File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_1997/bhaskar.9708, message 69

Date: Fri, 22 Aug 1997 13:27:00 -0400
To: bhaskar-AT-jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
Subject: BHA: Bhaskar on Adorno

Hi all,

Colin, you wrote (quoting Bhaskar): 

>"Adorno warns, by contrast, that the whole project of reducing subject 
>to object or vice versa is fundamentally mistaken" (Dialectic, p. 50)

>Now clearly, RB would agree with this. The reduction of either one to 
>the other would be instances of the epistemic or ontic fallacies. 
>However, RB goes on to argue:

>"But it seems intuitively, scientifically and philosophicaly 
>unsatisfying and indeed refutable not to see subjectivity as grounded 
>in _some sense_ (my comment: these are in italics), or over-reached, by 
>objectivity, if only in a meta-reflecive totalising situation of the 
>couple." (Dialectic, p. 50.)

My discomfort with that passage, when I came upon it in *Dialectic*, was 
with the "But".  

That is, Adorno's own view was, in general terms at least, precisely 
that which Bhaskar presents as a correction, or further refinement of 
Adorno: viz., that "subjectivity" is "in some sense over-reached by 
objectivity."  But this is Adorno's own position -- albeit it a high 
enough level of abstraction that it could be worked out to mean 
something very different from what Adorno meant or might have meant by 

The real difference between Bhaskar and Adorno on this point, it seems 
to me, is in their respective concern for ontology per se.  For better 
or for worse, Bhaskar is much more of a metaphysician than is Adorno. 

I think also that `objects', for Adorno, tend (when they are not 
directly social phenomena) to be things that have been produced or 
appropriated by human beings in some way, while for Bhaskar the 
`objects' which are key are mechanisms (not that manifest 
events/products are ignored).  Thus Adorno, like Marx, is concerned to 
point out the subjective aspect of a chair, i.e., the social conditions 
of its production (and also to distinguish this kind of "mediation" from 
that of the embodied [objective] character of actual living breathing 
subjects) while Bhaskar is concerned with the human-independence of, 
say, the molecular structure of the wood.  

I might be able to be convinced that in this respect Adorno, like Marx, 
really, lacks an explicitly stratified ontology, but not that it falls 
to Bhaskar to posit the primacy of the object.

Sorry for such a dense paragraph above.  Adorno takes a long time to 
spell out properly, and I'm too lazy.


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