Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Phenomenology of Spirit, Preface, paragraph 71

Since I have placed that in which science exists in the self-movement of the concept, the consideration that the representations of our time as cited above together with other aspects not treated regarding the nature and shape of truth deviate from this and in fact are opposed to it, it would seem that an attempt to portray the system of knowledge in that determination does not bode well for a favorable admission. In the meantime, I may call to mind that while, e.g., the supreme merit of Plato’s philosophy has sometimes been held to consist in his scientifically worthless myths, there have also been times, which have even been spoken of as times of fanatical enthusiasm, when the Aristotelian philosophy has been esteemed for its speculative depth, and when the Parmenides of Plato – perhaps the greatest literary product of ancient dialectic – has been taken to be the true revelation and positive expression of the divine life; and even with the great obscurity of that which ecstasy generated, this misunderstood ecstasy in fact was held to be none other than the true concept. Furthermore, that which is superior in the philosophy of our time puts its value in scientific character; and that, when others take a different view, it is only through its scientific character that such is asserted. Thus, then, I may hope too that this attempt to vindicate the concept for science and to portray science in this, its peculiar element, will be able to make a way for itself by the inherent truth of the matter. We ought to be convinced that the true has the nature of forcing its way through when its time has come, and that it only appears when this has come, and for this reason it does not appear prematurely nor does it find an unprepared public; furthermore, that the individual thinker requires this effect in order to test himself against it and to experience as universal the conviction which at first only pertained to particularity. In this connection, however, it is very often necessary to distinguish the public from those who take upon themselves to be its representatives and spokesmen. The public takes up an attitude in many respects quite different from the latter, indeed, even opposed to them. Whereas the public good-naturedly rather takes the blame upon itself when a philosophical work does not appeal to it, these latter, on the contrary, secure in their authority [Kompetenz], put all the blame on the authors. The effect of the work on the public is more quiet than the activity of these dead when they bury their dead [a reference to Luke 9:60]. While the general insight at the present time is generally more cultivated, its curiosity more alert, and its judgment more swiftly pronounced, so that the feet of those who will carry you out are already at the door [a reference to Acts 5:9], at the same time there is often to be distinguished from this the more gradual effect which rectifies both the attention compelled by imposing assurances and the dismissive criticism; and, after a bit, for one part provides a contemporary audience, while for another, no posterity follows.

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