The Recovery of Experience

By Roger Foster

Subjects: Critical Theory, Continental Philosophy, Philosophy, Epistemology
Series: SUNY series in Contemporary Continental Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791472101, 246 pages, June 2008
Hardcover : 9780791472095, 246 pages, October 2007

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Table of contents

Acknowledgments and a Note on Translation
1. The Consequences of Disenchantment
Disenchantment and Experience
Language and Expression
Selbstbesinnung (Self-Awareness)
Natural History and Suffering
The Limits of Language or How Is Spiritual Experience Possible?
2. Saying the Unsayable
Language and Disenchantment
Wittgenstein as a Philosopher of Disenchantment
The Dissolution of Philosophy
Adorno on Saying the Unsayable
3. Adorno and Benjamin on Language as Expression
Benjamin on Showing and Saying
Benjamin on Language
Trauerspiel: Allegory and Constellation
Adorno and Philosophical Interpretation
Constellation and Natural History
4. Failed Outbreak I: Husserl
The Husserlian Outbreak
Logical Absolutism
The Intuition of Essences
Self-Reflection and Natural History
5. Failed Outbreak II: Bergson
Spiritual Affinities
Memory and the Concept in Matter and Memory
Intuition: the External Demarcation of the Concept
Confinement as Habitude
The Internal Subversion of the Concept
6. Proust: Experience Regained
The Depths of Experience
Involuntary Memory
Expression, Suffering, Allegory
Metaphor and Contradiction
7. A Contemporary Outbreak Attempt: John McDowell on Mind and World
Disenchantment and Natural-Scientific Understanding
McDowell’s Epistemological Antinomy
Second Nature
Domesticated Experience
McDowell and Adorno: Final Considerations
Critical Theory and ExperienceCommunication
Theory as an Outbreak Attempt

Examines the role of experience within Adorno’s philosophy of language and epistemology.


In Adorno, Roger Foster argues that there is a coherent critical project at the core of Adorno's philosophy of language and epistemology, the key to which is the recovery of a broader understanding of experience. Foster claims, in Adorno's writings, it is the concept of spiritual experience that denotes this richer vision of experience and signifies an awareness of the experiential conditions of concepts. By elucidating Adorno's view of philosophy as a critical practice that discloses the suffering of the world, Foster shows that Adorno's philosophy does not end up in a form of resignation or futile pessimism. Foster also breaks new ground by placing Adorno's theory of experience in relation to the work of other early twentieth-century thinkers, in particular Henri Bergson, Marcel Proust, Edmund Husserl, and early Wittgenstein.

Roger Foste teaches philosophy at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, the City University of New York.


"…this book is exceptional. " — CHOICE

"This book argues its position clearly, engages incisively with the available secondary literature in both English and German, and establishes a new interpretive position that in some ways corrects and in others enhances the scholarly literature. " — Max Pensky, editor of The Actuality of Adorno: Critical Essays on Adorno and the Postmodern

"This is the most lucid presentation I've ever read of Adorno's work. This is a special achievement because Foster is dealing with one of the most difficult and nuanced aspects of Adorno: his conception of experience in relation to language. " — Tom Huhn, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Adorno