Plato Attack on Poetry

Powerful Essays
Remember: To Live!
The Philosophy of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Delivered at the Washington, D.C.
Spinoza Society, Goethe-Institut
Written by Daniel Spiro
I. Introduction
“The great Goethe.” Those words roll off the tongue, and not merely because of the alliteration. Words like “great” and “genius” could aptly be used for but a select number of artists – for Michelangelo, say, or Shakespeare. In the Un ited States, the works of those artists have been incorporated into popular culture as the epitome of visual and linguistic b eauty. By contrast, on these shores, Goethe’s work remains largely unr ead and rarely discussed except among college students, most of whom develop a healthy dose of amnesia shortly after graduation. Why, then, is there such unanimity about his greatness am ong all who have allowed him to touch their souls? “The best German book there is.” So said
Nietzsche in reference to a work associated with Goethe. But it was not Goethe’s
Faust
, his supposed masterpiece, nor his
Sorrows of
Young Werther
, the novel that made Goethe an instant 18 th century celebrity as one who painted a picture of human desire run amuck. Nor was it
Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship
, Goethe’s splendid philosophical novel, though a virtually unknown work in modern day America.
Nietzsche was referring instead to Johann Peter Eckermann’s biography entitled
Conversations
of Goethe
, a German version of Boswell’s
Johnson.
Eckermann was 31 when he met the 73- year old sage of Weimar, and wrote about the mu sings that Goethe shared with him during the last nine years of his life. R eading the mature Goethe’s reflections truly does resemble watching a man reach the top of Everest and proudly look downward. It is difficult to imagine a human soul that experienced more varied forms of inspiration, engaged more brilliant minds, and soaked up more wisdom than Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
That is because Goethe rarely spent a day

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