Irreducible Consciousness and Identity Thinking..

Irreducible Consciousness and Identity Thinking in Transcendental Idealism

Adorno on Kant

Julian von Will, PhD

“The antinomical structure of the Kantian system expressed more than contradictions in which speculation on metaphysical objects necessarily entangles itself. It expressed something from the philosophy of history. The powerful effect which the Critique of Pure Reason exerted far beyond its epistemological substance must be laid to the faithfulness with which it registered the state of the experience of consciousness.” [ND-381]

Immanuel Kant said that to know nature is to pass through pure forms of mind, faculties of consciousness and abstract ideality not found in nature. A direct unmediated attempt to define and causally relate to objects is incapable of objectification. Subjective presuppositions erect and limit the knowledge of experience. Not between thought and thing, but between ideas and their tension does irreducible consciousness appear hobbling a bootstrap reason. Kant uses time, dictated by a logic of succession, digitalized, past, present and future, to contain the many in the one subject as the condition for possible knowledge. His model of consciousness processing data in a delayed mechanism projecting identity, not entity, guiding the critical path by mask reflection with deduction. A twofold of time and logic precedes concept and object for the ‘right’ over perception. Kant’s transcendental ‘anticipation’ of experience struggles to bridge and unify a composite first principle without binary confusion (paralogism) and circular and regressive reasoning (antinomical). But, according to Theodor W. Adorno: “Antinomy explodes the system, whose only idea is the attained identity, which as anticipated identity, as finitude of the infinite, is not one with itself.” [AE-29-30] His transcendental subject, source for possible experience, falls into opposition before reaching actuality registering an element of truth relating to sensibility. Kant’s own metaphysical presupposition of a priori faculties, however, does not disavows his analytic identitarian based representationalism, it proves it in the negative where objectivity is assured by denying both the subject and world direct knowledge. The epistemological framework of the Critique of Pure Reason fumbles its main point in its categorical setup sublating Being and nothingness, knowing like from unlike into a law of contradiction (like from like) bound to time and its foreknowledge of death framing the subject. Thinking about thinking leads to contrary possibilities warring against each other for eternity and for the moment, forcing possible variations of given reality to a compromise with an indifferent unqualified category ‘of relation’ compelled to agree with an actuality meant to conform to its idea. Kant’s theory of mind is divided as its mode of critical operation, suspending itself from original thoughts and authentic existence to reach neutral ground. Radically, time and logic set to a self-posited deduction trips on its own binary framework unable to relate without domination, desperately trying to escape a dialectical swindle underlying its supposed containment of metaphysics. I will focus on Kant’s subjective deduction and unity of the manifold subject advanced in the first edition and suppressed in the second. He must unify this subject of form before a schematic embrace of the object as content produces judgment. His intrasubjective construct insuring intersubjective agreement never unifies because unity is predetermined to evade individual meanings and their time-bomb scenario no one can agree on and disarm. German idealism, phenomenology and existentialism try to unify this subject of time, logic and conception by carefully distinguishing a theory of self- conscious identity thinking from act, Being and entity to enact a default psychological, originating in the unconscious, exiting a miserable schematic (Hegel). Yet, “Kant can be trusted” (Heidegger) and Adorno adopted the critical process, ontologically and dialectically wrestling the paradox of pure meaning between its projected nature and spirit a sustainable model punctuated by authentic self-delusion.

I will focus on Kant’s systematic self-contradiction, his “performative contradictions” (Habermas) by which the subject functions not despite certain contradictions but by means of them (Adorno). Ironically setting course to agreeing on appearance, curving metaphysical speculation and excessive categorical variation, Kant’s blueprint of pure consciousness holds by a negative, working the Self into the Other to avoid closed identity thinking of self-saming principles. Critical reason is forged by a conflict in possibility not actuality pushing consciousness to self-examination by thinking against itself opening a critical process to the object through subjective presupposition. Kant fails because investigating the instrument of knowledge obscures method with reflection exposing the counterfeit spectacle of anti-nature and second nature production going in a circle of reason. Denied Being in time, the self-temporalizing subject projects a timeless logic perambulating the “slaughter bench of history” (Hegel). Original Self fades in time and contradicts in concept setting up the monotony of Being and nothingness without further determination. I will just sit in this tension spinning the Copernican revolution into rediscovering what it already knew, the concept does not exhaust the thing perceived and observer- observed remain a world apart in the fragile embrace of one- sided agreement. Kant follows an old German expression of listening to Ma when Pa is speaking in his unity of elements escaping the determined lack of choice.

Kant’s epistemology sublates time under logic to demonstrate universals while temporalizing logic to a sense of Self to avoid metaphysical excess. His self-proclaimed “Copernican Revolution” finds the “secret source for the sensible” lying in the mind denied sense. He bridges logic to epistemology through a twofold schematic calling for a third-like synthesis he denies as dialectical inference. In the process of demonstration, the transcendental subject negates itself, as first principle, to evade its own identity thinking as tautology rather than totality. Critical reason dismantles its own subjective course of knowledge and tries to replace with the object it creates. Kant’s theory of consciousness and abstract relation of Self, singularity, captures the paradox of the subject’s fiction turned fact progress of secularization. Kant forges his subject on contrary categories spinning on the law of contradiction forced to a dialectical third against an unattainable thing-in- itself. In the process, diversity is swallowed by adversity into forced pre-determined unties, results and outcomes. What is irreducible about consciousness is its imprisoned self-saming knowledge under categorical relations driven by the delusion of the objectivity of total design.

I will try to show how the Kantian subject is “dialectic at a standstill” (Benjamin, ) a “dialectic in denial” (Adorno) working Being and nothingness into agreement. In Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, in the epistemological section of the Aesthetic and the Analytic logic, his first certainty principle depends on their relation he inverts into criticism, movement and undecidability. The subject thinks against the Self making it appear devoid of sense and referent the neutral ground of Being. Kant’s circumnavigation of cognition and reason demonstrates ‘delimited possibilities’ he limits to the law of contradiction after having deduced the understanding to a binary construct at odds with singularity, unity and truth. The unlike of his categorical understanding is forced into the likeness of logical absolutism closing off possibilities, change and progress. Struggling to gain an original Self in time intuits a past sense of Self reconstructed in a knowledge of Self devoid of original flux and plurality.

Irreducible consciousness lies in recognizing itself, thinking, as the constructor of spirit and nature, arriving at complexity and plurality locked within its own forms. Kant must demonstrate necessity and agreement, epistemologically relate percept and concept through his subject of time and logic. Kant connects the law of contradiction with time and unwittingly making the finite infinite (Adorno). Nothing changes in the self- saming understanding. Subjective idealism, a “failing and a fainting before the Absolute” (Hegel), is required to transcend the transcendental, relate immanent consciousness with transcendent object through a unified subject Kant fails to demonstrate. Simply to make a judgment he must transcend his own machinery. Kant deduced time to one-time singularity projecting time-flow, succession, from an eternal law fixed under logical noncontradiction as the ground of all possible Being. It’s not a bad starting point because communicating more leads to counterfeit excursions away from a mysterious flaw in thinking the whole. He tries to arrange a connection between abstract qualifiers to state an object cannot be in two places at the same time to evade the all or nothing statements driving his critique of metaphysics.

Kant masterfully bends time and logic to form the subject of the understanding, but categorical division turns time into finite and infinite poles to draw a limit to its tautology regressing or progressing
experience into antinomy. His deduction of space and time to the mind finds itself in contrary thoughts forced to relate predetermined unity of twelve categories and one concept of causality as the whole of the understanding. His model ultimately succumbs in a lack of diversity and particularity it promises to know, but the general map of cognition, under the maxim of thinking about thinking, remains ominously true, hauntingly limited from within, even opposed by its own possibility. Kant calls it empty, yet the subject holds the spectrum of possibility within its own meaning, the variations of sense according to what it can and cannot understand (Being and nothingness) dominates a discussion marooned to island mentality against the thing-in-itself. Despite demonstrating the Self from its own categories, Kant suppresses them to time and space in a seesaw action neutralizing the epistemological follow-through and logical process driving his deduction. He capitulates too early to empiricism, says Adorno, and his duty to manifest unity through “the connection of all real properties in a thing is a synthesis, the possibility of which we are unable to determine a priori, by mere concept alone.” [K-A602,B630] Yet, it’s the concept of apperception that makes a theory of judgment possible. And the concept of existence is made by Kant. Advancing and then retracting this concept, agreement remains close to the here and now, engaged with objects and experience as its ‘corrective’ corruption to never question how the nothingness of conceptual order, the unlike, permeates thinking with the object it can never be. The constitutional subject of appearance is semblance, and its singularity based on difference and opposition is forced to reconcile with a first principle and origin alien to consciousness. Fichte notes how consciousness never finds a beginning or an end in its awareness of Self. Yet, at the point where Kant’s elements unite, he drops the bottom out of each faculty turning the ‘concept’ into ‘mythology’ and time into unending regress, the “depths of the soul”, unable to fix a Self. The system radically fractures in its idea meant to synthesize percept and concept. Stigmatized with its own impossibility, Kant calls his epistemology the “totality of the limited”, an ingenious term defining the paradox in his analytic required to synthesize traditional dualism. The analytic is synthetic. However, as Theodor W. Adorno notes, his abstract gets to the concrete by negation, by running up against its own contradiction and semblance, revealing critical reason in a closed system of knowledge, the island of cognition looking out from the coastline the stormy metaphysical sea. Kant dramatically denies logic judgment and his refusal to connect a priori faculty with psychological ‘act’ and individual Being protects experience from a closed system of knowledge. Kant advances constitutional consciousness only to revoke it with the stigma of reproduction.

Transcendental idealism, first philosophy, fights over psychology the nature of mind and wins over naturalism and spiritualism a blueprint of self-generated thought from polarized categories, allowing it pre-reflective status over time and space a constitutional role. Isolating thought, generating a Self from the pure relation of elements, transcendental idealism makes a first step to experience and nature by recognition of presupposition as its critical insight and means to objectivity.

The main argument is on the agreement of appearances and knowledge of objects through laws and structures everyone can agree on. This turns metaphysical and disagreeable by Kant’s lamenting mythologization of the concept. His attempt at a foundational first principle and singularity, unifying the ‘school debate’ of rationalism and empiricism struggles and then subtracts the subject from the equation. What comes out of Kant is a programmed transcendental subjectivity thinking in a certain way and with certain outcomes, that, ultimately, make it unfree and unoriginal despite being the gateway to experience. Kant’s epistemology divides, not between possible and actual reality but between possibilities forced into compromised relations prohibiting progress and evolution. His theory of identity-thinking is disturbing because its rigid and frozen stance, “residue theory of truth” (Adorno) by eliminating possibility. Subtracting possible from the actual, he sublates actuality under possible conditions, transcendentals, finding the one constant in every object and in every experience, the Self, hermetically sealed in a representational system. My reading follows Adorno’s use of Kant’s fractured epistemology to bring out the individual bearing the whole. Hinging on a massive ‘contradiction’ in the history of philosophy, Kant calls ‘amphiboly’, confusing reflection, deduction and perception into a twofold mechanism of truth, Adorno argues Kant speaks for individual thinking the unattainable. Speaks in the negative for a perplexing “consciousness of death” (Adorno) without making ‘nothingness’ into identity, making the “not-I” into a magical source point for advancement. I will focus on his deduction of the understanding and its unity with intuition entangled in contrary thoughts evading their union through amphiboly and paralogism, allowing him, according to Adorno, a backdoor escape from determinism. Kant is subtle, I will jump to the extremes and the bi-polar construct of transcendental subjectivity, highlighting binary understanding forced into logical noncontradiction denied judgement as the source for all possible experience. A “negative dialectic” drives irreducible consciousness to thinking the Self as whole knowing otherwise.

Irreducible consciousness is not in the hand and hides in thought. It’s the basis for the idea of non-local consciousness thinking us. Consciousness is complex, obscured in immediate sense and divided from eternal ideas, finding itself “in a gap”, says Schelling. Kant captures, in a secular analytic, a subject projecting its measure critically between Selves at war for a first certainty principle establishing, paradoxically, intersubjective agreement. Kant ushers in transcendental idealism and describes how consciousness connects with Self allowing us to experience objects within a limited yet constant framework all can agree on but few support as it dismantles its own course of knowledge. Affirming his concept of subjectivity is devoid of object and is therefore metaphysics by his own standard. Epistemology struggles in vain. Reducing space and time to mind, sublating time to logic, he then forbids logic judgment displaces the category ‘of relation’, ideation, with noumenal qualities forcing him to lunge for the empirical to save him. Kant’s subject is divided and here the individual appears bearing the weight of unity in unequal portions. Kant claims a “never before attempted deduction of the understanding” anticipating experience to know it casts an enigma.

Denying access to spirit and nature, he makes a serious claim by resisting these grounds as products of a Self-posited anchor in knowledge having to mediate extreme categories. Taking ownership over knowledge the subject introduces unity as a dialectical construct. He resists his own structure and map of knowledge as determinism, a knowledge already known. Kant’s self-temporalizing logic; deducing pre- reflective subjective universals, anticipating experience turns against itself, recognizing its constitutional role as limited and delusive. But what Kant shows is how thinking wars against itself devoid of objects, with its own logic. Kant brings the war in heaven to the mind where it originates in contrary categories dominated by a third like category taunting his schema. Divided Self withdrawals inquiry against progressive and regressive antinomy based on extending identity infinitely through variations of same-saming categories encompassing avenues of knowing objects from either end (theological or cosmological) up to a unity through its parts (infinitesimal calculus). The subject is not the sum of its parts. Dramatically, Kant denies transcendental subjectivity the ego, individuality and world it appears to be along with the harmonious ideas of freedom, immortality and God to reach agreement. It’s not a thing or spirit, not a soul thing or a thing that thinks, the subject is movement infinite regress of contrary ideas at war with each other on the origin and validity of knowing reality. The abstract is the critical movement against immediate entity or concrete ego repeating itself through the principle of identity, argumentation, logic and reason bent in speculation. Idealism and realism are suspended by drawing attention to identity thinking and formality stuck in fixed ideas. The problem is not a divergence of theory and praxis but their strict homage to identity thinking privileging one over the other by unreflected positivism. Denying the connection between faculty and act, Kant’s model resists ideology and the ‘need’ to ground ideas in what they make known. Kant’s twofold distinction of thoughts are empty and objects unknown makes their connection in and through the subject a vital and precarious endeavor he deliberately sabotaged, leaving its problematic blank in his second edition of Critique of Pure Reason.

Adorno says the “entire Critique of Pure Reason is acted out in a peculiar no man’s land.” [ARC-32] For agreement (epistemology), Kant sublates dualism to mind and then drives a trench through the middle of elements that must unite to form a first principle. [ACR-32] He warns that reason origin lies in unanswerable questions and then goes on to block it at the cost of his epistemology. Adorno argues that Kant’s “construction of transcendental subjectivity was a magnificently paradoxical and fallible effort to master the object in its opposite pole”.[ND-184-5]

His deduction sublates perception under reflection and claims to anticipate reality in all its forms of intuition and knowledge closed from within. Yet, before faith enters, Kant misunderstands his self-saming program in the tension between a priori faculties and offers an escape route through the dual nature of mind. The limit does express mystery in the rout to self-preservation. He plays concept and object against the medium temporal subjectivity to iron out contradictions. For Adorno, “the greatness of the Critique of Pure Reason is that these two motifs clash” forming critical reason. [ACR-66] The Critique of Pure Reason “contains an identity philosophy – that is, a philosophy that attempts to found being in the subject– and also a nonidentity philosophy – one that attempts to restrict that claim to identity by insisting on the obstacles, the block, encountered by the subject in its search for knowledge. And you can see the double nature of Kant’s philosophy in the dual organization of the Critique of Pure Reason.” [ACR-66] The dual structure between the Aesthetic and Analytic turns into the Transcendental Dialectic’s delusional attempt to unify the dilemma of thought and Being through their opposition, the emptiness of thoughts and unknown object leaving the individual further in the semblance of identity.

The Kantian subject appears resisting and criticizing its own process. Here both physics and metaphysics are put against each other to ‘see’ surplus subjectivity express its lordship one way or another. Kant’s model of irreducible consciousness forms what Adorno calls a “force field…[of] abstract concepts that come into conflict with one another and constantly modify one another [and] really stand in for actual living forces.” [ACR- 4] Adorno argues Kant’s critical philosophy functions not despite certain contradictions but by means of them revealing the individual bearing the whole. Kant sublates time to logic in an analytic tormented by dialectical wishfulfillment. His deduction of reality to mind, faculties of time and logic is caught in its own tautology and infinite regress. Successive opposition and forced predetermined unities, framing causality and metaphysical semblance, reveal a universally closed program of thought. Adorno “tries by critical self-reflection to give the Copernican revolution an axial turn” towards materialism through the abstract subject. [NDXX] Adorno says one “understands a philosophy by seeking its truth content precisely at the point where it becomes entangled in so-called contradictions.” [AM-53] These occur in Kant’s Analytic where the “I” is lost in successive Selves of time and frozen and stagnating in immutable ideas patching sufficient reason together into intersubjective agreement. But the subject is never synthesized as appearance, its mediated by fiction, semblance and violence. Kant’s epistemology squares a circle, and, according to Adorno, his “philosophy as a philosophy of origins” turns “into a criticism of a philosophy of origin as such.”[ACR-159] Adorno says the effort to conduct this path critically, means the search for origin “of what constitutes what” will have to “terminate in the proposition that the dialectical path alone is open.” [ACR-159] A dialectic against identity, criticism devoid of judgment, exposes preexisting or predetermined forms of synthesis made whole under force of agreement based on subtracting the individual. But more importantly, provides a corrective to thought’s royalty and to the well-oiled machinery of practical reason’s de-subjectified logical empiricism. Free to reflect the ‘unfreedom’ of identity- thinking, syllogism and technology idealizing and materializing consciousness in the cul-de-sac of reproduction.

German idealism and phenomenology, under the formal intuitions of Husserl and Heidegger, struggle to reinforce the Kantian subject, complete the deduction in a self-reverting ego of Fichte, Self-othering of Hegel, and in the eidetic reduction and Daseinanalytic of Husserl and Heidegger. Here the anticipation of experience is looped, inverted, projected and thrown into the object Kant denies. Adorno remains at the facture, preserving the consciousness of possibility turned off by its own inner necessity and not by actuality or nature. He pushes the abstract subject and Self into the anti-nature of its design made real by modernity to bring it to sense, in the bankruptcy of meaning. Kant leaves it in a “grand ambiguity” and could “not bring himself to stop worrying away at this contradiction.”[ACR-90] Adorno argues, “Kant has shown great wisdom in leaving this question unresolved.” [ACR-145] And it’s this ‘unresolved’ bent in the subject Adorno wields against German idealism and phenomenology. Kant’s twofold schematic to dismantle “the coercive logical character of its own course” applied to Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger. [ND-7] All center on Kant’s Transcendental Analytic where transcendental synthesis of apperception, the unity of time and logic form the subject of self-consciousness, devoid of entity or spirit. All try to correct Kant’s deduction with dialectical inference the ‘sense ‘of Self, the subject-object Being through the impasse of thought and Being, except Adorno, who builds on the contradiction, defends the abstract and dialectical subject in a standoff with its concept and its immediate Being. Adorno shifts the embattled subject of contrary possibilities to individual actuality by extreme categorial difference denied by identity a route through the minefield of trivial forced unities. The abstract realm houses ‘misrepresentations’, unclear thoughts, indistinct characters forming an antechamber “against thoughts inherent claim of totality”. Irreducible consciousness, resting on ‘second reflection’ thinking against itself opens an escape route (Adorno) in the face of Kant’s retreat to dogma against secular reality’s original authentic Being. The architectonic of reason cannot be an archaeology of primordial dator intuitions, as Husserl seeks, without turning into a mythical entity. Yet subjectivity is always an object while, in the correct analysis, the object is never a subject (Adorno). The First Critique works in the reverse.

The subject is not an object, this is the critical part of transcendental idealism reaching the conscious of Self in its complexity and plurality. And neither is the object a thing-in- itself capable of identifying itself without subjective effort. At the same time, everyone knows how much the subject is an object and this is detailed by a negative in identity thinking making its reflected awareness of difference somehow the very Being of objects it can never be. At the end of the Analytic, Kant brings the deduction to a standoff with reflection and hits pay dirt neutrality in formulating a concept of the impossible. No one doubts the ‘world’, only its knowledge and agreement. Yet, Kant stresses a rigid view that ideas do not exist, and existence is a mere idea, and worse “a mere groping amongst concepts”.

The connection is not made by thinking the relation into an object nor is the object into thought. The break and one-directional path are nonequivalent and successive. Possible experience is not always actual and yet actual experience is always possible. Possible by a knot between contradiction and spaciotemporal flux, embracing Being and nothingness, the mutation and successive coming to be and passing away of appearances permanently order without change and transformation. The singular principle of “no further ground” rests on the abyss of time and emptiness of identity framing the explanatory gap. Kant divides thought from itself before Being and nothingness (successive appearance) make it a fact. But the key to Kant’s subject is how it moves between sense and meaning the truth of Being without identifying it. Time mediates contrary representations as they identify a moving flowing time. Time heals the minds duality by making it disappear. Yet, his Analytic unity of the manifold subject of intuition and understanding refuses to give concepts the objectivity they project while denying intuition the thing itself. He refuses to give the concept its due, support the mediation of labor, and experiential path through speculative means the embrace of this paradox as source to advance. Kant’s identity loses diversity, possibility and then denies actuality, Being-in-itself, with the omnipresent thing-in- itself. The object and nature do not make themselves known. While grounding the possibility for experience in the law of contradiction, he contradicts his system of knowledge with the thing-in-itself opposing the totality of identity thinking against something beyond the lens of categories, concepts and classification. Kant takes logic to time, syllogism to causality and reflection to method to assert his first principle of time- consciousness. He objectifies time through logic to reflect the Self beyond time to establish his universals limited against an unattainable “thing-in-itself.” Mapping the mind, Kant’s system revealed the dialectic in reason and the unfreedom in self-determined thought, categorical poles harmonized by predetermined relations compromising differences to a closed experience of tautology. Kant then runs down possible variations of immediate sense and eternal meaning from logical noncontradiction magnifying time as death and logic as slavery in the quest for necessary agreement. Self-determined freedom, divided soul, despairing over its tautology, on the coastline of an empty horizon, fathoms Nietzsche’s ‘eternal return’. Kant deduction of the understand, the second-tier flounders in emptiness without the object it can never be. Kant throws a monkey wrench into his system, blocks pure reason mediating time and logic and gives it to the empirical meant to be explained. Kant turns knowledge into a Faustian contract. Alienated, abnegated, disseminated, the Kantian abstract subject speaks for the concrete person refusing the semblance of ideas and the harden “eminence of the worlds course” (Adorno). Adorno’s critical path works Kant’s model of the understanding into misunderstanding the question, psychotically denying both thought and Being the union of soliloquy and brute force. Adorno twist the transcendental logic into a “logic of disintegration” occasioning the appearance of the subject by criticizing the need for its objectification, attacking the rules of the game.

Pitched battles wage against psychology and ontological correlations as paralogism and admixture scrying for an Archimedean fixed position leveraging the world. Throughout the Analytic, Kant prohibits the subject ego, act and ontological relation leading to hierarchy of Being. The individual is not the source for the universal, it’s not local. Knowledge, identity, predication, says a sum of one hundred dollars does not change, add or subtract by existing or being in my pocket. Real or ideal, identity does not change. Yet, as Adorno notes, Kant also commits an “amphiboly of reflective concepts” with his transcendental deduction, in terms of a priori status denied its correlative a posteriori, the empirical, as mere identity feeding the dialectic resolution of a first principle to a third no more descriptive. Identity also silences the question leading to ideology. Kant builds an elaborate form-content schema with the divided subject of identity struggling to work the postulates and analogies to get to an object. In the commotion. Kant lunges for the object and an obscure empiricism to save him. Kant’s correspondence theory of truth, equivocating subject-predicate to subject-object spatiotemporal succession, mutation and duration (concurrent) affirms the obvious and the mundane. Necessity confirms the status quo.

Thought must confront its abstract relation of Self as Other to gain entry to objectivity ‘free’ of unreflected subjective presupposition. This is the main idea of transcendental idealism; its objectivity lies in confronting the Self with itself to reach nature and experience. The understanding’s predetermined unity, through syllogism of mind projecting the framework for appearances is essentially flawed in realizing its idea as something that exists while being the gate way to existence. Its curt of in the middle of formulating its Being. Its works by premature obsolescence engineering a tantalizing view (desire) set to a funeral march. Slicing the transcendental off the ontological difference of possible and actual reality, Kant’s twofold schema is a synthetic a priori judgment denied its ‘object’ given to mathematics and the quantum metaphysical sway. Kant “despairs” over his unity of the manifold, as Adorno terms it, over the disharmonious concept and design gone wrong prematurely shutting down reason form the understanding and it from intuition. The division of reason into practice, into common sense understanding is a defeat for self-consciousness. Dividing reason leads to unreason, and the age of reason never arrives in the compromise of objectivity to need rather than rebellion. What does arrive is a misused and abused reason, for private interests, unleashing scorched earth dividends. In the blame of reason’s totality, practical reason becomes empiricism with a sense of duty making up for a lack of better design. Kant takes it deeper into possibilities conflicted, flawed and warring factions without beginning or end, where the subject cannot live up to its possibility and the object defies actuality. Kant says metaphysics thinks us and critical reason only contains, never eradicates, surplus cognition calling for an answer with faculties occasioning yet incapable of such a feat. In Kant, Adorno notes: “Not even silence gets us out of the circle. In silence we simply use the state of objective truth to rationalize our subjective incapacity, once more degrading truth into a lie.” [ND-367] Kant says there is little room to maneuver in the deduction as it polarizes and turns in a circle. His critical effort to keep thought pure to capture ‘nature’ finds the mind conflicted with itself unable to relate without subjugation and negation. At the end to his Analytic, Kant’s Appendix speaks the truth in a negative dialectic of thought and Being. The art of reflection, one that comes down to science by showing how “subjective conditions that make the natural sciences possible are identical with those that make metaphysics possible.”[ACR-43] Kant uses this against naturalism forming a cosmology not subject to identity thinking and its regressive infinitudes. But the key lies in the computation of identitarianism, a program of cognition, syllogism and judgment machined into a logical-mathematical causal method turning the world into a “gigantic analytic judgment” (Horkheimer, Adorno). A massive self-saming platform takes hold in knowledge invisible to science and its success in changing the world. Moreover, after Kant, the epistemological constitutive question, the dilemma of self- determinism of reason and consciousness, is no longer asked and now, “in simple tautology, the question is referred back to science.” [P]

Against the backdrop of what Kant calls, “the ancient ruin of systems”, he daringly launches is own system. His subjectivization of objectivity denied objectivity, is the one original thought Kant makes in a determined process. Everything locks into Plato’s Parmenides. Subjective unity ensuring objectivity locks in the ancient dialectic of the “one and the many” and “fixing the flux”. Kant narrowly become trapped in Platonic forms his “transcendental-ontological differential”, as Heidegger notes, clearly dismantles. “Consciousness without an object’ (Fichte), deducing possibility from the law of contradiction resting on the impossible union of Being and nothingness, identifies the subjective constant in all places all the time (omni-conscious). Time is used to mediate contrary categories of Self by making the contradiction go away, disappearing in succession. Yet, truth is divided and infinitely regressed through time. Self-conscious reason is the embodiment of dualism mediating freedom through determinism. This irony of truth, limit to possibilities, is the departure to actuality. Its “true in its untruth” says Adorno, where the subject recognizes its island provincialism. Kant maps a holographic system of conscious reality, a schematic of imprisoned subjectivity, awash in the surplus of its own machinery. His critical twofold schema ruptures in the temporal abyss and ideational tautology, drawing its critical measure to avoid everything and nothing by liquating the subject, prototyping logical empiricism.

Kant’s subject is denied immediate sense and exhaustive predication, and his one proof of the external world, in his critique of material idealism through space, fails to identify the permanence of the Self through object flux. But, while the Analytic draws phenomenal and noumenal differences and transcendental reflect resist the distinction forming an ‘above and beyond’ resolution, Kant’s Transcendental Dialectic implodes first principles of origin and unmitigated validity (Unmittelbarkeit), into the pretense of detectable and correctable paralogism of intellectual intuition and its magic and unresolved incorrect antinomies. Yet, in Kant’s model, the denial of Being, as past or ideal positive construct reflecting the moment, ends up affirming the status quo for forever. In a strange fallout, denying the subject individual Being and finitude makes it infinite by default. The terror of Kant’s island of cognition lies in seeing a little beyond itself the measure to restrict it from knowing transformation. Put another way, it gives and takes away the experience of consciousness. At the point where Kant needs to affirm his identitarian philosophy and concept of self-consciousness (apperception), the “I conjoin”, he spikes it with reflection on the identity of the argument turned machinery and production forging a copy. And experience offers no further predication only variation of categories set to an immutable pattern. A brutal cut is made in the “production-line” (Adorno) of appearance and semblance takes over. The Kantian subject is a duplicate of form, a temporalized copy of successive Selves known, identified, distinguished by fixed timeless predicates and ideas that have no existence. Kant then blocks reason from mediating the understandings relation to intuition and a compromised agreement subtracts the subject operating the twofold. It’s the third faculty determined to dialectically distort an already flawed analytic.

Transcendental subjectivity is self-generating through contrary thoughts compressed in time possible variations of given reality. backing into a time-bomb individual no one can agree on and “no god can endure” (Hegel). Kant’s unity of the manifold subject splits infinitely in origin andcontradicts validity. A standoff between past sense of Self and timeless Self of categories fail to relate in a subject denied Being as tautology. Being quickly ends in negation because its everything. Yet, categorical extremes normalized by temporal succession, logical noncontradiction and causality generate instrumentalism and trivialism. A repeatable continuum of spacetime deduced to ideation, categorical sets and conceptualism fixing the flux of Being and nothing into successive appearances. Yet, again, Kant’s self-inquiry of mind locks into a “giant credit system”, borrow from Peter to pay Paul. But at the source, individual categories, unlike each other, is forced into knowledge by surrendering to a likeness impossible to identify. Kant does not connect subject and predicate in his categorical sets, withdraws the Self from the third category and then weaves time and schema to escape the subjective void. Kant fumbles the synthetic unity of the concept with time, denies the surplus third of categorical synthesis with emptiness and blocks reason’s unity as semblance after having stressed their projected reality. He falls into his own massive “amphiboly of reflective concepts”, he accused Leibniz and Wolff of making, turning immortal thoughts against the foreknowledge of death into the anticipation of life registering his epistemology. His transcendental idealism, its “constitutive logic”, works in reverse, from antimony to limit the analytic and block reason from the object they are by default of …. “Kant’s Copernican turn abstracts from the nonidentity and therein finds its limit.” [CM-254] His system of forms, categories and concepts (transcendental elements) is the ‘many’ unable to unify and be the one. The anticipatory transcendentals work by delay and reproduction into a merry-go-round of reason’s semblance, pigeonholing reality with a limited set of properties to be aware of. Kant detects the simulation. The computation of self-conscious reason stagnates in predetermined unities suppressing individual meanings. Yet, these fractures allow the subject reflective power to think against itself and world not living up to possibilities. Kant’s effort to hold universals in the variation of categories is semblance, hierarchy and privilege misperceiving experience. It becomes a fractal in the prism of apperception, casting reflection into perception. But, Kant captures this at the end of the Analytic turning the categorical unity into a negation with the Appendix on transcendental reflection. Kant makes bold by reflecting against his subject of identity. The dilemma is how to support the Kantian subject on its terms to get beyond it to the object it always was, knowing the difference. How to escape dualism through ruse and irony (Adorno).

Necessity cannot be otherwise to the principle of contradiction backed into temporal succession of object flux. In a roundabout manner, Kant reaches Being and individuality by contradiction not positive deduction. In this trap, Kant’s model, Adorno notes, becomes a powerful ‘existential’ by denying existence and Being the prerogative of unifying the subjective predicament driving it. Existential and ideal predicative distinctions are made in vain, creating auxiliary concepts into tautologies Kant stops by force of contradiction, by the nonidentity driving it. Adorno says, “the Kantian discontinuities register the very moment of nonidentity that is an indispensable part of his own conception of the philosophy of identity.” [TE-11] Locked in a twofold identarian philosophy of self-saming principles and forced reconciliation, the dialectic “is grounded in Kant’s philosophy.” [ACR-145] Yet, Adorno notes, “a dialectical way of seeing is quite foreign to him.” [ACR-125] Refusing Being and existence a predicate and a predicate the thing itself, Kant’s ‘disjointed’ system “still allowed dichotomies such as the ones of form and substance, of subject and object, without being put off by the fact that the antithetical pairs transmit each other; the dialectical nature of that conception, the contradiction implied in its own meaning, went unnoticed.” [ND-136] Yet, Adorno argues, Kant “resigns by equating itself with what should in fact be illuminated by philosophy.” [CM-10] Three attempts to unify the subject, through time, space and the concept, according to Adorno, “expresses a comprehension of nonidentity and the impossibility of capturing in subjective concepts without surplus what is not of the subject. It expresses ultimately the breakdown of epistemology.” [AE-147] Kant’s critique shows “reason’s inner dependence upon what is not identical with it.” [ND-235] Adorno argues, in a different text, that Kant shows how “objectivity itself, that is, the validity of knowledge as such, is created by passing through subjectivity – by reflecting on the mechanism of knowledge, its possibilities and its limits.”[ACR-33] This “deals with an objectivity without being free to dispense with subjective reflection. The subjects are embedded in themselves, in their “constitution”: what metaphysics has to ponder is the extent to which they are nonetheless able to see beyond themselves.”[ND-376]

The transcendental subject avoids the pitfalls of a “thing that thinks” and the concept of a “soul-thing” for their communication in the object, but the ‘parallelism’ is haunting it. Kant’s cleaver critique of paralogism found in rational psychology refuses to equate thought with world as a form of identity and its domination and reification. Adorno brings Kantian apperception to a natural history of the subject in time, labor and exchange. Cultivating the gap between consciousness and Self to get to experience, Adorno preserves the abstract subject as Other to psychological, sociological and ontological products that ‘short cut’ the details they bank on as objective Being or entity. But all along, Kant’s paradoxical effort to limit thought against the notion of the thing-in-itself, “an utterly exposed, out-on-a-limb doctrine, resisting experience and yet conceived as a link to empiricism” by radical negation of its positive identity based theorem. [ND-288] To Kant, what was most disturbing was the tautology and lack of originality in thought. “Without “otherness, cognition would deteriorate into tautology: what is known would be knowledge itself. To Kant’s mediation this is clearly more irksome than the inconcinnity of the thing-in-itself being the cause of phenomena even though the category of causality ends up on the subject’s side in his critique of reason.” [ND-184] The abstract becomes real in its unattainable truth longing for something different. Kant’s a priori are not necessarily deduced, nor enacted in a receptive and spontaneous manner “but are ‘reflected upon’”. [ACR-29] Yet, Adorno will argue, “Kant did not make this the object of reflection.”[ACR-87] He did not see how experience can transform consciousness or how “consciousness of transformation” objectifies itself “mind as Self-transmitted”. [LND-34] [ND-199]

Adorno argues that, in Kant, what “is supposedly most obvious, the empirical subject, would actually have to be considered as something not yet existing; from this aspect the transcendental subject is “constitutive.”” [CM-248] Because one cannot mix identity with Being without tautology, Adorno notes, that irreducible consciousness “derives from Kant’s greater insistence on the data under scrutiny: that you cannot reduce the self to matters of fact that depend for their existence upon a concept of the self.”[ACR-191] According to Adorno, Kant and German idealism make the “living individual person… incarnate closer to the transcendental subject than the living individual he must immediately take himself to be.” [CM-248]

While prohibiting the equivocation of logical process with psychological natural ones, Adorno defends the transcendental subject in this same fashion arguing, the “objectivity of truth really demands the subject. Once cut off from the subject, it becomes the victim of sheer subjectivity.” [AE-72] He argues elsewhere, “unreduced subjectivity is capable of fundamentally more objectivity than objectivistic reductions.” [CM-253] Adorno uses what Kant calls the “physiology of the mind” to criticize naturalistic reduction of mind, ‘intuitive understanding’ and mindless’ psychologizing pushing an automated desubjectified logical empiricism as a reflex of Being. Adorno says:

“the question of the reality of the transcendental subject weighs heavier then it appears in its sublimation as pure spirit and, above all, in the critical revocation of idealism. In a certain sense, although idealism would be the last to admit it, the transcendental subject is more real. That is, it far more determines the real conduct of people and society than do those psychological individuals from whom the transcendental subject was abstracted and who have little to say in the world for their part they have turned into appendages of the social machinery, ultimately into ideology.” [CM-248]

The transcendental subject forbids psych-physical parallels as identity-based variations, differences chaining up to fixed and final Being. Yet, Adorno says the “distinction between the transcendental and empirical subject is beyond Kant.” [TE- 15] Kant ends by affirming the status quo, confirming against possibilities the eternity of the moment and continuity of the actual from a master-salve dialectic in identity thinking the whole.  

Finally, Adorno tries to transcend the transcendental with the poverty and surplus of ideas and gives his computation of the subject: “If one dared to accord its true substance to the Kantian X of the intelligible character, the substance that will stand up against the total indeterminacy of the aporetical concept, it would be probably the historically most advanced, pointlike, flaring, swiftly extinguished consciousness inhabited by the impulse to do right.”[ND-297] To do right in the wrong world marks the difference defining critical self-conscious reason resist both transcendental identity and ontological Being. Kant’s computation of origin and validity checked by polarity and regress disentangles thought’s identity to preserve experience from its limited knowledge and brute existence. It enables a critique of ideology identifying with actuality never changing. Kant restricts identity’s claim over existence as a form of semblance backed by the force of nature conforming to that claim in the negative. This is a real step in clarifying positivism with violence. Adorno says, “Identity identifies with the aggressor.” [LND-13] This is where, as Adorno points out, the “a priori and social interpenetrate”, where the totality of thought is true in the reverse of collective social realization of individuality. No paralogism, the social appears through the abstract subject’s self-negation. The abstract self-destructs in its own terms. Adorno superimposes Kant’s twofold schematic over the individual-social construct to critique ideology and its crude commitment to identity going nowhere fast, its origin a collective “highway of despair” (Hegel). He uses Kant’s abstract subject to critique the real concrete person not living up to rational possibilities through societal hypocrisy. The modern subject captured in Kant’s abstract subject slides into the collective unthought of society. “Beyond the magic circle of identification philosophy, the transcendental subject can be deciphered as a society unaware of itself.”[ND-177] Knowledge reduced to power is the net result of ideology masking the weakness of identity suppressing mystery and misery of life at odds with itself and historical fatalism crowning critical self- awareness.


Immanuel Kant

[K-A,B] (1781,1787), Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Norman Kemp Smith, [1927]

Theodor W. Adorno

[ AE-] (1956), Against Epistemology: A Metacritique, trans. Willis Domingo, Basil Blackwell Publisher Ltd [1982]

[TE-] (1963), Hegel: Three Studies, trans. Shierry Weber Nicholsen, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. [1994]

[ND-] (1966), Negative Dialectics, trans. E.B. Ashton, The Continuum Publishing Company [1977]

[ LND ] (1965/1966) Lectures on Negative Dialectics: Fragments of a Lecture Course 1965/1966, ed. R. Tiedemann, trans. R. Livingstone, Cambridge: Polity, 2008. (NS IV.16)

[ P-] (1967), Prisms, MIT Press paperback edition, [1983]

[ACR-] (1959), Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Rodney Livingstone, Stanford University Press [2001]

[ CM-] (1963.1969), Critical Models: Interventions & Catchwords, trans. & with a preface by Henry Pickford, Columbia University Press