Sunday, July 09, 2006

Poetry, Sacred Art, Holderlin, And A 'Clearing For Being' Where Philosophical Concepts And Thinking Cannot Go

..."Because of his small philosophical output, it is important to indicate in what way Hölderlin’s ideas have influenced his contemporaries and later thinkers. It was Hölderlin whose ideas showed Hegel that he could not continue to work on the applications of philosophy to politics without first addressing certain theoretical issues. In 1801, this led Hegel to move to Jena where he was to write the Phenomenology of Spirit. It could be argued, however, that Hegel’s (1977) view of poetry as belonging to the past and his dismissal of the Romantic movement, show a lack of a grasp of the kind of point Hölderlin was making.

Schelling’s early work amounts to a development of Hölderlin’s concept of Being in terms of a notion of a prior identity of thought and object in his Philosophy of Identity (Schelling, 1994). This philosophy apparently makes knowledge of the Absolute (i.e. the absolute ground) impossible, and Schelling wrestles with the possibility of articulating how the Absolute amounts to knowledge of itself in Hegelian fashion. However, his later philosophy clearly distinguishes itself from Hegel’s in that it claims that the ground of the understanding contained in a philosophical system such as Hegel’s is “what is above all understanding” and can, therefore, “never become comprehensible” (ibid., p.162). This endorsement of a claim related to Hölderlin’s about the unknowability of the ultimate ground of conceptual discourse draws to a close the efforts of German Idealism to grasp the whole of reality in conceptual terms. Finally, we must note that Heidegger saw in Hölderlin a prophetic figure, but it was Hölderlin the poet, not the philosopher, whom Heidegger had in mind. In Being and Time, Heidegger first introduces his key idea of the forgetting of the question of Being. His later thought develops this idea which leads to the thought that poetry announces a new clearing of Being. This echoes Hölderlin’s privileging of poetry with respect to conceptual thought. For Heidegger, poetry cannot name the unnameable, but it can keep open the space for it (Heidegger, 1996, 2000). However, Heidegger understands Hölderlin as showing the way to a future clearing of Being. We note that Heidegger’s interpretation is controversial and has been criticised, in particular by Henrich (1992, 1997), for whom Hölderlin is a “recollective” poet. For Henrich, Hölderlin’s work is turned to the past, and to our longings, both for a sense of original unity and for the freedom of the self. ...

Hölderlin’s philosophically relevant output, although very small, is central to a proper understanding of the development of German Idealism from its source in the task of providing a ground for Kant’s critical system to its later attempts to give an all-encompassing philosophical account of reality. Hölderlin’s insights in his theoretical text On Judgment and Being can be seen as relevant to this development. The consequent privileging of poetry over philosophy, of which Hölderlin’s career provides a striking illustration, resonates into the twentieth century in Heidegger’s later thought, but central to Hölderlin’s philosophical contribution is also the practical correlate of his theoretical thought: his novel Hyperion provides a profound insight into his understanding of life’s “eccentric path” as a struggle between the harmony of a lost, original unity and the drive of human beings’ free spirit always to seek the overcoming of any given limits.

Further Reading:

Adorno, T.W. (1992) Parataxis: On Hölderlin’s late poetry, in Adorno, Notes to Literature Vol. 2, transl. S.W. Nicholsen, Columbia University Press, New York, pp. 109-149.

Ameriks, K. (ed.) (2000) The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Constantine, D. (1988) Hölderlin, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Donelan, J.H. (2002) Hölderlin’s poetic self-consciousness, Philosophy and Literature, 26, 125-142.

Fichte, J.G. (1994) Introductions to the Wissenschaftslehre and Other Writings (1797-1800), ed. and transl. D. Breazeale, Hackett, Indianapolis/Cambridge.

Förster, E. (1995) ‘To lend wings to physics once again’: Hölderlin and the ‘Oldest System Program of German Idealism’, European Journal of Philosophy, 3(2), 174-198.

di Giovanni, G. and Harris, H.S., editors, (2000) From Kant to Hegel: Texts in the Development of Post-Kantian Idealism, Hackett, Indianapolis Hegel, G.W.F. (1977) Phenomenology of Spirit, transl. A.V.Miller, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Heidegger, M. (2000) Elucidations of Hölderlin’s poetry, transl. K.Hoeller, Humanity Books, New York.

Heidegger, M. (1996) Holderlin's Hymn "the Ister", Indiana University Press, Indianapolis.

Henrich, D. (1992) Der Grund im Bewuβtsein: Untersuchungen zu Hölderlin’s Denken, 1794-1795, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart.

Henrich, D. (1997) The Course of Remembrance and Other Essays on Hölderlin, ed. E. Förster, Stanford University Press, Stanford.

Hölderlin, F. (1972) Über Urtheil und Seyn (On Judgment and Being), in H.S. Harris: ‘Hegel’s Development: Toward the Sunlight 1770-1801’, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Hölderlin, F. (1990) Hyperion and selected poems, ed. Eric L. Santner, Continuum, New York.

Hölderlin, F. (1999) Sämtliche Gedichte und Hyperion, Insel Verlag, Frankfurt-am-Main.

Ryan, L. (1960) Hölderlin’s Lehre vom Wechsel der Töne, Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart.

Schelling, F.W.J. (1994) On the History of Modern Philosophy, transl. A. Bowie, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Schiller, F. (1982) On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a series of letters, ed. & transl. E.M.Wilkinson & L.A. Willoughby, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Waibel, V. (2000) Hölderlin und Fichte: 1794-1800, Paderborn.

Source: (c) Christian J. Onof Birkbeck College University of London
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Valhalla on the Donau River, Germania [date of archival photo unknown]. The Donau River flows from the Black Forest in present day Germany to near the site of early 6th Century BCE Miletian Greek Colonies on the Western Coast of the Beran [Black] Sea, near the border of present day Romania and Ukraine.

The Valhalla near Donaustauf, Germany, pictured above, was built in 1830 - 1841 by King Ludwig I as a memorial to the genius of illustrious Germans, but the memorial has never become the national monument it was intended to be. Richard Wagner was about 28 years old when King Ludwig I's Valhalla was completed.

Photo credit: Don's Maps: Resources for the study of the Palaeolithic and maps of the journeys in the Earth Children series of books by Jean Auel [The Clan of the Cave Bear; The Valley of Horses; The Mammoth Hunters; The Plains of Passage; and The Shelters of Stone]. With thanks.


Don Hitchcock's Map of Ukraine from the book 'The Mammoth Hunters' by Jean Auel. The mouth of Europe's Donau River is on the left of this map for children, and is titled "The Mother". Chernobyl [Chornobyl], the site of the world's worst nuclear power plant meltdown, in the early Spring of 1986, is shown at the top of the map, under the text.


Blogger Ben Gage said...

the "end to the Disenlightenment"! I like that very much...

3:56 AM  
Blogger Garth Trinkl said...

Thanks Ben.

Your new site looks fascinating. Good luck!

(Others have liked the phrase, too.)

5:44 AM  

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