What did Adorno think of Nietzsche's critique of morality?


What did Adorno think of Nietzsche's critique of morality?

I've not read much of either. But seems a bit like Adorno's theory of modernist art, however influenced by Nietzsche, wants to be moral, is nostalgic for it even.


Posted 2018-08-10T18:32:07.560

Reputation: 21



I can offer a number of points of connexion and contrast. The first section is more oblique than the second, third, and fourth. Just hope some of the material is of use.

Nietzsche and Adorno - (1)

Among the ways in which Nietzsche overcame the crisis of modernity, according to Rampley, was by preserving dialectical thinking. With Hegel, Nietzsche shared "the productive function of the negative", which was then expanded by Theodor Adorno into a negative aesthetics and by Jacques Derrida into a practice of linguistic deconstruction. Unlike Adorno and Derrida, Nietzsche sought a final moment of consummation. However, that desired moment was always provisional since the very fact of the dialectical nature of Nietzsche's thinking presupposes that the philosopher "is always looking for what might come after". Furthermore, Nietzsche draws upon the creative, "redemptive," and transformative power of art and aesthetics. Even while negating meaning, art, for Nietzsche, creates an opportunity for self-overcoming. The point is missed, however, that even this form of Bildung stands within a well-established German cultural tradition in which self-overcoming (Selbstuberwindung) was not only implicit, but also explicit (e.g., Honario in Goethe's Novelle). (Steven D. Martinson, 'Nietzsche, Aesthetics and Morality by Matthew Rampley', German Studies Review, Vol. 25, No. 1 (Feb., 2002), pp. 150-151 : 150.

Nietzsche and Adorno - (2)

Nietzsche is in fact engaged in a critique of morality in terms quite foreign to recent discussion in the Anglo-American world. For what distinguishes Nietzsche, I will argue, is that he is a genuine critic of morality as a real cultural phenomenon, while recent Anglo-American writers are only critics of particular philosophical theories of morality. Nietzsche, unlike these writers, situates his critique of morality within a broader "cultural critique," in which morality is attacked as only the most important of a variety of social and cultural forces posing obstacles to human flourishing. This approach to critique places Nietzsche, not in the company of Anglo-American morality critics, but rather in that European tradition of modernist discontent with bourgeois Christian culture that runs, we might say, from Baudelaire to Freud, with faint echoes audible in the critical theories of Adorno and Marcuse. Like these critics, Nietzsche is concerned with the condition of a culture, not the shortcomings of a theory, and in particular with the character and consequences of its moral culture. (Brian Leiter, 'Nietzsche and the Morality Critics', Ethics, Vol. 107, No. 2 (Jan., 1997), pp. 250-285 : 252.)

Nietzsche and Adorno - (3)

A second reaction one might have, however, is that the Nietzschean critique is simply hyperbolic, for surely if there is a culture of mediocrity and banality in ascendance, it is not primarily the work of morality, but perhaps of economics-for example, the free market, the leveling effects of which have been described by sociologists, histo- rians, and philosophers. Indeed, the right model for culture critique, one might want to say, is not the "idealistic"-sounding Nietzsche de- scribed here but rather the materialist Adorno of Minima Moralia, who traces cultural mediocrity to its capitalist roots. (Leiter, 280.)

Nietzsche and Adorno - (4)

Standing at opposite chronological distances from Stephen Dedalus' famous whimper, both Nietzsche and Adorno echoed its claustrophobic pronouncement at different moments in their writings: "History ... is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake." The root of the two thinkers' discontent with their corresponding historical era was founded in their ambivalent relationship to the process of modernization, the idealistic aspirations of which they both embraced while critically dismissing its actual sociopolitical manifest tions as inhuman. Fundamentally connected to the optimism of enlightenment epistemology and its replacement of theocratic authority with the one based on rationality, the modern vision of history pushed Nietzsche and Adorno to assume two different positions vis-a-vis its dialectical opposite - myth. In his Second Untimely Meditation entitled On the Advantages and Disadvantages of History for Life, where he claims that the particular conglomeration of forces that drives modern history is inherently diseased, Nietzsche proposes a mythical engagement with life in order to escape the confines of history, articulated as the "unhistorical" and "suprahistorical" perspectives. These two mnemonic visions of respective asceticism and excess, carry the same ethical configuration as the one found in The Genealogy of Morals, which can be summarized as "promoting an ethic of active engagement with life", more widely known as "the will to power." Art for Nietzsche becomes one of the most potent mediums for affirming life, based on its essential character of tapping into the mythical dimension of eternal beauty - the artist's choice to follow the call of his/her muse instead of becoming confined within the walls of rationalized legitimization. Conversely, in the book The Dialectic of Enlightenment he wrote with Horkheimer, Adorno describes myth as the fundamentally diseased variable that prevents Enlightenment from realizing the true emancipation of humanity, and claims that it is the contamination of memory by different infectious mythologies - progress, instrumental rationality, Utopia - that gives rise to the suffering of the modern day world. It is in many of his other works - such as in Negative Dialectics, Aesthetic Theory and many of his shorter literary essays - that Adorno expands on the ethical task of the modern independent intellectual and artist, which he articulates as being the artist/intellectual's commitment towards giving voice to and keeping vigilance over modern-day suffering - a task which is directly involved with a "mythoclastic" model of remembering. Art for Adorno becomes the fundamental medium through which the vigilance over suffering is realized. (Yianna Liatsos, 'An Artist's Choice, an Artist's Commitment: Reconciling Myth and Modern History in Nietzsche and Adorno', Dialectical Anthropology, Vol. 26, No. 2 (2001), pp. 137-158 : 137-8.)

Geoffrey Thomas

Posted 2018-08-10T18:32:07.560

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Great. You've offered a fine and useful job! Thanks! – Crisóstomo – 2020-05-12T07:45:59.820

@Crisóstomo. Comment appreciated, thank you. GLT – Geoffrey Thomas – 2020-05-12T15:21:42.860