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The Rhinegold: Page 136
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early men would naturally construe their capacity for abstraction and generalization as proof of man’s, or at least the gods’, autonomy from the laws of the natural, physical world, and in some instances (such as the God of monotheistic religions), as the actual creator of the real world, the thought giving birth to the thing:

“Man does not have the sense of smell of a hunting dog or of a raven, but only because his sense of smell is a sense embracing all kinds of smell; hence it is a freer sense … . But, wherever a sense is elevated above the limits of particularity and its bondage to needs, it is elevated to an independent and theoretical significance and dignity … .” [187F-PPF: p. 69]

“From the standpoint of abstract thinking, already replete with universal propositions, the derivation of the universal from the particular seems irrational and absurd; for in thought the universal appears to be essential and necessary, while the particular appears to be contingent, exceptional , and indifferent.” [345F-LER: p. 334]

“ … since the universal, that is, the abstract, has … become the foundation of the real, man comes to regard the being who is nothing but a bundle of universal concepts, the thinking, spiritual being, as the first being, as the being who precedes all other beings not only in rank but also in time, who is indeed the ground and cause of all being and the Creator of all beings.” [228F-LER: p. 119]

[P. 174] “ … it is the human faculty of [P. 175] abstraction and the related imagination (for it is only thanks to his imagination that man hypostatizes abstract, universal concepts and comes to conceive of them as entities, as Ideas) that lead him to look outside the sensuous world and to derive it from a non-sensuous, abstract being.” [258F-LER: p. 174-175]

But, as Feuerbach noted, all such abstract products of the imagination begin with concrete experience, from which the imagination draws only those properties which strike it as universal and therefore immortal and divine:

“Man must always start from the concrete, from what is simplest, clearest, most undeniable, namely the sensuous object, and only then proceed to the more complicated, to abstractions that the eye cannot see.” [264F-LER: p. 184]

In the following extract, describing how his music-dramas must first present the concrete and self-evident, before proceeding on to the depiction of the miraculous (whose basis is ultimately the mundane, real world we know), Wagner is clearly influenced by Feuerbach’s ruminations above:

[Speaking of his notion of the ideal poet, i.e., the music-dramatist, Wagner asserts that:] “[P. 338] He has … to show his characters at first in predicaments (Lebenslagen) having a recognisable likeness with such as we have found, or at least might have found, ourselves in; only from such a foundation, can he mount step by step to situations whose force and wondrousness remove us from the life of [P. 339] everyday, and show us Man in the highest fulness of his power.” [545W-{50-1/51} Opera and Drama: PW Vol. II, p. 338-339]

This is clearly what Wagner has done in musically presenting Alberich’s forging of his Ring of power as the foundation for the heavenly abode of the gods, Valhalla, namely, the transformation of

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