Art and Nature. The Early German Romantics, Schelling, and Adorno

Research on the aesthetics of the German twentieth-century philosopher Theodor W. Adorno often focuses on the import of Kant and Hegel on his ideas concerning the relationship between art and nature. I wish to broaden this focus by comparing Adorno’s ideas with the ones developed by the early German Romantics and Schelling. The project’s hypothesis is that Adorno has been influenced by Hölderlin, Novalis, Friedrich Schlegel, and Schelling to a greater extent than has previously been recognized. In Adorno’s criticism of Kant’s and Hegel’s concept of nature, many ideas that were expressed by the early Romantics and Schelling recur, among others the emphasis on humanity being part of nature and not its master. Like the early Romantics, Adorno regards art as pointing toward a reconciliation between humanity and nature without itself constituting this reconciliation. Adorno also shares with the early Romantics and Schelling a belief in art’s ability to express insights into the fundamental relationship between humanity and nature that cannot be conveyed by philosophy. In order to attain a deeper understanding of Adorno’s notion of the mediating role of art, which is essential for his aesthetics, it is therefore important to compare his ideas to those of the early Romantics and Schelling. By reading Adorno’s ideas in the light of the ones developed by the early German Romantics and Schelling, I intend to provide a better understanding of the central relationship between art and nature in Adorno’s aesthetics. The project thus aims to ensure that this important complex of ideas obtains its rightful place in the history of aesthetics. By examining the relevance of the idea of a reconciliation between humanity and nature in a time marked by a climate crisis, I also intend to participate in the recent turn toward continental philosophy for a better understanding of our complicated relationship with nature.

Research project funded by the Swedish Research Council.

Contact: Camilla Flodin