Frames /sing


Dinner with Hegel…

The Unclear Dinner Guest

I ran into this wonderful vignette – perhaps it is famous – when looking into historical examples of philosophical takes on maternity, the relationship of the mother to the fetus. (I would like to write on the notion of dark vitalism soon).

After the meal had ended and the guest departed, Goethe asked his daughter: “Now how did you like that man?” “Strange,” she replied, “I cannot tell whether he is brilliant or mad. He seems to me to be an unclear thinker.” Goethe smiled ironically. “Well, well, we just ate with the most famous of modern philosophers – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel.”

– Ottilie von Goethe

Aside from the possibility that there is some kind of Absolute perspicuity on the part of the young, female von Goethe [daughter-in-law?], there is also the sense that philosophers, like poets, make up their categories in order to deliver a kind of unclarity, an unclarity that transforms, but that we must muck through to get at really what they are doing.

3 responses to “Dinner with Hegel…

  1. Scu June 11, 2009 at 6:30 pm

    Wonderful story.

    I am really interested in what you mean by this term, “Dark vitalism”?

  2. greg June 12, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    Without assuming I know what “dark vitalism” means in general (ie, for others), I think I am familiar with the idea in the context of one reading of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. My professor, herself a young mother which made this more intense, advanced a reading of Frankenstein as the response of an uninformed and fearful mother to the alien life within her. You can piece together the specifics; basically it creeps you out.

  3. kvond June 13, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Sorry I haven’t responded to the question of dark vitalism as I was working on a long post spun from some of the related thoughts.

    This was the initial inspiration over at Naught Thought:

    But also here is another thread of related ideas:

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