Iain Macdonald

Professor of Philosophy, Université de Montréal (Canada)

Resident at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
May−August 2017

Research topic at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften:
»Future Possibility: Figures of Possibility in Hegel, Adorno, and Heidegger«

Project outline:
My current research falls under several headings, organized mainly around modality, especially the concept of possibility and the problem of »actualization of philosophy« announced by Marx (but which has its roots in Hegel’s thought).

In a monograph in progress, these questions are developed in reference to the works of Hegel, Adorno, and Heidegger. The book first explores the rather curious neglect of the concept of the future in Hegel’s writings, where the future is taken to be a figure of possibility. In this context, various aspects are discussed, including the critique of the ought (Sollen) and the posterity of thought (Nachwelt). Adorno’s critique of Hegel also comes into play, especially as regards Hegel’s concepts of actuality, reality, and actualization (Wirklichkeit, Realität, Verwirklichung), as presented in the Science of Logic but also in connection with the concept of education/enculturation (Bildung) discussed in the Phänomenologie des Geistes and the Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts. Adorno’s own view of possibility is then presented in detail, with special emphasis placed on the suppression of emancipatory possibilities that are currently blocked by a variety of social mechanisms. The central claim of the book is that the Hegelian typology of possibility needs to be reworked in light of Adorno’s diagnosis of such »blocked« possibilities. In light of this question, Heidegger’s concept of possibility (presented in Sein und Zeit, as well as in the Beiträge zur Philosophie and elsewhere) is analyzed as a counter-view to Adorno’s. (Iain Macdonald)

Funding of the stay:
Excellence Cluster »The formation of normative orders«

Research partner:
Iain Macdonald follows the invitation of Christoph Menke, Professor of Philosophy at Frankfurt University, and the Cluster of Ecellence »The Formation of Normative Orders«.

Scholarly profile of Iain Macdonald

Iain Macdonald received his PhD from the University of Essex in 1998. He has taught philosophy at Université de Montréal since 2001. His current work is focussed on modality in Hegel, Marx, Adorno, and Heidegger. From 2009−2014 he was president of the Canadian Society for Continental Philosophy.

Please find more information about Iain Macdonald here.

Main areas of research:
Nineteenth and twentieth century European philosophy: critical theory, phenomenology, aesthetics, Hegel, Marx.

Selected publications:
  1. »Unfettering the Future: Estrangement and Ambiguity in The Trial«, in: Kafka’s The Trial: Philosophical Perspectives, ed. by E. Hammer, Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
  2. »Vers une ›démodalisation‹ du possible: Heidegger et le clivage de l’estre«, in: Philosophie, forthcoming.
  3. »Adorno and Literature«, in: The Routledge Companion to the Frankfurt School, ed. by E. Hammer, A. Honneth and P. Gordon, forthcoming.
  4. »Adorno’s Modal Utopianism: Possibility and Actuality in Adorno and Hegel«, in: Adorno Studies, No. 1/1 (2017), p. 1-12.
  5. »L’autre pensée: la possibilité de l’autre commencement et la critique de l’effectivité dans les Beiträge zur philosophie«, in: Qu’appelle-t-on la pensée ? Le philosopher heideggérien, ed. by C. Perrin, Bukarest: Zeta Books 2014.