[LMB] OT: Negative Capability (long)

Paul E. Oppenheimer paul at peoppenheimer.org
Fri Dec 15 18:05:46 GMT 2006

The letter to Keats's brothers is available in full at: http:// 
www.mrbauld.com/negcap.html.  David Hume has a nice explanation of  
why negative capability is so rare.  As a reminder, I quote Keats  
first:  ". . . Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of  
being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable  
reaching after fact and reason . . .".  Here is Hume:  "The greater  
part of mankind are naturally apt to be affirmative and dogmatical in  
their opinions; and while they see objects only on one side, and have  
no idea of any counterpoising argument, they throw themselves  
precipitately into the principles, to which they are inclined; nor  
have they any indulgence for those who entertain opposite  
sentiments.  To hesitate or balance perplexes their understanding,  
checks their passion, and suspends their action.  They are,  
therefore, impatient till they escape from a state, which to them is  
so uneasy; and they think, that they can never remove themselves far  
enough from it, by the violence of their affirmations and obstinacy  
of their belief" (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748).
Paul E. Oppenheimer
paul at peoppenheimer.org

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