Archivos Mensuales: febrero 2010

Jean-Paul Sartre

First published Thu Apr 22, 2004

Sartre (1905-1980) is arguably the best known philosopher of the twentieth century. His indefatigable pursuit of philosophical reflection, literary creativity and, in the second half of his life, active political commitment gained him worldwide renown, if not an admiration. He is commonly considered the father of Existentialist philosophy, whose writings set the tone for intellectual life in the decade immediately following the Second World War. Among the many ironies that permeate his life, not the least is the immense popularity of his scandalous public lecture “Existentialism and Humanism,” delivered to an enthusiastic Parisian crowd October 28, 1945. Though taken as a quasi manifesto for the Existentialist movement, the transcript of this lecture was the only publication that Sartre openly regretted seeing in print. And yet it continues to be the major introduction to his philosophy for the general public. One of the reasons both for its popularity and for his discomfort is the clarity with which it exhibits the major tenets of existentialist thought while revealing Sartre’s attempt to broaden its social application in response to his Communist and Catholic critics. In other words, it offers us a glimpse of Sartre’s thought “on the wing.”

After surveying the evolution of Sartre’s philosophical thinking, I shall address his thought under five categories, namely, ontology, psychology, ethics, political commitment, and the relation between philosophy and the fine arts, especially literature, in his work. I shall conclude with several observations about the continued relevance of his thought in contemporary philosophy both Anglo-American and “Continental.”

1. Philosophical Development

Sartre was born in Paris where he spent most of his life. After a traditional philosophical education in prestigious Parisian schools that introduced him to the history of Western philosophy with a bias toward Cartesianism and neoKantianism, not to mention a strong strain of Bergsonism, Sartre succeeded his former school friend, Raymond Aron, at the French Institute in Berlin (1933-1934) where he read the leading phenomenologists of the day, Husserl, Heidegger and Scheler. He prized Husserl’s restatement of the principle of intentionality (all consciousness aims at or “intends” an other-then-consciousness) that seemed to free the thinker from the inside/outside epistemology inherited from Descartes while retaining the immediacy and certainty that Cartesians prized so highly. What he read of Heidegger at that time and how much is unclear, but he deals with the influential German ontologist explicitly after his return and especially in his masterwork, Being and Nothingness (1943). He exploits the latter’s version of Husserlian intentionality by insisting that human reality (Heidegger’s Dasein or human way of being) is “in the world” primarily via its practical concerns and not its epistemic relationships. This lends both Heidegger’s and Sartre’s early philosophies a kind of “pragmatist” character that Sartre, at least, will never abandon. It has been remarked that many of the Heideggerian concepts in Sartre’s existentialist writings also occur in those of Bergson, whose “Les Données immediates de la conscience” (Time and Free Will) Sartre once credited with drawing him toward philosophy. But it is clear that Sartre devoted much of his early philosophical attention to combating the then influential Bergsonism and that mention of Bergson’s name decreases as that of Heidegger grows in Sartre’s writings of the “vintage” existentialist years. Sartre seems to have read the phenomenological ethicist Max Scheler, whose concept of the intuitive grasp of paradigm cases is echoed in Sartre’s reference to the “image” of the kind of person one should be that both guides and is fashioned by our moral choices. But where Scheler in the best Husserlian fashion argues for the “discovery” of such value images, Sartre insists on their creation. The properly “existentialist” version of phenomenology is already in play.

Though Sartre was not a serious reader of Hegel or Marx until during and after the war, like so many of his generation, he came under the influence of Kojève’s Marxist and protoexistentialist interpretation of Hegel, though he never attended his famous lectures in the 1930s as did Lacan and Merleau-Ponty. It was Jean Hyppolite’s translation of and commentary on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit that marked Sartre’s closer study of the seminal German philosopher. This is especially evident in his posthumously published Notebooks for an Ethics written in 1947-48 to fulfill the promise of an “ethics of authenticity”made in Being and Nothingness. That project was subsequently abandoned but the Hegelian and Marxist presence became dominant in Sartre’s next major philosophical text, the Critique of Dialectical Reason (1960) and in an essay that came to serve as its Introduction, Search for a Method (1957). Dilthey had dreamt of completing Kant’s famous triad with a fourth Kritik, namely, a critique of historical reason. Sartre pursued this project by combining a Hegelian-Marxist dialectic with an Existentialist “psychoanalysis” that incorporates individual responsibility into class relationships, thereby adding a properly Existentialist dimension of moral responsibility to a Marxist emphasis on collective and structural causality-what Raymond Aron would later criticize as an impossible union of Kierkegaard and Marx. In the final analysis, Kierkegaard wins out; Sartre’s “Marxism” remains adjectival to his existentialism and not the reverse. This becomes apparent in the last phase of his work.

Sartre had long been fascinated with the French novelist Gustave Flaubert. In what some would consider the culmination of his thought, he weds Existentialist biography with Marxian social critique in a Hegelian “totalization” of an individual and his era, to produce the last of his many incompleted projects, a multi-volume study of Flaubert’s life and times, The Family Idiot (1971-1972). In this work, Sartre joins his Existentialist vocabulary of the 1940s and early ’50s with his Marxian lexicon of the late ’50s and ’60s to ask what we can know about a man in the present state of our knowledge. This study, which he describes as “a novel that is true,” incarnates that mixture of phenomenological description, psychological insight, and social critique that have become the hallmark of Sartrean philosophy. These features doubtless contributed to his being awarded the Nobel prize for literature, which he characteristically refused along with its substantial cash grant lest his acceptance be read as approval of the bourgeois values that the honor seemed to emblemize.

In his last years, Sartre, who had lost the use of one eye in childhood, became almost totally blind. Yet he continued to work with the help of a tape recorder, producing with Benny Lévy portions of a “co-authored” ethics, the published parts of which indicate that its value is more biographical than philosophical.

After his death, thousands spontaneously joined his funeral cortège in a memorable tribute to his respect and esteem among the public at large. As the headline of one Parisian newspaper lamented: “France has lost its conscience.”

2. Ontology

Like Husserl and Heidegger, Sartre distinguished ontology from metaphysics and favored the former. In his case, ontology is primarily descriptive and classificatory, whereas metaphysics purports to be causally explanatory, offering accounts about the ultimate origins and ends of individuals and of the universe as a whole. Unlike Heidegger, however, Sartre does not try to combat metaphysics as a deleterious undertaking. He simply notes in a Kantian manner that it raises questions we cannot answer. On the other hand, he subtitles Being and Nothingness a “Phenomenological Ontology.” Its descriptive method moves from the most abstract to the highly concrete. It begins by analyzing two distinct and irreducible categories or kinds of being: the in-itself (en-soi) and the for-itself (pour-soi), roughly the nonconscious and consciousness respectively, adding a third, the for-others (pour-autrui), later in the book, and concludes with a sketch of the practice of “existential psychoanalysis” that interprets our actions to uncover the fundamental project that unifies our lives.

Being-in-itself and being-for-itself have mutually exclusive characteristics and yet we (human reality) are entities that combine both, which is the ontological root of our ambiguity. The in-itself is solid, self-identical, passive and inert. It simply “is.” The for-itself is fluid, nonself-identical, and dynamic. It is the internal negation or “nihilation” of the in-itself, on which it depends. Viewed more concretely, this duality is cast as “facticity” and “transcendence.” The “givens” of our situation such as our language, our environment, our previous choices and our very selves in their function as in-itself constitute our facticity. As conscious individuals, we transcend (surpass) this facticity in what constitutes our “situation.” In other words, we are always beings “in situation,” but the precise mixture of transcendence and facticity that forms any situation remains indeterminable, at least while we are engaged in it. Hence Sartre concludes that we are always “more” than our situation and that this is the ontological foundation of our freedom. We are “condemned” to be free, in his hyperbolic phrase.

One can see why Sartre is often described as a Cartesian dualist but this is imprecise. Whatever dualism pervades his thought is one of spontaneity/inertia. His is not a “two substance” ontology like the thinking thing and the extended thing (mind and matter) of Descartes. Only the in-itself is conceivable as substance or “thing.” The for-itself is a no-thing, the internal negation of things. The principle of identity holds only for being-in-itself. The for-itself is an exception to this rule. Accordingly, time with all of its paradoxes is a function of the for-itself’s nihilating or “othering” the in-itself. The past is related to the future as in-itself to for-itself and as facticity to possibility, with the present, like “situation” in general, being an ambiguous mixture of both. This is Sartre’s version of Heidegger’s “Ekstatic temporality,” the qualitative “lived” time of our concerns and practices, the time that rushes by or hangs heavy on our hands, rather than the quantitative “clock” time that we share with physical nature.

The category or ontological principle of the for-others comes into play as soon as the other subject or Other appears on the scene. The Other cannot be deduced from the two previous principles but must be encountered. Sartre’s famous analysis of the shame one experiences at being discovered in an embarrassing situation is a phenomenological argument (what Husserl called an “eidetic reduction”) of our awareness of another as subject. It carries the immediacy and the certainty that philosophers demand of our perception of other “minds” without suffering the weakness of arguments from analogy commonly used by empiricists to defend such knowledge.

The roles of consciousness and the in-itself in his earlier work are assumed by “praxis” (human activity in its material context) and the “practico-inert” respectively in the Critique of Dialectical Reason. Praxis is dialectical in the Hegelian sense that it surpasses and subsumes its other, the practico-inert. The latter, like the in-itself, is inert but as “practico-” is the sedimentation of previous praxes. Thus speech acts would be examples of praxis but language would be practico-inert; social institutions are practico-inert but the actions they both foster and limit are praxes.

The Other in Being and Nothingness alienates or objectifies us (in this work Sartre seems to use these terms equivalently) and the third party is simply this Other writ large. The “us” is objectified by an Other and hence has the ontological status of being-in-itself but the collective subject or “we,” he insists, is simply a psychological experience. In the Critique another ontological form appears, the “mediating” third, that denotes the group member as such and yields a collective subject without reducing the respective agents to mere ciphers of some collective consciousness. In other words, Sartre accords an ontological primacy to individual praxis while recognizing its enrichment as group member of a praxis that sustains predicates such as command/obedience and right/duty that are properly its own. The concepts of praxis, practico-inert and mediating third form the basis of a social ontology that merits closer attention than the prolix Critique encourages.

3. Psychology

Sartre’s gifts of psychological description and analysis are widely recognized. What made him so successful a novelist and playwright contributed to the vivacity and force of his phenomenological “arguments” as well. His early studies of emotive and imaging consciousness in the late 1930s press the Husserlian principle of intentionality farther than their author seemed willing to go. For example, in The Psychology of Imagination (1940), Sartre argues that Husserl remains captive to the idealist principle of immanence (the object of consciousness lies within consciousness), despite his stated goal of combating idealism, when he seems to consider images as miniatures of the perceptual object reproduced or retained in the mind. On the contrary, Sartre argues, if one insists that all consciousness is intentional in nature, one must conclude that even so-called “images” are not objects “in the mind” but are ways of relating to items “in the world” in a properly imaginative manner, namely, by what he calls “derealizing”them or rendering them “present-absent.”

Similarly, our emotions are not “inner states” but are ways of relating to the world.; they too are “intentional.” In this case, emotive behavior involves physical changes and what he calls a quasi “magical” attempt to transform the world by changing ourselves. The person who gets “worked up” when failing to hit the golf ball or to open the jar lid, is, on Sartre’s reading, “intending” a world where physiological changes “conjure up” solutions in the problematic world. The person who literally “jumps for joy,” to cite another of his examples, is trying by a kind of incantation to possess a good “all at once” that can be realized only across a temporal spread. If emotion is a joke, he warns, it is a joke we believe in. These are all spontaneous, preflective relations. They are not the products of reflective decision. Yet insofar as they are even prereflectively conscious, we are responsible for them. And this raises the question of freedom, a necessary condition for ascribing responsibility and the heart of his philosophy.

The basis of Sartrean freedom is ontological: we are free because we are not a self (an in-itself) but a presence-to-self (the transcendence or “nihilation” of our self). This implies that we are “other” to our selves, that whatever we are or whatever others may ascribe to us, we are “in the manner of not being it,” that is, in the manner of being able to assume a perspective in its regard. This inner distance reflects not only the nonself-identity of the for-itself and the ekstatic temporality that it generates but forms the site of what Sartre calls “freedom as the definition of man.” To that freedom corresponds a coextensive responsibility. We are responsible for our “world” as the horizon of meaning in which we operate and thus for everything in it insofar as their meaning and value are assigned by virtue of our life-orienting fundamental “choice.” At this point the ontological and the psychological overlap while remaining distinct as occurs so often in phenomenology.

Such fundamental “choice” has been criticized as being criterionless and hence arbitrary. But it would be better to speak of it as criterion-consituting in the sense that it grounds the set of criteria on the basis of which our subsequent choices are made. It resembles what ethicist R. M. Hare calls “decisions of principle” (that establish the principles for subsequent decisions but are themselves unprincipled) and what Kierkegaard would describe as “conversion.” In fact, Sartre sometimes employed this term himself to denote a radical change in one’s basic project. It is this original sustaining “choice” that Existential psychoanalysis seeks to uncover.

Sartre’s use of intentionality is the backbone of his psychology. And his psychology is the key to his ontology that is being fashioned at this time. In fact, the concept of imaging consciousness as the locus of possibility, negativity and lack emerges as the model for consciousness in general (being-for-itself) in Being and Nothingness. That said, it would not be an exaggeration to describe Sartre as a philosopher of the imaginary, so important a role does imaging consciousness or its equivalent play in his work.

4. Ethics

Sartre was a moralist but scarcely a moralizer. His earliest studies, though phenomenological, underscored the freedom and by implication the responsibility of the agent of phenomenological method. Thus his first major work, Transcendence of the Ego, in addition to constituting an argument against the transcendental ego (the epistemological subject that cannot be an object) central to German idealism and Hussserlian phenomenology, introduces an ethical dimension into what was traditionally an epistemological project by asserting that this appeal to a transcendental ego conceals a conscious flight from freedom. The phenomenological reduction that constitutes the objects of consciousness as pure meanings or significations devoid of the existential claims that render them liable to skeptical doubt-such a reduction or “bracketing of the being question” carries a moral significance as well. The “authentic” subject, as Sartre will later explain in his Notebooks for an Ethics, will learn to live without an ego, whether transcendental or empirical, in the sense that the transcendental ego is superfluous and the empirical ego (of scientific psychology) is an object for consciousness when it reflects on itself. We are responsible for our egos as we are for any object of consciousness. Sartre’s subsequent works takes pains either to ascribe moral responsibility to agents individually or collectively or to set the ontological foundations for such ascriptions.

It is now common to distinguish three distinct ethical positions in Sartre’s writings. The first and best known, existentialist ethics is one of disalienation and authenticity. It assumes that we live in a society of oppression and exploitation. The former is primary and personal, the latter structural and impersonal. While he enters into extended polemics in various essays and journal articles of the late 1940s and ‘50s concerning the systematic explanation of people in capitalist and colonialist institutions, Sartre always sought a way to bring the responsibility home to individuals who could in principle be named. As Merleau-Ponty observed, Sartre stressed oppression over exploitation, individual moral responsibility over structural causation but without denying the importance of the latter. In fact, as his concept of freedom thickened from the ontological to the social and historical in the mid ‘40s, his appreciation of the influence of factical conditions in the exercise of freedom grew apace.

Sartre’s concept of authenticity, occasionally cited as the only existentialist “virtue,” is often criticized as denoting more a style than a content. Admittedly, it does seem compatible with a wide variety of life choices. Its foundation, again, is ontological-the basic ambiguity of human reality that “is what it is not” (that is, its future as possibility) and “is not what it is” (its past as facticity, including its ego or self, to which we have seen it is related via an internal negation). We could say that authenticity is fundamentally living this ontological truth of one’s situation, namely, that one is never identical with one’s current state but remains responsible sustaining it. Thus, the claim “that’s just the way I am” would constitute a form of self-deception or bad faith as would all forms of determinism, since both instances involve lying to oneself about the ontological fact of one’s nonself-coincidence and the flight from concomitant responsibility for “choosing” to remain that way.

Given the fundamental division of the human situation into facticity and transcendence, bad faith or inauthenticity can assume two principal forms: one that denies the freedom or transcendence component (“I can’t do anything about it”) and the other that ignores the factical dimension of every situation (“I can do anything by just wishing it”). The former is the more prevalent form of self deception but the latter is common to people who lack a sense of the real in their lives.

Sartre sometimes talks as if any choice could be authentic so long as it is lived with a clear awareness of its contingency and responsibility. But his considered opinion excludes choices that oppress or consciously exploit others. In other words, authenticity is not entirely style; there is a general content and that content is freedom. Thus the “authentic Nazi” is explicitly disqualified as being oxymoronic. Sartre’s thesis is that freedom is the implicit object of any choice, a claim he makes but does not adequately defend in his Humanism lecture.

Though critical of its bourgeois variety, Sartre does support an existentialist humanism the motto of which could well be his remark that “you can always make something out of what you’ve been made into.” In fact, his entire career could be summarized in these words that carry an ethical as well as a critical message. The first part of his professional life focused on the freedom of the existential individual (you can always make something out of…); the second concentrated on the socioeconomic and historical conditions which limited and modified that freedom (what you’ve been made into), once freedom ceased to be merely the definition of “man” and included the possibility of genuine options in concrete situations. That phase corresponded to Sartre’s political commitment and active involvement in public debates, always in search of the exploitative “systems” such as capitalism, colonialism and racism at work in society and the oppressive practices of individuals who sustained them. As he grew more cognizant of the social dimension of individual life, the political and the ethical tended to coalesce. In fact, he explicitly rejected “Machiavellianism.”

If Sartre’s first and best known ethics corresponds to the ontology of Being and Nothingness, his second, “dialectical” ethics builds on the philosophy of history developed in the Critique of Dialectical Reason. In a series of unpublished notes for lectures in the 1960s, some of which were never delivered, Sartre sketched a theory of ethics based on the concepts of human need and the ideal of “integral man” in contrast with its counter-concept, the “subhuman.”What this adds to his published ethics is a more specific content and a keener sense of the social conditions for living a properly human life.

Sartre’s third attempt at an ethics, which he called an ethics of the “we,” was undertaken in interview format with Benny Lévy toward the end of his life. It purports to question many of the main propositions of his ethics of authenticity, yet what has appeared in print chiefly elaborates claims already stated in his earlier works. But since the tapes on which these remarks were recorded are unavailable to the public and Sartre’s illness at the time they were made was serious, their authority as revisionary of his general philosophy remains doubtful. If ever released in its entirety, this text will constitute a serious hermeneutical challenge.

5. Politics

Sartre was not politically involved in the 1930s though his heart, as he said, “was on the left, like everyone’s.” The War years, occupation and resistance made the difference. He emerged committed to social reform and convinced that the writer had the obligation to address the social issues of the day. He founded the influential journal of opinion, Les Temps modernes, with his partner Simone de Beauvoir, as well as Merleau-Ponty, Raymond Aron and others. In the “Présentation” to the initial issue (October, 1945), he elaborated his idea of committed literature and insisted that failure to address political issues amounted to supporting the status quo. After a brief unsuccessful attempt to help organize a nonCommunist leftist political organization, he began his long love-hate relationship with the French Communist Party, which he never joined but which for years he considered the legitimate voice of the working class in France. This continued till the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956. Still, he continued to sympathize with the movement, if not the Party, for some time afterwards. He summarized his disillusionment in an essay “The Communists are afraid of Revolution,” following the “events of May,” 1968. By then he had moved toward the radical Left and what the French labeled “les Maos,” whom he likewise never joined but whose mixture of the ethical and the political attracted him.

Politically, Sartre tended toward what the French call “libertarian socialism,” which is a kind of anarchism. Ever distrustful of authority, which he considered “the Other in us,” his ideal was a society of voluntary eye-level relations that he called “the city of ends.” One caught a glimpse of this in his description of the forming group (le groupe en fusion) in the Critique. There each was “the same” as the others in terms of practical concern. Each suspended his or her personal interests for the sake of the common goal. No doubt these practices hardened into institutions and freedom was compromised once more in bureaucratic machinery. But that brief taste of genuine positive reciprocity was revelatory of what an authentic social existence could be.

Sartre came to recognize how the economic conditions the political in the sense that material scarcity, as both Ricardo an Marx insisted, determines our social relations. In Sartre’s reading, scarcity emerges as the source of structural and personal violence in human history as we know it. It follows that liberation from such violence will come only through the counter violence of revolution and the advent of a “socialism of abundance.”

What Sartre termed the “progressive/regressive method” for historical investigation is a hybrid of historical materialism and existentialist psychoanalysis. It respects the often decisive role of economic considerations in historical explanation (historical materialism) while insisting that “the men that History makes are not the men that make history”; in other words, he resists complete economic determinism by implicit appeal to his humanist motto: “You can always make something out of…”

Never one to avoid a battle, Sartre became embroiled in the Algerian War, generating deep hostility from the Right to the point that a bomb was detonated at the entrance to his apartment building by supporters of a French Algeria. Sartre’s political critique conveyed in a series of essays, interviews and plays, especially The Condemned of Altona, once more combined a sense of structural exploitation (in this case, the institution of colonialism and its attendant racism) with an expression of moral outrage at the oppression of the Muslim population and the torture of captives by the French military.

Mention of the play brings to mind the role of imaginative art in Sartre’s philosophical work. This piece, whose chief protagonist is Frantz “the butcher of Smolensk,” though ostensibly about the effect of Nazi atrocities at the Eastern front on a postwar industrialist family in Hamburg, is really addressing the question of collective guilt and the French suppression of the Algerian war for independence raging at that time. Sartre often turned to literary art to convey or even to work through philosophical thoughts that he had already or would later conceptualize in his essays and theoretical studies. Which brings us to the relation between imaginative literature and philosophy in his work.

6. Art and Philosophy

The strategy of “indirect communication” has been an instrument of “Existentialists” since Kierkegaard adopted the use of pseudonyms in his philosophical writings in the early nineteenth century. The point is to communicate a feeling and an attitude that the reader/spectator adopts in which certain existentialist themes such as anguish, responsibility or bad faith are suggested but not dictated as in a lecture. Asked why his plays were performed only in the bourgeois sections of the city, Sartre replied that no bourgeois could leave a performance of one of them without “thinking thoughts traitorous to his class.” The so-called aesthetic “suspension of disbelief” coupled with the tendency to identify with certain characters and to experience their plight vicariously conveys conviction rather than information. And this is what existentialism is chiefly about: challenging the individual to examine their life for intimations of bad faith and to heighten their sensitivity to oppression and exploitation in their world.

Sartre’s early work Nausea (1938) is the very model of a philosophical novel. Its protagonist, Roquentin, works through many of the major themes of Being and Nothingness that will appear five years later. It can be read as an extended meditation on the contingency of our existence and on the psychosomatic experience that captures that phenomenon. In his famous meditation on a tree root, Roquentin experiences the brute facticity of its existence and of his own: both are simply there, without justification, in excess (de trop). The physicality of this revelatory “sickly sweet” sensation should not be overlooked. Like the embarrassment felt before the Other’s gaze in the voyeur example cited earlier, our bodily intentionality (what he calls “the body as for-itself”) is revealing an ontological reality.

The case at hand is an artistic way of conveying what Sartre in Being and Nothingness will call “the phenomenon of being.” He agrees with the tradition that “being” or “to be” is not a concept. But if not that, how is it to be indexed? What does it mean “to be”? Sartre’s existential phenomenology appeals to certain kinds of experience such as nausea and joy to articulate the “transphenomenal” character of being. Pace Kant, “being” does not denote a realm behind the phenomena that the descriptive method analyzes. But neither is it the object of an “eidetic” reduction (the phenomenological method that would grasp it as an essence). Rather, being accompanies all phenomena as their existential dimension. But this dimension is revealed by certain experiences such as that of utter contingency like that of Roquentin. This is scarcely rationalism, but neither is it mysticism. Anyone can experience this contingency and, once brought to reflective awareness, can reflect on its implications. What this novel does imaginatively, Being and Nothingness, subtitled “A Phenomenological Ontology,” pursues conceptually, though with the aid of phenomenological “arguments,” as we have seen.

In a series of essays published as What is Literature? (1947), Sartre expounds his notion of “committed” literature, a turn in his thought first indicated in the inaugural issue of Les Temps modernes two years earlier. Though steeped in the polemics of the day, this continues to be a seminal text of criticism. It underscores what I have called the “pragmatist” dimension of Sartre’s thought: writing is a form of acting in the world; it produces effects for which the author must assume responsibility. Addressing the problem of “writing for our time,” Sartre underscores the harsh facts of oppression and exploitation that were not erased by the upheaval of world war. Ours remains “a society based on violence.” Accordingly, the author is responsible for addressing that violence with a counter-violence (for example, by his choice of topics to discuss) or sharing in it by his silence. Drawing a distinction between prose, which can be committed, and “poetry” (basically nonrepresentational art such as music and poetry properly speaking), which cannot-a distinction that will return to haunt him — Sartre proceeds to urge that the prose-writer reveal that man is a value to be invented each day and that “the questions he raises are always moral” (203). A clear rejection of “art for art’s sake,” Sartre insisted on the social responsibility of the artist and the intellectual in general.

The artwork, for Sartre, has always carried a special power: that of communicating among freedoms without alienation or objectification. In this sense, it has stood as an exception to the objectifying gaze of his vintage existentialist texts. That relation between artist and public via the work of art Sartre calls “gift-appeal.” In his The Psychology of Imagination, he speaks of the portrait “inviting” the viewer to realize its possibilities by regarding it aesthetically. By the time he gathers his thoughts in What is Literature? and Notebooks for an Ethics, the concept of writing as an act of generosity to which the reader responds in an act of “re-creation” that respects the mutuality of these freedoms-this model assumes political significance. And, in fact, it anticipates the “free alterity” of the group member as analyzed in the Critique. In other words, Sartre’s political and ethical values and concerns conjoin in the concept of committed literature.

Before concluding with a prognosis of Sartre’s philosophical relevance in the twenty-first century, let me note the several “biographies” that he produced of important literary figures in addition to his autobiography, Words. Each of these studies constitutes a kind of existential psychoanalysis. The subject’s literary production is submitted to a kind of “hermeneutic” in which the underlying life-project is uncovered. He begins to employ the progressive-regressive method in the late ‘50s whereby the historical and socioeconomic conditions of the subject are uncovered in a “regressive” argument from biographical and social facts to the conditions of their possibility followed by a “progressive” account of the subjects process of “personalization.” The most extensive, if not the most successful, of these “biographies” is his analysis of the life and times of Gustave Flaubert, The Family Idiot.

But these biographies, almost exclusively about literary men, are also object lessons in an “existentialist” theory of history. Their hallmark is an attempt to reconstruct the subject’s project as his manner of dialectically “totalizing” his epoch even as he is being totalized by it. While connecting impersonal historical phenomena in their dialectical necessity (for example, the unintended consequences ingredient in any historical account), these narratives are intent on conveying the subject’s sense of the anguish of decision and the pinch of the real. In effect, biography is an essential part of an existentialist approach to history and not a mere illustrative appendage.

7. Sartre in the Twenty-first Century

Foucault once dismissed Sartre testily as a man of the nineteenth century trying to think the twentieth. Presumably, he had more in mind than the fact that all of Sartre’s “biographies,” except his own, were of nineteenth-century figures. With his emphasis on consciousness, subjectivity, freedom, responsibility and the self, his commitment to Marxist categories and dialectical thinking, especially in the second part of his career, and his quasi Enlightenment humanism, Sartre seemed to personify everything that structuralists and poststructuralists like Foucault opposed. In effect, the enfant terrible of mid century France has become the “traditionalist”of the following generation. A classic example of philosophical parricide.

In fact, some of this criticism was misdirected while other portions exhibit a genuine philosophical “choice” about goals and methods. Though Sartre resolutely insisted on the primacy of “free organic praxis” methodologically, ontologically, and ethically, on which he based the freedom and responsibility that define his humanism, he respected what his critic Louis Althusser called “structural causality” and made allowance for it with his concept of the practico-inert. But it is the primacy awarded consciousness/praxis in this regard that strikes structuralist and poststructuralist critics as naive and simply wrong. Added to this is Sartre’s passion for “totalizing” thought, whether individually in terms of a life project or collectively in terms of dialectical rationality, that counters the fragmenting and anti-teleological claims of poststructuralist authors. And then there is his famous denial of the Freudian unconscious and his neglect of semiotics and the philosophy of language in general.

One should note that Sartre’s suspicion of Freudian psychoanalysis became quite nuanced in his later years. His appeal to “the lived” (le vécu) and to pre-theoretical comprehension, especially in his Flaubert study, for example, incorporated many features of the “unconscious” drives and relations proper to psychoanalytic discourse. And while he was familiar with Saussure and structural linguistics, to which he occasionally referred, he admitted that he had never formulated an explicit philosophy of language but insisted that one could be reconstructed from elements employed throughout his work.

But at least three features of Sartre’s thought seem particularly relevant to current discussions among philosophers both Anglo-American and Continental. The first is his concept of the human agent as not a self but a “presence to self.” This cracking opening of the Cartesian “thinking thing” supports a wide variety of alternative theories of the self while retaining the features of freedom and responsibility that, one can argue, have been central tenets of Western philosophy and law since the Greeks.

Emphasis on an ethics of responsibility in contrast to one of rules, principles or values in recent years that led to a wide-spread interest in the work of Levinas as a necessary complement to so-called “postmodern” ethics. But Sartrean “authenticity” is equally relevant in this regard, as Charles Taylor and others have pointed out. And its location within a mundane ontology may resonate better with philosophers of a more secular bent.

Finally, the recent revival of the understanding of philosophy as a “way of life” as distinct from an academic discipline focused on epistemology or more recently on the philosophy of language, while renewing an interest in Hellenistic ethics as well as in various forms of “spirituality,”can find in Sartrean existentialism forms of “care of the self” that are in fruitful conversation with contemporary ethics, aesthetics and politics without devolving into moralism, aestheticism or fanaticism. From a philosopher suspicious of moral recipes and focused on concrete, lived experience, this is perhaps as much as one could expect or want.



For a complete annotated bibliography of Sartre’s works see Michel Contat and Michel Rybalka (eds.), The Writings of Jean-Paul Sartre (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1973), updated in Magazine littéraire 103-4 (1975), pp. 9-49, and by Michel Sciard in Obliques, 18-19 (May 1979), pp. 331-47. Michel Rybalka and Michel Contat have complied an additional bibliography of primary and secondary sources published since Sartre’s death in Sartre: Bibliography, 1980-1992 (Bowling Green, OH: Philosophy Documentation Center; Paris: CNRS Editions, 1993).

Primary Sources

  • Sartre, J.-P.: 1962, Transcendence of the Ego, tr. Forrest Williams and Robert Kirkpatrick , New York: Noonday Press, [1936-37].
  • ——-, 1948, The Emotions. Outline of a Theory, tr. Bernard Frechtman, New York: Philosophical Library, [1939].
  • ——-, 1948, Being and Nothingness, tr. Hazel E. Barnes, New York: Philosophical Library, [1943].
  • ——-, 1948, Anti-Semite and Jew, tr. George J. Becker, New York: Schocken, [1946].
  • ——-, 1962, “Materialism and Revolution,” in Literary and Philosophical Essays, tr. Annette Michelson, New York: Crowell-Collier, [1946].
  • ——-, 1956, “Existentialism Is A Humanism,” in Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre, Cleveland, OH: World Publishing, Meridian Books, [1946].
  • ——-, 1988, What is Literature? And Other Essays, tr. Bernard Frechtman et al., intro. Steven Ungar, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, [title essay 1947, Les Temps modernes, and 1948, Situations II]
  • ——-, 1968, The Communists and Peace, with A Reply to Claude Lefort, tr. Martha H. Fletcher and Philip R. Berk respectively, New York: George Braziller, [1952].
  • ——-, 1968, Search for a Method, tr. Hazel E. Barnes, New York: Random House, Vintage Books, [1958].
  • ——-, 1959, Between Existentialism and Marxism, (essays and interviews, -70), tr. John Mathews, London: New Left Books, 1974.
  • ——-, 1976, Critique of Dialectical Reason, vol. 1, Theory of Practical Ensembles, tr. Alan Sheridan-Smith, London: New Left Books, [1960].
  • ——-, 1964, The Words, trans. Bernard Frechtman, New York: Braziller, [1964].
  • ——-, 1981-93, The Family Idiot, tr. Carol Cosman 5 vols., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, [1971-72].
  • ——-, 1976, Sartre on Theater, ed. Michel Contat and Michel Rybalka, New York: Pantheon.
  • ——-, 1977, Life/Situations: Essays Witten and Spoken, tr. P. Auster and L. Davis, New York: Pantheon.
  • ——-, 1996, Hope, Now: The 1989 Interviews tr. Adrian van den Hoven, intro. Ronald Aronson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, [1980].
  • ——-, 1992, Notebook for an Ethics, tr. David Pellauer, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, [1983].
  • ——-, 1984, The War Diaries, tr. Quentin Hoare,New York: Pantheon, [1983].
  • ——-, 1993, Quiet Moments in a War. The Letters of Jean-Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvoir, 1940-1963, ed.. Simone de Beauvoir, tr. and intro. Lee Fahnestock and Norman MacAfee. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, [1983].
  • ——-, 1991, Critique of Dialectical Reason, vol. 2, The Intelligibility of History, tr. Quintin Hoare, London: Verso, [1985 unfinished].
  • ——-, 1992, Truth and Existence, tr. Adrian van den Hoven, intro. Ronald Aronson. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, [1989].

Selected Secondary Sources

  • Anderson, Thomas C., 1993, Sartre’s Two Ethics: From Authenticity to Integral Humanity, Chicago: Open Court.
  • Aronson, Ronald, 1987, Sartre’s Second Critique,Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Barnes, Hazel E., 1981, Sartre and Flaubert, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Bell, Linda A., 1989, Sartre’s Ethics of Authenticity, Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press.
  • Busch, Thomas, 1990, The Power of Consciousness and the Force of Circumstances in Sartre’s Philosophy, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • Catalano, Joseph, 1980, A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • ——-, 1986, A Commentary on Jean-Paul Sartre’s Critique of Dialectical Reason, vol. 1 Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • de Beauvoir, Simone, 1964-1965, The Force of Circumstances, tr. Richard Howard, New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons.
  • ——-, 1984, Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre, tr. P. O’Brian, New York: Pantheon.
  • ——-, 1991, Letters to Sartre tr. and ed. Quentin Hoare, New York: Arcade.
  • Detmer, David, 1988, Freedom as a Value: A Critique of the Ethical Theory of Jean-Paul Sartre, La Salle, Ill.: Open Court.
  • Dobson, Andrew, 1993, Jean-Paul Sartre and the Politics of Reason, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Fell, Joseph P., 1979, Heidegger and Sartre: An Essay on Being and Place, New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Flynn, Thomas R., 1984, Sartre and Marxist Existentialism: The Test Case of Collective Responsibility, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • ——-, 1997, Sartre, Foucault and Historical Reason, vol. 1 Toward an Existentialist Theory of History, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Jeanson, Francis, 1981, Sartre and the Problem of Morality, tr. Robert Stone, Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • McBride, William Leon, 1991, Sartre’s Political Theory. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  • ——-, ed., 1997, Sartre and Existentialism, 8 vols. New York: Garland.
  • Santoni, Ronald E., 1995, Bad Faith, Good Faith and Authenticity in Sartre’s Early Philosophy, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • ——-, 2003, Sartre on Violence: Curiously Ambivalent, University Park, Penn.: Pennsylvania State University Press.
  • Schilpp, Paul Arthur, ed., 1981, The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, La Salle, Ill.: Open Court.
  • Schroeder, William, 1984, Sartre and His Predecessors (Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul.
  • Silverman, Hugh J., 1987, Inscriptions: Between Phenomenology and Structuralism, London: Routledge.
  • Stone, Robert and Elizabeth Bowman, 1986, “Dialectical Ethics: A First Look at Sartre’s unpublished 1964 Rome Lecture Notes,” Social Text nos. 13-14 (Winter-Spring, 1986), 195-215.
  • ——-, 1991, “Sartre’s ‘Morality and History’: A First Look at the Notes for the unpublished 1965 Cornell Lectures” in Sartre Alive, ed. Ronald Aronson and Adrian van den Hoven, Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 53-82.
  • Taylor, Charles, 1991, The Ethics of Authenticity, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.


[1] De la página:


The Princeton Companion to Mathematics
Edited by Timothy Gowers
June Barrow-Green and Imre Leader, associate editors

Honorable Mention for the 2008 PROSE Award for Professional and Scholarly Excellence for Single Volume Reference/Science, Association of American Publishers
One of CHOICE Magazine’s Outstanding Academic Titles, 2009

An essential reference for every mathematician

This is a one-of-a-kind reference for anyone with a serious interest in mathematics. Edited by Timothy Gowers, a recipient of the Fields Medal, it presents nearly two hundred entries, written especially for this book by some of the world’s leading mathematicians, that introduce basic mathematical tools and vocabulary; trace the development of modern mathematics; explain essential terms and concepts; examine core ideas in major areas of mathematics; describe the achievements of scores of famous mathematicians; explore the impact of mathematics on other disciplines such as biology, finance, and music–and much, much more.

Unparalleled in its depth of coverage, The Princeton Companion to Mathematics surveys the most active and exciting branches of pure mathematics, providing the context and broad perspective that are vital at a time of increasing specialization in the field. Packed with information and presented in an accessible style, this is an indispensable resource for undergraduate and graduate students in mathematics as well as for researchers and scholars seeking to understand areas outside their specialties.

  • Features nearly 200 entries, organized thematically and written by an international team of distinguished contributors
  • Presents major ideas and branches of pure mathematics in a clear, accessible style
  • Defines and explains important mathematical concepts, methods, theorems, and open problems
  • Introduces the language of mathematics and the goals of mathematical research
  • Covers number theory, algebra, analysis, geometry, logic, probability, and more
  • Traces the history and development of modern mathematics
  • Profiles more than ninety-five mathematicians who influenced those working today
  • Explores the influence of mathematics on other disciplines
  • Includes bibliographies, cross-references, and a comprehensive index

Contributors incude:

Graham Allan, Noga Alon, George Andrews, Tom Archibald, Sir Michael Atiyah, David Aubin, Joan Bagaria, Keith Ball, June Barrow-Green, Alan Beardon, David D. Ben-Zvi, Vitaly Bergelson, Nicholas Bingham, Béla Bollobás, Henk Bos, Bodil Branner, Martin R. Bridson, John P. Burgess, Kevin Buzzard, Peter J. Cameron, Jean-Luc Chabert, Eugenia Cheng, Clifford C. Cocks, Alain Connes, Leo Corry, Wolfgang Coy, Tony Crilly, Serafina Cuomo, Mihalis Dafermos, Partha Dasgupta, Ingrid Daubechies, Joseph W. Dauben, John W. Dawson Jr., Francois de Gandt, Persi Diaconis, Jordan S. Ellenberg, Lawrence C. Evans, Florence Fasanelli, Anita Burdman Feferman, Solomon Feferman, Charles Fefferman, Della Fenster, José Ferreirós, David Fisher, Terry Gannon, A. Gardiner, Charles C. Gillispie, Oded Goldreich, Catherine Goldstein, Fernando Q. Gouvêa, Timothy Gowers, Andrew Granville, Ivor Grattan-Guinness, Jeremy Gray, Ben Green, Ian Grojnowski, Niccolò Guicciardini, Michael Harris, Ulf Hashagen, Nigel Higson, Andrew Hodges, F. E. A. Johnson, Mark Joshi, Kiran S. Kedlaya, Frank Kelly, Sergiu Klainerman, Jon Kleinberg, Israel Kleiner, Jacek Klinowski, Eberhard Knobloch, János Kollár, T. W. Körner, Michael Krivelevich, Peter D. Lax, Imre Leader, Jean-François Le Gall, W. B. R. Lickorish, Martin W. Liebeck, Jesper Lützen, Des MacHale, Alan L. Mackay, Shahn Majid, Lech Maligranda, David Marker, Jean Mawhin, Barry Mazur, Dusa McDuff, Colin McLarty, Bojan Mohar, Peter M. Neumann, Catherine Nolan, James Norris, Brian Osserman, Richard S. Palais, Marco Panza, Karen Hunger Parshall, Gabriel P. Paternain, Jeanne Peiffer, Carl Pomerance, Helmut Pulte, Bruce Reed, Michael C. Reed, Adrian Rice, Eleanor Robson, Igor Rodnianski, John Roe, Mark Ronan, Edward Sandifer, Tilman Sauer, Norbert Schappacher, Andrzej Schinzel, Erhard Scholz, Reinhard Siegmund-Schultze, Gordon Slade, David J. Spiegelhalter, Jacqueline Stedall, Arild Stubhaug, Madhu Sudan, Terence Tao, Jamie Tappenden, C. H. Taubes, Rüdiger Thiele, Burt Totaro, Lloyd N. Trefethen, Dirk van Dalen, Richard Weber, Dominic Welsh, Avi Wigderson, Herbert Wilf, David Wilkins, B. Yandell, Eric Zaslow, Doron Zeilberger

Timothy Gowers is the Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics at the University of Cambridge. He received the Fields Medal in 1998, and is the author of Mathematics: A Very Short Introduction. June Barrow-Green is lecturer in the history of mathematics at the Open University. Imre Leader is professor of pure mathematics at the University of Cambridge.


The Princeton Companion to Mathematics makes a heroic attempt to keep [abstract concepts] to a minimum . . . and conveys the breadth, depth and diversity of mathematics. It is impressive and well written and it’s good value for [the] money.”–Ian Stewart, The Times

“This is a panoramic view of modern mathematics. It is tough going in some places, but much of it is surprisingly accessible. A must for budding number-crunchers.”–The Economist (Best Books of 2008)

“Although the editors’ original goal of text that could be understood by anyone with a good background in high school mathematics provided short-lived, this wide-ranging account should reward undergraduate and graduate students and anyone curious about math as well as help research mathematicians understand the work of their colleagues in other specialties. The editors note some advantages a carefully organized printed reference may enjoy over a collection of Web pages, and this impressive volume supports their claim.”–Science

“This impressive book represents an extremely ambitious and, I might add, highly successful attempt by Timothy Gowers and his coeditors, June Barrow-Green and Imre Leader, to give a current account of the subject of mathematics. It has something for nearly everyone, from beginning students of mathematics who would like to get some sense of what the subject is all about, all the way to professional mathematicians who would like to get a better idea of what their colleagues are doing. . . . If I had to choose just one book in the world to give an interested reader some idea of the scope, goals and achievements of modern mathematics, without a doubt this would be the one. So try it. I guarantee you’ll like it!”–American Scientist


Preface ix
Contributors xvii

Part I Introduction
I.1 What Is Mathematics About? 1
I.2 The Language and Grammar of Mathematics 8
I.3 Some Fundamental Mathematical Definitions 16
I.4 The General Goals of Mathematical Research 48

Part II The Origins of Modern Mathematics
II.1 From Numbers to Number Systems 77
II.2 Geometry 83
II.3 The Development of Abstract Algebra 95
II.4 Algorithms 106
II.5 The Development of Rigor in Mathematical Analysis 117
II.6 The Development of the Idea of Proof 129
II.7 The Crisis in the Foundations of Mathematics 142

Part III Mathematical Concepts
III.1 The Axiom of Choice 157
III.2 The Axiom of Determinacy 159
III.3 Bayesian Analysis 159
III.4 Braid Groups 160
III.5 Buildings 161
III.6 Calabi-Yau Manifolds 163
III.7 Cardinals 165
III.8 Categories 165
III.9 Compactness and Compactification 167
III.10 Computational Complexity Classes 169
III.11 Countable and Uncountable Sets 170
III.12 C*-Algebras 172
III.13 Curvature 172
III.14 Designs 172
III.15 Determinants 174
III.16 Differential Forms and Integration 175
III.17 Dimension 180
III.18 Distributions 184
III.19 Duality 187
III.20 Dynamical Systems and Chaos 190
III.21 Elliptic Curves 190
III.22 The Euclidean Algorithm and Continued Fractions 191
III.23 The Euler and Navier-Stokes Equations 193
III.24 Expanders 196
III.25 The Exponential and Logarithmic Functions 199
III.26 The Fast Fourier Transform 202
III.27 The Fourier Transform 204
III.28 Fuchsian Groups 208
III.29 Function Spaces 210
III.30 Galois Groups 213
III.31 The Gamma Function 213
III.32 Generating Functions 214
III.33 Genus 215
III.34 Graphs 215
III.35 Hamiltonians 215
III.36 The Heat Equation 216
III.37 Hilbert Spaces 219
III.38 Homology and Cohomology 221
III.39 Homotopy Groups 221
III.40 The Ideal Class Group 221
III.41 Irrational and Transcendental Numbers 222
III.42 The Ising Model 223
III.43 Jordan Normal Form 223
III.44 Knot Polynomials 225
III.45 K-Theory 227
III.46 The Leech Lattice 227
III.47 L-Functions 228
III.48 Lie Theory 229
III.49 Linear and Nonlinear Waves and Solitons 234
III.50 Linear Operators and Their Properties 239
III.51 Local and Global in Number Theory 241
III.52 The Mandelbrot Set 244
III.53 Manifolds 244
III.54 Matroids 244
III.55 Measures 246
III.56 Metric Spaces 247
III.57 Models of Set Theory 248
III.58 Modular Arithmetic 249
III.59 Modular Forms 250
III.60 Moduli Spaces 252
III.61 The Monster Group 252
III.62 Normed Spaces and Banach Spaces 252
III.63 Number Fields 254
III.64 Optimization and Lagrange Multipliers 255
III.65 Orbifolds 257
III.66 Ordinals 258
III.67 The Peano Axioms 258
III.68 Permutation Groups 259
III.69 Phase Transitions 261
III.70 p 261
III.71 Probability Distributions 263
III.72 Projective Space 267
III.73 Quadratic Forms 267
III.74 Quantum Computation 269
III.75 Quantum Groups 272
III.76 Quaternions, Octonions, and Normed Division Algebras 275
III.77 Representations 279
III.78 Ricci Flow 279
III.79 Riemann Surfaces 282
III.80 The Riemann Zeta Function 283
III.81 Rings, Ideals, and Modules 284
III.82 Schemes 285
III.83 The Schrödinger Equation 285
III.84 The Simplex Algorithm 288
III.85 Special Functions 290
III.86 The Spectrum 294
III.87 Spherical Harmonics 295
III.88 Symplectic Manifolds 297
III.89 Tensor Products 301
III.90 Topological Spaces 301
III.91 Transforms 303
III.92 Trigonometric Functions 307
III.93 Universal Covers 309
III.94 Variational Methods 310
III.95 Varieties 313
III.96 Vector Bundles 313
III.97 Von Neumann Algebras 313
III.98 Wavelets 313
III.99 The Zermelo-Fraenkel Axioms 314

Part IV Branches of Mathematics
IV.1 Algebraic Numbers 315
IV.2 Analytic Number Theory 332
IV.3 Computational Number Theory 348
IV.4 Algebraic Geometry 363
IV.5 Arithmetic Geometry 372
IV.6 Algebraic Topology 383
IV.7 Differential Topology 396
IV.8 Moduli Spaces 408
IV.9 Representation Theory 419
IV.10 Geometric and Combinatorial Group Theory 431
IV.11 Harmonic Analysis 448
IV.12 Partial Differential Equations 455
IV.13 General Relativity and the Einstein Equations 483
IV.14 Dynamics 493
IV.15 Operator Algebras 510
IV.16 Mirror Symmetry 523
IV.17 Vertex Operator Algebras 539
IV.18 Enumerative and Algebraic Combinatorics 550
IV.19 Extremal and Probabilistic Combinatorics 562
IV.20 Computational Complexity 575
IV.21 Numerical Analysis 604
IV.22 Set Theory 615
IV.23 Logic and Model Theory 635
IV.24 Stochastic Processes 647
IV.25 Probabilistic Models of Critical Phenomena 657
IV.26 High-Dimensional Geometry and Its Probabilistic Analogues 670

Part V Theorems and Problems
V.1 The ABC Conjecture 681
V.2 The Atiyah-Singer Index Theorem 681
V.3 The Banach-Tarski Paradox 684
V.4 The Birch-Swinnerton-Dyer Conjecture 685
V.5 Carleson’s Theorem 686
V.6 The Central Limit Theorem 687
V.7 The Classification of Finite Simple Groups 687
V.8 Dirichlet’s Theorem 689
V.9 Ergodic Theorems 689
V.10 Fermat’s Last Theorem 691
V.11 Fixed Point Theorems 693
V.12 The Four-Color Theorem 696
V.13 The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra 698
V.14 The Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic 699
V.15 Gödel’s Theorem 700
V.16 Gromov’s Polynomial-Growth Theorem 702
V.17 Hilbert’s Nullstellensatz 703
V.18 The Independence of the Continuum Hypothesis 703
V.19 Inequalities 703
V.20 The Insolubility of the Halting Problem 706
V.21 The Insolubility of the Quintic 708
V.22 Liouville’s Theorem and Roth’s Theorem 710
V.23 Mostow’s Strong Rigidity Theorem 711
V.24 The P versus NP Problem 713
V.25 The Poincaré Conjecture 714
V.26 The Prime Number Theorem and the Riemann Hypothesis 714
V.27 Problems and Results in Additive Number Theory 715
V.28 From Quadratic Reciprocity to Class Field Theory 718
V.29 Rational Points on Curves and the Mordell Conjecture 720
V.30 The Resolution of Singularities 722
V.31 The Riemann-Roch Theorem 723
V.32 The Robertson-Seymour Theorem 725
V.33 The Three-Body Problem 726
V.34 The Uniformization Theorem 728
V.35 The Weil Conjectures 729

Part VI Mathematicians
VI.1 Pythagoras (ca. 569 B.C.E.-ca. 494 B.C.E.) 733
VI.2 Euclid (ca. 325 B.C.E.-ca. 265 B.C.E.) 734
VI.3 Archimedes (ca. 287 B.C.E.-212 B.C.E.) 734
VI.4 Apollonius (ca. 262 B.C.E.-ca. 190 B.C.E.) 735
VI.5 Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi (800-847) 736
VI.6 Leonardo of Pisa (known as Fibonacci) (ca. 1170-ca. 1250) 737
VI.7 Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576) 737
VI.8 Rafael Bombelli (1526-after 1572) 737
VI.9 François Viète (1540-1603) 737
VI.10 Simon Stevin (1548-1620) 738
VI.11 René Descartes (1596-1650) 739
VI.12 Pierre Fermat (160?-1665) 740
VI.13 Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) 741
VI.14 Isaac Newton (1642-1727) 742
VI.15 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716) 743
VI.16 Brook Taylor (1685-1731) 745
VI.17 Christian Goldbach (1690-1764) 745
VI.18 The Bernoullis (fl. 18th century) 745
VI.19 Leonhard Euler (1707-1783) 747
VI.20 Jean Le Rond d’Alembert (1717-1783) 749
VI.21 Edward Waring (ca. 1735-1798) 750
VI.22 Joseph Louis Lagrange (1736-1813) 751
VI.23 Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827) 752
VI.24 Adrien-Marie Legendre (1752-1833) 754
VI.25 Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier (1768-1830) 755
VI.26 Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777-1855) 755
VI.27 Siméon-Denis Poisson (1781-1840) 757
VI.28 Bernard Bolzano (1781-1848) 757
VI.29 Augustin-Louis Cauchy (1789-1857) 758
VI.30 August Ferdinand Möbius (1790-1868) 759
VI.31 Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevskii (1792-1856) 759
VI.32 George Green (1793-1841) 760
VI.33 Niels Henrik Abel (1802-1829) 760
VI.34 János Bolyai (1802-1860) 762
VI.35 Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi (1804-1851) 762
VI.36 Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet (1805-1859) 764
VI.37 William Rowan Hamilton (1805-1865) 765
VI.38 Augustus De Morgan (1806-1871) 765
VI.39 Joseph Liouville (1809-1882) 766
VI.40 Eduard Kummer (1810-1893) 767
VI.41 Évariste Galois (1811-1832) 767
VI.42 James Joseph Sylvester (1814-1897) 768
VI.43 George Boole (1815-1864) 769
VI.44 Karl Weierstrass (1815-1897) 770
VI.45 Pafnuty Chebyshev (1821-1894) 771
VI.46 Arthur Cayley (1821-1895) 772
VI.47 Charles Hermite (1822-1901) 773
VI.48 Leopold Kronecker (1823-1891) 773
VI.49 Georg Friedrich Bernhard Riemann (1826-1866) 774
VI.50 Julius Wilhelm Richard Dedekind (1831-1916) 776
VI.51 Émile Léonard Mathieu (1835-1890) 776
VI.52 Camille Jordan (1838-1922) 777
VI.53 Sophus Lie (1842-1899) 777
VI.54 Georg Cantor (1845-1918) 778
VI.55 William Kingdon Clifford (1845-1879) 780
VI.56 Gottlob Frege (1848-1925) 780
VI.57 Christian Felix Klein (1849-1925) 782
VI.58 Ferdinand Georg Frobenius (1849-1917) 783
VI.59 Sofya (Sonya) Kovalevskaya (1850-1891) 784
VI.60 William Burnside (1852-1927) 785
VI.61 Jules Henri Poincaré (1854-1912) 785 [Illustration credit: Portrait courtesy of Henri Poincaré Archives (CNRS,UMR 7117, Nancy)]
VI.62 Giuseppe Peano (1858-1932) 787
VI.63 David Hilbert (1862-1943) 788
VI.64 Hermann Minkowski (1864-1909) 789
VI.65 Jacques Hadamard (1865-1963) 790
VI.66 Ivar Fredholm (1866-1927) 791
VI.67 Charles-Jean de la Vallée Poussin (1866-1962) 792
VI.68 Felix Hausdorff (1868-1942) 792
VI.69 Élie Joseph Cartan (1869-1951) 794
VI.70 Emile Borel (1871-1956) 795
VI.71 Bertrand Arthur William Russell (1872-1970) 795
VI.72 Henri Lebesgue (1875-1941) 796
VI.73 Godfrey Harold Hardy (1877-1947) 797
VI.74 Frigyes (Frédéric) Riesz (1880-1956) 798
VI.75 Luitzen Egbertus Jan Brouwer (1881-1966) 799
VI.76 Emmy Noether (1882-1935) 800
VI.77 Wac?aw Sierpinski (1882-1969) 801
VI.78 George Birkhoff (1884-1944) 802
VI.79 John Edensor Littlewood (1885-1977) 803
VI.80 Hermann Weyl (1885-1955) 805
VI.81 Thoralf Skolem (1887-1963) 806
VI.82 Srinivasa Ramanujan (1887-1920) 807
VI.83 Richard Courant (1888-1972) 808
VI.84 Stefan Banach (1892-1945) 809
VI.85 Norbert Wiener (1894-1964) 811
VI.86 Emil Artin (1898-1962) 812
VI.87 Alfred Tarski (1901-1983) 813
VI.88 Andrei Nikolaevich Kolmogorov (1903-1987) 814
VI.89 Alonzo Church (1903-1995) 816
VI.90 William Vallance Douglas Hodge (1903-1975) 816
VI.91 John von Neumann (1903-1957) 817
VI.92 Kurt Gödel (1906-1978) 819
VI.93 André Weil (1906-1998) 819
VI.94 Alan Turing (1912-1954) 821
VI.95 Abraham Robinson (1918-1974) 822
VI.96 Nicolas Bourbaki (1935-) 823

Part VII The Influence of Mathematics
VII.1 Mathematics and Chemistry 827
VII.2 Mathematical Biology 837
VII.3 Wavelets and Applications 848
VII.4 The Mathematics of Traffic in Networks 862
VII.5 The Mathematics of Algorithm Design 871
VII.6 Reliable Transmission of Information 878
VII.7 Mathematics and Cryptography 887
VII.8 Mathematics and Economic Reasoning 895
VII.9 The Mathematics of Money 910
VII.10 Mathematical Statistics 916
VII.11 Mathematics and Medical Statistics 921
VII.12 Analysis, Mathematical and Philosophical 928
VII.13 Mathematics and Music 935
VII.14 Mathematics and Art 944

Part VIII Final Perspectives
VIII.1 The Art of Problem Solving 955
VIII.2 “Why Mathematics?” You Might Ask 966
VIII.3 The Ubiquity of Mathematics 977
VIII.4 Numeracy 983
VIII.5 Mathematics: An Experimental Science 991
VIII.6 Advice to a Young Mathematician 1000
VIII.7 A Chronology of Mathematical Events 1010

Index 1015


Theodor W. Adorno

First published Mon May 5, 2003; substantive revision Fri Aug 3, 2007

Theodor W. Adorno was one of the most important philosophers and social critics in Germany after World War II. Although less well known among anglophone philosophers than his contemporary Hans-Georg Gadamer, Adorno had even greater influence on scholars and intellectuals in postwar Germany. In the 1960s he was the most prominent challenger to both Sir Karl Popper’s philosophy of science and Martin Heidegger’s philosophy of existence. Jürgen Habermas, Germany’s foremost social philosopher after 1970, was Adorno’s student and assistant. The scope of Adorno’s influence stems from the interdisciplinary character of his research and of the Frankfurt School to which he belonged. It also stems from the thoroughness with which he examined Western philosophical traditions, especially from Kant onward, and the radicalness to his critique of contemporary Western society. He was a seminal social philosopher and a leading member of the first generation of Critical Theory.

Unreliable translations have hampered the reception of Adorno’s published work in English speaking countries. Since the 1990s, however, better translations have appeared, along with newly translated lectures and other posthumous works that are still being published. These materials not only facilitate an emerging assessment of his work in epistemology and ethics but also strengthen an already advanced reception of his work in aesthetics and cultural theory.

1. Biographical Sketch

Born on September 11, 1903 as Theodor Ludwig Wiesengrund, Adorno lived in Frankfurt am Main for the first three decades of his life and the last two (Claussen 2003, Müller-Doohm 2005). He was the only son of a wealthy German wine merchant of assimilated Jewish background and an accomplished musician of Corsican Catholic descent. Adorno studied philosophy with the neo-Kantian Hans Cornelius and music composition with Alban Berg. He completed his Habilitationsschrift on Kierkegaard’s aesthetics in 1931, under the supervision of the Christian socialist Paul Tillich. After just two years as a university instructor (Privatdozent), he was expelled by the Nazis, along with other professors of Jewish heritage or on the political left. A few years later he turned his father’s surname into a middle initial and adopted “Adorno,” the maternal surname by which he is best known.

Adorno left Germany in the spring of 1934. During the Nazi era he resided in Oxford, New York City, and southern California. There he wrote several books for which he later became famous, including Dialectic of Enlightenment (with Max Horkheimer), Philosophy of New Music, The Authoritarian Personality (a collaborative project), and Minima Moralia. From these years come his provocative critiques of mass culture and the culture industry. Returning to Frankfurt in 1949 to take up a position in the philosophy department, Adorno quickly established himself as a leading German intellectual and a central figure in the Institute of Social Research. Founded as a free-standing center for Marxist scholarship in 1923, the Institute had been led by Max Horkheimer since 1930. It provided the hub to what has come to be known as the Frankfurt School. Adorno became the Institute’s director in 1958. From the 1950s stem In Search of Wagner, Adorno’s ideology-critique of the Nazi’s favorite composer; Prisms, a collection of social and cultural studies; Against Epistemology, an antifoundationalist critique of Husserlian phenomenology; and the first volume of Notes to Literature, a collection of essays in literary criticism.

Conflict and consolidation marked the last decade of Adorno’s life. A leading figure in the “positivism dispute” in German sociology, Adorno was a key player in debates about restructuring German universities and a lightning rod for both student activists and their right-wing critics. These controversies did not prevent him from publishing numerous volumes of music criticism, two more volumes of Notes to Literature, books on Hegel and on existential philosophy, and collected essays in sociology and in aesthetics. Negative Dialectics, Adorno’s magnum opus on epistemology and metaphysics, appeared in 1966. Aesthetic Theory, the other magnum opus on which he had worked throughout the 1960s, appeared posthumously in 1970. He died of a heart attack on August 6, 1969, one month shy of his sixty-sixth birthday.

2. Dialectic of Enlightenment

Long before “postmodernism” became fashionable, Adorno and Horkheimer wrote one of the most searching critiques of modernity to have emerged among progressive European intellectuals. Dialectic of Enlightenment is a product of their wartime exile. It first appeared as a mimeograph titled Philosophical Fragments in 1944. This title became the subtitle when the book was published in 1947. Their book opens with a grim assessment of the modern West: “Enlightenment, understood in the widest sense as the advance of thought, has always aimed at liberating human beings from fear and installing them as masters. Yet the wholly enlightened earth radiates under the sign of disaster triumphant” (DE 1, translation modified). How can this be, the authors ask. How can the progress of modern science and medicine and industry promise to liberate people from ignorance, disease, and brutal, mind-numbing work, yet help create a world where people willingly swallow fascist ideology, knowingly practice deliberate genocide, and energetically develop lethal weapons of mass destruction? Reason, they answer, has become irrational.

Although they cite Francis Bacon as a leading spokesman for an instrumentalized reason that becomes irrational, Horkheimer and Adorno do not think that modern science and scientism are the sole culprits. The tendency of rational progress to become irrational regress arises much earlier. Indeed, they cite both the Hebrew scriptures and Greek philosophers as contributing to regressive tendencies. If Horkheimer and Adorno are right, then a critique of modernity must also be a critique of premodernity, and a turn toward the postmodern cannot simply be a return to the premodern. Otherwise the failures of modernity will continue in a new guise under postmodern conditions. Society as a whole needs to be transformed.

Horkheimer and Adorno believe that society and culture form a historical totality, such that the pursuit of freedom in society is inseparable from the pursuit of enlightenment in culture (DE xvi). There is a flip side to this: a lack or loss of freedom in society—in the political, economic, and legal structures within which we live—signals a concomitant failure in cultural enlightenment—in philosophy, the arts, religion, and the like. The Nazi death camps are not an aberration, nor are mindless studio movies innocent entertainment. Both indicate that something fundamental has gone wrong in the modern West.

According to Horkheimer and Adorno, the source of today’s disaster is a pattern of blind domination, domination in a triple sense: the domination of nature by human beings, the domination of nature within human beings, and, in both of these forms of domination, the domination of some human beings by others. What motivates such triple domination is an irrational fear of the unknown: “Humans believe themselves free of fear when there is no longer anything unknown. This has determined the path of demythologization … . Enlightenment is mythical fear radicalized” (DE 11). In an unfree society whose culture pursues so-called progress no matter what the cost, that which is “other,” whether human or nonhuman, gets shoved aside, exploited, or destroyed. The means of destruction may be more sophisticated in the modern West, and the exploitation may be less direct than outright slavery, but blind, fear-driven domination continues, with ever greater global consequences. The all-consuming engine driving this process is an ever-expanding capitalist economy, fed by scientific research and the latest technologies.

Contrary to some interpretations, Horkheimer and Adorno do not reject the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. Nor do they provide a negative “metanarrative” of universal historical decline. Rather, through a highly unusual combination of philosophical argument, sociological reflection, and literary and cultural commentary, they construct a “double perspective” on the modern West as a historical formation (Jarvis 1998, 23). They summarize this double perspective in two interlinked theses: “Myth is already enlightenment, and enlightenment reverts to mythology” (DE xviii). The first thesis allows them to suggest that, despite being declared mythical and outmoded by the forces of secularization, older rituals, religions, and philosophies may have contributed to the process of enlightenment and may still have something worthwhile to contribute. The second thesis allows them to expose ideological and destructive tendencies within modern forces of secularization, but without denying either that these forces are progressive and enlightening or that the older conceptions they displace were themselves ideological and destructive.

A fundamental mistake in many interpretations of Dialectic of Enlightenment occurs when readers take such theses to be theoretical definitions of unchanging categories rather than critical judgments about historical tendencies. The authors are not saying that myth is “by nature” a force of enlightenment. Nor are they claiming that enlightenment “inevitably” reverts to mythology. In fact, what they find really mythical in both myth and enlightenment is the thought that fundamental change is impossible. Such resistance to change characterizes both ancient myths of fate and modern devotion to the facts.

Accordingly, in constructing a “dialectic of enlightenment” the authors simultaneously aim to carry out a dialectical enlightenment of enlightenment not unlike Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Two Hegelian concepts anchor this project, namely, determinate negation and conceptual self-reflection. “Determinate negation” (bestimmte Negation) indicates that immanent criticism is the way to wrest truth from ideology. A dialectical enlightenment of enlightenment, then, “discloses each image as script. It teaches us to read from [the image’s] features the admission of falseness which cancels its power and hands it over to truth” (DE 18). Beyond and through such determinate negation, a dialectical enlightenment of enlightenment also recalls the origin and goal of thought itself. Such recollection is the work of the concept as the self-reflection of thought (der Begriff als Selbstbesinnung des Denkens, DE 32). Conceptual self-reflection reveals that thought arises from the very corporeal needs and desires that get forgotten when thought becomes a mere instrument of human self-preservation. It also reveals that the goal of thought is not to continue the blind domination of nature and humans but to point toward reconciliation. Adorno works out the details of this conception in his subsequent lectures on Kant (KC), ethics (PMP), and metaphysics (MCP) and in his books on Husserl (AE), Hegel (H), and Heidegger (JA). His most comprehensive statement occurs in Negative Dialectics, which is discussed later.

3. Critical Social Theory

Dialectic of Enlightenment presupposes a critical social theory indebted to Karl Marx. Adorno reads Marx as a Hegelian materialist whose critique of capitalism unavoidably includes a critique of the ideologies that capitalism sustains and requires. The most important of these is what Marx called “the fetishism of commodities.” Marx aimed his critique of commodity fetishism against bourgeois social scientists who simply describe the capitalist economy but, in so doing, simultaneously misdescribe it and prescribe a false social vision. According to Marx, bourgeois economists necessarily ignore the exploitation intrinsic to capitalist production. They fail to understand that capitalist production, for all its surface “freedom” and “fairness,” must extract surplus value from the labor of the working class. Like ordinary producers and consumers under capitalist conditions, bourgeois economists treat the commodity as a fetish. They treat it as if it were a neutral object, with a life of its own, that directly relates to other commodities, in independence from the human interactions that actually sustain all commodities. Marx, by contrast, argues that whatever makes a product a commodity goes back to human needs, desires, and practices. The commodity would not have “use value” if it did not satisfy human wants. It would not have “exchange value” if no one wished to exchange it for something else. And its exchange value could not be calculated if the commodity did not share with other commodities a “value” created by the expenditure of human labor power and measured by the average labor time socially necessary to produce commodities of various sorts.

Adorno’s social theory attempts to make Marx’s central insights applicable to “late capitalism.” Although in agreement with Marx’s analysis of the commodity, Adorno thinks his critique of commodity fetishism does not go far enough. Significant changes have occurred in the structure of capitalism since Marx’s day. This requires revisions on a number of topics: the dialectic between forces of production and relations of production; the relationship between state and economy; the sociology of classes and class consciousness; the nature and function of ideology; and the role of expert cultures, such as modern art and social theory, in criticizing capitalism and calling for the transformation of society as a whole.

The primary clues to these revisions come from a theory of reification proposed by the Hungarian socialist Georg Lukács in the 1920s and from interdisciplinary projects and debates conducted by members of the Institute of Social Research in the 1930s and 1940s. Building on Max Weber’s theory of rationalization, Lukács argues that the capitalist economy is no longer one sector of society alongside others. Rather, commodity exchange has become the central organizing principle for all sectors of society. This allows commodity fetishism to permeate all social institutions (e.g., law, administration, journalism) as well as all academic disciplines, including philosophy. “Reification” refers to “the structural process whereby the commodity form permeates life in capitalist society.” Lukács was especially concerned with how reification makes human beings “seem like mere things obeying the inexorable laws of the marketplace” (Zuidervaart 1991, 76).

Initially Adorno shared this concern, even though he never had Lukács’s confidence that the revolutionary working class could overcome reification. Later Adorno called the reification of consciousness an “epiphenomenon.” What a critical social theory really needs to address is why hunger, poverty, and other forms of human suffering persist despite the technological and scientific potential to mitigate them or to eliminate them altogether. The root cause, Adorno says, lies in how capitalist relations of production have come to dominate society as a whole, leading to extreme, albeit often invisible, concentrations of wealth and power (ND 189-92). Society has come to be organized around the production of exchange values for the sake of producing exchange values, which, of course, always already requires a silent appropriation of surplus value. Adorno refers to this nexus of production and power as the “principle of exchange” (Tauschprinzip). A society where this nexus prevails is an “exchange society” (Tauschgesellschaft).

Adorno’s diagnosis of the exchange society has three levels: politico-economic, social-psychological, and cultural. Politically and economically he responds to a theory of state capitalism proposed by Friedrich Pollock during the war years. An economist by training who was supposed to contribute a chapter to Dialectic of Enlightenment but never did (Wiggershaus 1994, 313-19), Pollock argued that the state had acquired dominant economic power in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and New Deal America. He called this new constellation of politics and economics “state capitalism.” While acknowledging with Pollock that political and economic power have become more tightly meshed, Adorno does not think this fact changes the fundamentally economic character of capitalist exploitation. Rather, such exploitation has become even more abstract than it was in Marx’s day, and therefore all the more effective and pervasive.

The social-psychological level in Adorno’s diagnosis serves to demonstrate the effectiveness and pervasiveness of late capitalist exploitation. His American studies of anti-Semitism and the “authoritarian personality” argue that these pathologically extend “the logic of late capitalism itself, with its associated dialectic of enlightenment.” People who embrace anti-Semitism and fascism tend to project their fear of abstract domination onto the supposed mediators of capitalism, while rejecting as elitist “all claims to a qualitative difference transcending exchange” (Jarvis 1998, 63).

Adorno’s cultural studies show that a similar logic prevails in television, film, and the recording industries. In fact, Adorno first discovered late capitalism’s structural change through his work with sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld on the Princeton University Radio Research Project. He articulated this discovery in a widely anthologized essay “On the Fetish-Character in Music and the Regression of Listening” (1938) and in “The Culture Industry,” a chapter in Dialectic of Enlightenment. There Adorno argues that the culture industry involves a change in the commodity character of art, such that art’s commodity character is deliberately acknowledged and art “abjures its autonomy” (DE 127). With its emphasis on marketability, the culture industry dispenses entirely with the “purposelessness” that was central to art’s autonomy. Once marketability becomes a total demand, the internal economic structure of cultural commodities shifts. Instead of promising freedom from societally dictated uses, and thereby having a genuine use value that people can enjoy, products mediated by the culture industry have their use value replaced by exchange value: “Everything has value only in so far as it can be exchanged, not in so far as it is something in itself. For consumers the use value of art, its essence, is a fetish, and the fetish—the social valuation [gesellschaftliche Schätzung] which they mistake for the merit [Rang] of works of art— becomes its only use value, the only quality they enjoy” (DE 128). Hence the culture industry dissolves the “genuine commodity character” that artworks once possessed when exchange value still presupposed use value (DE 129-30). Lacking a background in Marxist theory, and desiring to secure legitimacy for “mass art” or “popular culture,” too many of Adorno’s anglophone critics simply ignore the main point to his critique of the culture industry. His main point is that culture-industrial hypercommercialization evidences a fateful shift in the structure of all commodities and therefore in the structure of capitalism itself.

4. Aesthetic Theory

Philosophical and sociological studies of the arts and literature make up more than half of Adorno’s collected works (Gesammelte Schriften). All of his most important social-theoretical claims show up in these studies. Yet his “aesthetic writings” are not simply “applications” or “test cases” for theses developed in “nonaesthetic” texts. Adorno rejects any such separation of subject matter from methodology and all neat divisions of philosophy into specialized subdisciplines. This is one reason why academic specialists find his texts so challenging, not only musicologists and literary critics but also epistemologists and aestheticians. All of his writings contribute to a comprehensive and interdisciplinary social philosophy (Zuidervaart 2007).

First published the year after Adorno died, Aesthetic Theory marks the unfinished culmination of his remarkably rich body of aesthetic reflections. It casts retrospective light on the entire corpus. It also comes closest to the model of “paratactical presentation” (Hullot-Kentor in AT xi-xxi) that Adorno, inspired especially by Walter Benjamin, found most appropriate for his own “atonal philosophy.” Relentlessly tracing concentric circles, Aesthetic Theory carries out a dialectical double reconstruction. It reconstructs the modern art movement from the perspective of philosophical aesthetics. It simultaneously reconstructs philosophical aesthetics, especially that of Kant and Hegel, from the perspective of modern art. From both sides Adorno tries to elicit the sociohistorical significance of the art and philosophy discussed.

Adorno’s claims about art in general stem from his reconstruction of the modern art movement. So a summary of his philosophy of art sometimes needs to signal this by putting “modern” in parentheses. The book begins and ends with reflections on the social character of (modern) art. Two themes stand out in these reflections. One is an updated Hegelian question whether art can survive in a late capitalist world. The other is an updated Marxian question whether art can contribute to the transformation of this world. When addressing both questions, Adorno retains from Kant the notion that art proper (“fine art” or “beautiful art”—schöne Kunst—in Kant’s vocabulary) is characterized by formal autonomy. But Adorno combines this Kantian emphasis on form with Hegel’s emphasis on intellectual import (geistiger Gehalt) and Marx’s emphasis on art’s embeddedness in society as a whole. The result is a complex account of the simultaneous necessity and illusoriness of the artwork’s autonomy. The artwork’s necessary and illusory autonomy, in turn, is the key to (modern) art’s social character, namely, to be “the social antithesis of society” (AT 8).

Adorno regards authentic works of (modern) art as social monads. The unavoidable tensions within them express unavoidable conflicts within the larger sociohistorical process from which they arise and to which they belong. These tensions enter the artwork through the artist’s struggle with sociohistorically laden materials, and they call forth conflicting interpretations, many of which misread either the work-internal tensions or their connection to conflicts in society as a whole. Adorno sees all of these tensions and conflicts as “contradictions” to be worked through and eventually to be resolved. Their complete resolution, however, would require a transformation in society as a whole, which, given his social theory, does not seem imminent.

As commentary and criticism, Adorno’s aesthetic writings are unparalleled in the subtlety and sophistication with which they trace work-internal tensions and relate them to unavoidable sociohistorical conflicts. One gets frequent glimpses of this in Aesthetic Theory. For the most part, however, the book proceeds at the level of “third reflections”—reflections on categories employed in actual commentary and criticism, with a view to their suitability for what artworks express and to their societal implications. Typically he elaborates these categories as polarities or dialectical pairs.

One such polarity, and a central one in Adorno’s theory of artworks as social monads, occurs between the categories of import (Gehalt) and function (Funktion). Adorno’s account of these categories distinguishes his sociology of art from both hermeneutical and empirical approaches. A hermeneutical approach would emphasize the artwork’s inherent meaning or its cultural significance and downplay the artwork’s political or economic functions. An empirical approach would investigate causal connections between the artwork and various social factors without asking hermeneutical questions about its meaning or significance. Adorno, by contrast, argues that, both as categories and as phenomena, import and function need to be understood in terms of each other. On the one hand, an artwork’s import and its functions in society can be diametrically opposed. On the other hand, one cannot give a proper account of an artwork’s social functions if one does not raise import-related questions about their significance. So too, an artwork’s import embodies the work’s social functions and has potential relevance for various social contexts. In general, however, and in line with his critiques of positivism and instrumentalized reason, Adorno gives priority to import, understood as societally mediated and socially significant meaning. The social functions emphasized in his own commentaries and criticisms are primarily intellectual functions rather than straightforwardly political or economic functions. This is consistent with a hyperbolic version of the claim that (modern) art is society’s social antithesis: “Insofar as a social function can be predicated for artworks, it is their functionlessness” (AT 227).

The priority of import also informs Adorno’s stance on art and politics, which derives from debates with Lukács, Benjamin, and Bertolt Brecht in the 1930s (Lunn 1982; Zuidervaart 1991, 28-43). Because of the shift in capitalism’s structure, and because of Adorno’s own complex emphasis on (modern) art’s autonomy, he doubts both the effectiveness and the legitimacy of tendentious, agitative, or deliberately consciousness-raising art. Yet he does see politically engaged art as a partial corrective to the bankrupt aestheticism of much mainstream art. Under the conditions of late capitalism, the best art, and politically the most effective, so thoroughly works out its own internal contradictions that the hidden contradictions in society can no longer be ignored. The plays of Samuel Beckett, to whom Adorno had intended to dedicate Aesthetic Theory, are emblematic in that regard. Adorno finds them more true than many other artworks.

Arguably, the idea of “truth content” (Wahrheitsgehalt) is the pivotal center around which all the concentric circles of Adorno’s aesthetics turn (Zuidervaart 1991; Wellmer 1991, 1-35 ; Jarvis 1998, 90-123). To gain access to this center one must temporarily suspend standard theories about the nature of truth (whether as correspondence, coherence, or pragmatic success) and allow for artistic truth to be dialectical, disclosive, and nonpropositional. According to Adorno, each artwork has its own import (Gehalt) by virtue of an internal dialectic between content (Inhalt) and form (Form). This import invites critical judgments about its truth or falsity. To do justice to the artwork and its import, such critical judgments need to grasp both the artwork’s complex internal dynamics and the dynamics of the sociohistorical totality to which the artwork belongs. The artwork has an internal truth content to the extent that the artwork’s import can be found internally and externally either true or false. Such truth content is not a metaphysical idea or essence hovering outside the artwork. But neither is it a merely human construct. It is historical but not arbitrary; nonpropositional, yet calling for propositional claims to be made about it; utopian in its reach, yet firmly tied to specific societal conditions. Truth content is the way in which an artwork simultaneously challenges the way things are and suggests how things could be better, but leaves things practically unchanged: “Art has truth as the semblance of the illusionless” (AT 132).

5. Negative Dialectics

Adorno’s idea of artistic truth content presupposes the epistemological and metaphysical claims he works out most thoroughly in Negative Dialectics. These claims, in turn, consolidate and extend the historiographic and social-theoretical arguments already canvassed. As Simon Jarvis demonstrates, Negative Dialectics tries to formulate a “philosophical materialism” that is historical and critical but not dogmatic. Alternatively, one can describe the book as a “metacritique” of idealist philosophy, especially of the philosophy of Kant and Hegel (Jarvis 1998, 148-74). Adorno says the book aims to complete what he considered his lifelong task as a philosopher: “to use the strength of the [epistemic] subject to break through the deception [Trug] of constitutive subjectivity” (ND xx).

This occurs in four stages. First, a long Introduction (ND 1-57) works out a concept of “philosophical experience” that both challenges Kant’s distinction between “phenomena” and “noumena” and rejects Hegel’s construction of “absolute spirit.” Then Part One (ND 59-131) distinguishes Adorno’s project from the “fundamental ontology” in Heidegger’s Being and Time. Part Two (ND 133-207) works out Adorno’s alternative with respect to the categories he reconfigures from German idealism. Part Three (ND 209-408), composing nearly half the book, elaborates philosophical “models.” These present negative dialectics in action upon key concepts of moral philosophy (“freedom”), philosophy of history (“world spirit” and “natural history”), and metaphysics. Adorno says the final model, devoted to metaphysical questions, “tries by critical self reflection to give the Copernican revolution an axial turn” (ND xx). Alluding to Kant’s self-proclaimed “second Copernican revolution,” this description echoes Adorno’s comment about breaking through the deception of constitutive subjectivity.

Like Hegel, Adorno criticizes Kant’s distinction between phenomena and noumena by arguing that the transcendental conditions of experience can be neither so pure nor so separate from each other as Kant seems to claim. As concepts, for example, the a priori categories of the understanding (Verstand) would be unintelligible if they were not already about something that is nonconceptual. Conversely, the supposedly pure forms of space and time cannot simply be nonconceptual intuitions. Not even a transcendental philosopher would have access to them apart from concepts about them. So too, what makes possible any genuine experience cannot simply be the “application” of a priori concepts to a priori intuitions via the “schematism” of the imagination (Einbildungskraft). Genuine experience is made possible by that which exceeds the grasp of thought and sensibility. Adorno does not call this excess the “thing in itself,” however, for that would assume the Kantian framework he criticizes. Rather, he calls it “the nonidentical” (das Nichtidentische).

The concept of the nonidentical, in turn, marks the difference between Adorno’s materialism and Hegel’s idealism. Although he shares Hegel’s emphasis on a speculative identity between thought and being, between subject and object, and between reason and reality, Adorno denies that this identity has been achieved in a positive fashion. For the most part this identity has occurred negatively instead. That is to say, human thought, in achieving identity and unity, has imposed these upon objects, suppressing or ignoring their differences and diversity. Such imposition is driven by a societal formation whose exchange principle demands the equivalence (exchange value) of what is inherently nonequivalent (use value). Whereas Hegel’s speculative identity amounts to an identity between identity and nonidentity, Adorno’s amounts to a nonidentity between identity and nonidentity. That is why Adorno calls for a “negative dialectic” and why he rejects the affirmative character of Hegel’s dialectic (ND 143-61).

Adorno does not reject the necessity of conceptual identification, however, nor does his philosophy claim to have direct access to the nonidentical. Under current societal conditions, thought can only have access to the nonidentical via conceptual criticisms of false identifications. Such criticisms must be “determinate negations” pointing up specific contradictions between what thought claims and what it actually delivers. Through determinate negation, those aspects of the object which thought misidentifies receive an indirect, conceptual articulation.

The motivation for Adorno’s negative dialectic is not simply conceptual, however, nor are its intellectual resources. His epistemology is “materialist” in both regards. It is motivated, he says, by undeniable human suffering—a fact of unreason, if you will, to counter Kant’s “fact of reason.” Suffering is the corporeal imprint of society and the object upon human consciousness: “The need to let suffering speak is a condition of all truth. For suffering is objectivity that weighs upon the subject … ” (ND 17-18). The resources available to philosophy in this regard include the “expressive” or “mimetic” dimensions of language, which conflict with “ordinary” (i.e., societally sanctioned) syntax and semantics. In philosophy, this requires an emphasis on “presentation” (Darstellung) in which logical stringency and expressive flexibility interact (ND 18-19, 52-53). Another resource lies in unscripted relationships among established concepts. By taking such concepts out of their established patterns and rearranging them in “constellations” around a specific subject matter, philosophy can unlock some of the historical dynamic hidden within objects whose identity exceeds the classifications imposed upon them (ND 52-53, 162-66).

What unifies all of these desiderata, and what most clearly distinguishes Adorno’s materialist epistemology from “idealism,” whether Kantian or Hegelian, is his insisting on the “priority of the object” (Vorrang des Objekts, ND 183-97). Adorno regards as “idealist” any philosophy that affirms an identity between subject and object and thereby assigns constitutive priority to the epistemic subject. In insisting on the priority of the object, Adorno repeatedly makes three claims: first, that the epistemic subject is itself objectively constituted by the society to which it belongs and without which the subject could not exist; second, that no object can be fully known according to the rules and procedures of identitarian thinking ; third, that the goal of thought itself, even when thought forgets its goal under societally induced pressures to impose identity on objects, is to honor them in their nonidentity, in their difference from what a restricted rationality declares them to be. Against empiricism, however, he argues that no object is simply “given” either, both because it can be an object only in relation to a subject and because objects are historical and have the potential to change.

Under current conditions the only way for philosophy to give priority to the object is dialectically, Adorno argues. He describes dialectics as the attempt to recognize the nonidentity between thought and the object while carrying out the project of conceptual identification. Dialectics is “the consistent consciousness of nonidentity,” and contradiction, its central category, is “the nonidentical under the aspect of identity.” Thought itself forces this emphasis on contradiction upon us, he says. To think is to identify, and thought can only achieve truth by identifying. So the semblance (Schein) of total identity lives within thought itself, mingled with thought’s truth (Wahrheit). The only way to break through the semblance of total identity is immanently, using the concept. Accordingly, everything that is qualitatively different and that resists conceptualization will show up as a contradiction. “The contradiction is the nonidentical under the aspect of [conceptual] identity; the primacy of the principle of contradiction in dialectics tests the heterogeneous according to unitary thought [Einheitsdenken]. By colliding with its own boundary [Grenze], unitary thought surpasses itself. Dialectics is the consistent consciousness of nonidentity” (ND 5).

But thinking in contradictions is also forced upon philosophy by society itself. Society is riven with fundamental antagonisms, which, in accordance with the exchange principle, get covered up by identitarian thought. The only way to expose these antagonisms, and thereby to point toward their possible resolution, is to think against thought—in other words, to think in contradictions. In this way “contradiction” cannot be ascribed neatly to either thought or reality. Instead it is a “category of reflection” (Reflexionskategorie) , enabling a thoughtful confrontation between concept (Begriff) and subject matter or object (Sache): “To proceed dialectically means to think in contradictions, for the sake of the contradiction already experienced in the object [Sache], and against that contradiction. A contradiction in reality, [dialectics] is a contradiction against reality” (ND 144-45).

The point of thinking in contradictions is not simply negative, however. It has a fragile, transformative horizon, namely, a society that would no longer be riven with fundamental antagonisms, thinking that would be rid of the compulsion to dominate through conceptual identification, and the flourishing of particular objects in their particularity. Because Adorno is convinced that contemporary society has the resources to alleviate the suffering it nevertheless perpetuates, his negative dialectics has a utopian reach: “In view of the concrete possibility of utopia, dialectics is the ontology of the false condition. A right condition would be freed from dialectics, no more system than contradiction” (ND 11). Such a “right condition” would be one of reconciliation between humans and nature, including the nature within human beings, and among human beings themselves. This idea of reconciliation sustains Adorno’s reflections on ethics and metaphysics.

6. Ethics and Metaphysics

Like Adorno’s epistemology, his moral philosophy derives from a materialistic metacritique of German idealism. The model on “Freedom” in Negative Dialectics (ND 211-99) conducts a metacritique of Kant’s critique of practical reason. So too, the model on “World Spirit and Natural History” (ND 300-60) provides a metacritique of Hegel’s philosophy of history. Both models simultaneously carry out a subterranean debate with the Marxist tradition, and this debate guides Adorno’s appropriation of both Kantian and Hegelian “practical philosophy.”

The first section in the Introduction to Negative Dialectics indicates the direction Adorno’s appropriation will take (ND 3-4). There he asks whether and how philosophy is still possible. Adorno asks this against the backdrop of Karl Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach, which famously proclaimed that philosophy’s task is not simply to interpret the world but to change it. In distinguishing his historical materialism from the sensory materialism of Ludwig Feuerbach, Marx portrays human beings as fundamentally productive and political organisms whose interrelations are not merely interpersonal but societal and historical. Marx’s emphasis on production, politics, society, and history takes his epistemology in a “pragmatic” direction. “Truth” does not indicate the abstract correspondence between thought and reality, between proposition and fact, he says. Instead, “truth” refers to the economic, political, societal, and historical fruitfulness of thought in practice.

Although Adorno shares many of Marx’s anthropological intuitions, he thinks that a twentieth-century equation of truth with practical fruitfulness had disastrous effects on both sides of the iron curtain. The Introduction to Negative Dialectics begins by making two claims. First, although apparently obsolete, philosophy remains necessary because capitalism has not been overthrown. Second, Marx’s interpretation of capitalist society was inadequate and his critique is outmoded. Hence, praxis no longer serves as an adequate basis for challenging (philosophical) theory. In fact, praxis serves mostly as a pretext for shutting down the theoretical critique that transformative praxis would require. Having missed the moment of its realization (via the proletarian revolution, according to early Marx), philosophy today must criticize itself: its societal naivete, its intellectual antiquation, its inability to grasp the power at work in industrial late capitalism. While still pretending to grasp the whole, philosophy fails to recognize how thoroughly it depends upon society as a whole, all the way into philosophy’s “immanent truth” (ND 4). Philosophy must shed such naivete. It must ask, as Kant asked about metaphysics after Hume’s critique of rationalism, How is philosophy still possible? More specifically, How, after the collapse of Hegelian thought, is philosophy still possible? How can the dialectical effort to conceptualize the nonconceptual—which Marx also pursued—how can this philosophy be continued?

This self-implicating critique of the relation between theory and practice is one crucial source to Adorno’s reflections on ethics and metaphysics. Another is the catastrophic impact of twentieth-century history on the prospects for imagining and achieving a more humane world. Adorno’s is an ethics and metaphysics “after Auschwitz.” Ethically, he says, Hitler’s barbarism imposes a “new categorical imperative” on human beings in their condition of unfreedom: so to arrange their thought and action that “Auschwitz would not repeat itself, [that] nothing similar would happen” (ND 365). Metaphysically, philosophers must find historically appropriate ways to speak about meaning and truth and suffering that neither deny nor affirm the existence of a world transcendent to the one we know. Whereas denying it would suppress the suffering that calls out for fundamental change, straightforwardly affirming the existence of utopia would cut off the critique of contemporary society and the struggle to change it. The basis for Adorno’s double strategy is not a hidden ontology, as some have suggested, but rather a “speculative” or “metaphysical” experience. Adorno appeals to the experience that thought which “does not decapitate itself” flows into the idea of a world where “not only extant suffering would be abolished but also suffering that is irrevocably past would be revoked” (403). Neither logical positivist antimetaphysics nor Heideggerian hypermetaphysics can do justice to this experience.

Adorno indicates his own alternative to both traditional metaphysics and more recent antimetaphysics in passages that juxtapose resolute self-criticism and impassioned hope. His historiographic, social theoretical, aesthetic, and negative dialectical concerns meet in passages such as this: “Thought that does not capitulate before wretched existence comes to nought before its criteria, truth becomes untruth, philosophy becomes folly. And yet philosophy cannot give up, lest idiocy triumph in actualized unreason [Widervernunft] … Folly is truth in the shape that human beings must accept whenever, amid the untrue, they do not give up truth. Even at the highest peaks art is semblance; but art receives the semblance … from nonsemblance [vom Scheinlosen] … . No light falls on people and things in which transcendence would not appear [widerschiene]. Indelible in resistance to the fungible world of exchange is the resistance of the eye that does not want the world’s colors to vanish. In semblance nonsemblance is promised” (ND 404-5). If the ongoing assessment of Adorno’s philosophy does not address such passages, it will not truly have begun.


Section 1 lists many of Adorno’s books in English, including several he co-authored, in the order of their abbreviations. Section 2 lists some anthologies of Adorno’s writings in English. Books listed in section 1 without abbreviations were originally published in English; all others were originally published in German. A date in parentheses following a title indicates either the first German edition or, in the case of posthumous publications, the date of the original lectures. Often the translations cited above have been silently modified. The abbreviation “GS” or “NS” after an entry below tells where this book can be found in Adorno’s collected writings. “GS” indicates writings published during Adorno’s lifetime and collected in the 20 volumes of Theodor W. Adorno, Gesammelte Schriften, edited by Rolf Tiedemann et al. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1970-1986). “NS” indicates posthumous works that are appearing as editions of the Theodor W. Adorno Archive in the collection Nachgelassene Schriften (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1993-).

For more extensive Adorno bibliographies, see Huhn 2004 and Müller-Doohm 2005.

Primary Literature

AT Aesthetic Theory (1970), trans. R. Hullot-Kentor, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. (GS 7)
AE Against Epistemology: A Metacritique; Studies in Husserl and the Phenomenological Antinomies (1956), trans. W. Domingo, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1982. (GS 5)
The Authoritarian Personality, T. W. Adorno, et al., New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950. (GS 9.1)
B Alban Berg: Master of the Smallest Link (1968), trans. J. Brand and C. Hailey, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991. (GS 13)
BPM Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music; Fragments and Texts (1993), ed. R. Tiedemann, trans. E. Jephcott, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998. (NS I.1)
CC The Complete Correspondence, 1928-1940 (1994), T. W. Adorno and W. Benjamin, ed. H. Lonitz, trans. N. Walker, Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999.
CM Critical Models: Interventions and Catchwords (1963, 1969), trans. H. W. Pickford, New York: Columbia University Press, 1998. (GS 10.2)
DE Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments (1947), M. Horkheimer and T. W. Adorno, ed. G. S. Noerr, trans. E. Jephcott, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002. (GS 3)
H Hegel: Three Studies (1963), trans. S. Weber Nicholsen, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1993. (GS 5)
IS Introduction to Sociology (1968), ed. C. Gödde, trans. E. Jephcott, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000. (NS IV.15)
JA The Jargon of Authenticity (1964), trans. K. Tarnowski and F. Will, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973. (GS 6)
KC Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason (1959), ed. R. Tiedemann, trans. R. Livingstone, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2001. (NS IV.4)
KCA Kierkegaard: Construction of the Aesthetic (1933), trans. R. Hullot-Kentor, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989. (GS 2)
M Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy (1960), trans. E. Jephcott, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988. (GS 13)
MCP Metaphysics: Concept and Problems (1965), ed. R. Tiedemann, trans. E. Jephcott, University Press, 2000. (NS IV.14)
MM Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life (1951), trans. E. F. N. Jephcott, London: NLB, 1974. (GS 4)
ND Negative Dialectics (1966), trans. E. B. Ashton, New York: Seabury Press, 1973. (GS 6)
NL Notes to Literature (1958, 1961, 1965, 1974), 2 vols., ed. R. Tiedemann, trans. S. Weber Nicholsen, New York: Columbia University Press, 1991, 1992. (GS 11)
P Prisms (1955), trans. S. Weber and S. Weber, London: Neville Spearman, 1967; Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1981. (GS 10.1)
PM Philosophy of New Music (1949), trans., ed., and with an introduction by R. Hullot-Kentor, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006. (GS 12)
PMP Problems of Moral Philosophy (1963), ed. T. Schröder, trans. R. Livingstone, University Press, 2000. (NS IV.10)
PS The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology (1969), T. W. Adorno, et al., trans. G. Adey and D. Frisby, London: Heinemann, 1976. (GS 8)
W In Search of Wagner (1952), trans. R. Livingstone, London: NLB, 1981. (GS 13)

2. Adorno Anthologies

  • The Adorno Reader, ed. B. O’Connor, Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.
  • Can One Live after Auschwitz?: A Philosophical Reader, ed. R. Tiedemann, trans. R. Livingstone et al., Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003.
  • The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, ed. J. M. Bernstein, London: Routledge, 1991.
  • Essays on Music: Theodor W. Adorno, ed. R. D. Leppert, trans. S. H. Gillespie et al., Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

3. Secondary Literature

  • Benhabib, S., 1986, Critique, Norm, and Utopia: A Study of the Foundations of Critical Theory, New York: Colombia University Press.
  • Bernstein, J. M., 2001, Adorno: Disenchantment and Ethics, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Brunkhorst, H., 1999, Adorno and Critical Theory, Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
  • Buck-Morss, S., 1977, The Origin of Negative Dialectics; Theodor W. Adorno, Walter Benjamin and the Frankfurt Institute, New York: Free Press.
  • Burke, D. A., et al. (eds.), 2007, Adorno and the Need in Thinking: New Critical Essays, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
  • Claussen, D., 2003, Theodor W. Adorno: Ein letztes Genie, Frankfurt am Main: Fischer.
  • Cook, D., 1996, The Culture Industry Revisited: Theodor W. Adorno on Mass Culture, Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield.
  • —–, 2004, Adorno, Habermas, and the Search for a Rational Society, New York: Routledge.
  • Duvenage, P., 2003, Habermas and Aesthetics: The Limits of Communicative Reason, Malden, Mass.: Polity Press.
  • Frankfurter Adorno Blätter, 1992-, ed. Theodor W. Adorno Archiv, Munich: Edition Text + Kritik. (Appears annually, more or less.)
  • Gibson, N. C., and A. Rubin, (eds.), 2002, Adorno: A Critical Reader, Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Geuss, R., 2005, Outside Ethics, Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Habermas, J., 1987, The Philosophical Discourse of Modernity: Twelve Lectures, trans. F. Lawrence, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • Hammer, E., 2005, Adorno and the Political, New York: Routledge.
  • Heberle, R. J. (ed.), 2006, Feminist Interpretations of Theodor Adorno. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press.
  • Hohendahl, P. U., 1995, Prismatic Thought: Theodor W. Adorno, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.
  • Honneth, Axel, 1991, The Critique of Power: Reflective Stages in a Critical Social Theory, trans. K. Baynes, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • Huhn, T., and L. Zuidervaart (eds.), 1997, The Semblance of Subjectivity: Essays in Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • Huhn, T. (ed.), 2004, The Cambridge Companion to Adorno, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Jameson, F. 1990, Late Marxism: Adorno, or, The Persistence of the Dialectic, London; New York: Verso.
  • Jarvis, S., 1998, Adorno: A Critical Introduction, New York: Routledge.
  • Jay, M., 1984, Adorno, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
  • —–, 1996, The Dialectical Imagination, 2d ed., Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Krakauer, E. L., 1998, The Disposition of the Subject: Reading Adorno’s Dialectic of Technology, Evanston, Ill.: Northwestern University Press.
  • Lee, L. Y., 2005, Dialectics of the Body: Corporeality in the Philosophy of T. W. Adorno, New York: Routledge.
  • Lunn, E., 1982, Marxism and Modernism: An Historical Study of Lukács, Brecht, Benjamin, and Adorno, Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Macdonald, I. and K. Ziarek (eds.), 2007, Adorno and Heidegger: Philosophical Questions, Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • Martinson, M., 2000, Perseverance without Doctrine: Adorno, Self-Critique, and the Ends of Academic Theology, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
  • Menke, C., 1998, The Sovereignty of Art: Aesthetic Negativity in Adorno and Derrida, trans. N. Solomon, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • Morris, M., 2001. Rethinking the Communicative Turn: Adorno, Habermas, and the Problem of Communicative Freedom, Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Müller-Doohm, S., 2005, Adorno: A Biography, trans. Rodney Livingstone, Cambridge: Polity Press.
  • Nicholsen, S. W., 1997, Exact Imagination, Late Work: On Adorno’s Aesthetics, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • O’Connor, B., 2004, Adorno’s Negative Dialectic: Philosophy and the Possibility of Critical Rationality, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • O’Neill, M. (ed.), 1999, Adorno, Culture and Feminism, London: Sage.
  • Paddison, M., 1993, Adorno’s Aesthetics of Music, New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Pensky, M., (ed.), 1997, The Actuality of Adorno: Critical Essays on Adorno and the Postmodern, Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Rose, G., 1978, The Melancholy Science: An Introduction to the Thought of Theodor W. Adorno, London: Macmillan Press.
  • Sherratt, Y., 2002, Adorno’s Positive Dialectic, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Vogel, S., 1996, Against Nature: The Concept of Nature in Critical Theory, Albany: State University of New York Press.
  • Vries, H. de, 2005, Minimal Theologies: Critiques of Secular Reason in Adorno and Levinas, trans. G. Hale., Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Wellmer, A., 1991, The Persistence of Modernity: Essays on Aesthetics, Ethics, and Postmodernism, trans. D. Midgley, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • —–, 1998, Endgames: The Irreconcilable Nature of Modernity; Essays and Lectures, trans. D. Midgley, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • Whitebook, J., 1995, Perversion and Utopia: A Study in Psychoanalysis and Critical Theory, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • Wiggershaus, R., 1994, The Frankfurt School: Its History, Theories, and Political Significance, trans. M. Robertson, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • Zuidervaart, L., 1991, Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory: The Redemption of Illusion, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
  • Zuidervaart, L., et al., 1998, “Adorno, Theodor Wiesengrund,” Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, Vol. 1, pp. 16-32, ed. M. Kelly, New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Zuidervaart, L., 2007, Social Philosophy after Adorno, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Cours Vincennes – 16/11/1971

Los códigos, el capitalismo, los flujos, descodificación de los flujos, capitalismo y esquizofrenia, el psicoanálisis

¿Qué pasa sobre el cuerpo de una sociedad? Flujos, siempre flujos, y una persona siempre es un corte de flujo. Una persona, es un punto de partida para una producción de flujos, un punto de llegada para una recepción de flujos, de flujos de todo tipo; o bien una intersección de muchos flujos.

Si una persona tiene cabellos, esos cabellos pueden atravesar muchas etapas: el peinado de la joven no es el mismo que el de la mujer casada, no es el mismo que el de la viuda: hay todo un código del peinado. La persona ¿En tanto que qué lleva esos cabellos? Se presenta típicamente como interceptora con relación a los flujos de cabellos que van más allá, y más allá su caso y sus flujos de cabellos están ellos mismos codificados según códigos muy diferentes: código de la viuda, código de la joven, código de la mujer casada, etc. Finalmente ese es siempre el problema esencial de la codificación y de la territorialización, codificar los flujos con, y como medio fundamental: marcar a las personas, (porque las personas están en la intersección y el corte de los flujos, las personas existen en los puntos de corte de los flujos).

Pero, entonces, más que para marcar a las personas -marcar a las personas es el medio aparente-, lo es para la función más profunda, a saber: una sociedad solo le teme a una cosa: el torrente; no le teme al vacío, no le teme a la penuria, a la rareza. Sobre ella, sobre su cuerpo social, algo chorrea y no se sabe qué es, algo chorrea y no está codificado, al igual que, con relación a esta sociedad, aparece como no codificable. Algo que chorrea y que arrastra a esta sociedad en una especie de desterritorialización, que hace disolver la tierra sobre la que se instala: entonces es el drama. Encontramos algo que se derrumba y que no se sabe lo que es, no responde a ningún código, rompe el campo bajo los códigos; y también es verdad, en este sentido, para el capitalismo, que cree, desde hace mucho tiempo, haber asegurado por siempre los simili-códigos. Es lo que se llama la famosa potencia de recuperación en el capitalismo -se dice recuperado cada vez que algo parece escapársele, parece pasar por debajo de esos simili-códigos; retampona todo, añade un axioma de más y la máquina vuelve a partir; piensen en el capitalismo del siglo XIX: ve manar un polo de flujo que es, literalmente, el flujo, el flujo de trabajadores, el flujo del proletariado; y bien, ¿qué es lo que fluye, lo que mana desagradablemente y arrastra nuestra tierra, a dónde va? Los pensadores del siglo XIX tienen una reacción muy rara, principalmente la escuela histórica francesa: es la primera en haber pensado al siglo XIX en términos de clases, inventan la noción teórica de clases y la inventan precisamente como una pieza esencial del código capitalista, a saber: la legitimidad del capitalismo viene de esto: la victoria de la burguesía como clase contra la aristocracia.

El sistema que aparece en Saint Simon, A. Thierry, E. Quinet, es la toma de conciencia radical de la burguesía como clase y ellos interpretan toda la historia como lucha de clases, es la escuela histórica burguesa del siglo XIX: 1789, si, es la lucha de clases, se enceguecen cuando ven fluir en la superficie actual del cuerpo social, ese extraño flujo que no conocen, el flujo proletariado. No es posible la idea de que sea una clase, no lo es en ese momento. El día en que el capitalismo ya no pudo negar que el proletariado fuera una clase, ese día coincidió con el momento en que, en su cabeza, encontró el momento para recodificarlo enteramente. ¿Qué es eso que se llama la potencia de recuperación del capitalismo?

Y es que el capitalismo dispone de una especie de axiomática, dispone entonces de algo nuevo que no se conocía. Y esta es, como sucede con todas las axiomáticas, una axiomática, al límite, no saturable; lista para añadir siempre un axioma de más que hace que todo vuelva a funcionar.

Cuando el capitalismo ya no puede negar que el proletariado sea una clase, entonces llega a reconocer una especie de bipolaridad de clase, bajo la influencia de las luchas obreras en el siglo XIX, y bajo la influencia de la revolución. Ese momento es extraordinariamente ambiguo, pues es un momento importante en la lucha revolucionaria, pero también es un momento esencial en la recuperación capitalista: yo te elaboro un axioma adicional, te hago los axiomas para la clase obrera y para la potencia sindical que la representa; y la máquina capitalista vuelve a partir chirriando, ha colmado la brecha. En otros términos, para todos los cuerpos de una sociedad lo esencial es impedir que sobre ella, sobre sus espaldas, sobre su cuerpo, fluyan flujos que ella no pueda codificar y a los cuales no les pueda asignar una territorialidad.

Una sociedad puede codificar la pobreza, la penuria, el hambre; lo que no puede codificar, es cuándo aparece esa cosa, entonces se dice: ¡¿qué es esa gente?! Entonces, en un primer momento, se agita el aparato represivo, si no se los puede codificar, se intenta aniquilarlos. En un segundo momento, se intenta encontrar nuevos axiomas que permitan, bien que mal, recodificarlos.

Un cuerpo social, se define así: perpetuamente las cosas, los flujos chorreando sobre el, chorreando de un polo a otro, y perpetuamente codificando; y hay flujos que escapan a los códigos, y después hay un esfuerzo social para recuperarlos, para axiomatizarlos, para rehacer un poco el código, a fin de darle un lugar a flujos tan peligrosos; y todo a la vez. Hay gente joven que no responde a los códigos, empiezan a tener un flujo de cabello que no estaba previsto, ¿qué se hará con ellos? Se intenta recodificarlos, añadiendo un axioma, se intenta recuperarlos, o bien hay algo más allá, que continua no dejándose codificar, ¿entonces qué?

En otros términos, el acto fundamental de la sociedad es: codificar los flujos y tratar como enemigo lo que, con relación a ella, se presente como un flujo no codificable, porque, una vez más, esto pone en cuestión toda la tierra, todo el cuerpo de esta sociedad.

Digo esto de todas las sociedades, salvo, tal vez, de la nuestra, a saber del capitalismo; si bien acabo de hablar del capitalismo como si, a la manera de todas las otras sociedades, codificara los flujos y no tuviera otros problemas , pero quizá he ido demasiado rápido.

Hay una paradoja fundamental del capitalismo como formación social: si los flujos descodificados han sido el terror de todas las otras formaciones sociales, el capitalismo se ha constituido históricamente sobre algo increíble, a saber, lo que era el terror de las otras sociedades, la existencia y la realidad de flujos descodificados y que de hecho son asunto suyo.

Si fuera verdad, esto explicaría que el capitalismo es lo universal de toda sociedad en un sentido muy preciso: en un sentido negativo, sería lo que todas las sociedades han temido por encima de todo; y tenemos la impresión de que, históricamente, el capitalismo… es lo que, de cierta manera, toda formación social intenta conjurar, intenta constantemente evitar, ¿por qué? Porque es la ruina de todas las otras formaciones sociales. Y la paradoja del capitalismo, es que es una formación social que está constituida sobre la base de lo que era lo negativo de todas las otras. Eso quiere decir que el capitalismo solo ha podido constituirse por una conjunción, un encuentro entre flujos descodifícados de cualquier naturaleza. Lo más temible de todas las formaciones sociales, será la base de una formación social que deberá engullir a todas las otras. Lo que era lo negativo de todas las formaciones ha devenido la positividad misma de nuestra formación, eso es estremecedor.

Y ¿en qué sentido el capitalismo se ha constituido sobre la conjunción de flujos descodifícados? El tiene necesidad de encuentros extraordinarios a final de procesos de descodificación de cualquier naturaleza, que se forman en el ocaso de la feudalidad. Esas descodificaciones de cualquier naturaleza han consistido en descodificaciones de flujos de propiedad territorial, bajo la forma de grandes propiedades privadas; descodificación de flujos monetarios, bajo la forma del desarrollo de la fortuna mercantil; descodificación de un flujo de trabajadores bajo la forma de la expropiación, de la desterritorialización de siervos y pequeños campesinos. Y eso no basta, pues si tomamos el ejemplo de Roma, de la descodificación en la Roma decadente, estas descodificaciones aparecen plenamente: descodificación de los flujos de propiedades bajo la forma de las grandes propiedades privadas; descodificación de los flujos monetarios bajo la forma de las grandes fortunas privadas; descodificación de los trabajadores con la formación de un sub-proletariado urbano. Ahí está todo, casi todo. Los elementos del capitalismo se encuentran reunidos, simplemente, no hay encuentro.

¿Qué es lo que falta para que se realice el encuentro entre los flujos descodificados del capital o del dinero y los flujos descodificados de los trabajadores, para que se realice el encuentro entre los flujos de capital naciente y el flujo de mano de obra desterritorializado, literalmente, el flujo de dinero y el flujo de trabajadores desterritorializados? En efecto, la manera como el dinero se descodifica para devenir capital-dinero y la manera como el trabajador es arrancado a la tierra para devenir propietario de su sola fuerza de trabajo; estos son dos procesos completamente independientes el uno del otro, es necesario que haya un encuentro entre los dos.

En efecto, el proceso de descodificación del dinero para formar un capital se hace a través de las formas embrionarias del capital comercial y del capital bancario; el flujo de trabajo, su libre posesión de su sola fuerza de trabajo, se hace a través de otra línea que es la de la desterritorialización del trabajador al final de la feudalidad, y estos habrían podido muy bien no encontrarse. Lo que está en la base del capitalismo es una conjunción de flujos descodificados y desterritorializados. El capitalismo se ha constituido sobre la quiebra de todos los códigos y las territorialidades sociales pre-existentes.

Si lo admitimos, ¿eso qué representa? La máquina capitalista es propiamente demente. Una máquina social que funciona a base de flujos descodificados, desterritorializados. Una vez más, no es que las sociedades no hayan tenido la idea; la han tenido bajo la forma de pánico, se trataba de impedirlo -pues esta era la inversión de todos los códigos sociales conocidos hasta ahora-, entonces, ¿cómo puede funcionar una sociedad que se constituye sobre el negativo de todas las sociedades pre-existentes? Una sociedad donde lo propio es descodificar y desterritorializar todos los flujos: flujos de producción, flujos de consumo, ¿cómo puede funcionar, bajo qué forma? quizá el capitalismo tiene otros procedimientos diferentes a la codificación para hacerla funcionar, tal vez es completamente diferente. Lo que quisiera, en este momento, sería refundamentar, a cierto nivel, el problema de la relación Capitalismo-Esquizofrenia -y el fundamento de su relación se encuentra en algo común entre el capitalismo y la esquizofrenia; lo que tienen completamente en común, -y quizá es una comunidad que nunca se realiza, que no toma una figura concreta-, es la comunidad de un principio todavía abstracto, a saber, el uno como la otra no dejan de hacer pasar, de emitir, de interceptar, de concentrar los flujos descodificados y desterritorializados.

Esa es su profunda identidad, y es que el capitalismo no nos vuelve esquizos al nivel de un modo de vida, sino al nivel del proceso económico; todo eso funciona por el sistema de la conjunción; entonces decimos la palabra, a condición de aceptar que la palabra implica una verdadera diferencia de naturaleza con los códigos. El capitalismo funciona como una axiomática, una axiomática de los flujos descodificados. Todas las otras formaciones sociales han funcionado sobre la base de un código y de una territorialización de los flujos. Y entre la máquina capitalista que hace una axiomática de los flujos descodificados como tales o desterritorializados, como tales, y las otras formaciones sociales, hay verdaderamente una diferencia de naturaleza que hace que el capitalismo sea el negativo de las otras sociedades. Ahora bien, el esquizo, a su manera, con su caminar a tropezones, hace la misma cosa. En un sentido, es más capitalista que el capitalista, mas proleto que el proleto: descodifica, desterritorializa los flujos, y ahí se anuda la especie de identidad de naturaleza del capitalismo y del esquizo.

La esquizofrenía es el negativo de la formación capitalista. En un sentido, va más lejos, el capitalismo funciona sobre una conjunción de flujos descodificados, con una condición que es que al mismo tiempo que descodifica perpetuamente los flujos de dinero, flujos de trabajo, etc., introduce, construye un nuevo tipo de máquina, al mismo tiempo, no depués, una máquina que ya no es de codificación, una máquina axiomática.

Así es como llegará a ser un sistema coherente, a condición, para nosotros, de decir en que se distingue tan profundamente una máquina axiomática de flujos descodificados de una codificación de los flujos.

Mientras que el esquizo, da más, ya no se deja axiomatizar, va siempre más lejos con los flujos descodificados; si es preciso sin flujos, antes que dejarse codificar; nada de tierra, antes que dejarse territorializar.

¿En qué relación están, el uno con el otro? A partir de ahí se planeta el problema. Hay que estudiar más de cerca la relación capitalismo/esquizofrenia, dándole a esta la mayor importancia: ¿es verdad que, y en que sentido, puede definirse el capitalismo como una máquina que funciona a base de flujos descodificados, a base de flujos desterritorializados? ¿En qué sentido es el negativo de todas las formaciones sociales y por eso mismo, en que sentido la esquizofrenia es el negativo del capitalismo, y va aún más lejos en la descodificación y la desterritorialización, y hasta dónde va, y a dónde lo conduce? ¿Hacia una nueva tierra, hacia nada de tierra, hacia el diluvio?

Si intento enlazarlo con los problemas de psicoanálisis, ¿en qué sentido, de qué manera -es solo un punto de partida-, yo supongo que hay algo en común entre el capitalismo, como estructura social, y la esquizofrenia como proceso? Algo en común hace que el esquizo sea como el negativo del capitalismo (el mismo el negativo de todo el resto), y ahora podemos comprender esa relación considerando los términos: codificación de flujos, flujos descodificados y desterritorializados, axiomática de flujos descodificados, etc. Nos falta ver en que el problema psicoanalítico y psiquiátrico, continua preocupándonos.

Es necesario volver a leer tres textos de Marx: en el libro I: la producción de la plusvalía, el capítulo sobre la baja tendencial en el último libro, y, en fin, en los “Gründisse”, el capítulo sobre la automatización.

Richard Zrehen: No he comprendido lo que has dicho a propósito de la analogía entre el capitalismo y la esquizofrenia, cuando tu dices que el capitalismo es el negativo de las otras sociedades y el esquizo es el negativo del capitalismo, ¿debería comprender que el capitalismo es a las otras sociedades lo que el esquizo es al capitalismo?, ahora bien, yo creía, al contrario, que no ibas a hacer esta oposición. Yo creería más bien en la oposición capitalismo/otras sociedades y esquizofrenia/otra cosa. En lugar de una analogía en tres términos, hacer una oposición en cuatro términos.

Cyril: Richard quiere decir oposición entre capitalismo / otras sociedades y esquizofrenía / neurosis, por ejemplo.

Deleuze: ah, si, si, si, si.
Definiremos el flujo en economía política, su importancia me es confirmada en las economías actuales. Por el momento, el flujo es algo, en una sociedad, que se desliza de un polo a otro, y que solo pasa por una persona en la medida en que las personas son interceptores.

Intervención de un hombre de acento gracioso.

Deleuze: Tomo un ejemplo: ustedes me dicen que en una sociedad todo se descodifica permanentemente, pero eso no es seguro. Creo que en una sociedad hay dos cosas, en lo que se refiere a dónde termina una sociedad, en lo que se refiere a la muerte de una sociedad; hay siempre dos momentos que coexisten. Toda muerte, de cierta manera, asciende -es el gran principio de Thanatos-, del adentro y toda muerte viene del afuera; quiero decir que en toda sociedad hay amenaza interna, y esta amenaza está representada por el peligro de flujos que se descodifican, ¿de acuerdo?

Nunca hay primero un flujo y después un código que viene sobre él. Los dos coexisten. ¿Cuál es el problema? Si retomo los estudios, ya antiguos, de Levi-Strauss sobre el matrimonio, él nos dice: lo esencial en una sociedad es la circulación y el intercambio. El matrimonio, la alianza, eso es intercambiar, y lo importante es que algo circula y se intercambia. Hay, entonces, un flujo de mujeres -elevar algo al coeficiente de flujo me parece que es una operación social, la operación social flujo; al nivel de la sociedad no hay mujeres, hay un flujo de mujeres que remite a un código, código de cosas, de edades, de clanes, de tribus, pero nunca hay un flujo de mujeres y después, en segundo lugar, un código; el código y el flujo están absolutamente formados cara a cara el uno del otro. ¿Cuál es, entonces, al nivel del matrimonio, el problema en una sociedad primitiva? El problema es que, con relación a los flujos de mujeres, en virtud del código, hay algo que debe pasar. Se trata de formar una especie de sistema, no del todo como lo sugiere Levi-Strauss, no del todo como una combinatoria lógica, sino un sistema físico con territorialidades: algo entra, algo sale, entonces vemos como, relacionadas con el sistema físico matrimonio, las mujeres se presentan bajo la forma de un flujo, de ese flujo; el código social quiere decir esto: con relación a un tal flujo, algo del flujo debe pasar, es decir manar; algo no debe pasar; y en tercer lugar -serían los tres términos fundamentales de un código-, algo debe hacer pasar o, al contrario, bloquear. Ejemplo, en los sistemas matrilineales, todo el mundo conoce la importancia del tío uterino, ¿por qué? En el flujo de mujeres, lo que pasa es el matrimonio permitido o aún prescrito.

En una sociedad así no tiene lugar un esquizo, literalmente, nos pertenece, allá es otra cosa. Allá es diferente. Hay un caso muy bello estudiado por P. Clastres; hay un tipo que no sabe, no sabe con quien debe casarse, intenta el viaje de desterritorialización para ir a ver al brujo, muy lejos. Hay un gran etnólogo inglés que se llama Leach, su tesis consiste en decir, las cosas no funcionan como dice Levi-Strauss, él no cree en su sistema pues nadie sabría con quien esposarse. Leach hace un descubrimiento fundamental, lo que él llama los grupos locales, distingue los grupos de filiación. Los grupos locales son pequeños grupos que maquinan los matrimonios, las alianzas; ellos no las deducen de las filiaciones. La alianza es una especie de estrategia que responde a datos políticos. Los grupos locales son, literalmente, un grupo (perverso, especialista en codificación) que determina para cada casta que puede pasar, que no puede pasar, que debe estar bloqueado, que puede manar. En un sistema matrilineal, ¿Qué está bloqueado? Lo que está bloqueado es lo que cae bajo las reglas de prohibición del incesto. En el flujo de mujeres algo está bloqueado, y lo bloqueado son ciertas personas que están eliminadas del flujo de mujeres en vistas al matrimonio, con relación a tales otras personas. Al contrario, lo que pasa, se podría decir, son los primeros incestos permitidos, los primeros incestos legales bajo la forma del matrimonio preferencial; pero todo el mundo sabe que los primeros incestos permitidos de hecho no son practicados, están demasiado próximos de lo que está bloqueado. Vemos entonces como el flujo es disyunto, algo en el flujo está bloqueado, algo pasa, hay grandes perversos que maquinan los matrimonios, que bloquean o hacen pasar. En la historia del tío uterino, la tía está bloqueada como imagen del incesto prohibido, bajo la forma de la pariente complaciente, el sobrino tiene, con su tía, una relación muy alegre, con su tío, una relación robo, pero el robo, las injurias, están codificadas, remito a Malinowski.

Pregunta: ¿Esos grupos locales tienen poderes mágicos?

Gilles : Tienen un poder abiertamente político, recurren a la brujería, pero no son grupos de brujería, son grupos políticos que definen la estrategia de una ciudad con relación a otra ciudad, y de un clan con relación a otro clan.

Todo código con relación a un flujo implica que se impida pasar algo de ese flujo. Se bloqueará, se dejará pasar algo: hay gentes que tienen una posición clave como interceptor, es decir impidiendo hacer pasar, o al contrario haciendo pasar, y cuando, enseguida, se percibe que esos personajes son tales que, según el código, les retornan ciertas prestaciones, se comprende mejor como funciona todo el sistema.

En todas las sociedades, el problema siempre ha sido codificar los flujos y recodificar aquellos que tendían a escapar -¿cuándo vacilan los códigos en las sociedades llamadas primitivas? Esencialmente en el momento de la colonización, donde, ahí, el código es lanzado fuera del campo bajo la presión del capitalismo; basta ver lo que ha representado en una sociedad codificada la introducción del dinero: hace saltar por los aires todo su circuito de flujos. En ese sentido ellos distinguen esencialmente tres tipos de flujos: los flujos de producción por consumir, los flujos de prestigio, objetos de prestigio y los flujos de mujeres. Cuando se introduce el dinero es la catástrofe (ver lo que Jaulin analiza como el etnocidio: dinero, complejo de Edipo)

Ellos intentan relacionar el dinero con sus códigos, como tal eso solo puede ser un bien de prestigio, no es un bien de producción o de consumo, no es una mujer, pero con el dinero, los jóvenes de la tribu que comprenden más rápido que los ancianos, aprovechan para apoderarse del circuito de los bienes de consumo, circuito que, tradicionalmente en ciertas tribus, era mantenido por las mujeres. He aquí que los jóvenes, con el dinero, se apoderan del circuito del consumo; con el dinero que no puede ser codificado en un marco preciso; se empieza con dinero y se termina con dinero.

D-M-D, no hay manera de codificar esa cosa porque los flujos cualitativos son reemplazados por un flujo de cantidad abstracta del que lo propio es la reproducción infinita de la que el tipo es D-M-D. Ningún código puede soportar la reproducción infinita. Lo formidable en las sociedades primitivas es que existe la deuda, pero existe bajo la forma de bloque finito, la deuda es finita.

Entonces, en ese sentido los flujos continúan huyendo, lo que no impide que los códigos sean correlativos y que codifiquen los flujos; sin duda, eso se escapa por todos lados, y al que no se deja codificar se le dirá: es un loco, se le codificará: el loco de la ciudad, se hará un código de código.

La originalidad del capitalismo es que ya no cuenta sobre ningún código, hay residuos de código, pero ya nadie cree: ya no creemos en nada. El último código que ha sabido producir el capitalismo es el fascismo: un esfuerzo para recodificar y reterritorializar todo, aún al nivel económico, al nivel del funcionamiento del mercado en la economía fascista; vemos ahí un esfuerzo extremo por resucitar una especie de código que habría funcionado como código del capitalismo; literalmente, eso solo podía durar lo que ha durado. En cuanto al capitalismo, él es incapaz de proporcionar un código que cuadricule el conjunto del campo social, porque sus problemas ya no se plantean en términos de código, sus problemas son hacer una mecánica de los flujos descodificados como tales, entonces únicamente en ese sentido, opongo el capitalismo como formación social a todas las otras formaciones sociales conocidas.

¿Puede decirse que hay una diferencia de naturaleza entre una codificación de flujo correspondiente a las formaciones pre-capitalistas y una axiomática descodificada, o simplemente una variación? Hay una diferencia radical de naturaleza. El capitalismo no puede proporcionar ningún código.

No podemos decir que la lucha contra un sistema sea totalmente independiente de la manera en que ese sistema ha sido caracterizado. Es difícil considerar que la lucha del socialismo contra el capitalismo en el siglo XIX haya sido independiente de la teoría de la plus-valía, en cuanto que esta teoría asignaba la característica del capitalismo.

Supongamos que el capitalismo pueda definirse como una máquina económica excluyendo los códigos y haciendo funcionar, cogidos en una axiomática, los flujos descodificados, esto nos permite relacionar la situación del capitalista y la situación de la esquizofrénica. El análisis de las mecánicas monetarias (los economistas neocapitalistas son esquizofrénicos), al nivel mismo del análisis tiene una influencia práctica, cuando se ve como funciona, al nivel concreto, no solo la teoría, sino la práctica monetaria del capitalismo, su carácter esquizoide, ¿puede decirse que es totalmente indiferente para la práctica revolucionaria?

Todo lo que se hace del lado del psicoanálisis y la psiquiatría, ¿a qué remite? El deseo, o no importa, el inconsciente no es imaginario o simbólico, es únicamente maquínico, y hasta tanto ustedes no alcancen la región de la máquina de deseo, mientras permanezcan en lo imaginario, en lo estructural o en lo simbólico, ustedes no habrán verdaderamente captado el inconsciente. El inconsciente son máquinas que, como toda máquina, se confirman por su funcionamiento. Confirmaciones: la pintura de Lindner obsesionada por “los niños con máquina”; enormes niños en primer plano sosteniendo una extraña máquina, especie de pequeño cometa y detrás de él una gran máquina técnico-social, y su pequeña máquina está empalmada sobre la gran máquina. A esto es lo que he intentado llamar el año anterior el inconsciente huérfano, el verdadero inconsciente, aquel que ya no pasa por papá-mamá, aquel que pasa por las máquinas delirantes, que están en una relación dada con las máquinas sociales. Segunda confirmación: un inglés, Niderland, lo ha hecho ver del lado del padre de Schreber. Lo que yo reprochaba al texto de Freud era el hecho de que el psicoanálisis era un verdadero molinete que rompía el carácter más profundo del tipo, es decir su carácter socio-histórico. Cuando se lee a Schreber están el gran mongol, los arios, los judíos, etc.; y cuando se lee a Freud, ni una palabra de todo eso; es como si ese fuera el contenido manifiesto y hubiese que buscar el contenido latente, el eterno papá-mamá de Edipo. Todo el contenido político, político-sexual, político-libidinal, porque en fin, cuando Schreber padre, se imagina ser un alsaciano que defiende Alsacia contra un oficial francés, ahí hay una libido política. A la vez sexual y político, el uno en el otro. Se sabe que Schreber padre era muy conocido porque había inventado un sistema de educación: los Jardines de Schreber. El había hecho un sistema de pedagogía universal. El esquizoanálisis procederá a la inversa del psicoanálisis, en efecto, cada vez que el sujeto cuente algo que se relacione, de cerca o de lejos, con Edipo o la castración, el esquizo-análisis dirá: ¡tonterías!. Lo que verá como importante es que Schreber padre inventa un sistema pedagógico de valor universal, que no actúa sobre su pequeño, sino mundialmente: Pan-gimnasticón. Si se suprime del delirio del hijo la dimensión político-mundial del sistema pedagógico paterno, no se puede comprender nada. El padre no aporta una función estructural sino un sistema político. Digo que la libido pasa por ahí, no por papá y mamá, sino por el sistema político. En el Pan-gimnasticón hay máquinas. No hay sistema sin máquinas, un sistema en rigor es una unidad estructural de máquinas, aún si hay que hacer estallar al sistema para llegar hasta las máquinas. Y ¿qué son las máquinas de Schreber? Son máquinas Sádico-Paranoicas, un tipo de máquinas delirantes. Son sádico-paranoicas en el sentido en que se aplican a los niños, de preferencia a los niños pequeños.

Con esas máquinas los niños permanecen tranquilos. En ese delirio la dimensión pedagógica universal aparece claramente: no es un delirio sobre su hijo, es un delirio sobre la formación de una raza mejor. Schreber padre actúa sobre su hijo, no como padre, sino como promotor libidinal de un investimento delirante del campo social. Que el padre esté ahí para hacer pasar algo de delirio, esa ya no es, seguramente, la función paterna, pero el padre actua aquí como agente de trasmisión con relación a un campo que ya no es el familiar, sino que es un campo político e histórico. Una vez más, los nombres de la historia y no el nombre del padre.

Comtesse: No se atrapan las moscas con el vinagre, aún maquínico.

Gilles: El sistema de Schreber padre tenía un desarrollo mundial (cinturones de buenos modales). Era una gran máquina social y al mismo tiempo, esparcida en la máquina social, llena de pequeñas máquinas delirantes sado-paranoicas. Entonces en el delirio del hijo seguramente está el papá, pero ¿como interviene? Interviene como agente de trasmisión en un investimento libidinal de un cierto tipo de formación social. Al contrario, el drama del psicoanálisis es el eterno familiarismo que consiste en referir la libido, y con ella toda la sexualidad, a la máquina familiar, y se los estructuralizará, lo que no cambia nada, se permanece en el círculo: castración simbólica, función familiar estructurante, personajes parentales, y se continua aplastando todo el afuera. Blanchot: ¿Un nuevo tipo de relación con el afuera?. Ahora bien, y este es el drama, el psicoanálisis tiende a suprimir toda relación del psicoanálisis mismo, y del sujeto que viene a hacerse analizar, con el afuera. Pretende territorializarnos en el psicoanálisis mismo, sobre la territorialidad o la tierra más mediocre, la más mezquina, la territorialidad edipiana, o peor sobre el diván. Vemos entonces la relación del psicoanálisis y del capitalismo: si es verdad que en el capitalismo los flujos se descodifican, se desterritorializan constantemente, es decir que el capitalismo produce al esquizo como produce dinero, toda la tentativa capitalista consiste en reinventar territorialidades artificiales para inscribir a la gente, para volver a atarla vagamente: se inventa cualquier cosa: HLM, casa, y la territorialización familiar. La familia es al menos la célula social, entonces al buen hombre se lo territorializa en familia (psiquiatría comunitaria); se reterritorializa a la gente ahí donde todas las territorialidades son flotantes, se procede por reterritorialización artificial, residual, imaginaria. Y el psicoanálisis hace -el psicoanálisis clásico- de le reterritorialización familiar, sobre todo haciendo saltar todo lo que es efectivo en el delirio, todo lo que es agresivo en el delirio, a saber que el delirio es un sistema de investimentos político-social de todo tipo: la libido se engancha en las determinaciones político-sociales; Schreber no sueña sobre cuando hacerle el amor a su mamá, sueña que se hace violar como niño alsaciano por un oficial francés, eso depende de algo más profundo que Edipo, a saber la manera como la libido inviste las formaciones sociales, al punto que hay que distinguir dos tipos de investimentos sociales para el deseo:
– los investimentos sociales de interés que son de tipos preconcientes, que pasan necesariamente por las clases,
– y más profundamente, no forzosamente de acuerdo con ellos, los investimentos inconscientes, los investimentos libidinales del deseo.

El psicoanálisis tradicional ha encerrado los investimentos libidinales del deseo en el triángulo familiar y el estructuralismo es la última tentativa de salvar a Edipo en el momento en que Edipo estalla por todos lados.

La tarea del esquizo-análisis es ver como los parientes juegan en el inconsciente como agentes de intersección, agentes de trasmisión en un sistema de flujos de deseo, de máquinas deseantes, y que lo que cuenta, es mi relación inconsciente con mis máquinas deseantes. ¿Qué son mis máquinas deseantes en mi? Y por eso mismo la relación inconsciente de esas máquinas deseantes con las grandes máquinas sociales de las que proceden … y entonces, no hay ninguna razón para mantener el psicoanálisis en la tentativa de reterritorializarnos. Tomo el ejemplo del último libro de Leclaire: hay algo que ya no va: “el acto más fundamental en la historia del psicoanálisis ha sido un descentramiento que consiste en pasar de la alcoba de los padres, como referente, al gabinete analítico”; hace algún tiempo creiamos en Edipo, después en la realidad de la seducción, no se iba lejos, porque todo el inconsciente estaba familiarizado, abatiendo la libido sobre el papá-mamá-yo. Todo el desarrollo del psicoanálisis se ha hecho en el sentido de la sustitución por el fantasma en la seducción real y sustitución por la castración en Edipo. Leclaire: “a decir verdad el desplazamiento del núcleo vivo de la coyuntura edipiana, de la escena familiar a la escena psicoanalítica es estrictamente correlativa de una mutación sociológica en la que se puede identificar psicoanáliticamente el resorte al nivel de la institución familiar” (página 30). La familia está desgastada; el inconsciente protesta y no funciona más para hacerse triangular, afortunadamente el análisis está listo para tomar el relevo.

La familia ya no asegura la custodia y el ocultamiento de un real demasiado potente. Uno se dice: ¡uf! al fin vamos a tener una relación con lo real extrafamiliar; ¡ah, no!, dice Leclaire, pues lo que releva a la familia, lo que deviene el guardian, el disimulador desvelador de lo potente real, es el gabinete del analista.

Ya no te haces triangular, edipizar en tu familia, eso ya no funciona, vendrás al divan a hacerte triangular y edipizar, y en efecto, añade Leclaire: “sí, el diván psicoanalítico se ha convertido en el lugar donde se desarrolla la confrontación con lo real”. La confrontación con lo real no se hace sobre la tierra, en el movimiento de la territorialización, reterritorialización, de la desterritorialización, se hace sobre está tierra podrida que es el diván del analista. ¿No tiene importancia que la escena edipiana no tenga referente al exterior del gabinete, que la castración no tenga referente fuera del gabinete del analista? Esto solo significa que el psicoanálisis, tanto como el capitalismo, encontrándose frente a flujos descodificados del deseo, encontrándose frente al fenómeno esquizofrénico de la descodificación y de la desterritorialización, eligen construir para ellos una pequeña axiomática. El diván, tierra última del hombre europeo de hoy, su pequeña tierra en sí.

Esta situación del psicoanálisis tiende a introducir una axiomática excluyendo todo referente, excluyendo toda relación con el afuera cualquiera que sea, parece un movimiento de la interioridad catastrófica en cuanto a comprender los verdaderos investimentos del deseo. Desde el momento en que se toma como referente la familia, ya se está perdido (el diván, última tierra que valdría y se justificaría por sí misma). Y el afuera está comprometido desde el principio, desde el momento en que se recorta el deseo de su doble dimensión -llamo doble dimensión libidinal del deseo a su relación, de una parte con las máquinas deseantes irreductibles a toda dimensión simbólica o estructural, a las máquinas deseantes funcionales, y el problema del esquizo-análisis es saber como funcionan esas máquinas deseantes, y llegar al nivel en que funcionan en el inconsciente de alguien, suponiendo que se haya hecho saltar a Edipo, la castración, etc, de otra parte, con los investimentos sociales-políticos-cósmicos, y no es necesario decir que hay ahí una menor desexualización que las recibidas del psicoanálisis, pues digo que el deseo, bajo la forma sexual fundamental, solo puede ser comprendido en sus investimentos sexuales, no llevados sobre papá-mamá, eso es secundario, sino en tanto que llegan sobre -de una parte, sobre las máquinas deseantes, porque la libido es la energía libre de las máquinas deseantes, y de otra parte, a través de nuestros amores sexuales, homosexuales, heterosexuales.

Lo investido siempre son los cortes de las dimensiones de un campo histórico, y seguramente el padre y la madre juegan dentro de este, son agentes de comunicación de máquinas deseantes, y de otra parte, los unos con los otros, y de otra parte, las máquinas deseantes con las grandes máquinas deseantes.

Hacer Esquizo-análisis es hacer tres operaciones:
Una tarea destructiva: hacer saltar las estructuras edípicas y castradoras para llegar a una región del inconsciente donde no haya castración, etc., porque las máquinas deseantes ignoran eso.
Una tarea positiva: que se tiene que ver y analizar funcionalmente, nada hay a interpretar. Una máquina no se interpreta, se capta su funcionamiento o sus fallos, el por qué de sus fallos: la picota edipiana, la picota psicoanalítica del diván es la que introduce los fallos en las máquinas deseantes.
Tercera tarea: las máquinas deseantes solo funcionan invistiendo a las máquinas sociales. Y aquellas son esos tipos de investimentos libidinales, distintos de los investimentos preconcientes de interés, esos investimentos sexuales -a través de todos los seres que amamos, todos nuestros amores, son un complejo de desterritorializacion y de reterritorialización, no son la territorialidad seca e histérica del diván, y a través de cada ser que amamos, lo que investimos es un campo social, son las dimensiones de ese campo social, y los parientes son agentes de trasmisión en el campo social- ver la carta de Jackson; la madre negra clásica que dice a su hijo: no hagas historias, haz un buen matrimonio, gana dinero. ¿Esta madre clásica actúa como madre y como objeto del deseo edipiano, o actúa en tanto que trasmite un cierto investimento libidinal del campo social, a saber el del tipo que hace un buen matrimonio? Se hace el amor, y en el sentido estricto del término, se lo hace a través de su mujer, inconscientemente, con un cierto número de procesos económicos, políticos, sociales, y el amor ha sido siempre el medio por el cual la libido alcanza a otra cosa que a la persona amada, a saber todo un corte del campo social-histórico, finalmente siempre se hace el amor con los nombres de la historia.

La otra madre (de Jackson) -la que dice “toma tu fusil”, de hecho las dos actúan como agentes de trasmisión en un cierto tipo de investimento social-histórico, que de uno a otro polo de esos investimentos ha cambiado singularmente, que en un caso se podría decir que son investimentos reaccionarios, en el límite fascistas, en el otro caso, es un investimento libidinal revolucionario. Nuestros amores son como los conductos y las vías de esos investimentos que no son, una vez más, de naturaleza familiar, sino que son de naturaleza histórico-política, y el último problema del esquizo-análisis no es solo el estudio positivo de las máquinas deseantes, sino el estudio positivo de la manera en que las máquinas deseantes proceden al investimento de las máquinas sociales, sea formando los investimentos de la libido de tipo revolucionario, sea formando los investimentos de la libido de tipo reaccionario. El dominio del esquizo-análisis se distingue en ese momento del dominio de la política, en el sentido en que los investimentos políticos preconcientes son investimentos de interés de clases que son determinables por ciertos tipos de estudios, pero que aún no dicen nada sobre el otro tipo de investimento, a saber los investimentos propiamente libidinales -o investimentos del deseo. Al punto que se puede llegar a que un investimento preconciente revolucionario puede estar doblado de un investimento libidinal de tipo fascista; lo que explica cómo se hacen los desplazamientos de un polo a otro del delirio, cómo un delirio tiene fundamentalmente dos polos -lo que decía muy bien Artaud: “el misterio de todo es Heliogabalo el anarquista”, porque son dos polos -no se trata simplemente una contradicción, es la contradicción humana fundamental, a saber el polo del investimento inconsciente de tipo fascista, y el investimento inconsciente de tipo revolucionario. Lo que me fascina en un delirio, es la ausencia radical de papá-mamá, salvo como agentes de trasmisión, salvo como agentes de intersección, y ahí tienen un rol; pero al contrario la tarea del esquizo-análisis es desarrollar en un delirio las dimensiones inconscientes del investimento fascista y del investimento revolucionario, y hasta qué punto resbala, hasta qué punto oscila. Ese es del dominio profundo de la libido. En la territorialidad más reaccionaria, la más folclórica puede surgir (nunca se sabe) un fermento revolucionario, algo esquizo, algo loco, una desterritorialización: el problema vasco, están poblados de fascismos, pero en otras condiciones, esas mismas minorías pueden estar determinadas, no digo que se haga por azar, ellas pueden asegurar un rol revolucionario. Esto es extremadamente ambiguo, no tanto al nivel del análisis político, sino al nivel del análisis del inconsciente, ¿cómo gira?. (Mannoni: anti-psiquiatra en la cuestión del juicio de la corte sobre Schreber —– delirio completamente fascista). Si la anti-psiquiatría tiene un sentido, si el esquizo-análisis tiene un sentido, es al nivel de un análisis del inconsciente, hacer ir y volver el delirio de su polo siempre presente, polo fascista reaccionario que implica un cierto tipo de investimento libidinal, hacia otro polo, por duro y lento que sea, el polo revolucionario.

Richard: ¿Por qué únicamente dos polos?

Gilles: Se pueden hacer muchos, pero fundamentalmente hay dos grandes tipos de investimentos, dos polos. ¿La referencia de los investimentos libidinales, es papá-mamá, son las territorialidades y las desterritorializaciones? Es lo que hay que encontrar en el inconsciente, sobre todo a nivel de sus amores.

Fantasma de naturidad, de la raza pura, movimiento de péndulo y de otra parte fantasma revolucionario de desterritorialización. Si usted dice sobre el diván del analista que lo que pasa, son todavía flujos, entonces de acuerdo, pero el problema que yo plantearía es: hay tipos de flujos que pasan bajo la puerta, lo que los psicoanalistas llaman la viscosidad de la libido, una libido demasiado viscosa que no se deja coger en el código del psicoanálisis, entonces sí, hay desterritorialización, pero el psicoanálisis dice: contra-indicación.

Lo que me fastidia en el psico-análisis del lado de Lacan es el culto a la castración. La familia es un sistema de trasmisión de los investimentos sociales de una generación a otra, pero no pienso que el que se haga el investimento social sea un elemento necesario, porque de todas maneras hay máquinas deseantes que, por sí mismas, constituyen los investimentos sociales libidinales de las grandes máquinas sociales.

Si usted dice: el loco es alguien que permanece con sus máquinas deseantes y que no procede a investimentos sociales, no estoy contigo. En toda locura veo un intenso investimento de un tipo particular del campo histórico, político, social, aún en las personas catatónicas. Eso vale tanto para el adulto como para el niño, desde la más tierna infancia las máquinas deseantes están empalmadas sobre el campo social.

En sí, todas las territorialidades valen con relación al movimiento de desterritorialización, pero hay como una especie de esquizo-análisis de las territorialidades, de sus tipos de funcionamiento, y por funcionamiento entiendo: si las máquinas deseantes están del lado de la gran desterritorialización, es decir del camino del deseo más allá de las territorialidades, si desear es desterritorializarse, es necesario decir que cada tipo de territorialidad es apta para soportar tal o cual genero de índice maquínico: el índice maquínico es lo que, en una territorialidad, sería apto para hacer huir en el sentido de una desterritorialización. Entonces, tomo el ejemplo del sueño, desde el punto de vista en que intento explicar el papel de las máquinas, es muy importante, diferente al del psicoanálisis: cuando un avión pasa o una máquina de coser -el sueño, es una especie de pequeña territorialidad imaginaria, el dormir o la pesadilla son las desterritorializaciones- se puede decir que la desterritorialización y las reterritorialidades solo existen las unas en función de las otras, pero usted puede evaluar la fuerza de desterritorialización posible en los índices que están sobre tal o cual territorialidad, es decir lo que soporta del flujo que huye -huir y huyendo, hacer huir, no a los otros, sino algo del sistema, un cabo.

Un índice maquínico en una territorialidad es lo que mide en esa territorialidad la potencia de huir haciendo huir los flujos, en éste aspecto no valen todas las territorialidades. Hay territorialidades artificiales, entre más huya y más pueda huir huyendo, más se desterritorializará.

Nuestros amores están siempre situados sobre una territorialidad que, con relación a nosotros, nos desterritorializan o bien nos reterritorializan. En este aspecto, hay malentendidos en juego de investimentos que son el problema del esquizo-análisis: en lugar de tener como referente a la familia, tiene como referente los movimientos de desterritorialización, de reterritorialización.

Zrehen: Quiero decir que tu has empleado el término de código para las sociedades llamadas primitivas, mientras que pienso que no es posible pensarlas en términos de código porque la famosa marca, porque hay una marca, que obliga a intercambiar. Porque hay deuda hay obligación de intercambio. Lo que pasa de su sociedad a la nuestra, es la perdida de la deuda, entonces cuando dices que el esquizo es el negativo del capitalista y que el capitalista es el negativo de las sociedades primitivas, se encuentra que justamente lo perdido es la castración. Esa marca principal. Tu vas al encuentro de lo que hace el capitalismo borrando la castración. Lo excluido en el capitalismo es esa marca inicial y lo que Marx ha intentado hacer es reintroducir la noción de deuda. Cuando tu me propones un polo reaccionario de investimento y un polo revolucionario, digo que tu te das ya los conceptos de “revolucionario” y de “reaccionario” como instituidos en un campo que no permite apreciar lo que quieres decir.

Tu empleas corte, yo admitiría que Edipo y la castración están sobrepasados, pero el capitalismo…



Fuente original:

Hace poco me suscribí a la Revista de Libros de la Fundación Caja Madrid la cual me parece es la mejor revista cultural que el idioma español pueda ofrecer. Por tanto y para las dinámicas a las cual sirve este blog, he decidido compartir con ustedes la publicación, misma que podrán descargar en formato .pdf en la más alta calidad. Aunque la revista ya lleva muchos años, no tienen todo su contenido en facsímiles digitales aunque ello no significa en realidad alguna pérdida significativa pues su archivo abarca casi todo el trabajo de estos años. Empezaré con la primera edición digital que publicaron, a saber, la de Otoño de 2008. Que la disfruten.


About the Book

The twentieth century was one of the most significant and exciting periods ever witnessed in philosophy, characterized by intellectual change and development on a massive scale. The Routledge Companion to Twentieth Century Philosophy is an outstanding authoritative survey and assessment of the century as a whole. Featuring twenty-two chapters written by leading international scholars, this collection is divided into five clear parts and presents a comprehensive picture of the period for the first time:

  • major themes and movements
  • logic, language, knowledge and metaphysics
  • philosophy of mind, psychology and science
  • phenomenology, hermeneutics, existentialism, and critical theory
  • politics, ethics, aesthetics.

Featuring annotated further reading and a comprehensive glossary, The Routledge Companion to Twentieth Century Philosophy is indispensable for anyone interested in philosophy over the last one hundred years, suitable for both expert and novice alike.


Dermot Moran, Michael Potter, Hans-Johann Glock, Terry Pinkard, Robert Hanna, James O’Shea, Geert Keil, Andrea Nye, Mark Sainsbury, Jason Stanley, E. J. Lowe, Matthias Steup, Sarah Patterson, Kelby Mason, Chandra Sekhar Sripada, Stephen Stich, Stathis Psillos, Dan Zahavi, Nicholas Davey, Karl-Otto Apel, Axel Honneth, Gary Gutting, Rowland Stout, Matt Matravers, Paul Guyer


‘To describe this volume as ambitious would be a serious understatement. The authors of the introduction and 22 majestic essays on the many themes, movements, and sub-disciplines of 20th century philosophy must have been counselled to make their essays (1) comprehensive, (2) written plainly enough to be accessible to intelligent beginners, and (3) full of scholarly rigor, including detailed notes and bibliographies of interest to professional philosophers. … Summing up: Essential.’CHOICE

‘It is hard to imagine a more useful, comprehensive or distinguished collection of essays on Western philosophy in the twentieth century. For anyone looking for an authoritative overview of the current state of the subject and its recent history this is where to find it.’ – Quassim Cassam, University of Cambridge, UK

Table of Contents

Introduction: Towards an Assessment of Twentieth-Century Philosophy Dermot Moran Part 1: Major Themes and Movements 1. The Birth of Analytic Philosophy Michael Potter 2. The Development of Analytic Philosophy: Wittgenstein and After Hans-Johann Glock 3. Hegelianism in the Twentieth Century Terry Pinkard 4. Kant in the Twentieth Century Robert Hanna 5. American Philosophy in the Twentieth Century James O’Shea 6. Naturalism Geert Keil 7. Feminism in Philosophy Andrea Nye Part 2: Logic, Language, Knowledge and Metaphysics 8. Philosophical Logic Mark Sainsbury 9. Philosophy of Language Jason Stanley 10. Metaphysics E J Lowe 11. Epistemology in the Twentieth Century Matthias Steup Part 3: Philosophy of Mind, Psychology and Science 12. Philosophy of Mind Sarah Patterson 13. Philosophy of Psychology Kelby Mason, Chandra Sekhar Sripada, Stephen Stich 14. Philosophy of Science Stathis Psillos Part 4: Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, Existentialism, and Critical Theory 15. Phenomenology Dan Zahavi 16. Twentieth-Century Hermeneutics Nicholas Davey 17. German Philosophy Karl-Otto Apel 18. Critical Theory Axel Honneth 19. French Philosophy in the Twentieth Century Gary Gutting Part 5: Politics, Ethics, Aesthetics 20. Twentieth-Century Moral Philosophy Rowland Stout 21. Twentieth-Century Political Philosophy Matt Matravers 22. Twentieth-Century Aesthetics Paul Guyer