Antinomies of transcritique and virtue ethics: An adornian critique

Philosophy and Social Criticism 34 (6):665-684 (2008)

In the wave of critical theory's recent turn to ethics, Karatani's transcritique and Eagleton's ethics of agape have emerged as two of the most outstanding attempts to reinstate morality at the centre of Marx's analysis of capitalist society. This article argues that, in spite of their merits in repositioning the normative generalizations of the moral discourse within the context of Marx's political economy, both theories share certain fundamental flaws which are inherent in the very meaning of the possibility of moral action in a wrong society. By taking Karatani's transcritique as a sample of what Christoph Menke names `rational morality' and Eagleton's revival of classical morality as a variant of `virtue ethics', it is shown that they are both amenable to Adorno's charge that wrong life cannot be lived rightly. Finally, it is contended that what Adorno's criticism indicates is that, when it most matters in real situations, morality always reveals its political overdetermination. Key Words: Theodor Adorno • critical theory • dialectics • Terry Eagleton • Kojin Karatani • rational morality • totality • transcendental • transcritique • virtue ethics.
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DOI 10.1177/0191453708090333
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