The appearance of depth is frequently the product of a complicity with suffering. A monstrous German tradition associates profound thoughts with the theodicy of evil and death. A theological terminus ad quem is tacitly assumed, as if what determined the dignity of an idea were its result, the confirmation of transcendence, or its immersion in inwardness, mere being-for-itself, as if a retreat from the world were simply to be equated with a knowledge of the ultimate foundations of the universe. As for the phantasms of depth, throughout the history of the spirit they have always looked benignly on the existing state of affairs, even though they found it superficial; resistance to them would be their true measure. The sheer power of existing circumstances erects the facades that resist the incursions of our minds; we must strive to smash through them, since this alone would endow the postulate of depth with a non-ideological meaning.
SOURCE: Adorno, Theodor W. Lectures on Negative Dialectics, ed. by Rolf Tiedemann, trans. Rodney Livingstone (Cambridge, UK; Malden, MA: Polity Press, 2008), Appendix: “Towards a theory of intellectual experience,” p. 189.
On Theodor W. Adorno's Negative Dialectics: Outline, Quotes, Notes
Theodor W. Adorno & Critical Theory Study Guide
School: Philosophy in Relation to Social Theory, Cultural Theory, Science, and
Phase 1: Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse in the 1930s.
Study Group Syllabus
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