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Tag Archives: Ottilie von Goethe

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.

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