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A Precarious Happiness: Adorno on Negativity and Normativity

Hosted By: The Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto

From the speaker: “Theodor W. Adorno is often interpreted as a philosopher who saw modern society in purely negative terms, as if it were a landscape plunged into absolute darkness. This ‘negativist’ reading is well-known insofar as it presents us with an unworkable problem: how does Adorno justify his own critical practice if he cannot identify any normative resources in the current social order? In this paper, I argue that the negativist interpretation of Adorno is overdrawn and misrepresents the normative resources that animate his philosophy. Specifically, the negativist interpretation obscures his appeal to materialist and embodied experiences of happiness that bear the disfigurement of our current society but also point beyond it.”

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