The Veil of Isis: An Essay on the History of the Idea of Natureby Pierre Hadot
Pub. Date: 10/30/2006
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Nearly twenty-five hundred years ago the Greek thinker Heraclitus supposedly uttered the cryptic words "Phusis kruptesthai philei." How the aphorism, usually translated as "Nature loves to hide," has haunted Western culture ever since is the subject of this engaging study by Pierre Hadot. Taking the allegorical figure of the veiled goddess Isis as a guide, and
Nearly twenty-five hundred years ago the Greek thinker Heraclitus supposedly uttered the cryptic words "Phusis kruptesthai philei." How the aphorism, usually translated as "Nature loves to hide," has haunted Western culture ever since is the subject of this engaging study by Pierre Hadot. Taking the allegorical figure of the veiled goddess Isis as a guide, and drawing on the work of both the ancients and later thinkers such as Goethe, Rilke, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger, Hadot traces successive interpretations of Heraclitus' words. Over time, Hadot finds, "Nature loves to hide" has meant that all that lives tends to die; that Nature wraps herself in myths; and (for Heidegger) that Being unveils as it veils itself. Meanwhile the pronouncement has been used to explain everything from the opacity of the natural world to our modern angst.
From these kaleidoscopic exegeses and usages emerge two contradictory approaches to nature: the Promethean, or experimental-questing, approach, which embraces technology as a means of tearing the veil from Nature and revealing her secrets; and the Orphic, or contemplative-poetic, approach, according to which such a denuding of Nature is a grave trespass. In place of these two attitudes Hadot proposes one suggested by the Romantic vision of Rousseau, Goethe, and Schelling, who saw in the veiled Isis an allegorical expression of the sublime. "Nature is art and art is nature," Hadot writes, inviting us to embrace Isis and all she represents: art makes us intensely aware of how completely we ourselves are not merely surrounded by nature but also part of nature.
- Harvard University Press
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Table of Contents
Prologue at Ephesus: An Enigmatic Saying
Part I: The Veil of Death
1. Heraclitus' Aphorism: "What Is Born Tends to Disappear"
Part II: The Veil of Nature
2. From Phusis to Nature
3. Secrets of the Gods and Secrets of Nature
Part III: "Nature Loves to Hide"
4. Heraclitus' Aphorism and Allegorical Exegesis
5. "Nature Loves to Wrap Herself Up": Mythical Forms and Corporeal Forms
6. Calypso, or "Imagination with the Flowing Veil"
7. The Genius of Paganism
8. The "Gods of Greece": Pagan Myths in a Christian World
Part IV: Unveiling Nature's Secrets
9. Prometheus and Orpheus
Part V: The Promethean Attitude: Unveiling Secrets through Technology
10. Mechanics and Magic from Antiquity to the Renaissance
11. Experimental Science and the Mechanization of Nature
12. Criticism of the Promethean Attitude
Part VI: The Orphic Attitude: Unveiling Secrets through Discourse, Poetry, and Art
13. Physics as a Conjectural Science
14. Truth as the Daughter of Time
15. The Study of Nature as a Spiritual Exercise
16. Nature's Behavior: Thrifty, Joyful, or Spendthrift?
17. The Poetic Model
18. Aesthetic Perception and the Genesis of Forms
Part VII: The Veil of Isis
19. Artemis and Isis
Part VIII: From the Secret of Nature to the Mystery of Existence: Terror and Wonder
20. Isis Has No Veils
21. The Sacred Shudder
22.Nature as Sphinx
23. From the Secret of Nature to the Mystery of Being
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