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BOB HULLOT-KENTOR, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This is a study of the problem of "natural history" (as opposed to eschatological history) in Adorno's philosophy. Part I presents the emergence of natural history, since the Reformation, as it constituted the problems with which Adorno's philosophy, particularly his aesthetics, is concerned. In Chapter I, Luther is seen to have produced a solution to natural history, the internalization of transcendance that, ironically, potentiated natural history. The key inheritance of German thought from the age of Luther is summarized as the transformation of secunda natura, the Greek doctrine of the perfectability of nature, into second nature, the natural-historical phenomenon of the appearance of society as a model of an irrevocably fallen first nature. Chapters II through V present the attempts of Kant, Hegel, Marx, and Benjamin to solve the constellation of problems bequeathed by the Reformation. Each of these efforts involved a reappropriation of the Greek tradition. The success of each of these philosophies is measured by its ability to reconceive a secunda natura. The specification of the limits of each solution--the aporia of its conception of a secunda natura--is left in each chapter to Adorno. Part II is a collection of essays treating various aspects of the problem of natural history in Adorno's work in such a way that they, cumulatively more than hierarchically, present his solution to the problem of natural history. These essays, composing Chapters VI through IX, are built around Adorno's lecture of 1932, "The Idea of Natural-History." They document the origin of Adorno's concern with the problem in his earliest writings; the explicit emergence of the theme of natural history in his 1932 lecture; the relation of the problem of natural history to his style; his response to the historiography of natural history, i.e. historicism; and his conception of the possibility of a secunda natura through art and immanent criticism.

Subject Area

Comparative literature

Recommended Citation

HULLOT-KENTOR, BOB, "THE PROBLEM OF NATURAL HISTORY IN THE PHILOSOPHY OF THEODOR W. ADORNO" (1985). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8517119.