Despair and color in Negative Dialectics

An excerpt from the close to Theodor W. Adorno’s 1966 work Negative Dialectics, as translated by E.B. Ashton in 1973 (p. 403-5).

“To have all thoughts converge upon the concept of something that would differ from the unspeakable world that is–this is not the same as the infinitesimal principle whereby Leibniz and Kant meant to make the idea of transcendence commensurable with a science whose fallibility, the confusion of control of nature with being-in-itself, is needed to motivate the correcting experience of convergence.  The world is worse than hell, and it is better […].  The mistake in Schopenhauer’s thinking is that the law which keeps immanence under its own spell is directly said to be that essence which immanence blocks, the essence that would not be conceivable as other than transcendent.  But the world is better than hell because the absolute conclusiveness which Schopenhauer attributes to the world’s course is borrowed in turn from the idealistic system.  It is a pure identity principle, and as deceptive as any identity principle.

As in Kafka’s writings, the disturbed and damaged course of the world is incommensurable also with the sense of its senselessness and blindness; we cannot stringently construe it according to their principle. It resists all attempts of a desperate consciousness to posit despair as an absolute. The world’s course is not absolutely conclusive, nor is absolute despair; rather, despair is its conclusiveness. However void every trace of otherness in it, however much all happiness is marred by irrevocability: in the breaks that belie identity, entity is still pervaded by the everbroken pledges of that otherness. All happiness is but a fragment of the entire happiness men [sic] are denied, and are denied by themselves. […]

And yet philosophy cannot abdicate if stupidity is not to triumph in realized unreason. Aux sots je préfère les fous. Folly is truth in the form which [humans] are struck with as amid untruth they will not let truth go. Art is semblance even at its highest peaks; but its semblance, the irresistible part of it, is given to it by what is not semblance. What art, notably the art decried as nihilistic, says in refraining from judgments is that everything is not just nothing. If it were, whatever is would be pale, colorless, indifferent. No light falls on [humans] and things without reflecting transcendence. Indelible from the resistance to the fungible world of barter is the resistance of the eye that does not want the colors of the world to fade.”

One Response to “Despair and color in Negative Dialectics”

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