File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0001, message 17

Date: Sat, 15 Jan 2000 13:42:30 +0000
Subject: Re: BHA: style, etc., one last time

Hi Ruth and all,

To say that Adorno celebrates obscurity is IMO to misunderstand his
arguments: the notion that each and every thought is universally
communicable is a liberal fiction; genuinely original thought is
necessarily opposed to and negates 'the continuity of the familiar'; and
thought is always thickly mediated by experience - there is no such
thing as a pure, clear thought. (To recognize this is not necessarily to
celebrate it.) The celebration of 'the struggle for clarity' (for Adorno
'the empty chatter about expression') thus has the opposite of its
intended effect: it sabotages genuinely novel thought which might
challenge the status quo; we do it to drown out the silence effected by
our imposed powerlessness, instead of getting on with and prizing the
critical thinking that matters. I do not see that this is at all at odds
with core elements in Bhaskar. On the contrary, as a fellow philosopher
of negation and absence, he would agree that (as I summarized Adorno)
'it is thought's necessary gaps or absences that drives thought on'. It
seems to me that Ruth's kind of position presupposes a purely positive
account of representation and ultimately of reality, which both
philosophers relentlessly criticize. (Adorno is, incidentally, one of
Bhaskar's favourites, though of course he has his criticisms.)

As for Kant, the issue IMO has never been whether DPF could do with a
good edit (nobody denies this). The issue is rather whether a certain
level of difficulty in major philosophical texts is irreducible. Kant
made his improvements, but his text remains very difficult - and
necessarily so, in Kant's opinion.

I find Ruth's suggestion that CR is, from an Adornoian perspective, a
form of idealism intriguing. On the one side it would have to take into
account Bhaskar's reassessment in DPF of the mature Marx as a critical
realist. On the other, I can see that taking the lid off ontology could
lead in the direction of idealism in a grand sense. I think any
arguments about this, stemming from Adorno or otherwise, would be of
great interest to the list - certainly to me anyhow.

Yours in the struggle for truth, 


Ruth Groff <> writes
>Hi all,
>I see that I haven't expressed myself clearly.  [:-)]
>I hadn't intended to evade Mervyn's suggestion that Adorno's comments on
>style are relevant to the question of whether the ideas in DPF might have
>been more clearly expressed.  My intention was to respond that Adorno's
>celebration of obscurity is based on views that are at odds with core
>elements of Bhaskar's thought.  I don't believe that one can coherently
>adopt both stances at once.  I also tried to add that, as I read him,
>Bhaskar's own accounts of thought, of language and of philosophy, in
>contrast to those of Adorno, allow - even invite - one to raise the ideal of
>clarity (which is not, while I'm at it, the same thing as accessibility) as
>an internal demand.
>On the matter of what one is to make of my suspicion that Adorno would
>regard critical realism as a tacit form of idealism, I stand by it.  This is
>not to say that I *agree* with what I think would be Adorno's position --
>just to say that, unsettling or no, I think that it would be his view.  I am
>hoping to write on this question at some point, and would be genuinely happy
>to talk further to anyone who's interested in it.  It would probably be best
>to do so offlist, though, so as not to take up list time on Adorno.       
>As to Mervyn's claim that the Kant quotation ["Yet as regards a certain
>obscurity...owing to which the principle points of the investigation are
>easily lost sight of, the complaint is just, and I intend to remove it by
>the present Prolegomena"] supports the position DPF in principle could not
>withstand a good edit, I'm lost as to how to respond.  [Not to mention
>Kant's going on and on about how beautifully Hume wrote, and how his own
>work would be so much better if only he could write that way.]  In any case,
>the whole aside about Kant was simply to counter his being included in a
>list of authors intended to support a claim that good philosophy has to be
>hard to read.
>Yours in the struggle for clarity,
>     --- from list ---

Mervyn Hartwig

     --- from list ---


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