The linguistic turn in critical theory has been routinely justified with the claim that Adorno’s philosophy is trapped within the limits of consciousness philosophy. Yet Adorno’s own philosophy of language has not yet been fully and systematically examined in its own right. Philip Hogh argues that it was in fact the linguistic turn in critical theory that prevented a thorough analysis of Adorno's philosophy of language. Here he reconstructs Adorno’s philosophy of language and presents it as a coherent theory that demands to be understood as an important contribution to contemporary linguistic philosophy. By analysing all the key concepts in Adorno’s thought (subjectivity, epistemology, social theory and aesthetics), and comparing them to Robert Brandom’s material inferentialism, John McDowell’s theory of conceptual experience and Jürgen Habermas’ theory of communicative action, this book presents Adorno’s theory as an important contribution to contemporary philosophy of language in its own right.
1. Introduction / 2. A Natural History of Language as Second Nature / 3. A Theory of the Name / 4. Outlines of a Theory of Meaning / 5. Communication / Bibliography / Index
If for no other reason, this reconstruction of Theodor Adorno’s philosophy of language is important because there is no other volume that does so. According to Hogh (Carl von Ossietzky Univ. of Oldenburg, Germany), this is in part due to Adorno's nonsystematic treatment of the subject and in part because of the received opinion in critical theory that Jürgen Habermas has set the agenda when it comes to language. Habermas takes a rather negative and limiting view of Adorno's work on language. Hogh seeks to engage Adorno afresh, bracketing Habermas’s judgment. But that is not the only reason Hogh’s book is important. It is a first-rate work that admirably grapples with Adorno’s thought, focusing on his emphasis of language’s historical dimension and “its social critical conception of language criticism,” as Hogh writes in the introduction. The author discusses the subject in chapters on topics one might expect in discussion of the philosophy of language: the natural history of language as second nature, theory of the name, theory of meaning, and communication. The book concludes with a brief chapter on Adorno’s philosophy of language today. This is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in Adorno’s philosophy of language or in his thought more generally. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.
An elegant and erudite examination. Learned in the European and American philosophical discussions, Hogh considers the claims of Adorno’s philosophy of language with acumen and insight. But he also puts on the table the question what it means to have a philosophy of language when the on-going possibility of communication and expression is considered one of the most urgent problems of the day.
In this lucid, meticulously argued, and compelling reconstruction of Adorno’s philosophy of language, Philip Hogh has but us all in his debt. Hogh not only demonstrates how the fundamental features of Adorno’s critical theory either already possess or can be given a linguistic rendering, but his account brings Adorno’s philosophy of language into critical conversation with the leading edge of contemporary work in the area. An invaluable contribution to both Adorno studies and the philosophy of language generally.
Philip Hogh teaches philosophy at the Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Germany, where he is also a member of the Adorno Research Centre.
Antonia Hofstätter, the translator, is a graduate student in philosophy at the University of Brighton, UK.