Apollo / Dionysus


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Apollo                                 -                      Dionysus
Culture                                 -                      Nature
Tighten                                 -                      Loosen
Together                               -                      Apart
Centre                                  -                      Periphery
Conscious                            -                      Unconscious
Light                                     -                      Dark 
Heaven                                 -                      Earth


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In The Birth of Tragedy Apollo and Dionysus, whatever character each of them possesses in other contexts and different bodies of lore, are defined as opposing forces.

Dionysus is a god of nature, associated with forces biological and violent, orgiastic mysteries, with everything that refuses to be civilised. Apollo is the god of civilisation: if he were linguistic, he would be the perfectly formed sentence, self-possessed in its transparency.

Dionysus wants not to possess himself but to lose himself in an ecstasy in which he and nature are one and the same: the methods of ecstasy are intoxication, sexuality, the Dionysiac music and dance, the dithyramb in which the barrier between man and nature are overwhelmed.

As he appears in the Bacchae, Dionysus is wild, god of maddened group, people who drive themselves out of civilisation by wine, drugs, dismemberment. Modern versions of the Dionysiac include the forces active in bullfights, cockfights, rock concerts, wrestling, charismatic revival meetings.

In Nietzsche, tragedy is the form in which Dionysus and Apollo are reconciled.

The Dionysiac music, by itself, would be unbearable, because it would defeat culture and shatter the necessary limits implied in character and individuality. The Apolline hero is a hero because he takes upon himself the Dionysiac experience and, not at all transcending it, incorporates it in himself, reconstituting his experience now as form and beauty.

[…] the Greeks allowed for an Apolline incorporation of Dionysus, and did not try to suppress him:

“The delight in drunkenness, delight in cunning, in revenge, in envy, in slander, in obscenity - in everything which was recognised by the Greeks as human and therefore built into the structure of society and custom: the wisdom of their institutions lies in the absence of any gulf between good and evil, black and white.

Nature, as it reveals itself, is not denied but only ordered, limited to specified days and religious cults. That is not the root of all spiritual freedom in the ancient world; the ancients sought a moderate release of natural forces, not their destruction and denial.”

We are not supposed to hanker after an aboriginal state of union with nature, as if culture had never happened. Drink and drugs are deemed to be harmful for many reasons but mainly because they remove the cultural distinction between a man and the nature from which he has been rescued. Apollo must win.

Each society recognises that there are Dionysiac forces at large, and it makes some provision for them. The carnival of Fasting in Germany is a few days of tumult and licence followed by Lenten rectitude. Public entertainments, sports, including blood sports, motor racing, and sporadic limited wars are provided, as far as possible under controlled conditions.

If we continue extending the definition of culture so that it covers virtually the whole of experience, leaving nothing to nature, we will make it impossible for ourselves to understand violence and obscenity except as failures of ‘the system’.

It would be wise to regard culture as a partial and improbable transformation of natural impulse rather than a comfortable norm. That way, manifestations of violence could be considered without the normal accompaniment of shock, horror, and insult.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 83-5


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The Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome which used intoxicants and other trance-inducing techniques (like dance and music) to remove inhibitions and social constraints, liberating the individual to return to a natural state.

It also provided some liberation for those marginalized by Greek society: women, slaves, homosexuals and foreigners.

'Dionysian Mysteries'


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Dionysus was called Lysios, the loosener.

[...] Lysis means loosening, setting free, deliverance, dissolution, collapse, breaking bonds and laws, and the final unraveling as of a plot in tragedy.

[James Hillman]
Mythical Figures, p. 29


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Related posts:-
Escaping Uncertainty
Balance
Balancing Art
Pressure Valve

Restraint / Engagement


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At the broadest level of trait description, therefore, variability in human personality appears to reflect restraint and engagement.

Stability appears to be associated with refraining from a variety of behaviors associated with disruptive impulses (such as drug use and reactive aggression), whereas Plasticity appears to be associated with engaging in a variety of behaviors associated with approach behavior and exploration (such as creative expression and attending social events) [...] behaviors consistent with an underlying exploratory drive.

These results are consistent with the theory that the metatraits reflect serotonergically mediated self-regulation and constraint on the one hand and dopaminergically mediated exploration and engagement on the other.

In particular, some of the processes underlying these traits may best be understood in terms of the different systems that are being restrained or regulated in each case. Process models that are consistent with this view include those linking Agreeableness to the inhibition of interpersonal aggression, Conscientiousness with the inhibition of distraction, and Emotional Stability with the inhibition of negative affect.

Stability appears to be reflected most strongly in restraint from drug use and hostility and in the absence of disrupted sleep. The association of Stability with stable sleep is consistent with the finding that Stability is associated with circadian timing, such that people higher in Stability tend to be ‘‘morning people’’ with circadian rhythms more strongly entrained to the daily light–dark cycle.


[Jacob B. Hirsh, Colin DeYoung, and Jordan B. Peterson]
'Metatraits of the big five differentially predict engagement and restraint of behavior', p. 11-13


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Related posts:-
Masculine / Feminine
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Becoming conscious

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[…] that’s what consciousness is doing all the time. You’re laying out an automatised routine, and if that doesn’t produce the intended outcome, you stop [and] become conscious. There’s nothing like an error to make you conscious. Then you do a high-resolution analysis of the space in which the error emerged, [and] you [recalibrate] to make that error go away.

To some degree the purpose of consciousness is to make you functional unconsciously. You don’t want to be conscious of most things.

If you’re good at something, you hardly have to be conscious of it at all. So consciousness is something like an error-detection-and-rectification system.

[Being conscious means] always attending to your errors. If you’re always attending to your errors, you’re always improving your automated adaptability.

Your consciousness seems to be continually building your unconscious.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'2017 Maps of Meaning 6: Story and Metastory (Part 2)'


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If it is fashionable today to minimize the importance of the knowledge of the particular circumstances of time and place, this is closely connected with the smaller importance which is now attached to change as such.

Indeed, there are few points on which the assumptions made (usually only implicitly) by the "planners" differ from those of their opponents as much as with regard to the significance and frequency of changes which will make substantial alterations of production plans necessary.

Of course, if detailed economic plans could be laid down for fairly long periods in advance and then closely adhered to, so that no further economic decisions of importance would be required, the task of drawing up a comprehensive plan governing all economic activity would be much less formidable.

It is, perhaps, worth stressing that economic problems arise always and only in consequence of change. So long as things continue as before, or at least as they were expected to, there arise no new problems requiring a decision, no need to form a new plan.

But those who clamor for "conscious direction"—and who cannot believe that anything which has evolved without design (and even without our understanding it) should solve problems which we should not be able to solve consciously—should remember this: The problem is precisely how to extend the span of our utilization of resources beyond the span of the control of any one mind; and therefore, how to dispense with the need of conscious control, and how to provide inducements which will make the individuals do the desirable things without anyone having to tell them what to do.

As Alfred Whitehead has said in another connection, "It is a profoundly erroneous truism, repeated by all copy-books and by eminent people when they are making speeches, that we should cultivate the habit of thinking what we are doing. The precise opposite is the case. Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking about them."

[Friedrich Hayek]
'The Use of Knowledge in Society'


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Related posts:-

Entropy

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The idea that the second law of thermodynamics or "entropy law" is a law of disorder (or that dynamically ordered states are "infinitely improbable") is due to Boltzmann's view of the second law.

In particular, it was his attempt to reduce it to a stochastic collision function, or law of probability following from the random collisions of mechanical particles. Following Maxwell, Boltzmann modeled gas molecules as colliding billiard balls in a box, noting that with each collision nonequilibrium velocity distributions (groups of molecules moving at the same speed and in the same direction) would become increasingly disordered leading to a final state of macroscopic uniformity and maximum microscopic disorder or the state of maximum entropy (where the macroscopic uniformity corresponds to the obliteration of all field potentials or gradients)

The second law, he argued, was thus simply the result of the fact that in a world of mechanically colliding particles disordered states are the most probable.

Because there are so many more possible disordered states than ordered ones, a system will almost always be found either in the state of maximum disorder – the macrostate with the greatest number of accessible microstates such as a gas in a box at equilibrium – or moving towards it.

A dynamically ordered state, one with molecules moving "at the same speed and in the same direction", Boltzmann concluded, is thus "the most improbable case conceivable... an infinitely improbable configuration of energy."

'Ludwig Boltzmann'


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“It’s still too early to tell how the debate over ‘increased interdependence’ will turn out,” concluded the Wall Street Journal. “But the concept plainly has far more minuses [disorders] than it seemed to have in the 1960s—and that may require more thought.” As it turns out, the Second Law of Thermodynamics gives us an insight into the situation.

Imagine a cube made of a transparent material whose volume is 250 cubic feet, with 250 compartments filled with liquids of different colors. What happens if we make a pinhole on each side of the compartments? The individual molecules, finding additional degrees of freedom, will start to move around within a larger volume. The entropy of the system will increase. When the entropy of a system increases, so does our ignorance about the system. Before, we knew that a green molecule was in the green compartment. Now it can be in any compartment.

With the passage of time, our ignorance about the system increases as the mixing process goes on. And if the size of the pinhole opening within the compartments should widen, the molecules will find more degrees of freedom to roam around, further increasing our ignorance—uncertainty—about the system.

The same principle applies to world affairs. Suppose those compartments were national boundaries. As barriers between nations begin to fall, each constituent (molecule) finds more degrees of freedom to move around in a larger volume. In our case, the molecules can be anything: people, ideologies, knowledge, religions, raw materials, goods, diseases, chemicals, information (or misinformation), cults, factories, jobs, terrorism, technology, money, food, drugs, or weapons. It is crucial to realize that once physical barriers fall, it becomes a practical impossibility to “control” the types of things that cross national boundaries.

[Jack Hokikian]
'Entropy and Growing Global Interdependence'


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Roughly speaking, you could think about ‘being’ as what is currently, and ‘becoming’ as how that’s going to transform - but its more than how its going to transform, because its also how it should transform.

It seems to me that when you’re wrestling with the fundamental questions of your life, you have to wrestle with both of those propositions: you have to figure out, what it is that’s here and now, and where you are, and what you are; and then you have to figure out what you’re going to do about that. And hypothetically […] it seems that people are generally motivated to attempt to make it better. And so then you have to figure out what constitutes ‘better.’ And that means you’re into the domain of values.

Not only is there an impetus to make it better, there’s also the fact that while you’re trying to make things better, you’re also fighting against entropy itself - the tendency of complex things to fall apart - and so it requires energy to make things better; it even requires energy just to keep things the way they are. So in some sense, life is an uphill battle, because you’re pushing against great forces that act in opposition to your existence.

In some sense, that’s the fundamental basis of existential thinking. The existentialists make the claim that existence itself is a problem, and so that means that in some sense psychopathology is built right in to the nature of human existence, and its partly because we’re limited - and we suffer because of that - [...] and we’re working against forces that are in many ways greater than we are and that are pushing in the opposite direction.

Life is being and becoming, and its also the problem of being and becoming. And that’s what you’re stuck with. It’s useful to know what you’re stuck with, because it stops you from being isolated - because everybody’s also stuck with that - and it also makes you understand that if you have a problem, that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with you, it’s just that you’re alive - and that’s a problem!

People are inclined to think that life was operating optimally you’d be happy. I think that’s an unreasonable hope in some ways, because life itself is so complicated - because of its fundamental essence - that the idea that you can exist in some optimised state on a constant basis is … well, that’s just not how it is.

When you mature, and become wiser, you have to take into account what the actual limitations are, and then you have to figure out a way that you can exist […] while taking that into account.

[Jordan Peterson]
Jordan Peterson: 22. Psychology & Belief (Conclusion) Personality & Its Transformations


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Related posts:-
Order and Chaos
Lines, Circles, and Spirals 
Exclusion

Centre / Periphery

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Centre                               -                      Periphery
Consolidation                   -                      Exploration
Classicism                        -                      Romanticism
Order                                -                      Chaos
Communal                        -                      Individual
Narrow                             -                      Wide
Monism                             -                      Pluralism
Known                              -                      Unknown
Explicit                              -                      Implicit
Universal                           -                      Relative


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If we are to communicate with one another, and to live communally, then there must always be common ground -  a centre around which we orbit.

The centre is a single point.

As we approach it, experience becomes narrowed. Possibilities are shut off in favour of an increasingly limited number of actualities.

At the centre there is a set way of doing things; rules, standards, and conventions.



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As long as there's conservatism and invisible consensus, there will be avant garde work to outrage it and make it visible.

[Momus]
'Documenta's over, but it just keeps getting better'


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There are many ways that we can frame symbolic patterns, but the frame that I will use most prominently is the geometric symbolism of centre and periphery. I’m going to use that structure because its easy to understand - we encounter it in our bodies, our rituals, our societies; and more abstractly in our language and concepts.

[…] identity, refugees, walls, immigration, technology: all of these things can be understood quite well using the basic frame of centre and periphery.

In general the problem of chaos is the problem of the margin, and whether we see the margin as an exciting potential by which we can further ourselves out into the world, or whether we see it as a dangerous threat to the things we care about.

[Jonathan Pageau]
Symbolism in Guardians of the Galaxy v.2


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I always go to the rough edges, because that’s where you find things that are much more exciting than the structured aspect of the regular parts of a city.

[Tjalf Sparnaay]
Getting Closer’ (documentary)


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[...] the world formed by art is recognised as a reality which is suppressed and distorted in the given reality.

[...] The truth of art lies in its power to break the monopoly of established reality (i.e. of those who established it) to define what is real [...] 

Art is committed to that perception of the world which alienates individuals from their functional existence and performance in society - it is committed to an emancipation of sensibility, imagination, and reason in all spheres of subjectivity and objectivity [...] But this achievement presupposes a degree of autonomy which withdraws art from the mystifying power of the given and frees it for the expression of its own truth.

[Herbert Marcuse]
The Aesthetic Dimension


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[Marcuse] values art, as I do, for its power of contradiction, its protest against a narrow definition of reality and the prescription of its forms.

In our time, reality is administered mostly by politics: the function of the arts is the critical interrogation of politics, the questioning of its certitudes.

André Malraux's The Voices of Silence is based on his understanding that 'great artists are not transcribers of the scheme of things; they are its rivals [...] all art is a revolt against man's fate.'

The image of the doomed artist has retained its power because of the association of the artist with transgression, genius, the role of scapegoat, the sacrificial victim. We don’t know what to make of this image.

On the whole, we try to include the artist in the forms of our knowledge, but if he rejects our embrace we know that in some profound sense he is right, he knows he is not really one of us. Art does not confirm the reality we normally think we know and possess.

In fact art is permanently antagonistic to our sense of reality because it makes a space for those images which our sense of reality excludes. 

There is in fact much to be said for bourgeois society even when we insist on degrading it by calling it bourgeois, but artists have rarely wanted to say any of it. One of the aims of modern art and literature has been to escape from the middle class and what Ezra Pound called its ‘accelerated grimace’.

So the arts have appealed to pleasure rather than duty, interrogation rather than conformity; they thrive upon suspicion rather than consensus, the creative speech of poetry rather than the stereotypes of daily life.

In avant-garde art, these gestures of dissociation have sometimes been maintained to the point at which many people can see nothing in them but spiritual terrorism, like the fractured face in a Picasso portrait.

In extreme cases, the gesture amounts to a rage for the absolute, as if nothing could satisfy so long as it remains finite.

The 19th-century artist kept his soul, as far as possible, by withholding assent to official purposes. As the price to be paid for that spiritual privilege, his art emphasised difference rather than continuity of experience; a certain purity of form, only to be achieved by transcending the ordinary world. There is always a risk of weightlessness in his images or in his voice, a suggestion of falsetto. He achieves form as a desperate choice, and we sense everything that has had to be kept out of the picture to make it become what it is.

The artistic vision is in some way ineffable, unspeakable; it deflects every attempt to pin it down by knowledge or to define it in speech. The stories say that art is not to be assimilated to the comfortable ways of a society. 

The artist is an eagle, not a dove.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 13, 15-16, 21, 27, 69


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Let us attempt to see.

[Robert Delaunay]
'Light'


Art is exploration: artists train people how to see.

The artists are the people who articulate the unknown. The role of art in a healthy culture is to bring to public awareness elements of being that have not yet entered the collective consciousness.

Here’s a way of thinking about artistic and creative people from a biological perspective: the world is basically an explored territory, inside an unexplored territory - every world is like that, everywhere you go is like that; there’s things you know, and things you don’t know.

The conservative people like to be in the middle of the things that are known. They can master that space, and are good at maintaining it.

The artists like to be right out on the edge, and that’s the edge between chaos and order. And they like to expand the domain of order out into the chaos. They do that first by transforming perception.

Artists have always been on the frontier of human understanding. The artist bears the same relationship to society that the dream bears to mental life.

The dream is the thing that mediates between order and chaos, it starts to make chaos into order. It’s half chaos, that’s why it’s not comprehensible. Artists play exactly the same role in society: they’re the visionaries that start to transform what we don’t understand into what we can [at least] start to see. They’ve always been at the vanguard, that’s their biological niche. They’re the civilising agents.

Imagine we’re all living on an island, and many of us are in the centre of the island - far enough away so that maybe we can’t see the shoreline, and the ocean. The artists are right on the edge, and they’re expanding the landscape, they’re moving the culture forward into the unknown.

They do that by translating what is as yet unimaginable, but sensed, into what is at least imaginable, and represent it in image, and drama, and literature. That’s the precursor to its full formulation in articulated philosophy and thought.

You can see them doing [it] in cities: it’s the open people, the artists, who go into parts of the cities that have degenerated to some degree back into chaos, and revitalise and recivilise them. [Then] the less artistic people, who are more conventional, move in, and that’s when you get gentrification. That usually chases the artists out, and they go somewhere else cheap and interesting and start the renewal process again.

That’s what artists do [...] They’re problem detectors and problem solvers [...] They’re transforming chaos into order, all of the time. That’s where they live, on that edge. It’s a very tough place to live, because you can fall into the chaos at any time.

[Jordan Peterson]
'July Patreon Q and A' and ‘Lectures: Exploring the Psychology of Creativity


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Structuralist readers are urged to adopt an ironic or sceptical attitude towards whatever they read; they are to know that it is poisoned.

Barthes, in his later work, showed how such readers might behave themselves. They should cultivate caprice and excess, going against the grain of the writing, distrusting its rhetorical figures, reading at their own speed.

In this way they retain some measure of freedom, and break the conspiracy between author, publisher and the economy of the market which has produced the book as a commodity for sale.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 40


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The point has been made that at any given time the overwhelming majority of scientists are not trying to overthrow the prevailing orthodoxy at all but are working happily within it. 

They are not innovating, and they seldom have to choose between competing theories: what they are doing is putting accepted theories to work. This is what has come to be known as 'normal science' [...]

It is true that Popper's writings are somewhat loftily exclusive in their references to the pathbreaking geniuses of science, whose activities his theories most obviously fit. And it is also true that most scientists take for granted, in order to solve problems at a lower level, theories which only a few of their colleagues are questioning.

[Bryan Magee]
Popper, p. 41


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For Levinas, the course of Western philosophical tradition is determined from the outset by its ancient Greek heritage.

'Philosophy employs a series of terms and concepts - such as morphe (form), ousia (substance), nous (reason), logos (thought) or telos (goal), etc. - which constitute a specifically Greek lexicon of intelligibility.'

Like Derrida, he sees a systematic relationship or complicity between these terms, since they all point towards a moment of ultimate, self-present truth when reason would grasp the encompassing logic of its own nature and history.

What is intelligible to thinkers in this Greek tradition is whatever lends itself to the various 'totalizing' methods and strategies which thought has devised to maintain its grasp upon an otherwise recalcitrant world.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p. 231-2


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Such thinking, as Derrida describes it, 'dreams of deciphering a truth or an origin which escapes play and the order of the sign, and ... live the necessity of interpretation as an exile' [...]

The other possibility is that of abandoning such nostalgic ways of thought and accepting that there can henceforth be no limit to the range of strong-willed interpretative options.

[...] To register the force of this critique would be to re-think the notion of 'structure', no longer seeking to limit the play of its differential elements by always referring them back, in the last instance, to some organizing 'centre' or thematic point of origin.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p. 139


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The biggest problem of explicitness, however, is that it returns us to what we already know.

It reduces a unique experience, person or thing to a bunch of abstracted, therefore central, concepts that we could have found already anywhere else – and indeed had already. Knowing, in the sense of seeing clearly, is always seeing ‘as’ a something already known, and therefore not present but re-presented.

Fruitful ambiguity is forced into being one thing or another.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 180


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What can we be said to owe to romanticism? A great deal.

We owe to romanticism the notion of the freedom of the artist, and the fact that neither he nor human beings in general can be explained by oversimplified views such as were prevalent in the eighteenth century and such as are still enunciated by over-rational and over-scientific analysts either of human beings or of groups.

We also owe to romanticism the notion that a unified answer in human affairs is likely to be ruinous, that if you really believe there is one single solution to all human ills, and that you must impose this solution at no matter what cost, you are likely to become a violent and despotic tyrant in the name of your solution, because you desire to remove all obstacles to it will end by destroying those creatures for whose benefit you offer the solution.

The notion that there are many values, and that they are incompatible; the whole notion of plurality, of inexhaustibility, of the imperfection of all human answers and arrangements; the notion that no single answer which claims to be perfect and true, whether in art or in life, can in principle be perfect and true - all this we owe to the romantics. 

[...] and yet, as a result of making clear the existence of a plurality of values, as a result of driving wedges into the notion of the classical ideal, of the single answer to all questions, of the rationalisability of everything, of the answerability of all questions, of the whole jigsaw-puzzle conception of life, they have given prominence to and laid emphasis upon the incompatibility of human ideals.

But if these ideals are incompatible, then human beings sooner or later realise that they must make do, the must make compromises, because if they seek to destroy others, others will seek to destroy them; and so, as a result of this passionate, fanatical, half-mad doctrine, we arrive at an appreciation of the necessity of tolerating others, the necessity of preserving an imperfect equilibrium in human affairs, the impossibility of driving human beings so far into the pen which we have created for them, or into the single solution which possesses us, that they will ultimately revolt against us, or at any rate be crushed by it.

The result of romanticism, then, is liberalism, toleration, decency and the appreciation of the imperfections of life [...]

[Isaiah Berlin]
The Roots of Romanticism, p. 146-7


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Related posts:-
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Middle World
In-between
Shades of gray
Storytelling
Where language ends and art begins
Dancing at the Border
Life and Death (and everything in-between)
Concentrate / Decentrate
Levels of meaning