“The Presence of the Present”: Derrida, Adorno, and the Autonomy of Philosophy

Elizabeth Portella


In Voice and Phenomenon, Jacques Derrida conducts a critique of Husserlian phenomenology, simultaneously articulating crucial concepts for a theory of deconstruction in the interstices of Husserl’s premises. His critique of Husserl is synecdochic insofar as it works to facilitate a much broader critique of the tradition of Western philosophy itself. In Against Epistemology, Theodor Adorno similarly takes up a critique of Husserlian phenomenology toward a broader critique of the history of philosophy. Several theorists have, for this occasion among others, taken to drawing comparisons between Derrida and Adorno. The occasion of their respective critiques of Husserl forms the basis of my analyses here. These critiques represent a kind of microcosm from which one can extrapolate broader methodological tendencies in deconstruction and critical theory. To address claims about deconstruction and its relation to the future of critical theory, it is worthwhile to consider the literature devoted to this comparison and the political implications expressed therein. A review of the primary texts and the relevant literature reveals critical assumptions about what is meant by the term “politics” in contemporary philosophy. This restricted sense of what is meant by politics reveals presuppositions concerning the nature of philosophy and its relation to social critique.

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Theoria & Praxis: International Journal of Interdisciplinary Thought | ISSN: 2291-1286