Peter Gordon | Two Ideas of Dialectic: Hegel and Adorno

Color photo of Peter Gordon. He has a light skin tone and dark hair and wears eye glasses. He is wearing a black suit and white collar shirt.

Peter E. Gordon

February 16, 2024

Please join us as Peter Gordon presents "Two Ideas of Dialectic: Hegel and Adorno," a lecture.

Thursday, March 14, 2024 | 5 - 7 PM
3335 Dwinelle Hall, Berkeley, CA

In this lecture, Gordon will revisit the conventional philosophical view that Theodor W. Adorno developed a model of dialectical criticism that is starkly opposed to the Hegelian version. Adorno characterizes Hegel’s dialectic as “closed,” and he develops a “negative” dialectic that is “open” or “fractured.” Gordon insists that this contrast is overstated; he argues that Adorno sustains a counterfactual ideal of reconciliation that places his negative dialectic in far closer proximity to the Hegelian model than many readers allow. Scattered like traces of precarious happiness in a damaged world, Adorno understands his ideal of reconciliation as a necessary presupposition for own philosophical practice. This argument builds upon some of the deeper philosophical insights from Gordon’s recently published book, A Precarious Happiness: Adorno and the Sources of Normativity (published in German by Suhrkamp and in English by the University of Chicago Press).

Speaker Biography

Peter E. Gordon is the Amabel B. James Professor of History, Faculty Affilitate in the Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and Faculty Affiliate in the Department of Philosophy at Harvard University. A resident faculty member at Harvard’s Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, Gordon is a critical theorist and an historian of modern European philosophy and social thought, specializing in Frankfurt School critical theory, phenomenology, existentialism, and Western Marxism. A frequent contributor of criticism and commentary to periodicals such as The New York Times Book Review,The New Republic, The Boston Review of Books,The Nation, and The New York Review of Books, he has published major works on Heidegger, the Frankfurt School, Jürgen Habermas, and Theodor W. Adorno. 


Presented by the Program in Critical Theory.

Admission Information and Accessibility

3335 Dwinelle is wheelchair accessible. Please view this website for more details about accessing Dwinelle Hall. If you require an accommodation for effective communication or mobility access, please contact Patty Dunlap at