Jean Paul’s TITAN and Fichte’s Philosophy

“Nein, begleitet mich, mein Herr (sagte Schoppe ungestüm) . . . ich wäre jetzt alleine vis-a-vis de moi.”

(No, come with me Sir, Schoppe said heatedly, . . . otherwise I will be alone vis-a-vis myself.)

“Ich versteh´dich nicht (sagte Albano), wovor scheuest du dich?”

(I don’t understand you, Albano said, what are you afraid of?)

“Albano . . . der Ich könnte kommen, ja ja! . . . Herr, wer Fichten und seinen Generalvikar und Gehirndiener Schelling so oft aus Spaß gelesen wie ich, der macht endlich Ernst genug daraus. Das Ich setzt sich und den Ich samt jenem Rest, den mehre die Welt nennen. Wenn Philosophen etwas, z.B. eine Idee oder sich aus sich ableiten, so leiten sie, ist sonst was an ihnen, das restierende Universum auch so ab, sie sind ganz jener betrunkne Kerl, der sein Wasser in einen Springbrunnen hineinließ und die ganze Nacht davor stehen blieb, weil er kein Aufhören hörte und mithin alles, was er fortvernahm, auf seine Rechnung schrieb . . . Sapperment, es gibt ein empirisches und ein reines Ich — die letzte Phrasis, die der wahnsinnige Swift nach Sheridan und Oxford kurz vor seinem Tode sagte, hieß: ich bin ich — Philosophisch genug!” (420-421)

(Albano . . . the Ego could come, yes, yes! Sir, whoever has read Fichte and his Vicar-General and Mind-Servant Schelling so often for fun like I have will finally face serious consequences. The Ego posits itself and also posits the Ego along with everything many call the world. When philosophers derive an idea or themselves from an idea, then they derive, if there is something to themselves, the rest of the universe as well, and then they are like the drunk who peed into a fountain and stood there the whole night because he heard no end to it and supposed everything he heard was due to his own efforts . . . Damn! there is an empirical and a pure Ego — the last words  the insane Swift spoke shortly before his death, at least according to Sheridan and Oxford, was “I am I — that’s philosophical enough!”)

Like the flowerville blogger, I’m going to read Titan again. (Her earlier suggestion led me to Stifter’s Witiko, a long and exquisitely boring novel that was fruitful for my explorations of the standing metaphor.)

I get out my beautiful 1908 critical edition, a gift from Viktor Lange, with whom I read Goethe’s novels, and begin to read the novel in two volumes (@800 pages):

An einem schönen Frühlingabend kam der junge spanische Graf von Cesara mit seinen Begleitern Schoppe und Dian nach Sesto, um den andern Morgen nach der Vorromäischen Insel Isola Bella im Lago Maggiore überzufahren.


About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at
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3 Responses to Jean Paul’s TITAN and Fichte’s Philosophy

  1. flowerville says:

    those are some gorgeous books in that nice light and a blue almost like the handke repetition and even more special bc they are a gift in so many ways (i have a few books that were owned by irina frowen, very special too, and not jean paul, in fact my incomplete ‘geist der goethezeit’ was hers. when i am an old fogey i give them to the young ones so they stay in circulation). blue marbles also very nice. and a blue dog. is blue your favourite colour? btw what do you think of carlyle’s jean paul translations?
    it will take me some time to get the book here, there is distressign news: assuming i had it at home but then couldn’t find it and thought no problem it will be in the library: where it isn’t. it’s NOT in the library. shock horror. so you’re going to have Vorsprung.


    • Scott Abbott says:

      it’s true — blue books in two posts. and then the blue marbles. wish i had had a blue flower too. our blue dog, however, is yellow.
      i too have a ‘geist der goethezeit,’ complete, but oddly put together — one of the volumes seems to have come from another set. like you, i’m looking forward to passing them on someday.
      i’ve never seen carlyle’s jean paul translations. do they do justice to the playfulness of the German?
      finally, i’ll need Vorsprung, knowing how you read.


  2. flowerville says:

    i think so, although cannot really compare bc i don’t have ones that carlyle translated at home & cannot judge how funny it sounds in english. maybe it sounds a wee bit more solid than normal jean paul, but – i think quite like it should too. what it says in your quote about carlyle’s translation sounds about right.
    do you want the novalis blue flower or another one? at least you have muledeer (eselrehe is quite a charming translation although not entirely correct of course).
    while i wait for jean paul’s titan to come i will read eichendorff’s ahnung & gegenwart. which is actually blue as well and published by insel.


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