Thursday 13 August 2009

The proper study of mankind...

Several commitments met, worries resolved: now free, am able to resume a routine - writing in the mornings. Timer set to eight minutes. Started the day with 20 min free writing, superficial stuff.

Finished Goethe's Elective Affinities (first published 1809). An outcome: the discovery that Ottilie (portrayed as young, innocent and deeply wise) writes in her diary that 'The proper study of mankind is man'.
I was surprised to find the sentence here as a part of the text, not as a quote. Did it originate from Goethe? But - No. A search (among English-language sources, natuerlich) revealed the source as Alexander Pope (born 1688). (P thought Shakespeare.)

Phaedrus, an animator of the Quotation website, provides the following source: Pierre Charron, French philosopher, (born 1541) in his treatise Sur la Sagesse (1604). Charron says that reason is paramount, and juxtaposes it nevertheless reverently to faith.

Similarity to the writings of Galileo (born 1564) : watched a TV doco about him last night, where his great Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632) is described: the dialogue is between a wise man and a fool. Unwisely, Galileo gave the fool the opinions of his friend Pope Urbino.

The Catholic Church banned the book - for 200 years, until resurrected by John Paul II (pun unintended) .

It seems that the quote will be attributed to Goethe in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, to Alexander Pope in the English-speaking world, and to Charron among the French.

In the 17th century as today, some intellectual people thought their way out of organised religion. Charron sees no connection between morality and religion.

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