German idealism

From Metapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
German idealism concerned about major parts of philosophy such as moral philosophy, political philosophy and metaphysics. Although German idealism is closely related to the developments in the intellectual history of Germany in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such as classicism and romanticism; which involved intellectual such as Goethe, Herder and Schiller, it is also closely related to larger developments in the history of modern philosophy. German Idealism also shaped the way of philosophy for the rest of the 19th century. Later 19th century figures, such as Marx and Freud, were thoroughly influenced by the ideas of prominent German idealists. Even in the 20th century, idealist theories of Kant and post-Kantians were still largely debated and studied by modern philosophers. Although our way of thinking has come a long way since the 19th century, one can still clearly see the impacts of Idealism in today’s philosophical and intellectual movements.[1]

German idealism (also: German Idealism, sometimes Transcendental idealism) was a philosophical movement in Germany in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment. The most well-known thinkers in the movement were Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. However, thinkers such as Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Karl Leonhard Reinhold, and Friedrich Schleiermacher were major contributors to German idealism.


German Idealism.jpg
German idealism is the name of a movement in German philosophy that began in the 1780s and lasted until the 1840s. The most famous representatives of this movement are Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. While there are important differences between these figures, they all share a commitment to idealism. Kant’s transcendental idealism was a modest philosophical doctrine about the difference between appearances and things in themselves, which claimed that the objects of human cognition are appearances and not things in themselves. Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel radicalized this view, transforming Kant’s transcendental idealism into absolute idealism, which holds that things in themselves are a contradiction in terms, because a thing must be an object of our consciousness if it is to be an object at all. German idealism is remarkable for its systematic treatment of all the major parts of philosophy, including logic, metaphysics and epistemology, moral and political philosophy, and aesthetics. All of the representatives of German idealism thought these parts of philosophy would find a place in a general system of philosophy. Kant thought this system could be derived from a small set of interdependent principles. Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel were, again, more radical. Inspired by Karl Leonhard Reinhold, they attempted to derive all the different parts of philosophy from a single, first principle. This first principle came to be known as the absolute, because the absolute, or unconditional, must precede all the principles which are conditioned by the difference between one principle and another. Although German idealism is closely related to developments in the intellectual history of Germany in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such as classicism and romanticism, it is also closely related to larger developments in the history of modern philosophy. Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel sought to overcome the division between rationalism and empiricism that had emerged during the early modern period. The way they characterized these tendencies has exerted a lasting influence on the historiography of modern philosophy. Although German idealism itself has been subject to periods of neglect in the last two hundred years, renewed interest in the contributions of the German idealism have made it an important resource for contemporary philosophy.[2]
German Idealism is a philosophical movement centered in Germany during the Age of Enlightenment of the late 18th and early 19th Century. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant and is closely linked with the Romanticism movement. It is sometimes referred to as Kantianism (although that more correctly also involves acceptance of Kant's ethical and epistemological views). Other than Kant himself, the main contributors (who all had their own versions of Kant's theory, some close in nature and some quite distinct) were Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and (arguably) Arthur Schopenhauer, and additionally Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (1743 - 1819), Gottlob Ernst Schulze (1761 - 1833), Karl Leonhard Reinhold (1757 - 1823) and Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768 - 1834). Although essentially a German movement, the Swiss-French writer and philosopher Madame de Staël (1766 - 1817) introduced (in her famous book "De l'Allemagne") the works of Kant and the German Idealists to French thinkers, who were still largely under the influence of John Locke at that time. In general terms, Idealism is the theory that fundamental reality is made up of ideas or thoughts. It holds that the only thing actually knowable is consciousness (or mental entities), and that we can never really be sure that matter or anything in the outside world actually exists. The concept of Idealism arguably dates back to Plato, and reached a peak with the pure Idealism of Bishop George Berkeley in the early 18th Century. See the section on the doctrine of Idealism for more details. The German Idealists, however, were dissatisfied with Berkeley's rather naive formulation. In the 1780s and 1790s, Immanuel Kant tried to bridge the two dominant philosophical schools of the 18th Century: Rationalism (which held that knowledge could be attained by reason alone, a priori), and Empiricism (which held that knowledge could be arrived at only through the senses, a posteriori). Kant's Transcendental Idealism claims that we know more than Berkeley's ideas in our minds, in that we also directly know of at least the possibility of "noumena" ("things-in-themselves"), which are both empirically and transcendentally real even if they cannot be directly and immediately known. The actual "phenomena" which we perceive and which we think we know are really just the way things appear to us and not necessarily real. Other German philosophers of the time used Kant's work as a starting point, adding in their own interpretations and biases. As a movement, it was not one of agreement (although there was some common ground), and each successive contributor rejected at least some of the theories of their predecessors.
Many of the German Idealists who followed Kant, effectively tried to reverse Kant's refutation of all speculative theology and reinstate notions of faith and belief in their explanations of what exists beyond experience, a trend which was continued later in the 19th Century by the American Transcendentalists. Jacobi, although in agreement with Kant that the objective thing-in-itself cannot be directly known, tried to legitimized belief and its theological associations by presenting the external world as an object of faith, even if logically unproven. Schulze tried to use Kant's's own reasoning to disprove the existence of the "thing-in-itself", arguing that it cannot be the cause of an idea or image of a thing in the mind. Following from Schulze's criticism of the notion of a "thing-in-itself", Fichte asserted that there is no external thing-in-itself that produces the ideas, but our representations, ideas or mental images are merely the productions of our ego, or "knowing subject". Schelling's view was that the ideas or mental images in the mind are identical to the extended objects which are external to the mind ("absolute identity"), so that there is no difference between the subjective and the objective. Schleiermacher's variation was that the ideal and the real do not have a productive or causal effect on each other, but are united and manifested in the transcendental entity which is God. Another German Idealist, G. W. F. Hegel, claimed that pure abstract thought (as in Kant's formulations) is limited and leads to unsolvable contradictions. In order to overcome these shortcomings, Hegel introduced the integral importance of history and of the "Other" person in the awakening of self-consciousness. In the process, he established a whole new movement of Hegelianism, which in turn was hugely influential in the later development of Continental Philosophy, Marxism and (by virtue of its opposition to Hegel) Analytic Philosophy. Schopenhauer claimed that Kant's noumenon is the same as Will, or at least that Will is the most immediate manifestation of the noumenon that we can experience. He saw the "will-to-life" (a fundamental drive intertwined with desire) as the driving force of the world, prior to thought and even prior to being. Schopenhauer's criticisms of the later German Idealists is seen by some as a sort of "back to Kant" movement, giving impetus to a Neo-Kantianism movement in the mid-19th and into the 20th Century, which yielded the Kantian analyses of such German philosophers as Kuno Fischer (1824 - 1907), Friedrich Lange (1828 - 1875), Hermann Cohen (1842 - 1918), Paul Natorp (1854 - 1924), Nicolai Hartmann (1882 - 1950), Ernst Cassirer (1874 - 1945), Wilhelm Windelband (1848 - 1915), Heinrich Rickert (1863 - 1936) and Ernst Troeltsch (1865 - 1923). Also in the mid-19th Century to the early 20th Century, a movement which became known as British Idealism revived interest in the works of Kant and Hegel. The leading figures in the movement were T. H. Green (1836 - 1882), F. H. Bradley (1846 - 1924), Bernard Bosanquet (1848 - 1923), J. M. E. McTaggart (1866 - 1925), H. H. Joachim (1868 - 1938) and J. H. Muirhead (1855 - 1940).[3]

External links


  1. Enlightenment and German Idealism, 2019
  2. Colin McQuillan: German Idealism, University of Tennessee Knoxville
  3. German Idealism