Thursday, December 16, 2010


In his novel Lotte in Weimar, Thomas Mann lets Goethe make a remarkable statement: "People forget that you must first be a great man before you can be a great poet." I think Mann/Goethe is absolutely right, and not only with respect to poets. You cannot be great in anything without being a great human being. We should revise our education system from this perspective.


  1. I agree with you because I trust my own instinct (which says you are right). But I have no striking argument which really could prove! And I remember that Konrad Lorenz admired Goethe very much for his work, but was very reluctant to praise his character.

    Shall I mistrust my instinct?

    Maybe I should mistrust it, Maybe we are just sentimental and sentimentally simple minded. Just some days ago I had to think back again to the thesis of Michel Foucault you refere to in "Highroad to the Stake", because of all the people who do not want Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani to be lapidated...

    Are we really sure that Foucault's theses is right? One always will find leads which confirm thesis of that kind. But maybe Foucault was only a "Bastian Contrario" (= someone who contradicts another just for the sake of doing so), who would have changed radically his mind, if he was still living today. As Levy-Strauss changed dramatically and radically - within only two years! - his mind when Rushdy had been condemned by Khomeini.

    It is a good choice to be sceptical in front of rationality, but to be sceptical in front of the immediateness of feelings (which we are tempted to idealize, as Rousseau did) is even better.

    They both depend on the same superordinate matter, and this has to do with our sense of measure and the right proportions.

  2. “You cannot be great in anything without being a great human being. We should revise our education system from this perspective.“

    And what is the beginning of becoming a great young boy or girl? You must feel yourself great. Isn´t this another reason for the high value of playing theatre in school?

  3. Oh yes cs, I agree. And I do not want to mistrust my instinct (it didn't betray me often). Megalomaniac minds anyway can arise from excessive frustration as from excessive satisfaction.