Unamuno: A Philosophy of Tragedy

Unamuno: A Philosophy of Tragedy

Unamuno: A Philosophy of Tragedy

Unamuno: A Philosophy of Tragedy

Excerpt

There are at least three ways of studying the work of an author and, in particular, that of a philosopher: the erudite, the critical, and the interpretive.

Those who employ the erudite approach are, or claim to be, impartial. Their mission is to amass (and, whenever necessary, correct) facts and dates, edit texts, unearth documents, sort out epochs and phases, inventory themes and motifs, trace relationships, discover books read, and track down influences. The work of erudition is, of course, necessary; more than that, it is indispensable. Without it one runs the risk of committing pompous falsifications or pronouncing solemn nonsense. Without an existent apparatus of erudition, the honest study of any author is impossible.

Those who employ the critical approach begin by adopting positions from which they usually strike out at the writer being studied. When these positions are purely external to, or have little to do with, the system of thought that is their target they obtain success as showy as it is useless. One can criticize Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Hume, and Hegel with considerable success -- particularly if one has the good fortune to have been born much later than they. When the positions adopted by the critics are purely internal, their success is equally notable though less spectacular. To achieve their ends they have only to lay bare the internal contradictions of a system and show that the conclusions would have been otherwise if the author had been faithful to his premises.

Neither of these two variations on the critical approach . . .

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