"The pale cast of thought" : On the dilemma of thinking and action

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)281-297
Journal / PublicationNew Literary History
Issue number2
Online published6 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


In his Theses on Feuerbach, Karl Marx famously formulated the principle of a philosophy of revolutionary action that the point is to change the world, not to interpret it. The critique of pure thinking and philosophizing has a long tradition in philosophical thinking itself, and the problem of hasty action without thinking through possible consequences and implications can be equally futile and even dangerous. Thus we face the dilemma of thinking and action, interpretation and its rivals. By looking into a variety of exemplary cases, including a Monty Python episode, Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and Tom Stoppard’s play Professional Foul, this essay explores the different aspects of this dilemma and offers comments on the pros and cons of the various positions in the debate. In the final analysis, the opposition of thinking and action is found to be mutually implicated, not a rigid dichotomy.