Sunday, February 5, 2012

Number Fifty-Six

Es gibt Fragen, über die wir nicht hinwegkommen könnten, wenn wir nicht von Natur aus von ihnen befreit wären.

There are questions we could not get past if we were not set free from them by our very nature. [Kaiser/Wilkins]

There are questions we could never get past, were it not that we are freed of them by nature. [Hofmann]


Hinwegkommen can mean to get over, as in getting over a disappointment; Natur can mean character or disposition.

Questions stop us from going on, but it is possible to get past a question You can be freed of it by your nature -- so what does that mean? It might refer to the way that some questions or problems are resolved more by time than by thinking or by making decisions; it might mean that your power to be affected by a certain question might change. It might mean that your nature answers for you. But while these common sense ideas are there in the thought-background, they don't seem to me to get the point.

How does the question stop me? A missing clue or link in a chain of speculative reasoning is one sort of barrier to further progress, but then there are questions you can't answer, such as the question of marriage. Kierkegaard wrote: get married, and you will regret it; stay single, and you will regret it; get married or stay single, you will regret it either way. So is marriage the problem or is it regretting? Assuming regret has a point at all, it must be to warn you away from a something that will lead to bad consequences; here, bordering on nonsense, you have only a hairsplitting choice between two kinds of regret.

While such questions may stop you, you don't need to come up with an answer to keep moving again; and moving on is not necessarily just quitting, giving up on the question. This means that resolving the question is not necessary for getting past it or over it; you can go on without resolving it. In that case, going on doesn't mean leaving the question behind, but going on with it somehow. The man from the country is stopped by the open door of the law, which is closed only when he dies.

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