Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “None are more Hopelessly Enslaved than Those who Falsely Believe They are Free.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe  (28 Aug 1749 – 22 Mar 1832), a German writer and statesman wrote Elective Affinities. The title is taken from a scientific term once used to describe the tendency of chemical species to combine with certain substances or species in preference to others. The novel is based on the metaphor of human passions being governed or regulated by the laws of chemical affinity, and examines whether or not the science and laws of chemistry undermine or uphold the institution of marriage, as well as other human social relations.His works include four novels; epic and lyric poetry; prose and verse dramas; memoirs; an autobiography; literary and aesthetic criticism; and treatises on botany, anatomy, and color. In addition, there are numerous literary and scientific fragments, more than 10,000 letters, and nearly 3,000 drawings by him extant.

A literary celebrity by the age of 25, Goethe was ennobled by the Duke of Saxe-WeimarKarl August in 1782 after taking up residence there in November 1775 following the success of his first novel, The Sorrows of Young Werther (1774). He was an early participant in the Sturm und Drang literary movement. During his first ten years in Weimar, Goethe was a member of the Duke’s privy council, sat on the war and highway commissions, oversaw the reopening of silver mines in nearby Ilmenau, and implemented a series of administrative reforms at the University of Jena. He also contributed to the planning of Weimar’s botanical park and the rebuilding of its Ducal Palace, which in 1998 were together designated a UNESCO World Heritage site under the name Classical Weimar.

In Book II, Chapter 5, von Goethe wrote

Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich für frei hält, ohne es zu sein’

which translates in English to,

‘None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.’

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