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Problems of moral philosophy
Adorno, Theodor W., 1903-1969.
Uniform Title:
Probleme der Moralphilosophie. English
Publication Information:
Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, 2000.
Physical Description:
viii, 224 pages ; 24 cm
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B3199.A33 P76 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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These 17 lectures given in 1963 focus largely on Kant, a thinker in whose work the question of morality is most sharply contrasted with other spheres of existence. After discussing a number of the Kantian categories of moral philosophy, Theodor W. Adorno considers other, seemingly more immediate general problems, such as the nature of moral norms, the good life, and the relation of relativism and nihilism. In the course of the lectures, Adorno addresses a wide range of topics, including: theory and practice; ethics as bad conscience; the repressive character; the problem of freedom; dialectics in Kant and Hegel; the nature of reason; the moral law as a given; psychoanalysis; the element of the Absurd; freedom and law; the Protestant tradition of morality; Hamlet; self-determination; phenomenology; the concept of the will; the idea of humanity; The Wild Duck; and Nietzsche's critique of morality.

Author Notes

Theodor W. Adorno is the progenitor of critical theory, a central figure in aesthetics, and the century's foremost philosopher of music. He was born and educated in Frankfurt, Germany. After completing his Ph.D. in philosophy, he went to Vienna, where he studied composition with Alban Berg. He soon was bitterly disappointed with his own lack of talent and turned to musicology.

In 1928 Adorno returned to Frankfurt to join the Institute for Social Research, commonly known as The Frankfurt School. At first a privately endowed center for Marxist studies, the school was merged with Frankfort's university under Adorno's directorship in the 1950s. As a refugee from Nazi Germany during World War II, Adorno lived for several years in Los Angeles before returning to Frankfurt. Much of his most significant work was produced at that time.

Critics find Adorno's aesthetics to be rich in insight, even when they disagree with its broad conclusions. Although Adorno was hostile to jazz and popular music, he advanced the cause of contemporary music by writing seminal studies of many key composers. To the distress of some of his admirers, he remained pessimistic about the prospects for art in mass society.

Adorno was a neo-Marxist who believed that the only hope for democracy was to be found in an interpretation of Marxism opposed to both positivism and dogmatic materialism. His opposition to positivisim and advocacy of a method of dialectics grounded in critical rationalism propelled him into intellectual conflict with Georg Hegel, Martin Heidegger, and Heideggerian hermeneutics.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 1

Choice Review

This volume is part of a series of translations of the work of Theodor Adorno (1903-69) that Stanford University Press has recently undertaken. This is a commendable project, since translators have served Adorno notoriously poorly, and English-speaking scholars have had to peer through a glass darkly at Dialectic of Enlightenment (1979, 1972) and Aesthetic Theory (1984), although the latter has been retranslated in a crisp new edition (CH, Sep'97). That good translation will make a difference is evident, as already Beethoven: The Philosophy of Music (CH, Feb'99) is commanding serious attention not only among scholars of Adorno but also among musicologists and philosophers. What makes Problems of Moral Philosophy doubly remarkable is the simplicity of the original German and the clarity of the translation. This volume, consisting of lectures that were transcribed from tape recordings, is incredibly valuable for those seeking a clear introduction to Adorno's formidably complex thought. Moral Philosophy covers many of the issues--particularly those dealing with Kantian philosophy--central to his work in general. Of particular interest is the direct manner in which he talks to his student auditors on the question of praxis. Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. S. Barnett; Central Connecticut State University

Table of Contents

Part I
1 Moral Philosophy as a Theoretical Discipline
2 The Concept of Practice
3 Theory as Resistance and a 'Testing of Reality' Against Practicism
4 Naivety and Reflection
5 On the Tension between Theory and Practice
6 Spontaneity and Resistance
7 The Irrational
8 Hostility to Moralities Confined to Particulars
9 Ethics as Bad Conscience: on Behalf of a Morality Bluntly Incompatible with Our Experience
Part II
10 'Morality and its Discontents'
11 The Problem of Ethos and Personality
12 The Ethical is no Natural Category
13 Morality and Social Crisis
14 The Sociology of the Repressive Character
15 The General and the Particular
16 Plan of the Lecture Course
17 Texts to Be Studied
Part III
18 Arguments ad homines
19 Lectures: Attempts at Critical Models
20 The Dual Nature of Reason in Kant: Theory and Practice, Epistemology and Metaphysics
21 The Problem of Freedom
22 On the Theory of Antimonies
23 Dialectics
24 The Distinction between Scepticism and 'The Sceptical Method'
Part IV
25 The Nature of the Antinomies
26 Causality and Freedom: Spontaneity
27 The Thesis of the Third Antinomy
28 The Proof of the Thesis
29 The Motif of a Causality Born of Freedom
30 The Antithesis
Part V
31 The Principle of Causality and the Necessity of the Antinomies
32 Dialectics in Kant and Hegel
33 Problem of the prima philsophia: The First Cause
34 Causality, Law and Freedom
35 External Nature of the Concept of Causality; Freedom as a Given
Summary: Causality born of freedom
Part VI
36 The Dual Character of Kantian Philosophy
37 The One and the Many
38 Once Again: Theory and Practice
39 On the Doctrine of Method: The Nature of Reason
40 Speculation
41 Freedom and the Domination of Nature
42 The Disappointing of Metaphysical Expectations
43 The Rejection of Philosophical Indifference
44 The Idea of God and the Rights of Criticism
45 The Priority of Practice
Part VII
46 Theory and Practice of the 'Doctrine of Method'
47 Form and Content in Practical Philosophy
48 Practice as the Exclusion of Experience
49 Freedom as Reason
50 What is Primary and What is Secondary?
51 The Moral Law as a Given
52 Can Social Contradictions be Resolved?
53 Bourgeois Optimism
54 Can the Moral Law be Learnt Through Experience?
55 Difficulty of Distinguishing Between a Priori Knowledge and Knowledge from Experience
56 Necessity and Universality: A 'Second-Order Given'
57 The Coercive Character of Empirically Given Morality
58 Psychoanalytical Objection
59 The Ethics of Conviction
60 The Return of Teleology
61 The Element of Heteronomy
Part IX
62 Laws of Freedom
63 The Principle of Exegesis
64 The 'Extinction Ofintention'
65 The Dual Character of Nature
66 Kant 'Breaks off' the Argument
67 Resistance to and Acceptance of Heteronomy
68 The Element of the Absurd
69 The Historical Dialectics of Morality
70 The 'Growing Old of Morality'
Part X
71 The Intolerable Dualism of Freedom and Law
72 The Protestant Tradition
73 The Experience of Spirit and Nature as Opposed to Domination
74 Methodological Excursus: Literal Interpretation Versus the History of Ideas
75 Kantian Ethics is the Moral Philosophy Par Excellence
76 Formalism and Rigorism
Part XI
77 The Grounding of Morality in Reason: Against 'the Education of the Heart';Prince Hamlet
78 The Element of Non-Identity
79 Coercion by a Third Party
80 Reason Aspractice
81 The Restricted Nature of Kantian Ethics
82 Bourgeois Calculus and Bureaucratic Virtue
83 The Ambivalence of the Unmediatedgood
84 Autonomy and Heteronomy
Part XII
85 Self-Determination
86 No Cult of Values
87 The Absence of Balance between Freedom and Law
88 Formalism and Social Context; Kant's Writings on Moral Philosophy
89 The Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals
90 Excursus on Phenomenology:
91 The Concept of the Will
92 Psychological Aspect: Good Will and Ill Will
93 Duty and Reverence
94 The Element of Repression
95 The Disappearance of Freedom
96 Transition to the Problem of an Ethics of Responsibility and Conviction
Part XIV
97 The Suppression of Instinct as the General Philosophical Attitude
98 Self-Preservation and Compensation
99 The Fetishization of Renunciation
100 The Idea of Humanity: A Hypothesis
101 The Totalitarianism of Ends
102 Reason as an End in Itself
Part XV
103 Kant's Ethics of Conviction [Gesinnung]
104 War on Two Fronts: Against Empiricism and Theology
105 Difference from Plato: The Idealism of Reason
106 Early Bourgeois Pathos and Rousseauism
107 Interiority and the German misSre
Part XVI
108 The Dialectical Element of Morality
109 Excursus: Ibsen's Wild Duck
200 Conscience: 'Can Be Very Hard'
201 Explication: Entanglement in Existing Reality
202 The Critique of Hegel's Sublation [Aughebung] of Morality
203 Resistance to a False Life
204 Fallibility in the Face of the Masks of Evil
205 Contra Nietzsche's Critique of Morality
206 The Limits of Morality as the Crisis of Indivualism
207 Transition from Critique to Political Consciousness
Editor's Notes