Saturday, May 25, 2019


Ibsen's huge play, Emperor and Galilean, was completed in 1873 after a long gestation. It treats the late-Roman conflict of paganism and Christianity in the person of Julian the Apostate. The play is thought to have launched the idea of a "Third Realm," advocated by the philosopher Maximus as a moral and political ideal constituted by a synthesis between the realm of the flesh in paganism and the realm of the spirit in Christianity (det tredje rike).
A little later, the idea was advanced independently by Gottlob Frege to designate the sphere of abstract ideas. There is also Karl Popper's late formula of World Three.
Yet surely the idea is older, as when the Anglican church is termed the Third Way between Catholicism and Protestantism. (To be sure, the affinity with the "Third Reich" is unfortunate.) And a commonplace among the ancient Greeks was that there are three modes of life: competition, buying and selling, and contemplation. In Brand, Ibsen himself identifies three life-choices to be avoided: timidity, frivolity, and madness.


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