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Memories of Origination

By Jacob Bard-Rosenberg, 15 April 2013
Image: Newgate Exercise yard by Gustave Dore, 1872

Closing this short series of essays on the concept of Natural Beauty in Adorno’s work, originally presented in London at Historical Materialism 2012, Jacob Bard-Rosenberg excavates aesthetic experience from its bourgeois and Kantian prison


The figure of the constrained gives happiness because the force of constraint must not be forgotten; its images are a memento.

– Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, 1969.


For radical natural-historical thought, however, everything existing transforms itself into ruins and fragments, into just such a charnel house where signification is discovered, in which nature and history interweave.

– Theodor Adorno, ‘The Idea of Natural-History’, 1932.


My prison cell – my fortress

– Franz Kafka, Journals vol. 12, 1917.



This essay is an attempted, and failed, exegesis of three sentences of Adorno’s chapter on ‘Natural Beauty’:


That the experience of natural beauty, at least according to its subjective consciousness, is entirely distinct from domination of nature, as if the experience were at one with the primordial origin, marks out both the strength and the weakness of the experience: its strength, because it recollects a world without domination, one that probably never existed; its weakness, because through this recollection it dissolves back into that amorphousness out of which genius once arose and for the first time became conscious of the idea of freedom that could be realised in a world free from domination. The anamnesis of freedom in natural beauty deceives because it seeks freedom in the old unfreedom. Natural beauty is myth transposed into the imagination, and thus, perhaps, satisfied.1


I will address, partially, the problem of natural-history, around which Adorno’s philosophy centred.2 In his 1932 lecture ‘The Idea of Natural-History’ he described natural-historical thought as the comprehension of ‘historical being in its most extreme historical determinacy, where it is most historical, as natural being; or if it were possible to comprehend nature as a historical being where it seems to rest most deeply in itself as nature.’3 As nature fractures into history, as transience, nature is made meaningful and sensuous. Metacritically as epistemology fractures into the philosophy of history, aesthetics is born.


Space and Limit in the Kantian Judgment


In parentheses connoting the perennial bourgeois embarrassment, Kant writes, at the opening of the Critique of Judgment, ‘Freedom cannot possibly be an object of experience.’4 This sentence inflects the ‘Third Antinomy of Pure Reason’, wherein a contradiction was produced by attempting to describe human freedom through the understanding of natural laws. This chorismos of nature and freedom appears most forcefully in the first critique as ‘limit’: understanding cannot know the thing-in-itself, Kant’s ‘limit-concept’ [Grenzbegriff]. Adorno writes of this philosophical move in Negative Dialectics, ‘The subject – a mere limited moment – was locked up in its own self by that metaphysics, imprisoned for all eternity’.5 The aesthetic without experience of freedom is the movement of this transcendental limitation into the empirical. Sensible experience of nature is transformed into the subject’s determinate experience of unfreedom. The Kantian aesthetic ought to be understood not as a bridge over which one might escape to freedom but as the experience of a prison.6


Ending the Critique of Pure Reason under the heading ‘The History of Pure Reason’ Kant writes ‘This whole does indeed present edifices to my eye, but only in ruins.’7 Real and allegorical collide as the transcendental system transmutes into the ruin it attempts to stave off in the motion of metaphor. System subsumes its opposite: fracture. History destructively exposes itself at the very moment experience expected to perfect itself as the consummation of natural law in the consciousness of the subject. The epistemological system, in completing itself, is radically incompleted.


Kant’s transcendental critique elucidates the domination of nature by the scientist-subject who is to bring nature’s particularities under universal concepts. History, as fracture, threatens to break the universality of those laws, or rather, to expose their inherent injustice both to nature and to the subject as transcendental scientist. Kant’s description of ruinous edifices recorded something of his historical condition: a world in which the reconciliation between man and nature, the only just concept of freedom, remained an impossible utopia. Adorno was concerned throughout his life with the reading of fractures in the German Idealist philosophical texts of system. He wrote in 1964 of his early experience reading the Critique of Pure Reason with Siegfried Kracauer reflecting on precisely this mode of critique:


For years Kracauer read the Critique of Pure Reason regularly on a Saturday afternoon with me. I am not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that I owe more to this reading than to my academic teachers. Exceptionally gifted as a pedagogue, Kracauer made Kant come alive for me. Under his guidance I experienced the work from the beginning not as a mere epistemology, not as an analysis of the conditions of scientifically valid judgments, but as a kind of coded text from which the historical situation of spirit could be read, with the vague expectation that in doing so one could acquire something of truth itself. If in my later reading of traditional philosophical texts I was not so much impressed by their unity and systematic consistency as I was concerned with the play of forces at work under the surface of every closed doctrine and viewed the codified philosophies as force fields in each case, it was certainly Kracauer who impelled me to do so. As he presented it to me, Kant’s critical philosophy was not simply a system of transcendental idealism. Rather, he showed me how the objective-ontological and subjective-idealist moments warred within it, how the more eloquent passages in the work are the wounds this conflict has left in the theory. From a certain point of view, the fissures and flaws in a philosophy are more essential to it than the continuity of its meaning, which most philosophies emphasize of their own accord. Under the watchword ontology, interest in this, which Kracauer shared during the period around 1920, opposed epistemological subjectivism and its passion for system. At that time no clear distinction had been drawn between what was actually ontological in Kant and the traces of naïve realism in him. 8


Attempting to resolve this radical incompleteness Kant was to invoke the aesthetic, the philosophy of the incomplete, of the fragment.9 The philosophy of perfection is not aesthetic, but logical, a matter for reason, not the imagination.10 In describing the role of aesthetic judgments, Kant describes three spaces: the territory (territorium), wherein judgments are possible; within the territory the domain (ditio),11 wherein judgments are legislative; and finally, our strange aesthetic place, within the domain, a residence (domicilium), wherein judgments ‘are produced according to the law’ but ‘do not legislate’.12 Aesthetic judgments attempt to do a justice to nature and freedom in their separation: they do not legislate objectively or dominate, and do not wish to form nature or to subsume it under concepts, nor do they command; they eschew heteronomy. They offer precisely the justice denied by the law. But for their accordance with history’s disintegrative tendencies, for their alliance with the anarchic ruination of the law of nature, these judgments must be made powerlessly, in residence.13 In doing justice to the fragmentary, the anti-systemic, Kant’s final defence is to incarcerate the empirical subject in the prison of the aesthetic; condemned to an endless fate of experience which is never that of freedom. Adorno writes, ‘sensuality is designated as a victim of the intellect.’14


What is radical must, for system, deny its own emancipatory potential; aesthetic judgments are acts of ‘free lawfulness’ of the imagination. Bourgeois aesthetics sees correct aesthetic judgments as the free yet resigned conformity with the law. The ‘harmony’ of an aesthetic with its a priori principle is nothing other than the formal concordance of the universality of the imprisonment of the imagination with the universality of the law. Ultimately Kant’s thought does not resolve in the harmony between understanding and reason, but dissolves in the dissonance between the powers of understanding and reason, and the powerlessness of the free imagination.


The beautiful in Kant is the universally necessary common feeling: we can understand this only as the shared feeling of incarceration, the shared feeling of suffering under the universal dominion of the natural law. But the sublime, unlike the beautiful, relies on a refunctioning of this prison of residency. Here, it is precisely this residency that provides a protective shelter for the subject from a hostile nature. Kant writes of the sublime, ‘the sight […] becomes more attractive the more fearful it is, provided we are in a safe place.’15 The sublime is described by Kant as the experience of what is frightening, followed by the realisation that the moral law, that supersensible within us, our power of reason, is greater than even the mightiest appearances of natures. It is the moment in which realise ourselves as greater than nature, and in this sense it is educative: a propaedeutic of perpetual hypotyposis. Sublime education is the precipitation of internal moral law as the hardened of walls of our residency: a home whose walls are thickened with ‘humanistic’ culture. Yet Kant acknowledges that the hardening of those walls, the material diremption from first nature, functions destructively with regard to the empirical subject.


It is a feeling that the imagination, by its own action is depriving itself of its freedom, in being determined purposively according to a law different from that of its empirical use. The imagination thereby acquires an expansion and a might that surpasses the one it sacrifices; but the basis of this might is concealed from it; instead the imagination feels the sacrifice or deprivation at the same time the cause to which it is being subjugated.16


The feeling of the sublime, in contrast to the commonality of the beautiful, is private: ‘we also regard isolation from all society as something sublime, if it rests on ideas that look beyond all sensible interest.’ Aesthetic judgments are ‘subjectively determinative’ insofar as they determine two forms of sociality: Kant’s original separation of nature and freedom returns in the social second-nature of the aesthetic as the antagonism of the common and the private.


The history of bourgeois aesthetics, reflecting the history of bourgeois society, is that of the predominance of the sublime over the beautiful in the form of the predominance of the private over the common. In the 19th century an entire aesthetics of that comfortable residency, the bourgeois intérieur, develops. This is the philosophy of Kierkegaard which Adorno discussed in his first book on aesthetics in 1933. ‘The flaneur promenades in his room; the world only appears to him reflected by pure inwardness.’17 Adorno would argue that ‘The harder subjectivity rebounds back into itself from the heteronomous, indeterminate, or simply mean world, the more clearly the external world expresses itself, mediately, in subjectivity.’18


Lukács dismantled this particular image of culture in his Theory of the Novel:


Estrangement from nature […] is only a projection of man’s experience of his self-made environment as a prison instead of as a parental home. […] The first nature, nature as a set of laws for pure cognition, nature as the bringer of comfort to pure feeling, is nothing other than the historico-philosophical objectivation of man’s alienation from his own constructs.


Adorno’s critical reading of Kierkegaard accords with Lukacs’ disenchantment of the phantasmagoric magic produced by the bourgeois disenchantment of first nature: ‘In the reified world, however, by its history, mythical nature is driven back into the inwardness of the individual. Inwardness is the historical prison of primordial human nature.’19


A Freudian Introversion


Freud’s Kantianism is clearest in his metapsychological papers of the mid- to late-1910s. There he writes,


The psycho-analytic assumption of unconscious mental activity appears to us […] as an extension of the corrections undertaken by Kant on our views of external perception. Just as Kant warned us not to overlook the fact that our perceptions are subjectively conditioned and must not be regarded as identical with what is perceived though unknowable, so psycho-analysis warns us not to equate the perceptions by means of consciousness with the unconscious mental processes which are their object.20


Next to Kant’s division of the three spaces, territory, domain, and residency, Freud offers us an analogous ‘topographical’ account of mental systems. To transpose Kant’s spatial metaphor, the somatic, the bodily and its biology is the territory, and the representation of instinct is its domain. Repression into the unconscious, and sublimation into culture are something like the aesthetic: a justice to that which is excluded by consciousness. Indeed, the relationship to Kant goes further as Freud describes his concept of the ‘instinct’ as the ‘limit-concept between the psychical and the somatic’21


The instinct is a means of survival. But more than this, in its natural-historical form, it is the assertion of a moment of nature as mediated by the system of consciousness, which nonetheless is so intertwined with consciousness that what is natural in it cannot be abstracted.22 Much like the exclusion and breakthrough of history, the mark of the radically incomplete in Kant, Freud proposes that the domain of those instincts, is predicated on the exclusion of memory: ‘consciousness’, he writes in Beyond the Pleasure Principle ‘arises instead of a memory-trace’.23


Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle addresses experiences similar to those that impel, in Kant, the feeling of sublimity: experience of fear of an external object. Much like the Kantian development of a ‘safe place’ that functions as the hardening of the walls of the prison, Freud offers an account of the history of the development of conscious organisms based on the experience of hostile external forces that, without protection, would kill the organism:


As a result of the ceaseless impact of the external stimuli on the surface of the vesicle, its substance to a certain depth may have become modified, so that excitatory processes run a difference course in it from what they run in deeper layers. A crust would thus be formed which would at last have been so thoroughly ‘baked through’ by stimulation that it would present the most favourable possible conditions for the reception of stimuli and become incapable of further modifications.24


Under the conditions of the threat of death, through the ego instincts introject death itself into the biology of the organism. The soma makes itself deathly, inorganic, in the defence of life.


Adorno Inside and Out


We find in Negative Dialectics a meeting of these Freudian and the Kantian themes:


The subject’s desperate self-exaltation is its reaction the experience of its impotence, which prevents self-reflection […] In Kantian ethics this is grandiosely attested by an unconcealed contradiction: as an entity, the very subject Kant calls free and exalted is part of that natural context above which freedom would lift it. […] philosophy’s stress on the constitutive power of the subjective moment always blocks the road to truth as well. This is how animal species like the dinosaur Triceratops or the rhinoceros drag their protective armour with them, an ingrown prison which they seem – anthropomorphically, at least – to be trying vainly to shed. The imprisonment is their survival mechanism may explain the special ferocity of rhinoceroses as well as the unacknowledged and therefore more dreadful ferocity of homo sapiens. 25


But these great grey thick-skinned beasts, in whose semblance the Kantian sublime and the Freudian death-drive are united, end a theoretical story started in the Dialectic of Enlightenment, where Adorno describes the confluence of the Kantian and the Freudian motifs in a discussion of the original-history of Enlightenment subjectivity not in a rhinoceros but in the character of Odysseus.26 Perhaps he is that same figure as Kant’s Genius: ‘the exemplary originality of a subject’s natural endowment in the free use of his cognitive powers.’27


Adorno’s speculative original history of subjectivity begins with the shamanic attempt to ward off the hostilities of mythic demons. In his magic, the shaman impersonates those hostile forces he fears.28 This mimetic comportment is close to infantile introjection and identification in Freud.29 Within this shamanic magic there is no identity: the cult mask can always be removed, the intentional object may always be replaced,30 and all intentional objects are particular. The step from shamanic magic towards a bourgeois subjectivity arises when that logic of imitation produces sacrifice. The shamanic logic, one that previously recognised hostility in the variousness of its semblances, reduces that diversity to identity in death. And further, any one death may represent any other: ‘Representation gives way to universal fungibility.’31 Mimesis, a mythic comportment, and exchange, a rational one, are intertwined under the notion of sacrifice.


For Adorno, the tales of Odysseus’ peregrinations solidify bourgeois subjectivity because this universal fungibility implied by sacrifice becomes a universal comportment, finally to be internalised. In the absolutism of the heteronomy of the human over the sacrificial animal, the mythic violence once enacted against him by the multitude of demons becomes the mode by which he is, under the single concept of death, to master all of nature. This formation of a new world in and through the universal death requires Odysseus’ subreption or cunning (List), for even where death is universal, Odysseus himself must escape it. Yet his inability to impose a state of exception (Ausnahmezustand) upon himself, the fraudulence of his self-deification, results in the incursion of death into his own body. His freedom is the freedom to simultaneously make and break the law, to survive life’s extinction.


Reason claims equally cunningly to renounce the particularity of the mimetic art of the shaman, but fails: ‘The reason that represses mimesis is not merely its opposite but is itself mimesis: of death.’32 Instead of the cult masks, the face of the subject of reason is transfixed as a facies hippocratica, the image of death. The figure of Odysseus is the figure of he who internalises that logic of sacrifice, who sacrifices his freedom in the face of danger for the preservation or expansion of his dominion. One realises here that the conformity of the Kantian aesthetic, too, is a generalised mimesis of law. In the sublime the self-sacrifice of this mimesis is felt. The subject, just as in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, becomes outwardly deathly and inorganic, opposed to nature, and thus deceptively renouncing what is natural within him – the claim he could ever be the sacrificial animal.33 His world becomes aesthetic: ‘the fragment is the intrusion of death into the work.’34


Adorno’s original history of subjectivity is truly a metacritical natural-historical rendering of Kant’s system, giving an axial turn to the spatial metaphor of territory, domain, and residency.35 For Adorno, these spaces – a metaphor of nature – are understood historically: the territory, the plenipotentiary of the unformed, becomes the world of mythical violence; the domain, the place of legislation becomes the birth of the subject from that amorphous mythic terrain, its history is the second-naturalisation of its uptake of mythic violence against nature as culture. In this twisted schema, residency can therefore critically unleash its revolutionary potential, for its place, reflexive judgment, is that of the origin of self-consciousness, the recognition of the subject’s service of death, of its self-destructive self-binding, its feeling of incarceration.


An important fusion here takes place: for the bourgeois subject is to understand Kantian freedom, that properly historical utopic element of his work, the unconditional, is identified with the only true totality – the territorium, mythic nature, the unformed, the unconditioned. A truth exists in this identity, not that totality of material was, before humans, really free, but that the bourgeois subject, in freedom, replicates its universal violence.36


Sacrifice is implicit in every Enlightenment concept of autonomy: to bind oneself with one’s own law is always to sacrifice freedom for life.37 Where bourgeois reason proclaims its telos as unconditioned freedom, its practical reality functions as a suspicious vitalism that will exchange freedom for survival. This vitalism is in itself irrational: in the preservation of life it must enlist the services of death. As Kant had said, the sublime appears as the feeling of the sacrifice of one freedom for a higher one. Here, transposed, Adorno shows that this freedom is not so much a higher one, but a more inward one. Simultaneously this inwardness is sublimated or repressed, such that a human inwardness is nothing but an emptiness. The Freudian instinct is renounced precisely through the Kantian schema of the demand that the aesthetic be disinterested. The feelings of bodily need (hunger, carnality) are excluded as History.


The Kantian ‘without interest’ must be shadowed by the wildest interest, and there is much to be said for the idea that the dignity of artworks depends on the intensity of the interest from which they are wrested.38


To the English reader of German, the word überleben, to survive, is read as though an excess of life is presented. To over-live imposes an index of death that should have been. This is the condition of all philosophy for Adorno, whose metacritique is the analysis of the philosophical afterlife of concepts. The afterlives of these concepts, Kantian and Freudian, allow us to consider finally the utopian and the anti-utopian moments of the afterlife of natural beauty.


That feeling of sacrifice finds its paradigmatic form in the tale of Odysseus and the sirens. Here, in the cause of survival, he binds his body, materially, to the mast. Another truth is revealed: Beauty is as much predicated on the feeling of sacrifice as the sublime was. Its subject is a commonality of thoroughly individuated individuals. Under the binding of the law, the subject suffers. Torso burns against the ropes of bondage, the face contorts. Where law, the bonds, demarcates limit, inside and outside, suffering, as universal feeling has no outside. The suffering with no outside glimmers utopically, it wishes that the material actuality could accord in form with it, for only then would we be free. But this utopic element is entirely negative, it is a utopia transfigured into suffering as form (a strange contradiction), it is what is historical in experience. And its demand that those social forms accord with its form is powerless.39 The suffering of all prisoners is that suffering of Odysseus under the spell of the song of the sirens. This utopia of the suffering of the imprisoned speaks mutely not by will, but because society, the oarsmen, have stopped up their ears to it. A quasi-autobiographical trope in Adorno reminds us, ‘the rhinoceros, the mute animal, seems to say: “I am a rhinoceros.”’40 This sacrifice of beauty in a sense is more true to the origin than sublime sacrifice precisely because of its social mediacy. It is, socially, the return of the repressed as the expression of the impossibility of non-heteronomous sociality under the context of rigid blind socialisation. This suffering in the sacrifice implied by beauty finally recognises freedom, happiness, communism, as that which was repressed for the sake of understanding. It attempts, weakly, to deliver it. ‘Aesthetic comportment contains what has been belligerently excised from civilisation and repressed, as well as the human suffering under the loss, a suffering already expressed in the earliest forms of mimesis.’41


Against this utopic suffering there exists too an anti-utopic element, which Adorno describes as shudder (Schauer).


Ultimately, aesthetic comportment is to be defined as the capacity to shudder, as if goose bumps were the first aesthetic image. What later came to be called subjectivity freeing itself from the blind anxiety of the shudder, is at the same time the shudder of its own development; life in the subject is nothing but what shudders, the reaction to the total spell that transcends the spell.42


The shudder is not the feeling of danger and sacrifice as in Kant’s sublime, but rather a specific feeling linked to the memory of the origination of the subject. But nonetheless, the experience is conditioned, absolutely, by that logic of sacrifice. The shudder is the feeling within the subject of its own deathliness, of being dead already, a recognition of the sacrifice already made, the feeling of the irrationality of one’s own life as survivor. The shudder is the feeling of escape already failed. It is the feeling of the failure to return to consciousness that which was originally repressed. In this sense as much a non-memory as a memory. It is the attempted, but failed, disavowal of the guilt of the violence already done. Shudder is the afterimage of dialectical origination, as a pathetic, somatic shaking of the walls of subject who is entirely prison-like. Attempted differentiation from death dissolves itself into death. Adorno describes the characters in Beckett’s Endgame behaving ‘primitively and behavioristically, corresponding to conditions after the catastrophe, which has mutilated them to such an extent that they cannot react differently – flies that twitch after the swatter has half smashed them.’43 Shudder is the broken mimesis of beauty expressed by the broken soma of history.




1 Theodor Adorno, Aesthetic Theory, Trans. by Robert Hullot-Kentor, pp.86-87. The original German passage follows. ‘Daß die Erfahrung des Naturschönen, zumindest ihrem subjektiven Bewußtsein nach, diesseits der Naturbeherrschung sich hält, als wäre sie zum Ursprung unmittelbar, umschreibt ihre Stärke und ihre Schwäche. Ihre Stärke, weil sie des herrschaftslosen Zustands eingedenkt, der wahrscheinlich nie gewesen ist; ihre Schwäche, weil sie eben dadurch in jenes Amorphe zerfließt, aus dem der Genius sich erhob und jener Idee von Freiheit überhaupt erst zuteil ward, die in einem herrschaftslosen Zustand sich realisierte. Die Anamnesis der Freiheit im Naturschönen führt irre, weil sie Freiheit im älteren Unfreien sich erhofft. Das Naturschöne ist der in die Imagination transponierte, dadurch vielleicht abgegoltene Mythos.’ Theodor Adorno, Aesthetische Theorie, Gesammelte Schriften 7, pp. 104-105.

2 Adorno’s use of the term Natural-History (Naturgeschichte) can be traced directly to his appropriation of the term from Walter Benjamin’s The Origin of the German Trauerspiel, but the term has a longer history. In his Thesis, The Problem of Natural History in the Philosophy of Theodor Adorno (PhD, University of Massachusetts, 1985), Robert Hullot-Kentor traces a history, based on the doctrine of ‘seconda natura’, from Lutheran theology. The term also has a Marxist history: In the first preface to Capital, Marx writes, ‘My standpoint, from which the evolution of the economic formation of society is viewed as a process of natural history, can less than any other make the individual responsible for relations whose creature he socially remains, however much he may subjectively raise himself above them.’ It is to reoccur in Adorno’s work right through to his final writings, such as the section ‘World Spirit and Natural History’ in Negative Dialectics, and of interest to us here, in many of the chapters of the unfinished Aesthetic Theory. It is notable that Adorno’s figure of the genius in our quotation occupies precisely the same position as Marx’s ‘individual’ – both of whom must ‘arise’ or ‘raise himself above’ (erheben) an amorphous context. Or as Adorno writes in ‘The Idea of Natural-History’, ‘the mythology that underlies tragedy is in every instance dialectical because it includes the subjugation of the guilty man to nature at the same time that it develops out of itself the reconciliation of this fate: man raises himself up out of his fate as man.’ Such a thought is not distant to Kant’s description of the sublime (das Erhabene). He writes in the Critique of Judgment, ‘Hence nature is here called sublime (erhaben) merely because it elevates (erhebt) our imagination, making it exhibit those cases where the mind can come to feel its own sublimity, which lies in its vocation and elevates it above nature.’

3 Theodor W. Adorno, ‘The Idea of Natural-History’, trans. Robert Hullot Kentor, in Things Beyond Resemblance. German in Philosophische Fruhschriften, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 1. p.260.

4 Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, trans. by Werner S. Pluhar, p. 385.

5 Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, p.140.

6 Kant describes the aesthetic as a ‘bridge’ over an abyss that connects the two domains of nature and freedom.

7 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. by Werner S. Pluhar, p.771.

8 Theodor W. Adorno, ‘The Curious Realist: On Siegfried Kracauer’, radio address, 1964, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen, in New German Critique 54:1, Autumn 1991, pp.159-177, p. 160.

9 Critique of Judgment, pp.73-75 (a section entitled ‘§15 A Judgment of Taste Is Wholly Independent of the Concept of Perfection’.

10 Perfection, for Kant, is the harmony of the thing’s manifold with its inner concept of what it is meant to be.

11 It is notable that this term, ditio, refers in Latin not only to the place of legislation but also the legislative speech-act. Whilst this cannot be discussed here, the relationship of Adorno’s philosophy of language in relation to Natural Beauty can be considered productively from this fact.

12 Critique of Judgment, p. 13.

13 It is perhaps precisely their position of pure powerlessness that gives them their force.

14 Theodor W. Adorno, Negative Dialectics, trans. by E. B. Ashton, p.379.

15 Critique of Judgment, p.120.

16 Critique of Judgment, p.129.

17 Theodor W. Adorno, Kierkegaard, Construction of the Aesthetic, trans. by Robert Hullot-Kentor, p.41.

18 Ibid., p.38.

19 Ibid., p.60.

20 Sigmund Freud, ‘The Unconscious’, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. XIV, p.171.

21 Translated from the original German: ‘ein Grenzbegriff zwischen Seelischem und Somatischem’. Sigmund Freud, ‘Instincts and their Vicissitudes’ in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. XIV, p. 121. The history of Freud’s interest in and use of Kant is not well documented or researched, although Laplanche and Pontalis do note the similarity between the Freudian topography and the Kantian system (Laplanche and Pontalis, The Language of Psychoanalysis, pp. 399-403). In this particular case, the works have suffered from grave translation problems, whereby “Grenzbegriff” was rendered by James Strachey as “frontier-concept”. Throughout the twentieth century this appears to mistakenly have been considered as a term of Freud’s own invention, which wasn’t aided by Strachey’s furthering the claim of originality in his introduction to the essay in The Standard Edition. It is of particular importance here because Freud is writing in a scientific context dominated by neo-Kantian thought.

22 At the beginning of his 1942 Thesen über Bedürfnis (‘Theses on Need’) Adorno writes, ‘Bedürfnis ist eine gesellschaftliche Kategorie. Natur, der ‘Trieb’, ist darin enthalten. Aber das gesellschaftliche und das natürliche Moment des Bedürfnisses lassen sich nicht als sekundär und primär voneinander abspalten, um danach eine Rangordnung von Befriedigungen aufzustellen.’ (‘Need is a social category, within which nature, the “instinct”, is contained. But the social and natural moments of need cannot be split apart from each other as primary or secondary in order to erect a hierarchy of satiation.’ – trans. mine.)

23 Sigmund Freud, ‘Beyond the Pleasure Principle’, in The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Vol. XVIII, p.25.

24 Ibid., p.26.

25 Negative Dialectics, op. cit., p.180.

26 For a clear account of this original history, see chapter 1 ‘die Auflösung des Subjekts der bürgerliche-abendländischen Zivilisation’ in J. Schmucker, Adorno, Logik des Zerfalls.

27 Critique of Judgment, op. cit., p.186.

28 Theodor W. Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment, trans. by Edmund Jephcott, p.6-7.

29 Dialectic of Enlightenment provides the first extensive description of “mimesis” in Adorno’s oeuvre. It ought to be noted that the definitions and descriptions that Adorno provides are different from but also at times inclusive of those developed by Walter Benjamin. These differences rely mainly on the notion of the mimesis of death, discussed below.

30 Freud also offers an account of the possibility of the replacement of objects towards which drives are intended in ‘Instincts and their Vicissitudes’.

31 Dialectic of Enlightenment, p. 7.

32 Dialectic of Enlightenment, p.44.

33 A fuller account of the relationship between mimesis in the Dialectic of Enlightenment and Beyond the Pleasure Principle can be found in J Fruechtl’s Mimesis : Konstellation eines Zentralbegriffs bei Adorno.

34 Quoted by Adorno’s student and editor Rolf Tiedemann in his postscript to Aesthetic Theory, but unfortunately not referenced there.

35 This is, indeed, what Adorno claims to do in his preface to Negative Dialectics, where he writes, ‘The last chapter, groping its way around metaphysical questions, tries by critical self-reflection to give the Copernican revolution an axial turn’ (ND, p.xx). The ‘Copernican revolution’ to which Adorno is referring is the move to a subject-centred transcendental philosophy in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, which Kant himself describes in these terms (Critique of Pure Reason, p.25) The term ‘axial turn’ (Achsendrehung) had been developed critically by Georg Simmel (see his late work, Lebensanschauung).

36 Perhaps the paradigmatic account of this is in artistic production. As Adorno writes in ‘Vers une musique informelle’, ‘Only what is fully articulated in art provides the image of an undeformed and hence free humanity. The work of art which is fully articulated, thanks to its maximum control of.its material, and which therefore finds itself at the furthest possible remove from mere organic existence, is also as close to the organic as is at all possible’ in Quasi una Fantasia, p. 319.

37 This issue is perhaps clearer in the German, where the consequence of the aesthetic in Kant is ‘beleben’ (normally translated as ‘quickening’ or ‘animation’ – but also a vivifying) of the faculties.

38 Aesthetic Theory, op. cit., p.13

39 Walter Benjamin, ‘Theses on History’, op. cit.

40 Aesthetic Theory, op. cit., p.147. This image is a repetition of a sentence that Adorno had written in Minima Moralia: ‘Ich bin ein Nashorn, bedeutet die Figur des Nashorns’ (The figure of the rhinoceros means ‘I am a rhinoceros’ – trans. mine.)

41 Ibid., p.330.

42 Ibid., p.418. The term ‘total spell that transcends the spell’ refers to the phantasmagoric magic produced by the disenchantment (Entzauberung) of first nature by rationality.

43 Theodor W. Adorno, ‘Trying to Understand Endgame’ in Notes to Literature, vol. I, trans. by Shierry Weber-Nicholsen, p.128.