Adorno on the essay

by maggi dawn

“Luck and play are what are essential to the essay. It does not begin with Adam and Eve but with what it wants to discuss; it says what is at issue and stops where it feels itself complete–not where nothing is left to say… The essay does not strive for closed, deductive or inductive construction. It revolts above all against the doctrine–deeply rooted since Plato–that the changing and ephemeral is unworthy of philosophy, against the ancient injustice toward the transitory.”

“The usual reproach against the essay that it is fragmentary and random, itself assumes the givenness of totality and…suggests that man is in control of totality. But the desire of the essay is not to seek and filter the eternal out of the transitory; it wants, rather, to make the transitory eternal.”

“The slightly yielding quality of the essayist’s thought forces him to greater intensity than discursive thought can offer; for the essay, unlike discursive thought, does not proceed blindly, automatically, but at every moment it must reflect on itself.”