Saturday, January 12, 2008

Die Gruendlichkeit der Deutschen Gelehrsamkeit

(Posted to my MySpace Weblog on September 29, 2007)

When you hang around libraries as much as I do, even indices become exciting. Some indices are shoddily done, and many books nowadays because of the hectic rush to market do not have any indices at all. After all doing an index is slow and plodding. The only people that like doing it are sycophantic grad students and, of course, German eggheads. The latter actually live for this stuff. Germans have to have everything catagorized, filed, and indexed, even their underwear (after it is dutifully ironed, of course). In fact, the best way to drive a German to existentialist, slit-wristing despair is to take away his index. And then the whole world becomes a disjointed Humean chaos. The index for the German is more than a reference tool, it is the very structure of Being itself, and so it is very important to get it right. A German index is indeed a thing of beauty and, of course, Gruendlichkeit (thoroughness). Case in point is the index to Suhrkamp's edition of Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung. The indexer was very careful to list all possible meaningful subjects, including this curious group of sub-headings for the Hegel entry:

Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 1770-1831, Professor of Philosophy in Jena and Berlin 1/14; a vulgar, pernicious brain 2/57, 736; a wanna-be philosopher 2:113; a charlatan 1/17f.; 2/23; a sophist 1/17; a scrawler of nonsense 1/566; 2/57, 95; a windbag 1/17; 251; H's Philosophy: Wisdom of the Anus 1/589, Philosophy of the Anus 2/249, 567; scholastic nonsense 2/49; obscurantism 1/580; farces of fools 2/50; Shallowness 2/392; Hegel Schmegel 1/22; 2/49, 57, 789; Hegelians and Kant 1/22; Hegelians as neo-Spinozists 2/118; Writings of the Hegelians 2/88; History of Philosophy 2/568; The Young Hegelians and English Socialists 2/592 (Die Welt als Wille and Vorstellung, zweiter Band, p. 863)

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