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Title: 'Life does not live' : experience and life in the philosophies of Theodor W. Adorno and Giorgio Agamben
Author: Morgan, Alastair
Awarding Body: Middlesex University
Current Institution: Middlesex University
Date of Award: 2005
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This thesis provides a critical examination of the concepts of experience and life in the work of Theodor W. Adorno and Giorgio Agamben. The shared context of their thought consists in an examination of damaged life which reaches its apotheosis in "Auschwitz", an account of the destruction of experience in modernity, and an emphasis that the path to a form of life beyond damaged life can only be constructed immanently, through damaged life itself. The philosophical problem that this thesis addresses is the question of the possibility of a life beyond damaged life. Given the destruction of experience encapsulated in an idea of a life that does not live, how can a critical subjectivity found the possibility of a path beyond such a reified context ? Both Agamben and Adorno delineate such a path through a dissolution of subjectivity which can open itself to the possibility of a different experience of life. It is argued that Adorno's concept of negative dialectics gives the grounding for the possibility of a critical subjectivity that can found itself within its own dissolution through an experience of possibility produced by a deepening of the contradictions of damaged life. The first two chapters critically examine the accounts of bare life and damaged life through Adorno and Agamben's writings on Auschwitz and life as survival.C hapterst hree and four clarify the philosophical antecedents to the concept of life in Adorno's work and argue that a path beyond damaged life cannot be configured in terms of a re-enchantment of nature. Chapter five provides a bridge in the thesis between the analysis of concepts of life and experience, through a critical examination of the account of the decay of experience given in Agamben and Adorno's work. It is argued that both their accounts are too undifferentiated, as they miss the possibilities that arise in the decay of experience. However, Adorno's emphasis on dialectical experience rather than an authoritative concept of experience, gives his philosophy a resource with which to think the possibility of another form of life, even amidst the destruction of experience. In the final three chapters, I reconstruct three central and related concepts of experience beyond damaged life that Adorno outlines throughout his work; a concept of interpretation, a concept of a negative redemptive breakthrough, and finally the metaphysical experience of reconciliation. These experiences relate to a concept of life in terms of an embodied thought, but not as an experience of a naturalistic, unchangeable ground. The possibility of an experience of life remains in the experience of a dissolution of subjectivity that does not turn into total destruction.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available