Unanswerable simply because they were without reality.

From Within a Budding Grove – I was going to comment on the Platonic flavor here but it seems Moncrieff beat me to it by rendering ‘Participant à la valeur universelle des esprits‘ as ‘being itself a part of the riches of the universal Mind.’  I’d call that one of his rare clear missteps.

And so, when Bergotte had to express an opinion which was the opposite of my own, he in no way reduced me to silence, to the impossibility of framing any reply, as M. de Norpois would have done. This does not prove that Bergotte’s opinions were of less value than the Ambassador’s; far from it. A powerful idea communicates some of its strength to him who challenges it. Being itself a part of the riches of the universal Mind, it makes its way into, grafts itself upon the mind of him whom it is employed to refute, slips in among the ideas already there, with the help of which, gaining a little ground, he completes and corrects it; so that the final utterance is always to some extent the work of both parties to a discussion. It is to ideas which are not, properly speaking, ideas at all, to ideas which, founded upon nothing, can find no support, no kindred spirit among the ideas of the adversary, that he, grappling with something which is not there, can find no word to say in answer. The arguments of M. de Norpois (in the matter of art) were unanswerable simply because they were without reality.

Et quand l’avis de Bergotte était ainsi contraire au mien, il ne me réduisait nullement au silence, à l’impossibilité de rien répondre, comme eût fait celui de M. de Norpois. Cela ne prouve pas que les opinions de Bergotte fussent moins valables que celles de l’ambassadeur, au contraire. Une idée forte communique un peu de sa force au contradicteur. Participant à la valeur universelle des esprits, elle s’insère, se greffe en l’esprit de celui qu’elle réfute, au milieu d’idées adjacentes, à l’aide desquelles, reprenant quelque avantage, il la complète, la rectifie; si bien que la sentence finale est en quelque sorte l’uvre des deux personnes qui discutaient. C’est aux idées qui ne sont pas, à proprement parler, des idées, aux idées qui ne tenant à rien, ne trouvent aucun point d’appui, aucun rameau fraternel dans l’esprit de l’adversaire, que celui-ci, aux prises avec le pur vide, ne trouve rien à répondre. Les arguments de M. de Norpois (en matière d’art) étaient sans réplique parce qu’ils étaient sans réalité.

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