28 November 2005

Monday Quote Frenzy

Which is authentic? The philosophy rooted in the true self? Or the self aligned towards true philosophy?

Taking the point is Goethe, quoted by Ernst Cassirer in the introduction to Kant’s Life and Thought:
The Stoic, the Platonist, the Epicurean, each must come to terms with the world in his own fashion; indeed, precisely that is the task of life from which no one is exempted, to whatever school he may belong. The philosophers, for their part, can offer us nothing but patterns of life. The strict moderation of Kant, for example, required a philosophy in accordance with his innate inclinations. Read his biography and you will soon discover how neatly he blunted the edge of his stoicism, which in fact constituted a striking obstacle to social relationships, adjusted it and brought it into balance with the world. Each individual, by virtue of his inclinations, has a right to principles which do not destroy his individuality. Probably the origin of all philosophy is to be sought for here or nowhere. Every system succeeds in coming to terms with the world in that moment when its true champion appears. Only the acquired part of human nature ordinarily founders on a contradiction; what is inborn in it finds its way anywhere and not infrequently even overcomes its contrary with the greatest success. We must first be in harmony with ourselves, and then we are in a position, if not to eliminate, at least in some way to counterbalance the discords pressing in on us from outside.
(conversation with J. D Falk, originally from Goethes Gespräche, ed. F. frhr. V. Biedermann, Leipzig, 1909-11, vol. 4, p. 468)

Taking the counterpoint is Cassirer himself:
He [Kant] molded his whole life with the strength and purity of an indomitable will and infused it with a single ruling idea; but this will, which in the formation of his philosophy proved itself to be a maximally positive and creative element, affects his personal life with a restrictive and negative cast. All the stirrings of subjective feeling and subjective emotion comprise for him only the material which he strives with ever-growing determination to subject to the authority of “reason” and of the objective dictates of duty.

If Kant’s life lost something of its richness and harmony in this struggle, on the other hand it was through this alone that it gained its genuinely heroic nature.


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