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The Story of Doctor Dolittle

Hugh Lofting

Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll

Shakti and Shakta

John Woodroffe

The Diplomatic Background of the War

Charles Seymour

Contributions to mental philosophy

by Immanuel Hermann Fichte


Thus we see that Kant pointed, though in a general and indistinct way, to a region of transcendental pre-exiStence, involved in the very life of experience, and which is clearly evinced by his remarkable idea of a homo noumenon. It was the deep insight of Fichte, however, and his special merit as a great thinker, to unfold more clearly this transcendental province, and to point to it as the proper goal of all philosophical investigation. On this he planted his absolute Ego, out of which he undertook to deduce all the preconscious conditions of the finite Ego, i.e. of our actual life-consciousness;—a bold attempt to master the new discovered province at a bound, but one which undoubtedly left vast chasms to be supplied.

The great characteristic of his point of view is, that the individual or personal element within us does not reach into that transcendental region. The individual Ego, (i'. e. the personal consciousness), is the product of a limitation, or separation of the absolute Ego, and thus falls into the region of the finite and the phenomenal. The pregnant error of all the following systems here shows its first trace; the error is, that of confounding (in the manner of Spinoza), the two ideas of the finite and the individual. How Fichte's doctrine in the course of its development broke through these limitations, and in the moral Ego attained to the consciousness of the true principle of personality, has been already shown in my history of Ethical Philosophy.

Hegel never advanced, in relation to this cardinal point, to any further result, but only developed more fully Fichte's fundamental view. In his philosophy the idea of a finite Usenet wholly fails, nay, is wholly denied. So much the greater stress, however, was laid by hira upon the idea of the transcendence and pre-existence of the soul, though without making use of this precise expression. His whole doctrine of the absolute soul, in fact, could only spring from this foundation.

Hegel's special merit arises from his having introduced the idea of the pre-existent soul, the absolute reason (as Kant had anew discovered it, and as Fichte had pointed it out in connexion with the growth of the consciousness), into Psychology, thus making the first attempt at a complete reconstruction of this science. To him modern psychology owes the clear enunciation of the principle, that the soul becomes, through its development, for itself, what it already is, in a pre-existent sense, of itself He showed how the soul in connexion with external nature, and by its own peculiar conditions, first comes to itself, and unfolds its inner being into self-consciousness. In this doctrine we find, on the one hand, the supernatural constitution of the soul, and on the other hand, its apriority so expressly pointed out, that hardly anything more is required as a witness to the truth I have been attempting to expound.

All that is true and excellent here, however, is utterly destroyed by the tacit and wholly ungrounded assumption, that the individual element is the finite, the unreal, the perishable; that the real spirit, which comes to itself in the human consciousness, is to be regarded as an impersonal Pneuma — universal reason, nay, as the Spirit of God himself; and that the goal of man's whole development, therefore, can be no other than to substitute the universal reason for the individual consciousness. Into what absurdities and contradictions Hegel has fallen by means of this fundamental principle, and how impossible it is to explain the nature of the human consciousness at all on pantheistic grounds, or, what is the same thing, to base a systematic Psychology upon it—all this has been already shown in my " Anthropology."

If Hegel found in the formula Ego=Ego, the presence of universal thought in the soul, and the consequent denial of its individuality; still it is not difficult to show the inaccuracy of the conclusion he has drawn, viz. that because the notion of self is common to us all, and the same for all, this empty and formal symbol should designate, or in the least, exhaust the whole concrete essence of our spiritual nature. It is not our present object, however, to lay stress upon the errors which Hegel owes to his fundamental principle; we have only to do with the great thought which he so clearly represented — that of the apriority and eternity of the substance of the soul, independently of any consideration whether this substance should be considered in the light of pantheism, or of individuality. Suffice it, that Hegel's pantheism has indirectly brought this advantage with it,—that it has exhibited the weak point of his philosophy, and enabled us to bridge over the gulph, from Hegelianism to Individualism, as a necessary result.

And here lies the great critical importance which we attach to Herbart's investigation of Fichte's fundamental Idea. Hcrbart has shown that the idea of the Ego is not a universal notion at all, and cannot designate anything universal. It is formed simply upon the basis of the individual subject, and remains ever simply an expression of it. As many Egos as there are, just so many signs and designations are there of an individual soul. Herbart has, in fact, secured for ever, in behoof of Psychology, the principle of individuality. With regard to the more important idea of the apriority of the essence of the soul, there is no passage in the whole of the Herbartian psychology which could contradict or exclude it. On the contrary, this thought tacitly lies in the background of his whole doctrine, and only needs further development in order to bring it to a distinct and conscious expression. According to Herbart, the soul is a simple, indivisible, real existence; for its natural operation it requires no material from without; on the contrary, all its ideas are the manifold expression of the inward and peculiar quality of the soul itself. In perception, accordingly, we do not reflect the outward quality of the affecting object, but the peculiar mental state which is superinduced by the affection. This decidedly anti-sensational and truly idealistic result attributes assuredly to the soul the possession of a nature which, though placed in the midst of the world of sense, yet does not belong to it. If we add to this what Herbart, in speaking of the future condition of the soul, after the putting off of the body, affirms respecting the meaning of the term body, in relation to the soul and its experiences, we can hardly escape the conviction, that he would not have been opposed to an extension of his doctrine in the sense that we are now aiming at. Since, then, my philosophy has inherited the results of those who have preceded me with the full consciousness of their worth and their signification, how could it fail to acknowledge the necessary conclusion to which they give rise? And if it has on that account gained the reproach of an overstrained idealism, and an almost ascetic depreciation of the body and the senses, those who are inclined to such speculations will now have the opportunity to consider where the force of their opposition really lies;—whether in the nature of the subject itself, which, they imagine, excludes such a view, on the ground of experience, or whether in the indolence of adopted prejudices, which pursue the theory into its ultimate results. For this at least must be conceded to me—that what I have maintained is not affirmed simply on the basis of a mere a priori theory, but on the ground of real facts, and for the sake of their due explication. The only alternative left, therefore, is either to give up the results of all past psychological study, and consider them as altogether worthless; or to enter into a searching criticism of the principles to which our philosophy has consecutively brought us. These principles, we repeat, are not arbitrary, but have been obtained by a consecutive development of the fruits of the past.*

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