PANEL DESCRIPTION: The work of Max Horkheimer, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor W. Adorno, a group of thinkers that formed the so-called 'Frankfurt School', is essential to the twentieth-century reflection on the problematic of exclusion and inclusion. Exclusion, for them, referred to a cluster of interrelated problems. Although exclusion was primarily social exclusion, they showed how exclusion itself was constitutive for the production of knowledge in general, and also concerned the philosophy of history, the theory of language, and aesthetics. Not only did they renew Marxist theory, but also they rethought the foundation of knowledge itself, working both transdisciplinary, and including ‘marginal’ aspects, that are traditionally excluded from philosophical discourse. The goal of such a ‘critical theory’, was ultimately - as Horkheimer famously formulated it – “the establishment of justice among men” (Horkheimer 1982, 243). The problem of inclusion and exclusion, as it is conceptualised in the work of the Frankfurt School, remains of great relevance today. Every effort that does not radically separate scientific knowledge from the social struggle for a more equal and tolerant society can learn from its legacy. The aim of this panel, therefore, is two-fold. First, which of their reflexions on the thinking of exclusion are relevant for us today? And, secondly, what does this mean for our present-day society? The work of the early Frankfurt School might enable us to reflect sensibly on what can be different in society, refusing the idea that there is no alternative, and fully affirming otherness, both in society and in scientific discourse.
NAMING THE NAMELESS: ADORNO ON NON-IDENTITY AND THE HOPE FOR RECONCILIATION, Pierre Buhlmann, Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès & Bergische Universität Wuppertal. The talk examines one of Theodor W. Adorno’s key concepts: the “non-identical”, which can be defined as the idiosyncratic material remains of a given object that can never be converted into a verbal concept. In order to give a thorough account both of the meaning and the importance of the concept of the “non-identical” in Adorno’s philosophy, (1) we will examine the relation to Hegel that is uncovered through this concept, amongst others in Negative Dialectics. As it turns out, the dissent between Adorno and Hegel is located in this problem, the former not believing that negativity can easily be turned into a positive elevation. Once the negative dialectical significance of the concept is depicted, (2) we will seek for historical and social figures of the “non-identical” in Adorno’s works. Therefore, we will examine the account that the philosopher gives of the operating mode of fascism, e.g. in his book with Max Horkheimer Dialectics of Enlightenment and in Minima Moralia, in order to analyse the consequences of modern instrumental reason brought to its fulfilment. This example of domination of nature raises the question of (3) how to approach the “non-identical” in a non-dominant way. Thus we will finish by analysing the answers given by Adorno, namely his concept of “mimesis” and the thinking in “constellations”. In this manner, these methods can provide us with ways to be tangent with the non-identical without wounding it. Thus, the possibility of true reconciliation appears.
REMEMBERING AS A WAY OF FORGETTING: SOME ASPECTS REGARDING THE VISIBILITY IN HISTORY ACCORDING TO BENJAMIN, Philipp Nolz, Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès & Bergische Universität Wuppertal. In the work of Walter Benjamin, the notion of forgetting bears a great importance. Striking in his account, is his departure from an individual notion of forgetting, which would suggest that, with the disappearance of men, history would equally disappear. But Benjamin, on the contrary, insists that here is what we could call an “objective forgetting”. It does not only concern the forgetting of an object by a subject, meaning that the object of knowledge is lost for the knowing subject. Rather, there are also objects that exercise their influence in the present, without them being directly accessible for us. Benjamin expresses this insight – in his characteristic dense manner – with regard to the world of Franz Kafka: "Are we, those who have forgotten? Or are we instead those who are forgotten? Kafka does not decide on this." (GS II, 1219). From a materialist point of view, it is clear that which is forgotten by the subject does not simply cease to exist. Indeed, what is lost is only the meaning ascribed to an object, making its appearance alien to us – and, strictly speaking: meaningless. But what does it mean to forget an object? And if we remember it, do we not forget that it could be remembered otherwise? This presentation argues that Benjamin's philosophy offers us a strong concept of how the societal forms of meaning production make us “forget” things exactly by remembering them. Benjamin shows us that without a dialectical understanding of contemporary society, every historical inquiry falls prey to reproducing the exclusive moments it wants to include, because what rests excluded is the historical insistence that things can be different, indeed, that there is a whole otherness of things.
AGAINST THE INHUMAN: HORKHEIMER'S AND ADORNO'S NEGATIVE UNIVERSALITY, Helmer Stoel, Università degli Studi di Padova & Goethe Universität Frankfurt. Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno's critique of ethical universalism is well-known. With Marx, they are suspicious of what they call "bourgeois morality", or "humanism" considering it to be an ideological mechanism that in reality serves domination and inequality. They hold the universality, claimed by this morality, to be false, since it is dependent on a "totalitarian" reason. It is, furthermore, both a reflection of the 'reification' of all social relations (Lukács), as well as the prevalence of an ascetic 'working ethics' (Weber and Freud). In fact, bourgeois morality, for Horkheimer and Adorno, does not only operate on the principle of social exclusion, but also on an inner-subjective exclusion: that what they refer to as the "self-sacrifice" of the subject. At the same time, however, Horkheimer and Adorno clearly do not completely refute ethical universalism. "We may know what the absolute good is", Adorno notes in one of his lectures on Kant's moral philosophy, "but what the inhuman is we know very well indeed" (PMP 175). In this paper I will argue that the moral critique of Horkheimer and Adorno – as well as their moral critique of morality itself – works on the basis of a negative universality: one that can be reconstructed with their concepts of "suffering", "corporeality", the "inhuman", and "animality". The development of this essential assumption can be traced through Horkheimer's early essays on the "bourgeois anthropology" (such as Egoism and the Freedom Movement), to their collective Dialectics of Enlightenment, and finally to Adorno's major philosophical work Negative Dialectics. In this manner, it can be shown how their work is consistent with Walter Benjamin’s well-known dictum: "As long as there is still one beggar around, there will still be myth" (PW 505). FORMS OF ALTERITY: BENJAMIN, ADORNO AND THE LANGUAGE OF INCLUSION, Susanna Zellini, Università degli Studi di Padova & the Universität Stuttgart. The problem of exclusion, in the thought of Walter Benjamin and Theodor W.Adorno, does not only imply a social question, but also forms an intrinsic aspect in the constitution of knowledge itself, through the linguistic mechanisms that constitute it. Each epistemological model articulates itself in linguistic constructions, each of them is a synthesis that abstracts and simplifies its historical content. This mechanism of abstraction and simplification is nevertheless constitutive to the abstract and symbolic character of language. Each concept defines itself by what its own etymology reveals, a cum capio, that is to say: collecting in a conceptual unity of that which is not unitary, producing an identity that excludes what is non-identical. This articulation of language lies therefore at the base of all systematic thought, that can no longer articulate alterity; each “definition“, Adorno asserts, is the “germ-cell [Keimzelle] of each system“ (TP II, 26). For this reason, Benjamin's and Adorno's critique of philosophical systems is entails an investigation of the symbolic character of language and its mechanism, to the search of alternative forms of expression, forms that are not exclusive, but inclusive of alterity. How can alterity be articulated in the unity of the conceptual form? How can the historical concreteness be included in the abstractness proper to language? Thus the search for new aesthetic forms must be understood as the point of departure for a vast theoretical experiment, one that is able, through new configurations of thought, to precisely include those fragments and marginal aspects of knowledge that otherwise would remain excluded from valid knowledge. Such a “language of inclusion“, for Benjamin and Adorno, forms the first step in finding a different way of thinking, one that is able to rediscover the lost complexity of thought, that is sensible for difference, for that which is marginal, and that consequently can guide to a more equal and tolerant form of knowledge.