Friedrich Pecht on Richard Wagner

One day when I called upon him I found him burning with passion for Hegel's Phenomenology, which he was just studying, and which, he told me with typical extravagance, was the best book ever published. To prove it he read me a passage which had particularly impressed him. Since I did not entirely follow it, I asked him to read it again, upon which neither of us could understand it. He read it a third time and a fourth, until at the end we both looked at one another and burst out laughing. And that was the end of phenomenology.

(From Bryan Magee's Wagner and Philosophy)



I'm in some ways very much against Kant, because I don't think rationality is such a great thing, so to speak. Or let me put it this way: imagine somebody seriously remorseful; there could be hardly a more sober moment in the moral life when someone is lucid, then seriously remorseful, and you imagine that person saying, 'My God, what have I done?' when there's a kind of realisation of the awfulness of what one has done. And then I've felt that if you put into the mouth of that person as an elaboration, what so many official accounts say, it comes out as parody, 'My God, what have I done? I've been a traitor to reason', you know, or 'My God, I've violated the social contract; negotiated behind a veil of ignorance' and so on. It might sound like a cheap shot but I think it's a very serious question as to why, at such a sober moment as in the moral life, the official accounts of what it is to have wronged somebody seem like caricatures.

Raimond Gaita, on The Philosophers Zone.



This was a very grand form of sour grapes. If you cannot obtain from the world that which you really desire, you must teach yourself not to want it. If you cannot get what you want, you must teach yourself to want what you can get. This is a very frequent form of spiritual retreat in depth, into a kind of inner citadel, in which you try to lock yourself up against all the fearful ills of the world. The king of my province - the prince - confiscates my land: I do not want to own land. The prince does not wish to give me rank: rank is trivial, unimportant. The king has robbed me of my possessions: possessions are nothing. My children have died of malnutrition and disease: earthly attachments, even love of children, are as nothing before love of God. And so forth. You gradually hedge yourself round with a kind of tight wall by which you seek to reduce your vulnerable surface - you want to be as little wounded as possible. Every kind of wound has been heaped upon you, and therefore you wish to contract yourself into the smallest possible area, so that as little of you as possible is exposed to further wounds.

Isaiah Berlin, The Roots of Romanticism, "The First Attack on Enlightenment". And from later on in that chapter, a description of Johann Georg Hamann's rejection of dualism, which is startlingly modern. In context it is perhaps not quite so modern - it's part of Hamann's rejection of rationalism - although again, there are startling parallels a couple of paragraphs later between Hamann's view of language as defining the world, and Wittgenstein. Difficult to know how much of this is Hamann and how much is Berlin, though.

The idea that there are a soul and a body which can be dissected, that there are spirit and flesh which are different, that the body is one thing, but there is something inside the man, a kind of ghost palpitating inside this machine, which is quite different from what the man is in his totality, in his unity, is a typical dissecting French view.