Monday, October 23, 2006


Theodor Adorno:

Nothing is more unfitting for an intellectual resolved on practising what was earlier called philosophy, than to wish, in discussion, and one might almost say in argumentation, to be right.

The very wish to be right, down to its subtlest form of logical reflection, is an expression of that spirit of self-preservation which philosophy is precisely concerned to break down.

I knew someone who invited all the celebrities in epistemology, science and the humanities one after the other, discussed his own system with each of them from first to last, and when none of them dared raise any further arguments against its formalism, believed his position totally impregnable.

Such naivety is at work wherever philosophy has even a distant resemblance to the gestures of persuasion.

These are founded on the presupposition of a universitas literarum, an a priori agreement between minds able to communicate with each other, and thus on complete conformism.

When philosophers, who are well known to have difficulty in keeping silent, engage in conversation, they should always try to lose the argument, but in such a way as to convict their opponent of untruth.

The point should not be to have absolutely correct, irrefutable, watertight cognitions - for they inevitably boil down to tautologies, but insights which cause the question of their justness to judge itself.

To say this is not, however, to advocate irrationalism, the postulation of arbitrary these justified by an intuitive faith in revelation, but the abolition of the distinction between thesis and argument.

Dialectical thinking, from this point of view, means that an argument should take on the pungency of a thesis and a thesis contain within itself the fullness of its reasoning.

All bridging concepts, all links and logical auxiliary operations that are not a part of the matter itself, all secondary developments not saturated with the experience of the object, should be discarded.

In a philosophical text all the propositions ought to be equally close to the centre.

Without Hegel's ever having said so explicitly, his whole procedure bears witness to such an intention.

Because it acknowledges no first principle, it ought, strictly speaking, to know of nothing secondary or deduced; and it transfers the concept of mediation from formal connections to the substance of the object itself, thereby attempting to overcome the difference between the latter and an external thought that mediates it.

The limits to the success of such an intention in Hegelian philosophy are also those of its truth, that is to say, the remnants of prima philosophia, the supposition of the subject as something which is, in spite of everything, 'primary'.

One of the tasks of dialectical logic is to eliminate the last traces of a deductive system, together with the last advocatory gestures of thought.


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