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September 17, 2014

Professor Shuster publishes book

On September 11, 2014 — the anniversary of Theodor W. Adorno’s death — the University of Chicago Press released Professor Shuster’s book, Autonomy after Auschwitz: Adorno, German Idealism, and Modernity. Here is the publishers blurb about the book:

Ever since Kant and Hegel, the notion of autonomy—the idea that we are beholden to no law except one we impose upon ourselves—has been considered the truest philosophical expression of human freedom. But could our commitment to autonomy, as Theodor Adorno asked, be related to the extreme evils that we have witnessed in modernity? In Autonomy after Auschwitz, Martin Shuster explores this difficult question with astonishing theoretical acumen, examining the precise ways autonomy can lead us down a path of evil and how it might be prevented from doing so.

Shuster uncovers dangers in the notion of autonomy as it was originally conceived by Kant. Putting Adorno into dialogue with a range of European philosophers, notably Kant, Hegel, Horkheimer, and Habermas—as well as with a variety of contemporary Anglo-American thinkers such as Richard Rorty, Stanley Cavell, John McDowell, and Robert Pippin—he illuminates Adorno’s important revisions to this fraught concept and how his different understanding of autonomous agency, fully articulated, might open up new and positive social and political possibilities. Altogether, Autonomy after Auschwitz is a meditation on modern evil and human agency, one that demonstrates the tremendous ethical stakes at the heart of philosophy.

The book is available for purchase here or here, or at the retailer of your choice, online or in-store.

I have been working on this book for the past several years. Its themes, however, emerged from my most basic concerns about the philosophical problem of evil as an undergraduate. Finding the thought of Theodor W. Adorno was a way of working through my interest in how we might understand the relationship between the Nazi genocide and some of our deepest held beliefs (and what I think are some of the most sophisticated philosophical elaborations of those beliefs, namely the notion of autonomy in German philosophy from Kant onwards).

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