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Sunday, September 12, 2010

what has the cold sublimity of philosophical knowledge, to do with poetry?

“Well and good!” someone interrupted me; “I understand this, but I do not see how this poetic and religious people also comes to be a philosophical people.”

“The fact is,” I answered, “that without poetry they would never have been a philosophical people!”

“What has philosophy,” he answered, “what has the cold sublimity of philosophical knowledge, to do with poetry?”

“Poetry,” I answered, confident of my argument, “is the beginning and the end of philosophical knowledge. Like Minerva from the head of Jupiter, philosophy springs from the poetry of an eternal, divine state of being. And so in philosophy too, the irreconcilable finally converges again in the mysterious spring of poetry.”

“What a man of paradoxes!” cried Diotima; “yet I divine him. But you two digress. We are talking of Athens.”

“The man,” I resumed, “who has not at least once in his life felt full, pure beauty in himself, when the powers of his being merged like the colors in the rainbow, who has never felt the profound harmony that arises among all things only in hours of exaltation--that man will not even be a philosophical skeptic, his mind is not even capable of tearing down, let alone building up. For, believe me, the sceptic finds contradiction and imperfection in all that is thought, because he knows the harmony of perfect beauty, which is never thought. The dry bread that human reason well-meaningly offers him, he disdains only because he is secretly feasting at the table of the gods.”

“I am close upon them,” I said, “The great saying, the [greek phrase] (the one differentiated in itself) of Heraclitus, could be found only by a Greek, for it is the very being of Beauty, and before that was found there was no philosophy.

“Now classification became possible, for the whole was there. The flower had ripened; now it could be dissected.

“The moment of beauty was now well known to men, it was there in life and thought, the infinitely one existed.

“It could be analyzed, taken apart in men’s minds, it could be reconstituted from its components, and so the being of the highest and the best could be increasingly known, and the knowledge of it be set up as the law in all the multifarious realms of the spirit."

from Hölderlin's Hyperion (p. 92,93)

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