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The Man of "Hamlet"
The ambiguous function of thought can be clarified from another angle. On the one hand, as parodied by Polonius's formula, "What majesty should be, what duty is, / Why day is day, night night, and time is time" (2.2.87-88), thinking discloses reality or "the essence of things" (to invoke F.H. Bradley's phrase from a different context).7 But on the other hand, as prompted by personal circumstance, thinking increases perspectival idiosyncrasy: "How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable / Seem to me all the uses of this world" (1.2.133-134 emphasis added). That is, under the pressure of local conditions, "godlike reason" (4.4.38), the faculty par excellence of objective insight, succumbs to what Whitehead terms an "excess of subjectivity," with the result that "the selective character of the individual obscures the external totality."8 According to the classical schema, the function of reason is to guide life, so that the highest potential of the individual can be fulfilled. …
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