Friday, December 18, 2009

Goethe on Scepticism, etc.

It is only when a man knows little, that he knows anything at all. With knowledge grows doubt.

An active scepticism is one which constantly aims at overcoming itself, and arriving by means of regulated experience at a kind of conditioned certainty.

The general nature of the sceptical mind is its tendency to inquire whether any particular predicate really attaches to any particular object; and the purpose of the inquiry is safely to apply in practice what has thus been discovered and proved.

The thinker makes a great mistake when he asks after cause and effect: they both together make up the indivisible phenomenon.

Deep and earnest thinkers are in a difficult position with regard to the public.

Superstition is the poetry of life. And so it does not hurt the poet to be superstitious.

Mysticism is the scholastic of the heart, the dialectice of the feelings.

When a boy begins to understand that an invisible point must always come before a visible one, and that the shortest way between two points is a straight line, before he can draw it on his paper with a pencil, he experiences a certain pride and pleasure. And he is not wrong; for he has the source of all thought opened to him; idea and reality, potentia et actu, are become clear; the philosopher has no new discovery to bring him; as a mathematician, he has found the basis of all thought for himself.

Let us remember how great the ancients were; and especially how the Socratic school holds up to us the source and standard of all life and action, and bids us not indulge in empty speculation, but live and do.

If we set our gaze on antiquity and earnestly study it, in the desire to form ourselves thereon, we get the feeling as if it were only then that we really became men.

The Beautiful is a manifestation of secret laws of nature, which, without its presence, would never have been revealed.

With the growth of knowledge our ideas must from time to time be organized afresh. The change takes place usually in accordance with new maxims as they arise, but it always remains provisional.

We more readily confess to errors, mistakes, and shortcoming in our conduct than in our thoughts.

And the reason of it is that conscience is humble and even takes a pleasure in being ashamed. But the intellect is proud, and if forced to recant is driven to despair.

This also explains how it is that truths which have been recognised are at first tacitly admitted, and then gradually spread, so that the very thing which was obstinately denied appears at last as something quite natural.

Ignorant people raise questions which were answered by the wise thousands of years ago.

Our mistake is that we doubt what is certain and want to establish what is uncertain. My maxim in the study of Nature is this: hold fast what is certain and keep a watch on what is uncertain.

[From: The Maxims and Reflections of Goethe]

"And this is she who is so crucified"

He whose omniscience everything transcends
The heavens created, and gave who should guide them,
That every part to every part may shine,
Distributing the light in equal measure;
He in like manner to the mundane splendours
Ordained a general ministress and guide,
That she might change at times the empty treasures
From race to race, from one blood to another,
Beyond resistance of all human wisdom.
Therefore one people triumphs, and another
Languishes, in pursuance of her judgment,
Which hidden is, as in the grass a serpent.
Your knowledge has no counterstand against her;
She makes provision, judges, and pursues
Her governance, as theirs the other gods.
Her permutations have not any truce;
Necessity makes her precipitate,
So often cometh who his turn obtains.
And this is she who is so crucified
Even by those who ought to give her praise,
Giving her blame amiss, and bad repute.
But she is blissful, and she hears it not;
Among the other primal creatures gladsome
She turns her sphere, and blissful she rejoices.

[Dante, Inferno, from Canto VII, Longfellow translation]


Barack we're uninsured
And the uninsured stay uninsured
Barack don't make
us wish we'd nominated Her

We want universal coverage
And we don't care how
We want a public option
(or a medicare buy-in)