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Abstract

This paper contributes to the current academic debate on the nature of embodied, intentional consciousness, specifically the attempt to inaugurate a rapprochement between phenomenological existentialism and critical theory. This is accomplished through a critical comparison of the concepts of negative experience and nonidentity in Theodor Adorno's negative dialectics and Jean-Paul Sartre's early phenomenology. By comparing how each engages with Hegel, I suggest that Sartre offers a broad, anthropological account of negative experience and nonidentity helpful to critical theorists but that there remains a critical deficit which Adorno's more restricted—and political—sense of nonidentity remedies. Sartre's anthropological portrayal of ‘persistent negation’ worries Adorno but I suggest that it can be understood as a pragmatic presupposition for problem-solving rather than as a transcendental condition of experience.