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This article is taken from PN Review 8, Volume 5 Number 4, July - September 1979.

On Stupidity (part two) Robert Musil

PART II: translated by J. Le Vay
ONE HEARS a lot nowadays of humanity's crisis of faith, a crisis of that faith which was until now inbred in mankind; one could also call it panic, a panic which is on the point of destroying all confidence in our ability to conduct our affairs in a free and rational manner. And we cannot hide from ourselves the fact that these two moral and also aesthetic concepts, freedom and reason, which have been handed down to us from the classical age of German cosmopolitanism as the distinguishing characteristics of human dignity, had already, as early as the middle of the 19th century (or a little later) ceased to be such a integral part of "right being". They have gradually gone "out of circulation", people don't know what to make of them any more, and that they have been allowed to wither away is less the work of their enemies than of their friends. Nor can we pretend that either we ourselves or those that come after us will return to these unchanging ideas. On the contrary, our task, shaped by the spiritual trials which we have had to endure, will rather be to achieve the ever-necessary and much to be desired transition to the new state of affairs while incurring the least possible all-round loss; and indeed this is the seldom-defined duty, accompanied by so much pain and so much promise, which faces every new generation. And the more pronounced ...


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