay about language as such, including its theological impulses. In Adorno’s case, I concentrate on language theory as it comes forth in relation to his philosophy of music and the supposed language-character of music. I argue that this particular connection between Benjamin and Adorno is largely unexplored in the literature, and I show that their conceptual affinities have far-reaching consequences for a proper understanding of Adorno’s philosophy as a whole. Music is of fundamental importance for Adorno’s critical theory, and this fact points to an intricate entwinement between materialism and theology, stemming from Benjamin’s theory of language. Thinking of music as secularized prayer means to emphasize that music relates to reality in a way that resembles the logic of Benjamin’s understanding of a pre-lapsarian language of...



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Negative dialectics.Theodor W. Adorno - 1973 - New York: Continuum.
Aesthetic Theory.Theodor W. Adorno, Gretel Adorno, Rolf Tiedemann & C. Lenhardt - 1986 - Journal of Philosophy 83 (12):732-741.
Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments.Theodor W. Adorno - 1944 - Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press. Edited by Gunzelin Schmid Noerr.
The Origin of German Tragic Drama.Walter Benjamin - 1978 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 37 (1):103-104.
On Popular Music.T. W. Adorno - 1941 - Studies in Philosophy and Social Science 9:17.

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