This article investigates a problem in Theodor W. Adorno’s thought: how can Adorno critique advanced capitalist societies for their dehumanizing tendencies while also refusing the possibility of defining the human? Motivating this inquiry is a renewed investigation of philosophical anthropology by thinkers like Axel Honneth and Jürgen Habermas, who explore positive theories of human limits and needs as the basis of social critique. As Adorno consistently refused to define the human on philosophical and political grounds, this article asks whether his work offers an unexamined alternative to philosophical anthropology’s revival. A reconstruction of Adorno’s position shows how Adorno displaces anthropological problems into his philosophy of art, where the principle of mimesis offers a potentially nonanthropological model of human potential. Yet it also reveals how Adorno’s refusal to directly interrogate philosophical anthropology leads him to implicitly prescribe a certain figure of the human, undermining the value of his resistance to anthropological definitions.

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