German idealism

German idealism

Overview
German idealism was a philosophical movement
Philosophical movement
A philosophical movement is either the appearance or increased popularity of a specific school of philosophy, or a fairly broad but identifiable sea-change in philosophical thought on a particular subject...

 that emerged in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

 in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment. The best-known thinkers in the movement, besides Kant, were Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher. He was one of the founding figures of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, a movement that developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant...

, Friedrich Schelling, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

, while Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi was an influential German philosopher, literary figure, socialite and the younger brother of poet Johann Georg Jacobi...

, Gottlob Ernst Schulze
Gottlob Ernst Schulze
Gottlob Ernst Schulze was born in Heldrungen . Schulze was a professor at Wittenberg, Helmstedt, and Göttingen...

, Karl Leonhard Reinhold
Karl Leonhard Reinhold
Karl Leonhard Reinhold was an Austrian philosopher. He was the father of Ernst Reinhold, also a philosopher.-Life:...

, and Friedrich Schleiermacher were also major contributors.


The word "idealism" has more than one meaning.
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Encyclopedia
German idealism was a philosophical movement
Philosophical movement
A philosophical movement is either the appearance or increased popularity of a specific school of philosophy, or a fairly broad but identifiable sea-change in philosophical thought on a particular subject...

 that emerged in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It developed out of the work of Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

 in the 1780s and 1790s, and was closely linked both with romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment. The best-known thinkers in the movement, besides Kant, were Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher. He was one of the founding figures of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, a movement that developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant...

, Friedrich Schelling, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

, while Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi was an influential German philosopher, literary figure, socialite and the younger brother of poet Johann Georg Jacobi...

, Gottlob Ernst Schulze
Gottlob Ernst Schulze
Gottlob Ernst Schulze was born in Heldrungen . Schulze was a professor at Wittenberg, Helmstedt, and Göttingen...

, Karl Leonhard Reinhold
Karl Leonhard Reinhold
Karl Leonhard Reinhold was an Austrian philosopher. He was the father of Ernst Reinhold, also a philosopher.-Life:...

, and Friedrich Schleiermacher were also major contributors.

Meaning of idealism



The word "idealism" has more than one meaning. The philosophical meaning of idealism here is that the properties we discover in objects depend on the way that those objects appear to us as perceiving subjects, and not something they possess "in themselves," apart from our experience of them. The very notion of a "thing in itself" should be understood as an option of a set of functions for an operating mind, such that we consider something that appears without respect to the specific manner in which it appears. The question of what properties a thing might have "independently of the mind" is thus incoherent for Idealism .

Background


Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

 (1724–1804) is sometimes considered the first of the German idealists. Kant's work purported to bridge the two dominant philosophical schools in the 18th century: 1) rationalism
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

, which held that knowledge could be attained by reason alone a priori
A priori and a posteriori (philosophy)
The terms a priori and a posteriori are used in philosophy to distinguish two types of knowledge, justifications or arguments...

(prior to experience), and 2) empiricism
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

, which held that knowledge could be arrived at only through the senses a posteriori (after experience). Kant's solution was to propose that while we could know particular facts about the world only via sensory experience, we could know the form they must take prior to any experience. That is, we cannot know what objects we will encounter, but we can know how we will encounter them. Kant called his mode of philosophising "critical philosophy
Critical philosophy
Attributed to Immanuel Kant, the critical philosophy movement sees the primary task of philosophy as criticism rather than justification of knowledge; criticism, for Kant, meant judging as to the possibilities of knowledge before advancing to knowledge itself...

", in that it was supposedly less concerned with setting out positive doctrine than with critiquing the limits to the theories we can set out. The conclusion he presented, as above, he called "transcendental idealism
Transcendental idealism
Transcendental idealism is a doctrine founded by German philosopher Immanuel Kant in the eighteenth century. Kant's doctrine maintains that human experience of things is similar to the way they appear to us — implying a fundamentally subject-based component, rather than being an activity that...

". This distinguished it from earlier "idealism", such as George Berkeley
George Berkeley
George Berkeley , also known as Bishop Berkeley , was an Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called "immaterialism"...

's, which held that we can only directly know the ideas in our minds, not the objects that they represent. Kant said that there are things-in-themselves, noumena
Noumena
Noumena is a melodic death metal band from Finland. The band's name comes from the word noumenon, a philosophical term used by Immanuel Kant. The band consists of five members: vocalist Antti Haapanen, guitarists Tuukka Tuomela and Ville Lamminaho, bass guitarist Hannu Savolainen and drummer Ilkka...

, that is, things that exist other than being merely sensations and ideas in our minds. Kant held in the Critique of Pure Reason
Critique of Pure Reason
The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, first published in 1781, second edition 1787, is considered one of the most influential works in the history of philosophy. Also referred to as Kant's "first critique," it was followed by the Critique of Practical Reason and the Critique of Judgement...

that the world of appearances (phenomena) is empirically real and transcendentally ideal. The mind plays a central role in influencing the way that the world is experienced: we perceive phenomena through time
Time
Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

, space
Space
Space is the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction. Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it, with time, to be part of a boundless four-dimensional continuum...

 and the categories of the understanding
Categories of the understanding
The categories of the understanding are used in Immanuel Kant's philosophy.Categories are a priori features of our mind that permit our sensible apprehension and ordering of representations of objects...

. It is this notion that was taken to heart by Kant's philosophical successors.

At the other end of the movement, Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

 is not normally classed as a German idealist. He considered himself to be a transcendental idealist
Transcendental idealism
Transcendental idealism is a doctrine founded by German philosopher Immanuel Kant in the eighteenth century. Kant's doctrine maintains that human experience of things is similar to the way they appear to us — implying a fundamentally subject-based component, rather than being an activity that...

. In his major work The World as Will and Representation
The World as Will and Representation
The World as Will and Representation is the central work of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. The first edition was published in December 1818, and the second expanded edition in 1844. In 1948, an abridged version was edited by Thomas Mann....

he discusses his indebtedness to Kant, and the work includes Schopenhauer's extensive analysis of the Critique. The Young Hegelians
Young Hegelians
The Young Hegelians, or Left Hegelians, were a group of Prussian intellectuals who in the decade or so after the death of Hegel in 1831, wrote and responded to his ambiguous legacy...

, a number of philosophers who developed Hegel's work in various directions, were in some cases idealists. On the other hand, Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

, who was numbered among them, had professed himself to be a materialist.

Kant's transcendental idealism consisted of taking a point of view outside of and above oneself (transcendentally) and understanding that the mind directly knows only phenomena or ideas. Whatever exists other than mental phenomena, or ideas that appear to the mind, is a thing-in-itself and cannot be directly and immediately known.

Jacobi


In 1787, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi was an influential German philosopher, literary figure, socialite and the younger brother of poet Johann Georg Jacobi...

 addressed, in his book On Faith, or Idealism and Realism, Kant's concept of "thing-in-itself." Jacobi agreed that the objective thing-in-itself cannot be directly known. However, he stated, it must be taken on faith. A subject must believe that there is a real object in the external world that is related to the representation or mental idea that is directly known. This faith or belief is a result of revelation or immediately known, but logically unproved, truth. The real existence of a thing-in-itself is revealed or disclosed to the observing subject. In this way, the subject directly knows the ideal, subjective representations that appear in the mind, and strongly believes in the real, objective thing-in-itself that exists outside of the mind. By presenting the external world as an object of faith, Jacobi legitimized belief and its theological associations. "…[B]y reducing the external world to a matter of faith, he wanted merely to open a little door for faith in general…."

Reinhold


Karl Leonhard Reinhold
Karl Leonhard Reinhold
Karl Leonhard Reinhold was an Austrian philosopher. He was the father of Ernst Reinhold, also a philosopher.-Life:...

 published two volumes of Letters Concerning the Kantian Philosophy in 1790 and 1792. They provided a clear explication of Kant's thoughts, which were previously inaccessible due to Kant's use of complex or technical language.

Reinhold also tried to prove Kant's assertion that humans and other animals can know only images that appear in their minds, never "things-in-themselves" (things that are not mere appearances in a mind). In order to establish his proof, Reinhold stated an axiom that could not possibly be doubted. From this axiom, all knowledge of consciousness could be deduced. His axiom was: "Representation is distinguished in consciousness by the subject from the subject and object, and is referred to both."

He thereby started, not from definitions, but, from a principle that referred to mental images or representations in a conscious mind. In this way, he analyzed knowledge into (1) the knowing subject, or observer, (2) the known object, and (3) the image or representation in the subject's mind. In order to understand transcendental idealism, it is necessary to reflect deeply enough to distinguish experience as consisting of these three components: subject, subject's representation of object, and object.

Schulze


Kant felt that a mental idea or representation must be of something external to the mind. He gave the name of ding an Sich, or thing-in-itself to that which is represented. However, Gottlob Ernst Schulze
Gottlob Ernst Schulze
Gottlob Ernst Schulze was born in Heldrungen . Schulze was a professor at Wittenberg, Helmstedt, and Göttingen...

 wrote, anonymously, that the law of cause and effect only applies to the phenomena within the mind, not between those phenomena and any things-in-themselves outside of the mind. That is, a thing-in-itself cannot be the cause of an idea or image of a thing in the mind. In this way, he discredited Kant's philosophy by using Kant's own reasoning to disprove the existence of a thing-in-itself.

Fichte


After Schulze had seriously criticized the notion of a thing-in-itself, Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte
Johann Gottlieb Fichte was a German philosopher. He was one of the founding figures of the philosophical movement known as German idealism, a movement that developed from the theoretical and ethical writings of Immanuel Kant...

 (1762–1814) produced a philosophy similar to Kant's, but without a thing-in-itself. Fichte asserted that our representations, ideas, or mental images are merely the productions of our ego, or knowing subject. For him, there is no external thing-in-itself that produces the ideas. On the contrary, the knowing subject, or ego, is the cause of the external thing, object, or non-ego.

Fichte's style was a challenging exaggeration of Kant's already difficult writing. Also, Fichte claimed that his truths were apparent to intellectual, non-perceptual, intuition. That is, the truth can be immediately seen by the use of reason.

Schopenhauer, a student of Fichte's, wrote of him:

Hegel


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831) was a German philosopher born in Stuttgart
Stuttgart
Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

, Württemberg
Württemberg
Württemberg , formerly known as Wirtemberg or Wurtemberg, is an area and a former state in southwestern Germany, including parts of the regions Swabia and Franconia....

, in present-day southwest Germany. Hegel responded to Kant's philosophy by suggesting that the unsolvable contradictions given by Kant in his Antinomies of Pure Reason applied not only to the four areas Kant gave (world as infinite vs. finite, material as composite vs. atomic, etc.) but in all objects and conceptions, notions and ideas. To know this he suggested makes a "vital part in a philosophical theory." Given that abstract thought is thus limited, he went on to consider how historical formations give rise to different philosophies and ways of thinking. For Hegel, thought fails when it is only given as an abstraction and is not united with considerations of historical reality. In his major work The Phenomenology of Spirit he went on to trace the formation of self-consciousness through history and the importance of other people in the awakening of self-consciousness (see master-slave dialectic
Master-slave dialectic
The Master-Slave dialectic is a famous passage of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. It is widely considered a key element in Hegel's philosophical system, and has heavily influenced many subsequent philosophers...

). Thus Hegel introduces two important ideas to metaphysics and philosophy: the integral importance of history and of the Other
Other
The Other or Constitutive Other is a key concept in continental philosophy; it opposes the Same. The Other refers, or attempts to refer, to that which is Other than the initial concept being considered...

 person. His work is theological in that it replaces the traditional concept of God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 with that of an Absolute
Absolute (philosophy)
The Absolute is the concept of an unconditional reality which transcends limited, conditional, everyday existence. It is sometimes used as an alternate term for "God" or "the Divine", especially, but by no means exclusively, by those who feel that the term "God" lends itself too easily to...

 Spirit.

Spinoza, who changed the anthropomorphic concept of God into that of an abstract, vague, underlying Substance, was praised by Hegel whose concept of Absolute fulfilled a similar function. Hegel claimed that "You are either a Spinozist or not a philosopher at all."http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/hegel/works/hp/hpspinoz.htm#p34

Hegel was hugely influential throughout the nineteenth century; by its end, according to Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Russell
Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS was a British philosopher, logician, mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life he considered himself a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things...

, "the leading academic philosophers, both in America and Britain, were largely Hegelian". His influence has continued in contemporary philosophy but mainly in Continental philosophy
Continental philosophy
Continental philosophy, in contemporary usage, refers to a set of traditions of 19th and 20th century philosophy from mainland Europe. This sense of the term originated among English-speaking philosophers in the second half of the 20th century, who used it to refer to a range of thinkers and...

. In contrast, contemporary Analytic philosophy
Analytic philosophy
Analytic philosophy is a generic term for a style of philosophy that came to dominate English-speaking countries in the 20th century...

 of the English-speaking world came about as a reaction against Hegel.

Schelling


With regard to the experience of objects, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling , later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Fichte, his mentor prior to 1800, and Hegel, his former university roommate and erstwhile friend...

 (1775–1854) claimed that the ideas or mental images in the mind are identical to the extended objects which are external to the mind. Schelling's "absolute identity" or "indifferentism" asserted that there is no difference between the subjective and the objective, that is, the ideal and the real.

In 1851, Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

 criticized Schelling's absolute identity of the subjective and the objective, or of the ideal and the real. "...[E]verything that rare minds like Locke and Kant had separated after an incredible amount of reflection and judgment, was to be again poured into the pap of that absolute identity. For the teaching of those two thinkers [Locke and Kant] may be very appropriately described as the doctrine of the absolute diversity of the ideal and the real, or of the subjective and the objective."

Schleiermacher


Friedrich Schleiermacher was a theologian who asserted that the ideal and the real are united in God. He understood the ideal as the subjective mental activities of thought, intellect, and reason. The real was, for him, the objective area of nature and physical being. Schleiermacher declared that the unity of the ideal and the real is manifested in God. The two divisions do not have a productive or causal effect on each other. Rather, they are both equally existent in the absolute transcendental entity which is God.

Schopenhauer


Schopenhauer contended that Spinoza had a great influence on post-Kantian German idealists. Schopenhauer wrote: "In consequence of Kant's criticism of all speculative theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, almost all the philosophizers in Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 cast themselves back on to Spinoza, so that the whole series of unsuccessful attempts known by the name of post-Kantian philosophy is simply Spinozism tastelessly got up, veiled in all kinds of unintelligible language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

, and otherwise twisted and distorted."

According to Schopenhauer, Kant's original philosophy, with its refutation of all speculative theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

, had been transformed by the German Idealists. Through the use of his technical terms, such as "transcendental," "transcendent," "reason," "intelligibility," and "thing-in-itself" they attempted to speak of what exists beyond experience and, in this way, to revive the notions of God, free will, and immortality of soul. Kant had effectively relegated these unknowable and inexperiencable notions to faith and belief.

Nietzsche


"Finally, to call to mind the enormous influence that 'German philosophy' —I hope you understand its right to quotation marks—has exercised throughout the whole of Europe, there is no doubt that a certain virtus dormativa [power to make sleepy] had a share in it: it was a delight to the noble idlers, the virtuous, the mystics, artists, three–quarter Christians, and political obscurantists of all nations, to find, thanks to German philosophy, an antidote to the still predominant sensualism which overflowed from the last century into this, in short—' sensus assoupire ' [to put the senses to sleep]." The German Idealists claimed that all knowledge is not necessarily based on the senses. They declared that humans have "…a faculty for the 'suprasensible': Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling , later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German idealism, situating him between Fichte, his mentor prior to 1800, and Hegel, his former university roommate and erstwhile friend...

 christened it intellectual intuition…." This special faculty is supposed to allow direct, non–sensual insight, through the use of reason
Reason
Reason is a term that refers to the capacity human beings have to make sense of things, to establish and verify facts, and to change or justify practices, institutions, and beliefs. It is closely associated with such characteristically human activities as philosophy, science, language, ...

, into the innermost nature of things.

19th century United States


"German idealism was initially introduced to the broader community of American literati through a Vermont
Vermont
Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state ranks 43rd in land area, , and 45th in total area. Its population according to the 2010 census, 630,337, is the second smallest in the country, larger only than Wyoming. It is the only New England...

 intellectual, James Marsh. Studying theology with Moses Stuart
Moses Stuart
Moses Stuart , an American biblical scholar, was born in Wilton, Connecticut.-Life and career:He was reared on a farm graduating with highest honours at Yale in 1799; in 1802 he was admitted to the Connecticut bar and was appointed as a tutor at Yale, where he remained for two years...

 at Andover Seminary
Andover Newton Theological School
Andover Newton Theological School is a graduate school and seminary located in Newton, Massachusetts. It is America's oldest graduate seminary and the nation's first graduate institution of any kind...

 in the early 1820s, Marsh sought a Christian
Christian
A Christian is a person who adheres to Christianity, an Abrahamic, monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament...

 theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 that would 'keep alive the heart in the head.' " Some American theologians and churchmen found value in German Idealism's theological concept of the infinite Absolute Ideal or Geist
Geist
Geist is a German word. Depending on context it can be translated as the English words mind, spirit, or ghost, covering the semantic field of these three English nouns...

[Spirit]. It provided a religious alternative to the traditional Christian concept of the Deity
Deity
A deity is a recognized preternatural or supernatural immortal being, who may be thought of as holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, and respected by believers....

. "…[P]ost–Kantian idealism can certainly be viewed as a religious school of thought…." The Absolute Ideal Weltgeist [World Spirit] was invoked by American ministers as they "turned to German idealism in the hope of finding comfort against English positivism and empiricism." German idealism was a substitute for religion after the Civil War when "Americans were drawn to German idealism because of a 'loss of faith in traditional cosmic explanations.' " "By the early 1870s, the infiltration of German idealism was so pronounced that Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

 declared in his personal notes that 'Only Hegel is fit for America — is large enough and free enough.' "

Thomas Hill Green


In England, during the nineteenth century, philosopher Thomas Hill Green
Thomas Hill Green
Thomas Hill Green was an English philosopher, political radical and temperance reformer, and a member of the British idealism movement. Like all the British idealists, Green was influenced by the metaphysical historicism of G.W.F. Hegel...

 embraced German Idealism in order to salvage Christian monotheism
Monotheism
Monotheism is the belief in the existence of one and only one god. Monotheism is characteristic of the Baha'i Faith, Christianity, Druzism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Samaritanism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.While they profess the existence of only one deity, monotheistic religions may still...

 as a basis for morality. His philosophy attempted to account for an eternal consciousness or mind
Mind
The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

 that was similar to Berkeley
George Berkeley
George Berkeley , also known as Bishop Berkeley , was an Irish philosopher whose primary achievement was the advancement of a theory he called "immaterialism"...

's concept of God
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 and Hegel's Absolute
Absolute (philosophy)
The Absolute is the concept of an unconditional reality which transcends limited, conditional, everyday existence. It is sometimes used as an alternate term for "God" or "the Divine", especially, but by no means exclusively, by those who feel that the term "God" lends itself too easily to...

. John Rodman, in the introduction to his book on Thomas Hill Green's political theory, wrote: "Green is best seen as an exponent of German idealism as an answer to the dilemma posed by the discrediting of Christianity…."

Ortega y Gasset


According to José Ortega y Gasset
José Ortega y Gasset
José Ortega y Gasset was a Spanish liberal philosopher and essayist working during the first half of the 20th century while Spain oscillated between monarchy, republicanism and dictatorship. He was, along with Nietzsche, a proponent of the idea of perspectivism.-Biography:José Ortega y Gasset was...

, with Post–Kantian German Idealism, "…never before has a lack of truthfulness played such a large and important role in philosophy." "They did whatever they felt like doing with concepts. As if by magic they changed anything into any other thing." According to Ortega y Gasset, "…the basic force behind their work was not strictly and exclusively the desire for truth…." Ortega y Gasset quoted Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

's Parerga and Paralipomena, Volume II, in which Schopenhauer wrote that Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel forgot "the fact that one can feel an authentic and bitter seriousness" for philosophy. Schopenhauer, in Ortega y Gasset's quote, hoped that philosophers like those three men could learn "true and fruitful seriousness, such that the problem of existence would capture the thinker and bestir his innermost being."

Santayana


George Santayana
George Santayana
George Santayana was a philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist. A lifelong Spanish citizen, Santayana was raised and educated in the United States and identified himself as an American. He wrote in English and is generally considered an American man of letters...

 had strongly held opinions regarding this attempt to overcome the effects of Kant's transcendental idealism.

G. E. Moore and spiritualism


In the first sentence of his The Refutation of Idealism, G. E. Moore wrote: "Modern Idealism, if it asserts any general conclusion about the universe at all, asserts that it is spiritual." This was in contrast to Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

's contention that spiritualism
Spiritualism
Spiritualism is a belief system or religion, postulating the belief that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living...

, devised merely as a way to avoid materialism
Materialism
In philosophy, the theory of materialism holds that the only thing that exists is matter; that all things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions. In other words, matter is the only substance...

, is not related to idealism. Schopenhauer wrote that "the assumption was made of a second substance, outside and along with matter, namely an immaterial substance." In claiming that "spiritualism is the specious and false safeguard against materialism," Schopenhauer asserted that "the real and true safeguard [against materialism] is idealism." Schopenhauer's idealism, however, was Kantian
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

 transcendental idealism
Transcendental idealism
Transcendental idealism is a doctrine founded by German philosopher Immanuel Kant in the eighteenth century. Kant's doctrine maintains that human experience of things is similar to the way they appear to us — implying a fundamentally subject-based component, rather than being an activity that...

, not the German Idealism or Absolute Idealism of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel. According to Kant's idealism, "[w]hat is proved is not, as in spiritualism, the knower's independence of matter, but the dependence of all matter on the knower."

Popper


Karl Popper
Karl Popper
Sir Karl Raimund Popper, CH FRS FBA was an Austro-British philosopher and a professor at the London School of Economics...

 claimed that "It was Kant's criticism of all attempts to prove the existence of God which led to the romantic reaction of Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel.… With the romantics, a new kind of dogmatism becomes fashionable…." German Idealism is oracular, according to Popper. "It confronts us with its dictum. And we can take it or leave it."

Žižek


German Idealism is claimed to be the basis of Žižek
Slavoj Žižek
Slavoj Žižek is a Slovenian philosopher, critical theorist working in the traditions of Hegelianism, Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis. He has made contributions to political theory, film theory, and theoretical psychoanalysis....

's academic doctrines. He professed that "the core of my entire work is the endeavour to … reactualize German idealism". (See The Žižek Reader) The reason Žižek thinks German idealism needs reactualizing is that we are thought to understand it in one way, whereas the truth of it is something else. The term "reactualizing" refers to the fact that there are different possible ways to interpret German idealism, and Žižek wishes to make "actual" one of those possibilities in distinction to the way it is currently realized. At its most basic, German idealism believes that the truth of something could be found in itself. For Žižek, the fundamental insight of German idealism is that the truth of something is always outside it. So the truth of our experience lies outside ourselves, in the Symbolic and the Real, rather than being buried deep within us. We cannot look into our selves and find out who we truly are, because who we truly are is always elsewhere. Our selves are somewhere else in the Symbolic formations which always precede us and in the Real which we have to disavow if we are to enter the Symbolic order.

See also

  • Johann Gottfried Herder
    Johann Gottfried Herder
    Johann Gottfried von Herder was a German philosopher, theologian, poet, and literary critic. He is associated with the periods of Enlightenment, Sturm und Drang, and Weimar Classicism.-Biography:...

  • Salomon Maimon
    Salomon Maimon
    Salomon ben Josua Maimon was a German philosopher born of Jewish parentage in Belarus.-Early years:...

  • Friedrich Schiller
    Friedrich Schiller
    Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller was a German poet, philosopher, historian, and playwright. During the last seventeen years of his life , Schiller struck up a productive, if complicated, friendship with already famous and influential Johann Wolfgang von Goethe...

  • British Idealism
    British idealism
    A species of absolute idealism, British idealism was a philosophical movement that was influential in Britain from the mid-nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. The leading figures in the movement were T.H. Green , F. H. Bradley , and Bernard Bosanquet . They were succeeded by the...


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