No Comment, Quotation — September 13, 2008, 5:58 am

Goethe’s Freedom

goethe

Hat einer nur so viel Freiheit, um gesund zu leben und sein Gewerbe zu treiben, so hat er genug, und so viel hat leicht ein jeder. Und dann sind wir alle nur frei unter gewissen Bedingungen, die wir erfüllen müssen. Der Bürger ist so frei wie der Adeliche, sobald er sich in den Grenzen hält, die ihm von Gott durch seinen Stand, worin er geboren, angewiesen. Der Adeliche ist so frei wie der Fürst; denn wenn er bei Hofe nur das wenige Zeremoniell beobachtet, so darf er sich als seinesgleichen fühlen. Nicht das macht frei, daß wir nichts über uns anerkennen wollen, sondern eben daß wir etwas verehren, das über uns ist. Denn indem wir es verehren, heben wir uns zu ihm hinauf und legen durch unsere Anerkennung an den Tag, daß wir selber das Höhere in uns tragen und wert sind, seinesgleichen zu sein.

He who possesses freedom to live in health and to practice his trade has freedom enough and this much freedom can easily be obtained. And then we are all free only subject to certain conditions which we must fulfill. The citizen is just as free as the nobleman, provided he keeps within the boundaries that God has set him within the class into which he was born. The nobleman has as much freedom as the prince, for if he will but observe the ceremonies found at court, he may indeed feel himself the prince’s equal. Freedom is not to be found in refusing to recognize that which is placed above us, but in respecting that which is above us; for in the act of respecting it, we raise ourselves up to it, and this very act of recognition shows that we bear within ourselves something which is higher, and are worthy to be deemed at the same level.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe, in Johann Peter Eckermanns Gespräche mit Goethe in den letzten Jahren seines Lebens, entry for Jan. 18, 1827 in Goethes Sämtliche Werke vol. 19, p. 195-96 (Munich ed. 1986)(S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

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.

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2015

In the Shadow of the Storm

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Measure for Measure

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Trouble with Israel

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Camera on Every Cop

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“The campaign music stopped. Hundreds of people, their faces now warped by the dread of a third bomb, began running for cover.”
Photograph © Guy Martin/Panos.
Article
Part Neither, Part Both·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Eight months pregnant I told an old woman sitting beside me on the bus that the egg that hatched my baby came from my wife’s ovaries. I didn’t know how the old woman would take it; one can never know. She was delighted: That’s like a fairy tale!”
Mother with Children, by Gustav Klimt © akg-images
Article
What Recovery?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Between 2007 and 2010, Albany’s poverty rate jumped 12 points, to a record high of 39.9 percent. More than two thirds of Albany’s 76,000 residents are black, and since 2010, their poverty rate has climbed even higher, to nearly 42 percent.”
Photograph by Will Steacy
Article
Rag Time·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

From a May 23 commencement address delivered at Hofstra University. Doctorow died on Tuesday. He was 84.
“We are a deeply divided nation in danger of undergoing a profound change for the worse.”
Photograph by Giuseppe Giglia
Article
The Trouble with Israel·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“We think we are the only people in the world who live with threat, but we have to work with regional leaders who will work with us. Bibi is taking the country into unprecedented international isolation.”
Photograph by Adam Golfer

Chance that a U.S. criminologist thinks abolishing the death penalty would increase the murder rate:

1 in 10

Villagers in Bangladesh found a missing woman halfway down a python’s throat.

The FAA announced it would investigate an 18-year-old Connecticut man who posted a YouTube video showing a homemade drone firing a handgun.

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