This essay examines the significance for Theodor W. Adorno of Immanuel Kant's aesthetics. Adorno's philosophy insists, on the one hand, on truth to objects, while, on the other hand, defending subjective experience against overhasty dismissals of it. Adorno rejects the castigation of “subjective relativity” and argues that aesthetic judgments are, paradoxically, truer to the object than accepted standards of objectivity. In this connection I show that far from ultimately dismissing Kant's aesthetics as irredeemably subjectivistic, Adorno reads the central theses of the third Critique as crucial to any understanding of aesthetic objectivity. Superficially read, such remarks as “art, which Kant considered blatantly nonconceptual” appear false: Kant argued that aesthetic judgments are nonconceptual, not art itself. However, this essay aims to take seriously the statements early on in Aesthetic Theory that see Kant's views on “aesthetic feeling” as necessarily applicable to “art itself.” Thus Adorno's reception of Kant's aesthetics is fundamental to Adorno's articulation of the inversion of subject and object, which is, in turn, a central feature of his philosophy as a whole.

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