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Negative capability

A theory first articulated by John Keats about the artist’s access to truth without the pressure and framework of logic or science. Contemplating his own craft and the art of others, especially William Shakespeare, in one of his famous letters to relatives Keats supposed that a great thinker is “capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” A poet, then, has the power to bury self-consciousness, dwell in a state of openness to all experience, and identify with the object contemplated. See Keats’s “To Autumn.” The inspirational power of beauty, according to Keats, is more important than the quest for objective fact; as he writes in his “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty’—that is all / Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.” Keats’s notion of Negative Capability has been influential for those working outside of aesthetics; including scholars such Roberto Unger who adopted and modified the term for his own work on social theory. 

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