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AfternessFigures of Following in Modern Thought and Aesthetics$
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Gerhard Richter

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780231157704

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231157704.001.0001

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Afterness and Aesthetics

Afterness and Aesthetics

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(p.54) 3 Afterness and Aesthetics

Gerhard Richter

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines a poetic and philosophical thought-image from Theodor Adorno’s Minima Moralia in the context of his larger theoretical models furnished by Negative Dialectics and Aesthetic Theory. The thinking of afterness for which Adorno is best known unfolds in the space that he terms “after Auschwitz” to convey the idea that living in the aftermath of the Shoah requires a fundamental reorientation, even a new categorical imperative, that would allow thinking to come to terms with the unthinkable itself. The most famous condensation of Adorno’s post-Auschwitz philosophy occurs in the programmatic and often misunderstood sentence from his essay “Cultural Criticism and Society” (1951). This chapter considers Adorno’s project of “philosophical modernism,” along with his experimental coarticulation of the philosophical and the artistic, of logic and rhetoric, in relation to modernity’s intellectual trajectory. It shows how Adorno envisions an aesthetic and epistemological thinking of the concept of afterness that defers the endbound, teleological closure favored by conventional propositional theories of a work of art.

Keywords:   art, Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia, Negative Dialectics, Aesthetic Theory, afterness, after Auschwitz, post-Auschwitz philosophy, philosophical modernism, modernity

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