Archive for November 7, 2008
I guess that every educated person has at least heard about the four basic questions of humanity as formulated by Immanuel Kant (known in German as “Die Kantischen Fragen”):
- What can I know? – Epistemology
- What should I do? – Ethics
- What may I hope? – Religion
- What is Man? – Anthropology
Yesterday I thought about how a fundamentalist would re-formulate these questions, and I realized that he would probably get rid of the third question altogether. A fundamentalist, in my understanding at least, is someone who has very little uncertainty about things that are uncertain to most. That means “hope” is not really a concept he can relate to. He knows that he knows that he knows that he is right. Hope is swallowed up by knowledge – or what the fundamentalist deems to be knowledge.
That is equally true of the religious and the anti-religious fundamentalist.
Here, then, are the questions and corresponding areas of study as a religious fundamentalist might see them:
- What can I know? – Divine revelation
- What should I do? – Divine commands
- What is Man? – Divine revelation
And here’s the anti-religious fundamentalist:
- What can I know? – General science
- What should I do? – Ethical science
- What is Man? – Anthropological science
As for me, I don’t want to turn from the wisdom displayed by Kant when he differentiated between knowledge and hope.
|The Children of Húrin|
|by J.R.R. Tolkien|
Those who approach this book with the expectation of getting some kind of sequel (or rather prequel) to The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings, or even an add-on to the Silmarillion, will be disappointed.
This is much more a classic tragedy than a work of Fantasy literature. I was reminded of the Greek tragedies by Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus. As with those authors, it is best to read The Children of Hurin with the expectation of a “bad” ending. In a classic tragedy, it does not spoil one’s reading to know that most of the main characters are going to die in a most tragic way, just like it’s no spoiler to know that there’ll be a murder in a mystery novel or jokes in a modern comedy.
Reading The Children of Hurin in any other way is like watching a serious WWII drama and waiting the whole time for a bunch of fluffy jokes to crack you up.
If you haven’t developed a taste for tragedies, don’t read this book.
But as a tragedy, it absolutely delivers the goods of its genre. It makes you step into another time, feel with other hearts, and taste death – and through it, grow more appreciative of the life that has been given you.
By the end of the book, I felt enriched. Somberly enriched.