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Sartre and Adorno

The Dialectics of Subjectivity

David Sherman

Publication Year: 2007

Focusing on the notion of the subject in Sartre’s and Adorno’s philosophies, David Sherman argues that they offer complementary accounts of the subject that circumvent the excesses of its classical formation, yet are sturdy enough to support a concept of political agency, which is lacking in both poststructuralism and second-generation critical theory. Sherman uses Sartre’s first-person, phenomenological standpoint and Adorno’s third-person, critical theoretical standpoint, each of which implicitly incorporates and then builds toward the other, to represent the necessary poles of any emancipatory social analysis.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

As with any significant undertaking, there are many people whose support, whether intellectual or emotional, warrants an expression of appreciation, and it is my pleasure to discharge this debt here. Earlier drafts of this book were reviewed by Kathy Higgins, Kelly Oliver, Harry Cleaver, ...

Abbreviations Used in the Text and Notes

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. 1-12

Since the late 1960s, during which time various strains of poststructuralism and critical theory’s linguistic turn have largely demarcated the field in continental philosophy, there has really been only one point of agreement among the preponderance of continental philosophers— namely, that any philosophical ...

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PART 1. Adorno's Relation to the Existential and Phenomenological Traditions

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pp. 13-16

Adorno’s engagement with the existential and phenomenological traditions was deep and long running. From his 1924 doctoral dissertation (“The Transcendence of the Material and Noematic in Husserl’s Phenomenology”) and 1931 Habilitationsschrift (“The Construction of the Aesthetic in Kierkegaard”) ...

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1 Adorno and Kierkegaard

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pp. 17-36

Kierkegaard: Construction of the Aesthetic, first published in 1933,1 is a modified version of Adorno’s Habilitationsschrift, which had been written a few years earlier. The book, which is critical of Kierkegaard, was at odds with the sentiment of the time, for Kierkegaard’s thought was experiencing a renaissance in ...

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2 Adorno and Heidegger

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pp. 37-58

While Adorno deals most extensively with Heidegger in The Jargon of Authenticity and Negative Dialectics, which were both written in the 1960s,1 his engagement with Heidegger’s philosophy traversed his entire career. As is evidenced by “The Actuality of Philosophy” and “The Idea of Natural History,” ...

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3 Adorno and Husserl

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pp. 59-68

Kierkegaard and Heidegger both flee from the subject-object dialectic, albeit in diametrically opposed ways: Kierkegaard withdraws from the profane world into subjective inwardness so as to preserve his “personal meaning,” while Heidegger rejects subjectivity in his quest to recover the “meaning of Being.” ...

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PART II. Subjectivity in Sartre's Existential Phenomenology

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pp. 69-74

Sartre’s earliest works build mostly on the philosophy of Husserl, but unlike Husserl, who holds on to the notion of a transcendental ego that categorially intuits the object in its essence, Sartre rejects the notion of a transcendental ego altogether. In this way, as we shall see, Sartre’s brand of phenomenology is ...

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4 The Frankfurt School's Critique of Sartre

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pp. 75-86

Although Horkheimer had wanted the Frankfurt School to undertake a comprehensive analysis of Sartre’s philosophy,1 the only consideration of it that was anything more than superficial was Marcuse’s 1948 article “Existentialism: Remarks on Jean-Paul Sartre’s L’Être et le Néant.” 2 Before I proceed to consider this ...

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5 Sartre’s Relation to His Predecessors in the Phenomenological and Existential Traditions

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pp. 87-108

Classic philosophical questions concerning the nature of “Being,” “Knowing,” and “Death” tend to preoccupy Sartre’s predecessors in the phenomenological and existential traditions, and these questions also find their way into Sartre’s work. In this chapter, I shall consider Sartre’s relation to these perennial ...

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6 Sartre’s Mediating Subjectivity

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pp. 109-172

Sartre’s phenomenological ontology implies that as agents in the world we must, practically speaking, experience ourselves as free and responsible, but this does not mean that it is Sartre’s claim that we are “absolutely” free, as so many critics in addition to Adorno and Marcuse have maintained. Matters are far more ...

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PART III. Adorno’s Dialectic of Subjectivity

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pp. 173-180

Because Adorno emphasizes the relation between enlightenment subjectivism and an oppressive historical dialectic, many commentators claim that he all but rejects the subject. This conclusion, which is often based on Adorno’s analysis of the subject’s genesis and historical development in Dialectic of Enlightenment ...

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7 The (De)Formation of the Subject

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pp. 181-236

In contrast to Being and Nothingness, which considers the subject from the phenomenological standpoint, and therefore does not call into question such “first person” notions as freedom and responsibility (because, practically speaking, we must operate under these ideas), Dialectic of Enlightenment considers ...

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8 Subjectivity and Negative Dialectics

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pp. 237-282

During 1963, Adorno published three monographs on Hegel— “Aspects of Hegel’s Philosophy,” “The Experiential Content of Hegel’s Philosophy,” and “Skoteinos, or How to Read Hegel”—in a small book titled Hegel: Three Studies. In the Preface to this book, Adorno says that “the work as a whole is intended as a preparation ...


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pp. 283-308


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pp. 309-314


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pp. 315-328

E-ISBN-13: 9780791480007
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791471159
Print-ISBN-10: 0791471152

Page Count: 340
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Kierkegaard, Søren, 1813-1855.
  • Subjectivity.
  • Dialectic.
  • Phenomenology.
  • Sartre, Jean-Paul, 1905-1980.
  • Adorno, Theodor W., 1903-1969.
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