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Nevertheless, this judgment of the taste does not arise from conceptions; its universal validity is therefore purely subjective. I do not judge that all the objects of a species are beautiful, but only that a certain specific object will appear beautiful to every beholder. All the judgments of taste are individual judgments. (_c_) In respect of relation, that is beautiful in which we find the form of design, without representing to ourselves any specific design. (_d_) In respect of modality, that is beautiful which is recognized without a conception, as the object of a necessary satisfaction. Of every representation, it is at least possible, that it may awaken pleasure. The representation of the agreeable awakens actual pleasure. The representation of the beautiful, on the other hand, awakens pleasure necessarily. The necessity which is conceived in an aesthetic judgment, is a necessity for determining every thing by a judgment, which can be viewed as an example of a universal rule, though the rule itself cannot be stated. The subjective principle which lies at the basis of the judgment of taste, is therefore a common sense, which determines what is pleasing, and what displeasing, only through feeling, and not through conception.
The _sublime_ is that which is absolutely, or beyond all comparison, great, compared with which every thing else is small. But now in nature there is nothing which has no greater. The absolutely great is only the infinite, and the infinite is only to be met with in ourselves, as idea.
The sublime, therefore, is not properly found in nature, but is only carried over to nature from our own minds. We call that sublime in nature, which awakens within us the idea of the infinite. As in the beautiful there is prominent reference to quality, so, in the sublime, the most important element of all, is quant.i.ty; and this quant.i.ty is either greatness of extension (the mathematically sublime), or greatness of power (the dynamically sublime). In the sublime there is a greater satisfaction in the formless, than in the form. The sublime excites a vigorous movement of the heart, and awakens pleasure only through pain, _i. e._ through the feeling that the energies of life are for the moment restrained. The satisfaction in the sublime is hence not so much a positive pleasure, but rather an amazement and awe, which may be called a negative pleasure. The elements for an aesthetic judgment of the sublime are the same as in the feeling of the beautiful. (_a_) In respect of quant.i.ty, that is sublime which is absolutely great, in comparison with which every thing else is small. The aesthetic estimate of greatness does not lie, however, in numeration, but in the simple intuition of the subject. The greatness of an object of nature, which the imagination attempts in vain to comprehend, leads to a supersensible substratum, which is great beyond all the measures of the sense, and which has reference properly to the feeling of the sublime. It is not the object itself, as the surging sea, which is sublime, but rather the subject's frame of mind, in the estimation of this object. (_b_) In respect of quality, the sublime does not awaken pure pleasure, like the beautiful, but first pain, and through this, pleasure. The feeling of the insufficiency of our imagination, in the aesthetic estimate of greatness, gives rise to pain; but, on the other side, the consciousness of our independent reason, for which the faculty of imagination is inadequate, awakens pleasure. In this respect, therefore, that is sublime which immediately pleases us, through its opposition to the interest of the sense. (_c_) In respect of relation, the sublime suffers nature to appear as a power, indeed, but in reference to which, we have the consciousness of superiority. (_d_) In respect of modality, the judgments concerning the sublime are as necessarily valid, as those for the beautiful; only with this difference, that our judgment of the sublime finds an entrance to some minds, with greater difficulty than our judgment of the beautiful, since to perceive the sublime, culture, and developed moral ideas, are necessary.
(2.) _Dialectic._-A dialectic of the aesthetic faculty of judgment, like every dialectic, is only possible where we can meet with judgments which lay claim to universality apriori. For dialectics consists in the opposition of such judgments. The antinomy of the principles of taste rests upon the two opposite elements of the judgment of taste, that it is purely subjective, and at the same time, lays claim to universal validity. Hence, the two common-place sayings: "there is no disputing about taste," and "there is a contest of taste." From these, we have the following antinomy. (_a_) Thesis: the judgment of taste cannot be grounded on conception, else might we dispute it. (_b_) Ant.i.thesis: the judgment of taste must be grounded on conception, else, notwithstanding its diversity, there could be no contest respecting it.-This antinomy, says Kant, is, however, only an apparent one, and disappears as soon as the two propositions are more accurately apprehended. The thesis should be: the judgment of taste is not grounded upon a definite conception, and is not strictly demonstrable; the ant.i.thesis should be: this judgment is grounded upon a conception, though an indefinite one, viz., upon the conception of a supersensible substratum for the phenomenal.
Thus apprehended, there is no longer any contradiction between the two propositions.
In the conclusion of the aesthetic faculty of judgment, we can now answer the question, whether the fitness of things to our faculty of judgment (their beauty and sublimity), lies in the things themselves, or in us?
The aesthetic realism claims that the supreme cause of nature designed to produce things which should affect our imagination, as beautiful and sublime, and the organic forms of nature strongly support this view. But on the other band, nature exhibits even in her merely mechanical forms, such a tendency to the beautiful, that we might believe that she could produce also the most beautiful organic forms through mechanism alone; and that thus the design would lie not in nature, but in our soul. This is the standpoint of idealism, upon which it becomes explicable how we can determine any thing apriori concerning beauty and sublimity. But the highest view of the aesthetical, is to use it as a symbol of the moral good. Thus Kant makes the theory of taste, like religion, to be a corollary of morality.
2. CRITICK OF THE TELEOLOGICAL FACULTY OF JUDGMENT.-In the foregoing, we have considered the subjective aesthetical design in the objects of nature. But the objects of nature have also a relation of design to each other. The teleological faculty of judgment has also to consider this faculty of design.
(1.) _a.n.a.lytic of the Teleological Faculty of Judgment._-The a.n.a.lytic has to determine the kinds of objective design. Objective, material design, is of two kinds, external, and internal. The external design is only relative, since it simply indicates a usefulness of one thing for another. Sand, for instance, which borders the sea sh.o.r.e, is of use in bearing pine forests. In order that animals can live upon the earth, the earth must produce nourishment for them, etc. These examples of external design, show that here the design never belongs to the means in itself, but only accidentally. We should never get a conception of the sand by saying that it is a means for pine forests; it is conceivable for itself, without any reference to the conception of design. The earth does not produce nourishment, because it is necessary that men should dwell upon it. In brief, this external or relative design may be conceived from the mechanism of nature alone. Not so the inner design of nature, which shows itself prominently in the organic products of nature. In an organic product of nature, every one of its parts is end, and every one, means or instrument. In the process of generation, the natural product appears as species, in growth it appears as individual, and in the process of complete formation, every part of the individual shows itself. This natural organism cannot be explained from mechanical causes, but only through final causes, or teleologically.
(2.) _Dialectic._-The dialectic of the teleological faculty of judgment, has to adjust this opposition between this mechanism of nature and teleology. On the one side we have the thesis: every production of material things must be judged as possible, according to simple mechanical laws. On the other side we have the ant.i.thesis: certain products of material nature cannot be judged as possible, according to simple mechanical laws, but demand the conception of design for their explanation. If these two maxims are posited as const.i.tutive (objective) principles for the possibility of the objects themselves, then do they contradict each other, but as simply regulative (subjective) principles for the investigation of nature, they are not contradictory. Earlier systems treated the conception of design in nature dogmatically, and either affirmed or denied its essential existence in nature. But we, convinced that teleology is only a regulative principle, have nothing to do with the question whether an inner design belongs essentially to nature or not, but we only affirm that our faculty of judgment must look upon nature as designed. We envisage the conception of design in nature, but leave it wholly undecided whether to another understanding, which does not think discursively like ours, nature may not be understood, without at all needing to bring in this conception of design. Our understanding thinks discursively: it proceeds from the parts, and comprehends the whole as the product of its parts; it cannot, therefore, conceive the organic products of nature, where the whole is the ground and the prius of the parts, except from the point of view of the conception of design. If there were, on the other hand, an intuitive understanding, which could know the particular and the parts as co-determined in the universal and the whole; such an understanding might conceive the whole of nature out of one principle, and would not need the conception of end.
If Kant had thoroughly carried out this conception of an intuitive understanding as well as the conception of an immanent design in nature, he would have overcome, in principle, the standpoint of subjective idealism, which he made numerous attempts, in his critick of the faculty of judgment, to break through; but these ideas he only propounded, and left them to be positively carried out by his successors.
TRANSITION TO THE POST-KANTIAN PHILOSOPHY.
The Kantian philosophy soon gained in Germany an almost undisputed rule.
The imposing boldness of its standpoint, the novelty of its results, the applicability of its principles, the moral severity of its view of the world, and above all, the spirit of freedom and moral autonomy which appeared in it, and which was so directly counter to the efforts of that age, gained for it an a.s.sent as enthusiastic as it was extended. It aroused among all cultivated cla.s.ses a wider interest and partic.i.p.ation in philosophic pursuits, than had ever appeared in an equal degree among any people. In a short time it had drawn to itself a very numerous school: there were soon few German universities in which it had not had its talented representatives, while in every department of science and literature, especially in theology (it is the parent of theological rationalism), and in natural rights, as also in belles-lettres (_Schiller_), it began to exert its influence. Yet most of the writers who appeared in the Kantian school, confined themselves to an exposition or popular application of the doctrine as Kant had given it, and even the most talented and independent among the defenders and improvers of the critical philosophy (_e. g. Reinhold_, 1758-1823; _Bardili_, 1761-1808; _Schulze_, _Beck_, _Fries_, _Krug_, _Bouterweck_), only attempted to give a firmer basis to the Kantian philosophy as they had received it, to obviate some of its wants and deficiencies, and to carry out the standpoint of transcendental idealism more purely and consistently. Among those who carried out the Kantian philosophy, only two men, _Fichte_ and _Herbart_, can be named, who made by their actual advance an epoch in philosophy; and among its opposers (_e. g. Hamann_, _Herder_), only one, _Jacobi_, is of philosophic importance. These three philosophers are hence the first objects for us to consider. In order to a more accurate development of their principles, we preface a brief and general characteristic of their relation to the Kantian philosophy.
1. Dogmatism had been critically annihilated by Kant; his Critick of pure Reason had for its result the theoretical indemonstrableness of the three ideas of the reason, G.o.d, freedom, and immortality. True, these ideas which, from the standpoint of theoretical knowledge, had been thrust out, Kant had introduced again as postulates of the practical reason; but as postulates, as only practical premises, they possess no theoretic certainty, and remain exposed to doubt. In order to do away with this uncertainty, and this despairing of knowledge which had seemed to be the end of the Kantian philosophy, _Jacobi_, a younger cotemporary of Kant, placed himself upon the standpoint of the faith philosophy in opposition to the standpoint of criticism. Though these highest ideas of the reason, the eternal and the divine, cannot be reached and proved by means of demonstration, yet is it the very essence of the divine that it is indemonstrable and unattainable for the understanding. In order to be certain of the highest, of that which lies beyond the understanding, there is only one organ, viz., feeling. In feeling, therefore, in immediate knowledge, in faith, Jacobi thought he had found that certainty which Kant had sought in vain on the basis of discursive thinking.
2. While Jacobi stood in an ant.i.thetic relation to the Kantian philosophy, _Fichte_ appears as its immediate consequence. Fichte carried out to its consequence the Kantian dualism, according to which the Ego, as theoretic, is subjected to the external world, while as practical, it is its master, or, in other words, according to which the Ego stands related to the objective world, now receptively and again spontaneously. He allowed the reason to be exclusively practical, as will alone, and spontaneity alone, and apprehended its theoretical and receptive relation to the objective world as only a circ.u.mscribed activity, as a limitation prescribed to itself by the reason. But for the reason, so far as it is practical, there is nothing objective except as it is produced. The will knows no being but only an ought. Hence the objective being of truth is universally denied, and the thing which is essentially unknown must fall away of itself as an empty shadow. "Every thing which is, is the Ego," is the principle of the Fichtian system, and represents at the same time the subjective idealism in its consequence and completion.
3. While the subjective idealism of Fichte was carried out in the objective idealism of Sch.e.l.ling, and the absolute idealism of Hegel, there arose cotemporaneously with these systems a third offshoot of the Kantian criticism, viz., the philosophy of _Herbart_. It had its subjective origin in the Kantian philosophy, but its objective and historic connection with Kant is slight. It breaks up all historic continuity, and holds an isolated position in the history of philosophy.
Its general basis is Kantian, in so far as it makes for its problem a critical investigation of the subjective experience. We place it between Fichte and Sch.e.l.ling.
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi was born at Dusseldorf in 1743. His father destined him for a merchant. After he had studied in Geneva and become interested in philosophy, he entered his father's mercantile establishment, but afterwards abandoned this business, having been made chancellor of the exchequer and customs commissioner for Cleves and Berg, and also privy councillor at Dusseldorf. In this city, or at his neighboring estate of Pempelfort, he spent a great part of his life devoted to philosophy and his friends. In the year 1804 he was called to the newly-formed Academy of Sciences in Munich. In 1807 he was chosen president of this inst.i.tution, a post which he filled till his death in 1819. Jacobi had a rich intellect and an amiable character. Besides being a philosopher, he was also a poet and citizen of the world; and hence we find in his philosophizing an absence of strict logical arrangement and precise expression of thought. His writings are no systematic whole, but are occasional treatises written "rhapsodically and in gra.s.shopper gait," for the most part in the form of letters, dialogues, and romances. "It was never my purpose," he says himself, "to set up a system for the schools. My writings have sprung from my innermost life, and were the result of that which had taken place within me. In a certain sense I did not make them voluntarily, but they were drawn out of me by a higher power irresistible to myself." This want of an inner principle of cla.s.sification and of a systematic arrangement, renders a development of Jacobi's philosophy not easy. It may best be represented under the following three points of view:-1. Jacobi's polemic against mediate knowledge. 2. His principle of immediate knowledge. 3. His relation to the cotemporaneous philosophy, especially to the Kantian criticism.
1. Spinoza was the negative starting point of Jacobi's philosophizing.
In his work "_On the Doctrine of Spinoza, in letters to Moses Mendelssohn_" (1785), he directed public attention again to the almost wholly forgotten philosophy of Spinoza. The correspondence originated thus: Jacobi made the discovery that Lessing was a Spinozist, and announces this to Mendelssohn. The latter will not believe it, and thence grew the farther historical and philosophical examination. The positive philosophic views which Jacobi exhibits in this treatise can be reduced to the following three principles: (1) Spinozism is fatalism and atheism. (2) Every path of philosophic demonstration leads to fatalism and atheism. (3) In order that we may not fall into these, we must set a limit to demonstrating, and recognize faith as the element of all metaphysic knowledge.
(1.) Spinozism is atheism, because, according to it, the cause of the world is no person-is no being working for an end, and endowed with reason and will-and hence is no G.o.d. It is fatalism, for, according to it, the human will regards itself only falsely as free.
(2.) This atheism and fatalism is, however, only the necessary consequence of all strictly demonstrative philosophizing. To conceive a thing, says Jacobi, is to refer a thing to its nearest cause; it is to find a possible for an actual, the condition for a conditioned, the mediation for an immediate. We conceive only that which we can explain out of another. Hence our conceiving moves in a chain of conditioned conditions, and this connection forms a mechanism of nature, in whose investigation our understanding has its immeasurable field. However far we may carry conception and demonstration, we must hold, in reference to every object, to a still higher one which conditions it; where this chain of the conditioned ceases, there do conception and demonstration also cease; till we give up demonstrating we can reach no infinite. If philosophy determines to apprehend the infinite with the finite understanding, then must it bring down the divine to the finite; and here is where every preceding philosophy has been entangled, while it is obviously an absurd undertaking to attempt to discover the conditions of the unconditioned, and make the absolutely necessary a possible, in order that we may be able to construct it. A G.o.d who could be proved is no G.o.d, for the ground of proof is ever above that which is to be proved; the latter has its whole reality from the former. If the existence of G.o.d should be proved, then G.o.d would be derived from a ground which were before and above him. Hence the paradox of Jacobi; it is for the interest of science that there be no G.o.d, no supernatural and no extra or supramundane being. Only upon the condition that nature alone is, and is therefore independent and all in all, can science hope to gain its goal of perfection, and become, like its object itself, all in all. Hence the result which Jacobi derives from the "Drama of the history of philosophy" is this:-"There is no other philosophy than that of Spinoza. He who considers all the works and acts of men to be the effect of natural mechanism, and who believes that intelligence is but an accompanying consciousness, which has only to act the part of a looker-on, cannot be contended with and cannot be helped till we set him free from his philosophy. No philosophical conclusion can reach him, for what he denies cannot be philosophically proved, and what he proves cannot be philosophically denied." Whence then is help to come? "The understanding, taken by itself, is materialistic and irrational; it denies spirit and G.o.d. The reason taken by itself is idealistic, and has nothing to do with the understanding; it denies nature and makes itself G.o.d."
(3.) Hence we must seek another way of knowing the supersensible, which is faith. Jacobi calls this flight from cognition through conception to faith, the _salto mortale_ of the human reason. Every certainty through a conception demands another certainty, but in faith we are led to an immediate certainty which needs no ground nor proof, and which is in fact absolutely exclusive of all proof. Such a confidence which does not arise from arguments, is called faith. We know the sensible as well as the supersensible only through faith. All human knowledge springs from revelation and faith.
These principles which Jacobi brought out in his letters concerning Spinoza, did not fail to arouse a universal opposition in the German philosophical world. It was charged upon him that he was an enemy of reason, a preacher of blind faith, a despiser of science and of philosophy, a fanatic and a papist. To rebut these attacks, and to justify his standpoint, he wrote in 1787, a year and a half after the first appearance of the work already named, his dialogue ent.i.tled "_David Hume_, or _Faith, Idealism, and Realism_," in which he developes more extensively and definitely his principle of faith or immediate knowledge.
2. Jacobi distinguished his faith at the outset from a blind credence in authority. A blind faith is that which supports itself on a foreign view, instead of on the grounds of reason. But this is not the case with his faith, which rather rests upon the innermost necessity of the subject itself. Still farther: his faith is not an arbitrary imagination: we can imagine to ourselves every thing possible, but in order to regard a thing as actual, there must be an inexplicable necessity of our feeling, which we cannot otherwise name than faith.
Jacobi was not constant in his terminology, and hence did not always express himself alike in respect of the relation in which faith stood to the different sides of the human faculty of knowledge. In his earlier terminology he placed faith (or as he also called it, the power of faith), on the side of the sense or the receptivity, and let it stand opposed to the understanding and the reason, taking these two terms as equivalent expressions for the finite and immediate knowledge of previous philosophy; afterwards he followed Kant, and, distinguishing between the reason and the understanding, he called that reason which he had previously named sense and faith. According to him now, the faith or intuition of the reason is the organ for perceiving the supersensible.
As such, it stands opposed to the understanding. There must be a higher faculty which can learn, in a way inconceivable to sense and the understanding, that which is true in and above the phenomena. Over against the explaining understanding stands the reason, or the natural faith of the reason, which does not explain, but positively reveals and unconditionally decides. As there is an intuition of the sense, so is there a rational intuition through the reason, and a demonstration has no more validity in respect of the latter than in respect of the former.
Jacobi justifies his use of the term, intuition of the reason, from the want of any other suitable designation. Language has no other expression to indicate the way in which that, which is unattainable to the sense, becomes apprehended in the transcendental feeling. If any one affirms that he knows any thing, he may properly be required to state the origin of his knowledge, and in doing this, he must of necessity go back either to sensation or to feeling; the latter stands above the former as high as the human species above the brute. So I affirm, then, without hesitation, says Jacobi, that my philosophy starts from pure feeling, and declares the authority of this to be supreme. The faculty of feeling is the highest in man, and that alone which specifically distinguishes him from the brute. This faculty is one and the same with reason; or, reason may be said to find in it its single and only starting point.
Jacobi had the clearest consciousness of the opposition in which he stood, with this principle of immediate knowledge, to previous philosophy. In his introduction to his complete works, he says: "There had arisen since the time of Aristotle an increasing effort in philosophical schools, to subject the immediate knowledge to the mediate, to make that faculty of perception which originally establishes every thing, dependent on the faculty of reflection, which is conditioned through abstraction; to subordinate the archetype to the copy, the essence to the word, the reason to the understanding, and, in fact, to make the former wholly disappear in the latter. Nothing is allowed to be true which is not capable of a double demonstration, in the intuition and in the conception, in the thing and in its image or word; the thing itself, it is said, must truly lie and actually be known only in the word." But every philosophy which allows only the reflecting reason, must lose itself at length in an utter ignorance. Its end is nihilism.
3. From what has been already said, the position of Jacobi with his principle of faith, in relation to the Kantian philosophy, can, partly at least, be seen. Jacobi had separated himself from this philosophy, partly in the above-named dialogue "David Hume," (especially in an appendix to this, in which he discussed the transcendental Idealism), and partly in his essay "_On the attempt of criticism to bring the reason to the understanding_" (1801). His relation to it may be reduced to the following three general points:
(1.) Jacobi does not agree with Kant's theory of sensuous knowledge. In opposition to this theory he defends the standpoint of empiricism, affirms the truthfulness of the sense-perception, and denies the apriority of s.p.a.ce and time, for which Kant contends in order to prove that objects as well as their relations are simply determinations of our own self, and do not at all exist externally to us. For, however much it may be affirmed that there is something corresponding to our notions as their cause, yet does it remain concealed what this something is.
According to Kant, the laws of our beholding and thinking are without objective validity, our knowledge has no objective significance. But it is wrong to claim that in the phenomena there is nothing revealed of the hidden truth which lies behind them. With such a claim, it were far better to give up completely the unknown thing-in-itself, and carry out to its results the consequent idealism. "Logically, Kant is at fault, when he presupposes objects which make impressions on our soul. He is bound to teach the strictest idealism."
(2.) Yet Jacobi essentially agrees with Kant's critick of the understanding. Jacobi affirmed, as Kant had done, that the understanding is insufficient to know the supersensible, and that the highest ideas of the reason could be apprehended only in faith. Jacobi places Kant's great merit in having cleared away the ideas, which were simply the products of reflection and logical phantasms. "It is very easy for the understanding, when producing one notion from another, and thus gradually mounting up to ideas, to imagine that, by virtue of these, which, though they carry it beyond the intuitions of the sense, are nothing but logical phantasms, it has not only the faculty but the most decided determination to fly truly above the world of sense, and to gain by its flight a higher science independent of the intuition, a science of the supersensible. Kant discovers and destroys this error and self-deception. Thus there is gained, at least, a clear place for a _genuine_ rationalism. This is Kant's truly great deed, his immortal merit. But the sound sense of our sage did not allow him to hide from himself that this clear place must disappear in a gulf, which would swallow up in itself all knowledge of the true, unless a G.o.d should interpose to hinder it. Here Kant's doctrine and mine meet."
(3.) But Jacobi does not fully agree with Kant, in wholly denying to the theoretical reason the faculty of objective knowledge. He blames Kant for complaining that the human reason cannot theoretically prove the reality of its ideas. He affirms that Kant is thus still entangled in the delusion, that the only reason why these ideas cannot be proved, is found in the nature of the ideas themselves, and not in the deficient nature of our knowledge. Kant therefore attempts to seek, in a practical way, a kind of scientific proof; a roundabout way, which, to every profound seeker, must seem folly, since every proof is as impossible as it is unnecessary.
Jacobi agreed better with Kant, than with the post-Kantian philosophy.
The atheistic tendency of the latter was especially repulsive to him.
"To Kant, that profound thinker and upright philosopher, the words G.o.d, freedom, immortality, and religion, signified the same as they have ever done to the sound human understanding; he in no way treats them as nothing but deception. He created offence by irresistibly showing the insufficiency of all proofs of speculative philosophy for these ideas.
That which was wanting in the theoretical proof, he made up by the necessary postulates of a pure practical reason. With these, according to Kant's a.s.surance, philosophy was fully helped out of her difficulty, and the goal, which had been always missed, actually reached. But the first daughter of the critical philosophy (Fichte's system) makes the living and working moral order itself to be G.o.d, a G.o.d expressly declared to be without consciousness and self-existence. These frank words, spoken publicly and without restraint, roused some attention, but the fear soon subsided. Presently astonishment ceased wholly, for the second daughter of the critical philosophy (Sch.e.l.ling's system) gave up entirely the distinction which the first had allowed to remain between natural and moral philosophy, necessity and freedom, and without any further ado affirmed that the only existence is nature, and that there is nothing above; this second daughter is Spinozism transfigured and reversed, an ideal materialism." This latter allusion to Sch.e.l.ling, connected as it was with other and harder thrusts in the same essay, called out from this philosopher the well-known answer: "_Sch.e.l.ling's Monument to the Treatise on Divine Things_, 1812."
If we now take a critical survey of the philosophical standpoint of Jacobi, we shall find its peculiarity to consist in the abstract separation of understanding and feeling. These two Jacobi could not bring into harmony. "There is light in my heart," he says, "but it goes out whenever I attempt to bring it into the understanding. Which is the true luminary of these two? That of the understanding, which, though it reveals fixed forms, shows behind them only a baseless gulf? Or that of the heart, which points its light promisingly upwards, though determinate knowledge escapes it? Can the human spirit grasp the truth unless it possesses these two luminaries united in one light? And is this union conceivable except through a miracle?" If now, in order to escape in a certain degree this contradiction between understanding and feeling, Jacobi gave to immediate knowledge the place of mediate as finite knowledge, this was a self-deception. Even that knowledge, which is supposed to be immediate, and which Jacobi regards as the peculiar organ for knowing the supersensible, is also mediate, obliged to go through a course of subjective mediations, and can only give itself out as immediate when it wholly forgets its own origin.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte was born at Rammenau, in Upper Lusatia, 1762. A n.o.bleman of Silesia became interested in the boy, and having committed him first to the instruction of a clergyman, he afterwards placed him at the high school at Schulpforte. In his eighteenth year, at Michaelmas, 1780, Fichte entered the university at Jena to study theology. He soon found himself attracted to philosophy, and became powerfully affected by the study of Spinoza. His pecuniary circ.u.mstances were straitened, but this only served to harden his will and his energy. In 1784 he became employed as a teacher in a certain family, and spent some time in this occupation with different families in Saxony. In 1787 he sought a place as country clergyman, but was refused on account of his religious opinions. He was now obliged to leave his fatherland, to which he clung with his whole soul. He repaired to Zurich, where, in 1788, he took a post as private tutor, and where also he became acquainted with his future wife, a sister's daughter of Klopstock. At Easter, 1790, he returned to Saxony and taught privately at Leipsic, where he became acquainted with the Kantian philosophy, by means of lessons which he was obliged to give to a student. In the spring of 1791 we find him as private tutor at Warsaw, and soon after in Konigsberg, where he resorted, that he might become personally acquainted with the Kant he had learned to revere. Instead of a letter of recommendation he presented him his "_Critick of all Revelation_," a treatise which Fichte composed in eight days. In this he attempted to deduce, from the practical reason, the possibility of a revelation. This is not seen purely apriori, but only under an empirical condition; we must consider humanity to be in a moral ruin so complete, that the moral law has lost all its influence upon the will and all morality is extinguished. In such a case we may expect that G.o.d, as moral governor of the world, would give man, through the sense, some pure moral impulses, and reveal himself as lawgiver to them through a special manifestation determined for this end, in the world of sense. In such a case a particular revelation were a postulate of the practical reason. Fichte sought also to determine apriori the possible content of such a revelation. Since we need to know nothing but G.o.d, freedom, and immortality, the revelation will contain naught but these, and these it must contain in a comprehensible form, yet so that the symbolical dress may lay no claim to unlimited veneration. This treatise, which appeared anonymously in 1792, at once attracted the greatest attention, and was at first universally regarded as a work of Kant. It procured for its author, soon after, a call to the chair of philosophy at Jena, to succeed Reinhold, who then went to Kiel. Fichte received this appointment in 1793 at Zurich, where he had gone to consummate his marriage. At the same time he wrote and published, also anonymously, his "_Aids to correct views of the French Revolution_," an essay which the governments never looked upon with favor. At Easter, 1794, he entered upon his new office, and soon saw his public call confirmed. Taking now a new standpoint, which transcended Kant, he sought to establish this, and carry it out in a series of writings (the _Wissenschaftslehre_ appeared in 1794, the _Naturrecht_ in 1796, and the _Sittenlehre_ in 1798), by which he exerted a powerful influence upon the scientific movement in Germany, aided as he was in this by the fact that Jena was then one of the most flourishing of the German universities, and the resort of every vigorous head. With Goethe, Schiller, the brothers Schlegel, William von Humboldt, and Hufeland, Fichte was in close fellowship, though this was unfortunately broken after a few years. In 1795 he became a.s.sociate editor of the "_Philosophical Journal_," which had been established by Niethammer. A fellow-laborer, Rector Forberg, at Saalfeld, offered for publication in this journal an article "to determine the conception of religion." Fichte advised the author not to publish it, but at length inserted it in the journal, prefacing it, however, with an introduction of his own. "_On the ground of our faith in a divine government of the world_," in which he endeavored to remove, or at least soften, the views in the article which might give offence. Both the essays raised a great cry of atheism. The elector of Saxony confiscated the journal in his territory, and sent a requisition to the dukes Ernest, who held in common the university of Jena, to summon the author to trial and punishment. Fichte answered the edict of confiscation and attempted to justify himself to the public (1799), by his "_Appeal to the Public. An essay which it is requested may be read before it is confiscated_;"
while he defended his course to the government by an article ent.i.tled "_The Publishers of the Philosophical Journal justified from the charge of Atheism_." The government of Weimar, being as anxious to spare him as it was to please the elector of Saxony, delayed its decision. But as Fichte, either with or without reason, had privately learned that the whole matter was to be settled by reprimanding the accused parties for their want of caution; and, desiring either a civil acquittal or an open and proper satisfaction, he wrote a private letter to a member of the government, in which he desired his dismission in case of a reprimand, and which he closed with the intimation that many of his friends would leave the university with him, in order to establish together a new one in Germany. The government regarded this letter as an application for his discharge, indirectly declaring that the reprimand was unavoidable.
Fichte, now an object of suspicion, both on account of his religious and political views, looked about him in vain for a place of refuge. The prince of Rudolstadt, to whom he turned, denied him his protection, and his arrival in Berlin (1799) attracted great notice. In Berlin, where he had much intercourse with Frederick Schlegel, and also with Schleiermacher and Novalis, his views became gradually modified; the catastrophe at Jena had led him from the exclusive moral standpoint which he, resting upon Kant, had hitherto held, to the sphere of religion; he now sought to reconcile religion with his standpoint of the _Wissenshaftslehre_, and turned himself to a certain mysticism (the second form of the Fichtian theory). After he had privately taught a number of years in Berlin, and had also held philosophical lectures for men of culture, he was recommended (1805) by Beyme and Altenstein, chancellor of state of Hardenberg, to a professorship of philosophy in Erlangen, an appointment which he received together with a permit to return to Berlin in the winter, and hold there his philosophical lectures before the public. Thus, in the winter of 1807-8, while a French marshal was governor of Berlin, and while his voice was often drowned by the hostile tumults of the enemy through the streets, he delivered his famous "_Addresses to the German nation_." Fichte labored most a.s.siduously for the foundation of the Berlin university, for only by wholly transforming the common education did he believe the regeneration of Germany could be secured. As the new university was opened 1809, he was made in the first year dean of the philosophical faculty, and in the second was invested with the dignity of rector. In the "war of liberation," then breaking out, Fichte took the liveliest partic.i.p.ation by word and deed. His wife had contracted a nervous fever by her care of the sick and wounded, and though she recovered, he fell a victim to the same disease. He died Jan. 28, 1814, not having yet completed his fifty-second year.
In the following exposition of Fichte's philosophy, we distinguish between the two internally different periods of his philosophizing, that of Jena and that of Berlin. The first division will include two parts-Fichte's theory of science and his practical philosophy.
I. THE FICHTIAN PHILOSOPHY IN ITS ORIGINAL FORM. 1. THE THEORETICAL PHILOSOPHY OF FICHTE, HIS WISSENSCHAFTSLEHRE, OR THEORY OF SCIENCE.-It has already been shown (-- 39) that the thoroughly-going subjective idealism of Fichte was only the logical consequence of the Kantian standpoint. It was wholly unavoidable that Fichte should entirely reject the Kantian essentially thing (_thing in itself_), which Kant had himself declared to be unrecognizable though real, and that he should posit as a proper act of the mind, that external influence which Kant had referred to the essentially thing. That the Ego alone is, and that which we regard as a limitation of the Ego by external objects, is rather the proper self-limitation of the Ego; this is the grand feature of the Fichtian as of every idealism.
Fichte himself supported the standpoint of this Theory of Science as follows: In every experience there is conjointly an Ego and a thing, the intelligence and its object. Which of these two sides must now be reduced to the other? If the philosopher abstracts the Ego, he has remaining an essentially thing, and must then apprehend his representations or sensations as the products of this object; if he abstracts the object, he has remaining an essentially Ego (an Ego _in itself_). The former is dogmatism, the latter idealism. Both are irreconcilable with each other, and there is no third way possible. We must therefore choose between the two. In order to decide between the two systems, we must note the following: (1) That the Ego appears in consciousness, wherefore the essentially thing is a pure invention, since in consciousness we have only that which is perceived; (2) Dogmatism must account for the origin of its representation through some essentially object, it must start from something which does not lie in the consciousness. But the effect of being is only being, and not representation. Hence idealism alone can be correct which does not start from being, but from intelligence. According to idealism, intelligence is only active, not pa.s.sive, because it is a first and absolute: and on this account there belongs to it no being, but simply an acting. The forms of this acting, the system of the necessary mode in which intelligence acts, must be found from the essence of intelligence. If we should take the laws of intelligence from experience, as Kant did his categories, we fail in two respects: (1) We do not see why intelligence must so act, nor whether these laws are immanent laws of intelligence; (2) We do not see how the object itself originates. Hence the fundamental principles of intelligence, as well as the objective world, must be derived from the Ego itself.
Fichte supposed that in these results he only expressed the true sense of the Kantian philosophy. "Whatever my system may properly be, whether the genuine criticism thoroughly carried out, _as I believe it is_, or howsoever it be named, is of no account." His system, Fichte affirms, had the same view of the matter as Kant's, while the numerous followers of this philosopher had wholly mistaken and misunderstood their master's idealism. In the second introduction to the Theory of Science (1797), Fichte grants to these expounders of the Critick of pure Reason that it contains some pa.s.sages where Kant would affirm that sensations must be given to the subject from without as the material conditions of objective reality; but shows that the innumerably repeated declarations of the Critick, that there could be no influence upon us of a real transcendental object outside of us, cannot at all be reconciled with these pa.s.sages, if any thing other than a simple thought be understood as the ground of the sensations. "So long," adds Fichte, "as Kant does not expressly declare that he derives sensations from an impression of some essentially thing, or, to use his terminology, that sensation must be explained from a transcendental object existing externally to us: so long will I not believe what these expounders tell us of Kant. But if he should give such an explanation, I should sooner regard the Critick of Pure Reason to be a work of chance than of design." For such an explanation the aged Kant did not suffer him long to wait. In the _Intelligenzblatt der Allgemeinen Litteraturzeitung_ (1799), he formally, and with much emphasis, rejects the Fichtian improvement of his system, and protests against every interpretation of his writings according to the conceit of any mind, while he maintains the literal interpretation of his theory as laid down in the Critick of Reason.