Registering the Registering of the Fact of Registering: Jean Paul’s Definition of Philosophy

German Romantic writer Jean Paul defined philosophy in metaterms:

Whereas the entire Witz of philosophy is to make the subject “I” into an object and vice versa, the philosophy of the Witz nowadays is one that similarly tries to ensure that the ideas of this subject-object are treated sub-objectively; in other words, I am being profound and serious if I say, “I am registering the registering of the fact of registering the fact of registering’, or ‘I am reflecting on the fact of reflecting on the reflexion of a reflexion on a brush.’ These are serious sentences, which reveal infinite reflexion (‘Widerschein ins Unendliche’)! Such depths are certainly beyond the reach of some people! I’ll go further: only he who shows himself able to write, several times in a row, the genitive of the same infinitive of whatever verb, can be allowed to say: I am philosophizing . . .

Dallenbach, Lucien. The Mirror in the Text. Trans. Jeremy Whiteley and Emma Hughes. Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1989.

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