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Chapter 17 - Some archaeological observations

from PARERGA AND PARALIPOMENA, VOLUME 2

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2015

Adrian Del Caro
Affiliation:
University of Tennessee
Christopher Janaway
Affiliation:
University of Southampton
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Summary

§191

The name Pelasger, undoubtedly related to Pelagus, is the general designation for the small Asiatic tribes, scattered, supplanted, and wandering about, which first arrived in Europe, where they soon completely forgot their native culture, tradition and religion. On the other hand, they were favoured by the influence of the beautiful, temperate climate and good soil, as well as the many sea coasts of Greece and Asia Minor, and under the name of the Hellenes achieved on their own an entirely natural evolution and a purely human culture the like of which has never appeared anywhere in such perfection. Accordingly they had nothing but a childish religion meant half in jest; seriousness took refuge in the mysteries and the tragedy. To this Greek nation alone do we owe the correct interpretation and natural representation of the human form and gestures; the discovery of the only regular proportions of architecture, forever established by them; the development of all genuine forms of poetry, along with the discovery of truly beautiful metres; the setting up of philosophical systems according to all the basic directions of human thought; the elements of mathematics; the foundations of a rational legislation and generally speaking the normal portrayal of a truly beautiful and noble human existence. For this small, select people of the muses and graces was, so to speak, endowed with an instinct for beauty. This extended to everything; to faces, figures, poses, clothing, weapons, buildings, vessels, implements and whatever else there was, and it never ever abandoned them. Therefore we will always have strayed from good taste and beauty to the precise extent we have distanced ourselves from the Greeks, especially in sculpture and architecture, and the ancients will never become antiquated. They are and will remain the polestar for all our efforts, be it in literature, or in the plastic arts, which we must never lose sight of. Disgrace awaits the age that would dare to set aside the ancients. If therefore some corrupt, miserable and purely materially minded ‘time of now’ should desert the school of the ancients in order to feel more comfortable in its own conceit, then it sows disgrace and ignominy.

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Schopenhauer: Parerga and Paralipomena
Short Philosophical Essays
, pp. 363 - 366
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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