Normative Impulsivity: Adorno on Ethics and the Body

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Publication details

JournalInternational Journal of Philosophical Studies
DateE-pub ahead of print - 1 Jul 2014
Issue number5
Number of pages20
Pages (from-to)676-695
Original languageEnglish


Adorno’s commitment to anti-foundationalism generates a concern over how his
ethically normative appraisals of social phenomena can be founded. Drawing on
both Kohlmann and Bernstein’s account, I produce a new reading which contends somatic impulses are capable of bearing intrinsically normative epistemic and moral content. This entails a new way of understanding Adorno’s contention that Auschwitz produced a new categorical imperative. Working with Bernstein’s account, I claim that Auschwitz makes manifest the hostility of the instrumentalization of reason to the somatic grounds of reason. One’s mimetic identification with the victims of Auschwitz arouses a self-preserving desire to intercede in and re-orient the progress of reason itself, for the sake of one’s own somatic integrity.
In closing, I claim – contra Zuidervaart – that this reading allows us to place the
ethical as primary in Adorno, without reducing the political to it.

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