History Crumbling in Theory
posted by July 11 at 11:16 AMon
From a letter Goethe wrote to Lavater:
Like a big city, our moral and political world is undermined with subterranean roads, cellars, and sewers, about whose connection and dwelling conditions nobody seems to reflect or think; but those who know something of this will find it much more understandable if here or there, now or then, the earth crumbles away, smoke rises out of a crack, and strange voices are heard.
In this passage we see the seed of what the 20th century will recognize as Walter Benjamin’s way of thinking and style of writing. This is it completely.
The last paragraph of Oparin’s Origin of Life:
What we do not know today we shall know tomorrow. A whole army of biologists is studying the structure and organization of living matter, while a no less number of physicists and chemists are daily reveling to us new properties of dead things. Like two parties of workers boring from the opposite ends of a tunnel, they are working towards the same goal. The work has already gone a long way and very, very soon the last barriers between the living and the dead will crumble under the attack of patient work and powerful scientific thought.
When discussing the best literature produced in Russia’s Silver Age (from Leonid Andreyev’s peak to Isaac Babel’s disappearance), we must not exclude Oparin’s short scientific study of the possible origin of life. It’s impossible to separate the spirit and beauty of this text from, say, Bely’s Kotik Letaev .
From Lectures on the History of Philosophy:
Spirit often seems to have forgotten and lost itself, but inwardly opposed to itself, it is inwardly working ever forward (as when Hamlet says of the ghost of his father, “Well said, old mole! canst work i’ the ground so fast?”) until grown strong in itself it bursts asunder the crust of earth which divided it from the sun, its Notion, so that the earth crumbles away. At such a time, when the encircling crust, like a soulless decaying tenement, crumbles away, and spirit displays itself arrayed in new youth, the seven league boots are at length adopted. This work of the spirit to know itself, this activity to find itself, is the life of the spirit and the spirit itself.
Hegel’s “Final Result” is something that must be read at least once week. Writing rarely gets better (or muscular) than the conclusion to his lecture on the history of philosophy. It reads like an owl flying above the massive sprawl of a civilization in its magic hour, the hour of dusk.