Academic journal article Philosophy Today

"The Wounder Will Heal": Cognition and Reconciliation in Hegel and Adorno

Academic journal article Philosophy Today

"The Wounder Will Heal": Cognition and Reconciliation in Hegel and Adorno

Article excerpt

(ProQuest Information and Learning: Foreign text omitted)

The Trojan Epic Cycle comprised many extraordinary stories, most of which were recounted in works other than those attributed to Homer. The following is one of the stranger extracts from the Cycle: Helen has been abducted by the Trojans and the Greeks have resolved to get her back. The problem is that they have no idea where Troy is. They set off for Asia Minor, hoping that along the way they'll be able to sort out exactly where they're supposed to be going. Finally, they arrive at what they think is Troy-but which is in fact Teuthrania, a city in Mysia. They mistakenly lay siege to the city and in the ensuing skirmishes, Achilles wounds the defending king and hero, Telephus. Eventually, the nimble-witted Achaeans realize their error and retreat to their home shores, a journey which apparently takes them eight years. (By this time, counting the two years it took them to decide to go after Helen, ten years had elapsed since her abduction.) Back in Teuthrania, however, all is not well: Telephus's wound refuses to close. His condition becomes rather serious, so he consults an oracle to see about getting back on his feet. The oracle, naturally, replies with a seemingly straightforward but in fact deeply cryptic answer to his query: "...," the wounder will heal. Telephus, for one, thinks he knows exactly what the oracle has in mind and sets off for Agamemnon's court at Aulis, which he infiltrates, disguised as a beggar. His idea, presumably, is that the oracle must have meant that Achilles is the only one who can heal him; after all, Achilles was, in fact, "the wounder." Before he gets a chance to track down Achilles, though, he's found out, recognized, and dragged before Agamemnon. Now, in the meantime, the Greeks themselves have consulted a seer for directions to Troy, and received the answer that a Greek will show them the way. At first they're stymied, since clearly, none of them knows the way. However, upon interrogating Telephus, they discover that he is really an expatriate Greek living in Asia Minor, and of course he knows where Troy is. And so they make a deal with him: in exchange for leading them to Troy, the Greeks will get Achilles to take a look at the wound he inflicted on Telephus. Alas, sausage-fingered Achilles has no luck healing Telephus. At their wits' end, Odysseus at last realizes that by "wounder," the oracle must have meant the weapon rather than the person who wounded Telephus. Achilles fetches his spear and scrapes some rust off onto Telephus's wound. "The wounder will heal"-and indeed, the wound closes and is healed. Telephus, keeping his end of the bargain, then shows the Greeks the way to Ilium.

The epic source for the story, the Cypria, is unfortunately lost and we have no way of knowing exactly how the story was recounted by the poet, although various retellings, retellings of retellings, dramatic adaptations, vase paintings, and the like have helped us to piece it together.' Of course, it is of interest in its own right, but the story also has significance as the basis for an esoteric allusion made by both Hegel and Adorno, who on various occasions invoke the oracular "...," as a way of saying something about the operations of thought (or more specifically, the concept) and the reconciliation of spirit and nature. Hegel, for example, in one of his lecture-hall additions to a passage from the Encyclopaedia Logic, says that thinking "both inflicts [a] wound and heals it again,"2 while Adorno, on the other hand, in the Introduction to Negative Dialectic, says that "Cognition [Erkenntnis] is a ...."3 Now, it may seem at first glance that Hegel and Adorno have different things in mind. After all, Hegel says "thinking" is that which both wounds and heals while Adorno says it is rather "cognition." In point of fact, however, Adorno's allusion to the story of the Cypria is a direct reference to the Hegelian sentiment expressed in the passage from the shorter Logic and a subtle comment on its implications. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.