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Agamben's Philosophical Lineage$
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Adam Kotsko and Carlo Salzani

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781474423632

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474423632.001.0001

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Theodor W. Adorno

Theodor W. Adorno

(p.219) 23 Theodor W. Adorno
Agamben's Philosophical Lineage

Colby Dickinson

Edinburgh University Press

In his somewhat controversial book Remnants of Auschwitz, Agamben makes brief reference to Theodor Adorno’s apparently contradictory remarks on perceptions of death post-Auschwitz, positions that Adorno had taken concerning Nazi genocidal actions that had seemed also to reflect something horribly errant in the history of thought itself. There was within such murderous acts, he had claimed, a particular degradation of death itself, a perpetration of our humanity bound in some way to affect our perception of reason itself. The contradictions regarding Auschwitz that Agamben senses to be latent within Adorno’s remarks involve the intuition ‘on the one hand, of having realized the unconditional triumph of death against life; on the other, of having degraded and debased death. Neither of these charges – perhaps like every charge, which is always a genuinely legal gesture – succeed in exhausting Auschwitz’s offense, in defining its case in point’ (RA 81). And this is the stance that Agamben wishes to hammer home quite emphatically vis-à-vis Adorno’s limitations, ones that, I would only add, seem to linger within Agamben’s own formulations in ways that he has still not come to reckon with entirely: ‘This oscillation’, he affirms, ‘betrays reason’s incapacity to identify the specific crime of Auschwitz with certainty’ (RA 81).

Keywords:   Theodor W. Adorno, Auschwitz, Infancy and History

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