The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology

Notes, Questions & Comments by Ralph Dumain

I

Adorno's Introduction


Adorno, Theodor W. "Introduction", in The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology, translated by Glyn Adey and David Frisby (London: Heinemann, 1976), pp. 1-67.

Notes and questions:

p. 2: "A degree of bad abstraction is posited in all epistemology, and even in the criticism of it."

I'm not certain what Adorno intends here, but as I see it, epistemology tends to be formalistic in character, fixated on the conditions and possibility and certainty of knowledge, in abstraction from content and history.

p. 4: "Amongst the topics in the controversy which must be considered is the question whether the inescapable logicality of the procedure actually gives absolute primacy to logic. But thoughts which demand the critical self-reflection of the primacy of logic in concrete disciplines inevitably end in a tactical disadvantage. They must reflect upon logic with the aid of means which, in turn, are largely logical­a contradiction of the type that Wittgenstein, as the most reflective positivist, realized all too clearly. If the present inevitable debate became one of 'Weltanschauungen' and were conducted from externally opposed standpoints, then it would a priori be unfruitful. But if it enters into argumentation then there is the danger that if the rules governing one position were to be tacitly recognized then this would inevitably supply the object of the discussion."

Intriguing, but not clear.

p. 4: "One ought to ask whether a valid disjunction exists between knowledge and the real life process, or whether it is not rather the case that knowledge is mediated through the latter; or whether its own autonomy, through which it has made itself productively independent of its genesis and objectivated itself, can be derived, in turn, from its social function; or whether it forms an immanent context and yet, in terms of its constitution, is situated in a field which surrounds it and even acts upon its immanent structure. But such a dual nature, no matter how plausible, would clash with the principle of non contradiction, science would then be both independent and dependent. A dialectics which advocated this could, in so doing, no more act as if it were 'privileged thought' than it could elsewhere. It cannot set itself up as a specific subjective capacity, with which one person is gifted but which is denied to others. Nor can it present itself as intuitionism."

Very intruiguing, but cryptic.

pp. 5-6: "Carnap's jubilation was based on the claim that nothing remained of philosophy but its method. His method of logical analysis is the prototype of the quasi ontological predisposition towards subjective reason. [7] Positivism, to which contradictions are anathema, possesses its innermost contradiction unbeknown to itself, in the following: namely, that it adheres to an objectivity which is most external to its sentiments and purged of all subjective projections, but thereby simply becomes all the more entangled in the particularity of mere subjective instrumental reason. Those who regard themselves as victors over idealism are far closer to it than critical theory. They hypostatize the knowing subject, not as an absolute subject or a source, but as the topos noetikos of all validity­of scientific control. Whilst they wish to liquidate philosophy, they advocate a philosophy which, resting on the authority of science, seeks to immunize itself against itself. In Carnap's work, the final link in the Hume-Mach-Schlick chain, the connection with the older subjective positivism is still revealed through his sensualist interpretation of protocol statements. Since these scientific statements are simply given in language and are not immediately given as sense certainty, this sensualist interpretation gave rise to Wittgenstein's problematic. But the latent subjectivism is in no way penetrated by the language theory of the Tractatus. There, one reads: 'Philosophy does not result in "philosophical propositions", but rather in the clarification of propositions. Without philosophy thoughts are, as it were, cloudy and indistinct: its task is to make them clear and to give them sharp boundaries.’ [8] But clarity is only accorded to subjective consciousness. In a scientific spirit, Wittgenstein exaggerates the claim of objectivity to such an extent that it dissolves and yields to the total paradox of philosophy, which forms Wittgenstein's nimbus. Latent subjectivism has formed a counterpoint to the objectivism of the entire nominalist Enlightenment, the permanent reductio ad hominem. Thought need not adapt to it. It has the power to reveal critically the latent subjectivism. It is amazing that the supporters of scientism, including Wittgenstein, were no more disturbed by this antagonism than by the permanent antagonism between the formal logical and empiricist currents, which, distorted within positivism, brings to light an extremely real antagonism. Even for Hume the doctrine of the absolute validity of mathematics was heterogenously contrasted with sceptical sensualism. Here the relative failure of scientism to achieve a mediation between facticity and concept becomes evident. If the two are not united then they become logically incompatible. One can neither advocate the absolute priority of the individual entity over 'ideas', nor can one maintain the absolute independence of the purely ideal, namely the mathematical, realm. No matter how one interprets it, as long as Berkeley's esse est percipi is retained, it is difficult to see where the claim to validity of the formal disciplines is derived from, for this claim is not founded in anything sensuous. Conversely, all the connecting mental operations of empiricism, for which the connectedness of statements is a criterion of truth, postulate formal logic. This simple consideration ought to be sufficient to induce scientism to take up dialectics. The unsatisfactory abstract polarity of the formal and the empirical is extended, in a highly tangible manner, to the social sciences. Formal sociology is the external complement to what Habermas has termed restricted experience."

Wild, wacky, stuff, demonstrating Adorno's exposure to neopositivism and Wittgenstein, but I am unable to decipher this.

p. 9: Dialectics renounces its former dream of certainty. Hence, "dialectics adopts a position towards the 'myth of total reason' no less polemical than Albert's scientism." Adorno seems to be arguing against foundationalism, which I believe Popper also rejected (though I think he carried on the same habits.)

pp. 9-10: "Dialectics is able to legitimize itself by translating this content back into the experience from which it arose. But this is the experience of the mediation of all that is individual through the objective societal totality. In traditional dialectics, it was turned on its head with the thesis that antecedent objectivity­the object itself, understood as totality­was the subject. Albert objects that in my Tübingen paper there are merely hints at totality. [11] Yet it is almost tautological to say that one cannot point to the concept of totality in the same manner as one can point to the facts, from which totality distances itself as a concept. 'And to this first, still quite abstract approximation, let us add a further qualification, namely the dependency of all individuals on the totality which they form. In such a totality, everyone is also dependent on everyone else. The whole survives only through the unity of the functions which its members fulfil. Each individual without exception must take some function on himself in order to prolong his existence; indeed, while his function lasts, he is taught to express his gratitude for it.' [12]"

Note also:

p. 10: "Albert accuses Habermas of adhering an idea of total reason, together with all the sins of the philosophy of identity. In objective terms, Albert claims that dialectics carries on, in an obsolete Hegelian manner, with a notion of the societal whole that cannot be realized by research and which thus belongs on the rubbish dump. The fascination exerted by Merton's 'theory of the middle range' can certainly be explained by the scepticism towards a category of totality, whilst the objects of such theorems are violently torn from the encircling contexts. According to the simplest common sense, the empirical strives towards totality. If one studies social conflict in a case such as the hostile reactions in Berlin towards students in 1967, then the occasion of the individual situation is not sufficient for an explanation. A thesis such as the following: that the population simply reacted in a spontaneous manner towards a group which it considered to be endangering the interests of a city maintained under precarious conditions­would be inadequate, and not only because of the doubtfulness of the political and ideological connections assumed."

pp. 11-12: On dialectics, totality, facts, neopositivism:

"Owing to the infinite plurality of its moments, it can, of course, scarcely be encapsulated by scientific prescriptions. But if it is eliminated from science then the phenomena are attributed to false causes, and the dominant ideology regularly profits from this. That society does not allow itself to be nailed down as a fact actually only testifies to the existence of mediation. This implies that the facts, are neither final nor impenetrable, even though the prevailing sociology regards them as such in accordance with the model of sense data found in earlier epistemology. In them there appears that which they are not. [13] Not the least significant of the differences between the positivist and dialectical conceptions is that positivism, following Schlick's maxim, will only allow appearance to be valid, whilst dialectics will not allow itself to be robbed of the distinction between essence and appearance. For its part, it is a societal law that decisive structures of the social process, such as that of the inequality of the alleged equivalency of exchange, cannot become apparent without the intervention of theory. Dialectical thought counters the suspicion of what Nietzsche termed nether worldly [hinterweltlerisch] with the assertion that concealed essence is non essence. Dialectical thought, irreconcilable with the philosophical tradition, affirms this non essence, not [11/12] because of its power but instead it criticizes its contradiction of 'what is appearing' [Erscheinendes] and, ultimately, its contradiction of the real life of human beings. One must adhere to Hegel's statement that essence must appear. Totality is not an affirmative but rather a critical category. Dialectical critique seeks to salvage or help to establish what does not obey totality, what opposes it or what first forms itself as the potential of a not yet existent individuation. The interpretation of facts is directed towards totality, without the interpretation itself being a fact. There is nothing socially factual which would not have its place in that totality. It is pre established for all individual subjects since they obey its 'contrainte' even in themselves and even in their monadological constitution and here in particular, conceptualize totality. To this extent, totality is what is most real. Since it is the sum of individuals' social relations which screen themselves off from individuals, it is also illusion­ideology. A liberated mankind would by no means be a totality. Their being in themselves is just as much their subjugation as it deceives them about itself as the true societal substratum. This certainly does not fulfil the desideratum of a logical analysis of the concept of totality, [14] as the analysis of something free from contradiction, which Albert uses against Habermas, for the analysis terminates in the objective contradiction of totality. But the analysis should protect recourse to totality from the accusation of decisionistic arbitrariness. [15] Habermas, no more than any other dialectician, disputes the possibility of an explication of totality; he simply disputes its verifiability according to the criterion of facts which is transcended through the movement towards the category of totality. Nevertheless, it is not separate from the facts but is immanent to them as their mediation. Formulated provocatively, totality is society as a thing in itself, with all the guilt of reification. But it is precisely because this thing in itself is not yet the total societal subject­nor is it yet freedom, but rather extends nature in a heteronomous manner­that an indissoluble moment is objective to it such as Durkheim, though somewhat one-sidedly, declared to be the essence of the social as such. To this extent it is also 'factual'. The concept of facticity, which the positivistic view guards as its final substratum, is a function of the same society about which scientistic sociology, insistent upon this opaque [12/13] substratum, promises to remain silent. The absolute separation of fact and society is an artificial product of reflection which must be derived from, and refuted through, a second reflection."

p. 14-15: "The crucial difference between the dialectical and the positivistic view of totality is that the dialectical concept of totality is intended 'objectively', namely, for the understanding of every social individual observation, whilst positivistic systems theories wish, in an uncontradictory manner, to incorporate observations in a logical continuum, simply through the selection of categories as general as possible. In so doing, they do not recognize the highest structural concepts as the precondition for the states of affairs subsumed under them. If positivism denigrates this concept of totality as mythological, pre scientific residue then it mythologizes science in its assiduous struggle against mythology. Its instrumental character, or rather its orientation towards the primacy of available methods instead of towards reality and its interest, inhibits insights which affect both scientific procedure and its object. The core of the critique of positivism is that it shuts itself off from both the experience of the blindly dominating totality and the driving desire that it should ultimately become something else. It contents itself with the senseless ruins which remain after the liquidation of idealism, without interpreting, for their part, both liquidation and what is liquidated, and rendering them true. Instead, positivism is concerned with the disparate, with the subjectivistically interpreted datum and the associated pure thought forms of the human subject. Contemporary scientism unites these now fragmented moments of knowledge in a manner as external as that of the earlier philosophy of reflection which, for this reason, deserved to be criticized by speculative dialectics. Dialectics also contains the opposite of idealistic hubris. It abolishes the illusion of a somehow natural transcendental dignity [14/15] of the individual subject and becomes conscious of it in its forms of thought as something societal in itself. To this extent, dialectics is 'more realistic' than scientism with all its 'criteria of meaning'."

This passage appears important but obscure:

15: "But since society is made up of human subjects and is constituted through their functional connection, its recognition through living, unreduced subjects is far more commensurable with 'reality itself' than in the natural sciences which are compelled, by the alien nature of a non human object, to situate objectivity entirely within the categorial mechanism, in abstract subjectivity. Freyer has drawn attention to this. The distinction between the nomothetic and idiographic, made by the south west German neo Kantian school, can be left out of consideration all the more readily since an unabbreviated theory of society cannot forego the laws of its structural movement. The commensurability of the object­society­with the knowing subject exists just as much as it does not exist. This too is difficult to combine with discursive logic. Society is both intelligible and unintelligible. It is intelligible in so far as the condition of exchange, which is objectively decisive, itself implies an abstraction and, in terms of its own objectivity, a subjective act. In it the human subject truly recognizes himself. In terms of the philosophy of science, this explains why Weberian sociology concentrates upon the concept of rationality. In rationality, regardless of whether consciously or unconsciously, Weber sought what was identical in subject and object, namely that which would permit something akin to knowledge of the object [Sache], instead of its splintering into data and its processing. Yet the objective rationality of society, namely that of exchange, continues to distance itself through its dynamics, from the model of logical reason. Consequently, society­what has been made independent­is, in turn, no longer intelligible; only the law of becoming independent is intelligible. Unintelligibility does not simply signify something essential in its structure but also the ideology by means of which it arms itself against the critique of its irrationality. Since rationality or spirit has separated itself as a partial moment from the living human subjects and has contended itself with rationalization, it moves forward towards something opposed to the subjects. The aspect of objectivity as unchangeability, which it thus assumes, is then mirrored in the reification of the knowing consciousness. "

15-16: on contradiction and critique. Again, obscure:

"The contradiction in the concept of society as intelligible and unintelligible is the driving force of rational [15/16] critique, which extends to society and its type of rationality, namely the particular. If Popper seeks the essence of criticism in the fact that progressive knowledge abolishes its own logical contradictions, then his own ideal becomes criticism of the object if the contradiction has its own recognizable location in it, and not merely in the knowledge of it."

16-17: On the unity of science. Difficult to decipher:

"The harmonistic tendency of science, which makes the antagonisms of reality disappear through its methodical processing, lies in the classificatory method which is devoid of the intention of those who utilize it. It reduces to the same concept what is not fundamentally homonymous, what is mutually opposed, through the selection of the conceptual apparatus, and in the service of its unanimity. In recent years, an example of this tendency has been provided by Talcott Parsons' well known attempt to create a unified science of man. His system of categories subsumes individual and society, psychology and sociology alike, or at least places them in a continuum. [19] The ideal of continuity, current since Descartes and Leibniz especially, has become dubious, though not merely as a result of recent natural scientific development. In society this ideal conceals the rift between the general and the particular, in which the continuing antagonism expresses itself. The unity of science represses the contradictory nature of its object. A price has to be paid for the apparently contagious satisfaction that nonetheless can be derived from the unified science: such a science cannot grasp the societally posited moment of the divergence of individual and society and of their respective disciplines. The pedantically organized total scheme, which stretches from the individual and his invariant regularities to complex social structures, has room for everything except for the fact that the individual and society, although not radically different, have historically grown apart. Their relationship is contradictory since society largely denies individuals what it­always a society of individuals­promises them and why society coalesces at all; whilst on the other hand, the blind, unrestrained interests of individuals inhibit the formation of a possible total societal interest. The ideal of a unified science merits an epithet, but one which it would by no means please it, namely, that of the aesthetic­just as one speaks of 'elegance' in mathematics. The organizatory rationalization in which the programme of unified science results, as opposed to the disparate individual sciences, greatly prejudices questions in the philosophy of science which are thrown up by society."

p. 18: I can't make sense of this:

"When Fichte's Theory of Science and Hegel's Science of Logic were written at the turn of the eighteenth century, the present concept of science with its claim to exclusiveness would have been critically placed on the level of the pre·scientific, whilst nowadays what was then termed science, no matter how chimerically it was called absolute knowledge, would be rejected as extra·scientific by what Popper refers to as scientism. The course of history, and not merely of intellectual history, which led to this is by no means unqualified progress, as the positivists would have it. All the mathematical refinement of the highly developed scientific methodology does not allay the suspicion that the elaboration of science into a technique alongside others has undermined its own concept. The strongest argument for this would be that what appears as a goal to scientific interpretation, namely fact·finding, is only a means towards theory for emphatic science. Without theory the question remains open as to why the whole enterprise was undertaken. However, the reformulation of the idea of science begins even with the idealists, in particular with Hegel, whose absolute knowledge coincides with the manifest concept of what exists thus—and not otherwise [so und nicht anders Seiendes]."

I also don't understand what immediately follows:

"The point of attack for the critique of this development is not the crystallization of particular scientific methods the fruitfulness of which is beyond question but rather the now dominant suggestion, crudely urged on the authority of Max Weber, that extra scientific interests are external to science and that the two should be strictly separated. Whilst, on the one hand, the allegedly purely scientific interests are rigid channels and are frequently neutralizations of extra scientific interests which, in their weakened form, extend into science, the scientific body of instruments, on the other hand, which provides the canon of what is scientific, is also instrumental in a manner in which instrumental reason has never dreamt. This body of instruments is the means for answering questions which both originate beyond science and strive beyond it. In so far as the ends means rationality of science ignores the Telos which lies in the concept of instrumentalism and becomes its own sole purpose, it contradicts its own instrumentality. But this is what society demands of science. In a determinably false society that contradicts the interests both of its members and of the whole, all knowledge [18/19] which readily subordinates itself to the rules of this society that are congealed in science, participates in its falsehood. "

I don't understand anything on p. 19, in which science is further discussed. Example:

"The current academically attractive distinction between the scientific and the pre-scientific, to which even Albert adheres, cannot be upheld. The revision of this dichotomy is legitimated by a fact which can constantly be observed and is even confirmed by positivists, namely, that there is a split in their thinking in that, regardless of whether they speak as scientists or non scientists, they nevertheless utilize reason. What is classified as pre scientific is not simply what has not yet passed through, or avoided, the self critical work of science advocated by Popper. But rather it subsumes all the rationality and experience which are excluded from the instrumental determinations of reason. Both moments are necessarily dependent upon one another. Science, which incorporates the pre scientific impulses without transforming them, condemns itself to indifference no less than do amateur arbitrary procedures. In the disreputable realm of the pre-scientific, those interests meet which are severed by the process of scientization. But these interests are by no means inessential. Just as there certainly would be no advance of consciousness without the scientific discipline, it is equally certain that the discipline also paralyses the organs of knowledge."

20-1: Interesting commentary on Wittgenstein, but I don't understand a word of it:

"The inescapability of paradox, which Wittgenstein frankly expressed, testifies to the fact that generally the lack of contradiction cannot, for consistent thought, have the last word, not even when consistent thought sanctions its norm. Wittgenstein's superiority over the positivists of the Vienna Circle is revealed in a striking manner here: the logician perceives the limit of logic. Within its framework, the relationship between language and world, as Wittgenstein presented it, could not be treated unambiguously. For him language forms a closed immanent context through which the non verbal moments of knowledge, for instance sense data, are mediated. But it is not the intention of language to refer to what is non verbal. Language is both language and autarchy. In accord with the scientistic assumption of rules only being valid within it, it is as a moment within reality, a fait social. [21] Wittgenstein had to account for the fact that it removed itself from all that factually exists since the latter is only 'given' through it, and yet is conceivable only as a moment of the world which, in his view, can only be known through language. At this point, he had reached the threshold of a dialectical awareness of the so called problems of constitution and had reduced ad absurdum scientism's right to cut off dialectical thought. This affects both the current scientistic notion of the subject, even of the transcendental subject of knowledge, which is seen as dependent upon its object as a precondition for its own possibility, and it also affects the current scientistic notion of the object. It is no longer an X whose substratum must be composed from the context of subjective determinations but rather, being itself determined, it helps to determine the subjective function."

p. 21: on science, scientism, subject, object, ideology. Once again, I find Adorno's writing unintelligible:

"Objective validity preserves the moment of its emergence and this moment permanently affects it. No matter how unassailable logic is, the process of abstraction which removes it from attack is that of the controlling will. It excludes and disqualifies what it controls. In this dimension logic is 'untrue'; its unassailability is itself the intellectualized societal taboo. Its illusory nature is manifested in the contradictions encountered by reason in its objects. In the distancing of the subject from the object, which realizes the history of the mind, the subject gave way to the real superiority of objectivity. Its domination was that of the weaker over the stronger. Perhaps in no other way would the self assertion of the human species have been possible. The process of scientific objectivation would certainly not have been possible. But the more the subject seized for itself the aims of the object, the more it, in turn, unconsciously rendered itself an object. This is the prehistory of the reification of consciousness. What scientism simply assumes to be progress was always, at the same time, a sacrifice. What in the object does not correspond to the ideal of a 'pure' subject for itself, alienated from its own living experience, slips through the net. To this extent, advancing consciousness was accompanied by the shadow of false consciousness. Subjectivity has in itself eradicated what does not yield to the unambiguousness and identity of its claim to domination. Subjectivity, which is really always object, has reduced itself no less than its object. One should also recall the moments which are lost in scientific methodology's curtailment of objectivity, and similarly the loss of the spontaneity of knowledge inflicted by the subject upon himself in order to master his own restricted achievements. "

22: interesting but also puzzling comments on Carnap:

"Carnap, one of the most radical positivists, once characterized as a stroke of good luck the fact that the laws of logic and of pure mathematics apply to reality. A mode of thought, whose entire pathos lies in its enlightened state, refers at this central point to an irrational­mythical­concept, such as that of the stroke of luck, simply in order to avoid an insight which, in fact, shakes the positivistic position; namely, that the supposed lucky circumstance is not really one at all but rather the product of the ideal of objectivity based on the domination of nature or, as Habermas puts it, the 'pragmatistic' ideal of objectivity. The rationality of reality, registered with relief by Carnap, is simply the mirroring of subjective ratio. The epistemological metacritique denies the validity of the Kantian claim to the subjective a priori but affirms Kant's view to the extent that his epistemology, intent on establishing validity, describes the genesis of scientistic reason in a highly adequate manner. What to him, as a remarkable consequence of scientistic reification, seems to be the strength of subjective form which constitutes reality is, in truth, the summa of the historical process in which subjectivity­liberating itself from nature and thus objectivating itself­emerged as the total master of nature, forgot the relationship of domination and, thus blinded, re interpreted this relationship as the creation of that ruled by the ruler."

p. 23, continuing Adorno's discussion of Popper:

"Cognitive criticism, of knowledge and especially of theorems, necessarily also examines whether the objects of knowledge are what they claim to be according to their own concept. Otherwise it would be formalistic. Immanent criticism is never solely purely logical but always concrete as well­the confrontation of concept and reality."

Skipping a sentence, we then have:

"It is in a largely irrational society that the scientifically stipulated primacy of logic is at issue. Material concretion, which no knowledge—not even purely logical procedure—can entirely dismiss, demands that immanent critique, in so far as it is directed towards what is intended by scientific statements and not towards 'statements in themselves', does not generally proceed in an argumentative manner but rather demands that it investigate whether this is the case."

This almost repeats the previously quoted assertion, but adds the notion of "irrational society". I infer that the inadequacy of logic owes to the fact that logic excludes contradiction, while an irrational society is contradictory.

Now, a comparison of Popper and Hegel, which is not entirely clear to me:

"In his Science of Logic, Hegel did not argue in a traditional manner and in the introduction to the Phenomenology of Mind he demanded ‘pure reflection’. On the other hand, Popper, who sees the objectivity of science in the objectivity of the critical method, elucidates it with the statement 'that the main instrument of [23/24] logical criticism­the logical contradiction­is objective' [24] This certainly does not raise an exclusive claim for formal logic such as that criticism only possesses its organon in the latter, but such a claim is at least suggested. Albert, following Popper, can hardly interpret criticism differently. [25] He certainly permits the type of 'investigations of such factual connections as Habermas himself mentions' [26] but he wishes to keep them and the logical connections. The unity of both types of criticism, which indicates their concepts, is conjured away through a conceptual order."

Note these remarks about Marx, contradiction, dialectics, positivism:

"But if logical contradictions appear in social scientific statements, such as the relevant contradiction that the same social system unleashes and leashes the forces of production, then theoretical analysis is able to reduce such logical inconsistencies to structural moments of society. It must not eliminate them as mere maladjustments of scientific thought since, in any case, they can only be removed through a change in reality itself. Even if it were possible to translate such contradictions into merely semantic contradictions, that is, to demonstrate that each contradictory statement refers to something different, their form still expresses the structure of the object more sharply than a procedure which attains scientific satisfaction by turning its back upon what is unsatisfactory in the non scientific object of knowledge. Moreover, the possibility of devolving objective contradictions onto semantics may be connected with the fact that Marx, the dialectician, did not possess a completely developed notion of dialectics. He imagined that he was simply 'flirting' with it. Thinking, which teaches itself that part of its own meaning is what, in turn, is not a thought, explodes the logic of non contradiction. Its prison has windows. The narrowness of positivism is that it does not take this into account and entrenches itself in ontology as if in a last refuge, even if this ontology were simply the wholly formalized, contentless ontology of the deductive connection of statements in themselves. "

pp. 24-5, on critique of reality in relation to science:

"The critique of the relationships of scientific statements to that to which they refer is, however, inevitably compelled towards a critique of reality. It must rationally decide whether the insufficiencies which it encounters are merely scientific, or whether reality insufficiently accords with what science, through its concept, expresses about it. The separation between the structures of science and reality is not absolute. Nor may the concept of truth be attributed solely to the structures of science. It is no less meaningful to speak of the truth of a societal institution than of of the truth of theorems concerned with it. Legitimately, criticism does not normally imply merely self criticism­which is what it actually amounts to for Popper­but also criticism of reality. In this respect, Habermas' reply to Albert has its pathos."

pp. 25-6: on Popperian criticism:

"The Popperian concept of criticism inhibits logic by restricting it to scientific statements [25/26] without regard for the logicity of its substratum which it requires in order to be true to its own meaning. Popper's 'critical rationalism' has something pre-Kantian about it; in terms of formal logic, this is at the expense of its content. Sociological constructs, however, which contented themselves with their logical freedom from contradiction, could not withstand concrete reflection. They could not withstand the reflection of a thoroughly functional society­though one which perpetuates itself solely through the harshness of relentless repression ad calendas Graecas­because that society is inconsistent; because the constraint under which it keeps itself and its members alive does not reproduce their life in a form which would be possible given the state of the rationality of means, as is specifically presupposed by integral bureaucratic domination. Endless terror can also function, but functioning as an end in itself, separated from why it functions, is no less a contradiction than any logical contradiction, and a science which fell silent before it would be irrational. Critique does not merely imply the decision as to whether suggested hypotheses can be demonstrated as true or false; it moves transparently over to the object. If theorems are full of contradictions then by modifying Lichtenberg's statement one might say that they are not always to blame. The dialectical contradiction expresses the real antagonisms which do not become visible within the logical scientistic system of thought. For positivists, the system, according to the logical deductive model, is something worth striving for, something 'positive'. For dialecticians, in real no less than in philosophical terms, it is the core of what has to be criticized. One of the decaying forms of dialectical thought in dialectical materialism is that it reprimands critique of the dominant system. "

pp. 26-7, on dialectical theory, system, positivism, logic, Vienna Circle:

"Dialectical theory must increasingly distance itself from the system. Society constantly distances itself from the liberal model which gave it its systematic character, and its cognitive system forfeits the character of an ideal since, in the post liberal form of society, its systematic unity as a totality is amalgamated with repression. Today, wherever dialectical thought all too inflexibly adheres to the system, even and precisely in what is criticized, it tends to ignore determinate being and to retreat into illusory notions. It is a merit of positivism that it draws attention to this, if its concept of the system, as merely internal-scientific and classificatory, is not to be enticed to hypostasis. Hypostatized dialectics becomes undialectical and requires correction [26/27] by the fact finding whose interest is realized by empirical social research, which then, in turn, is unjustly hypostatized by the positivistic theory of science. The pre given structure which does not merely stem from classification­Durkheim's impenetrable­is essentially negative and is incompatible with its own goal, namely the preservation and satisfaction of mankind. Without such a goal the concept of society, seen in concrete terms, would indeed be what the Viennese positivists used to term devoid of meaning. To this extent, sociology even as a critical theory of society is 'logical'. This compels us to extend the concept of criticism beyond its limitations in Popper's work. The idea of scientific truth cannot be split off from that of a true society. Only such a society would be free from contradiction and lack of contradiction. In a resigned manner, scientism commits such an idea to the mere forms of knowledge alone."

Note the two meanings of 'truth' tied together by Adorno in the sentence: "The idea of scientific truth cannot be split off from that of a true society." I generally don't like 'truth' being used in the later sense, but I see what Adorno's getting at.

p. 27, on Popper and protocol sentences:

"By stressing its societal neutrality, scientism defends itself against the critique of the object and replaces it with the critique merely of logical inconsistencies. Both Albert and Popper seem to bear in mind the problematic of such a restriction of critical reason or, as Habermas expressed it, of the fact that scientific asceticism encourages the decisionism of ends or that irrationalism inherent even in Weber's theory of science. Popper concedes that 'protocol sentences are not inviolable' and that this 'represents, in [his] opinion, a notable advance'. [28] His concession that universal law like hypotheses could not be meaningfully regarded as verifiable, and that this even applies to protocol sentences, [29] indeed furthers the concept of criticism in a productive manner. Whether intentionally or not, it has taken into account that the referent of so called sociological protocol statements, namely simple observations, are preformed through society which, in turn, cannot be reduced to protocol statements. But if one replaces the traditional positivist postulate of verification by the postulate of 'the capacity for confirmation' then positivism forfeits its intention. All knowledge requires confirmation; it must rationally distinguish between true and false without autologically setting up the categories of true and false in accordance with the rules of established science."

pp. 28-9: note critique of Popper, including his impoverished notion of scientific objectivity (competition, tradition, social institution, publication and structured discussion, the power of the state.

"His forced innocence with regard to all this breathes the optimism of despair. The a priori negation of an objective structure of society, and its substitution by ordering schemata, eradicates thoughts which turn upon this structure, whilst Popper's enlightening impulse strives after such thoughts. In accordance with its pure form, the denial of social objectivity leaves such thoughts undisturbed. An absolutized logic is ideology."

p. 29, On Popper's separation of the objectivity of science from the objectivity of the scientist:

"But in fact this objectivity suffers less under the personal equation which has been made from time immemorial, than from the objective societal pre-formation of the objectivated scientific apparatus. Popper the nominalist can provide no stronger corrective than intersubjectivity within organized science: 'What may be described as scientific objectivity is based solely upon a critical tradition which, despite resistance, often makes it possible to criticise a dominant dogma. To put it another way, the objectivity of science is not a matter of the individual scientist but rather the social result of their mutual criticism, of the friendly hostile division of labour among scientists, of their co operation and also of their competition.' [35] The belief that very divergent positions, by virtue of the recognized rules of co-operation, will 'get together' and thereby achieve the particular attainable level of objectivity in knowledge, follows the outmoded liberal model of those who gather at a round table in order to work out a compromise. The forms of scientific co-operation contain an infinite amount of societal mediation. Popper in fact calls them a 'social concern' but does not concern himself with their implications."

p. 29:

"After all sociology, whose topics deal with explosive interests, is also in its own form, not only privately but also in its institutions a complete microcosm of these interests. The classificatory principle in itself has already taken care of this. The scope of concepts which seek to be simply abbreviations of particular existent facts, does not lead beyond their compass."

p. 30: Administrative research, positivistic skepticism, capitulation to the status quo. Note particularly this assertion:

"Positivism, however, specifically lends itself, in keeping with the entire nominalist sceptical tradition, to ideological abuse by virtue of its material indeterminacy, its classificatory method and, finally, its preference for correctness rather than truth."

p. 30-1: this passage is opaque to me:

"The entity to which scientistic analysis leads, the final subjective phenomenon postulated by a critique of knowledge and one which cannot be further reduced, is in turn the inadequate copy of the objectivity reduced here to the subject. In the spirit of an unswerving claim to objectivity, sociology cannot content itself with the fact, with what is only in appearance most objective. Anti-idealistically, something of idealism's truth content is preserved in it. The equation of subject and object is valid in so far as the subject is an object, initially in the sense emphasized by Habermas that sociological research, for its part, belongs to the objective context which it intends to study."

p. 31-2: Note Popper's mention of analytical philosophy; also his qualified agreement with Popper:

"Popper's view, referred to by Albert, according to which theorems 'can be understood as attempts to illuminate the structural characteristics of reality', [39] is not so very far removed from the concept of the object itself. Popper does not deny the philosophical tradition as Reichenbach had done. Criteria such as that of ‘relevance’ [40] or of ‘explanatory power’, [41] [31/32] which he certainly interprets later in a sense closer to the natural-scientific model, would have little meaning if, in spite of everything, there were not an implicit underlying concept of society which several positivists­for instance, König and Schelsky in Germany­would prefer to abolish. The mentality which refuses to admit an objective social structure draws back from the object which it taboos."

p. 32: objectivity is obliterated by methodology:

"In caricaturing their opponents as visionary metaphysicians the followers of scientism become unrealistic. Operationally ideal techniques inevitably withdraw from the situations in which what is to be investigated is located. In particular, this could be demonstrated in the social psychological experiment but it could also be demonstrated in the alleged improvements in scale construction. Objectivity, which actually should be served by the finishing touches of methodology and the avoidance of sources of error, becomes something secondary, something graciously dragged along by the operational ideal. What is central becomes peripheral. If the methodological will to make problems unambiguously determinable and 'falsifiable' predominates in an unreflected manner, then science is reduced to alternatives, which only emerged through the elimination of 'variables', that is, by abstracting and thereby changing the object. Methodological empiricism works according to this scheme in the opposite direction to experience. "

Note the reappearance of the concept of 'totality' at the bottom of p. 32.

pp. 32-3: interpretation, totality, subject/object:

"In sociology, interpretation acquires its force both from the fact that without reference to totality­to the real total system, untranslatable into any solid immediacy­nothing societal can be conceptualized, and from the fact that it can, however, only be recognized in the extent to which it is apprehended in the factual and the individual. It is the societal physiognomy of appearance. The primary meaning of 'interpret' is to perceive something in the features of totality's social givenness. The idea of the 'anticipation' of totality, which perhaps a very liberal positivism would be prepared to accept, is insufficient. Recalling Kant, it envisages totality as something in fact indefinitely relinquished and postponed, but something in principle to be fulfilled through the given, without regard for the qualitative gap between essence and appearance in society. Physiognomy does better justice to it since it realizes totality in its dual relationship to the facts which it deciphers­a totality which 'is', and does not represent a mere synthesis of logical operations. The facts are not identical with [32/33] totality but the latter does not exist beyond the facts. Knowledge of society which does not commence with the physionomic view is poverty stricken. In this view appearance is categorically suspect. But knowledge cannot adhere to this. By developing mediations of the apparent and of what expresses itself in these mediations, interpretation occasionally differentiates and corrects itself in a radical manner. As distinct from what in fact is a pre-scientific, dull registration, knowledge worthy of human cognizance begins by sharpening the sense for what is illuminated in every social phenomenon. This sense, if anything, ought to be defined as the organon of scientific experience. Established sociology banishes this sense­hence its sterility. Only if this sense is first developed can it be disciplined. Its discipline requires both increased exactness of empirical observation and the force of theory which inspires interpretation and transforms itself in it. Several followers of scientism may generously accept this, but the divergence still remains. The divergence is one of conceptions. Positivism regards sociology as one science among others and, since Comte, has considered that the proven methods of older science, in particular of natural science, can be transferred to sociology. The actual pseudos is concealed here. For sociology has a dual character. In it, the subject of all knowledge­society, the bearer of logical generality­is at the same time the object."

p. 34: sociology technocratic, unreflexive (Comte's scientism):

"Society as subject and society as object are the same and yet not the same. The objectivating acts of science eliminate that in society by means of which it is not only an object, and the shadow of this falls upon all scientistic objectivity. For a doctrine whose supreme norm is the lack of contradiction it is most difficult to perceive this. Here lies the innermost difference between a critical theory of society and what is commonly known as sociology. Despite all the experience of reification, and in the very expression of this experience, critical theory is orientated towards the idea of society as subject, whilst sociology accepts reification, repeats it in its methods and thereby loses the perspective in which society and its law would first reveal themselves. This relates back to the sociological claim to domination raised by Comte; a claim which today is more or less openly reproduced in the notion that, since it is possible for sociology to control successfully particular societal situations and fields, it can extend its control to the whole. If such a transfer were somehow possible, if it did not crassly fail to recognize the power relations through whose givenness sociology is constituted, then the scientifically totally controlled society would remain an object­that of science­and as unemancipated as ever. Even in the rationality of a scientific management of the whole society which had apparently thrown off its shackles, domination would survive. Even against their will, the domination of the scientists would amalgamate with the interests of the powerful cliques. A technocracy of sociologists would retain an elitist character. On the other hand, one of the moments which must remain common to philosophy and sociology, and which must rank highly if the two are not to decline­the latter to a lack of content, the former to a lack of concepts­is that inherent to both is something not wholly transformable into science."

p. 34-5: I do not understand the remarks surrounding Nietzsche. I also do not understand Adorno's repeated use of the word "emphatic":

"In both nothing is meant in a completely literal manner, neither statement of fact nor pure validity. This unliteralness­according to Nietzsche a part of a game­paraphrases the concept of interpretation which interprets being as non being. What is not quite literal testifies to the tense non-identity of essence and appearance. Emphatic knowledge does not lapse into irrationalism [34/35] if it does not absolutely renounce art. "

Adorno continues on p. 35 with a discussion of literalness, contrasted with precision, solipsism, et al. This is all unintelligible to me. Also, Adorno seems to include what I take to be the method he's developed since the early '30s, which is far removed even from a social scientific method as commonly understood. E.g., p. 35-6:

"Literalness and precision are not the same but rather the two diverge. Without the broken, the inauthentic there can be no knowledge which might be more than an ordering repetition. That, thereby, the idea of truth is nevertheless not sacrificed, as it tends to be in the most consistent representatives of positivism, expresses an essential contradiction: knowledge is, and by no means per accidens, exaggeration. For just as little as something particular is 'true' but rather by virtue of its mediatedness is [35/36] always its own other, so the whole is no less true. It is an expression of its own negativity that it remains unreconciled with the particular. Truth is the articulation of this relationship."

P. 36: on the illusions of German idealism, e.g. with respect to absolute knowledge. Note references to Hegel and Kierkegaard.

I'm unclear on what is being said here about Habermas and first- and second- level phenomena.

p. 37, I don't understand Adorno's argument for a dialectical concept of meaning:

"A dialectical concept of meaning would not be a correlate of Weber's meaningful understanding but rather the societal essence which shapes appearances, appears in them and conceals itself in them. It is not a general law, understood in the usually scientistic sense, which determines the phenomena. Its model would be Marx's law of crisis­even if it has become so obscured as to be unrecognizable­which was deduced from the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Its modifications, for their part, should also be derived from it. The efforts to ward off or postpone the system immanent tendency are already prescribed within the system. It is by no means certain that this is possible indefinitely or whether such efforts enact the law of crisis against their own will. The writing on the wall suggests a slow inflationary collapse. "

In any case, Adorno dissociates himself from any obscurantist notion of totality. Societal essence shapes appearance. Society is a system.

p. 38-9: Note this remark on the decoding of philosophy via sociology!

"No social knowledge can profess to be master of the unconditioned. Nevertheless, its critique of philosophy does not imply that the latter is submerged in this knowledge without a trace. Consciousness which retreats to the societal domain also liberates, through its self reflection, that element in philosophy which does not simply dissolve in society. But if it is argued that the societal concept of system, as the concept of something objective, secularizes metaphysic's concept of system, then this argument is true but applies to everything and therefore to nothing. It would be no less justifiable to criticize positivism on the grounds that its concept of secure certainty is a secularization of celestial truth. The accusation of crypto theology is incomplete. The metaphysical systems apologetically projected the constraining character of society onto being. Anyone who desires to extricate himself from the system through thought, must translate it from idealistic philosophy into the societal reality from which it was abstracted. Thereby, the concept of totality, preserved by the followers of scientism such as Popper in the [38/39] notion of the deductive system, is confronted with enlightenment. What is untrue but also what is true in it can be determined. "

More on Hegel and dialectics.

40: on the problem of the general and particular in sociology.

40-1: Note also remark on Wittgenstein in the process of criticizing Popper:

"The behaviour of dialectical thought towards the singular can perhaps best be underlined in contrast with one of Wittgenstein's formulations quoted by Wellmer: 'The simplest kind of proposition, an elementary proposition, asserts the existence of a state of affairs.' [47] The apparently self-evident view that the logical analysis of statements leads to elementary statements is anything but self evident. Even Wittgenstein still repeats the dogma of Descartes' Discours de la Méthode, namely, that the most simple­whatever one could imagine this [40/41] to be­is 'more true' than what is composed, and therefore that the reduction of the more complicated to the simple a priori deserves greater merit. In fact, for the followers of scientism, simplicity is a value criterion of social scientific knowledge. This is exemplified in the fifth thesis of Popper's Tubingen paper. [48] Through its association with honesty, simplicity becomes a scientific virtue. The overtone is unmistakable here, namely that the complicated arises from the confusion or the pomposity of the observer. But the objects decide objectively whether social theorems should be simple or complex."

41: Note critique of Popper on problems & solutions, trial & error, simplicity & atomism, also remark on Wittgenstein:

"If a proposed solution is not open to pertinent criticism, then it is excluded as unscientific for this reason, although perhaps only temporarily.' [50] The concept of a problem employed here is hardly less atomistic than Wittgenstein's criterion of truth. It is postulated that everything with which sociology legitimately ought to concern itself can be dissected into individual problems. If one interprets Popper's thesis in a strict sense then, despite its common sense which recommends it at a first glance, it becomes an obstructive censure upon scientific thought. Marx did not suggest the 'solution of a problem'­in the very concept of suggestion, the fiction of consensus as a guarantor of truth creeps in. Does this mean that Das Kapital is therefore not a contribution to the social sciences?"

pp. 41-43: criticism of Popper's criteriology continued (note: Adorno also rejects presumptions of the geisteswissenschaften):

"The panacea of trial [41/42] and error exists at the expense of moments, after whose removal the problems are licked into shape ad usum scientiae and possibly become pseudo problems. Theory has to bear in mind that the connections, which disappear through the Cartesian dissection of the world into individual problems, must be mediated with the facts. Even if an attempted solution is not immediately amenable to the 'pertinent criticism' stipulated by Popper, that is, if it is not amenable to refutation, the problem can nevertheless be central with regard to the object. Whether or not capitalist society will be impelled towards its collapse, as Marx asserted, through its own dynamic is a reasonable question, as long as questioning is not manipulated; it is one of the most important questions with which the social sciences ought to concern themselves. As soon as they deal with the concept of the problem, even the most modest and therefore the most convincing theses of social-scientific scientism gloss over what are actually the most difficult problems. Concepts such as that of hypothesis and the associated concept of testability cannot be blithely transferred from the natural to the social science. This does not imply approval of the cultural scientific ideology that the superior dignity of man will not tolerate quantification. The society based on domination has not simply robbed itself and human beings­its compulsory members­of such a dignity, but rather it has never permitted them to become the emancipated beings who, in Kant's theory, have a right to dignity. What befalls them nowadays, as earlier in the form of an extended natural history, is certainly not above the law of large numbers, which astonishingly prevails in the analysis of elections. But the context in itself has a different, or at least a more recognizable, form than it did in the older natural science from which the models of scientistic sociology are derived. As a relationship between human beings, this context is just as much founded in them as it comprehends and constitutes them. Societal laws are incommensurable with the concept of hypothesis. The Babylonian confusion between positivists and critical theorists emerges when the former, although professing tolerance, rob theory, by its transformation into hypotheses, of that moment of independence which endows hypotheses with the objective hegemony of social laws. Moreover, social facts are not as predictable as natural scientific facts within their relatively homogeneous continua­a point to which Horkheimer first drew attention. Included in the objective law like nature of [42/43] society is its contradictory character, and ultimately its irrationality. It is the task of social theory to reflect upon this too and, if possible, to reveal its origins, but not to argue it away through an overzealous adaptation to the ideal of prognoses which must either be corroborated or refuted."

Adorno's language tends toward obscurity. I don't know what "emphatic reconstructability" is, but perhaps Adorno aims at the intersubjective mechanical reproducibility of results:

"It ignores the power of the necessarily false consciousness which society imposes upon its members­a consciousness which in turn must be critically penetrated. It is embodied in the aspiring type of social science research assistant as the contemporary form of the world spirit. Anyone who has grown up under the influence of the culture industry so entirely that it has become his second nature is initially hardly able and inclined to internalize insights which apply to the culture industry's functions and role in the social structure. Like a reflex action he will fend off such insights preferably, by referring to the scientistic guide line of general empathetic reconstructability. It took thirty years for the critical theory of the culture industry to prevail. Even today numerous instances and agencies attempt to stifle it since it is harmful to business. The knowledge of objective societal invariant regularities and, in particular, its uncompromisingly pure, undiluted representation by no means measures itself against the consensus omnium. Opposition to the repressive total tendency can be reserved for small minorities who even have to suffer being castigated for an elitist stance. Empathetic reconstructability is a potential possessed by mankind and does not exist here and now under existing conditions. It is certainly the case that what one person can understand can potentially be understood by another, for in the interpreter [der Verstehende] that whole is operative through which generality is also posited. Yet in order to realize this possibility, it is not sufficient to appeal to the intellect of others as they are, nor even to education. Probably a change in the whole would be required­that whole which today, in terms of its own law, deforms rather than develops awareness. "

Adorno continues to criticize the criterion of "simplicity" (43-44). In the process, he drags in Wittgenstein, Neurath, and Kraus:

"Involuntarily it denies the complicated nature of precisely those social relations which are indicated by such currently overworked terms as alienation, reification, functionality and structure. The logical method of reduction to elements, from which the social is constructed, virtually eliminates objective contradictions. A secret agreement exists between the praise for simple life and the anti intellectual preference for the simple as what is attainable by thought. This tendency prescribes simplicity for thought. Social scientific knowledge, however, which expresses the complex nature of the process of production and distribution, is apparently more fruitful than the dissection into separate elements of production by means of surveys on factories, individual companies, individual workers and the like. It is also more fruitful than reduction to the general concept of such elements which, for their part, only attain their importance in the more complex structural context. In order to know what a worker is one must know what capitalist society is; conversely, the latter is surely no 'more elementary' than are the workers. If Wittgenstein justifies his method by the statement: 'Objects form the substance of the world. Therefore they cannot be compound', [51] then in so doing he follows, with the positivist's naïvety, the dogmatic rationalism of the seventeenth century. Scientism certainly regards the res­the individual objects­as the sole true existent, but thereby dispossesses them of all their determinations, as mere conceptual superstructure, to such an extent that this solely real entity becomes wholly nugatory for scientism and then, in fact, merely serves as an illustration for what, in nominalistic belief, is a similarly nugatory generality."

Adorno continues (44):

"The positivist critics of dialectics rightly demand models at least of sociological methods which, although they are not tailored to empirical rules, prove to be meaningful. Here however the empiricist's so called 'meaning criterion' would have to be altered. The index verborum prohibitorum demanded by Otto Neurath in the name of the Vienna Circle would then be abolished. One might name as a model something which certainly did not emerge as science, namely, the critique of language, which Karl Kraus, who strongly influenced Wittgenstein, practised for decades in Die Fackel. "

Kraus was able to show deformities in language use beyond what "scientific" methods reveal.

Note footnote 52 (originally on p. 46). This is a cryptic Adorno passage on positivism's attitude to art (with passing reference to Wittgenstein):

"The positivist usage of the concept of art would require critical analysis. For positivists it serves as a rubbish bin for everything which the restricted concept of science wishes to exclude. But since it accepts intellectual life all too readily as a fact, this concept of science must admit that intellectual experience is not exhausted merely in what it tolerates. In the positivist concept of art emphasis is laid upon the supposedly free invention of fictitious reality. This has always been secondary in works of art, but recedes entirely in modern painting and literature. Consequently art's participation in knowledge, namely, that it can express the essential which eludes science and must bear the cost of this, is not recognized or is disputed in advance according to hypostatized scientistic criteria. If one committed oneself so strictly to given states of affairs­as positivism implies­then one would be bound to them even as far as art is concerned. One could not regard art as the abstract negation of science. The positivists, although they treat art en canaille and reveal little knowledge of it, do not nevertheless go so far in their rigorism as to prohibit art in earnest, as might be consistent with this view. Their uncritical neutral attitude is responsible for this which mainly benefits the culture industry. Unsuspectingly, like Schiller, they regard art as a realm of freedom. But this is not entirely the case. They frequently behave in an alien or hostile manner towards radical modernism which turns its back upon pictorial realism. They secretly measure even what is not science by scientific standards such as that of the actual or even a picture theory of reality which appears so strangely in Wittgenstein's theory of science. Everywhere throughout positivist writings the gesture of 'I don't understand that' becomes an automatic response. At heart, hostility to art and hostility to theory are identical. "

Interesting how Adorno links art and theory. I'm not sure what Adorno is getting at. The first association that comes to mind is Carnap's appreciation of poetry (e.g. Nietzsche as philosophical poetry, metaphysics as bad poetry) combined with his assertion of its lack of cognitive content.

47: Adorno addresses the question of testability with respect to Freud and the difficulty of subjecting possible real insights to quantitative methods. He asserts that no method is independent of the subject (48).

You may recall Adorno's controversial assessment on jazz. Here is a peculiar passage on the "jazz subject" linked to the problem of verification and protocol sentences (48-9):

"As a counterpart to the general positivist thesis of the verifiability of meaning a valuable model will be cited here from the author's own work in the sociology of music. This is not because the author overestimates the status of the work, but rather since a sociologist naturally becomes aware of the interdependence of material and methodological motives most readily in his own studies. In the 1936 article 'Über Jazz', published in the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung and reprinted in Moments musicaux, the concept of a 'jazz subject' was employed, an ego imago which occurs quite generally in this type of music. Jazz was regarded as a totally symbolic process in which this jazz subject, confronted by the collective demands represented by the basic rhythm, falters, stumbles and 'drops out' but, while 'dropping out', reveals himself in a kind of ritual to be similar to all the other helpless subjects and is integrated into the collective at the price of his self-cancellation. One can neither put one's finger on the jazz subject in protocol statements, nor reduce the symbolism of the process to sense data in a completely stringent manner. Nevertheless, the construction which interprets the smooth idiom of jazz, stereotypes of which await such deciphering like a secret code, is hardly devoid of meaning. This construction should promote the investigation of the interiority of the jazz phenomenon, namely of what it generally signifies in societal terms, more than do surveys of the views of various population­or age­groups on jazz, even if the latter were based upon solid protocol statements such as the original comments of those randomly sampled and interviewed. Presumably one could only decide whether the juxtaposition of positions and criteria was quite irreconcilable after a concentrated attempt had been made to realize theorems of this type in empirical research projects. Up till now, this has hardly interested social research, although the possible gain in cogent insight can scarcely be denied. Without indulging in a shoddy compromise one can readily detect possible meaning criteria for such interpretations. This is exemplified in extrapolations from the technological analysis of a phenomenon of mass culture­this is the point of the theory of the jazz subject­or the capacity to combine [48/49] theorems with other phenomena closer to the usual criteria: phenomena such as the eccentric clown and certain older types of film. In any case, what is implied by such a thesis as that of the jazz subject, in his capacity as the latent embodiment of this type of popular music, is intelligible even if it is neither verified nor falsified by the reactions of the jazz listeners questioned. Subjective reactions by no means need to coincide with the determinable content of cultural phenomena which provoke a reaction. The moments which motivate the ideal construction of a jazz subject must be adduced. No matter how inadequately, this was attempted in the above mentioned article on jazz. As an evident meaning criterium there emerges the question whether, and to what extent, a theorem illuminates questions which would otherwise remain obscure and whether, through this theorem, diverse aspects of the same phenomenon are mutually elucidated. The construction can fall back upon far reaching societal experiences, such as that of the integration of society in its monopolistic phase at the expense of the virtually powerless individuals and by means of them. Hertha Herzog, in a later study of the 'soap operas' popular at that time on American radio­radio series for housewives­applied the formula closely related to jazz theory of 'getting into trouble and getting out of it', to such programmes. This study took the form of a content analysis, empirical in terms of the usual criteria, and achieved analogous results. The positivists themselves must state whether the internal positivistic extension of the so called verifiability criterion makes room for the above cited models, in that it does not restrict itself to observations requiring verification, but rather includes statements for which any pre conditions for their verification can be created at all, [54] or whether the all too indirect possibility of verification of these statements­a possibility burdened down by additional 'variables'­as usual renders them unacceptable. "

Note also the study of soap operas. Adorno doubts the achievements of analytical philosophy (50). Note remarks on Adorno's work on the authoritarian personality, and the role of fantasy vs. mechanical research procedure:

"Living science must be rescued from the philosophy which, having been culled from it, holds it in tutelage. One should simply ask oneself whether, for all its faults, the F scale of The Authoritarian Personality­a study which operated with empirical methods­could ever have been introduced and improved if it had been developed, from the outset, with the aid of the positivist criteria of the Gutman scale. The dictum of the academic teacher that 'You are here to do research, not to think', mediates between the subordinate status of numerous social scientific surveys and their social standpoint. The inquiring mind which neglects the question 'what' in favour of the question 'how', or neglects the goal of knowledge in favour of the means of knowledge, changes itself for the worse. As a heteronomous cog, it forfeits all its freedom in the machinery. It becomes despiritualized through rationalization. [55] Thought, harnessed to the functions of an office worker, becomes an office worker's mentality in itself. The despiritualized spirit must virtually lead ad absurdum, since it flounders when faced with its own pragmatic tasks. The defamation of fantasy, and the inability to conceive of what does not yet exist, become sand in the mechanism of the apparatus itself, as soon as it finds itself confronted with phenomena not provided for in its schemata."

Note that Adorno links bureaucratization of reason and impoverishment of fantasy to America's failures in prosecuting the Vietnam War (50-51).

pp. 51-54: on the proscription of fantasy by positivism; more on Wittgenstein, Carnap, and Neurath:

It would be worthwhile to write an intellectual history of fantasy, since the latter is the actual goal of positivist prohibitions. In the eighteenth century, both in Saint Simon's work and in d'Alembert's Discours préliminaire, fantasy along with art is included in productive labour and participates in the notion of the unleashing of the forces of production. Comte, whose sociology reveals an apologetic, static orientation, is the first enemy of both metaphysics and fantasy simultaneously. The defamation of fantasy or its relegation to a special domain, marked off by the division of labour, is the original phenomenon of the regression of the bourgeois spirit. However, it does not appear as an avoidable error of this spirit, but rather as a consequence of a fatality which instrumental reason­required by society­couples with this taboo. The fact that fantasy is only tolerated when it is reified and set in abstract opposition to reality, makes it no less of a burden to science than to art. Legitimate science and art desperately seek to redeem the mortgage that burdens them. Fantasy implies an intellectual operation rather than free invention­without the equivalent of hastily realized facticity. But this is precisely what is prevented by the positivist theory of the so called meaning criterion. In quite formal terms, for instance, this is exemplified in the famous postulate of clarity: 'Everything that can be thought at all can be thought clearly. Everything that can be put into words can be put clearly'. [56] But everything which is not sensuously realized retains a halo of indeterminacy. No abstraction is ever quite clear; every abstraction is also indistinct [51/52] on account of the diversity of possible concretizations. Moreover, one is surprised by the language philosophical apriorism as Wittgenstein's thesis. Knowledge as free from prejudice of positivism requires would have to confront states of affairs that, in themselves, are anything but clear and are, in fact, confused. There is no guarantee that they can be expressed clearly. The desire to do so, or rather the desire that expression must do strict justice to the object, is legitimate. But this can only be satisfied gradually, and not with the immediacy expected of language only by a view alien to it, unless one dogmatically regards the priority of the instrument of knowledge, even up to the subject object relation, as prestabilized­a standpoint emanating from Descartes' theory of the clara et distincta perceptio. Just as it is certain that the object of sociology, contemporary society, is structured, so there is no doubt that, in its immanent claim to rationality, it possesses incompatible characteristics. These possibly give rise to the effort to conceptualize, in a clear manner, what is not clear­but this cannot be made into a criterion for the object itself. Wittgenstein would have been the last to overlook the unfathomable; namely, whether the conceptualization of something which is, for its part, unclear can ever be clear of itself. In social science, new experiences which are only just developing completely mock the criterion of clarity. If one were to measure them here and now against this criterion, then the tentatively developing experience would not be permitted to become active at all. Clarity is a moment in the process of knowledge, but it does not exhaust this process. Wittgenstein's formulation closes its own horizon against expressing mediately, in a complex manner, and in constellations, what cannot be expressed clearly and immediately. In this respect, his own behaviour was far more flexible than his pronouncements. For instance, he wrote to Ludwig von Ficker, who had presented Georg Trakl with a considerable sum of money donated by Wittgenstein, to say that, although he did not understand Trakl's poems, he­Wittgenstein­was convinced of their high quality. Since the medium of poetry is language, and since Wittgenstein deal with language as such and not merely with science, he unintentionally confirmed that one can express what cannot be expressed. Such paradoxicality was hardly alien to his mode of thought. It would be a sign of equivocation to attempt to evade this paradox by claiming a dichotomy between knowledge and poetry. Art is knowledge sui generis. In poetry, [52/53] that upon which Wittgenstein's theory of science lays stress is emphatic: namely, language.

Wittgenstein's hypostasis of the cognitive moment, clarity, as the canon of knowledge clashes with some of his other major theorems. His formulation, 'The world is everything that is the case', which has become an article of faith for positivism, is in itself so ambiguous that it is inadequate as a 'criterion of meaning', in terms of Wittgenstein's own postulate of clarity. Its apparent incontestability and its ambiguity are surely inextricably linked. The statement is armed with a language form which prevents its content from being fixed. To be 'the case' can mean the same as to exist in factual terms, in the sense of what exists [das Seiende] in philosophy ; but it can also mean: to have logical validity­that two times two is four is 'the case'. The positivists' basic principle conceals the conflict between empiricism and logistics, which the positivists have never settled. In fact, this conflict prevails throughout the entire philosophical tradition and only penetrates positivism as something new since positivism would prefer to know nothing about this tradition. Wittgenstein's statement is grounded in his logical atomism, rightly criticized within positivism. Only single states of affairs­something, for their part, abstracted­can be 'the case'. Recently, Wellmer has criticized Wittgenstein by asserting that one looks in vain for examples of elementary statements in the Tractatus. [57] For there ‘are’ none with the conclusiveness upon which Wittgenstein would have to insist. In announcing examples he implicitly reveals the critique of the category of the 'First'. If one strives for it, then it evaporates. Unlike the actual positivist members of the Vienna Circle, Wittgenstein opposed the desire to replace a positivism hostile to philosophy with a philosophy which was itself questionable­and ultimately, sensualist­through the primacy of the concept of perception. On the other hand, the so-called protocol statements actually transcend language, within whose immanence Wittgenstein wishes to entrench himself. Antinomy is inevitable. The magic circle of reflexion upon language is not breached by recourse to crude, questionable notions such as that of the immediately 'given'. Philosophical categories, such as that of the idea, the sensual, as well as dialectics, all of which have been in existence since Plato's [53/54] Theaetetus, arise in a theory of science hostile to philosophy, thereby revoking its hostility towards philosophy. One cannot dispose of philosophical questions by first deliberately forgetting them, and then rediscovering them with the effect of dernière nouveauté. Carnap's modification of Wittgenstein's criterion of meaning is a retrogressive step. Through the question concerning the criteria of validity he represses the question of truth. Most of all, they would like to relegate this question to metaphysics, In Carnap's opinion, 'metaphysical statements are not "empirical statements"' [Erfahrungssatze] [58] ­a simple tautology. What motivates metaphysics is not sense experience, to which Carnap ultimately reduces all knowledge, but rather mediated experience. Kant did not tire of pointing this out.

The fact that the positivists extrapolate from science, in a gigantic circle, the rules which are to ground and justify it, has its fateful consequences, even for the science whose actual progress includes types of experience which, in turn, are not prescribed and approved by science. The subsequent development of positivism confirmed just how untenable Carnap's assertion is that 'protocol sentences . . . themselves do not require corroboration, but rather they served as a basis for all the other statements of science.' [59] Presumably, both logically and within science itself, immediacy is essential; otherwise the category of mediation, for its part, would lack any rational meaning. Even categories which distance themselves as greatly from immediacy as society does, could not be conceptualized without something immediate. Anyone who does not primarily perceive in social phenomena the societal, which expresses itself in them, cannot advance to an authentic concept of society. But in the progress of knowledge the moment of immediacy must be transcended. The objections raised by Neurath and Popper as social scientists against Carnap, namely that protocol sentences can be revised, indicates that these statements are mediated. In the first instance, they are mediated through the subject of perception, presented in accordance with the model of physics. Since Hume, positivism has regarded careful reflection upon this subject as superfluous and, as a result, the subject has constantly crept in as an unnoticed presupposition. The consequences are borne by the truth content of protocol sentences. They are both true and not true. They would have to [54/55] be elucidated on the basis of several questionnaires such as are used in surveys in political sociology. As preliminary material, the answers are certainly 'true' and, despite their reference to subjective opinions, they are themselves a part of social objectivity to which opinions themselves belong. The people sampled have affirmed this, or put a cross against this and nothing else. On the other hand, however, in the context of the questionnaires, the answers are frequently inconsistent and contradictory; on an abstract level, they might be pro democratic whilst, with regard to concrete 'items', they are anti democratic. Hence sociology cannot be satisfied with the data, but rather it must attempt to reveal the derivation of the contradictions; empirical research proceeds accordingly. When viewed subjectively, the philosophy of science's ab ovo scorn for such considerations common in science, presents the dialectical critique with its point of attack. The positivists have never wholly shaken off the latent anti-intellectualism which was already present in Hume's dogmatic degradation of ideas to mere copies of impressions. For them thought is nothing more than reconstruction [Nachvolkzug]; anything beyond this is an evil. Undoubtedly, such a disguised anti-intellectualism, with its unintended political overtones, increases the influence of the positivist doctrine. Amongst its followers, there is one particular type who distinguishes himself both through the lack of a reflective dimension, and through resentment towards those intellectual modes of behaviour which essentially operate within such a dimension.

Adorno's diagnosis of positivism veers into the psychoanalytic (55-56):

"Positivism internalizes the constraints exercised upon thought by a totally socialized society in order that thought shall function in society. It internalizes these constraints so that they become an intellectual outlook. Positivism is the puritanism of knowledge. [60] What puritanism achieves in the moral sphere is, under [55/56] positivism, sublimated to the norms of knowledge. Kant's equivocally phrased warning not to digress into intelligible worlds, which Hegel countered with his ironic comment on 'evil houses', forms a prelude to this development; but only, of course, as one vocal line in the polyphonic structure of the philosophical score, whereas, for the positivists, it has become the trivially dominant melody of the soprano part. From the outset, knowledge denies what it seeks, what it ardently desires, since this is denied by the desideratum of socially useful labour. Knowledge then projects the taboo which it has imposed upon itself onto its goal, and proscribes what it cannot attain. The process which otherwise might be unbearable for the subject—namely, the integration of thought into what confronts it and what must be penetrated by it—is integrated into the subject by positivism and made into his own affair. "

(Note footnote 60, originally on p. 55: Adorno's caveats against "interdisciplinarity")

And note the subsequent linkage to sexual taboos (56) and to the exchange principle (57) and to its de facto political role. Experience is nullified (57-58). And (58-59):

"In addition, there is its pseudo radicalism which makes a clean sweep without attacking anything substantially, and which deals with every substantially radical thought by denouncing it as mythology, as ideology and outdated. Reified consciousness automatically turns upon every thought which has not been covered in advance by facts and figures, with the objection: 'where is the evidence?'. The vulgar empirical praxis of concept free social science, which usually takes no notice of analytical philosophy, betrays something about the latter. Positivism is the spirit of the age, analogous to the mentality of jazz fans. Similar, too, is the attraction it holds for young people. This is augmented by the absolute certainty which it promises, after the collapse of traditional metaphysics. But this certainty is illusory; the pure non contradiction, to which it contracts, is simply a tautology­the empty compulsion to repeat, which has developed into a concept. Certainty becomes something quite abstract and transcends itself. The desire to live in a world without anxiety is satisfied by the pure identity of thought with itself. Paradoxically, security, which fascinates positivism, is similar to the alleged safety which the functionaries of authenticity derive from theology, and for whose sake they advocate a theology which no one believes in. In the historical dialectics of enlightenment, ontology shrinks to a zero point. But this point, although in fact nothing, becomes the bastion­or the ineffable­for the advocates of scientism. This is in keeping with the consciousness of the masses, who sense that they are societally superfluous and ineffectual, and at the same time cling to the fact that the system, if it is to survive, cannot let them starve. Ineffectuality is savoured as destruction, whilst empty formalism is indifferent, and therefore conciliatory, towards whatever exists. Real impotence itself consciously becomes an authoritarian mental attitude. Perhaps objective emptiness holds a special attraction for the emergent anthropological type of the empty [58/59] being lacking experience. The affective realization of an instrumental thought alienated from its object is mediated through its technification. The latter presents such thought as if it were avant garde. "

59: On Popper's open society:

"Popper advocates an 'open' society. The idea of such a society is contradicted, however, by the close regimented thought postulated by his logic of science as a 'deductive system'. The most recent form of positivism fits the administered world perfectly. In the early days of nominalism, and even for early bourgeois society, Bacon's empiricism implied the emancipation of experience from the ordo of pre given concepts­the 'open' as liberation from the hierarchical structure of bourgeois society. Since, however, the liberated dynamics of bourgeois society are nowadays moving towards a new statics, this openness is obstructed through the restitution of closed intellectual control-systems by the scientistic syndrome of thought. If one applies to positivism its own supreme maxim, one might say that positivism­with its elective affinity to the bourgeoisie­is self contradictory in that it declares experience to be its ultimate, and yet in the very same breath prohibits it. The exclusivity which it ascribes to the ideal of experience both systematizes it and thereby potentially transcends it."

While Adorno concedes that Popper's philosophy is more flexible than the usual positivism--for example, not asserting value neutrality--Popper nevertheless reproduces the problem of value neutrality and its contradictiopns endemic to German thought since Weber. (59-60) Adorno links this to the contradictions in the sociology of art which neglects artistic quality, concluding (60).

"The dichotomy between value and value freedom, and not the one or the other, is untenable. If Popper concedes that the scientistic ideals of objectivity and value freedom are, in turn, values, then this extends to the truth of judgments. Their meaning is implied by the 'evaluative' notion that a true judgment is better than a false one. Analysis of any substantive social scientific theorems would necessarily encounter their axiological elements, even if the theorems do not give an account of them. But this axiological moment does not stand in abstract opposition to making a judgment, but rather is immanent to it."

Furthermore (61):

"One has to be completely blind to separate the thema probandum, together with the line of argument in Weber's treatise on the Protestant Ethic, from the­by no means value free­intention of his critique of Marx's base superstructure theorem. This intention nourishes the individual arguments, but above all it also supports the insulation of the investigation against the socio economic origin of the theologumena, which, it is claimed, constituted capitalism. Weber's anti materialist standpoint not only provides the motivation­as he would admit­for the questions raised in his sociology of religion, but also its focus of attention, the selection of material and the mental complex. Self consciously, his line of argument turns the economic derivation upon its head. The rigidity of the concept of value, external to thought and object alike, was, for both sides, precisely what was unsatisfactory in the debate on value freedom. Moreover, without mentioning Weber, a positivist such as Durkheim stated frankly that cognitive and evaluative reason were the same and that, consequently, the absolute separation of value and knowledge was invalid. With respect to the latter, positivists and ontologists are in agreement. The solution of the alleged problem of value, which Albert finds lacking in the dialecticians' work, must surely be sought­to use a positivist concept on this occasion­in the fact that the alternative is apprehended as a pseudo problem (Scheinproblem), as an abstraction which dissolves when confronted with the concrete view of society and reflection upon consciousness of society. This was the point of the thesis concerning the reification of the problem of value, namely, that the so called values­whether they are regarded as something to be eliminated from the social sciences, or as their blessing­are elevated to something independent, quasi self constitutive; whereas, neither in real historical terms, nor as categories of knowledge, are they anything of the kind. Value-relativism is the correlate to the absolutist apotheosis of values. As soon as values are removed from the arbitrariness and affliction of the knowing consciousness, and are torn away from its reflection and from the historical context in which they emerge, they fall prey to this very relativity which an invocation of these values sought to banish. "

62: Marx's perspective is contrasted to the contradictory bourgeois notions outlined above. And (63):

"A dialectical theory of society does not simply brush aside the desideratum of value freedom, but rather seeks to transcend it, together with the opposing desideratum. It should adopt this attitude towards positivism in general. It may be that out of a feeling of aversion towards philosophy, dialectics treat Marx's distinction between the representation and origin of knowledge philosophically in a manner that is all too light. With this distinction, Marx intended to ward off the objection that he was devising a deductive system. What is true here, however, is the heavy accent upon the existent as opposed to the unleashed concept­the sharpening of critical theory against idealism. It is an innate temptation for thought which proceeds immanently to disregard the facts. But the dialectical concept is mediation, not something which exists in itself. This imposes on the dialectical concept the duty of not pretending that there is any truth set apart from the mediated, from the facts. A dialectical critique of positivism finds its most important point of attack in reification, in the reification of science and of unreflected facticity. And consequently, such critique must not reify its concepts either. "

Adorno concurs with Albert against the reification of society in an idealist holistic-organicist fashion. Perhaps there are continuities with the domination of the animal world and its biological inheritance (64).

64-65: More on Wittgenstein, Carnap, positivism, the Vienna Circle:

"Ultimately it is positivism's most profound moment of truth­even if it is one against which positivism rebels as it does against the word which holds it in its spell­that the facts, that which exists in this manner and not in any other, have only attained that impenetrable power which is then reinforced by the scientistic cult of facts in scientific thought, in a society without freedom of which its own subjects are not masters. Even the philosophical preservation of positivism would require the procedure of interpretation prohibited by positivism­the interpretation of that which, in the course of the world, prevents interpretation. Positivism is the conceptless appearance of negative society in the social sciences. In the debate, dialectics induces positivism to become conscious of such negativity, of its own negativity. The traces of such consciousness are not lacking in Wittgenstein. The further positivism is driven the more energetically it drives itself beyond its boundaries. Wittgenstein's statement, emphasized by Wellmer, ‘that much must be prepared in language in order that mere naming has a meaning’, [63] achieves no less than the recognition of the fact that tradition is constitutive for language and consequently, precisely in Wittgenstein's sense, for knowledge as such. Wellmer touches a nerve point when he detects in this an objective denial of the reductionism of the Vienna Circle, a [64/65] rejection of the criterion of validity for protocol statements. Reductionism has even less of a claim to an authoritative model for the social sciences. According to Wellmer, even Carnap relinquishes the principle of the reduction of all terms to observational predicates and introduces alongside observational language a theoretical one which has been only partially interpreted. [64] In this one may reasonably detect a decisive developmental tendency for the whole of positivism. It is consumed by increasing differentiation and self reflection. By using a widespread typification its apologetics is able to profit from this; central objections to the school are rejected as outdated when compared with the school's current level of development."

The sequence of argument from organicism to the animal world to the Vienna Circle is not fully comprehensible to me.

Dahrendorf may assert that the positivism criticized by the Frankfurt School is outdated, and Albert may relax positivism's stringent norms, but despite their scorn for dialectical social theory, they are forced to concede more and more. (65)

"Dialectical theory, however, does not indulge in a cult of total reason; it criticizes such. reason. But whilst arrogance towards specific solutions is alien to it, it does not allow itself to be silenced by them."

On the frustration reported in the press with the outcome of the debate, Adorno counters (66):

"They expect tangible progress in science at a point where its tangibility is just as much in question as its current conception. It has not been established whether the two positions can be reconciled through mutual criticism as they might be in Popper's model. Albert's cheap comments ad spectatores on the whole subject of Hegel, not to mention his most recent comments, provide little ground for hope. To protest that one has been misunderstood does not further the discussion any more than the nudging appeal for agreement by refering to the notorious unintelligibility of the opponent. If one contaminates by association dialectics and irrationalism then one blinds oneself to the fact that criticism of the logic of non-contradiction does not suspend the latter but rather reflects upon it. One can generalize the observations made even in Tübingen on the ambiguities contained in the word criticism. Even when the same concepts are used, in fact, even where consensus is achieved, the opposing parties actually mean and strive after such diverse things that the consensus remains a façade covering the antagonisms. A continuation of the controversy would surely have to make visible those underlying antagonisms, which have by no means been fully articulated as yet. It could often be observed in the history of philosophy that doctrines which consider themselves to be the true representation of another diverge because of the climate of the intellectual context right up to the last detail. "

In conclusion (67):

"It is not even the immediate relationship to praxis which is decisive; but rather what role one accords science in the life of the mind and ultimately in reality. Divergencies here are not those of world view. They have their rightful place in logical and epistemological questions, in the interpretation of contradiction and non-contradiction, of essence and appearance, of observation and interpretation. Dialectics remains intransigent in the dispute since it believes that it continues to reflect beyond the point at which its opponents break off, namely before the unquestioned authority of the institution of science. "

Written 8, 10, 16, 23 September 2008


Additional Commentary

Reproduction of the dialogue that ensued when I originally posted these comments will probably not be very useful. I will attempt to massage the gist into some remarks here.

The 'positivist dispute' (Positivismusstreit) is not a current debate, but the effects of Popper's position persist. I have encountered a number of Popperians. They are either social democrats, liberals, or libertarians. My conclusion from dealing with them is that, like many other liberals, they dwell in an ideological world of make-believe. For all of their advocacy of criticism, they remain remarkably uncritical about the central issues. And for this reason, the mentality as well as the methodology involved, remain a current concern. Furthermore, Popperian epistemology replicates the problem of epistemology in general: its purely formalist approach renders it practically useless. Adorno, not always clearly, addresses this problem in his contributions.

In the 1970s there was a wave of secondary literature in English on the Positivismusstreit, but the subject seems to have been dropped. Yet it remains pertinent to the ideologies of science today.

Furthermore, there is the current deliberation on analytical and continental philosophy in the Anglo-American world. 'Continental philosophy' is an artificial construct designed to exclude Marxism while now selectively allowing certain figures into the realm of philosophical consideration. But the Positivismusstreit already embodied this confrontation of two traditions when it was initiated 47 years ago! Popper and the Frankfurt School embodied the most illustrious currents of both camps. Analysis of what was at stake in that debate is far more interesting to me than all the flapdoodle wasted on coming to terms with 'continental philosophy' from the standpoint of the analytic perspective, and conversely, attempts of the latter to colonize the former.

There was a question on the nature of science in the epoch of German idealism and today, and on the question of scientific progress. Hegel, for example, thought his philosophical methodology to be scientific. German idealism's science and modern science have diametrically opposed notions of the priority of what we call science and metaphysics. There was a historic role reversal. But Adorno sees this as dubious progress. Furthermore, he identifies the contemporary perspective of science as 'fact finding', which is an absurdity. And self-undermining: what does that mean? Adorno's reasoning here is incoherent, if not downright nonsensical.

Someone suggested that "Adorno is arguing that the somewhat inconclusive character of his disputation with Popper has to do with the fact that they were both talking science in general rather than sociology in particular. The point is not formalism per se, but rather indeterminacy." My response:

It seems to me that indeterminacy is the same as formalism in this scenario. Exclusive preoccupation with the logic of science in general neglects the object of scientific methodology, i.e. the object studied—society—analyzed via the putative science of sociology. I'm assuming that the abstract logic of method is what Adorno means by the "bad abstraction" of epistemology.

There was also some discussion regarding logic and the relation between subjectivity and objectivity. One interlocutor suggested: "For Adorno, this entails that the examination of the social conditions of knowledge production are an inescapable part of epistemology. Throughout the piece he insists on the motif, also elaborated in one of the essays in Catchwords, that objective determinations are inherent to all subjective activity—even logic." He also suggested an influence from Durkheim and an opposition to Dilthey's verstehen. He also reminded us that Adorno treats contradictions as having objective social significance whereas positivists and Popperians just want to eliminate them logically. He suggested also that there are problems with the English translation.

I responded to the question of 'objective determinations':

I'm not sure what this means, unless there is no subjective reasoning without an embedded objective content. This would accord with my contention that Adorno criticizes epistemology for severing itself from its necessarily objective correlate, yielding formalism and the pseudoproblems of skepticism and agnosticism. There may be a link to later developments in philosophy of science, e.g. the externalism vs. internalism debate.

The issues of objectivity and value-free science were raised by others. I summed up my take on these topics thusly:

I'm skeptical that what Adorno intends to say about science is that it can never be objective in its own realm of expertise, e.g truth claims in the natural sciences. It seems to me that Adorno is concerned with "Science", its ideologies, institutionalization, and practical capacity for self-reflexiveness than with the (in)ability to remain objective in a given domain. Science is determined, as I see Adorno saying, not by an abstract epistemology but by the necessary engagement with its specific object. But when the object of study is society itself, which acts to induce ideological mystification in its members, society itself resists its own objective study via the distorted consciousness it engenders also in its researchers.

Adorno's specific object of attack [ . . . ] is Weber's notion of value-free science. This raises the question of scientific and extra-scientific objectives. The compartmentalization advocated by Weber is a falsehood, and hence "science" (let's remember that the science in question is sociology) so demarcated already embodies a falsehood and conceals the corruption of knowledge production.

How this might relate to natural-scientific production is not clarified. Science is not just one thing and exists on a number of levels. Only a small part of it is involved in the advancement of fundamental theories, which may be subject to ideological distortion or free from it in varying degrees. Science contains some large-scale theories as well as innumerable specific claims, esp. in applied areas such as medicine, which embody obvious influences of special interests. Adorno doesn't seem to be worried here about specific maladaptations and misuses of science or of distorted knowledge claims based on class or economic interests. If anything is meant to apply to the natural sciences here, I think it is Science writ large, what it means as an ideology.

The subject-object relation permeates Adorno's thought, having derived from German idealism chiefly via Kant and Hegel. One can only imagine how this would perplex the other side of the debate. Popper did propose an epistemology without a knowing subject, using his three worlds schema as a base. Popper's schema, though clever, is jejune in light of the intellectual history of Marxism, of which he blissfully remained ignorant. See, e.g.

Dialectical Theory of Meaning: Part One (Extracts) by Mihailo Markovic.

Much of what Adorno says about subject and object in the positivist dispute is murky. For example, the quote:

"Subjectivity has in itself eradicated what does not yield to the unambiguousness and identity of its claim to domination. Subjectivity, which is really always object, has reduced itself no less than its object."

The part that is unclear is this: "Subjectivity, which is really always object". I have no idea what this means.

As for the rest, Adorno identifies the modern philosophical subject, "emancipated" and torn from the object, as a spiritualized entity set in opposition to and in domination of the objective world. Re 'reduction' and 'eradication': this means that the thinking subject, dedicating itself to rigorous logic, has reduced both its own functioning and that of its conceptualization of the object, let alone its actual or purported practical relation to the object. Adorno's objection to "identity thinking" is tied up in this, and Adorno propounds the recognition of non-identity, that the object is not fully capturable by the postulated subject-object identity of metaphysical thinking.

One can apply Adorno's perspective to logical positivism/empiricism (neopositivism), to Carnap, Neurath, et al, whose reprocessing of science to make it philosophically respectable in their eyes is so severe in contrast to living scientific activity that even their own colleagues, as well as other admirers of science, couldn't swallow its artificiality. See:

Reisch, George. How the Cold War Transformed Philosophy of Science. Cambridge University Press, April 2005.

The philosophical commitments of Popper and the neopositivists were seriously opposed to one another. Popper, philosophically though not politically, had somewhat of a broader perspective, though the nepositivists, almost all of whom were leftists in Europe, also had broad educational aims, as Reisch's book reveals. Popper shares with them the elevation of "science" as the supreme model of authentic knowledge, though he was more broad-minded on the question of metaphysics. Also, Popper was as invested in artificial idealized schemata as the neopositivists—rather than take into account how real science is done—in spite of his opposition to institutionalism. Furthermore, Popper is just as obsessed with the problem of induction stemming from Hume as is the whole tradition of positivism taking off from Hume. Popper just extrapolates different conclusions and a different philosophical schema from this problem. Marx and Engels consciously bypassed the problem of skepticism, and the criteria of rationality in much of German philosophy, even when it called itself Wissenschaft (science), was not so narrow as to predicate its worldview on physics envy.

Adorno, however, needed to do a better job in explaining the subject-object relation to those not steeped in his intellectual tradition. The references to Fichte, Hegel, and Nietzsche do not tie in clearly to his arguments about sociology. Adorno at times (if I recall rightly) discerns a distinction between science and its ideologies (philosophy), but most of the time he remains unclear and seems to identify the two. But also, he makes general statements about science when he is addressing the problem of sociology or social science. Finally, the linkage of epistemology and domination adds a whole new dimension to anything the Popperians and the neopositivists had to say about the philosophy of science. To make sense of this one must understand the Frankfurters' take on modern subjectivity whose first philosopher was Descartes. There is much to amplify here, and many gaps to fill in before the connection to neopositivism becomes manifest. The scientism of Popperianism requires even further effort to make a connection. Domination, however, is not in my mind a likely connection to make, but certainly the severance between subject and object and the illusions of the subject is a main point of attack.

In another exchange I noted: Wissenschaft is broader generally than the English "science", and Adorno is specifically referencing sociology. Somewhere (perhaps in Critical Models?) Adorno confesses to not treating science (the natural sciences) adequately, but he is humble about it. Adorno, though he does make broad remarks connecting science to instrumental reason, in the intro to the Positivist Dispute for example, is nonetheless distinguishable from Marcuse, whose nonsense about science and a "new science" seems to be derived from a version of Husserl's phenomenology filtered through Heidegger.

Based on comments written 10, 17, 24 September & 3 October 2008


"Introduction" by Theodor W. Adorno

The Positivist Dispute in German Sociology

Adorno on Wittgenstein & the Dialectical Essence of Philosophy

Vienna Circle, Karl Popper, Frankfurt School, Marxism, McCarthyism & American Philosophy: Selected Bibliography

Theodor W. Adorno Study Guide

The Frankfurt School: Philosophy in Relation to Social Theory, Cultural Theory, Science, and Interdisciplinary Research.
Phase 1: Horkheimer, Adorno, and Marcuse in the 1930s. Study Group Syllabus
by R. Dumain

Positivism vs Life Philosophy (Lebensphilosophie) Study Guide

Reflexivity & Situatedness Study Guide

The Philosophy of Theory and Practice: Selected Bibliography

Ideology Study Guide

Marx and Marxism Web Guide


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