File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2000/bhaskar.0001, message 5

Date: Thu, 13 Jan 2000 10:49:30 -0500 (EST)
Subject: BHA: Adorno on style

Hiya everybody,

I know I shouldn't do this, but...   about Adorno...  

I'm not sure that we can have it both ways.  Adorno's views on style and
representation are internally related to a broader theoretical stance -- a
stance that is at odds with Bhaskar's at the exactly relevant crucial points.  

Yes, Adorno goes on and on about the inherent impossibility of a certain
kind of precision, clarity or transparency -- and the violence that is
implied by the unselfconscious pursuit thereof.  But this is because, for
Adorno, thought itself is compromised, in a way that it is not for Bhaskar.  

[True, there is also the oppposition from Adorno to cognitive operations
that are simply too easy.  This objection is one of the elements of his
critique of popular culture and of the culture industry as a whole -- Adorno
doesn't like jazz, for example, for this reason.  With respect to philosophy
that has been written in an analytic, expository style, though, my response
to this line of argument is that it applies - if it does - to the conceptual
content of the work in question.  Either the ideas to be communicated are
themselves challenging in the way in which Adorno applauds, or they are not.
Simply making it harder to figure out *what* they are is a matter of window
dressing, it seems to me.]  

In any case, rightly or wrongly Adorno would shudder at a philosophy of
science in which scientists are thought of as identifying (althethic)
truths.  He would also be opposed to the account of language and meaning
encapsulated in the concept of referential detachment.  And that's not to
mention the whole notion of a transcendental realism -- which Adorno, I
suspect, would chalk up to so much pre-Kantian metaphysics!

Now I'm not saying that anyone in this debate over whether or not RB should
write more clearly is right or wrong on any point simply because Adorno
would or would not agree with them.  Nor am I saying that Adorno and Bhaskar
disagree about everything.  I'm very interested in the similarities as well
as in the differences between them.  

My point is only that Adorno's views on style *ARE*, for better or for
worse, related to the content of his critique of idealism in all of its
forms -- and it matters, I think, that this critique would extend to RB's
critical realism.  RB, conversely, does not, as I understand him, hold any
views about thought, language and/or "objects" that preclude the pursuit of
stylistic clarity.  

In fact just the opposite.  Indeed, it is for this reason the request for
clarity with respect to RB's work has always seemed to me to be an internal
demand.  [With Adorno, by contrast, one has to actually reject parts of the
theory -- or at least object to Adorno's understanding of its implications
-- in order to voice such a request.]      

By the way (while I'm at it), I came accross something interesting.  In the
Introduction to the *Prolegomena (To Any Future Metaphysics That Can Qualify
as a Science)*, Kant says something about the reception of his own work that
strikes me as relevant -- especially since his writing was pointed to as an
example of stylistic difficulty being a requirement of conceptual difficulty.  
Kant says that (like Mervyn!) he was surprised to hear complaints of the
"want of popularity, entertainment, and facility" of the *Critique* coming
from philosophers -- that they, at least, should appreciate that "highly
prized" ideas require following "the strictest rules of methodic precision,"
which may be at odds with a pleasing prose. 

"Yet," he continues, "as regards a certain obscurity, arising partly from
the diffuseness of the plan, owing to which the principle points of
investigation are easily lost sight of, the complaint is just, and I intend
to remove it by the present Prolegomena."

Which seems to me to be just the right thing to do!


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