Adorno stated:

Every visit to the cinema, despite the utmost watchfulness, leaves me dumber and worse than before.

Minima Moralia 5

  • Did he hate them philosophically, like Husserl hated German idealism, or just plain hated them?
    – Conifold
    Sep 2 '15 at 20:27
  • i don't know - he doesn't strike me as the sort of hate something and not work out why
    – user6917
    Sep 2 '15 at 20:28
  • worth thinking about how important adorno is IMHO. perhaps impossible to claim anything, but he is IMVHO the only worthwhile post-marxist
    – user6917
    Sep 2 '15 at 20:59
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    I am wondering if his hate was related to his philosophical positions, and in what way exactly. Also might be helpful to sketch what the relevant ones are.
    – Conifold
    Sep 2 '15 at 23:06
  • It's an interesting question - and I like it; but it isn't philosophical unless it's tied to his philosophy - but perhaps that's what a good answer would address. Sep 2 '15 at 23:13

Based on context, it seems that Adorno felt that "visits to the cinema" where a species of "idle chatter" (to use a Hedeiggerian expression). And thus he felt that they dumbed people down because they involved the use of language in a way that did not accomplish any sort of meaning discourse.

From the same Minima, he includes several other examples:

  1. In the title, *Doctor that is kind of you
  2. In chit-chat on the train
  3. In the remark "How Beautiful"

The overarching theme is the loss of horror, i.e., criticality towards the world. The cinema is dumbing experience for him, because even if the dialogue were appropriate given actual critical agents having a conversation, its display is no longer critical but rather encourages a sort of bourgeois complacency.

  • thanks for the answer, it's great if a little sparse. i chose Mozibur's for that reason
    – user6917
    Sep 3 '15 at 16:55
  • do you suppose that the issue is (partially) that we can (currently) "live" in or according to the movies?
    – user6917
    Sep 14 '15 at 18:07
  • there's likely a nifty aphorism about when (Esp repeated) stuff doesn't get old but we don't accrue any insight into it either youtube.com/watch?v=wz6YMrJt7xk
    – user6917
    Feb 1 '17 at 20:17

In The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception

They [sound films] are so designed that quickness, powers of observation, and experience are undeniably needed to apprehend them at all; yet sustained thought is out of the question if the spectator is not to miss the relentless rush of facts.

Even though the effort required for his response is semi-automatic, no scope is left for the imagination. Those who are so absorbed by the world of the movie – by its images, gestures, and words – that they are unable to supply what really makes it a world, do not have to dwell on particular points of its mechanics during a screening.

It seems he's saying that a movie goer understands a movie if they apprehend all the details and facts that make it up: and that there is no nuance to its structure:

no room for imagination or reflection on the part of the audience, who is unable to respond within the structure of the film, yet deviate from its precise detail without losing the thread of the story; hence the film forces its victims to equate it directly with reality.

Which is because a film

is intent upon reproducing the world of everyday perceptions

But why think that its supposed ability to reproduce life, defines all films? I suppose that's because of the nature of autonomy in capitalism - that it is a historical quality of art.

i.e. how can cinema be art if it was not already a potential in it.


The whole passage appears to be a meditation on certain aspects of 'sociability'; one might say the banality of sociability to paraphrase Arendts famous usage of the term; and given Adornos take on it - the 'evil principle' that had always 'lurked on affability' develops.

The passage begins:

Doctor, that is kind of you; nothing is harmless anymore

Simple civilities, which express an attitude of courtesy, and are 'harmless'; are in fact more, 'are the small joys, the expressions of life' and are thus 'exempt from the responsibility of thought'

Even the tree which blooms, lies

This image seems startingly similar to that which opens TS Eliot's Wasteland:

April is the cruellest of months

Adorno goes on to say:

There is no longer any beauty or consolation, except in the gaze that goes straight to the horror, withstands it, and in the undiminished consciousness of negativity, holds fast to the possibility of that which is better.

And malignity which was once

limited to toasts of cozy sociability ... has long since spread to friendlier impulses.

To which he gives two examples:

A chance conversation with a man on a train, one acquiesces to avoid a quarrel


Every visit to the cinema ... Leaves me dumber than before

Presumably one goes to the cinema in company; and afterwards one might discuss it.

All this he ties to a certain notion of sociability, the 'chatter' of @Virmaiors answer; for he adds:

Sociability itself is a participant in injustice, insofar it pretends we can still speak to each other in a frozen world.

ie nothing is really said, and thus the world is 'frozen'; and the 'flippant, chummy word contributes to the perpetuation of silence' in this image of affable sociability.

  • that's an interesting answer thanks... " In spite of the films which are intended to complete her integration, the housewife finds in the darkness of the movie theatre a place of refuge where she can sit for a few hours with nobody watching, just as she used to look out of the window when there were still homes and rest in the evening. The unemployed in the great cities find coolness in summer and warmth in winter in these temperature-controlled locations. Otherwise, despite its size, this bloated pleasure apparatus adds no dignity to man’s lives. "
    – user6917
    Sep 3 '15 at 16:05
  • 1
    You're welcome: A lot more could be spun out of this; there's a Nietzschian aspect: 'by adapting to the weaknesses of the oppressed...';as well as Hegels master-slave trope:'...one confirms in such weaknesses the prerequisite of domination and one develops in oneself a measure of barbarity'; Weil would have called this part of the mechanics of human relationships. Sep 3 '15 at 16:13
  • 1
    i know as much that adorno was critical of heidegger in the jargon of authenticity. i was referring to nietzsche above actually, in my flippant comment about post-marxists. i haven't read much of his work tbh, but there is a sense that as much as we are after marx, we are also after adorno... that he delimits the terms of philosophy. i dunno eh
    – user6917
    Sep 3 '15 at 16:18
  • I've not read much of all three of them - either; I just assumed that quote in the comment was from A. Sep 3 '15 at 16:25

As the quote from the post shows, Adorno does not say that he hates the cinema, but he criticizes it. Just before the quoted passage he says

no thought is immune against its communication, and uttering it at the wrong place and in the context of a false agreement is enough to undercut its truth.

For me the whole passage from Minima Moralia sounds a bit complaining. As if Adorno were not able to separate a thought from the context in which it is uttered. Being overwhelmed by the context makes it impossible for him to receive the pristine thought.

  • i can't understand your answer, can you edit it to explain why adorno does not dislike cinema ? i certainly feel that he disliked mass culture, and felt that all movies were a part of the culture industry
    – user6917
    Sep 3 '15 at 15:42
  • were you replying to virmaior ?
    – user6917
    Sep 3 '15 at 16:04
  • @MATHEMATICIAN Please note that Adorno does not use the word to hate - I set it in italics now in my answer. Of course he criticizes the movies. - No, my answer does not refer to virmaior.
    – Jo Wehler
    Sep 3 '15 at 16:38
  • hey i'm just saying that i can't make sense of it if you claim he doesn't hate the movies, like you seem to say ?
    – user6917
    Sep 3 '15 at 16:50
  • @MATHEMATICIAN You are misunderstanding my answer and my comment.
    – Jo Wehler
    Sep 3 '15 at 16:52

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