Undignified Thoughts After Nature: Adorno's Aesthetic Theory

Critical Horizons 12 (3):372-395 (2011)
Abstract
This paper seeks to redress the marginalization of Adorno in environmental philosophical discourse. Kate Soper describes two opposing ways of conceiving nature. There is the redemptive “nature-endorsing” paradigm that lays claim to the intrinsic value or “otherness” of nature. Conversely, the “nature-sceptical” approach denies that we can access originary, untouched nature. This paper argues that the significance of Adorno’s treatment of natural beauty lies in how he brings these approaches together. In writings that resonate with the dual connotations of Sebald’s phrase “after nature”, Adorno both affirms the skeptical point that we cannot transcend a human history alienated from nature as well as retaining redemptive hope wherein art “after” nature seeks creative possibilities from out of the very ruins of history marked by nature’s destruction
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