Friday, January 4, 2013

Adorno on monotheism, idolatry, transcendence, & higher-order superstition

" . . . the assumption of a non-sensory egoity – which as existence, contrary to its own definition, is nonetheless to manifest itself in space and time. … this is where the idea of truth takes us. … one who believes in God hence cannot believe in God … If once upon a time the ban on images extended to pronouncing the name, now the ban itself has in this guise come to evoke suspicions of superstition."

-- Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics

I'll have to dig up the context of this quote to verify that it means what I think it means. I found it in a dodgy article by Albrecht Wellmer, in the midst of a discussion of "messianic materialism", transcendence, and Hegelian reconciliation. When I originally reviewed it, I cited this quote to repudiate those who are now attempting to recuperate Adorno and critical theory in general for religion. While I don't recall the argument, I originally wrote that "Still, Adorno wishes to preserve what transcendence originally promised (reconciliation)", insisting that "Adorno's messianism is resolutely this-worldly." I have my doubts about this label "messianism", but Jewish critical theorists such as Benjamin, Fromm, Horkheimer, and Adorno, played with this concept without endorsing religion.

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