Outlines of Encyclopaedia of Philosophy-by Rudolf Hermann Lotze-1887

by Rudolf Hermann Lotze-1887


§ 1. ‘Philosophy’ should not be considered as an employment of the thinking faculty, which attempts to solve problems of its own, that are otherwise wholly unknown, by means and methods just as peculiar and otherwise unheard of; and which, therefore, makes its appearance as a kind of luxury superfluous to our real life. The rather is it nothing else than the strenuous effort of the human spirit, by a coherent investigation, to find a solution, that is universally valid and free from contradictions, for those riddles by which our mind is oppressed in life, and about which we are perforce compelled to hold some view or other, in order to be able really to live at all.

Life itself involves, in that which we are wont to call ‘education,’ numerous attempts at such a solution. As well concerning the nature of things and their connection under law, as concerning the grounds of beauty in phenomena, and, finally, concerning the rules obligatory for human conduct, education is accustomed to establish a number of trains of thought that excite a great interest on account of the liveliness and warmth which they possess as witnesses, not for unprejudiced reflection but for life’s immediate experience. Their disadvantage, however, consists in this, that they are not connected systematically together, are often contradictory of each other, and are as a rule interrupted before they have attained the ultimate ground of certainty. Aroused by certain events, which happen to one man in one way and to another in a different way, all these reflections retreat in a lively manner some steps backward, in order to discover the reasons that will explain such experiences. They then ordinarily come to a halt, and regard as sufficiently ultimate principles certain points of view, which themselves include what is yet more of a riddle. It is natural that many such trains of thought, setting out as they do from different points of view, should not coincide in one whole but leave gaps and contradictions between them.

The same relation maintains itself with the individual sciences. They attach themselves to single domains of actuality, and are satisfied when they discover principles which are constantly valid within such a domain, but which at once become doubtful in their application on being carried over to any other domain. Thus the conception of a cause that acts according to law is undoubtedly valid in physics. But the consideration of organic life, as well as ethical speculations, frequently oppose to it the conception of a cause that is determined only by its ends and not by laws, or of one that acts with a complete freedom. It is the problem of philosophy to deter mine the claims of these different principles and the circuit within which they are valid. Accordingly it admits, for the present, of being defined as the endeavor, by means of an investigation which has for its object that which is the principle of investigation in education and in the particular sciences, to establish a view of the world that is certain, coherent, and of universal validity.

§ 2. To this entire undertaking two presuppositions are necessary.

The first is this, that there exists in the world at large a ‘truth’ which affords a sure object for cognition. This assumption has seldom been called in doubt. To its denial there stands opposed, principally, the moral conviction that without such truth the world would be absurd; and that the world can not after all be this.

The other presupposition is that we are in a condition to apprehend this truth,—although by no means necessarily the whole of it; and yet some part which shall serve us as a firm basis for an investigation that is not perfectible in particulars. In opposition to this assumption, doubt arises in three forms:

a) A Scepticism that is without motif raises the question whether, at last, all may not be quite different from what we are necessarily compelled to think it. This doubt we pass by. For since it does not arise out of the content of what is necessary to thought, but only demands in a general way some pledge for the truth of our thinking, that lies out side of all our thought, no satisfaction can ever be given it, but it can only be overcome by a conviction of the absurdity of its own content.

b) A second kind of Scepticism, with a motif, endeavors to show that the thoughts which we are compelled to think according to the necessary rules of our cognition are frequently impossible according to rules just as necessary; and, therefore, that what is a necessity to our thought does not lead us to any true knowledge. Such doubts are not to be refuted or confirmed, without investigation. We derive from them simply the rule of circumspection, accurately to test the most general conceptions and principles which appear to us as necessities of thought; to separate what they in truth mean and prescribe from the more special and not necessary adjunct thoughts, such as have attached themselves to the former during their application to limited circles of objects; and then to see whether, in this way, the contradictions are made to vanish.

c) As related to scepticism and derived from it, Criticism endeavors to establish cognition more securely, since it premises an investigation of the nature of the faculty of cognition, and thereby seeks to determine the limits of the validity of our forms of cognition, previous to their application to their objects. Nevertheless, although a preliminary orientating of ourselves concerning the origin and connection of our knowledge may guard us against many vain undertakings, yet we cannot regard the undertaking of criticism as anything more than a petitio principii. That is to say, previous to the application of knowledge to things, we cannot do anything but become conscious of those grounds of judgment which our reason contributes to the consideration of things as necessities of its thought. Whether these principles are applicable to ‘things themselves,’ does not admit of being decided in a preliminary way from the history of the genesis of our cognition; because, in order to have such a history at all, one must necessarily already have taken one’s point of departure from actual presuppositions concerning the nature of things cognizable, concerning the nature of the cognizing spirit, and concerning the kind of reciprocal action that takes place between them.

§ 3. We therefore enter upon our philosophizing with the confidence which reason has toward itself,—that is to say, with the principle that all propositions which remain, after the correction of all accidental and changeable errors, as always and universally necessary to thought, are put by us at the foundation of everything as confessedly true; and that according to them must our views concerning the nature of things be determined, and from them alone must a theory of our cognition be obtained.

But as concerns the way which we are to take in our philosophizing, two views are distinguished. Both are at one so far as this, that the world itself must be a unity; and consequently the perfected cognition of it must be, as it were, a closed system, which can contain no parts that are not united, or that stand toward each other without any ordering whatever.

One view, however, believes that it is both able and obligated to divine at the beginning the One Real Principle, on which the world actually depends, and from it to deduce or construe the entire actuality as the sum of its consequences. Such a beginning for cognition would be the best if we were gods. On the contrary, as finite beings, we do not ourselves stand in the creative centre of the world, but eccentrically in the hurly-burly of its individual sequences. It is not at all probable and is never certain, that we should perfectly divine the one true Principle of the world in any one fundamental thought, however noble and important, to which some sudden intuition might lead us; still more uncertain that we should formally apprehend it so accurately that the series of its true consequences should obviously proceed from it. It is rather altogether probable that the first expression of the principle will be defective, and that mistakes will always multiply in the course of the deduction; since one has regard to no independent point of view from which they might be corrected.

The second view—of which we fully approve—distinguishes the investigation from the exhibition of truth. The mere search for the truth is by no means under the necessity of taking its point of departure from one principle, but is justified in set ting forth from many points of attachment that lie near each other. It is only bound to the laws of thought,—beyond that, to no so-called ‘method’ whatever. All direct and indirect means of getting behind the truth must be applied by it in the freest manner possible. The latter, however,—the exhibition of truths already gained—has only to satisfy the need for unity and systematic coherency. But for it, too, this is a problem of which we do not know beforehand in how far it is solvable.

§ 4. A preliminary division of Philosophy may be attempted simply with the design of separating the different groups of the problems, each one of which appears to be self-coherent and to require an investigation of a specific kind. We attribute little value to the reciprocal arrangement of these single groups under each other. In the history of science, too, names for these single groups are customary before any definite usage as to their systematic arrangement.

Two domains are now, in the first place, distinguished. We require, on the one hand, certain investigations concerning that which exists; and, on the other hand, concerning the value which we attach to what is actual or to what ought to be. We now see that nothing in relation to its value follows immediately from insight into the origin and continued existence of anything actual whatever; and nothing in relation to the possibility of its being actual follows from insight into its value. Accordingly, although we assume that at the end of the investigation a close connection will be shown between that which exists and that which is of some value, still, at the beginning we separate the two investigations,—the one concerning the actuality and the one concerning the value of things.

§ 5. Of the further organization of the subject, what follows may be presupposed:

Inducements to questions that concern the explanation of actuality come to us in part from external nature and in part from the life of the soul. The two domains do not immediately exhibit the appearance of complete similarity; but the consideration of both leads to a series of quite similar inquiries, for example,—concerning the possibility of the alteration of one and the same Being, concerning the possibility of the influence of one Thing upon another, etc. Such inquiries may be separated from others and combined into a universal preliminary investigation, Metaphysic, upon which the Philosophy of Nature and Psychology should then follow, as applications of the results reached in it to special cases.

The second main division finds two obviously related subjects in the kinds of value which we ascribe to the existent, and in those which we ascribe to such actions or sentiments as ought to be; these are, however, primarily distinguished by the fact that only the latter directly include an obligation. On this account, the investigation of the two divides into Æsthetics and Ethics; and for these two investigations a third, common to both, may be conceived, but has hitherto never been carried out,—namely, an investigation concerning the nature of all determinations of value (corresponding to Metaphysic).



§ 6. In life and in the particular sciences we are constantly employed with the explanation of phenomena which, in the form in which they are presented to us, are full of riddles through their contradictions, gaps, and lack of coherence,—a fact to which allusion has already been made. In doing this we necessarily start from certain general presuppositions to which nature and the coherency of things must correspond in order to be true. These presuppositions are ordinarily employed only in an uncritical way and without any clear consciousness of their meaning; but Metaphysic endeavors to make a collection of them, to explain their true meaning, and to remove the prejudgments which have become attached to them from being accustomed to a limited circle of experience. Three great groups of investigations appear at this point:

1) one, concerning the most general conceptions and propositions which we apply in judging of every actuality;

2) a second, concerning the most general forms in which this actuality appears in the existences of nature (Space, Time, Motion);

3) a third, concerning the possibility of the ‘reciprocal being (Füreinandersein) of things,’ by which the one becomes a perceivable object, and the other a perceiving subject.

These three groups appear under different titles, with somewhat of deviating limitations and, of course, very differently treated, in most systems of Metaphysic.

In the Metaphysic of the older school the first part appears as Ontology; the second as Cosmology, having the problem of showing how the individual things are connected together into an orderly world-whole,—a problem which, although it is related to the second of those mentioned above, is still not identical with it. Rational Psychology corresponds to the third group. On the contrary, the fourth part of such Metaphysic, rational theology, must be distinguished as a constituent of a foreign kind and not strictly belonging to Metaphysic.

Just so in Herbart’s Metaphysic, if we count out the first part, the ‘Methodology,’ then the others correspond perfectly to the above-mentioned division: Ontology, Synechology, as the doctrine of what is permanent, and Eidolology, or the doctrine of images (είδωλα), which arise in one being as coming from the others.

In the same way does Hegel’s ‘Logic,’ by its partition into the doctrines of Being, of Phenomenon (from which, of course, though to its disadvantage, space and time remain excluded), and of Idea, exhibit the plainest analogies to the foregoing division of such problems.

§ 7. Ontology, from its being employed with experience, is led to the following principal inquiries:

1) What, exactly, is the absolute Subject, which is not a predicate of another; that is to say, in what does that consist which is the truly existent in all ‘Things,’ whose nature we ordinarily believe our selves able to specify by a number of so-called properties; and which is the support (Träger) of these properties and not itself in turn a property of any other?

2) How is the possibility of a variety of simultaneous and successive properties belonging to one and the same subject to be comprehended?

3) How can such a unity exist among a variety of Things that the states of one become causes for alterations in the states of another?

§ 8. Before we consider the different answers which have been given to these inquiries, we make prominent some very general kinds of error.

The first is the confounding of the logical analysis of our mental representations and the metaphysical explanation of the things to which the mental representations relate. It is in general quite obvious that there cannot be, in the matter of fact itself and as developments of its own nature, as many movements and turnings as would correspond to the various steps, the separations and combinations, and in general to all the turnings which we must make in thought, in order from our point of view to apprehend the nature of such matters of fact. This is perfectly clear to every one, in case one has to do, for example, with the more intricate artifices of investigation through which we endeavor to discover any secret fact. Here the whole expenditure of the operations of thought is quite obviously nothing but our subjective exertion, as it were, to get behind the in itself simple thing. On the contrary, all this becomes obscure, in case one has to do with the simplest logical operations. And at this point we very generally fall into the error of regarding our logical separations and combinations of the mental images and their parts as events which happen also in the nature of the things themselves.

For example; in definition we premise for the individual a general conception, and elaborate this by added modifications up to the point of likeness with the individual in question. Hence the frequent error, as though in reality some ‘primitive animal,’ some ‘primitive matter,’ some ‘primitive substance,’ must precede as a substratum in fact, from which, as something secondary, the individual subordinate species might originate through the influence of modifying conditions. The logical dependence of the separate members of a classification is, therefore, con founded with a real, matter-of-fact derivation of one from the other.

In judgment we divide the object of a perception into a subject, from which we as yet exclude a predicate; then into such predicate; and, finally, into the third mental representation, that of the copula by which the predicate is united again with the subject. These operations are necessary in order to secure clearness to the process of thinking. But it is an error to assume that, in general, any like transaction corresponds to them as a matter of fact, so that there can really be, in the last analysis, a somewhat that is without all predicates, and only just a some what, but not any definite somewhat; and, further, that there can be predicates which were somewhat previous to their being actualized in some subject; and, finally, that there is in rerum natura some ‘cement,’ as it were, similar to the logical copula by means of which the predicates are brought to ‘inhere’—as the customary expression goes—in the subject.

One of the most frequent inducements to such errors as the foregoing lies in the comparisons which we are able at will to establish in the process of thinking between the contents of any two ideas we please. We are very much inclined to regard the predicates—for example, ‘greater,’ ‘smaller,’ ‘different,’ ‘opposed,’ and the like—which belong to the content compared, only after the comparison is made, as essential, integrating properties of the content itself.

From these mistakes there originate, in part, a multitude of artificial difficulties, inasmuch as we begin to seek for an explanation of matter-of-fact properties of things which we have previously created for them (as, for example, when the question is raised, how an x can be at the same time ‘greater’ and ‘smaller,’—that is, greater than y and smaller than z): and, in part, many actual difficulties are met with and no solution for them found, because we imagine that we have succeeded in exhibiting the development of a matter of fact, when we -have in truth merely depicted the development of our conceptions of the matter of fact. To this latter case belongs, for example, the application of the conceptions of ‘potentia’ and ‘actus,’ or of ‘dynamis’ and ‘entelechy,’ or of ‘power’ and ‘expression,’—faults of a kind which is especially frequent in ancient philosophy (compare ‘Microcosmus,’ vol. II, pp. 321 ff.).

§ 9. A second very general mistake, the exact opposite of the previous one, consists in the effort to make clear the supreme principles by explanations that have no meaning except in the case of individual phenomena dependent on the principles; and that even here have their meaning only in virtue of the principles themselves. The simplest way of making this obvious is, in brief, the following.

Our cognition is accustomed to the investigation of individual events. These have their definite conditions, under which they are produced and maintained. On this account, we can often show step by step in a pictorial manner, how the phenomenon arises from the co-operation of its conditions; that is to say, we know the mechanism of its coming to be, the way in which it is produced. Now this same inquiry may also very easily be raised with reference to the general principles, which are the very foundation of the possibility of the aforesaid mechanism, or of every way in which any thing whatever can be produced. For example, the question is asked, how does it happen that in all ‘becoming’ one state follows upon the others; or how does a ‘cause’ begin to produce its appropriate effect. This is as though one should wish to investigate some internal mechanism, by which the points of relation existing between these two most general conceptions were held together; although—just the other way—every possible mechanism presupposes the validity of these two conceptions.

It is just so in many other cases. This fault is the opposite of the foregoing, inasmuch as in the case of objects of thought that are absolutely incomprehensible except in the form of abstract concepts and are definable only as to their essential meaning, it is not satisfied with such apprehension as belongs to the concept, but demands for them a kind of intuitive knowledge such as in this case is quite impossible.

§ 10. The difference in different treatises on Metaphysic admits of being referred to two antithetic principles which are dependent on fundamental pre-suppositions that are together introduced to consideration.

One view, which is realistic, finds the inducement to investigation exclusively in the ‘contradictions’ of experience. If there were none of these, then Realism would take no offence at letting the world pass in the form in which it exists as bare matter of fact; and would raise no further inquiries. Accordingly, if it succeeds in placing underneath this world of experience, a world of what is existent truly and devoid of contradictions, out of which the former becomes comprehensible; then it regards its problems as solved.

The other and idealistic view sees in every fact, even although it include no contradiction, some riddle; and it believes that we ought to recognize as truly existent only such matter-of-fact as, by virtue of its meaning and significance, admits of being demonstrated to be an essential member of the rational world-whole.

§ 11. The Metaphysic of Realism is more inclined to the pursuit of special investigations which are attached to single groups of problems; and it is only afterward that it endeavors to combine the results it has attained into one whole. The Metaphysic of Idealism, on the contrary, prefers to apprehend as its single main problem the meaning of the world as a whole; and it believes that the solution of this problem includes that of all the special problems, and that thereby a coherent, uninterrupted development can best be obtained. The methods of both partake of this distinction.

Realism takes its point of departure from the absolute certainty of the law of identity. Accordingly, it sees so-called ‘contradictions’ everywhere that ordinary experience shows us a ‘unity of the one and the many’ (for example, the ‘many properties’ of a ‘Thing’ and their ‘alteration’). It further tries to find a general solution for the contradiction in the assertion that the unity is here only apparent; and that what corresponds as subject to the many properties (whether simultaneous or successive) is not one Being that remains the same with itself and yet undergoes change, but is a complex of many beings which, in themselves always simple and always self-identical, only appear to us as one ‘Thing’ through their relations to each other and through their changes—as one Thing with many properties, as one changeable thing.

§ 12. The Metaphysic of Idealism sets itself a single main problem, which is as follows; to discover the nature of the truly Existent, against the recognition of which as absolute, independent, and supreme Ground of actuality, none of those presuppositions which our reason is compelled to make concerning such a principle, any longer protests.

Such a problem leads to a method of its own. That is to say, the aforesaid ‘truly Existent,’ which we wish to discover, hovers before us, at the beginning of philosophy, in the form of a very obscure although very lifelike presentiment. Positively, we are not able exhaustively to express what we mean by it. But yet, in case some thought not identical with it is mentioned to us, we are able very definitely to deny that it is this which we mean. If we there fore assume that we have first established for this obscure content X some definition a, which contains those features of X that are relatively most clear to us; then we can next compare a with X, and there upon observe not merely in general that a does not perfectly represent what we mean by X, but also why or wherein a is unlike X, and consequently stands in need of improvement. Thus there originates a second definition α = X, with which the same procedure is instituted as with a: and so on, until we finally discover a definition A = X in which we see all that we obscurely meant under X transformed into clear conceptions.

Thus regarded, this method is nothing but a series of subjective operations of thought by which we in tend to transform a knowledge of our object which is at first unsatisfactory into one more adequate;—that is, of operations executed, with an altogether definite purpose in view, by us as interpreting subjects.

If the object X still remains as obscure as are those high-flying thoughts called ‘the truly Existent,’ ‘the Absolute,’ etc., then, as a rule, it becomes very difficult to get any altogether accurate consciousness of the precise reasons why a first definition a is not satisfactory. We indeed feel its unsatisfactoriness in a general way, and this of itself urges us toward a second definition α which much better corresponds to the X. But the logical motives for this transition remain obscure. It merely follows with a certain poetic justice; and now it appears to us, since we have lost hold of the reins that are to guide the process of thought, as an inner development peculiar to X itself, of which we as thinking subjects are simply spectators.

On the other hand, Idealism took its point of departure from the matter-of-fact supposition of a single Ground of the world, of an ‘Absolute,’ which ‘develops’ into the variety of phenomena. If it had been known what this Absolute is, then we should have been able to deduce from its nature a mode of development corresponding to it. But this was not known; on the contrary, the name ‘Absolute’ merely designated the value of a Supreme Principle to which a content as yet unknown was, so to speak, to be elevated. No definite mode of development could therefore be divined, but it could simply be asserted what mode may possibly be attributed to the Absolute; and so in any case it must at least correspond to the general conception of ‘development.’

Now the following thoughts are involved in the foregoing conception,—namely, that the self-developing being is not yet that which it is to become, but that at the same time the possibility of its be coming this lies in it alone. It therefore appears as a ‘germ’ which is not yet fully unfolded, but which is ‘in itself’ what it will later become. Further, the germ must not remain germ, but must develop into a variety of actual phenomena; none of which, although they all correspond perfectly to its essence, is exclusively correspondent thereto, with out having others beside itself. Therefore that which is ‘in itself’ (das An Sich) is at the same time realized and brought to an end in this development, which is the ‘being other than itself’; since it assumes a definite form, and thus excludes other possible forms which it might have assumed. This incongruity between that which the Being is ‘in itself’ and the ‘being other than itself’ of the phenomenon must be in turn removed: and it is a further step necessary to the development, by which the one-sidedness of the phenomenon is negated and the Being returns into its own infiniteness; although since it has this definite development behind it, it does not return to the simplicity of Being ‘in itself,’ but to the higher state of ‘Being for self’ (Fürsichsein).

These three steps deduced from the conception of development in abstracto have been established, be sides, by many significant examples taken from experience,—as, for example, from vegetable, animal, and spiritual life; and so it came about that the aforesaid primary and subjective method of explaining obscure conceptions blended with this objective ‘rhythmus’ of development; and philosophy came to believe that it possesses herein a method at once subjective and objective, according to which things have unfolded themselves before our consciousness (compare ‘Geschichte der Aesthetik in Deutschland,’ München, 1868, pp. 176-183).

§ 13. It is obvious that, from the foregoing method, there is to be expected only a development in which a certain poetic justice more or less clearly rules; but not such an one as that every step in it can be made good by definite proofs as necessary or as alone possible to the exclusion of others.

In fact, the use of the same method by different philosophers of this school has led to wholly diver gent results.

Only the fundamental thought of their Ontology remains; and it is this, that ‘Being’ is never simple, unchangeable ‘Position,’ but is constant movement through the three ‘Moments’ above alluded to,—namely, ‘Being-in-itself,’ ‘Being-other-than-self,’ and ‘Being-for-self.’ It is further agreed that there is only one ‘Existent,’ whose finite and limited manifestation is the individual things; and, finally (a fact which may be observed here in a preliminary way), that this one Absolute does not remain a wholly empty name for an obscure point, but has essentially the nature of the Spirit, and its development is the advance from the ‘being-in-itself’ of unconscious existence to the ‘being-for-self’ of self-consciousness.

§ 14. The results of Realism are different. Directed primarily toward the explanation of the possibility of phenomena, it naturally required, in opposition to the change which would include a contradiction, that Being should be considered as a simple, irremovable ‘position.’ It further required, that the primary elements, from whose changeable combination the phenomena proceed, should be seen in a variety of ultimate subjects or real beings. The original nature of these beings it believed cannot be recognized; but it simply concluded, from the facts that ‘appear,’ back to relations which must take place between them in order to make this appearance possible.

Both views, Idealism and Realism, come from different sides on one and the same difficulty. The former can perchance develop, in a general way, from the one Idea which it presupposes, those problems which reality must solve in order to correspond to this Idea. Only it is not able to explain the special actions and reactions which take place between the individual examples of those species of Being that are derived from it; but for this it needs the ‘pluralistic’ assumption that the aforesaid Idea, in a manner that requires additional demonstration, has previously divided into a variety of elements which are in the future to act independently.

Realism, on the contrary, in order to comprehend an action and reaction between its many elements, must assume a unity of general laws to which they are all subjected. The explanation of how this sub ordination of the many under this unity is possible, is the counterpart of the before-mentioned problem of Idealism. We may therefore consider as the final problem of Ontology—a problem not yet satisfactorily solved—this inquiry after the connection between the necessary unity and the alike necessary manifoldness of the Existent.

§ 15. After Ontology has established certain general conceptions of Being, of the Existent, of Happening and Acting, cosmological investigations raise the inquiry after the relation of this Being and Acting to Space and Time. Under this head the principal problems are the following three:

1) The problem whether ‘space’ exists in itself, and things are in it, so that the latter are partially distinguished by their place in space; or whether space is in things only as a form of intuiting them, and the latter are accordingly distinguished only qualitatively, and appear at different points in one space intuited of them, in consequence of their qualitative differences toward each other.

Connected with this inquiry after the ‘reality’ or ‘ideal character’ of space stands—

2) The inquiry after the nature of ‘matter,’ although the two do not coincide. The question is: Should the spatial volume of any body of matter be held to be a continuous volume full of what is real? Or is it only a space-volume within which many active elements exist that are distinguished by their place but are in themselves unextended? This is the question in dispute between the dynamic filling of space and Atomism,—the meaning of which, how ever, it appears must be apprehended in a way the very reverse of what customarily happens. The conception of matter as continuous asserts that what is real accomplishes an actual achievement by filling up space; and, indeed, by filling it up with its presence. The other view allows space to be simply controlled and not ‘crammed’ full, as it were, by real existence. It alone, besides, would be compatible with the correct view concerning the ideal character of space.

3) A third question in dispute arises from the consideration of what happens in the physical realm. On the one hand, we are necessitated to recognize the origin of phenomena from the co-operation of many previously unconnected elements, and at the same time the validity of general laws according to which these elements act in every case; so that they are dependent for their effect only upon these laws, upon their own permanent nature, and upon the momentary disposition of circumstances, and not at all upon a result which, according to hypothesis, has not as yet been attained. Over against this so-called ‘mechanical view’ of forces working blindly according to general laws, there stands the idealistic view, which regards only ‘active Ideas’ as truly effective in the world of things. Such Ideas are ever striving to realize themselves, and on this account are not bound to constantly uniform laws of their action, but modify their mode of behavior at every moment with a teleological reference to the result for which they strive. Now it needs no explanation to see that, as long as the ‘Ideas’ use means for their actualization, this actualization cannot follow without certain general laws being valid, in accordance with which these means act. But just so, on the other hand, would the world be absurd if there existed in it mere ‘mechanism’ without any power of Ideas or final purposes. The ultimate object of Cosmology will therefore be the inquiry, how Ideas and final purposes can be effective within a world whose events are subject to the laws of a mechanism.

§ 16. After we have, in Ontology and Cosmology, formed a view concerning the nature of Things and their reciprocal actions, we should in the last part of Metaphysic investigate Cognition itself as a single but important case of the reciprocal action between two elements,—to wit, the case in which the one being is capable of apprehending as conscious ideas the impressions which it receives from the others.

In the first place, we should in realistic fashion discover from the consideration of this reciprocal action, that the image of the one being A cannot be formed like A within the other being B; be cause, although it always on the one side depends upon the impression from A, it likewise on the other side depends on the nature of B. This, therefore, is the same as saying that, by virtue of this unavoidable ‘subjectivity of all ideation,’ cognition cannot be ‘true’ in the sense that it copies the essence of objects in form similar to the objects themselves; but at most in the sense that it repeats the relations between things in the form of relations of their mental images.

The foregoing result, however, causes us to raise the inquiry of Idealism after the significance of this entire mode of procedure. The Realism of common opinion is wont to regard the world, apart from cognition, as a ready-made matter-of-fact that subsists entirely complete in itself; and cognition as only a kind of appendage by means of which this subsisting matter-of-fact is simply recapitulated for the best good of the cognizing being, but without in this way experiencing any increment of reality. Now Idealism establishes the truth that the process of ideation itself is one of the most essential constituents of the world’s ongoing course; that objectivity is not a goal the attainment and further shaping of which is a task set before ideation; but that ideation or, rather, the whole spiritual life is a goal, to the attainment of which is summoned the entire world of objects that do not share in the process, and the entire ordering of relations between them.

§ 17. The design in dividing theoretical Philosophy into Metaphysic and its applications, the Philosophy of Nature and Psychology, is that the first shall answer the question: How must all that be which is really to be at all? or, If anything what ever really is, to what necessary laws of all thought is it subjected? Over against this abstract science are the two other concrete ones. That is to say, they must consider the actuality which, although it obeys the laws of Metaphysic, still does so in a special form that might be otherwise, and that therefore is provisionally regarded as only an example, empirically given, of the aforesaid necessary laws of thought. But the design of this distinction is neither accurately carried out, nor does it possess any great value.

The problem of the Philosophy of Nature would accordingly be the following; not so much to describe the elements which are in existence, as rather to show what general habitudes of action and reaction occur in this definite ‘Nature’ so-called; and, there fore, what ones among the different forces conceivable in abstracto actually occur and what ones among the many possible dispositions of them actually subsist from the beginning and maintain themselves amid manifold forms of change. For example, that the mass of matter in the world is separated into individual material bodies; that these are distinguished among themselves into cohering and reciprocally exclusive systems; that on our planet the three different forms of inorganic, vegetable, and animal existence occur; that what exists in these three kingdoms is—or how far it is—divided into species, kinds, etc.; that a systematic action and reaction, which is necessary for their continued existence, takes place between everything living and the inorganic material,—all this constitutes the problems of the concrete Philosophy of Nature. From the realistic point of view, we take an interest in investigating the effective conditions upon which all these facts concerning the ordering of nature depend; from the idealistic, in showing that it is an ordering in which, if one knows it once for all, the striving after the fulfillment of those universal problems that are unavoidable in every conceivable rational world may be recognized again and again. But Idealism claims far too much when it, as in Schelling’s philosophy of nature, aims to deduce all these concrete forms of existence, as consequences necessary to thought, from one Supreme Idea.

§ 18. In Psychology, too, the same principal views stand in contrast with one other. The realistic aims by investigations in causality to discover the conditions under which every single phenomenon of the life of the Soul occurs, endures, or changes, and by reciprocal action with other phenomena lays the foundation for new states. Such investigations may either be founded, in a manner quite like that of natural science, upon experience and experiment, or philosophically upon metaphysical presuppositions. The larger gain with reference to the explanation of the individual comes in the former way; but a more secure apprehension for the whole of a theory is only to be gained in the second way. But the entire realistic investigation is indispensable, because it is only the knowledge of the working forces in the life of the Soul which admits of practical applications,—in Paedagogics, Psychiatry, etc.

Idealism also upon this point investigates, in the first place, the constitutive conception of the Soul,—that is to say, the special Idea for the realization of which the Soul is summoned to a definite place in the whole coherent system of the world; and it then aims at demonstrating the individual activities of the Soul as a cohering series of steps of development, which gradually construct for this conception an ever more adequate realization. The previous attempts (Schelling, Hegel, etc.) suffer, in part, from inaccuracies to which the previous article alludes, and, in part, from an over-estimate (that is without sufficient motif) of mere intelligence in comparison with the whole spiritual life. They look upon mere self-knowledge, the most perfect self-consciousness, as the final goal of the Soul and of the World; while in our view all intelligence is only the conditio sine qua non, under which alone the final purposes that are really supreme—personal love and hate, the moral culture of character—and, in general, the whole content of life so far as it has value appears possible at all.



§ 19. Realism takes up those claims, of the conscience that obligates us to a definite form of conduct, which urge themselves upon our interior life, as though they were mere problems of fact,—problems on this account because, in spite of the clearness with which the claims of conscience follow in many individual cases, still in other cases we feel ourselves obligated in a contradictory fashion to irreconcilable modes of conduct.

Investigation, accordingly, proceeds in the first place to the confirming of the matter of fact,—that is to say, to establishing certain fundamental moral principles in which, since they refer to the most simple relations of several personal wills toward one another, a uniformly similar and unchangeable judgment of approbation or disapprobation is expressed concerning a definite mode of the will’s behavior. Whence these judgments of conscience originate within us; in what connection they stand with the laws that govern what happens in reality; whether, finally, they admit of being deduced from one supreme command or not,—all these are allied questions, the answer to which, however it may turn out, neither heightens nor diminishes the obligatory force of the aforesaid moral principles.

Realism pronounces it to be a capital fault to surrender this independence of the moral principles, and to be willing to deduce the supreme rules, according to which our conduct has to be directed, from any theoretical insight whatever into the nature of reality. In ‘Being’ alone no significance with respect to what ought to be is involved. From that which is and happens, prudential maxims for conduct which will shun the dangers of this reality admit of being developed; but not the obligations which, apart from any consequences, make any kind of conduct appear in itself valuable, honorable, and praiseworthy.

The investigations of Idealism have, for the most part, justified these observations. Since it takes its point of starting from a supreme fact,—to wit, the development of the absolute ‘Ground’ of the world,—it has not discovered, strictly speaking, any place for the conception of such an obligatory ‘ought’; but it substitutes for the conceptions of the morally ‘Good,’ and the morally ‘Bad,’ simply certain theoretical conceptions of the harmonizing or not-harmonizing of any mode of conduct with the tendency of the self-development of the Absolute.

§ 20. The formal distinction between the two modes of treatment consists in this, that the realistic proceeds from general laws of conduct, from which the special maxims of conduct that are necessary in consideration of the circumstances can be deduced for each particular case of an occasion for conduct; and from which, besides, since it brings into consideration the empirical nature of man and the ever recurring social relations, science is also able to develop a series of permanent life-aims that hold good both for the individual and for society. This last problem may be called that of ‘Practical Philosophy’ in special; while the doctrine of the culture of character according to general ethical principles is called ‘Moral Science’ or ‘Ethics’.

Idealism, as a rule, does not reach any special distinction in these two forms of ‘discipline’. To it the ‘Good’ appears, not as that which merely ought to be, but likewise as that which eternally is. As well the individual man as society and the history of society are, in its view, ‘factors in the development of the Absolute’. To it that appears as ‘good,’ which adapts itself to the meaning of this development.



§ 21. A common conclusion for both theoretical and practical investigations in philosophy is sought for in the Philosophy of Religion.

We designate this part of philosophy by this name, because the human mind has uniformly sought in religion for such a conclusion to its view of the world; that is to say, for certainty concerning the final and supreme Cause of that reality, of which every individual investigation, since it proceeds from limited points of view, gives only a one-sided explanation. More particularly, however, this certainty has reference to the inquiry, how it is that what appears in our conscience as the only thing that has real value,—how the Good and the Beautiful possess a validity corresponding to their value in the totality of the world. Finally, we employ the term, because the human mind has sought for a supplement to our experience of the world, that shall follow from the results of such painstaking endeavors, by means of some intuition of a supersensible extension of the world into realms withdrawn from experience.

It is in ‘Religion’ that the human mind has either solved all these problems by a lively phantasy, or some revelation has furnished the solution. In the first case, philosophy has to explain, to test, and to correct, the impulses by which the phantasy would be directed. In the second case, it has to demonstrate, to what demands of the mind, that are in themselves justifiable, the revelation vouchsafes a satisfaction which is not discoverable by the reason, but which is intelligible as soon as it exists.

But even apart from this relation to religion as a fact actually met with, philosophy carries within itself the very greatest demand for reflection upon the connection between its theoretical and its ethical view of the world.

§ 22. Should the before-mentioned problem be completely solved, then the ‘Philosophy of Religion’ would be in a position to make the transition from the way of investigation to the way of a continuous, systematic exhibition of philosophical truth; since it would indeed have fused all the results of investigation into a single unity.

But at this point philosophy concludes with an unattainable ideal:—that is to say, with the conviction that the universal and necessary laws of thought, in accordance with which we judge of all reality; second, that the primitive facts of this reality; third, that the supreme Ideas of the Good and the Beautiful, which hover before us as the final purposes of the world,—are all perfectly coherent factors of one and the same Supreme Principle, of the nature of God, although we are unable strictly to demonstrate this fact of their coherency. From the fact that such general laws hold good in mathematics, it does not follow that this system of nature which is empirically given is necessary, and any other is impossible. Both the laws and the facts appear to us possible and valid, even although no Idea of the Good were ruling the world. In brief, laws, facts, and final purposes (Ideas) are for us three principles, distinct from each other, and not deducible from each other.

For this reason Philosophy can never be such an unchanging science, as to be able to deduce from one Supreme Principle all its results in uniform sequence; but its investigations will always be separated into (1) those of Metaphysic, which concern the possibility of the world’s course; (2) into those of the Philosophy of Nature, which concern the connection, in fact, of its reality; and (3) into those of the Philosophy of Religion, which concern its ideal significance and final purposes.

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