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Goethe – Seeking harmony with the self

August 1, 2014

“The Stoic, the Platonist, the Epicurean, each must come to terms with the world in his own fashion; indeed, precisely that is the task of life from which no one is exempted, to whatever school he may belong. The philosophers, for their part, can offer us nothing but patterns of life. The strict moderation of Kant, for example, required a philosophy in accordance with his innate inclinations. Read his biography and you will soon discover how neatly he blunted the edge of his stoicism, which in fact constituted a striking obstacle to social relationships, adjusted it and brought it into balance with the world. Each individual, by virtue of his inclinations, has a right to principles which do not destroy his individuality. Probably the origin of all philosophy is to be sought for here or nowhere. Every system succeeds in coming to terms with the world in that moment when its true champion appears. Only the acquired part of human nature ordinarily founders on a contradiction; what is inborn in it finds its way anywhere and not infrequently even overcomes its contrary with the greatest success. We must first be in harmony with ourselves, and then we are in a position, if not to eliminate, at least in some way to counterbalance the discords pressing in on us from outside.”

(conversation with J. D Falk; from Goethes Gespräche, ed. F. frhr. V. Biedermann, Leipzig, 1909-11, vol. 4, p. 468; translation by Ernst Cassirer)

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