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The Riddles of Philosophy

RoP: Reactionary World Conceptions (Pt1 Ch8)


Part I

Chapter VIII

Reactionary World Conceptions

“The bud vanishes in the breaking of the blossom, and one could say that the former is contradicted by the latter. In the same way, the fruit declares the blossom to be a false existence and replaces it as its truth. These forms are not merely different from one another but they crowd each other out as they are incompatible. Their Quid nature makes them at once into moments of the organic whole in which they not only do not contradict each other, but in which the one is as necessary as the other, and it is only this equal necessity that constitutes the life of the whole.”

In these words of Hegel, the most significant traits of his mode of conception are expressed. He believes that the things of reality carry within themselves their own contradiction and that the incentive for their growth, for the living process of their development, is given by the fact that they continually attempt to overcome this contradiction. The blossom would never become fruit if it were without contradiction. It would have no reason to go beyond its unquestioned existence.

An exactly opposite intellectual conviction forms the point of departure of Johann Friedrich Herbart (1776 – 1841). Hegel is a sharp thinker, but at the same time a spirit with a great thirst for reality. He would like to have only things that have absorbed the rich, saturated content of the world into themselves. For this reason, Hegel's thoughts must also be in an eternal flux, in a continuous state of becoming, in a forward motion as full of contradictions as reality itself. Herbart is a completely abstract thinker. He does not attempt to penetrate into things but looks at them from the corner into which he has withdrawn as an isolated thinker. The purely logical thinker is disturbed by a contradiction. He demands clear concepts that can exist side by side. One concept must not interfere with another. The thinker sees himself in a strange situation because he is confronted with reality that is full of contradictions, no matter what he may undertake. The concepts that he can derive from this reality are unsatisfactory to him. They offend his logical sense. This feeling of dissatisfaction becomes the point of departure. Herbart feels that if the reality that is spread out before his senses and before his mind supplies him with contradictory concepts, then it cannot be the true reality for which his thinking is striving. He derives his task from this situation. The contradictory reality is not real being but only appearance. In this view he follows Kant to a certain degree, but while Kant declares true being unattainable to thinking cognition, Herbart believes one penetrates from appearance to being by transforming the contradictory concepts of appearance and changing them into concepts that are free from contradictions. As smoke indicates fire, so appearance points at a form of being as its ground. If, through our logical thinking, we elaborate out of a contradictory world picture given to us by our senses and our mind, one that is not contradictory, then we gain from this uncontradictory world picture what we are looking for. This world picture, to be sure, does not appear in this form that is free from contradictions, but it lies behind the apparent one as true reality. Herbart does not set out to comprehend the directly given reality, but creates another reality through which the former is to become explainable. He arrives in this fashion at an abstract thought system that looks rather meager as compared to the rich, full reality. The true reality cannot be a unity, for a unity would have to contain within itself the infinite variety of the real things and events. It must be a plurality of simple entities, eternally equal to themselves, incapable of change and development. Only a simple entity that unchangeably preserves its qualities is free from contradictions. An entity in development is something different in one moment from what it is in another, that is, its qualities are contradictory at various times. The true world is, therefore, a plurality of simple, never-changing entities, and what we perceive are not these simple entities but their relations to one another. These relations have nothing to do with the real being. If one simple entity enters into a relationship with another, the two entities are not changed thereby, but I do perceive the result of their relationship. The reality we perceive directly is a sum of relations between real entities. When one entity abandons its relation to another and replaces it by a relationship with a third entity, something happens without touching the being of the entities themselves. It is this event that we perceive, namely, our apparent contradictory reality. It is interesting to note how Herbart, on the basis of this conception, forms his thoughts concerning the life of the soul. The soul is, as are all other real entities, simple and unchangeable in itself. This entity is now engaged in relations with other beings. The expression of these relations is life in thought-pictures. Everything that happens within us — imagination, feeling, will — is an interplay between the soul and the rest of the world of real entities. Thus, for Herbart, the soul life becomes the appearance of relations into which the simple soul-entity enters with the world. Herbart has a mathematical mind, and his whole world conception is derived fundamentally from mathematical conceptions. A number does not change when it becomes the link of an arithmetical operation. Three remains three, whether it is added to four or subtracted from seven. As the numbers have their place within the mathematical operations, so do the individual entities within the relationships that develop between them. For this reason, psychology becomes an arithmetical operation for Herbart. He attempts to apply mathematics to psychology. How the thought-images condition each other, how they effect one another, what results they produce through their coexistence are things calculated by Herbart. The “ego” is not the spiritual entity that we lay hold of in our self-consciousness, but it is the result of the cooperation of all thought-pictures and thereby also nothing more than a sum, a last expression of relationships. Of the simple entity, which is the basis of our soul life, we know nothing, but its continual relation to other entities is apparent to us. In this play of relations one entity is entangled. This condition is expressed by the fact that all these relationships are tending toward a center, and this tendency expresses itself in the thought of the ego.

Herbart is, in another sense than Goethe, Schiller, Schelling, Fichte and Hegel, a representative of the development of modern world conception. Those thinkers attempt a representation of the self-conscious soul in a world picture capable of containing this self-conscious soul as an element. In so doing they become the spokesmen for the spiritual impulse of their age. Herbart is confronted with this impulse and he must admit the feeling that this impulse is there. He attempts to understand it, but in the form of thinking that he imagines to be the correct one, he finds no possibility of penetrating into the life of the self-conscious being of the soul. He remains outside of it. One can see in Herbart's world conception what difficulties man's thinking encounters when it tries to comprehend what it has essentially become in the course of mankind's evolution. Compared to Hegel, Herbart appears like a thinker who strives in vain for an aim at which Hegel believes actually to have arrived. Herbart's thought constructions are an attempt to outline as an external spectator what Hegel means to present through the inner participation of thought. Thinkers like Herbart are also significant for the characterization of the modern form of world conception. They indicate the aim that is to be reached by the very display of their insufficient means for the attainment of this aim. The spiritual aim of the age motivates Herbart's struggle; his intellectual energy is inadequate to understand and to express this struggle sufficiently. The course of the philosophical evolution shows that, besides the thinkers who move on the crest of the time-impulses, there are also always some active ones who form world conceptions through their failure to understand these impulses. Such world conceptions may well be called reactionary.

Herbart reverts to the view of Leibniz. His simple soul entity is unchangeable; it neither grows nor decays. It existed when this apparent life contained within man's ego began, and will again withdraw from these relations when this life ceases to continue independently. Herbart arrives at his conception of God through his world picture, which contains many simple entities that produce the events through their relations. Within these processes we observe purpose-directed order. But the relations could only be accidental and chaotic if the entities, which, according to their own nature, would have nothing in common, were left entirely to themselves. The fact that they are teleologically ordered, therefore, points toward a wise world ruler who directs their relations. “No one is capable of giving a close definition of deity,” says Herbart. He condemns “the pretensions of the systems that speak of God as of an object to be comprehended in sharply drawn contours by means of which we would rise to a knowledge for which we are simply denied the data.”

Man's actions and artistic creations are completely without foundation in this world picture. All possibility to fit them into this system is lacking. For what could a relationship of simple entities that are completely indifferent to all processes mean to the actions of man? So Herbart is forced to look for independent tools both for ethics and for esthetics. He believes he finds them in human feeling. When man perceives things or events, he can associate the feeling of pleasure or displeasure with them. We are pleased when we see man's will going in a direction that is in agreement with his convictions. When we make the opposite observation, the feeling of displeasure overcomes us. Because of this feeling we call the agreement of conviction and will good; the discord, we call morally reprehensible. A feeling of this kind can be attached only to a relationship between moral elements. The will as such is morally indifferent, as is also the conviction. Only when the two meet does ethical pleasure or displeasure emerge. Herbart calls a relation of moral elements a practical idea. He enumerates five such practical-ethical ideas: The idea of moral freedom, consisting of the agreement of will and moral conviction; the idea of perfection that has its basis in the fact that the strong pleases rather than the weak; the idea of right, which springs from displeasure with antagonism; the idea of benevolence, which expresses the pleasure that one feels as one furthers the will of another person; the idea of retribution, which demands that all good and evil that has originated in a person is to be compensated again in the same person.

Herbart bases his ethics on a human feeling, on moral sentiment. He separates it from the world conception that has to do with what is, and transforms it into a number of postulates of what should be. He combines it with esthetics and, indeed, makes it a part of them. For the science of esthetics also contains postulates concerning what is to be. It, too, deals with relations that are associated with feelings. The individual color leaves us esthetically indifferent. When one color is joined to another, this combination can be either satisfactory or displeasing to us. What pleases in a combination is beautiful; what displeases, is ugly. Robert Zimmermann (1824 – 1898) has ingeniously constructed a science of art on these principles. Only a part of it, the part that considers those relations of beauty that are concerned with the realm of action, is to be the ethics or the science of the good. The significant writings of Robert Zimmermann in the field of esthetics (science of art) show that even attempts at philosophical formulations that do not reach the summit of cultural impulses of a time can produce important stimulation's for the development of the spirit.

Because of his mathematically inclined mind, Herbart successfully investigated those processes of human soul life that really do go on with a certain regularity in the same way with all human beings. These processes will, of course, not prove to be the more intimate and individually characteristic ones. What is original and characteristic in each personality will be overlooked by such a mathematical intellect, but a person of such a mentality will obtain a certain insight into the average processes of the mind and, at the same time, through his sure skill in handling the arithmetical calculations, will control the measurement of the mental development. As the laws of mechanics enable us to develop technical skills, so the laws of the psychological processes make it possible for us to devise a technique in education for the development of mental abilities. For this reason, Herbart's work has become fruitful in the field of pedagogy. He has found many followers among pedagogues, but not among them alone. This seems at first sight hard to understand with regard to a world conception offering a picture of meager, colorless generalities, but it can be explained from the fact that it is just the people who feel a certain need for a world conception who are easily attracted by such general concepts that are rigidly linked together like terms of an arithmetical operation. It is something fascinating to experience how one thought is linked to the next as if it were through a self-operative mechanical process, because this process awakens in the observer a feeling of security. The mathematical sciences are so highly appreciated because of this assurance. They unfold their structure, so to speak, through their own force. They only have to be supplied with the thought material and everything else can be left to their logical necessity, which works automatically. In the progress of Hegel's thinking, which is saturated with reality, the thinker continually has to take the initiative. There is more warmth, more direct life in this mode of thinking, but it also requires the constant support of the soul forces. This is because it is reality in this case that the thinker catches in his thoughts, an ever-flowing reality that at every point shows its individual character and fights against every logical rigidity. Hegel also had a great number of pupils and followers, but they were much less faithful than those of Herbart. As long as Hegel's powerful personality enlivened his thoughts, they exerted their charm, and as long as his words were heard under its spell, they carried great conviction. After Hegel's death many of his pupils went their own paths. This is only natural, for whoever is self-dependent will also shape his own attitude toward reality in his own fashion. We observe a different process with Herbart's pupils. They elaborate the master's doctrine, but they continue the fundamental stock of his thoughts without change. A thinker who finds his way into Hegel's mode of thinking penetrates into the course of the world's development that is manifested in innumerable evolutionary phases. The individual thinker, of course, can be stimulated to follow this course of evolution, but he is free to shape the various stages according to his own individual mode of conception. In Herbart's case, however, we deal with a firmly constructed thought system that commands confidence through the solidity of its structure. One may reject it, but if one accepts it, one will have to accept it in its original form. For the individual personal element, which challenges and forces us to face the self of another thinker with our own self, is lacking here.

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“Life is a miserable affair; I have decided to spend mine by thinking about it.” Arthur Schopenhauer (1788 – 1861) spoke these words in a conversation with Wieland at the beginning of his university years, and his world conception sprang from this mood. Schopenhauer had experienced personal hardship and had observed the sad lives of others when he decided upon concentrating on philosophical thought as a new aim of life. The sudden death of his father, caused by a fall from a storehouse, his bad experiences in his career as a merchant, the sight of scenes of human miseries that he witnessed as a' young man while traveling, and many other things of similar kind had produced in him the wish, not so much to know the world, but rather to procure for himself a means to endure it through contemplation. He needed a world conception in order to calm his gloomy disposition. When he began his university studies, the thoughts that Kant, Fichte and Schelling introduced to the German philosophical life were in full swing. Hegel's star was just then rising. In 1806 he had published his first larger work, The Phenomenology of the Spirit. In Goettingen, Schopenhauer heard the teachings of Gottlob Ernst Schulze, the author of the book, Aenesidemus, who was, to be sure, in a certain respect an opponent of Kant, but who nevertheless drew the student's attention to Kant and Plato as the two great spirits toward whom he would have to look. With fiery enthusiasm Schopenhauer plunged into Kant's mode of conception. He called the revolution that his study caused in his head a spiritual rebirth. He found it even more satisfactory because he considered it to be in agreement with the views of Plato, the other philosopher Schulze had pointed out to him.

Plato had said, “As long as we approach the things and events merely through sensual perceptions, we are like men who are chained in a dark cave in such a way that they cannot turn their heads; therefore, they can only see, by means of the light of a fire burning behind them, the shadows upon the opposite wall, the shadows of real things that are carried between the fire and their backs, the shadows of each other and of themselves. These shadows are to the real things what the things of sensual perception are to the ideas, which are the true reality. The things of the sensually perceptible world come into existence and pass again, the ideas are eternal.”

Did not Kant teach this, too? Is not the perceptible world only a world of appearances for him also? To be sure, the sage from Koenigsberg did not attribute this eternal reality to the ideas, but with respect to the perception of the reality spread out in space and time, Schopenhauer thought Plato and Kant to be in complete agreement. Soon he also accepted this view as an irrevocable truth. He argued, “I have a knowledge of the things insofar as I see, hear, feel them, etc., that is to say, insofar as I have them as a thought picture in my mind's eye. An object then can be there for me only by being represented to my mind as a thought image. Heaven, earth, etc., are therefore my mind's imaginations, for the “thing in itself' that corresponds to them has become my mind's object only by taking on the character of a thought representation.”

Although Schopenhauer found everything that Kant stated concerning the subjective character of the world of perception absolutely correct, he was not at all satisfied with regard to Kant's remarks concerning the thing in itself. Schulze had also been an opponent of Kant's view in this respect. How can we know anything at all of a “thing in itself"? How can we even express a word about it if our knowledge is completely limited to thought pictures of our mind, if the “thing in itself” lies completely outside their realm? Schopenhauer had to search for another path in order to come to the “thing in itself.” In his search he was influenced by the contemporary world conceptions more than he ever admitted. The element that Schopenhauer added to the conviction that he had from Kant and Plato as the “thing in itself,” we find also in Fichte, whose lectures he had heard in 1811 in Berlin. We also find this element in Schelling. Schopenhauer could hear the most mature form of Fichte's views in Berlin. This last form is preserved in Fichte's posthumous works. Fichte declared with great emphasis, while Schopenhauer, according to his own admission, “listened attentively,” that all being has its last roots in a universal will. As soon as man discovers will in himself, he gains the conviction that there is a world independent of himself as an individual. Will is not a knowledge of the individual but a form of real being. Fichte could also have called his world conception, The World as Knowledge and Will. In Schelling's book, Concerning the Nature of Human Freedom and Matters Connected with This Problem, we actually find the sentences, “In the last and deepest analysis there is no other being than will. Will is fundamental being and will alone can claim all its predicates: To be without cause, eternal, independent of time, self-assertive. All philosophy is striving for just this aim, to find this highest expression.”

That will is fundamental being becomes Schopenhauer's view also. When knowledge is extinguished, will remains, for will also precedes knowledge. “Knowledge has its origin in my brain,” says Schopenhauer, “but my brain must have been produced through an active, creative force. Man is aware of such a creative energy in his own will.” Schopenhauer now attempts to prove that what is active in all other things is also will. The will, therefore, is, as the “thing in itself,” at the root of all reality that is merely represented in the thought pictures of our mental life, and we can have a knowledge of this “thing in itself.” It is not, as Kant's “thing in itself,” beyond our perceptive imagination but we experience its actuality within our own organism.

The development of modern world conception is progressive in Schopenhauer insofar as he is the first thinker to make the attempt to elevate one of the fundamental forces of the self-consciousness to the general principle of the world. The active self-consciousness contains the riddle of the age. Schopenhauer is incapable of finding a world picture that contains the roots of self-consciousness. Fichte, Schelling and Hegel had attempted to do that. Schopenhauer takes one force of the self-consciousness, will, and claims that this element is not merely in the human soul but in the whole world. Thus, for him, man is not rooted with his full self-consciousness in the world's foundation, but at least with a part of it, with his will. Schopenhauer thus shows himself to be one of those representatives of the evolution of modern world conception who can only partially encompass the fundamental riddle of the time within their consciousness.

Goethe also had a profound influence on Schopenhauer. From the autumn of 1813 until the following spring, the young Schopenhauer enjoyed the company of the poet. Goethe introduced him personally to his doctrine of colors. Goethe's mode of conception agreed completely with the view that Schopenhauer had developed concerning the behavior of our sense organs and our mind in the process of perception of things and events. Goethe had undertaken careful and intensive investigations concerning the perceptions of the eye and phenomena of light and colors, and had elaborated their results in his work, Concerning the Doctrine of Colors. He had arrived at results that differed from those of Newton, the founder of the modern theory of color. The antagonism that exists in this field between Newton and Goethe cannot be judged properly if one does not start by pointing to the difference between the world conceptions of these two personalities. Goethe considered the sense organs of man as the highest physical apparatuses. For the world of colors, he therefore had to estimate the eye as his highest judge for the observation of law-determined connections. Newton and the physicists investigated the phenomena that are pertinent to this question in a fashion that Goethe called “the greatest misfortune of modern physics,” and that consisted in the fact that the experiments have been separated, as it were, from man.

One wants to know nature only according to the indications of artificial instruments and thereby even intends to limit and to prove what nature is capable of.

The eye perceives light and darkness and, within the light-dark field of observation, the colors. Goethe takes his stand within this field and attempts to prove how light, darkness and the colors are connected. Newton and his followers meant to observe the processes of light and colors as they would go on if there were no human eye. But the stipulation of such an external sphere is, according to Goethe's world conception, without justification. We do not obtain an insight into the nature of a thing by disregarding the effects we observe, but this nature is given to us through the mind's exact observation of the regularity of these effects. The effects that the eye perceives, taken in their totality and represented according to the law of their connection are the essence of the phenomena of light and color, not a separated world of external processes that are to be determined by means of artificial instruments.

It is really of no avail that we attempt to express directly the nature of a thing. What we are aware of are effects, and a complete account of these effects might possibly encompass the essence of that thing. Vainly do we endeavor to describe the character of a man; we put his deeds and actions together, however, and a picture of his character arises before our eyes. Colors are the actions of light; they are what light does and suffers. In this sense we can expect information from them concerning the nature of light. Color and light are indeed in close relation but we must think of them both as belonging to nature as a whole; for it is nature as a whole that is ready to manifest itself in special ways to the sense of the eye.

Here we find Goethe's world view applied to a special case. In the human organism, through its senses, through the soul of man, there is revealed what is concealed in the rest of nature. In man, nature reaches its climax. Whoever, therefore, like Newton, looks for the truth of nature outside man, will not find it, according to Goethe's fundamental conviction.

Schopenhauer sees in the world that the mind perceives in space and time only an idea of this mind. The essence of this world of thought pictures is revealed to us in our will, by which we see our own organism permeated. Schopenhauer, therefore, cannot agree with a physical doctrine that sees the nature of light, not in the mental content of the eye, but in a world that is supposed to exist separated from the eye. Goethe's mode of conception was, for this reason, more agreeable to Schopenhauer because Goethe did not go beyond the world of the perceptual content of the eye. He considered Goethe's view to be a confirmation of his own opinion concerning this world. The antagonism between Goethe and Newton is not merely a question of physics but concerns the world conception as a whole. Whoever is of the opinion that a valid statement about nature can be arrived at through experiments that can be detached from the human being must take his stand with Newton's theory of color and remain on that ground. Modern physics is of this opinion. It can only agree with the judgment concerning Goethe's theory of colors that Helmholtz expressed in his essay, Goethe's Anticipations of Future Ideas in Natural Science:

Wherever it is a question of problems that can be solved through poetic divination producing imaginative pictures, the poet has shown himself capable of the most excellent work; wherever only a consciously applied inductive method could have helped, Goethe has failed.

If one sees in the pictures of human imagination only products that are added to an already complete nature, then it is of course necessary to determine what goes on in nature apart from these pictures. But if one sees in them manifestations of the essence contained in nature as Goethe did, then one will consult them in investigating the truth. Schopenhauer, to be sure, shares neither the first nor the second standpoint. He is not at all ready to recognize sense perceptions as containing the essence of things. He rejects the method of modern physics because physics does not limit itself to the element that alone is directly given, namely, that of perceptions as mental pictures. But Schopenhauer also transformed this question from a problem of physics into one of world conception. As he also begins his world conception with man and not with an external world apart from man, he had to side with Goethe, who had consistently drawn the conclusion for the theory of colors that necessarily follows if one sees in man with his healthy sense organs “the greatest and most exact physical apparatus.” Hegel, who as a philosopher stands completely on this foundation, had for this reason forcefully defended Goethe's theory of colors. He says in his Philosophy of Nature:

For the description of the color phenomenon that is adequate to its concept, we are indebted to Goethe, who was attracted early by the phenomena of color and light and who was drawn to their contemplation especially in painting; his pure and simple sense of nature had to revolt against such barbarism of reflected thought as is found in Newton. Goethe took up everything about light and color that had been stated and experimentally demonstrated since Plato. He conceived the phenomenon as simple, and the truest instinct of reason does consist in the ability of approaching a phenomenon from that side that allows its simplest representation.

For Schopenhauer, the essential ground for all world processes is the will. It is an eternal dark urge for existence. It contains no reason because reason comes into existence only in the human brain, which in turn is created by the will. Hegel sees the spirit as the root of the world in self-conscious reason, and in human reason, only as individual realization of the general world reason. Schopenhauer, by contrast, recognizes reason only as a product of the brain, as a mere bubble that comes into being at the end of the process in which will, the unreasoning blind urge, has created everything else first. In Hegel, all things and processes are permeated by reason; in Schopenhauer, everything is without reason, for everything is the product of the will without reason. The personality of Schopenhauer exemplifies unequivocally a statement of Fichte, “The kind of world conception a man chooses depends on the kind of man he is.”

Schopenhauer had bad experiences and had become acquainted with the worst side of the world before he decided to spend his life in contemplation of it. It is for this reason that he is satisfied to depict the world as essentially deprived of reason as a result of blind will. Reason, according to his mode of thinking, has no power over unreason, for it is itself the result of unreason; it is illusion and dream, produced out of will. Schopenhauer's world conception is the dark, melancholy mood of his soul translated into thought. His eye was not prepared to follow the manifestations of reason in the world with pleasure. This eye saw only unreason that was manifest in sorrow and pain. Thus, his doctrine of ethics could only be based on the observation of suffering. An action is moral only if it has its foundation in such an observation. Sympathy, pity, must be the source of human actions. What better course could be taken by a man who has gained the insight that all beings suffer than to let his actions be guided by pity. As everything unreasonable and evil has its roots in will, man will stand morally the higher the more he mortifies his unruly will in himself. The manifestation of this will in the individual person is selfishness, egotism. Whoever surrenders to pity and thereby wills not for himself but for others, has become master of the will.

One method of freeing oneself from the will consists in surrendering to artistic creations and to the impressions that are derived from works of art. The artist does not produce to satisfy a desire for something; he does not produce his works because of a will that is selfishly directed toward things and events. His production proceeds out of unegotistic joy. He plunges into the essence of things in pure contemplation. This is also true of the enjoyment of art. As long as we approach a work of art with the desire stirring in us to own it, we are still entangled in the lower appetites of the will. Only when we admire beauty without desiring it have we raised ourselves to the lofty stage where we no longer are dependent on the blind force of will. Then art has become for us a means to free ourselves for the moment from the unreasoning force of the blind will to exist. The deliverance takes place in its purest form in the enjoyment of the musical work of art, for music does not speak to us through the medium of representative imagination as do the other arts. Music copies nothing in nature. As all things and events are only mental pictures, so also the arts that take these things as models can only make impressions on us as manifestations of imaginations. Man produces tone out of himself without a natural model. Because man has will as his own essence within himself, it can only be the will through which the world of music is directly released. It is for this reason that music so deeply moves the human soul. It does this because music is the manifestation of man's inner nature, his true being, his will, and it is a triumph of man that he is in possession of an art in which he enjoys selflessly, freed from the fetters of the will, what is the root of all desire, of all unreason. This view of Schopenhauer concerning music is again the result of his most personal nature. Even before his university years, when he was apprenticed to a merchant in Hamburg, he wrote to his mother:

How did the heavenly seed find a place on the hard ground on which necessity and poverty struggle for every little spot? We have been banished from the primordial spirit and are not to reach up to him. Yet, a pitiful angel has begged the heavenly flower for us and it blossoms in full glory rooted in this soil of misery. The pulsation's of the divine art of music have not ceased to beat through the centuries of barbarism, and a direct resonance of the eternal is preserved in this art for us, understandable to every soul and exalted above even vice and virtue.

From the attitude that is taken toward art by the two antipodes of world conception, Hegel and Schopenhauer, one can learn how a world conception deeply affects the personal relation of man toward the various realms of life. Hegel, who saw in man's world of conceptions and ideas the climax toward which all external nature strives as its perfection, can recognize as the most perfect art only the one in which the spirit appears in its most perfect form, and in which this spirit at the same time clings to the element that continuously strives toward the spirit. Every formation of external nature tends to be spirit, but it does not reach this aim. When a man now creates such an external spatial form, endowing it as an artist with the spirit for which material itself strives without being capable of reaching it, then he has produced a perfect work of art. This is the case in the art of sculpture. What otherwise appears only in the inward life of the soul as formless spirit, as idea, is shaped by the artist out of matter. The soul, the inner life that we perceive in our consciousness as being without shape, is what speaks out of a statue, out of a formation of space. This marriage of the sensual world with the world of the spirit represents the artistic ideal of a world conception that sees the purpose of nature in the creation of the spirit, and therefore can also recognize the beautiful only in a work that appears as immediate expression of the spirit emerging in the form of nature. Whoever, like Schopenhauer, however, sees in all nature only mental pictures, cannot possibly recognize the ideal of art in a work that imitates nature. He must choose an art as his ideal that is free of all nature, that is to say, music.

Schopenhauer considered everything that leads toward the extirpation, the mortification of the will quite consistently as desirable, for an extirpation of the will means an extinction of the unreasonable in the world. Man is to give up will. He is to kill all desire within himself. Asceticism is, for this reason, Schopenhauer's moral ideal. The wise man will extinguish within himself all wishes; he will annihilate his will completely. He will reach the point where no motivation forces him to exert his will. All striving consists merely in quietistic yearning for deliverance from all life. In the world-renouncing life-views in Buddhism, Schopenhauer acknowledged a doctrine of profound wisdom. Compared to Hegel's, one can thus call Schopenhauer's world view reactionary. Hegel attempted everywhere to affect a reconciliation of man with life; he always strove to present all action as a cooperation with a reason-directed order of the world. Schopenhauer regarded enmity to life, withdrawal from reality and world flight as the ideal of the wise man.

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Hegel's mode of world and life conception contains an element that can produce doubts and questions. Hegel's point of departure is pure thinking, the abstract idea, which he himself once called “an oyster-like, gray or entirely black” being (in a letter to Goethe on February 20, 1821), of which he maintained at the same time should be considered the “representation of God as he is in his eternal essence before the creation of nature and a finite spirit.” The aim that he reaches is the individual human spirit endowed with a content of its own, through whom first comes to light what led only a shadow-like existence in a gray, oyster-like element. This can easily be understood to mean that a personality as a living self-conscious being does not exist outside the human spirit. Hegel derives the content-saturated element that we experience within ourselves from the ideal element that we obtain through thinking. It is quite comprehensible that a spirit of a certain inner disposition felt repulsed by this view of world and life. Only thinkers of such a selfless devotion as that of Karl Rosenkranz (1805 – 1879) could so completely find their way into Hegel's movement of thought and, in such perfect agreement with Hegel, create for themselves structures of ideas that appear like a rebirth of Hegel's own thought structure in a less impressive medium. Others could not understand how man is to be enlightened through pure idea with respect to the infinity and variety of the impressions that pour in on him as he directs his observations toward nature, crowded as it is with colors and forms, and how he is to profit if he lifts his soul from experiences in the world of sensation, feeling and perception-guided imagination to the frosty heights of pure thought. To interpret Hegel in this fashion is to misunderstand him, but it is quite comprehensible that he should have been misunderstood in this way.

This mood that was dissatisfied with Hegel's mode of thinking found expression in the current thought that had representatives in Franz Xaver von Baader (1765 – 1841), Karl Christian Friedrich Krause (1781 – 1832), Immanuel Hermann Fichte (1797 – 1879), Christian Hermann Weisse (1801 – 1866), Anton Guenther (1783 – 1863), Karl Friedrich Eusebius Thrahndorff (1782 – 1863) Martin Deutinger (1815 – 1864), and Hermann Ulrici (1806 – 1884). They attempted to replace the gray, oyster-like pure thought of Hegel by a life-filled, personal, primal entity, an individual God. Baader called it an “atheistic conception” to believe that God attained a perfect existence only in man. God must be a personality and the world must not, as Hegel thought, proceed from him like a logical process in which one concept always necessarily produces the next. On the contrary, the world must be God's free creation, the product of his almighty will. These thinkers approach the Christian doctrine of revelation. To justify and fortify this doctrine scientifically becomes the more-or-less conscious purpose of their thinking. Baader plunged into the mysticism of Jakob Boehme (1757 – 1624), Meister Eckhardt (1250 – 1329), Tauler (1290 – 1361) and Paracelsus (1494 – 1541), whose language, so rich in pictures, he considered a much more appropriate means to express the most profound truths than the pure thoughts of Hegel's doctrine. That Baader also caused Schelling to enrich his thoughts with a deeper and warmer content through the assimilation's of conceptions from Jakob Boehme has already been mentioned.

In the course of the development of the modern world conception personalities like Krause will always be remarkable. He was a mathematician who allowed himself to be swayed by the proud, logically perfect character of this science, and attempted a solution of the problems of world conception after the model of the method he was used to as a mathematician. Typical of this kind of thinker is the great mathematician, Newton, who treated the phenomena of the visible universe as if it were an arithmetical problem but, at the same time, satisfied his own need concerning the fundamental questions of world conception in a fashion that approached the belief to be found in revealed religion. Krause finds it impossible to accept a conception that seeks the primal being of the world in the things and processes. Whoever, like Hegel, looks for God in the world cannot find him, for the world, to be sure, is in God, but God is not in the world. He is a self-dependent being resting within himself in blissful serenity. Krause's world of ideas rests on “thoughts of an infinite, self-dependent being, outside of which there is nothing; this being comprises everything by itself and in itself as the one ground, and that we have to think of as the ground of reason, nature and humanity.” He does not want to have anything in common with a view “that takes the finite or the world as the sum total of everything finite to be God itself, idolizing and confusing it with God.” No matter how deep one may penetrate into the reality given to the senses and the mind, one will never arrive in this way at the fundamental ground of all being. To obtain a conception of this being is possible only if one accompanies all finite observation with a divinatory vision of an over-worldly reality.

Immanuel Hermann Fichte settled his account with Hegelianism poignantly in his essay, Propositions for the Prolegomena of Theology (1826), and Contributions Toward a Characterization of Modern Philosophy (1829). Then, in numerous works, he tried to prove and elaborate his view that a conscious personal being must be recognized as the basis of all world phenomena. In order to procure an emphatic effect for the opposition to Hegel's conception, which proceeded from pure thought, Immanuel Hermann Fichte joined hands with friends who were of the same opinion. In 1837, together with Weisse, Sengler, K. Ph. Fischer, Chalybäs, Fr. Hoffmann, Ulrici, Wirth and others, he began the publication of the Journal for Philosophy and Speculative Theology. It is Fichte's conviction that we have risen to the highest knowledge only if we have understood that “the highest thought that truly solves the world problem is the idea of a primal subject or absolute personality, which knows and fathoms itself in its ideal as well as real infinity.”

The world creation and preservation that comprises the world reality, consists solely in the uninterrupted consciousness-permeated will-direction of God, such that he is only consciousness and will, but both in a highest union, therefore, only person, or person in the most eminent sense of the word.

Chr. Hermann Weisse believed that it was necessary to proceed from Hegel's world conception to a completely theological mode of conception. In the Christian idea of the three personalities in the one deity, he saw the aim of his thinking. He attempted to represent this idea as the result of a natural and unsophisticated common sense and did so with an uncommon array of ingenuity. In his triune, Weisse believed that in a personal deity possessing a living will he had something infinitely richer than Hegel with his gray idea. This living will is to “give to the inner godly nature with one breath the one definite form and no other that is implied at all places in the Holy Writ of the Old and New Testaments. In it, God is shown prior to the creation of the world as well as during and after that event in the shining element of his glory as surrounded by an interminable heavenly host of serving spirits in a fluid immaterial body, which enables him to fully communicate with the created world.”

Anton Guenther, the “Viennese Philosopher,” and Martin Deutinger, who was under his influence, move with the thoughts of their world conception completely within the framework of the catholic theological mode of conception. Guenther attempts to free man from the natural world order by dividing him into two parts — a natural being that belongs to the world of necessary law, and a spirit being that constitutes a self-dependent part of a higher spirit world and has an existence comparable to an “entity” as described by Herbart. He believes that he overcomes Hegelianism in this manner and that he supplies the foundation for a Christian world conception. The Church itself was not of this opinion, for in Rome Guenther's writings were included in the Prohibitory Index. Deutinger fought vehemently against Hegel's “pure thinking,” which, in his opinion, ought to be prevented from devouring life-filled reality. He ranks the living will higher than pure thought. It can, as creative will, produce something; thought is powerless and abstract. Thrahndorff also takes living will as his point of departure. The world cannot be explained from the shadowy realm of ideas, but a vigorous will must seize these ideas in order to create real being. The world's deepest content does not unfold itself to man in thoughtful comprehension, but in an emotional reaction, in love through which the individual surrenders to the world, to the will that rules in the universe. It is quite apparent that all these thinkers endeavor to overcome thinking and its object, the pure idea. They are unwilling to acknowledge thinking as the highest manifestation of the spirit of man. In order to comprehend the ultimate substance of the world, Thrahndorff wants to approach it, not with the power of knowledge, but of love. It is to become an object of emotion, not of reason. It is the belief of these philosophers that through clear, pure thinking the ardent, religious devotion to the primordial forces of existence are destroyed.

This opinion has its root in a misconception of Hegel's thought world. Its misunderstanding becomes especially apparent in the views concerning Hegel's attitude toward religion that spread after his death. The lack of clarity that began to prevail regarding this attitude resulted in a split among Hegel's followers into one party that considered his world conception to be a firm pillar of revealed Christianity, and another that used his doctrine to dissolve the Christian conceptions and to replace them by a radically liberal view.

Neither party could have based its opinion on Hegel if they had understood him correctly, for Hegel's world conception contains nothing that can be used for support of a religion or for its destruction. He had meant to do this with respect to any religion as little as he had intended to create any natural phenomena through his pure thought. As he had set out to extract the pure thought from the processes of nature in order to comprehend them in that way, so he had also, in the case of religion, merely the intention to bring its thought content to the surface. As he considered everything that is real in the world as reasonable just because it is real, so he held this view also in regard to religion. It must come into existence by soul forces quite beyond those that are at the disposal of the thinker when he approaches them in order to comprehend them.

It was also an error of such thinkers as Fichte, Weisse, Deutinger and others that they fought against Hegel because he had not proceeded from the realm of pure thought to the religious experience of the personal deity. Hegel had never set himself a task of this kind. He considered that to be the task of the religious consciousness. The younger Fichte, Weisse, Krause, Deutinger and the rest wanted to create a new religion through their world conception. Hegel would have considered such a task to be as absurd as the wish to illuminate the world through the idea of light, or to create a magnet out of the thought of magnetism. To be sure, in Hegel's opinion, religion has its root in the idea, just as the whole world of nature and the spirit. For this reason, it is possible that the human spirit can rediscover this idea in religion, but as the magnet was created out of the thought of magnetism before the human mind came into being, and as the latter only afterwards has to comprehend the magnet's creation, so also religion has become what it is before its thought emerged in the human soul as an illuminating part of world conception. If Hegel had lived to experience the religious criticism of his pupils, he would have felt compelled to say, “Take your hands off all foundation of religion, off all creation of religious conceptions, as long as you want to remain thinkers and do not intend to become messiahs.” The world conception of Hegel, if it is correctly understood, cannot have a retroactive effect on the religious consciousness. The philosopher who reflects on the realm of art has the same relation to his object as the thinker who wants to fathom the nature of religion.

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The Halle Yearbooks, published from 1838 to 1843 by Arnold Ruge and Theodor Echtermeyer, served as a forum for the philosophical controversies of the time. Starting with a defense and explanation of Hegel, they soon proceeded to develop his ideas independently, and thus made the transition to the views that are called “radical world conceptions” in the next chapter. After 1841, the editors called their journal, The German Yearbook, and, as one of their aims, they considered “the fight against political illiberality, against theories of feudalism and landed property.” In the historical development of the time they became active as radical politicians, demanding a state in which perfect freedom prevails. Thus, they abandoned the spirit of Hegel, who wanted to understand history, not to make it.



Last Modified: 15-Nov-2017
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