In the House of Architecture the GOOD occupies many rooms:

The New    

What is new, however, is always evil, being that which wants to conquer and overthrow the old boundary markers and the old pieties; and only what is old is good. The good men are in all ages are those who dig the old thoughts, digging deep and getting them to bear fruit – the farmers of the spirit. But eventually all land is depleted, and the ploughshare of evil must come again and again. (from Nietzsche’s The Gay Science, s. 4, Walter Kaufmann transl.)

The Authentic                       

Much remains of Heidegger’s Fuhrerprinzip in the general discourse of architectural aesthetics. Claims to authenticity devolve the responsibility for judgment to a commanding authority without recourse to specific material conditions of context. The authority of the absolute is overthrown by absolutized authority. Much argument claims this authority, as a matter of course, self evidently, as an aspect of the natural and normal order of things[i], universally accepted by the morally good and the psychologically stable.

The Beautiful

… hitherto we have been permitted to seek beauty only in the morally good – a fact which sufficiently accounts for our having found so little of it and having had to seek about for imaginary beauties without backbone! – As surely as the wicked enjoy a hundred kinds of happiness of which the virtuous have no inkling, so too they possess a hundred kinds of beauty; and many of them have not yet been discovered. (from Nietzsche’s Daybreak, s. 468, R.J. Hollingdale transl. )

The Original          

Humans think habitually of identity, which means that specific objects are understood in terms of universal concepts.  The meaning of an object is forged categorically, in terms of ranked categories, subsumed under a general concept heading.  To conceive of objects in this way, condemns them to idealism, makes them merely abstract and devoid of context and history. To conceive of objects in this way denies any specificity of material context, affording disingenuous and generalized judgments to occur. When objects are ideally judged as good and bad, they are effectively removed from the stage of extant and unfolding social history. In opposition to identity thinking, Adorno posits negative dialectics, or non-identity thinking[ii].  He seeks to reveal the falseness of claims of identity thinking by enacting a critical consciousness which perceives that a concept cannot identify its true object.  The critic will “assess the relation between concept and object, between the set of properties implied by the concept and the object’s actuality” (Held 215).  The consciousness of non-identity thinking reconciles particular and universal without reducing qualities to categories.

The Modern                       

The weight of signification is placed upon denial in all self-knowing references to things categorized as ‘MODERN’. For all historical moments, the term Modern falls upon a review of objects, in order to force a specious separation from a time immediately passed. The continuity of social time and the material evolution of social reality is denied in this reading of the object, in favor of the establishment of a different, separable, category of identity. What is Modern can be so only for those who invest in the power of this category. The consequent misinterpretation of such categories with respect alternative social and cultural perspectives is inevitable.


[i] See Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida, pp

[ii] The concept of the non-identical marks the difference between Adorno’s materialism and Hegel’s idealism. Although Adorno shares Hegel’s emphasis on a speculative identity between thought and being, between subject and object, and between reason and reality, Adorno denies that this identity has been achieved in a positive fashion. For the most part this identity has occurred negatively instead. That is to say, human thought, in achieving identity and unity, has imposed these two concepts upon the objects of perception, suppressing or ignoring their differences and diversity. Such imposition is driven by a social formation whose exchange principle demands the equivalence (exchange value) of what is inherently nonequivalent (use value). Whereas Hegel’s speculative identity amounts to an identity between identity and nonidentity, Adorno’s amounts to a nonidentity between identity and nonidentity. That is why Adorno calls for a “negative dialectic” and why he rejects the affirmative character of Hegel’s dialectic (ND 143-61). Adorno does not reject the necessity of conceptual identification, however, nor does his philosophy claim to have direct access to the nonidentical. Under current societal conditions, thought can only have access to the nonidentical via conceptual criticisms of false identifications. Such criticisms must be “determinate negations” pointing up specific contradictions between what thought claims and what it actually delivers.

 


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