terça-feira, 27 de novembro de 2012

Gold Test (Minima Moralia) by Theodor W. Adorno

Among the concepts to which bourgeois morality has shrunk, following the dissolution of its religious norms and the formalization of its autonomous ones, genuineness [Echtheit] ranks at the top. If nothing else can be stringently demanded from human beings, then at least, they should be entirely and wholly what they are. In the identity of each individual with itself, the postulate of incorruptible truth as well as the glorification of what is factual are transferred from the enlightened cognition to ethics [Ethik]. It is precisely the critically independent thinkers of the late bourgeoisie, fed up with traditional judgements and idealistic phrases, who agree with this.

Ibsen’s admittedly refractory verdict on the lifelong lie, Kierkegaard’s doctrine of existence have made the ideal of genuineness [Echtheit] into a touchstone of metaphysics. In Nietzsche’s analysis, the word “genuine” already stands as something unquestionable, something exempt from the labor of the concept. To the converted and unconverted philosophers of Fascism, values such as authenticity, heroic endurance of the “thrownness” of individual existence, the border situation, ultimately become a means of usurping religious-authoritarian pathos without any sort of religious content.

This drives towards the denunciation of everything which is not sound enough, which is not made out of corn and gristle, therefore the Jews: Richard Wagner hat already played off genuine German art against foreign [welsche: medieval German term for foreign] bric-a-brac and thereby misused the critique of the culture market as an apology for barbarism. Such misuse is however not extrinsic to the concept of genuineness [Echtheit]. During the sale of its faded livery, seams and damaged patches are coming out, which were already invisibly present in the great days of opposition. The untruth lurks in the substrate of genuineness [Echtheit] itself, the individual [Individuum].

If the law of the course of the world is concealed in the principium individuationis [Latin: principle of individuation], as the antipodes of Hegel and Schopenhauer both recognized, then the intuition of the final and absolute substantiality of the ego becomes the victim of an appearance [Schein], which protects the existing social order, while its essence is already decaying. To equate genuineness [Echtheit] with truth is not tenable. It is precisely the unflinching self-constitution – that mode of conduct, which Nietzsche called psychology – and thus the insistence on the truth about oneself, which proves again and again, already in the first experiences of childhood, that the impulses on which one reflects are not entirely “genuine”. They constantly contained something of imitation, play, wanting to be different. In pressing towards what is unconditionally fixed, towards the being [Sein] of the existent [Seiendes], the will, which immerses itself in its own selfsame individuality instead of its social cognition, leads to precisely the bad infinity which since Kierkegaard the concept of genuineness [Echtheit] was supposed to exorcize. Noone expressed this more forthrightly than Schopenhauer.

The querulous forebear of existential philosophy and malicious inheritor of great speculation truly knew the hollows and ravines of individual absolutism inside out. His insight is attached to the speculative thesis, that the individual [Individuum] would be only the appearance, not the thing in itself. “Every individual [Individuum],” goes a footnote in the fourth book of The World as Will and Idea, “is on the one hand the subject of cognition, that is, the complementary condition of possibility of the entire objective world, and on the other hand, the specific appearance [Erscheinung] of the will, of the same one which objectifies itself in each thing. But this duplicity of our essence does not rest on a unity existing for itself: otherwise we would be able to be aware of ourselves in ourselves, independently from the objects of cognition and of will [Wollen]:

this however we simply cannot do, or rather as soon as we try to enter ourselves and, by directing our cognition inwards, wish to fully constitute ourselves, we lose ourselves in a bottomless void, finding ourselves like the crystal ball, out of whose depths a voice speaks, whose cause however is not found there, and by wishing to grasp ourselves, we catch, with a shudder, nothing but a wandering ghost. (Schopenhauer, Collected Works, Grand Duke Wilhelm-Ernst Edition, Book 1: The World as Will and Idea. I. Introduction by Eduard Grisebach. Leipzig. 1920, pg 371). He thereby called the mythical deception of the pure self by its name, as nugatory.

It is an abstraction. What steps forward as an original entity, as a monad, results first from a social separation from the social process. Precisely as something absolute, the individual [Individuum] is a mere reflection-form of property-relations. In it the fictive claim is raised that what is biologically one would precede, according to its own lights, the social whole, from which only violence isolates it, and its contingency is upheld as a measure of truth.

It is not merely that the ego is enmeshed in society, but that the former owes the latter its existence in the most literal sense. All of its content comes from the latter, or in any case out of the relation to the object. It becomes all the richer, the more freely it develops the latter in itself and reflects it, while conversely its delimitation and hardening, which reclaims it as an origin, thereby cause it to be limited, impoverished and reduced. It is not for nothing that attempts to grasp the plenitude of the individual in its withdrawal into itself,
such as Kierkegaard’s, are tantamount to the sacrifice of the individual and to the selfsame abstraction, which Kierkegaard maligned in the idealistic systems. Genuineness [Echtheit] is nothing other than the defiant and obstinate persistence on the monadological form, which social oppression stamps on human beings. What does not wish to wither away, should rather take the stigma of the non-genuine on itself. It feeds on the mimetic legacy. What is human is attached to imitation: a human being turns into a human being first by imitating other human beings. In such behavior, the Ur-form of love, the priests of genuineness scent traces of that utopia, which could shake the apparatus of domination.

That Nietzsche, whose reflection drove all the way into the concept of truth, dogmatically drew back from genuineness [Echtheit], makes him into what he ultimately wanted to be, a Lutheran, and his outbursts against play-acting are cut from the same cloth as the anti-Semitism which so outraged him in the arch-actor Wagner. He should not have reproached Wagner with play-acting – for all art, and music especially, is related to acting, and in every period of Nietzsche there rings the thousand-year echo of the rhetorical voices from the Roman senate – but the denial of play-acting by the actor. Indeed it is not only what is non-genuine, which plays at retaining being [seinshaltig], which is to be convicted a lie, but rather what is genuine itself turns into a lie the moment it becomes something genuine, that is to say in the reflection on itself, in its positing as something genuine, such that it already steps beyond the identity which in the same breath it claims. The self cannot be spoken of as the ontological ground, but solely in any case theologically, in the name of what is cast in God’s image [Gottesebenbildlichkeit].

Whoever holds fast to the self and shakes off theological concepts, contributes to the justification of the devilish positive, of cold-cut interest. It borrows from this last the aura of significance and turns the power of command of self-preserving reason into a high-flown superstructure, while the real self has already become in the world, what Schopenhauer recognized it as in introspection, a ghost. Its character of appearance [Scheincharakter] can be understood from the historical implications of the concept of genuineness [Echtheit] as such. In it hides the idea of the supremacy of the origin over what is derived. This is however already connected with social legitimism. All ruling elites claim to be the eldest of all, autochthonous.

The entire philosophy of inwardness, with the claim of having contempt for the world, is the final sublimation of the barbaric brutality, that whoever was there first, has the greatest rights, and the priority of the self is as untrue as the priority of all who feel at home right where they are. Nothing changes, if genuineness [Echtheit] falls back on the opposition of physei [Latin: what is physical] and thesei [Latin: what is artificial], that what exists without the addition of human activity, would be better than what is artificial. The tighter the net of what human beings have made is drawn over the world, the more spasmodically do those who are doing the tightening, highlight their own primitivity and rootedness in nature. The discovery of genuineness [Echtheit] as the last bulwark of individualistic ethics [Ethik] is a reflex of industrial mass production. Only when countless standardized goods pretend, for the sake of profit, to be something unique, does the idea crystallize – as its antithesis, and yet according to the same criteria – that what is not to be reproduced is what is authentically genuine. Previously, the question of genuineness [Echtheit] was no more applied to intellectual entities [Gebilde] than the question of originality, which was unknown even in the era of Bach. The deception of genuineness [Echtheit] goes back to bourgeois delusion regarding the exchange-process. What appears genuine, is what commodities and other means of exchange can be reduced to – above all, gold. The genuineness [Echtheit] abstracted like a proportion of a fine metal turns, like gold, into a fetish.

Both are treated as it they were the substrate, which is nevertheless in truth a social relationship, while gold and genuineness [Echtheit] express only the fungibility, the comparability of things: they are precisely not in themselves, but for others. The non-genuineness of the genuine rests on the fact that it must pretend, in the society ruled by exchange, to be what it stands for, without ever being truly able to be such. The apostles of genuineness [Echtheit] of power, who dress down circulation, perform the dance of the money-veil at this latter’s wake.

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