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Reinhold remarks upon all this: "Since the well known and public explanation of Kant respecting Fichte's philosophy, there can be no longer a doubt that Kant himself would represent his own system, and desire to have it represented by his readers, entirely otherwise than Fichte had represented and interpreted it. But from this it irresistibly follows, that Kant himself did not regard his system as illogical because it presupposed something external to the subjectivity.
Nevertheless, it does not at all follow that Fichte erred when he declared that this system, with such a presupposition, must be illogical." So much for Reinhold. That Kant himself did not fail to see this inconclusiveness, is evident from the changes he introduced into the second edition of the Critick of Pure Reason, where he suffered the idealistic side of his system to fall back decidedly behind the empirical.
From what has been said, we can see the universal standpoint of the Theory of Science; the Ego is made a principle, and from the Ego every thing else is sought to be derived. It hardly needs to be remarked, that by this Ego we are to understand, not any individual, but the universal Ego, the universal rationality. The Ego and the individual, the pure and the empirical Ego, are wholly different conceptions.
We have still the following preface to make concerning the form of the Theory of Science. A theory of science, according to Fichte, must posit some supreme principle, from which every other must be derived. This supreme principle must be absolutely, and through itself, certain. If our human knowledge should be any thing but fragmentary, there must be such a supreme principle. But now, since such a principle does not admit of proof, every thing depends upon giving it a trial. Its test and demonstration can only be thus gained, viz., if we find a principle to which all science may be referred, then is this shown to be a fundamental principle. But besides the first fundamental principle, there are yet two others to be considered, the one of which is unconditioned as to its content, but as to its form, conditioned through and derived from the first fundamental principle; the other the reverse.
The relation of these three principles to each other is, in fine, this, viz., that the second stands opposed to the first, while a third is the product of the two. Hence, according to this plan, the first absolute principle starts from the Ego, the second opposes to the Ego a thing or a non-Ego, and the third brings forward the Ego again in reaction against the thing or the non-Ego. This method of Fichte (thesis,-ant.i.thesis,-synthesis) is the same as Hegel subsequently adopted, and applied to the whole system of philosophy, a union of the synthetical and a.n.a.lytical methods. We start with a fundamental synthesis, which we a.n.a.lyze to produce its ant.i.theses, in order to unite these ant.i.theses again through a second synthesis. But in making this second synthesis, our a.n.a.lysis discovers still farther ant.i.theses, which obliges us therefore to find another synthesis, and so onward in the process, till we come at length to ant.i.theses which can no longer be perfectly but only approximately connected.
We stand now upon the threshold of the _Theory of Science_. It is divided into three parts. (1) General principles of a theory of science.
(2) Principles of theoretical knowledge. (3) Principles of practical science.
As has already been said, there are three _supreme_ fundamental principles, one absolutely unconditioned, and two relatively unconditioned.
(1.) _The absolutely first and absolutely unconditioned fundamental principle_ ought to express that act of the mind which lies at the basis of all consciousness, and alone makes consciousness possible. Such is the principle of ident.i.ty, A = A. This principle remains, and cannot be thought away, though every empirical determination be removed. It is a fact of consciousness, and must, therefore, be universally admitted: but at the same time it is by no means conditioned, like every other empirical fact, but unconditioned, because it is a free act. By affirming that this principle is certain without any farther ground, we ascribe to ourselves the faculty of _positing_ something absolutely. We do not, therefore, affirm that A is, but only that if A is, then it is equal to A. It is no matter now about the content of the principle, we need only regard its form. The principle A = A is, therefore, conditioned (hypothetically) as to its content, and unconditioned only as to its form and its connection. If we would now have a principle unconditioned in its content as well as in its connection, we put Ego in the place of A, as we are fully ent.i.tled to do, since the connection of subject and predicate contained in the judgment A = A is posited in the Ego and through the Ego. Hence A = A becomes transformed into Ego = Ego.
This principle is unconditioned not only as to its connection, but also as to its content. While we could not, instead of A = A, say that A is, yet we can instead of Ego = Ego, say that Ego is. All the facts of the empirical consciousness find their ground of explanation in this, viz., that before any thing else is posited in the Ego, the Ego itself is there. This fact, that the Ego is absolutely posited and grounded on itself, is the basis of all acting in the human mind, and shows the pure character of activity in itself. The Ego _is_, because it posits itself, and it only is, because this simple positing of itself is wholly by itself. The being of the Ego is thus seen in the positing of the Ego, and on the other hand, the Ego is enabled _to posit_ simply by virtue of its being. It is at the same time the acting, and the product of the action. I am, is the expression of the only possible deed. Logically considered we have, in the first principle of a Theory of Science, A = A, the logical law of ident.i.ty. From the proposition A = A, we arrive at the proposition Ego = Ego. The latter proposition, however, does not derive its validity from the former, but contrarywise. The prius of all judgments is the Ego, which posits the connection of subject and predicate. The logical law of ident.i.ty arises, therefore, from Ego = Ego. Metaphysically considered, we have in this same first principle of a Theory of Science, the category of _reality_. We obtain this category by abstracting every thing from the content, and reflecting simply upon the mode of acting of the human mind. From the Ego, as the absolute subject, every category is derived.
(2.) _The second fundamental principle_, conditioned in its content, and only unconditioned in its form, which is just as incapable as the first of demonstration or derivation, is also a fact of the empirical consciousness: it is the proposition non-A is not = A. This sentence is unconditioned in its form, because it is free act like the first, from which it cannot be derived; but in its content, as to its matter it is conditioned, because if a non-A is posited, there must have previously been posited an A. Let us examine this principle more closely. In the first principle, A = A, the form of the act was a positing, while in this second principle it is an oppositing. There is an absolute opposition, and this opposition, in its simple form, is an act absolutely possible, standing under no condition, limited by no higher ground. But as to its matter, the opposition presupposes a position; the non-A cannot be posited without the A. What non-A is, I do not through that yet know: I only know concerning non-A that it is the opposite of A: hence I only know what non-A is under the condition that I know A.
But now A is posited through the Ego; there is originally nothing posited but the Ego, and nothing but this absolutely posited. Hence there can be an absolute opposition only to the Ego. That which is opposed to the Ego is the non-Ego. A non-Ego is absolutely opposed to the Ego, and this is the second fact of the empirical consciousness. In every thing ascribed to the Ego, the contrary, by virtue of this simple opposition, must be ascribed to the non Ego.-As we obtained from the first principle Ego = Ego, the logical law of ident.i.ty, so now we have, from the second sentence Ego is not = non-Ego, the logical law of contradiction. And metaphysically,-since we wholly abstract the definite act of judgment, and, simply in the form of sequence, conclude not-being from opposite being,-we possess from this second principle the category of _negation_.
(3.) _The third principle_, conditioned in its form, is almost capable of proof, since it is determined by two others. At every step we approach the province where every thing can be proved. This third principle is conditioned in its form, and unconditioned only in its content: _i. e._ the problem, but not the solution of the act to be established through it, has been given through the two preceding principles. The solution is afforded unconditionally and absolutely by a decisive word of the reason. The problem to be solved by this third principle is this, viz., to adjust the contradiction contained in the two former ones. On the one side, the Ego is wholly suppressed by the non-Ego: there can be no positing of the Ego so far as the non-Ego is posited. On the other side, the non-Ego is only an Ego posited in the consciousness, and hence the Ego is not suppressed by the non-Ego. The Ego appearing on the one side to be suppressed, is not really suppressed. Such a result would be non-A = A. In order to remove this contradiction, which threatens to destroy the ident.i.ty of our consciousness, and the only absolute foundation of our knowledge, we must find in _x_ that which will justify both of the first two principles, and leave the ident.i.ty of our consciousness undisturbed. The two opposites, the Ego and the non-Ego, should be united in the consciousness, should be alike posited without either excluding the other; they should be received in the ident.i.ty of the proper consciousness. How shall being and not-being, reality and negation, be conceived together without destroying each other? They will reciprocally _limit_ each other. Hence the unknown quant.i.ty _x_, whose terms we are seeking, stands for these limits: limitation is the sought-for act of the Ego, and as category in the thought, we have thus the category of determination or _limitation_. But in limitation, there is also given the category of _quant.i.ty_, for when we say that any thing is limited, we mean that its reality is through negation, not _wholly_, but only _partially_ suppressed. Thus the conception of limit contains also the conception of divisibility, besides the conceptions of reality and negation. Through the act of limitation, the Ego as well as the non-Ego, is posited as divisible. Still farther, we see how a logical law follows from the third fundamental principle as well as from the first two. If we abstract the definite content, the Ego and the non-Ego, and leave remaining the simple form of the union of opposites through the conception of divisibility, we have then the logical _principle of the ground_, or foundation, which may be expressed in the formula: A in part = non-A, non-A in part = A. Wherever two opposites are alike in one characteristic, we consider the ground as a ground of relation, and wherever two similar things are opposite in one characteristic, we consider the ground as a ground of distinction.-With these three principles we have now exhausted the measure of that which is unconditioned and absolutely certain. We can embrace the three in the following formula:
_I posit in the Ego a divisible non Ego over against the divisible Ego._ No philosophy can go beyond this cognition, and every fundamental philosophy should go back to this. Just so far as it does this, it becomes science (_Wissenschaftslehre_). Every thing which can appear in a system of knowledge, as well as a farther division of the Theory of Science itself, must be derived from this. The proposition that the Ego and the non-Ego reciprocally limit each other, may be divided into the following two: (1) the Ego posits itself as limited through the non-Ego (_i. e._ the Ego is in a cognitive (or pa.s.sive) relation); (2) the Ego posits the non-Ego as limited through the Ego (_i. e._ the Ego is in an active relation). The former proposition is the basis of the theoretical, and the latter of the practical part of the Theory of Science. The latter part cannot, at the outset, be brought upon the stage; for the non-Ego, which should be limited by the acting Ego, does not at the outset exist, and we must wait and see whether it will find, in the theoretical part, a reality.
_The groundwork of theoretical knowledge_ advances through an uninterrupted series of ant.i.theses and syntheses. The fundamental synthesis of the theoretical Theory of Science is the proposition: _the Ego posits itself as determined_ (limited) _by the non-Ego_. If we a.n.a.lyze this sentence, we find in it two subordinate sentences which are reciprocally opposite. (1) The non-Ego as active determines the Ego, which thus far is pa.s.sive; but since all activity must start from the Ego, so (2) the Ego determines itself through an absolute activity.
Herein is a contradiction, that the Ego should be at the same time active and pa.s.sive. Since this contradiction would destroy the above proposition, and also suppress the unity of consciousness, we are forced to seek some point, some new synthesis, in which these given ant.i.theses may be united. This synthesis is attained when we find that the conceptions of action and pa.s.sion, which are contained under the categories of reality and negation, find their compensation and due adjustment in the conception of divisibility. The propositions: "the Ego determines," and "the Ego is determined," are reconciled in the proposition: "the Ego determines itself in part, and is determined in part." Both, however, should be considered as one and the same. Hence more accurately: as many parts of reality as the Ego posits in itself, so many parts of negation does it posit in the non-Ego; and as many parts of reality as the Ego posits in the non-Ego, so many parts of negation does it posit in itself. This determination is _reciprocal determination_, or _reciprocal action_. Thus Fichte deduces the last of the three categories under Kant's general category of relation. In a similar way (viz., by finding a synthesis for apparent contradictions), he deduces the two other categories of this cla.s.s, viz., that of cause, and that of substance. The process is thus: So far as the Ego is determined, and therefore pa.s.sive, has the non-Ego reality. The category of reciprocal determination, to which we may ascribe indifferently either of the two sides, reality or negation, may, more strictly taken, imply that the Ego is pa.s.sive, and the non-Ego active. The notion which expresses this relation is that of _causality_. That, to which activity is ascribed, is called _cause_ (primal reality), and that to which pa.s.siveness is ascribed, is called _effect_; both, conceived in connection, may be termed a _working_. On the other side, the Ego determines itself. Herein is a contradiction; (1) the Ego determines itself; it is therefore that which determines, and is thus active; (2) it determines itself; it is therefore that which becomes determined, and is thus pa.s.sive. Thus in one respect and in one action both reality and negation are ascribed to it. To resolve this contradiction, we must find a mode of action which is activity and pa.s.siveness in one; the Ego must determine its pa.s.siveness through activity, and its activity through pa.s.siveness. This solution is attained by aid of the conception of quant.i.ty. In the Ego all reality is first of all posited as absolute quantum, as absolute totality, and thus far the Ego may be compared to a greatest circle which contains all the rest. A definite quantum of activity, or a limited sphere within this greatest circle of activity, is indeed a _reality_; but when compared with the totality of activity, is it also a _negation_ of the totality or pa.s.siveness. Here we have found the mediation sought for; it lies in the notion of _substance_. In so far as the Ego is considered as the whole circle, embracing the totality of all realities, is it substance; but so far as it becomes posited in a determinate sphere of this circle, is it accidental. No accidence is conceivable without substance; for, in order to know that any thing is a definite reality, it must first be referred to reality in general, or to substance. In every change we think of substance in the universal; accidence is something specific (determinate), which changes with every changing cause. _There is originally but one substance, the Ego_; in this one substance all possible accidents, and therefore all possible realities, are posited. The Ego alone is the absolutely infinite. The Ego, as thinking and as acting, indicates a limitation.
The Fichtian theory is accordingly Spinozism, only (as Jacobi strikingly called it) a reversed and idealistic Spinozism.
Let us look back a moment. The objectivity which Kant had allowed to exist Fichte has destroyed. There is _only_ the Ego. But the Ego presupposes a non-Ego, and therefore a kind of object. How the Ego comes to posit such an object, must the theoretical Theory of Science now proceed to show.
There are two extreme views respecting the relation of the Ego to the non-Ego, according as we start from the conception of cause, or that of substance. (1) Starting from the conception of cause, we have posited through the pa.s.siveness of the Ego an activity of the non-Ego. This pa.s.siveness of the Ego must have some ground. This cannot lie in the Ego, which in itself posits only activity. Consequently it lies in the non-Ego. Here the distinction between action and pa.s.sion is apprehended, not simply as quant.i.tative (_i. e._, viewing the pa.s.siveness as a diminished activity), but the pa.s.sion is in quality opposed to the action; a presupposed activity of the non-Ego is, therefore, a real ground of the pa.s.siveness in the Ego. (2) Starting from the conception of substance, we have posited a pa.s.siveness of the Ego through its own activity. Here the pa.s.siveness in respect of quality is the same as activity, it being only a diminished activity. While, therefore, according to the first view, the pa.s.sive Ego has a ground distinct in quality from the Ego, and thus a real ground, yet here its ground is only a diminished activity of the Ego, distinct only in quant.i.ty from the Ego, and is thus an ideal ground. The former view is dogmatic realism, the latter is dogmatic idealism. The latter affirms: all reality of the non-Ego is only a reality given it from the Ego; the former declares: nothing can be given, unless there be something to receive, unless an independent reality of the non-Ego, as thing in itself, be presupposed. Both views present thus a contradiction, which can only be removed by a new synthesis. Fichte attempted this synthesis of idealism and realism, by bringing out a mediating system of critical idealism. For this purpose he sought to show that the ideal ground and the real ground are one and the same. Neither is the simple activity of the Ego a ground for the reality of the non-Ego, nor is the simple activity of the non-Ego a ground for the pa.s.siveness in the Ego. Both must be conceived together in this way, viz., the activity of the Ego meets a _hindrance_, which is set up against it, not without some a.s.sistance of the Ego, and which circ.u.mscribes and reflects in itself this activity of the Ego. The hindrance is found when the subjective can be no farther extended, and the expanding activity of the Ego is driven back into itself, producing as its result self-limitation. What we call objects are nothing other than the different impinging of the activity of the Ego on some inconceivable hindrance, and these determinations of the Ego, we carry over to something external to ourselves, and represent them to ourselves as s.p.a.ce filling matter. That which Fichte calls a hindrance through the non-Ego, is thus in fact the same as Kant calls thing essentially, the only difference being that with Fichte it is made subjective. From this point Fichte then deduces the subjective activities of the Ego, which mediate, or seek to mediate, theoretically, the Ego with the non-Ego-as imagination, representation (sensation, intuition, feeling), understanding, faculty of judgment, reason; and in connection with this he brought out the subjective projections of the intuition, s.p.a.ce, and time.
We have now reached the third part of the Theory of Science, via., _the foundation of the practical_. We have seen that the Ego represents. But that it may represent does not depend upon the Ego alone, but is determined by something external to it. We could in no way conceive of a representation, except through the presupposition that the Ego finds some hindrance to its undetermined and unlimited activity. Accordingly the Ego, as intelligence, is universally dependent upon an indefinite, and hitherto wholly indefinable non-Ego, and only through and by means of such non-Ego, is it intelligence. A finite being is only finite as intelligence. These limits, however, we shall break through. The practical law which unites the finite Ego with the infinite, can depend upon nothing external to ourselves. The Ego, according to all its determinations, should be posited absolutely through itself, and hence should be wholly independent of every possible non-Ego. Consequently, the absolute Ego and the intelligent Ego, both of which should const.i.tute but one, are opposed to each other. This contradiction is obviated, when we see that because the absolute Ego is capable of no pa.s.siveness, but is absolute activity, therefore the Ego determines, through itself, that hitherto unknown non-Ego, to which the hindrance has been ascribed. The limits which the Ego, as theoretic, has set over against itself in the non-Ego, it must, as practical, seek to destroy, and absorb again the non-Ego in itself (or conceive it as the self-limitation of the Ego). The Kantian primacy of the practical reason is here made a truth. The transition of the theoretical part into the practical, the necessity of advancing from the one to the other, Fichte represents more closely thus:-The theoretical Theory of Science had to do with the mediation of the Ego, and the non-Ego. For this end it introduced one connecting link after another, without ever attaining its end. Then enters the reason with the absolute and decisive word: "there ought to be no non-Ego, since the non-Ego can in no way be united with the Ego;" and with this the knot is cut, though not untied. Thus it is the incongruity between the absolute (practical) Ego, and the finite (intelligent) Ego, which is carried over beyond the theoretical province into the practical. True, this incongruity does not wholly disappear, even in the practical province, where the act is only an infinite striving to surpa.s.s the limits of the non-Ego. The Ego, so far as it is practical, has, indeed, the tendency to pa.s.s beyond the actual world, and establish an ideal world, as it would be were every reality posited by the absolute Ego; but this striving is always confined to the finite partly through itself, because it goes out towards objects, and objects are finite, and partly through the resistance of the sensible world. We ought to seek to reach the infinite, but we cannot do it; this striving and inability is the impress of our destiny for eternity.
Thus-and in these words Fichte brings together the result of the Theory of Science-the whole being of finite rational natures is comprehended and exhausted: an original idea of our absolute being; an effort to reflect upon ourselves, in order to gain this idea; a limitation, not of this striving, but of our own existence, which first becomes actual through this limitation, or through an opposite principle, a non-Ego, or our finiteness; a self-consciousness, and especially a consciousness of our practical strivings; a determination accordingly of our representations, and through these of our actions; a constant widening of our limits into the infinite.
2. FICHTE'S PRACTICAL PHILOSOPHY.-The principles which Fichte had developed in his Theory of Science he applied to practical life, especially to the theory of rights and morals. He sought to deduce here every thing with methodical rigidness, without admitting any thing which could not be proved from experience. Thus, in the theory of rights and of morals, he will not presuppose a plurality of persons, but first deduces this: even that the man has a body is first demonstrated, though, to be sure, not stringently.
_The Theory of Rights_ (_the rights of nature_) Fichte founds upon the conception of the individual. First, he deduces the conception of rights, and as follows:-A finite rational being cannot posit itself without ascribing to itself a free activity. Through this positing of its faculties to a free activity, this rational being posits an external world of sense, for it can ascribe to itself no activity till it has posited an object towards which this activity may be directed. Still farther, this free activity of a rational being presupposes other rational beings, for without these it would never be conscious that it was free. We have therefore a plurality of free individuals, each one of whom has a sphere of free activity. This co-existence of free individuals is not possible without a relation of rights. Since no one with freedom pa.s.ses beyond his sphere, and each one therefore limits himself, they recognize each other as rational and free. This relation of a reciprocal acting through intelligence and freedom between rational beings, according to which each one has his freedom limited by the conception of the possibility of the other's freedom, under the condition also that this other limits his own freedom also through that of the first, is called a _relation of rights_. The supreme maxim of a theory of rights is therefore this: limit thy freedom through the conception of the freedom of every other person with whom thou canst be connected. After Fichte has attempted the application of this conception of rights, and for this end has deduced the corporeity, the anthropological side of man, he pa.s.ses over to a proper _theory of rights_. The theory of rights may be divided into three parts. (1) Rights which belong to the simple conception of person are called _original rights_. The original right is the absolute right of the person to be only a cause in the sensible world, though he may be absolutely (in other relations than to the sense) an effect. In this are contained, (_a_) the right of personal (bodily) freedom, and (_b_) the right of property. But every relation of rights between individual persons is conditioned through each one's recognition of the rights of the other. Each one must limit the quantum of his free acts for the sake of the freedom of the other, and only so far as the other has respect to my freedom need I have regard to his. In case, therefore, the other does not respect my original rights, some mechanical necessity must be sought in order to secure the rights of person, and this involves (2) the _Right of Coercion_. The laws of punishment have their end in securing that the opposite of that which is intended shall follow every unrighteous aim, that every vicious purpose shall be destroyed, and the right in its integrity be established. To establish such a law of coercion, and to secure a universal coercive power, the free individuals must enter into covenant among themselves. Such a covenant is only possible on the ground of a common nature. Natural right, _i. e._ the rightful relation between man and man, presupposes thus (3) a _civil right_, viz., (_a_) a free covenant, a compact of citizens by which the free individuals guarantee to each other their reciprocal rights; (_b_) positive laws, a civil legislation, through which the common will of all becomes law; (_c_) an executive force, a civil power which executes the common will, and in which, therefore, the private will and the common will are synthetically united. The particular view of Fichte's theory of rights is this: on the one side there is the state as reason demands (philosophical theory of rights), and on the other side the state as it actually is (theory of positive rights and of the state). But now comes up the problem, to make the actual state ever more and more conformable to the state of reason. The science which has this approximation for its aim, is polity. We can demand of no actual state a perfect conformity to the idea of a state. Every state const.i.tution is according to right, if it only leaves possible an advancement to a better state, and the only const.i.tution wholly contrary to right is that whose end is to hold every thing just as it is.
The absolute Ego of the Theory of Science is separated in the Theory of Rights into an infinite number of persons with rights: to bring it out again in its unity is the problem of _Ethics_. Right and morals are essentially different. Right is the external necessity to omit or to do something in order not to infringe upon the freedom of another; the inner necessity to do or omit something wholly independent of external ends, const.i.tutes the moral nature of man. And as the theory of rights arose from the conflict of the impulse of freedom in one subject with the impulse of freedom in another subject, so does the theory of morals or ethics arise from such a conflict, which, in the present case, is not external but internal, between two impulses in one and the same person.
(1) The rational being is impelled towards absolute independence, and strives after freedom for the sake of freedom. This fundamental impulse may be called the pure impulse, and it furnishes the formal principle of ethics, the principle of absolute autonomy, of absolute indeterminableness through anything external to the Ego. But (2) as the rational being is actually empirical and finite, as it by nature posits over against itself a non-Ego and posits itself as corporeal, so there is found beside the pure impulse another, the impulse of nature, which makes for its end not freedom but enjoyment. This impulse of nature furnishes the material, utilitarian (eudmoniacal) principle of striving after a connected enjoyment. Both impulses, which from a transcendental standpoint are one and the same original impulse of the human being, strive after unity, and furnish a third impulse which is a mingling of the two. The pure impulse gives the form, and the natural impulse the content of an action. It is true that sensuous objects will be chosen, but by virtue of the pure impulse these are modified so as to conform to the absolute Ego. This mingled impulse is now the moral impulse. It mediates the pure and the natural impulse. But since these two lie infinitely apart, the approximation of the natural to the pure impulse is an infinite progression. The intent in an action is directed towards a complete freeing from nature, and it is only the result of our limitation that the act should remain still conformable to the natural impulse. Since the Ego can never be independent so long as it is Ego, the final aim of the rational being lies in infinity. There must be a course in whose progress the Ego can conceive itself as approximating towards absolute independence. This course is determined in infinity in the idea; there is, therefore, no possible case in which it is not determined what the pure impulse should demand. We might name this course the moral determination (destiny) of the finite rational being.
_The principle of ethics is, therefore: Always fulfil thy destiny!_ That which is in every moment conformable to our moral destiny, is at the same time demanded by our natural impulse, though it does not follow that every thing which the latter demands agrees therefore with the former. I ought to act only when conscious that something is duty, and I ought to discharge the duty for its own sake. The blind motives of sympathy, love of mankind, &c., have not, as mere impulses of nature, morality. The moral impulse has causality as having none, for it demands be free! Through the conception of the absolute ought, is the rational being absolutely independent, and is represented thus only when acting from duty. The formal condition of the morality of our actions, is: act always according to the best conviction of thy duty; or, act according to thy conscience. The absolute criterion of the correctness of our conviction of duty is a feeling of truth and certainty. This immediate feeling never deceives, for it only exists with the perfect harmony of our empirical Ego with that which is pure and original. From this point Fichte developes his particular ethics, or theory of duties, which, however, we must here pa.s.s by.
Fichte's _theory of religion_ is developed in the above mentioned treatise: "_On the ground of our faith in a divine government of the world_," and in the writings which he subsequently put forth in its defence. The moral government of the world, says Fichte, we a.s.sume to be the divine. This divine government becomes living and actual in us through right-doing: it is presupposed in every one of our actions which are only performed in the presupposition that the moral end is attainable in the world of sense. The faith in such an order of the world comprises the whole of faith, for this living and active moral order is G.o.d; we need no other G.o.d, and can comprehend no other. There is no ground in the reason to go out of this moral order of the world, and by concluding from design to a designer, affirm a separate being as its cause. Is, then, this order an accidental one? It is the absolute First of all objective knowledge. But now if you should be allowed to draw the conclusion that there is a G.o.d as a separate being, what have you gained by this? This being should be distinct from you and the world, it should work in the latter according to conceptions; it should, therefore, be capable of conceptions, and possess personality and consciousness. But what do you call personality and consciousness?
Certainly that which you have found in yourself, which you have learned to know in yourself, and which you have characterized with such a name.
But that you cannot conceive of this without limitation and finiteness, you might see by the slightest attention to the construction of this conception. By attaching, therefore, such a predicate to this being, you bring it down to a finite, and make it a being like yourself; you have not conceived G.o.d as you intended to do, but have only multiplied yourself in thought. The conception of G.o.d, as a separate substance, is impossible and contradictory. G.o.d has essential existence only as such a moral order of the world. Every belief in a divine being, which contains any thing more than the conception of the moral order of the world, is an abomination to me, and in the highest degree unworthy of a rational being.-Religion and morality are, on this standpoint, as on that of Kant, naturally one; both are an apprehending of the supersensible, the former through action and the latter through faith. This "Religion of joyous right-doing," Fichte farther carried out in the writings which he put forth to rebut the charge of atheism. He affirms that nothing but the principles of the new philosophy could restore the degenerate religious sense among men, and bring to light the inner essence of the Christian doctrine. Especially he seeks to show this in his "Appeal" to the public. In this he says: to furnish an answer to the questions: what is good? what is true? is the aim of my philosophical system. We must start with the affirmation that there is something absolutely true and good; that there is something which can hold and bind the free flight of thought. There is a voice in man which cannot be silenced, which affirms that there is a duty, and that it must be done simply for its own sake.
Resting on this basis, there is opened to us an entirely new world in our being; we attain a higher existence, which is independent of all nature, and is grounded simply in ourselves. I would call this absolute self-satisfaction of the reason, this perfect freedom from all dependence, blessedness. As the single but unerring means of blessedness, my conscience points me to the fulfilment of duty. I am, therefore, impressed by the unshaken conviction, that there is a rule and fixed order, according to which the purely moral disposition necessarily makes blessed. It is absolutely necessary, and it is the essential element in religion, that the man who maintains the dignity of his reason, will repose on the faith in this order of a moral world, will regard each one of his duties as an enactment of this order, and will joyfully submit himself to, and find bliss in, every consequence of his duty. Thou shalt know G.o.d if I can only beget in thee a dutiful character, and though to others of us thou mayest seem to be still in the world of sense, yet for thyself art thou already a partaker of eternal life.
II. THE LATER FORM OF FICHTE'S PHILOSOPHY.-Every thing of importance which Fichte accomplished as a speculative philosopher, is contained in the Theory of Science as above considered. Subsequently, after his departure from Jena, his system gradually became modified, and from different causes. Partly, because it was difficult to maintain the rigid idealism of the Theory of Science; partly, because Sch.e.l.ling's natural philosophy, which now appeared, was not without an influence upon Fichte's thinking, though the latter denied this and became involved in a bitter controversy with Sch.e.l.ling; and, partly, his outward relations, which were far from being happy, contributed to modify his view of the world. Fichte's writings, in this second period, are for the most part popular, and intended for a mixed cla.s.s of readers. They all bear the impress of his acute mind, and of his exalted manly character, but lack the originality and the scientific sequence of his earlier productions.
Those of them which are scientific do not satisfy the demands which he himself had previously laid down with so much strictness, both for himself and others, in respect of genetic construction and philosophical method. His doctrine at this time seems rather as a web, of his old subjective idealistic conceptions and the newly added objective idealism, so loosely connected that Sch.e.l.ling might call it the completest syncretism and eclecticism. His new standpoint is chiefly distinguished from his old by his attempt to merge his subjective idealism into an objective pantheism (in accordance with the new Platonism), to trans.m.u.te the Ego of his earlier philosophy into the absolute, or the thought of G.o.d. G.o.d, whose conception he had formerly placed only at the end of his system, in the doubtful form of a moral order of the world, becomes to him now the absolute beginning, and single element of his philosophy. This gave to his philosophy an entirely new color. The moral severity gives place to a religious mildness; instead of the Ego and the Ought, life and love are now the chief features of his philosophy; in place of the exact dialectic of the Theory of Science, he now makes choice of mystical and metaphorical modes of expression.
This second period of Fichte's philosophy is especially characterized by its inclination to religion and Christianity, as exhibited most prominently in the essay "_Direction to a Blessed Life_." Fichte here affirms that his new doctrine is exactly that of Christianity, and especially of the Gospel according to John. He would make this gospel alone the clear foundation of Christian truth, since the other apostles remained half Jews after their conversion, and adhered to the fundamental error of Judaism, that the world had a creation in time.
Fichte lays great weight upon the first part of John's prologue, where the formation of the world out of nothing is confuted, and a true view laid down of a revelation co-eternal with G.o.d, and necessarily given with his being. That which this prologue says of the incarnation of the Logos in the person of Jesus, has, according to Fichte, only a historic validity. The absolute and eternally true standpoint is, that at all times, and in every one, without exception, who is vitally sensible of his union with G.o.d, and who actually and in fact yields up his whole individual life to the divine life within him,-the eternal word becomes flesh in the same way as in Jesus Christ and holds a personal, sensible, and human existence. The whole communion of believers, the first-born alike with the later born, coincides in the G.o.dhead, the common source of life for all. And so then, Christianity having gained its end, disappears again in the eternal truth, and affirms that every man should come to a union with G.o.d. So long as man desires to be himself any thing whatsoever, G.o.d does not come to him, for no man can become G.o.d. But just so soon as he purely, wholly, and radically gives up himself, G.o.d alone remains, and is all and in all. The man himself can beget no G.o.d, but he can give up himself as a proper negation, and thus he disappears in G.o.d.
The result of his advanced philosophizing, Fichte has briefly and clearly comprehended in the following lines, which we extract from two posthumous sonnets:
The Eternal One Lives in my life and sees in my beholding.
Nought is but G.o.d, and G.o.d is nought but life.
Clearly the vail of things rises before thee; It is thyself, what though the mortal die And hence there lives but G.o.d in thine endeavors, If thou wilt look through that which lives beyond this death, The vail of things shall seem to thee as vail, And unveiled thou shalt look upon the life divine.
A peculiar, and in many respects noticeable, carrying out of the Kantian philosophy, was attempted by _Johann Friedrich Herbart_, who was born at Oldenburg in 1776, chosen professor of philosophy in Gottingen in 1805; made Kant's successor at Konigsberg in 1808, and recalled to Gottingen in 1833, where he died in 1841. His philosophy, instead of making, like most other systems, for its principle, an idea of the reason, followed the direction of Kant, and expended itself mainly in a critical examination of the subjective experience. It is essentially a criticism, but with results which are peculiar, and which differ wholly from those of Kant. Its fundamental position in the history of philosophy is an isolated one; instead of regarding antecedent systems as elements of a true philosophy, it looks upon almost all of them as failures. It is especially hostile to the post-Kantian German philosophy, and most of all to Sch.e.l.ling's philosophy of nature, in which it could only behold a phantom and a delusion; sooner than come in contact with this, it would join Hegelianism, of which it is the opposite pole. We will give a brief exposition of its prominent thoughts.
1. THE BASIS AND STARTING-POINT OF PHILOSOPHY is, according to Herbart, the common view of things, or a knowledge which shall accord with experience. A philosophical system is in reality nothing but an attempt by which a thinker strives to solve certain questions which present themselves before him. Every question brought up in philosophy should refer itself singly and solely to that which is given, and must arise from this source alone, because there is no other original field of certainty, for men, than experience alone. Every philosophy should begin with it. The thinking should yield itself to experience, which should lead it, and not be led by it. Experience, therefore, is the only object and basis of philosophy; that which is not given cannot be an object of thought, and it is impossible to establish any knowledge which transcends the limits of experience.
2. THE FIRST ACT OF PHILOSOPHY.-Though the material furnished by experience is the basis of philosophy, yet, since it is furnished, it stands outside of philosophy. The question arises, what is the first act or beginning of philosophy? The thinking should first separate itself from experience, that it may clearly see the difficulties of its undertaking. _The beginning of philosophy_, where the thinking rises above that which is given, is accordingly doubt or _scepticism_.
Scepticism is twofold, a lower and a higher. The lower scepticism simply doubts that things are so const.i.tuted as they appear to us to be; the higher scepticism pa.s.ses beyond the form of the phenomenon, and inquires whether in reality any thing there exists. It doubts _e. g._ the succession in time; it asks in reference to the forms of the objects of nature which exhibit design, whether the design is perceived, or only attached to them in the thought, &c. Thus the problems which form the content of metaphysics, are gradually brought out. The result of scepticism is therefore not negative, but positive. Doubt is nothing but the thinking upon those conceptions of experience which are the material of philosophy. Through this reflection, scepticism leads us to the knowledge that these conceptions of experience, though they refer to something given, yet contain no conceivable content free from logical incongruities.
3. REMODELLING OF THE CONCEPTIONS OF EXPERIENCE.-Metaphysics, according to Herbart, is the science of that which is conceivable in experience.
Our view thus far has been a twofold one. On the one side we hold fast to the opinion that the single basis of philosophy is experience, and on the other side, scepticism has shaken the credibility of experience. The point now is to transform this scepticism into a definite knowledge of metaphysical problems. Conceptions from experience crowd upon us, which cannot be thoughts, _i. e._ they may indeed be thought by the ordinary understanding, but this thinking is obscure and confused, and does not separate nor compare opposing characteristics. But an acute process of thought, a logical a.n.a.lysis, will find in the conceptions of experience (_e. g._ s.p.a.ce, time, becoming, motion, &c.) contradictions and characteristics, which are totally inconsistent with each other. What now is to be done? We may not reject these conceptions, for they are given, and beyond the given we cannot step; we cannot retain them, for they are inconceivable and cannot logically be established. The only way of escape which remains to us is to remodel them. _To remodel the conceptions of experience_, to eliminate their contradictions, is the proper act of speculation. Scepticism has brought to light the more definite problems which involve a contradiction, and whose solution it therefore belongs to metaphysics to attempt; the most important of these are the problems of inherence, change, and the Ego.
The relation between Herbart and Hegel is very clear at this point. Both are agreed respecting the contradictory nature of the determinations of thought, and the conceptions of experience. But from this point they separate. It is the nature of these conceptions as of every thing, says Hegel, to be an inner contradiction; becoming, for instance, is essentially the unity of being, and not being, &c. This is impossible, says Herbart, on the other side, so long as the principle of contradiction is valid; if the conceptions of experience contain inner contradictions, this is not the fault of the objective world, but of the representing subject who must rectify his false apprehension by remodelling these conceptions, and eliminating the contradiction.
Herbart thus charges the philosophy of Hegel with empiricism, because it receives from experience these contradictory conceptions unchanged, and not only regards these as established, but even goes so far as to metamorphose logic on their account, and this simply because they are given in experience, though their contradictory nature is clearly seen.
Hegel and Herbart stand related to each other as Herac.l.i.tus and Parmenides (_cf._ -- -- VI. and VII.)
4. HERBART'S REALS.-From this point Herbart reaches his "reals"
(_Realen_) as follows: To discover the contradictions, he says, in all our conceptions of experience, might lead us to absolute scepticism, and to despair of the truth. But here we remember that if the existence of every thing real be denied, then the appearance, sensation, representation, and thought itself would be destroyed. We perceive, therefore, just as strong an indication of being as of appearance. We cannot, indeed, ascribe to the given any true and essential being _per se_, it is not _per se_ alone, but only on, or in, or through something other. _The truly being_ is an absolute being, which as such excludes every thing relative and dependent; it is _absolute position_, which it is not for us first to posit, but only to recognize. In so far as this being is attributed to any thing, this latter possesses reality. The truly being is, therefore, ever a _quale_, a something which is considered as being. In order now that this posited may correspond to the conditions which lie in the conception of absolute position, the _what_ of the real must be thought (_a_) as absolutely positive or affirmative, _i. e._ without any negation or limitation, which might destroy again the absoluteness; (_b_) as absolutely simple, _i. e._ in no way, as a multiplicity or admitting of inner ant.i.theses; (_c_) as indeterminate by any conceptions of greatness, _i. e._ not as a quantum which may be divided and extended in time and s.p.a.ce; hence, also, not as a constant greatness or continuity. But we must never forget that this being or this absolute reality is not simply something thought, but is something independent and resting on itself, and hence it is simply to be recognized by the thinking. The conception of this thinking lies at the basis of all Herbart's metaphysics. Take an example of this. The first problem to be solved in metaphysics is the problem of inherence, or the thing with its characteristics. Every perceptible thing represents itself to the senses as a complex of several characteristics.
But all the attributes of a thing which are given in perception are relative. We say _e. g._ that sound is a property of a certain body. It sounds-but it cannot-do this without air; what now becomes of this property in a s.p.a.ce without air? Again, we say that a body is heavy, but it is only so on the earth. Or again, that a body is colored, but light is necessary for this; what now becomes of such a property in darkness?
Still farther, a multiplicity of properties is incompatible with the unity of an object. If you ask _what_ is this thing, you are answered with the sum of its characteristics; it is soft, white, full-sounding, heavy,-but your question was of one, not of many. The answer only affirms what the thing has, not what it is. Moreover, the list of characteristics is always incomplete. The what of a thing can therefore lie neither in the individual given properties, nor in their unity. In determining what a thing is, we have only this answer remaining, viz., the thing is that unknown, which we must posit before we can posit any thing as lying in the given properties; in a word, it is the substance.
For if, in order to see what the thing purely and essentially is, we take away the characteristics which it may have, we find that nothing more remains, and we perceive that what we considered as the real thing was only a complex of characteristics, and the union of these in one whole. But since every appearance indicates a definite reality, and thus since there must be as much reality as there is appearance, we have to consider the reality, which lies at the basis of the thing, with its characteristics, as a complex of many simple substances or monads, and whose quality is different in different instances. When our experience has led us to a repeated grouping together of these monads, we call the group a thing. Let us now briefly look at the formation of those fundamental conceptions of metaphysics, which involve the same thoughts through the fundamental conception of being. First, there is the conception of causality, which cannot be maintained in its ordinary form. All that we can perceive in the act is succession in time, and not the necessary connection of cause with effect. The cause in itself can be neither transcendent nor immanent; it cannot be transcendent, because a real influence of one real thing upon another, contradicts the conception of the absolute reality; nor immanent, for then the substance must be thought as one with its characteristics, which contradicts the investigations concerning a thing with its characteristics. We can just as little find in the conception of the real an answer to the question, how one determinate being can be brought into contact with another, for the real is the absolute unchangeable. We can therefore only explain the conception of causality on the ground that the different reals which lie at the basis of the characteristics are conceived, each one for itself, as cause of the phenomenon, there being just as many causes as there are phenomena. The problem of change, is intimately connected with the conception of cause. Since, however, according to Herbart, there is no inner change, no self-determination, no becoming and no life; since the monads are, and remain in themselves unchangeable, they do not therefore _become_ different in respect of quality, but they _are_ originally different one from another, and each one exhibits its equality without ever any change. The problem of change can thus only be solved through the theory of the disturbance and self-preservation of these essences.
But if that which we call not simply an apparent but an actual event, in the essence of the monads, may be reduced to a "self-preservation," as the last gleam of an activity and life, still we have the question ever remaining, how to explain the appearance of change. For this it is necessary to bring in two auxiliary conceptions; first, that of accidental views, and second, that of intellectual s.p.a.ces. The accidental views, an expression taken from mathematics, signify, in reference to the problem before us this much, viz., one and the same conception may often be considered in very different relations to some other essence, without the slightest change in its own essence, _e. g._ a straight line may be considered as radius or as tangent, and a tone as harmonious or discordant. By help of these accidental views, we may now regard that which actually results in the monad, when other monads, opposite in quality, come in contact with it, as on the one side an actual occurrence, though on the other side, no actual change can be imputed to the original condition of the monads (a gray color, _e. g._ seems comparatively white by the side of black, and comparatively black by the side of white, without changing at all its quality). A further auxiliary conception is that of intellectual s.p.a.ce, which, arises when we must consider these essences as at the same time together and not together. By means of this conception we can eliminate the contradictions from the conception of movement. Lastly, it can be seen that the conception of matter and that of the Ego (in psychologically explaining which, the rest of the metaphysics is occupied) are, like the preceding ones, no less contradictory in themselves than they are irreconcilable with the fundamental conception of the real; for neither can an extended being, like matter, be formed out of s.p.a.celess monads-and with matter, therefore, fall also the ordinary conceptions of s.p.a.ce and time-nor can we admit, without transformation, the conception of the Ego, since it exhibits the contradictory conception of a thing with many and changing characteristics (conditions, powers, faculties, &c.)
We are reminded by Herbart's "_reals_" of the atomic theory of the atomists (_cf._ -- IX. 2), of the Eleatic theory of the one being (_cf._ -- VI.), and of Leibnitz's monadology. His reals however are distinguished from the atoms by not possessing impenetrability. The monads of Herbart may be just as well represented in the same s.p.a.ce as a mathematical point may be conceived as accurately coexisting with another in the same place. In this respect the "real" of Herbart has a far greater similarity to the "one" of the Eleatics. Both are simple, and to be conceived in intellectual s.p.a.ces, but the essential difference is, that Herbart's substances exist in numbers distinct from one another, and even from opposites among themselves. Herbart's simple quant.i.ties have already been compared to the monads of Leibnitz, but these latter have essentially a power of representation; they are essences with inner circ.u.mstances, while, according to Herbart, representation, just as little as every other circ.u.mstance, belongs to the essence itself.
5. PSYCHOLOGY is connected with metaphysics. The Ego is primarily a metaphysical problem, and comes in this respect under the category of the thing with its characteristics. It is a real with many properties changing circ.u.mstances, powers, faculties, activities, &c., and thus is not without contradictions. But then the Ego is a psychological principle, and here those contradictions may be considered which lie in the ideality of subject and object. The subject posits itself and is therefore itself object. But this posited object is nothing other than the positing subject. Thus the Ego is, as Fichte says, subject-object, and, as such, full of the hardest contradictions, for subject and object will never be affirmed as one and the same without contradiction. But now if the Ego is given it cannot be thrown away, but must be purified from its contradictions. This occurs whenever the Ego is conceived as that which represents, and the different sensations, thoughts, &c. are embraced under the common conception of changing appearance. The solution of this problem is similar to that of inherence. As in the latter problem the thing was apprehended as a complex of as many reals as it has characteristics, just so here the Ego; but with the Ego inner circ.u.mstances and representations correspond to the characteristics.
Thus that which we are accustomed to name Ego is nothing other than the soul. The soul as a monad, as absolutely being, is therefore simple, eternal, indissoluble, from which we may conclude its eternal existence.
From this standpoint Herbart combats the ordinary course of psychology which ascribes certain powers and faculties to the soul. That which stands out in the soul is nothing other than self-preservation, which can only be manifold and changing in opposition to other reals. The causes of changing circ.u.mstances are therefore these other reals, which come variously in conflict with the soul-monad, and thus produce that apparently infinite manifoldness of sensations, representations, and affections. This theory of self-preservation lies at the basis of all Herbart's psychology. That which psychology ordinarily calls feeling, thinking, representing, &c., are only specific differences in the self-preservation of the soul; they indicate no proper condition of the inner real essence itself, but only relations between the reals, relations, which, coming up together at the same time from different sides, are partly suppressed, partly forwarded, and partly modified.
Consciousness is the sum of those relations in which the soul stands to other essences. But the relations to the objects, and hence to the representations corresponding to these, are not all equally strong; one presses, restricts, and obscures another, a relation of equilibrium which can be calculated according to the doctrine of statics. But the suppressed representations do not wholly disappear, but waiting on the threshold of consciousness for the favorable moment when they shall be permitted again to arise, they join themselves with kindred representations, and press forward with united energies. This movement of the representations (sketched in a masterly manner by Herbart) may be calculated according to the rules of mathematics, and this is Herbart's well known application of mathematics to the empirical theory of the soul. The representations which were pressed back, which wait on the threshold of consciousness and only work in the darkness, and of which we are only half conscious, are feelings. They express themselves as desires, according as their struggle forward is more or less successful.
Desire becomes will when united with the hope of success. The will is no separate faculty of the mind, but consists only in the relation of the dominant representations to the others. The power of deciding and the character of a man, prominently depend upon the constant presence in the consciousness of a certain number of representations, while other representations are weakened, or denied an entrance over the threshold of consciousness.
6. THE IMPORTANCE OF HERBART'S PHILOSOPHY.-Herbart's philosophy is important mainly for its metaphysics and psychology. In the other spheres and activities of the human mind, _e. g._ rights, morality, the state, art, religion, his philosophy is mostly barren of results, and though there are not wanting here striking observations, yet these have no connection with the speculative principles of the system. Herbart fundamentally isolates the different philosophical sciences, distinguishing especially and in the strictest manner between theoretical and practical philosophy. He charges the effort after unity in philosophy, with occasioning the greatest errors; for logical, metaphysical, and aesthetic forms are entirely diverse. Ethics and aesthetics have to do with objects in which an immediate evidence appears, but this is foreign to the whole nature of metaphysics, which can only gain its knowledge as errors have been removed. aesthetic judgments on which practical philosophy rests, are independent of the reality of any object, and appear with immediate certainty in the midst of the strongest metaphysical doubts. Moral elements, says Herbart, are pleasing and displeasing relations of the will. He thus grounds the whole practical philosophy upon aesthetic judgments. The aesthetic judgment is an involuntary and immediate judgment, which attaches to certain objects, without proof, the predicates of goodness and badness.-Here is seen the greatest difference between Herbart and Kant.
We may characterize, on the whole, the philosophy of Herbart as a carrying out of the monadology of Leibnitz, full of enduring acuteness, but without any inner fruitfulness or capacity of development.