On being right

A Reading Note

When philosophers, who are well known to have difficulty keeping silent, engage in conversation, they should always try to lose the argument, but in such a way as to convict their opponent of untruth. The point should not be to have absolutely correct, irrefutable, watertight cognitions—for they inevitably boil down to tautologies, but insights which cause the question of their justness to judge itself.

Adorno, Minima Moralia, page 71

This is one of many instances when I’m not certain I completely grasp what Adorno is saying (though I’m convinced by the beauty of the construction that the fault lies with me and not with Adorno). But I’ll take from it what I will: that the job of the philosopher (or, in my interpretation, the critic) is not so much to be right as to be engaging. The former is like a race, while the latter is an exploration: one seeks an end in and of itself while the other is never ending.

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