Discuss thoughts about Keats' negative capability with examples.

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It can be argued that one of Keats' greatest contributions to the field of intellectual inquiry is his development of negative capability.  Keats describes this in his letters:  “ [remaining] in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact & reason."  This is one of the strongest elements of Romanticism.  For Keats, there is something beautiful about enabling ideas and concepts to reach their full maturation.  Negative capability helps to construct learning and understanding as a quest, one in which the voyage is just as, if not more important, than the end destination.  There can be no directing these profound ideas.  Rather, the individual must embrace "uncertainties, mysteries, and doubts."  Negative capability is one of the strongest indictments against the Age of Reason and its emphasis on the scientific.  Rather, it seeks to embrace a condition of being in which truth is a mysterious quality predicated in an understanding of doubt and intellectual, sometimes emotional, insecurity.

The drive for answers becomes supplanted with the zeal of questions.  Keats is able to develop this in his work.  The reveling of an "end in speculation" can be seen in "beauty is truth, truth beauty/ That is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know."  It is negative capability that is able to encompass a world view in which the individual understands and accepts a sense of the unknown as an integral part of consciousness.  Keats' thinking and work in this regard reflects an understanding of being in the world that challenges the individual to embrace something new and shed that which has been instructed for oceans of time.

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