Give body to the impossible

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Read a commentary on the latest book by Vladimir Safatle and the Foreword by Peter Dews

By Amaro Fleck*

I'll start with an anecdote: recently, in Berlin, during a day of protests, a not very large group decided to march, apart from the main group, carrying signs with the phrase "Es gibt kein richtiges Leben im falschen”, “there is no right life in the false one”, the conclusion of the eighteenth aphorism, “Asylum for the homeless”, from the work Minima Moralia by Theodor Adorno. The mismatch between form and content could not be greater: the phrase of a thinker who saw no problem with the ivory tower as a shelter for the intellectual, of a theorist who, when summoned by his students to participate in demonstrations, refused with the excuse of being too old and too fat, being used by young people who wanted to change everything, here and now. Worse: the conclusion of a reasoning converted into a slogan, into propaganda, into a slogan, into what Adorno himself denounced so much: a pseudo-activism, an action resulting from ephemeral and unreflected despair, from narcissism that does not transform anything, but which generates questionable satisfaction of having done something, of having stood against it, and thus exempting oneself from the equally questionable responsibility for the world being what, unfortunately, it is.

If what draws attention in the somewhat senseless march of young Berliners is the absence of any demand, even from a recipient, it seems, albeit timidly, to indicate an exclusive feature of the physiognomy of Adornian thought: the coexistence between a profound evil -being faced with the state of the world and an almost complete hopelessness of changing it.

According to Vladimir Safatle – in his new book Giving body to the impossible: the meaning of dialectics from Theodor Adorno (Authentic) – We are now experiencing a moment of “collapse of hegemonic processes of social modernization” (p. 31), a collapse revealed by the loss of adherence both to the normative horizon of liberal democracies and to the economic rationality imposed by the capitalist society of work.

This diagnosis serves as a background for what the work proposes: a “contemporary recovery of dialectics” that can contribute to the consolidation of a “theoretical practice of emergence” (p. 38). It is not, therefore, a mere historiographical commentary, capable of accounting for or advancing one of the most arduous debates in contemporary philosophy: that on the fate of dialectics after Hegel, notably on account of its materialist inversion proposed by Marx and Developed by Adorno.

But an eminently political and, why not, engaged project: to mobilize “philosophy as a critical force capable of pushing the revolt towards the consolidation of a way of life to come” (p. 31), elaborating “an emerging dialectic” , that is, a “dialectic that makes explicit the conditions for the emergence of what could be different and that has not yet begun” (p. 34). from a commentary on Adorno's book Negative Dialectics, to which three excurses are added: one on the relationship of dialectical contradiction with the thought of difference (basically: Deleuze) and two on national uses of dialectics (one dealing with the work of Paulo Arantes, another on the debate between Bento Prado Júnior and Roberto Schwarz).

These two objectives – to specify the differences and similarities between Adorno and Hegel, on the one hand; rebuilding the dialectic by creating an emergent theoretical practice, on the other – are not equally successful, not least because they require very different arguments. The first requires comparison with philosophical texts, debate with comments, tireless bibliographic review.

The second, in turn, demands a more accurate analysis of ongoing social trends, an interdisciplinary debate capable of illuminating the present moment, an explanation of the proposals and coalitions that would be able to implement them.

If Safatle makes some pertinent reflections on the adventures and misadventures of the dialectic, the project of reconstructing a new version of it is presented as a somewhat poorly arranged sketch, no more than a letter of intent. In the end, what remains is an interpretation of the Adornian negative dialectic as a proposal for such a theoretical practice of emergence.

But the jump over the abyss that separates historiographical exegesis, the textual commentary on a work by Adorno published more than five decades ago, and the explicitness of the emergency conditions of what could be different – ​​of a new way of life – is done without further justification.

But let's look at the thing more closely, focusing on the core of the argument.

The most usual interpretation of the Adornian negative dialectic, according to Safatle, is to consider it an amputated dialectic; that is, a dialectic without repeal, without synthesis, which would be condemned to narrate antinomic processes whose contradictions are never overcome or resolved (in other words: something that would be rather an errancy, in which the object wanders from one opposite to the other without arriving anywhere, than an actual dialectic). This dyadic movement of continuous transformation into its opposite would lead the negative dialectic to a melancholy quietism, to a lamentation for the impossibility of emancipation.

Faced with this interpretation, Safatle will defend the thesis that there are no “fundamental logical-structural distinctions between the Adornian dialectic and the Hegelian dialectic” (p. 95), since the positive-rational moment of synthesis would also be present in the negative dialectic , overcoming contradictions. However, this does not mean that the two dialectics are identical: “in fact, the negative dialectic will be the result of a set of displacement operations in the system of positions and presuppositions of the Hegelian dialectic” (p. 84) resulting from the choice of “ refusing to put reconciliations that Hegel considered already ripe to be enunciated” (p. 85).

Thus, the Hegelian procedure of placing the positive-rational moment means a philosophical anticipation of reconciliation, which comes to be the same as relying on “concrete figures of reconciliation currently present in social life” (p. 85). The Adornian procedure of presupposing this moment would imply the refusal of these concrete figures of reconciliation, already present, in the name of the “advent of another reconciliation” (p. 85). This is what the very title of the work refers to: “giving body to the impossible” means changing the very horizon of possibilities by rejecting everything that is available in the name of something entirely other. The shift in the system of positions and presuppositions would thus turn the negative dialectic into a revolutionary project.

Interpreted in this way, the negative dialectic is not an attempt to implement what is most rational and advanced already exists, as in the Hegelian case, nor the quietist lament about an emancipation made impossible, as in the opposing interpretation, but rather a bet “on the promises of a new order brought about by the most advanced sector of artistic production of his time” (p. 103).

It is not about opting for the contemplation of works of art instead of believing in the possibilities of global political transformation, but the perception that the “aesthetic experience gradually erodes the hegemonic sensibility, opening the way for the renewal of the social experience through the awareness of new forms and modes of organization and relationship” (p. 48-9). In the author's words, works of art have “the explosive force of confronting social life with horizons of emancipation that it is not even able to pose as a possibility” (p. 49).

It is curious that the peculiarity of the interpretation proposed by Safatle consists in making explicit what is presupposed, without, however, stating it; the radicalizing turn would only make manifest what was previously veiled, but insofar as this continues to be presupposed (and not posited, since the dialectic would then be Hegelian) it cannot be fully manifested. The revolutionary force of the negative dialectic would thus consist in a kind of “not yet”: what works of art promise is an experience of emancipation that we cannot even imagine, but that needs to remain that way, at the same time present and not experienced, indeterminate. Its strength lies in its ambiguity.

Having outlined the core of Safatle's argument, I would like to comment on three aspects that most interest me in his book. The first two deal with details of the interpretation and reception of the Adornian negative dialectic, the last one with our historical moment.

Is the negative dialectic an ontology?

Instead of insisting on the contrast between the interpretation of the negative dialectic proposed by Safatle and the one that serves as an opponent, I would like to question the point at which both show solidarity, namely, the understanding of dialectics as an ontology, understood here as a type of theory that has transhistorical categories, which would serve to explain the most distinct social formations and, in particular, the passages from one social formation to another.

Thus, they share the understanding that dialectics is both the very logic of things in general and the procedure capable of explaining and conceptualizing them. Would this be the case? In Safatle's words: “Let us note, for example, how dialectics will never abandon a certain conception of movement that will guide it within the critique and understanding of historical processes. It will always be a question of contradictions, of unstable modes of production, of conflicts as operators of movement, of passages in the opposite and interversions, of the mutation of quantity into quality. But what is this, if not an ontology that expresses itself in a certain way of understanding processes and movements?” (p. 41-2).

Indeed, the same categories – totality, measurement, contradiction, synthesis – are present in modern variations of the dialectic. But does this mean that they have the same meanings? Does it mean, for example, that the same objects will be understood as contradictory? Or that the same situations are seen as wholes?

Now, for Hegel any finite object is contradictory. In small logic he states: “everything that surrounds us can be considered as an example of dialectics. We know that everything finite, instead of being something firm and ultimate, is rather variable and transient” (Hegel, §81 Addendum). That is why dialectics is the movement inherent in all things: it is what makes the categories of thought move (logic), but it is also present in nature (the philosophy of nature), in our relationship with it as well as in our social interactions (the philosophy of spirit).

As for Adorno, the set of contradictory objects – objects that are, therefore, dialectical and also require a dialectic to apprehend them – is much more restricted. It does not concern natural objects - the celebrated example of the oak contained in phenomenology of the spirit, for example, would not be a case of contradictory object. Nor does it concern most social interactions in non-capitalist formations (although it may concern some contradictory processes within them – notably the passage between myth and reason, as described in the first part of the article). Dialectic of Enlightenment), even when antagonistic.

Something similar occurs with regard to the category of totality. For Hegel, totality is one of the names for the absolute, the process in which the spirit acts upon itself and gains consciousness of itself. For Adorno, totality is the result of a specific form of social mediation, mercantile exchange, which causes the world to become all of itself into something identical. Therefore, the relationship is symmetrically opposite: if Hegel says that “the true is the whole”, Adorno asserts that “the whole is the untrue”. While the first intends to narrate the process in which totality becomes self-conscious, the second would like to abolish totality itself.

Safatle comments on Adorno's assertion that “a liberated humanity does not persist as a totality” (p. 86), but interprets it as containing an irony: for the totality is denied at the same time that the concept of humanity is safeguarded, which would serve to indicate, according to Safatle: the “totality as a horizon of generic implication and constitution of an unlimited common”, or, in other words, the model of a “reconciled totality” (p. 86).

I share the idea that the phrase contains an irony, but I draw opposite conclusions from it: wouldn't it be the case here that “humanity” denotes, albeit precariously, precisely the dissolution of a totality that cannot even be named? So, it is: what would a world that is not a totality look like? I imagine that it is enough to think about the end of the universal mediation of exchange: if it is what makes the world something total, completely connected, it is the end of it that would allow the non-violent coexistence of the diverse, of processes and situations that were not encompassed and all of them interconnected.

Thus, “reconciled totality” – an expression that, if I’m not mistaken, never appears in Adorno’s work – is a contradiction in terms, an oxymoron, since reconciliation has as a condition the end of the coercion that makes the worlds to be a single world. .

But if totality and contradiction, just to mention two of the central categories of the dialectic, are critical concepts, which only serve to explain the hardships of capitalist society, but not the other social formations (although, eventually, some of their moments), what what would be a negative dialectic?

In this case, the dialectic would be both the movement of contradictory things themselves, understood here as everything that is contaminated by the commodity – that is, all of today's society, all of today's world; but not necessarily the previous or future ones – as for the way of apprehending them. Contradictory things are understood as those that contain within themselves the germ of their annihilation, therefore, those that by their own movement lead themselves towards destruction. This is the case, of course, with the capitalist system.

In the interpretation I propose, the materialist turn of the dialectic would not consist in changing the game of positions and presuppositions, but in giving priority to the object. It is not possible to advance logically the movement of things. It is he, the object, after all, who will decide whether he will walk through extremes, converting himself into opposites, in a wandering without a happy ending, or whether, in the end, he will overcome his contradictions and rise to a higher level of rationality.

The negative dialectic would thus not be a general philosophy, in the sense of an ontology, of a discourse about being, about the logic of the movement of any object, but only the reformulation of a project of critical theory of this society, the capitalist one, the which aims to hasten the pace of its destruction, push what is already falling, reducing the birth pangs of a new social formation, no longer contradictory, and, hopefully, without antagonisms.

Was Adorno a revolutionary?

From what was said above, it is clear that I share, with Safatle, a reading that emphasizes the critical character of the negative dialectic, and, incidentally and above all, its anti-capitalist footprint. I agree with Safatle that Adorno would never consider the possibility of a capitalist society that was also emancipated, simply because the individuals who live within it would have their demands for recognition satisfied or because they would exchange reasons in deliberative processes in which there is no coercion. And I mostly agree with him in seeing this as an asset of Adornian thought, one reason why his critical theory has great potential both for explaining our society and for guiding social criticism.

However, I disagree with the pro-revolutionary logical consequence arising from the assumption of the moment of reconciliation. In opposition, I argue that the question of social transformation strategy – whether reform or revolution; whether trading or non-participation; and even if it is the case of defending a social democracy in the short term –, as could not fail to be the case in a theory that gives priority to the object, it arises from the perception of current social trends and the possibilities existing in them.

Therefore, I do not think it is advantageous to interpret Adorno as a revolutionary; nor do I believe that his theory is revolutionary against what he himself thinks, a la Holloway and Co.; and, furthermore, I believe that the Adornian option (non-revolutionary, at least in the short term), correctly understood, has not exhausted its validity, despite the fact that we are in a very different situation.

Safatle argues that the negative dialectic is also “a reflection on the modalities of constituting subjects with a strong potential for political transformation” (p. 205) and that the dialectic collaborates with “a revolutionary practice that does not have repressive tendencies at its core due to organizational strategic requirements” (p. 206). Safatle, however, criticizes “Adorno's strategic position in the political horizon of the German left in the 1960s” (p. 212) for not having realized that “political subjects emerge within struggles and revolts, not prior to them” (p. 215).

That is, the Adorno interpreted by Safatle is revolutionary, even though he has distanced himself from the German radical movements due to specific issues – repressive tendencies existing within them – and Safatle objects to Adorno that these issues could have been overcome by the development of political subjects. It would be up to a theory of emergence to understand the possible transformations “that produce the emergence of subjects who will respond, in their actions, to the concrete conditions and challenges of praxis in its multiplicity of situations” (p. 208).

Two questions need to be asked: the first is whether this – the revolutionary option – corresponds in some instance to the Adornian work, or whether it is the interpreter who speaks here of someone else's pity; the second is, if the first answer is negative and parodying Paulo Arantes, if this would be a wrong Adorno, but still alive.

Adorno does not speak of a theory of emergence, and it is Marcuse, not he, who will ask himself again and again whether some other social actor is emerging who might inherit the revolutionary role that once belonged to the proletariat. Why was Adorno not concerned with this? Because the integration of the proletariat is only one of the factors by which emancipation was blocked. Even if there was a potential revolutionary subject – the students? The new civil movements of women, blacks, homosexuals? The rabble, the precarious workers? – the barricades would continue to be “ridiculous against those who manage the bomb” (MzTP, p. 771), and this subject would have his subjectivity formed by the cultural industry (which the proletariat of the XNUMXth century, evidently, did not have).

Because of this, any short-term radical transformation movement would be doomed to failure. As Schwarz observes, in a passage quoted by Safatle, “the blockage of the revolutionary solution and the sterility of electoral politics are diagnoses, not preferences” (Schwarz, p. 50). It is not because he disliked the revolution that Adorno considered it impossible, blocked. But once this is realized, that the revolution would not come, it is necessary to ask what is actually possible, if the negative dialectic does not want to become a mere “sad chant of finitude” (p. 19), the lament for an emancipation that does not he came.

Safatle rebels against the Adornian strategy of enduring the lesser evil to avoid the worst (p. 211), but imagines that this is a detail in the work of the Frankfurt artist, and not one of his distinctive traits. He cries out that “there is no conciliation or negotiation with solidary modes of social reproduction of a false life linked to the general structures of reification and alienation proper to the capitalist system” (p. 26), as this would mean accepting the horizon of crisis management.

But it's worse, much worse than you think. Capitalism is so terrible that it manages to close the exits of its torment. And against this all the alternatives and proposals have proved to be innocuous. In this situation, the Frankfurtian thinker, with loads of reason, adopts a realistic, reformist and social-democratic stance (closer, of course, to the radical social democracy of the early XNUMXth century than to that late, post-war European one).

These are his words, spoken to his students: “To minimize, because of the structure of the whole, the possibility of improvement within the current society, or even – which has not been lacking in the past – to mark them as negative, would be an idealistic abstraction. and harmful. For in that would express a concept of totality superimposed on the interests of individual men living here and now, requiring a kind of abstract trust in the course of world history of which, at least in this form, I am incapable. (IS, p. 98).

Nothing more consequential, by the way, for someone who decades before had stated that, faced with the question about the objective of an emancipated society, “the only delicate answer would be the rudest: that no one should go hungry anymore” (MM, §100). content with bourgeois liberal democracy and its negotiation horizon, but it does mean not considering it the same as fascism and pure and simple coercion.

If the worst forms of authoritarianism remain latent in capitalist societies, this does not mean that they will surface in these societies, and it is against this emergence that Adorno's theoretical practice rebels. Given that the transition to a non-capitalist society is blocked, it would remain for now to seek specific improvements that either ease the suffering of the living, or preserve the possibility of some future solution (in a time of crisis, of social instability).

Even if the revolutionary option does not seem to be Adorno's choice, it is worth asking whether the Adorno reconstructed by Safatle would not be wrong, but still alive, more interesting for the situation we are in than the original.

What emerges in the collapse?

Safatle is fully aware that Adorno's era is not ours. The late Adornian work was written at the moment of agony of the affluent, well-being and stabilized society of advanced capitalism, and not the social management of neoliberal crises, with its vertiginous dismantling of all social security (not to mention that, at the time in which he published the negative dialectic, there was a concentration of 325 parts of carbon dioxide per million, in ours, of more than 415, which throws us irremediably, at least in the next millennium, in the field of crisis management, with the condemnation of all climatic regularity).

I fully share the diagnosis that Safatle points out, even if he does not explain it, that we live in a situation of collapse. But I don't think he takes it seriously enough. In fact, this has consequences for the horizon of criticism, for the limits of what is negotiable, what is possible, what is desirable.

Safatle bets on the emergency, but wouldn't it be a case of asking what is emerging?

With the melting of the polar ice caps and glaciers many things come to the surface: corpses of animals and people who spent decades frozen; methane gas reserves stored under the ice, etc. With the acidification of the oceans, all underwater life also begins to emerge, to come to the surface, to the same extent that islands immerse, sink under an ocean that rises. Whatever the form of future life (if any), post-capitalist, one must remember that it will be lived in a much more hostile, treacherous and unpredictable environment.

With the meltdown of liberal bourgeois democracies, equally fragrant things are coming to light. And here the ability of the most advanced artistic experiments to prefigure the time to come is to be noted: indeed, Hamm, Clov, Nag and Nell, the unlikable characters of

end of game, by Samuel Beckett, seem to have moved to the central highlands.

With the meltdown of capitalism, an even more hierarchical, unequal society has emerged, based even more on force than on law, more interested in exterminating its superfluous population than in exploiting its workforce.

Against this, there is no point rescuing the “let's be realistic, let's demand the impossible”, motto of the May 68 revolts that does not appear in Safatle's work, but serves as a summary of the intentions of his reconstruction of the dialectic. If, after all, it is a breakdown that is in question, we can very well skip the step, already seen so many times, of the would-be hero who, not knowing it was impossible, goes there and finds out, and go back to the step that really matters: that of making , in a masterful way, our sad chant, our mournful drama, the lament of our wanderings.

*Amaro de Oliveira Fleck He is a professor in the philosophy department at UFMG.

Article originally published in the magazine Basic from UFRN.

References:

Vladimir Safatle. Giving body to the impossible: the meaning of dialectics from Theodor Adorno. Belo Horizonte, Authentic, 2019 (https://amzn.to/3E0aysx).

Theodor W. Adorno. Negative Dialectic. Rio de Janeiro, Jorge Zahar, 2009 (https://amzn.to/45sNy16).

Theodor W. Adorno. Introduction to Sociology. São Paulo, Unesp, 2008 (https://amzn.to/3KMwfzY).

Theodor W. Adorno. Minima Moralia. Sao Paulo, Attica, 1992.

Theodor W. Adorno. “Marginalien zu Theorie und Praxis”. In: Gesammelte Schriften. Frankfurt am Main, Suhrkamp Verlag, 1986.

Amaro Fleck. "Resignation? Praxis and politics in Theodor W. Adorno's late critical theory”. In: Criterion, v. 58, no. 138, p. 467-490, 2017.

Georg WF Hegel. Encyclopedia of philosophical sciences. Vol. I – A

science of logic. São Paulo, Loyola: 1995.

Karl Marx. floorplans. Sao Paulo, Boitempo, 2011.

Principles: Philosophy Magazine, Natal, v. 26, no. 51, Sep-Dec. 2019, Christmas. ISSN1983-2109

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Cesar Ruiz Sanjuán. “The dialectic as a form of scientific exposition”. In:

Thought, v. 66, no. 249, p. 731-753, 2010.

Robert Schwarz. “About Adorno”. In: Martinha versus Lucrécia: essays and interviews. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2012 (https://amzn.to/3P3t1ut).

Foreword by Peter Dews

How should we connect the work of a great philosopher from the past to the present? Should we try our best to see his considerations through the lens of our own concerns or make his thinking relevant to what we take to be our contemporary situation? Or should we seek to enter a “world of thoughts” that may be, in many ways, far removed from our own – and that may have the power to wake us from our “dogmatic sleep”, to use the expression that Kant coined to reference David Hume?

Perhaps no other modern philosopher has posed this question as forcefully as Hegel. After all, the extraordinary ambition of Hegel's thought towards synthesis, as well as his claim that his work would represent the highest point in the history of Western metaphysics, both incorporating and surpassing the thought of his predecessors, makes this very work open to a bewildering multiplicity of interpretations.

Hegel can seem extraordinarily modern – indeed a contemporary of ours – when, for example, he demonstrates his concern to find a balance between individual freedom and the need for the political community to control the centrifugal and corrosive forces of the capitalist market; also in his effort to understand the fragile but indispensable status of modern art; or even in his attempt to reveal nature as something that is more than just an inert and alien opposite to human subjectivity.

At the same time, some aspects of Hegel's philosophy can make him seem hopelessly old-fashioned. This is how it is when we think of his defense of hereditary monarchy and his refusal to see, politically, beyond the limits of the national State; or in his conviction that religion plays an essential role in human self-knowledge and in his attempt to recover what would be the content of truths in what he considered the “perfect religion”, Christianity. If taken from the point of view of religious pluralism and lifestyles of multicultural societies, or even from the point of view of our theories about the globalized world, Hegel may seem, in fact, to belong to remote times.

After a long period of misunderstanding and neglect, a number of prominent English-speaking philosophers – Robert Pippin and Terry Pinkard in the United States, as well as Paul Redding in Australia – made a decisive effort, starting in the 1980s, to bring Hegel to the present, portraying him as a “naturalist” philosopher. However, the kind of philosophical framework they had in mind was not the “hard naturalism” of many contemporary analytic philosophers, those who are convinced of the unique ontological authority of the physical sciences, but rather a “soft naturalism” supposedly capable of accommodating itself the particular status of the social and historical world.

The origins of this “soft naturalism” can be found in Wittgenstein's late work, as well as in developments of certain aspects of Wittgensteinian thought by the Oxford philosopher PF Strawson. In the hands of thinkers like Pippin and Pinkard, however, at the heart of this soft naturalism was the notion of 'normativity'. It was saying that the uniqueness of the human sphere lay in the fact that our thinking, our cognition and our agency are all guided by rules and always need justification that specifically refers to them.

Such rules, in turn, can be understood as the crystallization of a social consensus that is always changing historically, and this consensus is essentially what Hegel called Mind/Spirit, or spirit. The advantage of this approach to Hegel, as its proponents claim, is that it portrays him as a “postmetaphysical” thinker, someone not committed to any dubious speculative claims about the essential nature of reality, but rather committed to explaining it. normative presuppositions implicit in human life and the human universe, as well as explaining the ways in which such presuppositions may conflict with one another. The Hegelian conception of the dialectic, from this perspective, emerges as a theory of the development of the collective self-interpretation of human beings, as it actually occurred throughout history.

However, numerous criticisms can be made of this approach. Some of them can be made explicit by taking into account the implications of the subtitle given by Terry Pinkard to his comment about The phenomenology of the spirit: “The sociality of reason”. For if reason itself is ultimately defined by the structures of historically existing forms of sociality, then we have no basis Racional to criticize them.

In addition, of course, Hegel had, in Philosophy of law, a very well defined conception of the types of institutions and practices necessary for the realization of modern freedom. In other words, even if we historically extend Hegel's "soft naturalist" interpretation, as Pippin and Pinkard seem to want to do, and argue that human understanding of freedom has evolved, still the very fact that we understand our current conception as, for example, , higher than that of the former polis Greek, does not provide us with any basis for assuming that it should be rationally endorsed.

Put another way, Hegel seems to be committed to a stronger conception of reason and also of rational evaluation than this “naturalistic” and historically biased interpretation of his philosophy could provide us. He is concerned with the “rationality of the social”, not just the sociality of reason. It is in this sense that Hegel argues, in the preface to his Philosophy of law, that our social experience of what “the law means requires […] that the content that is rational in itself can also gain a rational form and appear justified for free thinking. For such thinking does not stop at what is given, even if it is supported by the external positive authority of the State or by mutual agreement between human beings or by the authority of the inner feeling of the heart and the testimony of the immediately determining spirit, but emanates from itself. and it demands to know yourself as united in your deepest being with the truth.

In more recent years, there has indeed been a backlash against those metaphysically deflationary versions of Hegel that have been so influential in the English-speaking world and even in Hegel's homeland. A new style of interpretation, spearheaded by commentators such as James Kreines, is based on the central argument that Hegel seeks to avoid proposing a substratum or substance that grounds all of reality or any particular segment of it. The problem with this supposed ultimate substratum is the fact that it does not make any form of explanatory work possible. It has no way of taking into account the intrinsic nature of what it should ontologically support.

Indeed, Kreines maintains that: “The position of substrates, finally, does not rest on any real need to explain, but only on the presumption that reality corresponds to the form of the subject-predicate judgment. Hegel rejects this presumption, arguing that we must also reject it in order to be able to follow absolutely the completeness specifically of reasons.

But what does it mean to establish the completeness of reasons? Kreines states that Hegel's metaphysical proposal “is that […] existing beings are real to greater or lesser degrees, depending on how rational they are or how much they express the idea in question. This metaphysics fits well with the epistemological claim that the aim of reason in guiding theoretical inquiry is to explain things as fully as they themselves will allow, understanding them in comparison with the completeness of reason, which is ultimately achieved in the case of something rationalizable and therefore free.

However, its interpretation also has its difficulties. In an attempt to avoid Hegel being seen as a metaphysical monist, Kreines maintains that, for Hegel, reason is realized in the brute matter of the world, and therefore Hegel is committed only to an epistemological monism, a monism present in the claim that understanding why things are as they are involves locating them as expressions of the conceptual structure of the Idea, which, in turn, is not itself a substratum of any kind, but neither does it account for all contingent being.

However, as Frederick Beiser suggests, such an approach, which recognizes an irreducible element of contingency in what Hegel calls “external reality” (äusserliches To be there), introduces a distinction between form and content that, in principle, is alien to Hegel's way of thinking. More specifically, as Beiser argues, “a claim that demonstrated a priori the need of contingency itself resolve the dilemma it poses? [Hegel] shows that particularity and difference arise by necessity of the self-differentiation of absolute life. But the contingency eludes any simple explanation in these terms. Although the metaphor of life makes it possible to understand how the universal becomes particular and how one becomes multiple, it fails to explain how the necessary becomes contingent.”

Putting it in other terms, it seems that Kreines' interpretation only avoids “metaphysical monism” at the cost of suppressing the disturbing impact that contingency introduces into the Hegelian system, precisely because Hegel is conscious of your need. It is an impact that causes a break because it cannot be immediately located inside or outside the system.

This, we could say, is the guiding thread of Vladimir Safatle's narrative in this book, about the reconfiguration that Adorno proposes to the Hegelian dialectic. The marriage between Adorno and Hegel is so powerful and profound because it shows how Adorno does not try to "adapt" or "update" Hegel's thought in order to make it conform to the presumptions of late twentieth century philosophy. But, on the other hand, Adorno also does not ignore the tensions created by Hegel's theory in what he calls "the omnipotence of the concept" (die Allmacht des Begriffs), for example, when he transforms this all-power into a simply epistemological question. Adorno enters Hegel's thought so completely that he finds himself able to reveal his effort to mediate between the subjective and the objective, the rational and the contingent, the practical and the theoretical.

For this reason, as Safatle convincingly demonstrates, the conception of the Hegelian dialectic that Adorno thus brings to light cannot be condemned in the terms proposed by an anti-dialectical thinker like Gilles Deleuze, who articulated perhaps the most radical version of a critique of Hegel, with which many other French thinkers of the 1960s and 1970s share.

Deleuze maintains that Hegel's theory of contradiction is his way of overcoming, of “taming” difference. As he puts it, for Hegel, “[…] in the posed contradiction, difference finds its own concept, is determined as negativity, becomes pure, intrinsic, essential, qualitative, synthetic, productive, and does not allow indifference to subsist. ” Supporting, provoking the contradiction, is the selective test that “makes” the difference (between the effectively-real and the passing or contingent phenomenon).

Adorno, however, reverses this claim – and Safatle agrees with him on this point. The radical nature of Hegel's philosophy, for Adorno, consists in the fact that the "effectively real" (the actualized power of the concept) is all the time on the verge of collapsing towards the transitory and the contingent. So, it is impossible to leave aside the contingency, as Kreines' “epistemological monism” proposes to do, since the intrinsically rational and the contingent cannot be completely kept apart.

Hegel, at the beginning of science of logic, you can try sliding from “the indeterminate” (das Unbestimmte) to “the indeterminacy” (die Unbestimmtheit), but for Adorno this legerdemain conceptual, which dissolves that which is nameless and resistant to thought, does not convince. If we look closely, says Adorno, we can see that, in Hegel's dialectic, "the so-called synthesis is nothing more than the expression of the non-identity of thesis and antithesis."

By patiently exploring how Adorno immerses himself in Hegel's thought, and by focusing on the non-identity that is repeatedly revealed through his dialectical movement, Vladimir Safatle demonstrates in this book the full contemporary relevance and radicality of Hegel's philosophy. And he does this far more successfully than any other attempt to turn Hegel into a “postmetaphysical naturalist” or the exponent of an epistemologically oriented rationalist metaphysics.

*Peter Dews Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Essex.

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