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Two Ideas of Dialectic: Hegel and Adorno by Peter E. Gordon, Harvard University

Thursday, March 7, 2024 4:15pm to 6pm

3203 Southeast Woodstock Boulevard, Portland, Oregon 97202-8199

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In this lecture I address the question as to how Adorno and Hegel may disagree
concerning the concept of dialectical reasoning. The standard view, briefly stated, is
that the two differ on a key point: Hegel saw the dialectic as a method that permits us to
understand how negativity is ultimately reconciled within a rationally mediated whole:
thus his well-known dictum “The True is the Whole” (The Phenomenology of Spirit). On
Adorno, however, rejected the notion of the reconciled whole as ideological or
affirmative of a “false” social order: hence his rejoinder “The Whole is the Untrue”
(Minima Moralia). I wish to argue that the contrast between these two concepts of the
dialectic is overdrawn, because Adorno’s conception of a so-called “negative dialectic”
is still oriented toward what he calls “the reconciled condition.” In recognizing this point
of agreement, we can better appreciate the normative orientation that guides Adorno in
his social criticism.

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