Hegel, Adorno and the concept of mediation
Given its centrality to the intellectual thought processes through which the great structures of logic, nature, and spirit are unfolded it is clear that mediation is vital to the very possibility of Hegel’s encyclopaedic philosophy. Yet Hegel gives little specific explanation of the concept of mediation. Surprisingly, it has been the subject of even less attention by scholars of Hegel. Nevertheless it is casually used in discussions of Hegel and post- Hegelian philosophy as though its meaning were simple and straightforward. In these discussions mediation is the thesis that meanings are not atomic in that the independence of something is inseparable from its relation to something else. Hence being is mediated by nothing, the particular by the universal, the individual by society. But does Hegel ever explain mediation in a way which justifies such use of the concept? The same easy employment of mediation is found in Theodor Adorno whose works are replete with the use of this concept and, indeed, acknowledgements of its Hegelian origin. But the concept of mediation in Adorno’s negative dialectic is operative in an entirely different context from that of Hegel. How, it might be asked, can a concept be so adaptable? I want to argue that mediation is, in fact, an equivocal term which in both Hegel and Adorno covers a variety of entirely different conceptual relations. Furthermore, as propounded by both Hegel and Adorno it lacks the rigour which could allow the particular conclusions which the concept allegedly facilitates.
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