Theodor Adorno, the difference between information and knowledge

'White on White' Kazimir Malevich (1918).

As anyone who have read many of the posts of this blog might have realized, it is not about investigating recent events, or news, or research of information. There are too many blogs dedicated to that approach to current events.

In fact, I wish there was a “Theme” or format that allowed me to have all posts displayed at the same time, instead of by chronological order. Just as if it was a “post-cloud” (@Wordpress staff: I’m giving you ideas), since they are subject-related and not quite time-related.

Without attempting to develop a “quick-reference guide” to Philosophy, I will try to describe the approach and aims I have.

I ‘ve read and studied Theodor W. Adorno for a while now, and what I found absolutely challenging is the way he separates himself from traditional philosophical thought, bringing it to a new status, where not only the value of truth is sought, but also addressed mainly to our contemporary society. That is the discovery and quantum leap, that Adorno and the Frankfurter Schule bring to the discipline.

Philosophy will not be “that abstract” anymore, since although maintaining it’s reflection on the immanent essence of things, it will be directly pointed, with the unavoidable assistance of Ideology,  towards the underlying “nuts and bolts” of Contemporary Society.

Adorno will pay particular attention, to those facts derived from the brutality of Auschwitz, both, from those who carried it out and from those who just stared.

This framework has also a double approach from the “subject” point of view: the individuals on one hand, and groups and society as a whole, on the other.

Adorno keeps a thin line drawn in each and every essay, between ideology and critical thought. He uses ideology as a tool, and not an end in itself. That way, he manages to integrate concepts related to Historic Materialism and Humanism, Culture and Christian philosophy or religion, to articulate new visions, a consistent knowledge, far beyond the previous information he chooses as starting point. Of course, this never appears mixed or confused, he develops a thorough task in analysing to a detail, every subject he studies. But this analysis is carried out by exploring the internal “skeleton” of each topic he deals with, rather than gathering loads of information and narrowing down the options.

He also holds himself back from suggesting any course of action: he is not convinced that a revolutionary process might be the solution. However, he systematically brings “food for thought” to sustain a critical position about Society, denouncing whatever he finds that doesn’t match any logical system, even the internal logic of any phenomenon which usually shows severe contradictions and incoherencies in itself, under the light of dialectic thought.

Adorno does not need either, to have loads of information: instead  he picks “evident” issues or phenomena of current culture and society, and starts a meticulous task, so at least a minimum  status of truth is achieved. He will not take any assertion for granted, and the more obvious the meaning society applies to any aspect of it, the more Adorno is captivated by this, to dismantle the fragile scaffolding on which Society builds its “reality”.

Lately, I’ve been struck by some of his essays on Culture and Society, in which he tackles everyday issues like “Television”, “Dealing with the past” (1), “Progress”, “Personality”, “Spare time” (2), etc., concepts that anyone of us might think are quite evident, but surprisingly, Adorno throws a new light, putting all of them under the perspective of the supra-subjective tacit underlying logic of Society frame.

We definitely need information today, in order to make any statement, to face the facts and to make decisions. However, I find impossible to keep on reading newspapers, just as if they were mere “story-telling” media. Even the fact of knowing each source’s ideology or political affinity, is not enough anymore. All of them, no matter on which side they stand, are immersed in the same structure.

We need some filters, some counteraction tools, to gain confidence in ourselves, not by getting more and more insubstantial information but by achieving some level of certainty, with which we can start to feel comfortable. And if we don’t feel comfortable with the story they are trying to sell us, let’s just don’t buy it. 

Truth will not go away. It’s more than willing to wait for us, if to be really pursued.

(1) Th.W. Adorno “Critica de la cultura y sociedad II”, Obra completa, 10/2. Edit. AKAL / Básica de bolsillo (2009)

(2) Th. W. Adorno “Consignas”. Amorrortu Editores (2003)


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