Adorno's Arcades Orthodoxy

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Theodor W. Adorno’s letter correspondence with Walter Benjamin throughout the decade of the 1930’s entertains the central question concerning the possibility of philosophy in their intellectual milieu. The fate of this possibility for Adorno hinges on Benjamin’s work-in-progress Das Passagen-Werk—a fate that is catastrophically blocked by an uncritical tendency convicted repeatedly by the former as “undialectical.” And yet Adorno obstinately persists in clinging to the canon of a philosophically overdetermined demand he endearingly calls “my Arcades orthodoxy.” The threatening destruction of the aura of this orthodoxy reaches a crisis in Adorno’s ruthless metacritique of Benjamin’s alleged undialectical treatment of aesthetic autonomy in a draft of the Kunstwerk essay, marking a critical wound in the correspondence which the following exposition tracks in the enigmatic changeover in the philosophical exigency of the said orthodoxy from prima philosophia to ultima philosophia. The lingering wound is registered in Adorno’s late philosophical work.
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Archival date: 2020-03-28
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