This article discusses the significance of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's notion of the conscience Friedrich Hölderlin. In the eighteenth century, the soul was seen as an important source of energy and guidance in the intellectual life of individuals; Rousseau sees these energies as expressions (the voice of conscience) that lead to our moral betterment. Conscience is not only an ethical guide, rather it is also the basis of (self-)consciousness. For Hölderlin, the constituent elements of conscience have two divergent sets of possibilities: in excess, thanatos and eros bring about our ruin but alternatively, they can converge constructively to form conscience that enables us to become autonomous historical agents. Rousseau is a crucial figure for Hölderlin, especially in the poem “Der Rhein,” because in his writings, he finds a way of overcoming the destructive pull of eros and thanatos. Additionally, the reference to Rousseau's affirmation of conscience creates the basis of poetic self-reflexivity in “Der Rhein”: it is the moment that uncovers the temporal and phenomenological affinities between human consciousness and signs of the God in the mundane world. It is in this way that Hölderlin links poetic practice with historical agency.

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