Towards a Topography of the Void. Adorno on Silence and Other Extremal Denkbilder

  • Walter B. Pedriali University of St Andrews


In this paper, I raise a puzzle that arises out of two theses held by Adorno regarding meaning-determination. The first thesis claims that meaning is fixed by the positional value of an expression. The second thesis claims that history sediments in expressions and objects. The puzzle arises when we consider silences. Since silences are pure absences, it is not clear how history could sediment on them. If so, Adorno’s theory of meaning seems to entail that silences are meaningless. Silences play a crucial role in his philosophy, however, both because of Adorno’s musical interests and because his most famous pronouncement is, precisely, an invitation to silence. I propose what I take to be a fully Adornian solution to the puzzle that also illuminates some of the key aspects of Adorno’s philosophy.

Author Biography

Walter B. Pedriali, University of St Andrews
Philosophy, Teaching Fellow


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