German Philosophy since Kant (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements)

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In fact, what Bergson had in mind when talking about intuition can perhaps be best understood in the context of his cosmology and his theory of life. For he comes increasingly to see that where the pure self, as it were, casts a material shadow, so too all matter, in some sense participates in spirit.

And in creative evolution intuition is presented as being an aspect of the universal elan vital or life drive which pervades the entire universe and guides the evolutionary process. Indeed, it is something in which even the minutest particles of matter participate. Schelling, too, underwent much the same kind of development.

And Bergson strikes a profoundly Schellingian note when, in speaking of the 'deep self as contrasted with the 'superficial self, which is mechanical, conventional, inauthentic, he says, 'We are free 38 Fichte and Schelling when our acts emanate from the whole of our personality, when they express it, and when they have this kind of indefinable resemblance to it that we see sometimes between a work of art and the artist.


Premonitory tremors of some of the most profoundly transforming political movements of the twentieth century also unmistakably radiate out from these two thinkers. When Hitler declaims in one of his speeches: 'Nothing in heaven or on earth can stand in the path of the German Volk and its freedom. A nation has an absolute right to expand to the full extent of its powers; it will be victor or vanquished, and will absorb and assimilate and batter down all before it; or it will be nothing.

He is the source of the living law of the German Volky; or again, when Heidegger declared in the thirties, 'The Fiihrer himself and he alone is the present and future German reality and law. Let me again quote from the novel written by Goebbels, Michael, a truly awful literary performance, but exceedingly revealing for all that.

Here we find one of the most sinister expressions of the Romantic aesthetic model applied to politics. The novel is built around a methodical rejection of the core values of Enlightenment Europe: reason, science, criticism, toleration, the existence of objective norms and values, the moral unity of the human race all these are denied and systematically replaced by the values of will, heroic self-assertion, authenticity, and, finally, free self-immolation to the higher will of the artist-leader.

Let me quote just a few passages: 'Today we are all expressionists. Men who want the world outside themselves to take the form of their life within themselves The expressionist worldfeeling is explosive. It is an autocratic sensation of its own being. I must shape something. More than intellect works in us Intellect is lifeless.

It cannot provide us with a sense of existence.

A History of Philosophy - 56 German Idealism

Bergson, L'evolution creatrice, p. All these quotations are drawn from Walther Hofer ed.

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Roger Hausheer is transformed into the political leader whose artistic materials are human beings: 'The artist is distinguished from him who is not an artist by the fact that he can express that which he feels The statesman is also an artist. For him the people are that which a stone is for the sculptor. Leader and masses, that is exactly the same problem as painter and colour. For Marx, it is man's own active, creative essence which presents the world to him, as so much passive stuff to be worked upon and moulded; not the world as a causal originator which impinges on a wholly neutral receiver, as Locke and the empiricists would have it.

Only by its impingement on the material world is human nature revealed to itself. This central Marxist notion, drawn no doubt by Marx himself from Hegel, scarcely antedates Fichte, indeed was virtually originated by him. There are entire passages in the writings of the early Marx where the echo of Fichte is unmistakable.

The world for man is what Marx terms his 'gegenstandliches Sein', his objective being, his 'materielles Leben', his material life. Only in the world, and through his unceasing action in and on the world, does man find himself, individually and collectively.

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The ultimate significance of the life of mankind lies in its capacity for collective self-creation through transforming labour: 'the entire so-called history of the world is nothing but the creation of man through human labour, nothing but the emergence of nature for man, so that he has the visible, irrefutable proof of his birth through himself, of the process of his creation. But all this leads ultimately not only to Marx, but on to the mystique of technological-industrial production, of impinging upon, transforming, and exploiting the world as an activity valuable in its own right and therefore to be pursued per se, even in the absence of any final goal.

Thus we arrive at the pure nightmare of activism and decisionism for their own sakes. Finally, it is not for nothing that historians of American pragmatism have suggested that Fichte is one of its most important, if most remote, sources. The whole pragmatist theory of truth, as we find it in William James, with its operational implications and its source in our ever evolving practical activities, is profoundly Fichtean.

The notion that in cognition the will and not the intellect takes absolute 42 Goebbels, Michael, Marx, Economic and Philsophic Manuscripts of , p. Fichte and Schelling primacy is very clearly stated by James when he says 'We need only in cold blood act as if the thing in question were real, and keep acting as if it were real, and it will infallibly end by growing into such a connection with our life that it will become real'.

To present Fichte as the first philosophical pragmatist, as it were, is indeed a bold claim, and one which I cannot possibly begin to defend here. But at the same time, it cannot be denied that what is perhaps the main feature of pragmatism, to be found in Peirce, James, and Dewey, and their followers - namely the element of dynamism - first comes to the fore in the philosophy of Fichte. Where classical European thinkers like Plato and Aristotle, Leibniz, Descartes, and even Kant, adopt the stand-point of a pure intelligence in contemplation of eternal verities, the attitude of a fixed perceiving subject set over against an objective and static reality of already structured facts, Fichte, and after him the pragmatists, see the human subject as an enquirer with certain practical needs and purposes, adapting itself to a changing environment, and thereby changing both itself and the world.

Our ultimate concepts and categories, on this view, evolve out of practical human activities; they are therefore relative and ever-changing, and practice is prior to theory. There is no pre-formed, objective external reality nature, things-in-themselves, etc of whose immutable structure our contemplative theoretical knowledge is, as it were, a static transcription or model.

Instead of a fixed, immutable, pre-categorical external nature, we are to imagine an ever-changing flux upon which men seek to impose their creative stamp. This is Fichtean indeed. VI It has not been possible in the space available to offer anything like a full and balanced account of the roots, genesis, character, and influence of the philosophical doctrines advanced by Fichte and Schelling, still less to engage in their critical evaluation. All I have been able to do, at best, is to point in the most sketchy manner to some of the central problems these two thinkers confronted and to which they sought to find solutions; to isolate some of the major themes each struck up and then abandoned to their independent careers and unpredictable variations at the hands of others; and to show how we begin in one world - that of Kant and the serene walled garden of the eighteenth century - and end in another that is transformed beyond recognition: our own chaotic century, torn and 44 William James, The Will to Believe, p.

Schopenhauer's pessimism

Roger Hausheer violent, a vast luxuriant jungle, many, perhaps most, of whose fatefully contending growths have sprung from the seeds first scattered by these two Prometheans of the spirit. If this is an accurate description, then it pays a massive tribute to the sheer prodigality and profundity of these two literally proleptic thinkers, Fichte and Schelling, whom Karl Jaspers in a moment of visionary insight somewhere describes as two great sentinels, standing in the gateway to the future. If I am not much mistaken, this vivid image still applies. It is a commonplace among certain recent philosophers that there is no such thing as the essence of anything.

Nietzsche, for example, asserts that things have no essence of their own, because they are nothing but ceaselessly changing ways of acting on, and reacting to, other things. Nevertheless, they do share one aim in common: to undermine the idea that there is some deeper reality or identity underlying and grounding what we encounter in the world, what we say and what we do. That is to say, they may all be described as anti-foundationalist thinkers - thinkers who want us to attend to the specific processes and practices of nature and humanity without understanding them to be the product of some fundamental essence or 'absolute'4.

One philosopher who is sometimes thought to appeal to just such an underlying essence or 'absolute' in his explanation of natural and historical development, and so to be an undisputed foundationalist, is G. E Hegel Kaufmann, trans. Kaufmann and R.

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Hollingdale New York: Vintage Books, , , Stephen Houlgate To Hegel The exhortation to 'abandon the notion of essence' is thus interpreted by many today as the call to abandon Hegel - or at least a certain side of Hegel. Some avowed anti-foundationalists, such as Marx and Dewey, are of course profoundly indebted to Hegel, in particular to his emphasis on the historicity of human life. But it is clear that they are equally concerned to distance themselves from what they perceive to be Hegel's unfortunate foundationalism or essentialism.

Taylor points out, quite rightly, that for Hegel 'the inner connectedness of things, or the totality, cannot lie behind but must be immanent to external reality'. Yet, when he reaches Hegel's analysis of the Concept Begriff in the Science of Logic, Taylor resorts to the very foundationalist vocabulary he has just shown Hegel to be criticising.

For Taylor, the basic Hegelian ontological vision is thus: that the Concept underlies everything as the inner necessity which deploys the world, and that our conceptual knowledge is derivative from this. We are the vehicles whereby this underlying necessity comes to its equally necessary self-consciousness. It is certainly true that Hegel understands nature and history to be rational processes which lead necessarily to human freedom and self-understanding.

It is also clear that even this belief is too much for advocates of radical contingency, like Nietzsche and Rorty, to stomach. Karl Marx, Selected Writings, ed. Hegel's Critique of Foundationalism Yet, it is important to recognise that, for Hegel, reason does not constitute the foundation of change in the world: reason is not some principle or 'pre-existing "Idea"' as Nietzsche calls it that underlies nature or history and drives us forward to freedom. In this sense, Hegel is not a foundationalist.

What is set out in the Science of Logic, therefore, is not an account of a rational principle or Idea that precedes being and grounds all natural and historical development; rather, the Logic sketches an initial, abstract picture of being itself as self-determining rationality. As Hegel shows in the later parts of his system, such rationality proves, on closer examination, not just to be rationality in the abstract, but to be the concrete process of nature and history.

The understanding of being reached in the Logic thus turns out once we get to the Philosophy of Nature to be an underdetermination of what being is in truth: it tells us merely what being must first be understood to be. But, for Hegel, what we first understand being to be should not be mistaken for some underlying ground or foundation of being. When we see a person from afar, we first say that we see someone, and then, as we approach the person, we recognise that it is a man or a woman, a friend or a stranger, and so on.

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It would be absurd for us to say that being someone constitutes the foundation of the whole person or grounds whatever the person does. That is simply what the person is first thought to be. The same is true of Hegel's philosophical system.

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We first understand being in the Logic to be Idea or selfdetermining rationality, but in the Philosophy of Nature and Philosophy of Spirit we then recognise such rationality itself to exist as space, time, matter, and history. Pure self-determining rationality or the Idea does not serve as the underlying ground of nature, therefore, but is simply what rational nature and history is initially thought to be.

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As Hegel puts it in the Phenomenology, 'the basis or principle of the system is, in fact, only its beginning'. In the Science of Logic, for example, he describes the transition from the concept of substance to that of 'Concept' or Begriff as the process whereby 8. Nietzsche, The Will to Power, Hegel, Phdnomenologie des Geistes, ed. Moldenhauer and K. Miller Oxford: Oxford University Press, , p.

German Philosophy since Kant (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements) German Philosophy since Kant (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements)
German Philosophy since Kant (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements) German Philosophy since Kant (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements)
German Philosophy since Kant (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements) German Philosophy since Kant (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements)
German Philosophy since Kant (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements) German Philosophy since Kant (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements)
German Philosophy since Kant (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements) German Philosophy since Kant (Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements)

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