"An Dà-Shealladh" le René MAGRITTE (1936)
§ 3 - GINEACHAS COINCHEAP ÙR SHAIDHEINS ÀS IDÈAL DAONNAIREACH NA PEARSANTACHD NA GHNÈITHEAN MI-RÀISEANTA. CEATHRAMH CEUM FICHTE.
§ 3 - THE GENESIS OF A NEW CONCEPT OF SCIENCE FROM THE HUMANISTIC IDEAL OF PERSONALITY IN ITS IRRATIONALIST TYPES. FICHTE'S FOURTH PERIOD.
The Humanistic ideal of personality, having become aware of its own deepest tendencies, must in the long run transfer its tension with the mechanistic science-ideal to the realm of special scientific thought. The continuity-postulate of the Humanistic freedom-motive could not finally accept the Kantian identification of scientific thought with that of mathematical natural-science. It could not finally abandon in this way its claims to the knowledge of temporal reality.
Humanistic philosophy had in its pre-Kantian rationalist types proclaimed the supremacy of the mathematical science-ideal over the normative aspects of temporal reality.
KANT brought, as we saw, the antinomy between the ideals of science and personality to a pregnant formulation, and established between the two the ACTIO FINIUM REGUNDORUM. FICHTE had begun to deprive the mechanical science-ideal of its independence with respect to the ideal of personality and to deduce the former from the latter. The moment must come in which this carrying through of the primacy of the personality-ideal would make itself felt in special scientific thought and contend the exclusive dominion of the mathematical-physical conception of science.
The stimulus to this development could only issue from the irrationalist currents which had absolutized the subjective side of the normative aspects of human existence in its complete individuality under this or that basic denominator, and had resolved the rationalist Idea of the lex into an irrationalist Idea of the subject.
Where else but in the individual subjectivity could the freedom-motive of the irrationalist Humanistic ideal of personality have made its dominion over "empirical" reality felt? If subjective individuality is no longer proclaimed with KANT as a merely negative logical limit of mathematical causal knowledge, but rather as empirical reality καἰ ἐξοχήν, the whole view of human experience must be altered in principle. Natural-scientific thought, suited only for the discovery of universally valid laws, could then no longer raise the pretension of providing us with genuine knowledge of the whole field of empirical reality.
Orientation of a new science-ideal to the science of history.
From the outset we see the irrationalist types in Humanistic philosophy concentrating their attention upon the science of history, which by the coryphaei [ie "chorus" leaders, spokespersons] of the Enlightenment period was denatured to a crypto-natural science with strong ethicizing tendencies (the ideal of the necessary progress of mankind through the illumination of thought!).
It must immediately become evident that the method of natural science cannot grasp the proper "Gegenstand" of historical research, as soon as the ban of the mathematical science-ideal was broken by the antagonistic pretensions of an irrationalistically conceived ideal of personality. KANT's transcendental critique of teleological judgment had still only cleared the way for a philosophy of history, oriented, to a certain extent at least, to the personality-ideal, still conceived of in essentially rationalist terms. His teleological view of historical development, as explained in his treatise On Eternal Peace (Vom ewigen Frieden) did not lay claim to a scientific character. In order to wrest special scientific historical thought from the supremacy of the rationalistic science-ideal, there was needed first and foremost a fundamentally different evaluation of subjective individuality.
It was originally an aesthetic irrationalism that even in HERDER's Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (1784-1791) — although here still checked by LEIBNIZ' rationalist Idea of development — cleared the way for an irrationalist method of cultivating the science of history: an empathetic and sympathetic treatment of the historical contexts in their incomparable individuality. Presently, SCHELLING's organological idealism was to provide the philosophical equipment for the view of history held by the Historical school, with its doctrine of the originally unconscious growth of culture from the historical "Volksgeist" in the individual nationalities.
The spirit of restoration which acquired the upper hand after the liquidation of the French revolution and the fall of Napoleon, naturally favoured the rise of the historical mode of thought. The apriori constructions of state and society by the Humanistic school of natural law were replaced by the historical insight that state, society, law and culture in general cannot be "created" from mathematical thought after a pattern valid for all times and for every people, but are rather a result of a long historical evolution of a people whose "spirit" has an irreducible individuality.
The rise of the science of sociology in the early part of the nineteenth century was also an important factor in the development of a new historical mode of thought; this sociology, however, intended to perform a synthesis between the latter and the natural scientific pattern of thought, which synthesis presently was to lead to an invasion of Darwinist evolutionism in historical science.
FICHTE in his fourth period and the South-West-German school of Neo-Kantianism.
In the present connection, however, we will restrict ourselves to an inquiry after the contribution given by FICHTE, in his fourth metaphysical period, to the methodology of historical thought. From this context, a clear light falls over the epistemology of historical thought, propagated in recent times by the South-West-German school of the Neo-Kantians, especially by its two leading figures, RICKERT and MAX WEBER.
LASK's researches in particular have shown that it was essentially the fundamental change in the valuation of individuality which brought FICHTE in his fourth period to a speculative metaphysics completely different from the identity-philosophy which we find in the "Wissenschaftslehre" of 1794.
FICHTE's later development is indeed to be seen in full connection with the rather general opposition arising at this time against the abstract Kantian criticism, brought to a head in the opposition between form and matter, and hostile to the true valuation of individuality.
The so-called "critical" method had concentrated all value in the universally valid forms of reason and had depreciated the individual, as the transcendental irrational, as "only empirical", as the merely contingent instance of formal conformity to the law of reason. The irrationalistically orientated metaphysical idealists of this period, who had all passed under KANT's influence, now supposed they had to reject the entire critical method. To be sure, KANT, in his Critique of Judgment, had raised the problem of specification, but here too, only within the framework of the form-matter schema. Only in Aesthetics was he in a position to appreciate subjective individuality as such.
The irrationalistically conceived freedom-motive demanded a new speculative method for the knowledge of individuality, and eventually it was under the inspiration of problems of the philosophy of culture that this motive began its contest against the old rationalist science-ideal.
HEGEL's supposed "rationalism".
The new metaphysics of the absolute Being, as totality of inividuality, is nothing but a metaphysics of the irrationalist ideal of personality. The later formal rationalizing of this irrationalism in HEGEL's so-called "pan-logism" is only a typical specimen of the inner polarity of the transcendental Humanistic ground-Idea; but it never warrants the neglect of the fact that this apparent rationalism is the very antipode of the rationalism after the pattern of the classical Humanistic science-ideal, oriented to mathematics and natural science.
SCHELLING became the recognized leader in the controversy against formalistic transcendental idealism. The conception of knowledge in terms of the abstract Kantian form-matter schema — in which, as we saw previously, all antinomies between the ideals of science and personality were crowded together — was to be abrogated. Philosophy was to be understood as "the absolute knowledge of the absolute". Here an association was made with the old speculative motive of an intuitive divine understanding, to which there were also allusions in KANT's Kritik der Urteilskraft. But it was now liberated from the mathematical ideal of science. It was not the Idea of the uno intuito perfected mathematical analysis (LEIBNIZ) that inspired the new "idealism of the spirit".
"Intellectual intuition" in SCHELLING.
In contrast to the dualistically separated sources of knowledge in the Kantian critique of knowledge, SCHELLING posits the "intellectual intuition" in which the absolute totality of meaning is comprehended by a single all-embracing glance. KRAUSE elevates the knowledge of the arch-essential (das ur-wesentliche), the intuition of essence, above the relative knowledge from concepts. TROXLER, with explicit appeal to JACOBI, sets the arch-consciousness or immediate knowledge in opposition to reflecting and discursive thought, and SOLGER contests the dualism of the universal and particular.
In his Lectures on the Method of Academic Study, delivered in 1802 at the university of Jena, SCHELLING appealed to a method of genius for scientific insight (1) and in so doing he simply gave expression to the whole spirit of this time, which was deeply inspired by the irrationalist ideal of personality.
(1) SCHELLING, Vorlesungen über die Methode des academischen Studiums (Stuttgart und Thübingen, 3e Ausg. 1830), p. 15: "Von der Fähigkeit, alles auch das einzelne Wissen, in den Zusammenhang mit dem ursprünglichen und Einen zu erblicken, hängt es ab, ob man in der einzelnen Wissenschaft mit Geist und mit derjenigen höhern Eingebung arbeite, die man wissenschaftliches Genie nennt!" ["It depends on the ability, to view everything, also special knowledge, in the context with the original and the Unity, whether one is able to work in the special science with spirit and with that higher inspiration which is called scientific genius!"]
Everywhere it is the value of absolute individuality that one hoped to grasp by a speculative metaphysical method of intellectual intuition immediately grasping the absolute. [Het is overal de waarde der verabsoluteerde individualiteit, die men langs den speculatief metaphysischen weg eener intellectueele, onmiddellijk het absolute vattende, aanschouwing hoopte te vatten. (WdW Boek 1 p 439)]
In opposition to the irrationalism of feeling on the part of "Sturm and Drang", all attention is now directed to the individual disclosure of the "Spirit", of the "Idea".
HEGEL's new dialectical logic and its historical orientation.
In his younger days, HEGEL himself had lived in the sphere of the irrationalist philosophy of feeling. In his mature period, he rationalized the irrationalist thought of Romanticism by his new dialectical logic, which in its kernel is nothing but an antirationalist, universalistic logic of historical development. LASK correctly observes that the very structure of the individual totality, as exhibited for example in the transpersonalistic-universalistic conception of the state as a "moral organism", becomes the pattern for HEGEL's conception of the structure of the logical concept. The break with the logic of the naturalistic ideal of science — a logic which had led to an atomistic individualism in the field of philosophy of culture — was indeed inescapable after the victory of the irrationalist ideal of personality. HEGEL's positive work was the creation of a new speculative metaphysical logic of individuality, by which he sought simply to replace the natural scientific logic of the Humanistic ideal of science, along the entire line of human knowledge. With HEGEL the irrationalist and idealist conception of the ideal of personality creates its own metaphysical logic. Thereby it sets itself sharply in opposition to critical idealism, which in spite of its ascription of the primacy to the ideal of personality, nevertheless, in its method of forming concepts had remained entirely oriented to the logic of the naturalistic science-ideal.
FICHTE's "metaphysics of spirit", which speedily gained the upper-hand in his thought after the brief period of his approach toward the philosophy of life, also originated essentially from the irrationalistic and universalistic conception of the freedom-motive with its orientation to problems of the philosophy of culture.
In contrast with the problem of the universally-valid transcendental ego of the first sketches of the "doctrine of science", there emerged even in his System der Sittenlehre (1798) the question of the individual ego. This compelled him to proceed beyond the immanent transcendental analysis of consciousness and to raise the question as to the metaphysical foundations in being for the spiritual life (2).
(2) On this see further H. HEIMSOETH: Metaphysik der Neuzeit (1929), p. 120 ff.
To the essence of self-consciousness of one's own ego belongs, as FICHTE clearly realizes, the consciousness of the other ego, the Thou. Concrete freedom and autonomous determination of the will arise only in the immediate connection of the individual ego with other "spiritual beings". It is no longer satisfactory to deduce my knowledge of other egos, as a necessary activity of consciousness, from the transcendental self-consciousness. The other egos, the plurality of spiritual beings outside myself, have an altogether other mode of being with respect to myself than the material external world ("nature").
The problem of the "Realität der Geisterwelt" (reality of the world of spirits).
The problem of the reality of the "Geisterwelt" (world of spirits) emerges and it arises from the moral foundation of the ego itself, from the duty to recognize every free individual as an independent moral "end in himself". The ego must not only think or intuit the other egos in itself (as if they were natural things), but it stands also in a real spiritual contact, in a living spiritual exchange with them. Consequently, the syntheses performed by the transcendental ego of the critical doctrine of science did not exhaust the development of the syntheses of the system of reason. The latter urgently demand a conclusion in a metaphysical "synthesis of the real world of spirits" (HEIMSOETH) .
In the "Wissenschaftslehre" of 1801 this highest metaphysical synthesis is viewed as a synthesis of the absolute Being with infinite freedom. The individual ego is one of the many concentration-points of the "Absolute Spirit", of the Origin of the cosmos. It has the form of existence ("Dasein") from the absolute Being, but definite, concrete, individual being from the interaction of its freedom with the totality of the spiritual world (3).
(3) W.W. IL 112, 113.
Consequently, FICHTE seeks the original, essential reality of all finite individual selves in a transpersonally conceived life of reason. The individual egos are not substances, but individual differentiations and "forms of manifestation" of the one infinite life of reason; the "bond of union" in the world of spirits is not a joining afterwards of isolated ego-monads; it is much rather the fundamental communion of all individual egos as appearance of the infinite Origin, from which the free spiritual beings, with all their spiritual interactions, originate by a metaphysical ACTUS INDIVIDUATIONIS in which time itself acquires individual points of concentration (4). Thus, even in FICHTE's fourth period, the ideal of personality acquires that trans-personalist turn which was to find its consummation in HEGEL's identity-philosophy of the absolute self-developing Idea.
(4) W.W. II, 113: "Was ist nun also — dies ist eine neue Frage — der Charakter des wirklichen Seyns? Durchaus nur ein Verhältniss von Freiheit zu Freiheit zufolge eines Gesetzes. Das Reale, das nun daliegt und vor allem wirklichen Wissen vorher das Wissen trägt, ist ein Concentrationspunct zuvörderst aller Zeit des Individuums, und es ist begriffen als das was es ist, nur inwiefern diese begriffen ist; — aber sie wird immer begriffen und nie. Es ist ein Concentrationspunct aller wirklichen Individuen in diesem Zeitmomente, ferner, vermittelst dessen, aller Zeit dieser und aller noch möglichen Individuen; — das Universum der Freiheit in einem Puncte und in allen Puncten." ["What is therefore — this is a new question — the character of the real being? Absolutely only a relation of freedom to freedom in consequence of a law. The real, which now presents itself and which bears knowing prior to all real knowing, is a concentration-point first of all of the whole time of the individual and it is understood as such only insofar as this whole of time is understood; — but the latter is always and never understood. It is a point of concentration of all real individuals in this moment of time, furthermore, by mediation of this moment, of all time of this and all still possible individuals; — the universe of freedom in one point and in all points."]
Trans-personalist turn in the ideal of personality. The new conception of the "ORDO ORDINANS" in FICHTE's pantheistic metaphysics.
The being of the "Spirit" is a transpersonal being of freedom, which, in the totality of individual spiritual life, realizes its infinite actual freedom, still preceding all thought. The "moral order of the world", as the infinite active ORDO ORDINANS, or the "infinite will", now becomes the trans-personal bond of union for all finite spirits in their individual moral destination. It has become the true antipode, irrationalist in its deepest root, of KANT's abstract "universally valid categorical imperative." The ethical individuality of the ego, in FICHTE's irrationalist conception of it, leads through itself to a trans-personal community of free spirits. Only from this totality of the community may spiritual individuality be understood. The concept of "material freedom" consequently gains in FICHTE a trans-personal character which, from the start, was tuned to the grasping of the objective cultural coherences, in which the individuals are interwoven (5). FICHTE's philosophy of history is only to be understood in the framework of this transpersonalist and, at least in its root, irrationalist metaphysics of the spirit.
(5) See e.g. W.W. IV, 584: "Die durch Vernunft a priori eingesehene Voraussetzung ist nemlich die, dass jedem unter den freien Individuen im göttlichen Weltplane angewiesen sey seine bestimmte Stelle, die nicht sey die Stelle irgend eines anderen zu derselben Zeit in demselben Ganzen Lebende..." ["The pre-supposition, perceived apriori by reason, is namely this, that in the divine worldplan to each of the free individuals must be indicated its individual place which may not be the place of any other individual living at the same time in the same totality..."]
Meanwhile, this metaphysics finds its conclusion only in a final hypostasis; the absolute Being, raised above all becoming and change, of the impersonal, because actually infinite Divinity. This absolute Being is eternally transcendent to all reflection, to all knowledge, and it is not an external "Ding an sich", but the inner real ground of the possibility of rational freedom with all its finite manifestations. As such, however, it is at the same time the absolutely irrational, the completely incomprehensible. All life is only manifestation, image or schema of God, the finite "existence" (Dasein), the finite form of manifestation of the absolute Being. But only in the moral freedom of human personality does the appearance of this absolute Being have immediate "Dasein" (existence).
"Nature" in the sense of the naturalistic science-ideal is only the appearance of the reasonable ethical appearance of God. This latter discloses itself in the trans-personal individual life of the free ethical world of spirits. Nature continues to lack independent meaning with reference to the ethical aspects of the cosmos. Not in "nature", but in ethical activity only does God reveal himself in the "appearance". [De ‘natuur’ in den zin van het natuurwetenschappelijk wetenschapsideaal is slechts verschijning van de redelijk-zedelijke verschijning Gods, welke laatste zich openbaart in het transpersoneele, individueel leven der vrije, zedelijke geestenwereld; zij blijft zelfstandigen zin tegenover de redelijk-zedelijke zin-zijden van den kosmos ontberen. Niet in de ‘natuur’, maar in de zedelijke activiteit openbaart zich God in de verschijning. (WdW Boek 1 p 443)]
The earlier rationalist deification of the moral law is now replaced by an entirely irrationalist idea of God. God has become the absolute hypostasis of the creative, subjective ethical stream of life, which is the trans-personal bond and totality of the individual free subjects.
FICHTE's basic denominator for the aspects of meaning becomes historical in character. FICHTE's philosophy of history.
Yet — and this is of the highest importance in this new metaphysics of spirit — the moral basic denominator, to which FICHTE apparently still reduces all aspects of temporal reality and which finds its final hypostasis in the irrationalist Idea of God, is, nevertheless, under the influence of the irrationalist ideal of personality, itself transformed into an historical basic denominator.
HEIMSOETH correctly observes: "For the first time in the history of philosophy, the specific reality of historical existence is not only conceived of as an original reality of metaphysical rank, but it is even interpreted as the final mode of being of finite existence as such... The modern pathos of the "book of nature" is replaced by the metaphysical-religious conception of history as the proper mode of appearance of the Absolute or the divine Spirit. The world presents itself to FICHTE as an infinite active chain of "challenges", of freedom-evoking and spirit-cultivating interaction of self-acting life-centres, in creative freedom producing new and new faces as it were from nothing" (6).
(6) "Zum ersten Male in der Geschichte der Philosophie wird die spezifische Realität des geschichtlichen Daseins nicht nur als eigenwüchsige Realität von metaphysischem Rang erfaszt, sondern sogar als die entscheidende Seinsweise endlichen Daseins überhaupt gedeutet... Das neuzeitliche Pathos vom "Buche der Natur" schlägt um in die metaphysischreligiöse Fassung der Geschichte als eigentlichen Erscheinungsphäre des Absoluten, oder des Göttlichen Geistes. Als eine unendliche Wirkenskette der "Aufforderungen", des freiheitsweckenden und geistgestaltenden Ineinandergreifens selbsttätiger Lebenszentren steht die Welt vor FICHTE, in schöpferischer Freiheit neue und neue Gesichte wie aus dem Nichts hervorbringend."
The absolute ethical Idea, the absolute Being, assumes a purely historical mode of appearance in its manifestation in the "spiritual life" of the temporal human community. It schematizes itself in the infinite movement of the development of history, in which the Deity, in creative irrational fashion, continually assumes new spiritual forms of manifestation. The theme of history for FICHTE, just as for KANT, is that of striving upwards to freedom. But in FICHTE's fourth period, the higher ethos of the spiritual life is no longer, as in KANT, conceived rationalistically in the formalistic Idea of autonomy, in which the autos only comes to itself in the nomos, i.e. the formal categorical imperative. It is rather conceived in the irrationalist sense of the "creative" historical process, in which the one absolute metaphysical Idea, through the concentration-points of the great leading personalities, realizes itself in the diverse forms of cultural Ideas: in the Ideas of art, state, science and religion. The inner value of the latter corresponds to their precedence (7). In this period, FICHTE is deeply convinced of the irrationality of the absolute Idea in its inexhaustible creative fulness of life (8).
(7) WW. VII, 58 ff. As to the conception of beauty as the lowest form of manifestation of the Idea, cf. Die Anweisung zum seligen Leben (1806), WW. V, 526.
(8) Cf. also FICHTE's letter to SCHELLING from May 5 to August 7, 1801 (Aus SCHELLING's Leben I, 345) where he emphatically speaks of the "root" of the world of spirits as "irrational".
Only in the spiritual originality of great individuals, of creative geniuses, does the divine image immediately break through into appearance. History, as an immediate manifestation of the ethical Idea, is essentially made by great personalities. So FICHTE himself expresses it: "All that is great and good, upon which our present existence is based, from which it starts, and which is the only supposition under which it can display its essence in the manner it does display it, has only been realized by the fact that noble and vigorous men have sacrificed all enjoyment of life for the sake of Ideas; and we ourselves with all that we are, are the result of the sacrifices of all previous generations, and especially of their most worthy fellow-members" "The original divine Idea of a definite standpoint in time is for the greater part not to be indicated before the (elected) man comes, inspired by God, and executes it... The original and pure divine Idea is in general... creative for the world of appearance, originating that which is new, unheard of and never had existed before." "From time immemorial it was a law of the super-sensory world that it only in few elected men... originally broke forth in visions: the great majority of the rest should only be cultivated by mediation of these few..." "In the world of spirits the nobility of everything becomes greater according to its rareness... in extremely few (personalities) the Deity expresses itself immediately" (9).
(9) Die Grundzüge des gegenwärtigen Zeitalters (The principal traits of our present period), WW. VII, p. 41: "Alles grosse und gute, worauf unsere gegenwärtige Existenz sich stützet, wovon sie ausgeht, und unter dessen alleiniger Voraussetzung unser Zeitalter sein Wesen treiben kann, wie es dasselbe treibt, ist lediglich dadurch wirklich geworden, dass edele und kräftige Menschen allen Lebensgenuss für Ideeën aufgeopfert haben; und wir selber mit allem, was wir sind, sind das Resultat der Aufopferung aller früheren Generationen, und besonderes ihrer würdigsten Mitglieder." "Die ursprüngliche göttliche Idee von einem bestimmten Standpunkt in der Zeit läszt gröszten Teils sich nicht eher angeben, als bis der von Gott begeisterte Mensch kommt und sie ausführt... Im allgemeinen ist die ursprüngliche und reine göttliche Idee... für die Welt der Erscheinung schöpferisch, hervorbringend das neue, unerhörte und vorher nie dagegewesene." "Von jeher war es Gesetz der übersinnlichen Welt, dasz sie nur in Wenigen Auserwählten... ursprünglich herausbrach in Gesichte; die grosze Mehrzahl der übrigen sollte erst von diesen Wenigen aus... gebildet werden." "In der Geisterwelt ist Jedwedes um so edler, je seltener es ist;... in aüszerst Wenigen spricht die Gottheit sich unmittelbar aus."
Natural individuality must be annihilated in the historical process by the individuality of the spirit.
The value of the individuality of genius, which FICHTE sets here so emphatically in the foreground, is not that of the merely sensuous individuality of nature. Just as "nature" as such possesses for FICHTE no meaning of its own, so also must the individuality of nature (natural individuality) be annihilated for the sake of the disclosure of the absolute Idea. In a clear manner FICHTE says that his "unconditional rejection of all individuality" exclusively relates to the "personal sensory existence of the individual", but that, on the contrary, his philosophy postulates that "in each particular individual in which it comes to life, the one eternal Idea absolutely exhibits itself in a new figure which never existed before; and this quite independent of the sensory nature, through itself and its own legislation, consequently by no means determined through the sensory individuality, but rather annihilating the latter and purely from itself determining the ideal individuality, or, as it is called more exactly, the originality" (10).
(10) WW. VII, 69: "die Eine ewige Idee im jedem besonderen Individuum, in welchem sie zum Leben durchdringt, sich durchaus in einer neuen, vorher nie dagewesenen Gestalt zeige; und dieses zwar ganz unabhängig von der sinnlichen Natur, durch sich selber und ihre eigene Gesetzgebung, mithin keinesweges bestimmt durch die sinnliche Individualität, sondern diese vernichtend und rein aus sich bestimmend die ideale Individualität, oder, wie es richtiger heisst, die Originalität."
Individuality and Society.
As this "spiritual" (historical) individuality is further thought of only as a point of concentration, in which the absolute Idea makes itself concrete in the historical supra-personal stream of life, there is automatically a break with the atomistic natural-scientific view of history. According to FICHTE, individuality can only be understood from the individual communities, in which alone it has temporal existence. Even in his Reden an die deutsche Nation (1808), FICHTE has made a serious attempt to conceive the individuality of a nation as an historical totality.
The remarkable feature of this whole metaphysical conception, typical at the same time of its irrationalist root, is the nominalistic view, which denies both the reality of abstract general concepts (universalia) and the possibility of a derivation of subjectivity from a law. FICHTE's absolute transcendent Idea is not a universal, but a totality. He rejects unconditionally every hypostatization of general concepts in the sense of Platonic ideas. In my opinion, it is also entirely incorrect to characterize FICHTE's metaphysics as monistic Eleaticism, as LASK does (11).
(11) WW. I, p. 175.
The static Eleatic conception of "absolute being" has nothing in common with FICHTE's view of the absolute Idea as a totality of being, which unfolds itself in the historical process. The Eleatic being, as I have shown in the first volume of my trilogy Reformation and Scholasticism in Philosophy, is not to be understood apart from the religious form-motive of Greek thought. It is the indivisible, supra-sensory and divine form of being, as such, which can be intuited only in "theoria", and which cannot have any relation to the "matter-principle", the principle of becoming and declining. This "form of being" is thought of as a purely geometrical one, corresponding to the immaterial shape of the sphere, which in Greek philosophy was viewed as the most perfect.
FICHTE's "divine Being", on the contrary, although in itself supra-historical, has an essential relation to the historical process. It is the divine origin of all activity and cultural individuality, and is thus by no means to be characterized as a static "universal".
Abandonment of the Critical form-matter schema.
In FICHTE's metaphysical conception of the Idea (as closed totality of its individual disclosures in historical development)[(als gesloten totaliteit harer individueele openbaringen in de historische ontwikkeling)(WdW Boek 1 p 447)], the Critical form-matter schema is in principle broken through and abandoned. Within the framework of the latter schema, the totality of individual determinations could only be an Idea in the sense of a limiting-concept, by which transcendental thought is driven forward without being able to realize its demand because of its limitations in comprehending the empirical material of experience. The recognition of these limitations is here the point of departure. FICHTE's irrationalistic metaphysics, on the contrary, follows the reverse course from the absolute totality as "absolute Being". The "Idea" is not thought of here as an eternal task for bridging over the cleavage between the form and matter of our knowledge, but rather as a metaphysical totality of all individuality.
In proceeding from the absolute totality in this metaphysical sense, there is a constant threat of an apriori construction of historical development. Such a construction abandons the temporal material of experience, which, as merely empirical, as only simple phenomenon, is reasoned away in FICHTE's metaphysics of history.
To this metaphysical passion for apriori construction, FICHTE fell victim in his first work on the philosophy of history, the Principial Traits of the Present Era ("Grundzüge des gegenwärtigen Zeitalters", 1804 - '05). Here he observes: "if the philosopher has the task to deduce the phenomena, possible in experience, from the unity of his supposed Idea, then it is evident, that for the fulfilment of this task he does not at all need experience; and that he, merely as a philosopher, and strictly paying attention to his limitations, can do his work without allowing for any experience, and simply apriori, as it is called with the technical term, and that — in relation to our subject — he must be able to describe apriori the whole of time and all possible periods of it" (12).
(12) WW. VII, 5: "hat der Philosoph die in der Erfahrung mögliche Phänomene aus der Einheit seines vorausgesetzten Begriffs abzuleiten, so ist klar, dass er zu seinem Geschäfte durchaus keiner Erfahrung bedürfe, und dass er blosz als Philosoph und innerhalb seiner Grenzen streng sich haltend, ohne Rücksicht auf irgend eine Erfahrung und schlechthin a priori, wie sie dies mit dem Kunstausdrucke benennen, sein Geschäft treibe, und, in Beziehung auf unseren Gegenstand, die gesammte Zeit und alle möglichen Epochen derselben a priori müsse beschreiben können."
Thus the Idea of an historical world-plan is construed apriori. FICHTE defines it in a teleological sense: "the aim of the earthly life of mankind is this, that the latter should arrange all its relations within the same with liberty according to reason" (13).
"This world-plan is the Idea of the unity of the whole of human earthly life" (14).
(13) WW. VII, 7: "der Zweck des Erdenlebens der Menschheit ist der, dass sie in demselben alle ihre Verhältnisse mit Freiheit nach der Vernunft einrichte."
(14) "jener Weltplan ist der Einheitsbegriff des gesammten menschlichen Erdenlebens" (italics mine!).
Out of this apriori Idea FICHTE deduces, once again apriori, his five chief periods of world-history. It is not the individual, but rather the "human race" as a whole that functions as the subject of the latter.
In this entire philosophical conception, there appears to be no point of contact for a methodological concept of history, as a condition for the cultivation of the science of history. The empirical science of history appears rather to be handed over to the "Chronikmaker" (annalist), whereas the systematics of history is reserved entirely for the apriori metaphysics of history as "Vernunftwissenschaft" (science of reason).
LASK, however, has pointed out, that in the Grundzüge another motive in the philosophy of history announces itself alongside of this metaphysical one. The two motives may not entirely be brought into agreement. The latter is to be explained in terms of the continued operation of Critical-transcendental motives even in FICHTE's last period. This second motive may be characterized as follows: our thinker by no means made the task of the philosophy of history to consist entirely in the construction of the world-plan, but he sets also the requirement that it should make a thorough logical analysis of the general conditions of "empirical existence", as the material of historical construction.
FICHTE's logic of historical thought.
In this requirement of a "logic of the historical mode of enquiry", not to be found in KANT, the irrational character of the historical material of experience is placed in the foreground.
It is especially the important ninth lecture of the Grundzüge, in which FICHTE set himself the task of a "transcendental logical" delimitation of the concept of the historical field of investigation, and describes this task explicitly as a philosophical one. It is not the task of the historian to consider empirical existence and its conditions as such. Both belong to his pre-suppositions: "The question which are these conditions of empirical existence — what is to be pre-supposed for the mere possibility of a history as such, and what in the first place must be (present), before history can merely make a beginning — belongs to the competence of the philosopher, who has to guarantee to the historian his basis and foundation" (15).
(15) WW. VII, 131/2: "Das empirische Daseyn selber und alle Bedingungen davon setzt er daher voraus. Welche nun diese Bedingungen des empirischen Daseyns seyen — was daher für die blosze Möglichkeit einer Geschichte überhaupt vorausgesetzt werde und vor allen Dingen seyn müsse, ehe die Geschichte auch nur ihren Anfang finden könne — ist Sache des Philosophen, welche dem Historiker erst seinen Grund und Boden sichern muss" (italics mine!),
With "timeless Being" or "divine life" plunging into earthly existence, or into the "flowing of life" in time, infinity and irrationality are joined for knowledge. Physics is the science that investigates empirically the constant objective and periodically recurrent features of temporal existence, i.e. "nature". Investigation directed toward the contents of the flowing time-series is called the science of history: "Its 'Gegenstand' is the always inconceivable development of knowledge concerning the incomprehensible" (16).
(16) Ibid., p. 131: "Ihr Gegenstand ist die zu alter Zeit unbegriffene Entwickelung des Wissens am Unbegriffenen."
While the historian accepts his "facts" (FACTA) simply as such, the task of the philosopher of history, who sees through their logical structure, is "to comprehend them in their incomprehensibility" and to render intelligible the appearance of their "contingency" out of their character which is incomprehensible to the understanding. It is, consequently, the task of philosophy to indicate the boundary between speculation and experience in the study of history. At this point, the influence of Criticism on FICHTE's view of history exhibits itself very clearly, where he opposes every attempt to deduce the historical facts themselves from the infinite understanding of the absolute Being. "Consequently: the timeless being and existence is in no way contingent; and neither the philosopher nor the historian is able to give a theory of its origin: the factual existence in time appears as contingent because apparently it can be otherwise; however, this appearance originates from the fact that it is not comprehended: the philosopher can, to be sure, say in general that the One inconceivable, just like the infinite comprehending of the same, is such as it is, for the very reason that it is to continue being understood to infinity; he can, however, not at all deduce it genetically, and define it from this infinite comprehending, because then he would have conceived infinity, which is absolutely impossible. Here consequently is his limit, and, if he desires to know something in this department (realm), he is referred to experience. As little can the historian point out genetically this inconceivable (infinity) as the original beginning of time. His calling is to expose the factual successive determinations of empirical existence. Empirical existence itself and all the conditions of it are consequently presupposed by him" (17).
(17) Ibid., p. 131: "Also: das zeitlose Seyn und Daseyn ist auf keine Weise zufällig; und es lässt sich weder durch den Philosophen, noch durch den Historiker eine Theorie seines Ursprunges geben: das factische Daseyn in der Zeit erscheint als anders seynkönnend, und darum zufällig; aber dieser Schein entspringt aus der Unbegriffenheit: und der Philosoph kann zwar wohl im Allgemeinen sagen, dass das Eine Unbegriffene, sowie das unendliche Begreifen an demselben, so ist, wie es ist, eben weil es in die Unendlichkeit fortbegriffen werden soll; er kann es aber keinesweges aus diesem unendlichen Begreifen genetisch ableiten und bestimmen, weil er sodann die Unendlichkeit erfasst haben müsste, was durchaus unmöglich ist. Hier sonach ist seine Grenze, und er wird, falls er in diesem Gebiete etwas zu wissen begehrt, an die Empirie gewiesen. Ebensowenig kann der Historiker jenes Unbegriffene, als den Uranfang der Zeit, in seiner Genesis angeben. Sein Geschäft ist: die factischen Fortbestimmungen des empirischen Daseyns aufzustellen. Das empirische Daseyn selber und alle Bedingungen davon setzt er daher voraus."
In this way FICHTE comes to the conclusion that neither the philosopher nor the historian can say anything about the origin of the world or of mankind: "for there is no origin at all, but only the one timeless and necessary Being." The philosopher has only to account for the conditions of factual existence "as lying beyond all factual existence and all experience."
What FICHTE had in mind with this actually epistemological task of philosophy with respect to the science of history, appears clearly from his statement: "It acquires a definite concept of what is truly asked for by history and what belongs to it, besides a logic of historical truth; and so, even in this infinite territory, the groping about at random is replaced by the sure proceeding according to a rule" (18).
(18) "Sie erhält einen bestimmten Begriff davon, wonach die Geschichte eigentlich frage, und was in sie gehöre, nebst einer Logik der historischen Wahrheit; und so tritt selbst in diesem unendlichen Gebiete das sichere Fortschreiten nach einer Regel an die Stelle des Herumtappens auf gutes Glück."
FICHTE also mentions more precisely the relationship in which the components of historical development to be known apriori stand in his opinion to those to be known aposteriori. History is beyond doubt conceived of by FICHTE as the development of culture which does not begin before the "Normalvolk" postulated by him, was dispersed over the "seats of rudeness and barbarism." This "Normalvolk" is supposed to have been in a situation of perfect "Vernunftkultur" and such "through its mere existence, without any science or art." "Now for the first time something new and remarkable presented itself that stimulated the remembrance of men to retain it: — now for the first time could begin the true history which can do nothing more than notice factually, by means of mere experience, the gradual cultivation of the true human race of history, originated from a mixture of the original culture and the original barbarism" (19).
(19) WW. VII, 138: "erst nun gab es etwas neues und merkwürdiges, das das Andenken der Menschen reizte, es aufzubehalten; — erst jetzt konnte beginnen die eigentliche Geschichte, die nichts weiter thun kann, als durch blosse Empirie factisch auffassen die allmählige Cultivirung des nunmehr durch Mischung der ursprünglichen Cultur und der ursprünglichen Uncultur entstandenen, eigentlichen Menschengeschlechtes der Geschichte."
The metaphysically conceived apriori component of historical development is the formerly discussed world-plan that leads mankind through the five periods of world-history. Without any historical experience the philosopher can know that these periods must follow one another: "Now this development of the human race does not make its entrance in the general manner in which the philosopher paints it in one single survey, but gradually, disturbed by forces strange to it, at definite times, in definite places, under definite circumstances. All these particular surroundings do by no means originate from the Idea of this world-plan; they are the non-understood in it, and, as it is the only Idea for this world-plan, the non-understood in general; and here the pure empiricism of history makes its entrance, its a posteriori: the history proper in its form" (20).
(20) ib., p. 139: "Nun tritt diese Entwickelung des Menschengeschlechtes nicht überhaupt ein, wie der Philosoph in einem einzigen überblicke es schildert; sondern sie tritt allmählig, gestört durch ihr fremde Kräfte, zu gewissen Zeiten, an gewissen Orten, unter gewissen besonderen Umstände ein. Alle diese besonderen Umgebungen gehen aus dem Begriffe jenes Weltplanes keinesweges hervor: sie sind das in ihm Unbegriffene, und da er der einzige Begriff dafür ist, das überhaupt Unbegriffene; und hier tritt ein die reine Empirie der Geschichte, ihr a posteriori: die eigentliche Geschichte in ihrer Form."
The irrational, new element, not to be repeated, that can be discovered only empirically, fills the time-series of historical development and arises in the subjection of raw nature through rational and free cultural activity of the human race in the various forms of the absolute Idea. In this is seen the "transcendental-logical" criterion of history in FICHTE's first main work on the philosophy of history.
FICHTE'S new historical concept of time.
Remarkable to a high degree and yet scarcely observed up to now is the fact that FICHTE has paid special attention also to historical time. He distinguishes the true historical time from empty time.
In the latter, there moves only dream and show, all that which serves only for pastime or for the mere satisfaction of a curiosity that is not grounded in a serious desire for knowledge: "The pastime is truly an empty time which is placed in the midst between the time filled up by serious business." In the "true and real time", on the contrary, something happens, "when it becomes a principle, a necessary ground and cause of new phenomena which never before existed. Then for the first time a living life has arisen which originates other life from itself" (21).
(21) WW. VII, 245: "Der Zeitvertreib ist ganz eigentlich eine leere Zeit, welche zwischen die durch ernsthafte Beschäftigungen ausgefüllte Zeit in die Mitte gesetzt wird;" in the "true and real time", on the contrary, something happens "wenn es Princip wird, nothwendiger Grund und Ursache, neuer und vorher nie dagewesener Erscheinungen in der Zeit. Dann erst ist ein lebendiges Leben geworden, das anderes Leben aus sich erzeugt."
We see here how FICHTE in a typical manner anticipates the historical conception of time of the modern philosophy of life. Its distinction of true and apparent time is still to engage our attention in detail in our further discussion of this problem.
Yet, in spite of everything that is offered in the "Grundzüge" for the development of an irrationalist logic of the science of history, the fundamental dualism between the merely empirical individuality and the individuality of value in history is not yet bridged over here. Consequently, at this stage the historical logic exhibits a fundamental hiatus.
Indeed, the true science of history remains restricted to the "Sammlung der blossen Facten" (collection of mere facts), the professional historian remains one "who in collecting historical facts has no other criterion but the external sequence of the years and centuries "ohne alle Rücksicht auf ihren Inhalt" (22) (without any regard to their content) even though his work is called "useful and honourable."
(22) WW. VII, 140.
Now LASK has demonstrated, that in the writings between 1805-9, this dualism between empirical individuality and value, not yet overcome in the „Grundzüge", is removed in fact, by reason of the explicit ascription of value-character to that which is recognized as irrational with respect to its logical structure. Not until the last phase of all (namely in the Staatslehre of 1813) is the ascription of value-character to the historical material of experience (logically recognized as irrational) made a problem, which was possible only by means of a deepening of the methodological inquiries begun in 1805.
Indeed we find for the first time in the important considerations on the Deduction of the "Gegenstand" of the History of Mankind in the Staatslehre of 1813, properly speaking an elaboration of the task set in the Grundzüge: the discovery of the logic of historical truth.
In the "Staatslehre" of 1813, FICHTE anticipates the "cultural-historical" method of the South-West German school of Neo-Kantianism. The synthesis of nature and freedom in the concept of the "free force".
Here for the first time a serious attempt is made to find a synthesis between nature and freedom within the transcendentally analysed historical field of inquiry. The manner in which FICHTE tries to reach this synthesis is characteristic of the irrationalist motive which is operative behind the critical form.
FICHTE begins his views with setting a sharp antithesis between the "realm of nature" (as the domain of the naturalistic science-ideal) and the "realm of freedom" (as the domain of the ideal of personality).
These two realms are now synthetically unified by an intermediate concept, i.e. that of the free force: "Nature is death and rest: freedom only must vivify and stimulate it again; according to a concept; and this is the very character of the free force, that it can only be moved according to a concept" (23).
(23) WW. IV, 461: "Die Natur ist Tod und Ruhe: die Freiheit erst muss sie wieder beleben und anregen; nach einem Begriffe: und das ist eben der Charakter der freien Kraft, dass sie nur nach einem Begriffe bewegt werden kann."
"Consequently — and that is the point here — we acquire in that which is possibly given, besides that which is given in nature, also a world of freedom-products, constructed through absolute freedom on the basis of the former, however, not at all grounded on this nature which was closed with this dead force." "From this (originates) the sphere of the freedom-products, as being possibly given and under a particular condition: these (freedom-products) are contingent for the intuition, however qualified for the very history as a description of what in this way is given" (italics mine! -HD) (24).
(24) WW. IV, 462: "Wir erhalten sonach, worauf es ankommt, ausser dem in der Natur Gegebenen, in dem möglicherweise Gegebenen auch noch eine Welt der Freiheitsproducte, aufgetragen durch absolute Freiheit auf die erste, in dieser aber, die mit jener todten Kraft geschlossen war, durchaus nicht begründet." "Daraus die Sphäre der Freiheitsproducte, als eines möglicherweise und unter einer gewissen Bedingung gegebenen: diese sind für die Anschauung ein Zufälliges, also aber eben zur Geschichte, als einer Darstellung des also Gegebenen, sich qualificirend" (italics mine ! - HD).
The following dilemma presents itself directly in FICHTE's world-picture, which knows no modal law-spheres: The realm of "dead nature" is ruled by the mathematical and mechanical laws imposed by the understanding; the realm of living actual freedom by the autonomous moral law. To which laws is now subjected the third realm, that of history as the synthetical realm of visible, cultural freedom?
FICHTE emphatically observes: "The ethical (realm) is purely spiritual and without figure, it is a law without any image. It acquires its concrete figure only from the ethical matter" (25).
(25) "Das Sittliche ist rein geistig und gestaltlos, Gesetz, ohne alles Bild. Seine Gestaltung erhält es erst aus dem sittlichen Stoffe" (p. 464).
Consequently, history in its individual figures and its "free forces" which produce culture, must be characterized as "lawless". To FICHTE there is no other solution possible: "The state of affairs is therefore as follows: by far the greater part of the freedom-products present in a period of time of the intuition, have not come about according to the clear concept of the moral law, consequently not according to this law; no more have they come about by the law of nature, since the latter is closed to the creation of these products which have originated from freedom. Since there is no legislation besides these two, this (originating) occurs quite lawless, at random. This is truly, as is well known, the object of human history as it has developed until now..." (26).
(26) WW. IV, 46213: "So darum steht die Sache: Bei weitem das Meiste der etwa in einem Zeitraume der Anschauung vorliegenden Freiheitsproducte ist zu Stande gekommen nicht nach dem deutlichen Begriffe vom sittlichen Gesetze, also nicht nach diesem Gesetze; ebensowenig aber ist es zu Stande gekommen durch das Naturgesetz, indem dieses geschlossen ist vor dessen Erzeugung, und es zu Stande gekommen ist durch Freiheit. Da es nun ausser diesen beiden keine Gesetzgebung gibt, erfolgt sie ganz gesetzlos, von ohngefähr. Dies nun eigentlich und notorisch der Gegenstand der bisherigen Menschengeschichte..."
The "hidden conformity to law" of historical development. The irrationalist concept of the law.
Thus the historical aspect is brought into explicit opposition to that which is conformed to a law: "a particular historical matter is to be understood only through history in general; the latter again is only to be understood through its opposite, that which happens in conformity to laws and is, consequently, to be known in a strictly scientific way" (27).
(27) Ibid., p. 458/9: "ein besonderes Geschichtliches ist verständlich nur durch Geschichte überhaupt; diese wiederum nur verständlich durch ihren Gegensatz, das Gesetzliche, streng wissenschaftlich zu Erkennende."
Nevertheless, to this statement, FICHTE immediately adds the remark that the freedom which discloses itself in historical development must possess a hidden conformity to a law which is nothing other than the providence of the moral deity. But this conformity to a law is not to be known from rational concepts. It is rather a hidden telos in the displaying of the given freedom in the irrational development of culture which makes the transcendent values visible in the individual temporal formations of culture.
Here, in a Humanistic perversion of the Christian faith in the Divine Providence, the law is very clearly made a simple reflection of the individual free subjectivity, disclosed in the "irrational process" (28).
(28) Which unfortunately also passed over into FR. J. STAHL'S philosophy of history under the influence of SCHELLING's romanticism. "God's guidance in history" is now irrationalistically conceived of as an unconscious operation of God's "secret counsel", which nevertheless is accepted as a complementary norm for human action! Thus irrationalism penetrated even into the Christian view of history! The so-called "Christian-historical" trend in political theory in Germany and the Netherlands is undoubtedly influenced by this irrationalist view of history.
The irrational historical conformity to law, which FICHTE accepts, is the very negation of veritable historical norms. It is the precipitation of the irrationalist ideal of personality, in which the νόμος is nothing but the reflection of the individual αὐτός (29).
(29) Compare FICHTE's statement: "Only the formal concept, formed in pure science, is finite, since it is the concept of a law. The judgment of the given facts, on the contrary, is infinite: for it proceeds according to the law which rules in this judgment itself and remains eternally hidden; it springs up eternally new and fresh. From every point indeed through taking part from the side of the law develops eternity and so in every following moment of time." ["Nur der formale, in der reinen Wissenschaft aufgestellte Begriff ist endlich, denn er ist der Begriff eines Gesetzes: die Beurteilung des faktisch gegebenen aber ist unendlich; denn sie geht einher nach dem in ihr selbst herrschenden, ewig verborgen bleibenden Gesetze: quilt ewig neu und frisch. Aus jedem Punkte entwickelt sich ja durch Hinzutritt des Gesetzes die Ewigkeit und so in jedem folgenden Zeitmomente."]
Only by conceiving the individual in its turn as a member of an individual community whose historical tradition and "common spirit" is an inner constitutive factor of the individuality of all of its members, can this irrationalism escape the anarchistic view of history. Therefore, it must result in a universalist conception of temporal human society which — in polar opposition to individualism — views society according to the schema of the whole and its parts; not considering the inner nature of the different social relations.
Irrationalizing of the divine world-plan.
The divine world-plan, that FICHTE in his "Grundzüge", still tried to deduce rationalistically in a purely apriori fashion, apart from the historical material of experience, is now, on the contrary, sought in the very individuality of the historical matter which cannot be comprehended in rational concepts: "However, is there not in this inconceivable incomprehensible element at the same time a world-plan, therefore undoubtedly a Providence and an Understanding? So what is the law of the world-facts, i.e. of that which gives to freedom its task? This question lies very deep; until now I have helped myself by ignoring and denying! I might there indeed arrive at a deeper, truly absolute Understanding, giving the inner support to the infinite modifiability of freedom. Therefore, that which I posited as absolutely factual, might perhaps yet be posited by an Understanding"(30).
(30) Politische Fragmente aus den Jahren 1807 und 1813, WW. VII, 586: "Aber ist in diesem Elemente des Unbegreiflichen, Unverstandenen nicht zugleich ein Weltplan, drum allerdings eine Vorsehung und ein Verstand? Welches ist denn das Gesetz der Weltfacten, d.i. desjenigen, was der Freiheit ihre Aufgaben liefert? Diese Frage liegt sehr tief; bisher habe ich durch Ignorieren und Absprechen mir geholfen! Ich dürfte da allerdings einen tieferen, eigentlich absoluten Verstand bekommen, an der unendlichen Modificabilität der Freiheit, und dieser den inneren Halt gebend. Was ich daher als absolut factisch gesetzt habe, möchte doch durch einen Verstand gesetzt seyn."
It is clear, that in this final phase of FICHTE's thought, the principium individuationis has shifted to the historical realm, as the synthesis of value and temporal reality, whereas, in his first rationalistic period, he had sought it — in accordance with KANT — only in the sensory matter of nature-experience.
The apriori conformity to a law which the "Staatslehre" assumes for historical development, i.e. the gradual conquest of faith by the understanding, is merely a formal one.
It is only the qualitatively individual, moral nature, which, as given freedom, produces the material of history, since it becomes an individual paradigm for the producing by freedom.
Its first appearance is a creative wonder of Providence, transformed by FICHTE into a "transcendental-logical condition" of the possibility of history: "Consequently: the concept of a moral procreation or nature of man has replaced Providence (as a Miracle), which is the ground of the truly historical material of history. According to our Idea we have immediately taken up this morality of nature into the necessary form of appearance" (31).
(31) WW. IV, 469: "Also: der Vorsehung (als Wunder), dem Grunde des eigentlich geschichtlichen Stoffes des Geschichte, ist substituiret worden der Begriff einer sittlichen Erzeugung oder Natur des Menschen. Nach unserer Idee haben wir diese Sittlichkeit der Natur gleich aufgenommen in die nothwendige Form der Erscheinung."
As the very "transcendental-logical" condition for the possibility of an historical experience, the presence of a "moral nature" may not be accepted further than is necessary for the explanation of the development.
The concept of the "highly gifted people" (das geniale Volk).
FICHTE takes a further step in the development of his irrationalist methodology of history by transferring the concept of the miraculous from the individual to social groups or communities viewed as "individual totalities". Just as an individual paradigm is postulated for the historical development of the morality of the individual, the social paradigm of an entire people is postulated for the moral development of the human race: "However, since we must conceive the appearance of freedom as a totality absolutely closed in time, we must assume some society which compels and instructs without itself having needed both, since, by its mere existence, it possessed this very morality to which it leads the society coming after it and originating from it, by means of compulsion and instruction: because it was by nature that to which others have to educate themselves in freedom under its cultivating power" (32).
(32) WW. IV, 470: "Da wir aber doch die Erscheinung der Freiheit schlechterdings als in der Zeit schlechterdings geschlossenes Ganze auffassen müssen, so müssen wir irgend eine Gesellschaft annehmen, die da zwingt und belehrt, ohne selbst beides bedürft zu haben, weil sie durch ihr blosses Daseyn das schon war, wozu sie die nach ihr und aus ihr entstehende Gesellschaft mit Zwang und Belehrung erst bringt: von Natur das war, wozu Andere unter ihrer Bildung rich machen mit Freiheit."
In this way the hypothesis (introduced for the first time in the "Grundzüge") as to a primeval people that is in possession of a morality, given in an individual moral nature, is now rendered serviceable to the methodology of history.
By virtue of its very non-recurrent individual and "lawless" realization of value, the historical development receives in FICHTE a higher value-accent than that which recurs periodically according to the uniformity of natural laws. The historical is no longer, in a rationalistic fashion, set in opposition to the law of reason and in this opposition conceived of as the value-less (because law-less) material of experience; but it is rather understood as totality of what is new and creative individual in opposition to the merely "stehende Sein" (static being) of nature (33).
(33) LASK, op. cit., p. 293, also for the following.
FICHTE's conception, in sharp opposition to that of KANT, is now to the effect that the framing of "final ends" of historical development, such as: "education for freedom", "education for clarity", etc. can have only the significance of a general descriptive formulation: "Both, however, are only formal. For the infinite content of this freedom, the moral task, remains in fact something incomprehensible, the image of God, for this very reason that the latter is absolutely incomprehensible, and is to be experienced only in the revelations of history" (34).
(34) "Beides aber ist nur formal. In der Tat bleibt nämlich der unendliche Inhalt jener Freiheit, die sittliche Aufgabe, etwas Unbegreifliches, das Bild Gottes eben darum, weil dieser schlechthin unbegreiflich ist, und nur zu erleben in den Offenbarungen der Geschichte."
The concept of revelation in the sense of a synthesis of irrationality and originality is now expressly taken up in the "transcendental-logical" structure of history.
In this way the religious life in the historical-empirical form of Jesus is characterized as immediate individual revelation of the Idea of God in the appearance (35).
(35) WW. V, 483 f. 567-674.
It will, consequently, have to be conceded to LASK, that in FICHTE there has actually been developed a transcendental logic of history in contrast with the metaphysics of HEGEL. The concept of science here developed finds, as we believe we have demonstrated in detail, its transcendental root in a cosmonomic Idea inspired by the irrationalist ideal of personality.
The inner antinomies in this irrationalist logic of history.
If this conception is thought through consistently it must resolve itself into inner antinomies. For, on the one hand, by reason of its immanent continuity-postulate, it knows cosmic boundaries of meaning as little as the concept of science that originated from the naturalistic science-ideal; consequently it brings all normative subject-functions of temporal reality under a historical basic denominator. On the other hand, by its denaturing of historical conformity to law into a mere reflection of individual subjectivity, it must deny all knowable historical determination of facts. For de-termination can only issue from a law, which cannot be a mere reflection of individual subjectivity, but which regulates and limits the subject-functions in their infinite individual diversity. In our discussion of the modal structure of the historical aspect in the second volume we shall return to this point.
Law and individuality.
Notwithstanding all its concreteness and individualization, a real law can never acquire the function of a mere register of the subjective facts in their complete individuality. The concept of a hidden, eternally incomprehensible conformity to law is contradictory and establishes in scientific thought only endless confusion, since it elevates to the status of law the temporal individual subjectivity itself which cannot really exist unless it is bound to a supra-individual order.
Even the circumstance that FICHTE does not view historical development as a uniform progress but rather as a process with hindrances and reactions, exhibits the impossibility of carrying through the irrationalist concept of history. For hindrances and reactions are to be recognized scientifically only under the test of a supra-subjective standard.
The dangerous historistic tendency in FICHTE's so-called "spiritual-scientific" thought discloses itself in its pregnant sense at the same point at which it has won permanent gains for the science of history, namely, in the discovery of the national community of a people as an individual historical totality in contrast with the atomistic cosmopolitan view of the "Aufklärung" (Enlightenment).
Attention has been drawn sufficiently to the great gain of this discovery in modern FICHTE-literature. In KANT's time, individualism was willing to acknowledge, beyond the atomistic individual conceived in natural-scientific terms, only the abstract universal concept of humanity in an ethical sense.
Surely under the influence of Romanticism, which also is to be observed in SCHLEIERMACHER'S principle of "Eigentümlichkeit" (singularity), FICHTE breaks radically with this individualistic point of view: "The form of a people itself is from nature or God: a certain highly individual manner to advance the aim of reason. Peoples are individualities with particular talents and character for it." "This then is a people in the higher sense of the word taken from the view-point of a spiritual world in general: the whole of men who continue living together in society and originate continuously themselves from themselves naturally and spiritually, a whole that is subject to some particular law of development of the divine from it. It is the common bond of this particular law that in the eternal world, and for
that very reason also in the temporal, joins this multitude to a natural and self-conscious totality" (36).
(36) Reden an die deutsche Nation, WW. VII, 381: "Die Volksform selbst ist von der Natur oder Gott: eine gewisse hochindividuelle Weise, den Vernunftzweck zu befördern. Volker sind Individualitäten, mit eigentümlicher Begabung und Rolle dafür." "Dies nun ist in höherer, vom Standpuncte der Ansicht einer geistigen Welt überhaupt genommener Bedeutung des Wortes, ein Volk: das Ganze der in Gesellschaft mit einander fortlebenden und sich aus sich selbst immerfort natürlich und geistig erzeugenden Menschen, das insgesammt unter einem gewissen besonderen Gesetze der Entwickelung des Göttlichen aus ihm steht. Die Gemeinsamkeit dieses besonderen Gesetzes ist es, was in der ewigen Welt, und eben darum auch in der zeitlichen(!) diese Menge zu einem natürlichen und von sich selbst durchdrungenen Ganzen verbindet."
The "historical nationality" as "true reality" contrasted with the state as conceptual abstraction.
FICHTE now shows clearly his historistic view of society. He opposes the nationality — which he conceived as a purely historical entity — to the state. The former is, according to him, a full and true temporal reality, the state, on the contrary, a mere conceptual abstraction. He thereby paved the way for the most recent historistic-phenomenological theory of human society. The newly discovered historical aspect of reality is forthwith absolutized as the basic denominator for all aspects of human society and the national community of the people is elevated to the rank of "true historical reality" which has an "earthly eternity": "People and fatherland in this signification, as bearer and pledge of earthly eternity, and as that which down here can be eternal, lies far above the state in the ordinary sense of the word, — above the social order as it is conceived in a mere clear concept, and a propos of this concept is established and kept up" (37).
(37) "Volk und Vaterland in dieser Bedeutung, als Träger und Unterpfand der irdischen Ewigkeit, und als dasjenige, was hienieden ewig seyn kann, liegt weft hinaus über den Staat, im gewöhnlichen Sinne des Wortes, über die gesellschaftliche Ordnung, wie dieselbe im bloszen klaren Begriffe erfaszt, und nach Anleitung dieses Begriffes errichtet und erhalten wird." I will here by no means ignore the influence of the historical-political situation in which FICHTE wrote his "Reden an die deutsche Nation" and in which his entire concern was the awakening of the national consciousness against the French usurper of his fatherland. However, his construction of the relationship between nation and state is doubtless more deeply based upon his historic view of temporal social life."
Insofar as FICHTE here directs his polemic against the abstract individualistic conception of human society in the school of natural law he is again right to a certain extent. But his intention goes much further. Nationality is absolutized as the true historical revelation of the eternal spiritual community of humanity. The Humanistic ideal of personality here shows a most dangerous irrationalist and transpersonalist turn.
FICHTE's conception concerning the relation of nation and state is in principle the same as that of the "Historical School".
In the most recent times it has been elaborated in detail in the irrationalist and so-called "pluralistic" sociology of GEORGES GURVITCH (38).
(38) Compare his Sociology of law (1947), where the nation is characterized as a super-functional, all-inclusive community, whereas the state is only a functional super-structure.
(Herman Dooyeweerd, New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol I/ Part 2/ Chapt 6/§3 pp 467-495)
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[End of Vol 1 Part 2]