No Comment — February 4, 2008, 6:36 am

Hölderlin on Pindar’s Nomos

oedipus

Das Gesetz,
Von allen der König, Sterblichen und
Unsterblichen; das führt eben
Darum gewaltig
Das gerechteste Recht mit allerhöchster Hand.

Das Unmittelbare, streng genommen, ist für die Sterblichen unmöglich, wie für die Unsterblichen; der Gott muß verschiedene Welten unterscheiden, seiner Natur gemäß, weil himmlische Güte, ihret selber wegen, heilig sein muß, unvermischet. Der Mensch, als Erkennendes, muß auch verschiedene Welten unterscheiden, weil Erkenntnis nur durch Entgegensetzung möglich ist. Deswegen ist das Unmittelbare, streng genommen, für die Sterblichen unmöglich, wie für die Unsterblichen.

Die strenge Mittelbarkeit ist aber das Gesetz. Deswegen aber führt es gewaltig das gerechteste Recht mit allerhöchster Hand.

Die Zucht, sofern sie die Gestalt ist, worin der Mensch sich und der Gott begegnet, der Kirche und des Staats Gesetz und anererbte Satzungen (die Heiligkeit des Gottes, und für den Menschen die Möglichkeit einer Erkenntnis, einer Erklärung), diese führen gewaltig das gerechteste Recht mit allerhöchster Hand, sie halten strenger, als die Kunst, die lebendigen Verhältnisse fest, in denen, mit der Zeit, ein Volk sich begegnet hat und begegnet. »König« bedeutet hier den Superlativ, der nur das Zeichen ist für den höchsten Erkenntnisgrund, nicht für die höchste Macht.


The law is
The king of all, mortal and
Immortal; and thus it guides powerfully
The most just law with a hand from above

The immediate is, taken strictly, impossible for the mortals to obtain, just as it is for the immortals. God must differentiate the different worlds according to his nature because heavenly goodness must for its own sake remain holy, and unmixed. The human being, as a creature of reason, must differentiate between these different worlds, because recognition is possible only through a process of juxtaposition. And for that reason, the immediate is just as impossible for the mortals as for the immortals.

However, law is strict communicability. This is why it powerfully guides the most just law with the highest hand.

Discipline, to the extent that it is the form in which man encounters himself and God, constitutes the laws and inherited regulations of the church and state (the divinity of God, and for the individual human the possibility of recognition, of an explanation), they powerfully guide the most just law with the highest hand, they grip the conditions of life which a people has and will encounter in the course of life more firmly than art. “King” means in this case the superlative, it is but a sign for the highest stage of recognition, not for the highest power.

Friedrich Hölderlin, Pindar-Übersetzungen: Fragmente – Das Höchste unpublished manuscript from 1805 in Sämtliche Werke und Briefe, vol. 2, pp. 320-21 (G. Mieth ed. 1970) (S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2015

Weed Whackers

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Tremendous Machine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Goose in a Dress

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Genealogy of Orals

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Romancing Kano·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:

The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.

leadership
service
integrity
creativity

Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.

Article
The Prisoner of Sex·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It is disappointing that parts of Purity read as though Franzen urgently wanted to telegraph a message to anyone who would defend his fiction from charges of chauvinism: ‘No, you’ve got me wrong. I really am sexist.’”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
Gangs of Karachi·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“In Karachi, sometimes only the thinnest of polite fictions separates the politicians from the men who kill and extort on their behalf.”
Photograph © Asim Rafiqui/NOOR Images
Article
Weed Whackers·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Defining 'native' and 'invasive' in an ever-shifting natural world poses some problems. The camel, after all, is native to North America, though it went extinct here 8,000 years ago, while the sacrosanct redwood tree is invasive, having snuck in at some point in the past 65 million years.”
Photograph by Chad Ress
Article
The Neoliberal Arts·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“College is seldom about thinking or learning anymore. Everyone is running around trying to figure out what it is about. So far, they have come up with buzzwords, mainly those three.”
Artwork by Julie Cockburn

Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:

65

An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.

A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today