George Levine

in Dying to Know

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780226475363
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226475387 | DOI:

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Part of the paradox of dying to know is that one cannot know anything when one is dead. The phrase means a kind of liminal position, at the edge of nonbeing, and it implies a persistent tragedy: only in death can one understand what it has meant to be alive. The link between knowledge and death has turned into the metaphor “dying to know.” The narrative of scientific epistemology is discussed. Dying is one consequence of the Faustian pact for knowledge: death both for the aspiring knower, and for the world in which things get known. It is suggested that the ultimate ideal impersonality of the knower does historically result to the decentering of the human. The “death” of the inquiring self helps move human knowledge toward the “death” of other human ideals and wishes.

Keywords: dying to know; knowledge; death; scientific epistemology; knower; human

Chapter.  6843 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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