What is the use of all this knowledge?

As Adam and Eve would want to know, what is the use of all knowledge? Maybe that is too trite but that is also the search that Faust wants resolution to. Goethe relates Faust’s issue to tangible wealth. Faust has all the knowledge which he believes available, but what has he not got, it’s wealth.  

At 06.30, I got stuck into Faust and the first rant he has at the start of the play, is the idea that knowledge of everything doesn’t make someone satisfied! Goethe‘s Faust relates it subsequently to physical wealth, hence his subsequent downfall. 

I bought the text of Faust in May 2015; as a play edited and adapted for the Citizens’ Theatre in Glasgow, , but only now I’ve managed to start it. Initially, it was an impulse buy after reading references to Goethe and Schiller, in Claudio Magris’ Danube; then again in Sebald, who I blame for most of my reading diversions. 

The first lines of Faust’s part are so Sebald: how much can you ever learn yet still not be satisfied? On first reading, Goethe focus’s Faust’s downfall on a want for wealth as reward for his great knowledge, whereas Sebald wants mental satisfaction of knowing who you are in terms of human and national history ( if I’ve read him right?)  Suppression of memory denies self knowledge. I don’t therefore conclude that Faust is shallow in wanting tangible wealth but that the tangible wealth he craves represents all the wants of humanity outwith mental peace of mind: a self valuation,  a judgment based on tangible outward signs of wealth. This is almost a parody of the Christian idea of, “ outward signs of inward grace,” in reference to the Sacraments! I don’t know enough of Goethe to posit that as a valid source but I want to work on it. Faust bemoans his study of Theology in this initial lament. Is there to be redress as the play concludes?

Whether it is the character of Faust or of Sebald’s Jacquest Austerlitz, satisfaction is sought. Faust may get his physical satisfaction but does Austerlitz get peace of mind?


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