ADORNO Toedor Wiesengrund — philosopher, sociologist, psychologist and musicologist, one of the main representatives of the Frankfurt school which represented "critical theory"; b. November 11, 1903 in Frankfurt am Main, d. August 6, 1969 in Switzerland.
In 1921–1924 he studied philosophy, psychology and sociology in Frankfurt. In 1924 after finishing his treatise which concerned E. Husserl's phenomenology, he received his doctorate at the W. Goethe University in Frankfurt. In Vienna he studied music with A. Berg. In 1928 he returned to Vienna and completed his habilitation degree with P. Tillich with his thesis Die Konstruktion des Ästhetischen bei Kierkegaard (ed. T 1933). In 1928–1930 he was editor of a Viennese periodical on avant-garde music and also collaborated on the periodical "Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung" published by the Institut für Sozialforschung, of which he became an official member in 1938 (his friend M. Horkheimer was the director of the institute). In 1934 he emigrated to England to escape the Nazi persecution of the Jews, and in 1937 he started to work in Merton College at Oxford University and continued to write articles for the Institut für Sozialforschung. In 1938 he moved to New York where he directed the musical portion of the Princeton Radio Research Project, head by P. Lazarsfeld. In 1948 he went to Los Angeles with M. Horkheimer where together they wrote Dialektik der Aufklärung, a work that analyzed the problems of the times. In 1944–1949 he took part in a project of the Institute for Social Research that studied antisemitism. In 1949 he returned to Frankfurt and together with Horkheimer he rebuilt the Institut für Sozialforschung and became its vice-director. The Frankfurt School's resumption of critical theory gave new life to German intellectualism after the Second World War. In 1956, Adorno became an ordinary professor, and in 1959 he became director of the Institute.
Adorno's chief works are as follows: Dialektik der Aufklärung (A 1947; Dialektyka oświecenia, Wwa 1994); Philosophie der neuen Music (T 1949; Filozofia nowej muziki, Wwa 1974); Minima Moralia. Reflexionen aus dem beschädigten Leben (F 1951); Zur Metakritik der Erkenntnistheorie. Studien über Husserl und die phänomenologischen Antinomien (St 1956); Drei Studien zu Hegel (F 1963); Jargon der Eigentlickheit zur deutschen Ideologie (F 1964); Negative Dialektik (F 1966; Dialektyka negatywna, Wwa 1986); Ästhetische Theorie (F 1970; Teoria estetyczna, Wwa 1994); Gesammelte Schriften (I–XX, F 1979-1986) — Adorno's complete published works.
The greatest influences on Adorno's views were fascism, the failure of Marxism and existentialism. He engaged in a polemic with existentialism from his standpoint of modified Hegelian Marxism; he accused the existentialists of presenting a false picture of social and political and thereby contributing to an ideological justification of force. Adorno concentrated on the suffering that is present in every man's experience. He regarded this suffering as the objective factor that underlies knowledge, action and art, and as inseparable from the struggle for self-preservation. He stated that his dialectic which consists in the road to freedom shows the servile state of humanity and mobilizes man to the right life. He practiced "negative dialectics" and made a critique of contemporary society. He regarded fascism as a consistent result of historical development.
According to Adorno, history reveals the conflict between the principle of domination and the possible degree of freedom. The development of productive forces and the domination of nature go together in man's domination of man, and the human subject's domination of his own nature.
Adorno connected truth with freedom. He rejected domination and coercion and postulated a critical theory that revealed the negative dimension of reality. This critical theory showed the suppressed human possibilities and mystifications inherent in ideology, and the possibility of a just and unrepressive society. He thought that philosophy is necessarily connected with art. Art has a large role. Art is helpful when concepts lead us astray, for art is relatively independent of repression from social structures. Art requires freedom and a critique of society, and the when the artist creates he discovers his own autonomy. In the raw material the artist sees apart from the material the history, dynamism and immanent laws in it, which call to mind the social process. Hence the relation of the artist to his material becomes his relation to tradition and history, and it also reveals the spontaneity of the subject and his social character. The work of art possesses social content and the schematics of social changes. The work of art calls for change.
In Adorno's negative method, the "illusion of something" (Schein) played the leading role. The Schein is connected with the manifestation of truth and is the proclamation of what is better, different and what can be; hence Adorno sought meaning by discovering the distance between reality and possibility. He also created the concept of emphatic truth which he contrasted with the criteria of scientific correctness.
Adorno's philosophy was aimed at changing man and society. It aimed at bringing praxis closer to theory, because praxis is opposed to existing conditions and needs theory in order to transform society. Adorno's sociological views chiefly concerned the contradictions and departures from nature that society imposes upon people, and liberation from the forms of coercion that are inherent in ideological mystifications. Adorno criticized totalitarian systems, anti-communism, mass culture and capitalist societies. He thought that as a result of conformity in modern society there is little hope for any revolution. Adorno's works reject the existing state of affairs and avoid a systematic approach. They are in the form of essays, articles or aphorisms with elements of paradox and ambiguity. His style still evokes widely differing evaluations of his writings and the language he used in them.
K. Sauerland, Adorno Ästhetik des Nichtidentischen, Wwa 1975; K. Sauerland, Od Diltheya do Adorno, Studia z estetyki niemieckiej [From Dilthey to Adorno. Studies in German aesthetics], Wwa 1986; Adorno: między moderną a postmoderną [Adorno: between the modern and the postmodern], Wwa 1991; A. Kaniowski, PLF IV 5–19; S. Blackburn, Oksfordzki słownik filozoficzny [Oxford philosophical dictionary], Wwa 1997, 13, 388; J.M. Bernstein, REPh I 41–45; J.M. Inwood, Encyklopedia filozofii [Encyclopedia of philosophy], Pz 1998, 4–5; Przewodnik po współczesnej filozofii politycznej [Guide to modern political philosophy], Wwa 1998, 415–419.