Adorno’s Modal Utopianism: Possibility and Actuality in Adorno and Hegel

Iain Macdonald


According to a longstanding metaphysical tradition, actuality is prior—and in some ways superior—to possibility. From Aristotle to Hegel, the exceptions to this fundamental belief are fairly rare; but there is a marked trend in post-Hegelian thought to undermine this traditional priority, with Theodor W. Adorno representing an important line of attack. Here, the guiding question is: how does Adorno take issue with Hegel’s version of the thesis on the subordination of possibility to actuality? Indeed, certain key aspects of Adorno’s utopianism can only be understood as a reaction to Hegel’s theory of actuality. Specifically, Adorno defends a type of possibility that has no place in Hegel’s system and so, in essence, sketches a revised dialectical theory of modality.


Adorno, Hegel, metaphysics, dialectics, modality, possibility, actuality

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Copyright (c) 2017 Iain Macdonald