15 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Bruce P. Barten
- Published on Amazon.com
Early in the Introduction, Margaret Mahony Stoljar proclaims, "In his original, unprejudiced, and undogmatic questioning of any issue that interests him, Novalis displays to a remarkable degree the kind of innovative thought that will characterize the Romantic movement throughout Europe. Being a practicing scientist and creative writer as well as possessing a comprehensive approach to theoretical inquiry that in his time was what was meant by `philosophical,' Novalis engages with a wider spectrum of questions than do most of his contemporaries. But it is his readiness to subject any philosophical concept to radical interrogation that marks his published and unpublished work as of enduring interest. For contemporary readers accustomed to the critique of the categories of reason that has followed in the wake of Nietzsche, Novalis's writings can seem uncannily pertinent. They address issues that in recent years have continued to expand the parameter of our thinking on truth and objectivity, language and mind, symbol and representation, reason and the imagination. In form and style too, Novalis's manuscripts demonstrate the associative fluidity of thought characteristic of Nietzsche." (pp. 1-2). There are no entires in the index for Nietzsche and Derrida. In this translation, Novalis sees philosophy as a progression from passive thinking to magical idealism, at least in number 33 of the Teplitz Fragments:
"An empiricist is: one whose way of thinking is an effect of the external world and of fate--the passive thinker--to whom his philosophy is given. Voltaire is a pure empiricist and so are several French philosophers--Ligne tends imperceptibly to the transcendent empiricists. These make the transition to the dogmatists. From there the way leads to the enthusiasts--or the transcendent dogmatists--then to Kant--then to Fichte--and finally to magical idealism." (p. 107).
There is not much of a story in what happened to Novalis because he died young, in March 1801, while Kant (1724-1804) was still alive. By the time Novalis published POLLEN in the winter of 1797-1798, Kant had accepted a ban on publicly speaking or writing about religion, but he was about to declare that he did not consider the ban binding after the death of King Frederick William II in 1797. Novalis's first fiancee, Sophie, died in March 1797 at the age of fifteen. "King Frederick William III and Queen Luise of Prussia ascended the throne at the end of 1797." (p. 16). Papers were eager to publish anything that would make this look like a great event, and soon thereafter "Novalis had already achieved a degree of notoriety as a political thinker with his second published collection of fragments, FAITH AND LOVE OR THE KING AND QUEEN, which appeared in July 1798 in the Berlin journal `Yearbooks of the Prussian Monarchy.'" (p. 16).
Frankly, the attitude I find most clearly in FAITH AND LOVE OR THE KING AND QUEEN reminds me of the works of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772), who had a doctrine of correspondences that arose from a spirit similar to a selection on the first page of this work by Novalis:
"4. One finds what one loves everywhere, and sees similarities everywhere. The greater the love the more extensive and manifold is this similar world. My beloved is the abbreviation of the universe, the universe is the extension of my beloved. To the lover of learning, all its branches offer garlands and remembrances for his beloved." (p. 85).
Finding ourselves in a modern world, in which shock and awe have become the standard tactic for dealing with anyone who has claimed kingly powers for too long, and a people who have always been promised perfect innocence are often driven to wipe the slate clean after observing the monster which has been created since the preceding last act, thinking about royal situations, we are apt to remember the incineration of Nagasaki, near the end of World War Two, as a gift to the emperor of Japan, which would allow him to openly advocate unconditional surrender without any loss of face, because atomic bombs represented a power superior to anything that a mere royal highness might possess. Most readers might leave such thoughts unthunk, but this book is a blend of political thinking with poetic power that stumbles mainly because it can no longer be our book. Death is in the index, and mentioned early in this book's first selections, MISCELLANEOUS OBSERVATIONS:
"11. Death is a victory over the self--which, like all self-conquest, brings about a new, easier existence." (p. 24).
This might not be true for people who try to talk about it.