Wednesday, 21 November 2012

What does 'exotericé' mean?

Now that I have an actual question to ask, I'll confess I'm starting to feel sorry I've driven all the traffic away from this blog with the pressure of relentless Coleridge trivia. But I'm going to ask the question anyway. What does exotericé mean?

It's in Biographia chapter 9; in a section where Coleridge is gently mocking Fichte:
Thus his theory degenerated into a crude egoismus, a boastful and hyperstoic hostility to NATURE, as lifeless, godless, and altogether unholy: while his religion consisted in the assumption of a mere ORDO ORDINANS, which we were permitted exotericé to call GOD; and his ethics in an ascetic, and almost monkish, mortification of the natural passions and desires.
The Princeton edition of the Biographia, edited by stalwarts Engell and Jackson Bate, gloss the word as meaning 'popularly', but I don't see where they get that from (they give no source). I can't, indeed, find a definition -- except that presumably it is from the Latin 'exoticus' ('foreign, exotic'). Google books returns but one instance of the word's usage that isn't Coleridge's Biographia: Georg Conrad Bergius and Johann Christoph Neander's Disputatio civilis (1653), where it's used (with, as in Coleridge, an accent on terminal 'e') to mean 'foreign' or 'exotic'. Isn't it likely that's what Coleridge meant, too? I'd gloss '... which we were permitted exotericé to call GOD' as '... which we were permitted unusually, or as a special concession to call GOD'. Am I wrong?


Archie Valparaiso said...

It may indeed be "popularly", though, in the sense of "by outsiders/lay observers/the uninitiated", since that's one of the meanings the OED gives for "exoteric(al)".

To all intents and purposes, it looks as though it was very similar in practical usage to today's "dumbed down".

I haven't a clue what the Frenchification was all about, though; exoteric(al(ly)) had been around since the mid-17th century.

Adam Roberts Project said...

I suppose 'popularly' fits Coleridge's context rather better than my idea. Hmm.

Susan Gray said...

Hmm, looking up exoteric on my phone (the wonders of, it provides the definition of exoteric being "suitable for, or communicated to the general public", so "dumbing it down" (as previously mentioned) or putting it "in layman's terms" could maybe make sense in there. But I agree, I think "popularly" fits best. "Ordo ordinans" is similar to a directing order, I think? (or vice versa?)

Argh, too many quotation marks!

Adam Roberts Project said...

Thanks Susan: 'Ordo Ordinans' is a philosophical concept like 'unmoved mover'; it means 'the order that generates all other order' and is one of the ways eighteenth-century philosophers talked about God.

mahendra singh said...

A very well -read francophone friend of my wife thinks that it means to make something exotic … exoticize … that racaille, STC, uh?

archi said...

I take exoteric to be the opposite of esoteric... a literal & superficial interpretation

Adam Roberts Project said...

Mahendra, Archi: thank you -- very helpful.