Can we understand Young Werther?

One of my ideosyncracies is that I often (due to my poor memory) repeat conversations, or even the same questions to people. One conversation that normally comes up between the Areopagites, and other people, and myself; is this question: Can we understand the Sorrows of Young Werther if we have no experience of a similar tragic love?

Michael’s bastardisation of Goethe

Let me put it into context: Werther met the lovely Lotte at a party; Lotte’s handmaiden told him not to fall in love with her because she is betrothed to another. Lo and behold; he does fall in love with her; she is so beautiful, she possesses those normative ideals of femininity (insert your own norms here; I suppose for Sinistre and Myself that ideal would probably be some isomorph of Destre, or a particular instructor we had at our respective institutions…anyway…). We then find, that Werther completely ignores the advice of Lotte’s Nurse; and FALLS IN LOVE. When he finds out that there is absolutely no possibility of a romance with dearest Lotte, he goes insane and ends up killing himself, as the one thing that gave his life meaning cannot obtain; the one project (in Sartrean terms) he had cannot be. His Fundamental project, has fallen, as Lotte marries the young arisocrat to whom she is betrothed.

The question

Here is the question; assuming that most normal people haven’t experienced such a destructive infatuation; can we understand the actions of Werther? Or, do we deem it as ‘irrational’ in some third personal context which denies the possibility of any empathy with him?

I think two points are to be made:

  1. I’m making a BIG assumption that it is an uncommon human experience to have fallen in love and felt destroyed afterwards; don’t blame me for misunderstanding antrhopology; my knowledge of people comes from reading, not people.
  2. We need to address the normative issue of what he did. Ethical questions must be asked; moreover, meta-ethical questions must be asked

The personal, corollorary point I make is this: is this common to fall in love and be destroyed by it? I really don’t know the answer to this…I asked Sinistre and Destre about this issue:

Destre: We do not need to know love to understand it; just read lots of love literature and soforth and understand the core presuppositions of the emotional phenomenon, and you shall understand love

Sinistre: [No comment]


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