File spoon-archives/bhaskar.archive/bhaskar_2001/bhaskar.0112, message 3

Date: Mon, 03 Dec 2001 01:58:42 -0800
Subject: BHA: Adorno

Hi Howard,

That was a fantastic post.  

Here are some quick thoughts.  First, the point about what our stance is towards nature is important.  Adorno will say that you can't have the widespread domination of nature without having the widespread domination of people.  If Bhaskar is right about the definition of natural science, then the relationship between such a stance towards nature and modern natural science is not as close as it would seem to be from the perspective of positivism.  (Though when you read Bacon after Aristotle, you know you're in a different world, methodologically speaking.)  Still, it's a problem for Adorno.

Second, Adorno, I think, wants there to be an epistemological limit to reason.  He likes this about Kant.  Critical realism, by contrast, presents us with an *ontological* limit to reason.  

This creates an odd faces/candlesticks kind of situation:  from Adorno's perspective, critical realism is a kind of identitiy thinking because it involves the idea that in principle at least there is nothing in nature that we can't know; from the perspective of critical realism, meanwhile, Adorno vacillates between (1) subsuming causality into thought, a la Kant (leaving himself with an impoverished conception of causality, which cannot sustain his own neo-Marxist political economy), and  (2)  adopting a realist conception of cause (even though he doesn't spell it out and certainly isn't working with RB's categories) but, as Howard argues, winding up nonetheless being stuck with an "object" which must remain mysterious.  (In either case it's Kant, actually, and in both cases the primacy of the object seems weak, compared to the robust materialism of the early Bhaskar.)

The thing is, Adorno, I think, will say that a theory of knowledge in which the subject can know everything is necessarily ideological, in the context of a society in which subjects are alienated from nature and from one another.  My tentative response to this would be to say that in critical realism the divide between subject and object is not encoded in the epistemology because it is acknowledged explicitly in the ontology -- an ontology which in some sense actually supplants the epistemology.  I would also say that Adorno loses the specificity of the relationships between different pairings of subject and object (humans and nature; humans and eachother; concept and object; etc.) by referring to them all as "subject and object" and assuming that the relationship between subject and object in each case is identical.  I would also say just as an observation that while Adorno thinks of ideal reconciliation in terms of *real* "identity" between subject and object, for the early Bhaskar the relationship is always and necessarily asymmetrical; reconciliation doesn't close the ontological gap.         

Okay it's 2am.  Gotta go to sleep.  These are just some musings.  Thank you, Howard, for such a good post.  I'll look forward to hearing what others have to say.


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