Adorno – “Minima Moralia 1.4: Final Clarity” (1944)

*The following is reposted from

Final clarity. – The newspaper obituary for a businessman once read: “The breadth of his conscience competed with the goodness of his heart.” The lapse committed by the mourners in the rarefied, elevated language called for at such times, the involuntary admission that the kind-hearted deceased was devoid of a conscience, expedites the funeral procession on the shortest path to the land of truth. When a man of advanced age becomes famous for being especially benign [abgeklärt: clarified, mellowed], one can presume that his life represented a series of scandals. He has gotten used to outrage. The broad conscience passes itself off as greatness of mind [Weitherzigkeit], which forgives everything, because it understands it all too well. A quid pro quo steps between one’s own guilt and that of others, which is resolved in favor of whoever got the best of the deal. After such a long life, one just can’t distinguish who did what to whom. In the abstract representation of universal injustice, every concrete responsibility collapses. The scoundrel twists it around, as if he experienced it himself: if you only knew, young man, what life is really like. Those however who are already distinguished in the middle of life by special benevolence, are usually drawing an advance on such benignity [Abgeklärtheit]. Whoever is not evil, does not live benignly [abgeklärt], but in a peculiarly bashful manner, hardened and intolerant. Due to a lack of appropriate objects, the latter hardly knows any other expression of their love than the hatred of inappropriate ones, through which they admittedly come to resemble what they hate. The bourgeoisie however is tolerant. Their love for people, as they are, originates in the hatred of rightful human beings.

Jeremiah Morelock

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