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Ontology of Hell: Reflections on Theodor W. Adorno's reception of Sören Kierkegaard
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Theology, Department of Theology, Studies in Faith and Ideologies, Systematic Theology and Studies in World Views.
2014 (English)In: Literature & Theology, ISSN 0269-1205, E-ISSN 1477-4623, Vol. 28, no 1, 45-62 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Theodor W. Adorno’s status as a literary theorist and aesthetic thinker is somewhat ambiguous. His pessimistic tenor is often held against his continued relevance. He has been scorned for his well-known dictum that the writing of poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric. And his devastating critique of Heidegger and existential philosophy is another thing that critics often bring up against him. The key to a more nuanced understanding of Adorno’s thought is his rigorous anti-idealism, focused especially on the Hegelian form of idealism. This was something that Adorno had in common with Kierkegaard, and in his early years he studied Kierkegaard closely. But his early work on Kierkegaard’s philosophy (Kierkegaard. The Construction of the Aesthetic) has not always been taken very seriously, neither within Adorno-scholarship, nor in Kierkegaard-scholarship. In this article, I try to show how Adorno’s eccentric reading of Kierkegaard has importance for the development of Adorno’s aesthetic philosophical alternative to the existential philosophies, which were in vogue in the thirties and forties. Kierkegaard was important for the existentialists, but they tried to cleanse him from theology. I therefore view the theological foundation of Kierkegaard’s thought as the key to Adorno’s distinction between Kierkegaard’s philosophy and later existentialisms. In the last instance, Adorno is very critical of Kierkegaard’s thought, but I argue that Adorno’s aesthetic thought nevertheless was shaped by the literary and theological profile of Kierkegaard’s thought.

If ontology were possible at all, it would be possible in an ironic sense, as the epitome of negativity.    Theodor W. Adorno

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014. Vol. 28, no 1, 45-62 p.
Keyword [en]
Adorno, Kierkegaard, Christianity, Existential Philosophy, Existentialism, Social Criticism, Frankfurt School
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Research subject
Systematic Theology and Studies in Worldviews
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-188753DOI: 10.1093/litthe/frs057ISI: 000339966400004OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-188753DiVA: diva2:578971
Available from: 2012-12-19 Created: 2012-12-19 Last updated: 2016-03-23

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