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:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

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

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

April 2017

You Can Run …

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Never Would I Ever

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The March on Everywhere

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Defender of the Community

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Echt Deutsch

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Boy Without a Country

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The March on Everywhere·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Photograph (detail) © Nima Taradji/Polaris
Post
The Forty-Fifth President·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Photograph (detail) by Philip Montgomery
Article
Defender of the Community·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Illustration (detail) by Katherine Streeter
Article
The Boy Without a Country·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Illustration (detail) by Shonagh Rae
Article
Asphalt Gardens·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In a city that is rapidly pricing out the poor, NYCHA’s housing projects are a last bastion of affordable shelter, with an average monthly rent of $509
Photograph (detail) © Samuel James

Amount three New York men owe in restitution for stealing rock lobsters off the coast of South Africa:

$54,900,000

AIDS researchers were working to develop genetically modified tomatoes that naturally produce an edible HIV vaccine.

Trump said that he might not have been elected president “if it wasn’t for Twitter."

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today