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Negative Capability

Negative Capability is a theory of the poet John Keats, expressed in his letter to George and Thomas Keats dated Sunday, 21 December 1817.

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, on various subjects; several things dovetailed in my mind, & at once it struck me, what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in literature & which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason

Keats believed that great people (especially poets, whom he considered to almost be on another level to the rest of humanity) had the ability to accept that not every thing can be resolved - being capable of remaining negative on something. Keats was a Romantic and believed that truth does not lie in science and philosophical reasoning, but in art. In art the aim is not, as in science, to solve problems, but rather to explore them. Hence, accepting that there may not be a solution to vexing problems is important to artists.

Keats expressed this idea in several of his poems

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