Modal Revolutions: Friedrich Hölderlin and the Task of Poetry Public Deposited

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  • Trop, Gabriel
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literatures
  • One of the many pathways of modernity travels along an intellectual trajectory that is increasingly skeptical of and hostile toward the concept of necessity, a concept that once played a dominant role in metaphysical and ontological thought from the Middle Ages to the late eighteenth century. By the early twentieth century, the narrator of Musil’s Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften would have us believe that the human being is endowed with two fundamental modes of access to the world: the sense for reality (Wirklichkeitssinn) and the sense for possibility (Möglichkeitssinn). There is no mention of a sense for necessity, or what would otherwise be called a Notwendigkeitssinn. The erosion of the force of necessity over the mind opens a space of counter-attraction, releasing a gravitational pull toward contingency, or the sense that there is nothing necessary as such about the world of the given: all that exists could just as well be otherwise. Necessity can reappear from time to time as a second-order logical category, albeit channeled back into contingency, in which its central (and seemingly paradoxical) formula becomes: the necessity of contingency. Necessity as such, however, as an integral part of the thickness of experience itself, withdraws into the unthinkable. Musil’s text functions as a barometer of this shift. So absurd, irrelevant, archaic and patently metaphysical is the modality of necessity to this particular self-understanding of the modern subject that it cannot even be labeled a conspicuous absence. Necessity has simply vanished from the horizon of thought.
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  • Article
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  • In Copyright
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  • MLN
Journal volume
  • 128
Journal issue
  • 3
Page start
  • 580
Page end
  • 610
  • English
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