Theodor W. Adorno
Quotations


Art is magic delivered from the lie of being truth.

Art is permitted to survive only if it renounces the right to be different and integrates itself into the omnipotent realm of the profane.

Art is the social antithesis of society, not directly deducible from it.

Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.

Beauty today can have no other measure except the depth to which a work resolves contradictions. A work must cut through the contradictions and overcome them, not by covering them up, but by pursuing them.

Behind every work of art lies an uncommitted crime.

Culture is only true when implicitly critical, and the mind which forgets this revenges itself in the critics it breeds. Criticism is an indispensable element of culture.

Dissonance is the truth about harmony.

Even at that time the hope of leaving behind messages in bottles on the flood of barbarism bursting on Europe was an amiable illusion: the desperate letters stuck in the mud of the spirit of rejuvenesence and were worked up by a band of Noble Human-Beings and other riff-raff into highly artistic but inexpensive wall-adornments. Only since then has progress in communications really got into its stride. Who, in the end, is to take it amiss if even the freest of free spirits no longer write for an imaginary posterity, more trusting, if possible, than even their contemporaries, but only for the dead God?

Freedom would be not to choose between black and white but to abjure such prescribed choices.

Freud made the discovery -- quite genuinely, simply through working on his own material -- that the more deeply one explores the phenomena of human individuation, the more unreservedly one grasps the individual as a self-contained and dynamic entity, the closer one draws to that in the individual which is really no longer individual.

He who stands aloof runs the risk of believing himself better than others and misusing his critique of society as an ideology for his private interest. While he gropingly forms his own life in the frail image of a true existence, he should never forget its frailty, nor how little the image is a substitute for true life. Against such awareness, however, pulls the momentum of the bourgeois within him.

Horror is beyond the reach of psychology.

In so far as the culture industry arouses a feeling of well-being that the world is precisely in that order suggested by the culture industry, the substitute gratification which it prepares for human beings cheats them out of the same happiness which it deceitfully projects.

In the innermost recesses of humanism, as its very soul, there rages a frantic prisoner who, as a Fascist, turns the world into a prison.

Indeed, happiness is nothing other than being encompassed, an after-image of the original shelter within the mother. But for this reason no one who is happy can know that he is so. To see happiness, he would have to pass out of it: to be as if already born. He who says he is happy lies, and in invoking happiness, sins against it. He alone keeps faith who says: I was happy.

Intolerance of ambiguity is the mark of an authoritarian personality.

It is not the office of art to spotlight alternatives, but to resist by its form alone the course of the world, which permanently puts a pistol to men's heads.

It would be advisable to think of progress in the crudest, most basic terms: that no one should go hungry anymore, that there should be no more torture, no more Auschwitz. Only then will the idea of progress be free from lies.

Jazz is the false liquidation of art -- instead of utopia becoming reality it disappears from the picture.

Laughing in the cultural industry is mockery of happiness.

Love you will find only where you may show yourself weak without provoking strength.

Of the world as it exists, it is not possible to be enough afraid.

One must have tradition in oneself, to hate it properly.

Only thought which does violence to itself is hard enough to shatter myth.

People know what they want because they know what other people want.

Philosophy, which once seemed outmoded, remains alive because the moment of its realization was missed. The summary judgement that it had merely interpreted the world is itself crippled by resignation before reality, and becomes a defeatism of reason after the transformation of the world failed. It guarantees no place from which theory as such could be concretely convicted of the anachronism, which then as now it is suspected of. Perhaps the interpretation which promised the transition did not suffice. The moment on which the critique of theory depended is not to be prolonged theoretically. Praxis, delayed for the foreseeable future, is no longer the court of appeals against self-satisfied speculation, but for the most part the pretext under which executives strangulate that critical thought as idle which a transforming praxis most needs. After philosophy broke with the promise that it would be one with reality or at least struck just before the hour of its production, it has been compelled to ruthlessly criticize itself.

The darkening of the world makes the irrationality of art rational: radically darkened art.

The forms of art reflect the history of man more truthfully than do documents themselves.

The only philosophy that can be practiced responsibly in the face of despair is the attempt to contemplate all things as they would present themselves from the standpoint of redemption. Knowledge has no light but that shed on the world by redemption: all else is reconstruction, mere technique. Perspectives must be fashioned that displace and estrange the world, that reveal its fissures and crevices, as indigent and distorted as it will one day appear in the Messianic light.

The recent past always presents itself as if destroyed by catastrophes. The expression of history in things is no other than that of past torment.

The splinter in your eye is the best magnifying-glass available.

The sublime is only a step removed from the ridiculous.

The thought that murders the wish that fathered it will be overtaken by the revenge of stupidity

There are no more ideologies in the authentic sense of false consciousness, only advertisements for the world through its duplication and the provocative lie which does not seek belief but commands silence.

There is no right life in the wrong one.

They [the critics] deal with Schoenberg’s early works and all their wealth by classifying them, with the music-historical cliché, as late romantic post-Wagnerian. One might just as well dispose of Beethoven as a late-classicist post-Haydnerian.

Thought as such iis an act of negation, of resistance to that which is forced upon it; this is what thought has inherited from its archetype, the relation between labor and material. Today, when ideologues tend more than ever to encourage thought to be positive, they cleverly note that positivity runs precisely counter to thought, and that it takes friendly persuasion by social authority to accustom thought to positivity.

Thus is order ensured: some have to play the game because they cannot otherwise live, and those who could live otherwise are kept out because they do not want to play the game. It is as if the class from which independent intellectuals have defected takes its revenge, by pressing its demands home in the very domain where the deserter seeks refuge.

Triviality is evil -- triviality, that is, in the form of consciousness and mind that adapts itself to the world as it is, that obeys the principle of inertia. And this principle of inertia truly is what is radically evil.

True thoughts are those alone which do not understand themselves.

Very evil people cannot really be imagined dying.

What can oppose the decline of the west is not a resurrected culture but the utopia that is silently contained in the image of its decline.

Writing poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.



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