Nature, in reality, is not only one thing exterior on which we work, but additionally inside us. We too are nature. “My tears effectively up,” wrote the German Romantic poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. “Earth, I’m returning to you.” Adorno took our overawed sensations when confronted with the magnitude of untamed nature as a sign of an consciousness of our pure essence. The elegant — whether or not encountered on the earth or in artwork — provokes in us tears, shudders and overwhelming feeling. Our ego is reminded of its affinities with the pure realm. In our collapses into blubbering wrecks, eyes vast and moist, we turn into concurrently most human and most pure.
For somebody related to the abstruseness of avant-garde music and demanding principle, Adorno was surprisingly sentimental when it got here to animals — for which he felt a strong affinity. It’s with them that he finds one thing worthy of the title Utopia. He imagines a correctly human existence of doing nothing, like a beast, resting, cloud gazing, mindlessly and placidly chewing cud.
To dream, as so many Utopians do, of boundless manufacturing of products, of busy exercise within the ideally suited society displays, Adorno claimed, an ingrained mentality of manufacturing as an finish in itself. To detach from our historic kind tailored solely to manufacturing, to work in opposition to work itself, to do nothing in a real society through which we embrace nature and ourselves as pure would possibly ship us to freedom.
Rejecting the notion of nature as one thing that might shield us, give us solace, reveals us to be inextricably inside and of nature. From there, we would start to save lots of ourselves — together with the whole lot else.
Esther Leslie is a professor of political aesthetics at Birkbeck School, College of London, and the creator, most just lately, of “Liquid Crystals: The Science and Artwork of a Liquid Kind.”
Now in print: “Modern Ethics in 77 Arguments,” and “The Stone Reader: Modern Philosophy in 133 Arguments,” with essays from the sequence, edited by Peter Catapano and Simon Critchley, revealed by Liveright Books.
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