Speaker: Dr Stephan Atzert, German Discipline, School of Languages and Cultures

Title: Adorno on Nietzsche

Six Quotations on Nietzsche by Adorno that Dr Atzert will be speaking about:

The awareness that philosophy, carried out as an academic field, no longer has anything to do
with people – whom it trains to stop asking futile questions, the questions for whose sake they
turn to it – this awareness had been already stirring in German idealism; it was voiced without
collegial discretion by Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche challenged any kind of
accord with academicism.
Among the motifs of cultural criticism one of the most long-established and central is that of the
lie: that culture creates the illusion of a society worthy of man which does not exist; that it
conceals the material conditions upon which all human works rise, and that, comforting and
lulling, it serves to keep alive the bad economic determination of existence. This is the notion of
culture as ideology, which appears at first sight common to both the bourgeois doctrine of
violence and its adversary, both to Nietzsche and to Marx. But precisely this notion, like all
expostulation about lies, has a suspicious tendency to become itself ideology.
For meaning, as we know, is not independent of genesis, and it is easy to discern, in everything
that cloaks or mediates the material, the trace of insincerity, sentimentality, indeed precisely a
concealed and doubly poisonous interest. But to act radically in accordance with this principle
would be to extirpate along with the untrue all that was true, all that which, however impotently,
strives to escape the confines of being applied universally, strives to escape pragmatic and
utilitarian approaches. It would extirpate every chimerical anticipation of a nobler situation, and
would instantly slip into the barbarism that culture is accused of containing, in a mediated form.
In the cultural critics after Nietzsche this reversal of position has always been obvious: Spengler
endorsed it enthusiastically. (as above)
Even highly dignified theories can be subjected to an appreciation which supposes them to be
things. It is as if they secretively obey a command issued by a society built upon
commodification. Just as in paranoia, the fixed idea mostly concerns itself with the attribution of
guilt. The delusional system is incapable of seeing through the system of delusions, the veil of
society in its totality. Therefore a particular principle is singled out as a scapegoat, in Rosseau it
is civilisation, in Freud the oedipus complex, in Nietzsche the resentment of the weak.
Nietzsche, the irreconcilable adversary of the theological heritage in metaphysics, had ridiculed
the difference between essence and appearance. He had relegated the “background world” to the
“backwoodsmen,” concurring here with all of positivism. Nowhere else, perhaps, is it so palpable
how a blindly unreflective enlightenment will profit its darkest enemies. Essence is that which is
covered by the terrible state of affairs; to deny that there is an essence means to side with
appearance, with the total ideology which existence has since become.
That Nietzsche, whose reflection penetrated even the concept of truth, drew back dogmatically
before that of genuineness, makes him what he least wanted to be, a Lutheran5, and his
fulminations against play-acting bear the stamp of the anti-Semitism which infuriated him in the
arch-actor Wagner. It is not with play-acting that he ought to have reproached Wagner – for all
art, and music first of all, is related to drama, and in everyone of Nietzsche’s periods there
resounds the millenial echo of rhetorical voices in the Roman Senate – but with the actor's denial
of play-acting.


About Studies in Culture Seminar Series

Through the scholarly analysis of many different kinds of cultural products, texts and phenomena, Studies in Culture brings together researchers who seek to understand how the world is understood differently by people coming from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. Researchers in this cluster work on literature, film, music, theatre, the visual arts, intangible heritage, testimonies and historical narratives.

Research in Studies in Culture within the School centres around four broad sub-themes of Heritage, memory and trauma studies; Intellectual and cultural history; Literature; and Film and visual cultures.

To view more on the research and interests of the Studies in Culture cluster, please click here.