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Continental Philosophy Review

, Volume 40, Issue 3, pp 275–306 | Cite as

Adorno vs. Levinas: Evaluating points of contention

  • Nick Smith
Article

Abstract

Although Adorno and Levinas share many arguments, I attempt to sharpen and evaluate their disagreements. Both held extreme and seemingly opposite views of art, with Adorno arguing that art presents modernity’s highest order of truth and Levinas denouncing it as shameful idolatry. Considering this striking difference brings to light fundamental substantive and methodological incompatibilities between them. Levinas’ assertion of the transcendence of the face should be understood as the most telling point of departure between his and Adorno’s critiques of instrumental reason. I attempt to explain why Levinas believed this move was justifiable and how Adorno would understand Levinas’ notion of illeity as a cultural byproduct and a form of dogmatism. Adorno’s historical and sociological account of the disenchantment of the world and the destruction of aura within a culture fully administered by scientific rationality and economic reductionism sharply contrasts to Levinas’ transcendental phenomenology, and I argue that Adorno’s thoroughgoing refusal to constrain dialectical reflection is ultimately more compelling.

Keywords

Instrumental Rationality Instrumental Reason Transcendental Phenomenology Frankfurt School Aesthetic Theory 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA

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