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:

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

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

November 2014

Stop Hillary!

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

How the Islamic State was Won

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Cage Wars

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Everyday Grace

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Stop Hillary!·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"What Hillary will deliver, then, is more of the same. And that shouldn’t surprise us."
Photograph by Joe Raedle
Article
Cage Wars·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"In the 1970s, “Chickens’ Lib” was a handful of women in flower-print dresses holding signs, but in the past decade farm hens have become almost a national preoccupation."
Photograph by Adam Dickerson/Big Dutchman USA, courtesy Vande Bunte Farms
Article
Paradise Lost·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Suffering Sappho! Here we still are, marching right into yet another century with our glass ceilings, unequal pay, unresolved work and child-care balance, and still marrying, forever marrying, men."
Illustration by Anthony Lister
Article
Off the Land·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Nearly half the reservation lives below the poverty line, with unemployment as high as 60 percent, little to no infrastructure, few entitlements, a safety net that never was, no industry to speak of, and a housing crisis that has been dire not for five years but since the reservation’s founding in 1855."
Illustration by Stan Fellows
Post
Introducing the November 2014 Issue·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Doug Henwood on stopping Hillary Clinton, fighters and potential recruits discuss the rise of the Islamic State, the inevitability of factory farming, and more

Cover photo by Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Industry estimate of the life span of the average umbrella (in years):

2.5

Cancer researchers in California confirmed that dogs can sniff out cancer patients with roughly the same accuracy as screening tests.

A deaf dog belonging to a deaf owner was shot and killed in Alabama, and an Indiana dog’s skin troubles were found to be caused by an allergy to humans. “It’s just not his fault,” said the owner of Lucky Dog Retreat.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today