Cold, cold, warm: Autonomy, intimacy and maturity in Adorno

Philosophy and Social Criticism 37 (6):669-689 (2011)
When Adorno refers to the concept of maturity (Mündigkeit), he generally means having the courage and the ability to use one’s own understanding independently of dominant heteronomous patterns of thought. This Kantian-sounding claim is essentially an exhortation: maturity demands self-liberation from heteronomy, i.e. autonomy. The problem, however, is that in spite of Adorno’s general endorsement of Kant’s definition of maturity, he ultimately rejects the corresponding Kantian definition of autonomy. Yet Adorno does not simply discard the Kantian concept of autonomy. On the contrary, he will try to correct it by returning to it what it lacks, namely, intimacy or ‘live contact with the warmth of things’. In this gesture, he aims to restore to autonomy its ethical substance or lived ethical context, not as a mere supplement to the purity of duty, but rather as necessary to the very process of becoming mature. This article examines Adorno’s concept of maturity in the context of the dialectical relationship between autonomy and intimacy
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DOI 10.1177/0191453711402940
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