Be everything, try everything Jun 29, 2013 5:49:33 GMT -5
Post by Deleted on Jun 29, 2013 5:49:33 GMT -5
Professor Adler, Emeritus Professor of German and Senior Research Fellow at King's College London, has in the past published a highly esteemed Life of Kafka and a translation of Hölderlin's philosophical essays. But to-day he has written in with some worthwhile information for us about Jean Paul, the most popular German novelist of his day.
"One morning," wrote Paul, "as a very young child I stood in the front entrance of my school, when all at once an inner vision, 'I am I,' penetrated me like a flash of lightning from heaven, and has remained with me ever since. My Ego had seen itself for the first time and forever." Ever afterwards he devoted himself to writing. His farewell speech at school in 1780 was "On the benefits and harm of inventing new truths."
Jean Paul was avidly flirtatious, indulging in "simultaneous or tutti-love," not least with his aristocratic admirers. Like other writers of his day, he had a zest for theory. "Kant is not a light of the world, he is a whole shining solar system at once," he commented. This contrasts with my own view, which is that what Kant wrote is often merely obvious, and when not obvious wrong.
He devoted a satire - Clavis Fichtiana (1800) - to Fichte's philosophy (members will recall that "I = I" is one of Fichte's phrases), and when Schelling paid a call they waged a "four hour war." Hegel he called "a dialectical vampire of the inner man."
Professor Adler recommends Paul's Introduction to Aesthetics of 1804, especially its sections on humour and the novel, which influenced both Meredith and Freud. Do we though really need to be told what is humorous? But all in all the Professor has stimulated me to read some Paul something I have not hitherto done.
Have other members ever been penetrated by the inner vision "I am I"?
The Professor himself, I now see, has been admirably active in the field of Concrete Poetry, and boasts among his earlier productions The Electric Alphabet: Notes Towards a Dictionary of The Universe (1986). (www.kcl.ac.uk/artshums/ahri/eventrecords/MetamorphosesandLanguages.aspx)
"Knowledge," he wrote at that time, "is a blank sheet of paper covered with illegible handwriting for the amusement of successive generations. Its characters are essentially inane, but when the code has been cracked, the facts may become true, or even boring. A passive observer bombards an encyclopædia with sub-atomic particles, visible in the mind as a cloudy bubble-chamber with a series of parabolic traces which represent what might, perhaps, under particular and unrepeatable circumstances, once have possibly been the case. This we call certainty. Cynics have therefore been known to assert that true knowledge is identical with irony, which is the act of metaphysical murder produced by a mind subtracted from God. Generally speaking, however, knowledge is considered a reasonable harmless form of incompetence." Would ironically inclined members take him up on that if they happen to bump into him in the Strand? Are bubble-chambers still in vogue?