Re: "Ideas have a life of their own" (Origin of Quote?)

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Wed 03 Mar 2004 - 15:10:42 GMT

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    At 05:06 PM 03/03/04 +1100, you wrote:
    >Take a look at Kierkegaard's _The Concept of Irony_, which I believe has a
    >comment about ideas having a history, a birth, death and life.

    Hmm. "Life" occurs only 4 times in the essay and none of them are associated with "idea" or "ideas." "Idea" occurs 4 times in this paragraph. I have added white space in an attempt to make it readable. The connection to the quote origin is foggy. Part of that may be because this essay was translated out of Danish. If anyone wants to comment, be my guest.

    Keith Henson

      The World-Historical Validity of Irony, the Irony of Socrates

    If we turn back to the foregoing general description of irony as infinite absolute negativity, it is adequately suggested therein that irony is no longer directed against this or that particular phenomenon, against a particular existing thing, but that the whole of existence has become alien to the ironic subject and the ironic subject in turn alien to existence, that as actuality has lost its validity for the ironic subject, he himself has to a certain degree become unactual.

    The word “actuality,” however, must here primarily be understood as historical actuality—that is, the given actuality at a certain time and in a certain situation. This word can be understood metaphysically—for example, as it is used when one treats the metaphysical issue of the relation of the _idea_ to actuality, where there is no question of this or that actuality but of the _idea's_ concretion, that is, its actuality—and the word “actuality” can also be used for the historically actualized _idea._

    The latter actuality is different at different times. By this it is in no way meant that in the sum total of its existence the historical actuality is not supposed to have an eternal and intrinsic coherence, but for different generations separated by time and space the given actuality is different. Even though the world spirit in any process is continually in itself, this is not the case with the generation at a certain time and the given individuals at a certain time in the same generation.

    For them, a given actuality does not present itself as something that they are able to reject, because the world process leads the person who is willing to go along and sweeps the unwilling one along with it. But insofar as the _idea_ is concrete in itself, it is necessary for it to become continually what it is—that is, become concrete. But this can occur only through generations and individuals.

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