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Title: A key to the world : Schopenhauer, Adorno and Merleau-Ponty on the ethical and metaphysical dimensions of corporeality
Author: Peters, M. A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2741 7551
Awarding Body: University of Essex
Current Institution: University of Essex
Date of Award: 2012
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Up until now, Schopenhauer, Adorno and Merleau-Ponty have not been compared extensively. I seek to fill this lacuna, not only discussing the similarities between their theories, but also defending a moral outlook - in contrast with Kant and Korsgaard - that results from their observations on the vulnerability of the body. By approaching Adorno from a Schopenhauerian perspective, I furthermore seek to emphasize the often overlooked naturalistic tendencies of the former's thought. With reference to Elaine Scarry's observations on pain, I show that each author in a different way focuses on a corporeal dimension that Merleau-Ponty calls 'flesh'. This dimension makes us vulnerable to suffering and provides us with the capacity to experience empathy with other suffering (human and non-human) bodies. In Schopenhauer's view, this dimension is almost always overshadowed by an overpowering striving that results in egotistic behavior, and, in Adorno's view, by a pathological entwinement of self-preservation and instrumental rationality, which he connects to the origins of the modem self. I show that both thereby argue that the self is engulfed by a whole that is 'false' - respectively metaphysical and historical in nature - and that undermines the autonomy of the subject. Although Schopenhauer and Adorno hereby deemphasize the motivating role of reason, since it is, in their view, enslaved to self-preservation, I show that especially Adorno still defends its critical and reflective dimensions. By partly returning to Merleau-Ponty's observations on the flesh, I then argue that Schopenhauer and Adorno, against this negative background, describe a yearning for metaphysical experiences of embeddedness - mainly embodied in various forms of art, but also in natural beauty - that contains a strong somatic dimension. Adorno, furthermore, links some of these experiences to a hope for a utopian future in which social conditions are organized in such a way that unnecessary suffering is no more. With Schopenhauer, however, I argue that the naturalistic tendencies of Adorno's thought acutely problematize these utopian ideas.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available