Language Criticism as a Critique of Morals. The Unclaimed Legacy of Karl Kraus

Language criticism forms the basis of Karl Kraus’s works and his critique of fin-de-siècle Viennese society, its legal system, and its press. For Kraus, language and morals are inseparably intertwined: »Was there ever a stronger moral safeguard than linguistic doubt?«

This project is based on the idea that the connection between language criticism and morals is the key to a meaningful understanding of Kraus’s work as a whole. If one accepts this thesis, a contrast emerges that counters common impressions of Kraus as an astute satirist on one hand and a conservative liberal or outright provocateur on the other.

The project proposes to show that such a revised interpretation of Kraus will provide a deeper understanding of his influence on thinkers such as Wittgenstein, Adorno, Benjamin, Brecht, and Kafka – an influence that is dismissed all too often by literary critics as anecdotal or merely stylistic.

The aforementioned thinkers are commonly conveyed as being anti-moralists, moral skeptics, or advocates for criticism that is exclusively polemical: All they can do is tear down existing theories, but they refuse to propose solutions of their own. A fresh examination of these thinkers must therefore take into account the linguistic character of morality. This coupling of language criticism with moral critique will present an alternative to liberal discourse on morals centered predominantly on human rights. It aims to lend Adorno’s »negative moral philosophy« renewed relevance, in order to thoroughly comprehend Kraus’ »rewards of critical destruction«.

Funded by the Minerva Foundation 2014–2016
Associate Researcher(s): Gal Hertz

Events

Workshop in the BBAW Berlin
13 Oct 2016 – 14 Oct 2016

Klage, Theatralität und Gerechtigkeit. Karl Kraus und die Grundlagen des Rechts

Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Jägerstr. 22, 10117 Berlin, Raum 230; ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum

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Gershom Scholem Today. The Current Significance of His Work (Workshop)
10 Feb 2016 · 10.00 am

Middat ha-din and middat ha-rahamim in Scholem’s Poetics. Sources and Implications

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, Seminarraum 303

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Gershom Scholem Today. The Current Significance of His Work (Lecture)
09 Feb 2016 · 7.00 pm

Menachem Lorberbaum (Tel Aviv): To Knowingly Sin. Sabbatianism and Hasidism Revisited

ZfL, Schützenstr. 18, 10117 Berlin, 3. Et., Trajekte-Tagungsraum

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