3 - The problem of mediation  pp. 108-148

The problem of mediation

By Max Paddison

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Because, according to Hegel's dictum, there is nothing between Heaven and Earth which is not mediated, thought only remains true to the idea of immediacy through sustaining itself within the mediate. On the other hand, thought becomes the victim of the mediate as soon as it tries to grasp it immediately, without recognizing it as mediated.

Adorno, ‘The essay as form’ (1954–8)

The absence of a fully formulated concept of mediation within Adorno's ‘Zur gesellschaftlichen Lage der Musik’ has been commented on in the previous chapter. As we saw, Adorno had written in 1932 that ‘a solution to the problem of mediation in music has by no means been found; it is rather only that the location of the problem has been designated with greater precision’. However, in spite of his recognition of the problematic character of the relation of music to society, and of the ‘natural’ and ‘historical’ within musical material, Adorno could be accused of continuing to use the concept of mediation in his subsequent work as though the very application of the term itself served to resolve the underlying problem. In view of this it is important to see the concept as part of a broader historical context of ideas.

Although Adorno claims to focus on the ‘unique particular’ and insists that mediation cannot be understood in the abstract, but only through the examination of concrete individual instances, there are nevertheless features of the concept and of its context of ideas which can usefully be identified at a level of generality.