History of Literature, Fhilosophy and Religions

(contents)


Part III

A Brief History of Western Philosophy

Introduction Phylosophy

The nature of Western philosophy

Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy
 

Medieval philosophy
 

Renaissance philosophy

Modern philosophy

Contemporary philosophy


 

Western Philosophy
 

 

 




 

 
 

 

 


Western philosophy

Encyclopaedia Britannica
 

 
 
 
 


Western philosophy


History of Western philosophy from its development among the ancient Greeks to the present.

 




Modern philosophy





Modern philosophy » The 19th century » Independent and irrationalist movements

At the end of the 19th century there was a flowering of many independent philosophical movements. Although by then Hegel had been nearly forgotten in Germany, a Hegelian renaissance was under way in England, led by T.H. Green, F.H. Bradley, and Bernard Bosanquet. Bradley’s Appearance and Reality (1893) constituted the high-water mark of the rediscovery of Hegel’s dialectical method. In America a strong reaction against idealism fostered the pragmatic movement, led by Charles Sanders Peirce and William James. Peirce, a logician, held that the function of all inquiry is to eradicate doubt and that the meaning of a concept consists of its practical consequences. James transformed Peirce’s pragmatic theory of meaning into a pragmatic theory of truth; in his The Will to Believe (1897), he asserted that human beings have a right to believe even in the face of inconclusive evidence and that, because knowledge is essentially an instrument, the practical consequences of a belief are the real test of its truth: true beliefs are those that work. Meanwhile, in Austria, Franz Brentano (1838–1917), who taught at the University of Vienna from 1874 to 1895, and Alexius Meinong (1853–1920), who taught at Graz, were developing an empirical psychology and a theory of intentional objects  that were to have considerable influence upon the new movement of phenomenology.

However, it was not any of these late 19th-century developments but rather the emphasis on the irrational, which started almost at the century’s beginning, that gave the philosophy of the period its peculiar flavour. Hegel, despite his commitment to systematic metaphysics, had nevertheless carried on the Enlightenment tradition of faith in human rationality. But soon his influence was challenged from two different directions. The Danish Christian thinker Søren Kierkegaard criticized the logical pretensions of the Hegelian system; and one of his contemporaries, Arthur Schopenhauer, himself a German idealist and constructor of a bold and imaginative system, contradicted Hegel by asserting that the irrational is the truly real.

Kierkegaard’s criticism of Hegel was an appeal to the concrete as against the abstract. He satirized Hegelian rationalism as a perfect example of “the academic in philosophy”—of detached, objective, abstract theorizing and system building that was blind to the realities of human existence and to its subjective, living, emotional character. What a human being requires in life, said Kierkegaard, is not infinite inquiry but the boldness of resolute decision and commitment. The human essence is not to be found in thinking but in the existential conditions of emotional life, in anxiety and despair. The titles of three of Kierkegaard’s books—Fear and Trembling (1843), The Concept of Dread (1844), and The Sickness unto Death (1849)—indicate his preoccupation with states of consciousness quite unlike cognition.

For a short time Schopenhauer competed unsuccessfully with Hegel at the University of Berlin; thereafter he withdrew to spend the rest of his life in battle against academic philosophy. His own system, though orderly and carefully worked out, was expressed in vivid and engaging language. Schopenhauer agreed with Kant that the world of appearances, of phenomena, is governed by the conditions of space, time, and causality. But he held that science, which investigates the phenomenal world, cannot penetrate the real world behind appearances, which is dominated by a strong, blind, striving, universal cosmic Will that expresses itself in the vagaries of human instinct, in sexual striving, and in the wild uncertainties of animal behaviour. Everywhere in nature one sees strife, conflict, and inarticulate impulse; and these, rather than rational processes or intellectual clarity, are humankind’s true points of contact with ultimate reality.

Friedrich Nietzsche, the third member of the irrationalist triumvirate, was a prolific but unsystematic writer, presenting his patchwork of ideas in swift atoms of thought. Nietzsche viewed the task of the philosopher as destroying old values, creating new ideals, and through them erecting a new civilization. He agreed with Schopenhauer that mind is an instrument of instinct to be used in the service of life and power, and he held that illusion is as necessary to human beings as truth. Nietzsche spent much time analyzing emotional states such as resentment, guilt, bad conscience, and self-contempt.

Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche provided for the 19th century a new, nonrational conception of human nature, and they viewed the mind not as open to rational introspection but as dark, obscure, hidden, and deep. But above all they initiated a new style of philosophizing. Schopenhauer wrote like an 18th-century essayist, Kierkegaard was a master of the methods of irony and paradox, and Nietzsche used aphorism and epigram in a self-consciously literary manner. For them, the philosopher should be less a crabbed academician than a man of letters.
 



T. H. Green
British educator and philosopher

born April 7, 1836, Birkin, Yorkshire, Eng.
died March 26, 1882, Oxford, Oxfordshire

Main
English educator, political theorist, and Idealist philosopher of the so-called Neo-Kantian school. Through his teaching, Green exerted great influence on philosophy in late 19th-century England. Most of his life centred at Oxford, where he was educated, elected a fellow in 1860, served as a lecturer, and in 1878 was appointed professor of moral philosophy. His lectures provided the basis for his most significant works, Prolegomena to Ethics (1883) and Lectures on the Principles of Political Obligation, published in the collected Works, 3 vol. (1885–88).

Green’s metaphysics begins with the question of man’s relation to nature. Man, he said, is self-conscious. The simplest mental act involves consciousness of changes and of distinctions between the self and the object observed. To know, Green asserted, is to be aware of relations between objects. Above man—who can know only a small portion of such relations—is God. This “principle which renders all relations possible and is itself determined by none of them” is an eternal self-consciousness.

Green based his ethics on the spiritual nature of man. He maintained that man’s determination to act upon his reflections is an “act of will” and is not externally determined by God or any other factor. According to Green, freedom is not the supposed ability to do anything desired but is the power to identify one’s self with the good that reason reveals as one’s own true good.

Green’s political philosophy enlarged upon his ethical system. Ideally, political institutions embody the community’s moral ideas and help develop the character of individual citizens. Although existing institutions do not fully realize the common ideal, the analysis that exposes their deficiencies also indicates the path of true development. His original view of personal self-realization also contained the notion of political obligation, for citizens intent upon realizing themselves will act as if by duty to improve the institutions of the state. Because the state represents the “general will” and is not a timeless entity, citizens have the moral right to rebel against it in the state’s own interest when the general will becomes subverted.

Green’s influence on English philosophy was complemented by his social influence—in part through his efforts to bring the universities into closer touch with practical and political affairs and in part through his attempt to reformulate political liberalism so that it laid more stress on the need for positive actions by the state than on the negative rights of the individual. His address “Liberal Legislation and Freedom of Contract” (1881) gave early expression to ideas central to the modern “welfare state.”

 





 
 



F. H. Bradley
British philosopher

born Jan. 30, 1846, Clapham, Surrey, Eng.
died Sept. 18, 1924, Oxford

Main
influential English philosopher of the absolute Idealist school, which based its doctrines on the thought of G.W.F. Hegel and considered mind to be a more fundamental feature of the universe than matter.

Elected to a fellowship at Merton College, Oxford, in 1870, Bradley soon became ill with a kidney disease that made him a semi-invalid for the rest of his life. Because his fellowship involved no teaching duties and because he never married, he was able to devote the major part of his life to writing. He was awarded Britain’s Order of Merit, the first English philosopher to receive the distinction.

In his early work Bradley participated in the growing attack upon the Empiricist theories of English thinkers such as John Stuart Mill and drew heavily on Hegel’s ideas. In Ethical Studies (1876), Bradley’s first major work, he sought to expose the confusions apparent in Mill’s doctrine of Utilitarianism, which urged maximum human happiness as the goal of ethical behaviour. In The Principles of Logic (1883), Bradley denounced the deficient psychology of the Empiricists, whose logic was limited, in his view, to the doctrine of the association of ideas held in the human mind. He gave Hegel due credit for borrowed ideas in both books, but he never embraced Hegelianism thoroughly.

Bradley’s most ambitious work, Appearance and Reality: A Metaphysical Essay (1893), was, in his own words, a “critical discussion of first principles,” meant “to stimulate inquiry and doubt.” The book disappointed his followers, who expected a vindication of the truths of religion. While reality is indeed spiritual, he maintained, a detailed demonstration of the notion is beyond human capacity. If for no other reason, the demonstration is impossible because of the fatally abstract nature of human thought. Instead of ideas, which could not properly contain reality, he recommended feeling, the immediacy of which could embrace the harmonious nature of reality. His admirers were disappointed as well by his discussion of worship and the soul. He declared that religion is not a “final and ultimate” matter but, instead, a matter of practice; the philosopher’s absolute idea is incompatible with the God of religious men.

The effect of Appearance and Reality was to encourage rather than to dispel doubt, and the following that Bradley had gained through his work in ethics and logic became disenchanted. Thus, the most influential aspect of his work has been the negative and critical one because of his skill as a polemical writer. Bertrand Russell and G.E. Moore, who led the attack on Idealism, both benefitted from his sharp dialectic. Modern critics value him less for his conclusions than for the manner in which he reached them, via a ruthless search for truth. In addition to original work in philosophical psychology, Bradley wrote The Presuppositions of Critical History (1874) and Essays on Truth and Reality (1914). His psychological essays and minor writings were combined in Collected Essays (2 vol., 1935).

 





 
 



Bernard Bosanquet
British philosopher

born June 14, 1848, Alnwick, Northumberland, Eng.
died Feb. 8, 1923, London

Main
philosopher who helped revive in England the idealism of G.W.F. Hegel and sought to apply its principles to social and political problems.

Made a fellow of University College, Oxford, in 1870, Bosanquet was a tutor there until 1881, when he moved to London to devote himself to philosophical writing and to work on behalf of the Charity Organisation Society. He was professor of moral philosophy at St. Andrews University in Scotland (1903–08).

Although Bosanquet owed much to Hegel, his first writings were influenced by the 19th-century German philosopher Rudolf Lotze, whose Logik and Metaphysik he had edited in English translation in 1884. The fundamental principles of such early works as Knowledge and Reality (1885) and Logic (1888) were further explicated in his Essentials of Logic (1895) and Implication and Linear Inference (1920), which stress the central role of logical thought in systematically addressing philosophical problems.

Bosanquet’s debt to Hegel is more evident in his works on ethics, aesthetics, and metaphysics. Having translated in 1886 the introduction to Hegel’s Philosophy of Fine Art, he proceeded to his own History of Aesthetic (1892) and Three Lectures on Aesthetic (1915). Both reflect his belief that aesthetics can reconcile the natural and the supernatural worlds. As elsewhere in his work, Bosanquet revealed his distaste for the materialism of his day and favoured the neo-Hegelian antidote, which held that everything considered to be real is a manifestation of a spiritual absolute.

Bosanquet’s ethical and social philosophy, particularly the practical work Some Suggestions in Ethics (1918), shows a similar desire to view reality coherently, as a concrete unity in which pleasure and duty, egoism and altruism are reconciled. He asserted that the same passion shown by Plato for the unity of the universe reappeared in Christianity as the doctrine of the divine spirit manifesting itself in human society. Social life requires a communal will that both grows out of individual cooperation and maintains the individual in a state of freedom and social satisfaction. This view is expounded in Philosophical Theory of the State (1899) and in Social and International Ideals (1917).

Basing his metaphysics on Hegel’s concept of the dynamic quality of human knowledge and experience, Bosanquet emphasized the interrelated character of the content and the object of human thought. Thought, he wrote in Three Chapters on the Nature of Mind (1923), is “the development of connections” and “the sense of the whole.”

 





 
 



Charles Sanders Peirce
American philosopher and scientist

born Sept. 10, 1839, Cambridge, Mass., U.S.
died April 19, 1914, near Milford, Pa.

Main
American scientist, logician, and philosopher who is noted for his work on the logic of relations and on pragmatism as a method of research.

Life.
Peirce was one of four sons of Sarah Mills and Benjamin Peirce, who was Perkins professor of astronomy and mathematics at Harvard University. After graduating from Harvard College in 1859 and spending one year with field parties of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, Peirce entered the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University, from which, in 1863, he graduated summa cum laude in chemistry. Meanwhile, he had reentered the Survey in 1861 as a computing aide to his father, who had undertaken the task of determining, from observations of lunar occultations of the Pleiades, the longitudes of American survey points with respect to European ones. Much of his early astronomical work for the Survey was done in the Harvard Observatory, in whose Annals (1878) there appeared his Photometric Researches (concerning a more precise determination of the shape of the Milky Way Galaxy).

In 1871 his father obtained an appropriation to initiate a geodetic connection between the surveys of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. This cross-continental triangulation lent urgency to the need for a gravimetric survey of North America directed toward a more precise determination of the Earth’s ellipticity, a project that Charles was to supervise. In pursuit of this project, Peirce contributed to the theory and practice of pendulum swinging as a means of measuring the force of gravity. The need to make accurate measurements of lengths in his pendulum researches, in turn, led him to make a pioneer determination of the length of the metre in terms of a wavelength of light (1877–79). Between 1873 and 1886 Peirce conducted pendulum experiments at about 20 stations in Europe and the United States and (through deputies) at several other places, including Grinnell Land in the Canadian Arctic.

Though his experimental and theoretical work on gravity determinations had won international recognition for both him and the Survey, he was in frequent disagreement with its administrators from 1885 onward. The amount of time he took for the careful preparation of reports was ascribed to procrastination. His “Report on Gravity at the Smithsonian, Ann Arbor, Madison, and Cornell” (written 1889) was never published, because of differences concerning its form and content. He finally resigned as of the end of 1891, and, from then until his death in 1914, he had no regular employment or income. For some years he was a consulting chemical engineer, mathematician, and inventor.

Peirce was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1867 and a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1877. He presented 34 papers before the latter from 1878 to 1911, nearly a third of them in logic (others were in mathematics, physics, geodesy, spectroscopy, and experimental psychology). He was elected a member of the London Mathematical Society in 1880.


Work in logic.
Though Peirce’s career was in physical science, his ambitions were in logic. By the age of 31, he had published a number of technical papers in that field, besides papers and reviews in chemistry, philology, the philosophy of history and of religion, and the history of philosophy. He had also given two series of Harvard University lectures and one of Lowell Institute lectures, all in logic. Though Peirce aspired to a university chair of logical research, no such chair existed, and none was created for him: the day of logic had not yet come. His nearest approach to this ambition occurred at Johns Hopkins University, where he held a lectureship in logic from 1879 to 1884 while retaining his position in the Survey.

Logic in its widest sense he identified with semiotics, the general theory of signs. He laboured over the distinction between two kinds of action: sign action, or semiosis, and dynamic, or mechanical, action. His major work, unfinished, was to have been entitled A System of Logic, Considered as Semiotic.

Although he made eminent contributions to deductive, or mathematical, logic, Peirce was a student primarily of “the logic of science”—i.e., of induction and of what he referred to as “retroduction,” or “abduction,” the forming and accepting on probation of a hypothesis to explain surprising facts. His lifelong ambition was to establish abduction and induction firmly and permanently along with deduction in the very conception of logic—each of them clearly distinguished from the other two, yet positively related to them. It was for the sake of logic that Peirce so diversified his scientific researches, for he considered that the logician should ideally possess an insider’s acquaintance with the methods and reasonings of all the sciences.


Work in philosophy
Peirce’s Pragmatism was first elaborated in a series of “Illustrations of the Logic of Science” in the Popular Science Monthly in 1877–78. The scientific method, he argued, is one of several ways of fixing beliefs. Beliefs are essentially habits of action. It is characteristic of the method of science that it makes its ideas clear in terms first of the sensible effects of their objects, and second of habits of action adjusted to those effects. Here, for example, is how the mineralogist makes the idea of hardness clear: the sensible effect of x being harder than y is that x will scratch y and not be scratched by it; and believing that x is harder than y means habitually using x to scratch y (as in dividing a sheet of glass) and keeping x away from y when y is to remain unscratched. By the same method Peirce tried to give equal clarity to the much more complex, difficult, and important idea of probability. In his Harvard lectures of 1903, he identified Pragmatism more narrowly with the logic of abduction. Even his evolutionary metaphysics of 1891–93 was a higher order working hypothesis by which the special sciences might be guided in forming their lower order hypotheses; thus, his more metaphysical writings, with their emphases on chance and continuity, were but further illustrations of the logic of science.

When Pragmatism became a popular movement in the early 1900s, Peirce was dissatisfied both with all of the forms of Pragmatism then current and with his own original exposition of it, and his last productive years were devoted in large part to its radical revision and systematic completion and to the proof of the principle of what he by then had come to call “pragmaticism.”

His “one contribution to philosophy,” he thought, was his “new list of categories” analogous to Kant’s a priori forms of the understanding, which he reduced from 12 to 3: Quality, Relation, and Representation. In later writings he sometimes called them Quality, Reaction, and Mediation; and finally, Firstness, Secondness, and Thirdness. At first he called them concepts; later, irreducible elements of concepts—the univalent, bivalent, and trivalent elements. They appear in that order, for example, in his division of the modalities into possibility, actuality, and necessity; in his division of signs into icons, indexes, and symbols; in the division of symbols into terms, propositions, and arguments; and in his division of arguments into abductions, inductions, and deductions. The primary function of the new list was to give systematic support to this last division.

Peirce was twice married: first in 1862 to Harriet Melusina Fay, who left him in 1876, and second in 1883 to Juliette Pourtalai (née Froissy). There were no children of either marriage. For the last 26 years of his life, he and Juliette lived on a farm on the Delaware River near Milford, Pa. He called himself a bucolic logician, a recluse for logic’s sake. He lived his last years in serious illness and in abject poverty relieved only by aid from such friends as William James.


 





 
 



William James
American psychologist and philosopher

born Jan. 11, 1842, New York, N.Y., U.S.
died Aug. 26, 1910, Chocorua, N.H.

Main
American philosopher and psychologist, a leader of the philosophical movement of Pragmatism and of the psychological movement of functionalism.

Early life and education
James was the eldest son of Henry James, an idiosyncratic and voluble man whose philosophical interests attracted him to the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg. One of William’s brothers was the novelist Henry James. The elder Henry James held an “antipathy to all ecclesiasticisms which he expressed with abounding scorn and irony throughout all his later years.” Both his physical and his spiritual life were marked by restlessness and wanderings, largely in Europe, that affected the training of his children at school and their education at home. Building upon the works of Swedenborg, which had been proffered as a revelation from God for a new age of truth and reason in religion, the elder James had constructed a system of his own that seems to have served him as a vision of spiritual life. This philosophy provided the permanent intellectual atmosphere of William’s home life, to some degree compensating for the undisciplined irregularity of his schooling, which ranged from New York to Boulogne, Fr., and to Geneva and back. The habits acquired in dealing with his father’s views at dinner and at tea carried over into the extraordinarily sympathetic yet critical manner that William displayed in dealing with anybody’s views on any occasion.

When James was 18 years of age he tried his hand at studying art, under the tutelage of William M. Hunt, an American painter of religious subjects. But he soon tired of it and the following year entered the Lawrence Scientific School of Harvard University. From courses in chemistry, anatomy, and similar subjects there, he went to the study of medicine in the Harvard Medical School; but he interrupted this study in order to accompany the eminent naturalist Louis Agassiz, in the capacity of assistant, on an expedition to the Amazon. There James’s health failed, and his duties irked him. He returned to the medical school for a term and then during 1867–68 went to Germany for courses with the physicist and physiologist Hermann von Helmholtz, who formulated the law of the conservation of energy; with Rudolf Virchow, a pathologist; with Claude Bernard, the foremost experimentalist of 19th-century medicine; and with others. At the same time he read widely in the psychology and philosophy then current, especially the writings of Charles Renouvier, a Kantian Idealist and relativist.

The acquaintance with Renouvier was a focal point in James’s personal and intellectual history. He seems from adolescence to have been a delicate boy, always ailing, and at this period of his stay in Germany he suffered a breakdown, with thoughts of suicide. When he returned home in November 1868, after 18 months in Germany, he was still ill. Though he took the degree of M.D. at the Harvard Medical School in June 1869, he was unable to begin practice. Between that date and 1872 he lived in a state of semi-invalidism in his father’s house, doing nothing but reading and writing an occasional review. Early in this period he experienced a sort of phobic panic, which persisted until the end of April 1870. It was relieved, according to his own statement, by the reading of Renouvier on free will and the decision that “my first act of free will shall be to believe in free will.” The decision carried with it the abandonment of all determinisms—both the scientific kind that his training had established for him and that seems to have had some relation to his neurosis and the theological, metaphysical kind that he later opposed in the notion of “the block universe.” His revolutionary discoveries in psychology and philosophy, his views concerning the methods of science, the qualities of men, and the nature of reality all seem to have received a definite propulsion from this resolution of his poignant personal problem.


Interest in psychology
In 1872 James was appointed instructor in physiology at Harvard College, in which capacity he served until 1876. But he could not be diverted from his ruling passion, and the step from teaching physiology to teaching psychology—not the traditional “mental science” but physiological psychology—was as inevitable as it was revolutionary. It meant a challenge to the vested interests of the mind, mainly theological, that were entrenched in the colleges and universities of the United States; and it meant a definite break with what Santayana called “the genteel tradition.” Psychology ceased to be mental philosophy and became a laboratory science. Philosophy ceased to be an exercise in the grammar of assent and became an adventure in methodological invention and metaphysical discovery.

With his marriage in 1878, to Alice H. Gibbens of Cambridge, Mass., a new life began for James. The old neurasthenia practically disappeared. He went at his tasks with a zest and an energy of which his earlier record had given no hint. It was as if some deeper level of his being had been tapped: his life as an originative thinker began in earnest. He contracted to produce a textbook of psychology by 1880. But the work grew under his hand, and when it finally appeared in 1890, as The Principles of Psychology, it was not a textbook but a monumental work in two great volumes, from which the textbook was condensed two years later.

The Principles, which was recognized at once as both definitive and innovating in its field, established the functional point of view in psychology. It assimilated mental science to the biological disciplines and treated thinking and knowledge as instruments in the struggle to live. At one and the same time it made the fullest use of principles of psychophysics (the study of the effect of physical processes upon the mental processes of an organism) and defended, without embracing, free will.


Interest in religion
The Principles completed, James seems to have lost interest in the subject. Creator of the first U.S. demonstrational psychological laboratory, he disliked laboratory work and did not feel himself fitted for it. He liked best the adventure of free observation and reflection. Compared with the problems of philosophy and religion, psychology seemed to him “a nasty little subject” that he was glad to have done with. His studies, which were now of the nature and existence of God, the immortality of the soul, free will and determinism, the values of life, were empirical, not dialectical; James went directly to religious experience for the nature of God, to psychical research for survival after death, to fields of belief and action for free will and determinism. He was searching out these things, not arguing foregone conclusions. Having begun to teach ethics and religion in the late 1880s, his collaboration with the psychical researchers dated even earlier. Survival after death he ultimately concluded to be unproved; but the existence of divinity he held to be established by the record of the religious experience, viewing it as a plurality of saving powers, “a more of the same quality” as oneself, with which, in a crisis, one’s personality can make saving contact. Freedom he found to be a certain looseness in the conjunction of things, so that what the future will be is not made inevitable by past history and present form; freedom, or chance, corresponds to Darwin’s “spontaneous variations.” These views were set forth in the period between 1893 and 1903 in various essays and lectures, afterward collected into works, of which the most notable is The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (1897). During this decade, which may be correctly described as James’s religious period, all of his studies were concerned with one aspect or another of the religious question.

His natural interest in religion was reinforced by the practical stimulus of an invitation to give the Gifford Lectures on natural religion at the University of Edinburgh. He was not able to deliver them until 1901–02, and their preparation focussed his labours for a number of years. His disability, involving his heart, was caused by prolonged effort and exposure during a vacation in the Adirondacks in 1898. A trip to Europe, which was to have taken up a sabbatical year away from university duties, turned into two years of invalidism. The Gifford Lectures were prepared during this distressful period. Published as The Varieties of Religious Experience (1902), they had an even greater acclaim as a book than as articles. Cautious and tentative though it was, the rich concreteness of the material and the final summary of the evidence—that the varieties of religious experience point to the existence of specific and various reservoirs of consciousness-like energies with which we can make specific contact in times of trouble—touched something fundamental in the minds of religionists and at least provided them with apologetic material not in conflict with science and scientific method. The book was the culmination of James’s interest in the psychology of religion.


Career in philosophy
James now explicitly turned his attention to the ultimate philosophic problems that had been at least marginally present along with his other interests. Already in 1898, in a lecture at the University of California on philosophical conceptions and practical results, he had formulated the theory of method known as Pragmatism. Originating in the strict analysis of the logic of the sciences that had been made in the middle 1870s by Charles Sanders Peirce, the theory underwent in James’s hands a transforming generalization. He showed how the meaning of any idea whatsoever—scientific, religious, philosophical, political, social, personal—can be found ultimately in nothing save in the succession of experiential consequences that it leads through and to; that truth and error, if they are within the reach of the mind at all, are identical with these consequences. Having made use of the pragmatic rule in his study of religious experience, he now turned it upon the ideas of change and chance, of freedom, variety, pluralism, and novelty, which, from the time he had read Renouvier, it had been his preoccupation to establish. He used the pragmatic rule in his polemic against monism and the “block universe,” which held that all of reality is of one piece (cemented, as it were, together); and he used this rule against internal relations (i.e., the notion that you cannot have one thing without having everything), against all finalities, staticisms, and completenesses. His classes rang with the polemic against absolutes, and a new vitality flowed into the veins of American philosophers. Indeed, the historic controversy over Pragmatism saved the profession from iteration and dullness.

Meanwhile (1906), James had been asked to lecture at Stanford University, in California, and he experienced there the earthquake that nearly destroyed San Francisco. The same year he delivered the Lowell Lectures in Boston, afterward published as Pragmatism: A New Name for Old Ways of Thinking (1907). Various studies appeared—“Does Consciousness Exist?” “The Thing and Its Relations,” “The Experience of Activity”—chiefly in The Journal of Philosophy; these were essays in the extension of the empirical and pragmatic method, which were collected after James’s death and published as Essays in Radical Empiricism (1912). The fundamental point of these writings is that the relations between things, holding them together or separating them, are at least as real as the things themselves; that their function is real; and that no hidden substrata are necessary to account for the clashes and coherences of the world. The Empiricism was radical because until this time even Empiricists believed in a metaphysical ground like the hidden turtle of Hindu mythology on whose back the cosmic elephant rode.

James was now the centre of a new life for philosophy in the English-speaking world. The continentals did not “get” Pragmatism; if its German opponents altogether misunderstood it, its Italian adherents—among them, of all people, the critic and devastating iconoclast Giovanni Papini—travestied it. In England it was championed by F.C.S. Schiller, in the United States by John Dewey and his school, in China by Hu Shih. In 1907 James gave his last course at Harvard. In the spring he repeated the lectures on Pragmatism at Columbia University. It was as if a new prophet had come; the lecture halls were as crowded on the last day as on the first, with people standing outside the door. Shortly afterward came an invitation to give the Hibbert Lectures at Manchester College, Oxford. These lectures, published in 1909 as A Pluralistic Universe, state, in a more systematic and less technical way than the Essays, the same essential positions. They present, in addition, certain religious overbeliefs of James’s, which further thinking—if the implications of the posthumous Some Problems of Philosophy may be trusted—was to mitigate. These overbeliefs involve a panpsychistic interpretation of experience (one that ascribes a psychic aspect to all of nature) that goes beyond radical Empiricism and the pragmatic rule into conventional metaphysics.

Home again, James found himself working, against growing physical trouble, upon the material that was partially published after his death as Some Problems of Philosophy (1911). He also collected his occasional pieces in the controversy over Pragmatism and published them as The Meaning of Truth (1909). Finally, his physical discomfort exceeded even his remarkable voluntary endurance. After a fruitless trip to Europe in search of a cure, he returned, going straight to the country home in New Hampshire, where he died in 1910.


Significance and influence
In psychology, James’s work is of course dated, but it is dated as is Galileo’s in physics or Charles Darwin’s in biology because it is the originative matrix of the great variety of new developments that are the current vogue. In philosophy, his positive work is still prophetic. The world he argued for was soon reflected in the new physics, as diversely interpreted, with its resonances from Charles Peirce, particularly by Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and the Danish quantum physicist Niels Bohr—a world of events connected with one another by kinds of next-to-next relations, a world various, manifold, changeful, originating in chance, perpetuated by habits (that the scientist calls laws), and transformed by breaks, spontaneities, and freedoms. In human nature, James believed, these visible traits of the world are equally manifest. The real specific event is the individual, whose intervention in history gives it in each case a new and unexpected turn. But in history, as in nature, the continuous flux of change and chance transforms every being, invalidates every law, and alters every ideal.

James lived his philosophy. It entered into the texture and rhythms of his rich and vivid literary style. It determined his attitude toward scientifically unaccepted therapies, such as Christian Science or mind cure, and repugnant ideals, such as militarism. It made him an anti-imperialist, a defender of the small, the variant, the unprecedented, the weak, wherever and whenever they appeared. His philosophy is too viable and subtle, too hedged, experiential, and tentative to have become the dogma of a school. It has functioned rather to implant the germs of new thought in others than to serve as a standard old system for others to repeat.

Horace M. Kallen

 





 
 



Franz Brentano
German philosopher
in full Franz Clemens Brentano

born January 16, 1838, Marienberg, Hesse-Nassau [Germany]
died March 17, 1917, Zürich, Switzerland

Main
German philosopher generally regarded as the founder of act psychology, or intentionalism, which concerns itself with the acts of the mind rather than with the contents of the mind. He was a nephew of the poet Clemens Brentano.

Brentano was ordained a Roman Catholic priest (1864) and was appointed Privatdozent (unsalaried lecturer) in philosophy (1866) and professor (1872) at the University of Würzburg. Religious doubts, exacerbated by the doctrine of papal infallibility (1870), led to his resignation from his post and the priesthood (1873).

Brentano then began writing one of his best-known and most influential works, Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkte (1874; “Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint”), in which he tried to present a systematic psychology that would be a science of the soul.

Concerned with mental processes, or acts, he revived and modernized the scholastic philosophical theory of “intentional existence,” or, as he called it, “immanent objectivity”; in psychical phenomena, he held, there is a “direction of the mind to an object” (e.g., one sees something). The object seen is said to “inexist” within the act of seeing or to have “immanent objectivity.” He suggested that, fundamentally, the mind can refer to objects by perception and ideation, including sensing and imagining; by judgment, including acts of acknowledgment, rejection, and recall; and by loving or hating, which take into account desires, intentions, wishes, and feelings. The ideas expressed in the Psychologie formed the credo of his followers and became the starting point of their work.

In 1874 Brentano was appointed professor at the University of Vienna. His decision to marry in 1880 was blocked by Austrian authorities, who refused to accept his resignation from the priesthood and, considering him still a cleric, denied him permission to marry. He was forced to resign his professorship, and he moved with his wife to Leipzig. The following year he was allowed to return to the University of Vienna as a Privatdozent, and he remained there until 1895. He enjoyed wide popularity with his students, among whom were psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, psychologist Carl Stumpf, philosopher Edmund Husserl, and Tomáš Masaryk, the founder of modern Czechoslovakia. Another major work of Brentano’s, Untersuchungen zur Sinnespsychologie (“Inquiry into Sense Psychology”), appeared in 1907. Completing his early masterwork was Von der Klassifikation der psychischen Phänomene (1911; “On the Classification of Psychological Phenomena”).

 





 
 



Alexius Meinong
Austrian philosopher and psychologist

born July 17, 1853, Lemberg, Galicia, Austrian Empire [now Lviv, Ukraine]
died Nov. 27, 1920, Graz, Austria

Main
Austrian philosopher and psychologist remembered for his contributions to axiology, or theory of values, and for his Gegenstandstheorie, or theory of objects.

After studying under the philosophical psychologist Franz Brentano from 1875 to 1878 in Vienna, he joined the faculty of philosophy at the University of Graz, where he remained as a professor from 1889 until his death. With Brentano he helped promote the Austrian school of values but eventually dissented from Brentano’s views on epistemology.

In his major work, Über Annahmen (1902; “On Assumptions”), Meinong discussed the assumptions men make in believing they know or do not know a particular truth. Like Brentano, Meinong considered intentionality, or the direction of attention to objects, to be the basic feature of mental states. Yet he drew his own distinction between two elements in every experience of the objective world: “content,” which differentiates one object from another, and “act,” by which the experience approaches its object.

Anticipating the work of the Phenomenologists, Meinong maintained that objects remain objects and have a definite character and definite properties (Sosein) even if they have no being (Sein). Thus, “golden mountain” is an object existing as a concept, even though no golden mountains exist in the world of sense experience. Bertrand Russell was among those influenced by this aspect of Meinong’s thought. Like every other type of object knowable by different mental states, values could also be classified as objects existing independently of the experience of values and of the world of sense experience. Two examples of value feeling are Seinsfreude, the experience of joy in the existence of a particular object, and Seinsleid, the experience of sadness at the object’s existence.

Meinong’s Gegenstandstheorie is discussed in his Gesammelte Abhandlungen, 2 vol. (1913–14; “Collected Treatises”), and in John N. Findlay, Meinong’s Theory of Objects (1933). His other important writings include Über Möglichkeit und Wahrscheinlichkeit (1915; “On Possibility and Probability”) and Über emotionale Präsentation (1917).

 





 
 



Søren Kierkegaard
Danish philosopher
in full Søren Aabye Kierkegaard

born May 5, 1813, Copenhagen, Den.
died Nov. 11, 1855, Copenhagen

Main
Danish philosopher, theologian, and cultural critic who was a major influence on existentialism and Protestant theology in the 20th century. He attacked the literary, philosophical, and ecclesiastical establishments of his day for misrepresenting the highest task of human existence—namely, becoming oneself in an ethical and religious sense—as something so easy that it could seem already accomplished even when it had not even been undertaken. Positively, the heart of his work lay in the infinite requirement and strenuous difficulty of religious existence in general and Christian faith in particular.

A life of collisions
Kierkegaard’s life has been called uneventful, but it was hardly that. The story of his life is a drama in four overlapping acts, each with its own distinctive crisis or “collision,” as he often referred to these events. His father, Michael Pedersen Kierkegaard, was a prosperous but retired businessman who devoted the later years of his life to raising his children. He was a man of deep but gloomy and guilt-ridden piety who was haunted by the memory of having once cursed God as a boy and of having begun his family by getting his maid pregnant—and then marrying her—shortly after the death of his first wife. His domineering presence stimulated young Søren’s imaginative and intellectual gifts but, as his son would later bear witness, made a normal childhood impossible.

Kierkegaard enrolled at the University of Copenhagen in 1830 but did not complete his studies until 1841. Like the German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), whose system he would severely criticize, Kierkegaard entered university in order to study theology but devoted himself to literature and philosophy instead. His thinking during this period is revealed in an 1835 journal entry, which is often cited as containing the germ of his later work:

The thing is to find a truth which is true for me, to find the idea for which I can live and die.…What is truth but to live for an idea?

While a student at the university, Kierkegaard explored the literary figures of Don Juan, the wandering Jew, and especially Faust, looking for existential models for his own life.

The first collision occurred during his student days: he became estranged both from his father and from the faith in which he had been brought up, and he moved out of the family home. But by 1838, just before his father’s death, he was reconciled both to his father and to the Christian faith; the latter became the idea for which he would live and die. Despite his reference to an experience of “indescribable joy” in May of that year, it should not be assumed that his conversion was instantaneous. On the one hand, he often seemed to be moving away from the faith of his father and back toward it at virtually the same time. On the other hand, he often stressed that conversion is a long process. He saw becoming a Christian as the task of a lifetime. Accordingly, he decided to publish Sygdommen til døden (1849; Sickness unto Death) under a pseudonym (as he had done with several previous works), lest anyone think he lived up to the ideal he there presented; likewise, the pseudonymous authors of his other works often denied that they possessed the faith they talked about. Although in the last year of his life he wrote, “I dare not call myself a Christian,” throughout his career it was Christianity that he sought to defend by rescuing it from cultural captivity, and it was a Christian person that he sought to become.

After his father’s death, Kierkegaard became serious about finishing his formal education. He took his doctoral exams and wrote his dissertation, Om begrebet ironi med stadigt hensyn til Socrates (On the Concept of Irony, with Constant Reference to Socrates), completing it in June of 1841 and defending it in September. In between, he broke his engagement with Regine Olsen, thus initiating the second major collision of his life. They had met in 1837, when she was only 15 years old, and had become engaged in 1840. Now, less than one year later, he returned her ring, saying he “could not make a girl happy.” The reasons for this action are far from clear.

What is clear is that this relationship haunted him for the rest of his life. Saying in his will that he considered engagement as binding as marriage, he left all his possessions to Regine (she did not accept them, however, since she had married long before Kierkegaard died). It is also clear that this crisis triggered a period of astonishing literary productivity, during which Kierkegaard published many of the works for which he is best known: Enten-Eller: et livs-fragment (1843; Either/Or: A Fragment of Life), Gjentagelsen (1843; Repetition), Frygt og baeven (1843; Fear and Trembling), Philosophiske smuler (1844; Philosophical Fragments), Begrebet angest (1844; The Concept of Anxiety), Stadier paa livets vei (1845; Stages on Life’s Way), and Afsluttende uvidenskabelig efterskrift (1846; Concluding Unscientific Postscript). Even after acknowledging that he had written these works, however, Kierkegaard insisted that they continue to be attributed to their pseudonymous authors. The pseudonyms are best understood by analogy with characters in a novel, created by the actual author to embody distinctive worldviews; it is left to the reader to decide what to make of each one.

Kierkegaard had intended to cease writing at this point and become a country pastor. But it was not to be. The first period of literary activity (1843–46) was followed by a second (1847–55). Instead of retiring, he picked a quarrel with The Corsair, a newspaper known for its liberal political sympathies but more famous as a scandal sheet that used satire to skewer the establishment. Although The Corsair had praised some of the pseudonymous works, Kierkegaard did not wish to see his own project confused with that of the newspaper, so he turned his satirical skills against it. The Corsair took the bait, and for months Kierkegaard was the target of raucous ridicule, the greatest butt of jokes in Copenhagen. Better at giving than at taking, he was deeply wounded, and indeed he never fully recovered. If the broken engagement was the cloud that hung over the first literary period, the Corsair debacle was the ghost that haunted the second.

The final collision was with the Church of Denmark (Lutheran) and its leaders, the bishops J.P. Mynster and H.L. Martensen. In his journals Kierkegaard called Sickness unto Death an “attack upon Christendom.” In a similar vein, Anti-Climacus, the pseudonymous author of Indøvelse i Christendom (1850; Training in Christianity), declared the need “again to introduce Christianity into Christendom.” This theme became more and more explicit as Kierkegaard resumed his writing career. As long as Mynster, the family pastor from his childhood, was alive, Kierkegaard refrained from personal attacks. But at Mynster’s funeral Martensen, who had succeeded to the leadership of the Danish church, eulogized his predecessor as a “witness to the truth,” linking him to the martyrs of the faith; after this Kierkegaard could no longer keep silent. In December 1854 he began to publish dozens of short, shrill pieces insisting that what passed as Christianity in Denmark was counterfeit and making clear that Mynster and Martensen were responsible for reducing the religion to “leniency.” The last of these pieces was found on Kierkegaard’s desk after he collapsed in the street in October 1855.


Stages on life’s way
In the pseudonymous works of Kierkegaard’s first literary period, three stages on life’s way, or three spheres of existence, are distinguished: the aesthetic, the ethical, and the religious. These are not developmental stages in a biological or psychological sense—a natural and all-but-automatic unfolding according to some DNA of the spirit. It is all too possible to live one’s life below the ethical and the religious levels. But there is a directionality in the sense that the earlier stages have the later ones as their telos, or goal, while the later stages both presuppose and include the earlier ones as important but subordinate moments. Kierkegaard’s writings taken as a whole, whether pseudonymous or not, focus overwhelmingly on the religious stage, giving credence to his own retrospective judgment that the entire corpus is ultimately about the religious life.

The personages Kierkegaard creates to embody the aesthetic stage have two preoccupations, the arts and the erotic. It is tempting to see the aesthete as a cultured hedonist—a fairly obvious offshoot of the Romantic movement—who accepts the distinction made by Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) between artistic and sensuous pleasure while combining them in a single existential project. But in one of the essays of Either/Or, the aesthete sees boredom as the root of all evil and is preoccupied with making life interesting; and the famous seducer in the same volume seems less concerned with sex than with the fascinating spectacle of watching himself seduce his victim.

This clue helps one both to define the aesthetic stage and to see what a stage or sphere of existence in general is. What the various goals of aesthetic existence have in common is that they have nothing to do with right and wrong. The criteria by which the good life is defined are premoral, unconcerned with good and evil. A stage or sphere of existence, then, is a fundamental project, a form of life, a mode of being-in-the-world that defines success in life by its own distinctive criteria.

What might motivate an aesthete to choose the ethical? The mere presence of guardians of the good, who are willing to scold the aesthete’s amorality as immorality, is too external, too easily dismissed as bourgeois phariseeism. Judge William, the representative of the ethical in Either/Or, tries another tack. The aesthete, he argues, fails to become a self at all but becomes, by choice, what David Hume (1711–76) said the self inevitably is: a bundle of events without an inner core to constitute identity or cohesion over time. Moreover, the aesthete fails to see that in the ethical the aesthetic is not abolished but ennobled. Judge William presents marriage as the scene of this transformation, in which, through commitment, the self acquires temporal continuity and, following Hegel, the sensuous is raised to the level of spirit.

In Fear and Trembling this ethical stage is teleologically suspended in the religious, which means not that it is abolished but that it is reduced to relative validity in relation to something absolute, which is its proper goal. For Plato (c. 428–c. 348 bc) and Kant, ethics is a matter of pure reason gaining pure insight into eternal truth. But Hegel argued that human beings are too deeply embedded in history to attain such purity and that their grasp of the right and the good is mediated by the laws and customs of the societies in which they live. It is this Hegelian ethics of socialization that preoccupies Judge William and that gets relativized in Fear and Trembling. By retelling the story of Abraham, it presents the religious stage as the choice not to allow the laws and customs of one’s people to be one’s highest norm—not to equate socialization with sanctity and salvation but to be open to a voice of greater authority, namely God.

This higher normativity does not arise from reason, as Plato and Kant would have it, but is, from reason’s point of view, absurd, paradoxical, even mad. These labels do not bother Kierkegaard, because he interprets reason as human, all too human—as the rationale of the current social order, which knows nothing higher than itself. In the language of Karl Marx (1818–83), what presents itself as reason is in fact ideology. Kierkegaard interprets Abrahamic faith as agreeing with Hegel and Marx about this historical finitude of reason, and, precisely because of this, he insists that the voice of God is an authority that is higher than the rationality of either the current establishment (Hegel) or the revolution (Marx). Against both Hegel and Marx, Kierkegaard holds that history is not the scene in which human reason overcomes this finitude and becomes the ultimate standard of truth.


Three dimensions of the religious life
The simple scheme of the three stages becomes more complex in Concluding Unscientific Postscript. The fundamental distinction is now between objectivity and subjectivity, with two examples of each. Objectivity is the name for occupying oneself with what is “out there” in such a way as to exempt oneself from the strenuous inward task of becoming a self in the ethico-religious sense. One example is the aesthetic posture, presented in earlier work; the other is the project of speculative philosophy, to which this text devotes major attention. The target is Hegelian philosophy, which takes the achievement of comprehensive, absolute knowledge to be the highest human task.

But, it is argued in the first place, speculative philosophy cannot even keep its own promises. It purports to begin without presuppositions and to conclude with a final, all-encompassing system. The very idea that thought should be without presuppositions, however, is itself a presupposition, and thus the system is never quite able to complete itself. The goal of objective knowledge is legitimate, but it can never be more than approximately accomplished. Reality may well be a system for God, but not for any human knower.

Secondly, even if speculative philosophy could deliver what it promises, it would have forgotten that the highest human task is not cognition but rather the personal appropriation or embodiment of whatever insights into the good and the right one is able to achieve. Becoming a self in this way is called existence, inwardness, and subjectivity. This use of existence as a technical term for the finite, human self that is always in the process of becoming can be seen as the birth of existentialism.

The two modes of subjectivity are not, as one might expect, the ethical and the religious stages. One does not become a self simply through successful socialization. Besides, in the Concluding Unscientific Postscript, ethics is treated as already recontextualized in a religious rather than merely a social context. So the two modes of ethico-religious subjectivity are “Religiousness A” and “Religiousness B.” The fact that the latter turns out to be Christianity should not lead one to think that the former is some other world religion. It is rather the generic necessary condition for any particular religion and, as such, is available apart from dependence on the revelation to be found in any particular religion’s sacred scriptures. Socrates (c. 470–399 bc), here distinguished from the speculative Plato, is the paradigm of Religiousness A.

Religiousness A is defined not in terms of beliefs about what is “out there,” such as God or the soul, but rather in terms of the complex tasks of becoming a self, summarized as the task of being simultaneously related “relatively” to relative goods and “absolutely” to the absolute good. Kierkegaard and his pseudonyms refer to the absolute good variously as the Idea, the Eternal, or God. As the generic form of the religious stage, Religiousness A abstracts from the “what” of belief to focus on the “how” that must accompany any “what.” The Hegelian system purports to be the highest form of the highest religion, namely Christianity, but in fact, by virtue of its merely objective “how,” it belongs to a completely different genus. It could not be the highest form of Christianity, no more than a dog could be the world’s prettiest cat.

There is something paradoxical about Religiousness A. Socratic ignorance—the claim of Socrates that he is the wisest of men because, while others think that they know, he knows that he does not—reflects the realization that the relation of the existing, and thus temporal, individual to the eternal does not fit neatly into human conceptual frameworks. But Christianity, as Religiousness B, is more radically paradoxical, for the eternal itself has become paradoxical as the insertion of God in time. In this way the task of relating absolutely to the absolute becomes even more strenuous, for human reason is overwhelmed, even offended, by the claim that Jesus is fully human and fully divine. In the Concluding Unscientific Postscript there is an echo of Kant’s admission, “I have therefore found it necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith”—though Kantian faith has a very different “what.”

Some writings of Kierkegaard’s second literary period extend the analyses of the first. For example, the two halves of Sickness unto Death can be read as reprising Religiousness A and B, respectively, in a different voice. But several texts, most notably Kjerlighedens gjerninger (1847; Works of Love), Training in Christianity, Til selvprøvelse (1851; For Self-Examination), and Dømmer selv! (1851; Judge for Yourselves!), go beyond Religiousness B to what might be called “Religiousness C.” The focus is still on Christianity, but now Christ is no longer just the paradox to be believed but also the paradigm or prototype to be imitated.

These works present the second, specifically Christian, ethics that had been promised as far back as The Concept of Anxiety. They go beyond Hegelian ethics, which only asks one to conform to the laws and customs of one’s society. They also go beyond the religion of hidden inwardness, whether A or B, in which the relation between God and the soul takes place out of public view. They are Kierkegaard’s answer to the charge that religion according to his view is so personal and so private as to be socially irresponsible. Faith, the inward God-relation, must show itself outwardly in works of love.

The first half of Works of Love is a sustained reflection on the biblical commandment “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matthew 22:36). This commanded love is contrasted with erotic love and friendship. Through its poets, society celebrates these two forms of love, but only God dares to command the love of neighbours. The celebrated loves are spontaneous: they come naturally, by inclination, and thus not by duty. Children do not have to be taught to seek friends; nor, at puberty, do they need to be commanded to fall in love. The celebrated loves are also preferential: one is drawn to this person but not to that one as friend or lover; something in the other is attractive or would satisfy one’s desire if the relation could be established. Because they are spontaneous and preferential, Kierkegaard calls the celebrated loves forms of “self-love.”

This is not to say that every friend or lover is selfish. But, by their exclusionary nature, such relations are the self-love of the “We,” even when the “I” is not selfish in the relation. Here one sees the political ramifications of commanded love, for an ethics that restricts benevolence to one’s own family, tribe, nation, race, or class expresses only the self-love of the We.

By contrast, commanded love is not spontaneous, and it needs to be commanded precisely because it is not preferential. Another person need not be attractive or belong to the same We to be one’s neighbour, whom one is to love. Even one’s enemy can be one’s neighbour, which is a reason why society never dares to require that people love their neighbours as they do themselves. For the Christian, this command comes from Christ, who is himself its embodiment to be imitated.

One could hardly expect the literary and philosophical elite to focus on the strenuousness of faith as a personal relation to God unsupported by reason, or on the strenuousness of love as responsibility to and for one’s neighbour unsupported by society’s ethos. That task was the responsibility of the church—a responsibility that, in Kierkegaard’s view, the church had spectacularly failed to fulfill. As these themes came more clearly into focus in his writings, the attack upon Christendom with which his life ended became inevitable.

Kierkegaard says that his writings as a whole are religious. They are best seen as belonging to the prophetic traditions, in which religious beliefs become the basis for a critique of the religious communities that profess them. The 20th-century theologies that were influenced by Kierkegaard go beyond the tasks of metaphysical affirmation and ethical instruction to a critique of complacent piety. In existential philosophies—which are often less overtly theological and sometimes entirely secular—this element of critique is retained but is directed against forms of personal and social life that do not take the tasks of human existence seriously enough. Thus, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) complains that his secular contemporaries do not take the death of God seriously enough, just as Kierkegaard complains that his Christian contemporaries do not take God seriously enough. Likewise, the German existential phenomenologist Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) describes how people make life too easy for themselves by thinking and doing just what “they” think and do. And Jean-Paul Sartre (1905–80), the leading representative of atheistic existentialism in France, calls attention to the ways in which people indulge in self-deceiving “bad faith” in order to think more highly of themselves than the facts warrant.

Merold Westphal

 





 
 



Arthur Schopenhauer
German philosopher

born Feb. 22, 1788, Danzig, Prussia [now Gdańsk, Pol.]
died Sept. 21, 1860, Frankfurt am Main

Main
German philosopher, often called the “philosopher of pessimism,” who was primarily important as the exponent of a metaphysical doctrine of the will in immediate reaction against Hegelian idealism. His writings influenced later existential philosophy and Freudian psychology.

Early life and education.
Schopenhauer was the son of a wealthy merchant, Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, and his wife, Johanna, who later became famous for her novels, essays, and travelogues. In 1793, when Danzig came under Prussian sovereignty, they moved to the free city of Hamburg. Arthur enjoyed a gentlemanly private education. He then attended a private business school, where he became acquainted with the spirit of the Enlightenment and was exposed to a Pietistic attitude sensitive to the plight of man. In 1803 he accompanied his parents for a year on an extensive journey through Belgium, England, France, Switzerland, and Austria.

The sudden death of his father in April 1805 precipitated a decisive change in his life. His mother and his young sister Adele moved to Weimar, where his mother succeeded in joining the social circle of the poets J.W. von Goethe and Christoph Martin Wieland (often called the German Voltaire). Arthur himself had to remain in Hamburg for more than a year, yet with more freedom to engage in the arts and sciences. In May 1807 he was finally able to leave Hamburg. During the next two years, spent in Gotha and Weimar, he acquired the necessary academic preparation for attendance at a university.

In the fall of 1809 he matriculated as a student of medicine at the University of Göttingen and mainly attended lectures on the natural sciences. As early as his second semester, however, he transferred to the humanities, concentrating first on the study of Plato and Immanuel Kant. From 1811 to 1813 he attended the University of Berlin (where he heard such philosophers as J.G. Fichte and Friedrich Schleiermacher, with little appreciation); and in Rudolstadt, during the summer of 1813, he finished his dissertation, which earned him the doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Jena.


Active maturity.
The following winter (1813–14) he spent in Weimar, in intimate association with Goethe, with whom he discussed various philosophical topics. In that same winter the Orientalist Friedrich Majer, a disciple of Johann Gottfried Herder, introduced him to the teachings of Indian antiquity—the philosophy of Vedānta and the mysticism of the Vedas (Hindu scriptures). Later, Schopenhauer considered that the Upaniṣads (philosophic Vedas), together with Plato and Kant, constituted the foundation on which he erected his own philosophical system.

In May 1814 he left his beloved Weimar after a quarrel with his mother over her frivolous way of life, of which he disapproved. He then lived in Dresden until 1818, associating occasionally with a group of writers for the Dresdener Abendzeitung (“Dresden Evening Newspaper”). Schopenhauer finished his trea tise Über das Sehn und die Farben (1816; “On Vision and Colours”), supporting Goethe against Isaac Newton.

His next three years were dedicated exclusively to the preparation and composition of his main work, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (1819; The World as Will and Idea). The fundamental idea of this work—which is condensed into a short formula in the title itself—is developed in four books composed of two comprehensive series of reflections that include successively the theory of knowledge and the philosophy of nature, aesthetics, and ethics.

The first book begins with Kant. The world is my representation, says Schopenhauer. It is only comprehensible with the aid of the constructs of man’s intellect—space, time, and causality. But these constructs show the world only as appearance, as a multiplicity of things next to and following one another—not as the thing in itself, which Kant considered to be unknowable. The second book advances to a consideration of the essences of the concepts presented. Of all the things in the world, only one is presented to a person in two ways: he knows himself externally as body or as appearance, and he knows himself internally as part of the primary essence of all things, as will. The will is the thing in itself; it is unitary, unfathomable, unchangeable, beyond space and time, without causes and purposes. In the world of appearances, it is reflected in an ascending series of realizations. From the blind impulses in the forces of inorganic nature, through organic nature (plants and animals) to the rationally guided actions of men, an enormous chain of restless desires, agitations, and drives stretch forth—a continual struggle of the higher forms against the lower, an eternally aimless and insatiable striving, inseparably united with misery and misfortune. At the end, however, stands death, the great reproof that the will-to-live receives, posing the question to each single person: Have you had enough?

Whereas the first two books present the will in an affirmative mode, the last two, dealing with aesthetics and ethics, surpass them by pointing to the negation of the will as a possible liberation. Evoking as their leading figures the genius and the saint, who illustrate this negation, these books present the “pessimistic” world view that values nonbeing more highly than being. The arts summon man to a will-less way of viewing things, in which the play of the passions ceases. To the succession of levels achieved by the realizations of the will corresponds a gradation of levels in the arts, from the lowest—the art of building (architecture)—through the art of poetry to the highest of arts—music. But the arts liberate a person only momentarily from the service of the will. A genuine liberation results only from breaking through the bounds of individuality imposed by the ego. Whoever feels acts of compassion, selflessness, and human kindness and feels the suffering of other beings as his own is on the way to the abnegation of the will to life, achieved by the saints of all peoples and times in asceticism. Schopenhauer’s anthropology and sociology do not, in the manner of Hegel, commence with the state or with the community; they focus upon man—patient, suffering man who toils by himself—and show him certain possibilities of standing his ground and of living together with others.

The book marked the summit of Schopenhauer’s thought. In the many years thereafter, no further development of his philosophy occurred, no inner struggles or changes, no critical reorganization of basic thoughts. From then onward, his work consisted merely of more detailed exposition, clarification, and affirmation.

In March 1820, after a lengthy first tour of Italy and a triumphant dispute with Hegel, he qualified to lecture at the University of Berlin. Though he remained a member of the university for 24 semesters, only his first lecture was actually held; for he had scheduled (and continued to schedule) his lectures at the same hour when Hegel lectured to a large and ever-growing audience. Clearly, he could not successfully challenge a persistently advancing philosophy. Even his book received scant attention. For a second time Schopenhauer went on a year-long trip to Italy, and this was followed by a year of illness in Munich. In May 1825 he made one last attempt in Berlin, but in vain. He now occupied himself with secondary works, primarily translations.


Scholarly retirement in Frankfurt.
During his remaining 28 years, he lived in Frankfurt, which he felt to be free from the threat of cholera, and left the city only for brief interludes. He had finally renounced his career as a university professor and lived henceforth as a recluse, totally absorbed in his studies (especially in the natural sciences) and his writings. His life now took on the shape that posterity first came to know: the measured uniformity of the days; the strict, ascetic lifestyle modeled after Kant; the old-fashioned attire; the tendency to gesticulative soliloquy.

His leisure, though, was not idle. In 1836, after 19 years of “silent indignation,” he published his short treatise Über den Willen in der Natur (On the Will in Nature), which skillfully employed the queries and findings of the rapidly expanding natural sciences in support of his theory of the will. The preface for the first time openly expressed his devastating verdict on the “charlatan” Hegel and his clique. He also published essays.

The second edition of The World as Will and Idea (1844) included an additional volume but failed to break what he called “the resistance of a dull world.” The little weight that Schopenhauer’s name carried became evident when three publishers rejected his latest work. Finally, a rather obscure Berlin bookseller accepted the manuscript without remuneration. In this book, which brought the beginning of worldwide recognition, Schopenhauer turned to significant topics hitherto not treated individually within the framework of his writings: the work of six years yielded the essays and comments compiled in two volumes under the title Parerga und Paralipomena (1851). The Parerga (“Minor Works”) include fragments concerning the history of philosophy; the famous treatise “Über die Universitäts-Philosophie”; the enigmatically profound “Transzendente Spekulation über die anscheinende Absichtlichkeit im Schicksale des Einzelnen” (“Transcendent Speculation on the Apparent Premeditation in Personal Fate”); the “Versuch über das Geistersehn und was damit zusammenhängt” (“Essay on Ghost-seeing and Its Related Aspects”)—the first investigation, classification, and critical reflection concerning parapsychology; and the “Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit” (“Aphorisms on Practical Wisdom”), a serene and brilliant account garnered from his long life. The Paralipomena (“Remnants”), or as Schopenhauer called them “separate, yet systematically ordered thoughts on various subjects,” included essays on writing and style, on women, on education, on noise and sound, and on numerous other topics.

During the last years of his life, he added the finishing touches to most of his works. Even a third edition of The World as Will and Idea, containing an exultant preface, appeared in 1859 and, in 1860, a second edition of his Ethics. Soon after Schopenhauer’s sudden and painless death, Julius Frauenstädt published new and enlarged editions, with many handwritten additions, of the Parerga and Paralipomena (1862), On the Fourfold Root (1864), the essay On the Will in Nature (1867), the treatise on colours (1870), and finally even a fourth edition of his main work (1873). Later that same year Frauenstädt published the first complete edition of his works in six volumes.


Influence.
During this time, the actual impact and influence of Schopenhauer began to spread. By turning away from spirit and reason to the powers of intuition, creativity, and the irrational, his thought has affected—partly via Nietzsche—the ideas and methods of vitalism, of life philosophy, of existential philosophy, and of anthropology. Through his disciple Julius Bahnsen and through Eduard von Hartmann’s philosophy of the unconscious, the connection to modern psychology and to Sigmund Freud and his school can be established. The philosophy of history of Jacob Burckhardt, a Swiss cultural historian, also proceeds from Schopenhauer. Within the German cultural realm, Schopenhauer’s influence on music and literature brings to mind such diverse names as Richard Wagner, Hans Pfitzner, Wilhelm Busch, Gerhart Hauptmann, Frank Wedekind, and Thomas Mann. Since 1911 the Schopenhauer Society in Frankfurt am Main has been dedicated to the study, exposition, and dissemination of Schopenhauer’s philosophy.

Arthur Hübscher

 





 
 



Friedrich Nietzsche
German philosopher

born Oct. 15, 1844, Röcken, Saxony, Prussia [now in Germany]
died Aug. 25, 1900, Weimar, Thuringian States

Main
German classical scholar, philosopher, and critic of culture, who became one of the most influential of all modern thinkers. His attempts to unmask the motives that underlie traditional Western religion, morality, and philosophy deeply affected generations of theologians, philosophers, psychologists, poets, novelists, and playwrights. He thought through the consequences of the triumph of the Enlightenment’s secularism, expressed in his observation that “God is dead,” in a way that determined the agenda for many of Europe’s most celebrated intellectuals after his death. Although he was an ardent foe of nationalism, anti-Semitism, and power politics, his name was later invoked by Fascists to advance the very things he loathed.

The early years
Nietzsche’s home was a stronghold of Lutheran piety. His paternal grandfather had published books defending Protestantism and had achieved the ecclesiastical position of superintendent; his maternal grandfather was a country parson; his father, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche, was appointed pastor at Röcken by order of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, after whom Friedrich Nietzsche was named. His father died in 1849, before Nietzsche’s fifth birthday, and he spent most of his early life in a household consisting of five women: his mother Franziska, his younger sister Elisabeth, his maternal grandmother, and two maiden aunts.

In 1850 the family moved to Naumburg on the Saale River, where Nietzsche attended a private preparatory school, the Domgymnasium. In 1858 he earned a scholarship to Schulpforta, Germany’s leading Protestant boarding school. He excelled academically at Pforta, received an outstanding classical education there, and, having graduated in 1864, went to the University of Bonn to study theology and classical philology. Despite efforts to take part in the university’s social life, the two semesters at Bonn were a failure, owing chiefly to acrimonious quarrels between his two leading classics professors, Otto Jahn and Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl. Nietzsche sought refuge in music, writing a number of compositions strongly influenced by Robert Schumann, the German Romantic composer. In 1865 he transferred to the University of Leipzig, joining Ritschl, who had accepted an appointment there.

Nietzsche prospered under Ritschl’s tutelage in Leipzig. He became the only student ever to publish in Ritschl’s journal, Rheinisches Museum (“Rhenish Museum”). He began military service in October 1867 in the cavalry company of an artillery regiment, sustained a serious chest injury while mounting a horse in March 1868, and resumed his studies in Leipzig in October 1868 while on extended sick leave from the military. During the years in Leipzig, Nietzsche discovered Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy, met the great operatic composer Richard Wagner, and began his lifelong friendship with fellow classicist Erwin Rohde (author of Psyche).


The Basel years (1869–79)
When a professorship in classical philology fell vacant in 1869 in Basel, Switz., Ritschl recommended Nietzsche with unparalleled praise. He had completed neither his doctoral thesis nor the additional dissertation required for a German degree; yet Ritschl assured the University of Basel that he had never seen anyone like Nietzsche in 40 years of teaching and that his talents were limitless. In 1869 the University of Leipzig conferred the doctorate without examination or dissertation on the strength of his published writings, and the University of Basel appointed him extraordinary professor of classical philology. The following year Nietzsche became a Swiss citizen and was promoted to ordinary professor.

Nietzsche obtained a leave to serve as a volunteer medical orderly in August 1870, after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. Within a month, while accompanying a transport of wounded, he contracted dysentery and diphtheria, which ruined his health permanently. He returned to Basel in October to resume a heavy teaching load, but as early as 1871 ill health prompted him to seek relief from the stultifying chores of a professor of classical philology; he applied for the vacant chair of philosophy and proposed Rohde as his successor, all to no avail.

During these early Basel years Nietzsche’s ambivalent friendship with Wagner ripened, and he seized every opportunity to visit Richard and his wife, Cosima. Wagner appreciated Nietzsche as a brilliant professorial apostle, but Wagner’s increasing exploitation of Christian motifs, as in Parsifal, coupled with his chauvinism and anti-Semitism proved to be more than Nietzsche could bear. By 1878 the breach between the two men had become final.

Nietzsche’s first book, Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (1872; The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music), marked his emancipation from the trappings of classical scholarship. A speculative rather than exegetical work, it argued that Greek tragedy arose out of the fusion of what he termed Apollonian and Dionysian elements—the former representing measure, restraint, harmony, and the latter representing unbridled passion—and that Socratic rationalism and optimism spelled the death of Greek tragedy. The final 10 sections of the book are a rhapsody about the rebirth of tragedy from the spirit of Wagner’s music. Greeted by stony silence at first, it became the object of heated controversy on the part of those who mistook it for a conventional work of classical scholarship. It was undoubtedly “a work of profound imaginative insight, which left the scholarship of a generation toiling in the rear,” as the British classicist F.M. Cornford wrote in 1912. It remains a classic in the history of aesthetics to this day.

By October 1876 Nietzsche requested and received a year’s sick leave. In 1877 he set up house with his sister and Peter Gast, and in 1878 his aphoristic Menschliches, Allzumenschliches (Human, All-Too-Human) appeared. Because his health deteriorated steadily he resigned his professorial chair on June 14, 1879, and was granted a pension of 3,000 Swiss francs per year for six years.


Decade of isolation and creativity (1879–89)
Apart from the books Nietzsche wrote between 1879 and 1889, it is doubtful that his life held any intrinsic interest. Seriously ill, half-blind, in virtually unrelenting pain, he lived in boarding houses in Switzerland, the French Riviera, and Italy, with only limited human contact. His friendship with Paul Rée was undermined by 1882 by their mutual if unacknowledged affection for Lou Salomé (author, later the wife of the Orientalist F.C. Andreas, mistress of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and confidant of Sigmund Freud) as well as by Elisabeth Nietzsche’s jealous meddling.

Nietzsche’s acknowledged literary and philosophical masterpiece in biblical narrative form, Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), was published between 1883 and 1885 in four parts, the last part a private printing at his own expense. As with most of his works it received little attention. His attempts to set forth his philosophy in more direct prose, in the publications in 1886 of Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil) and in 1887 of Zur Genealogie der Moral (On the Genealogy of Morals), also failed to win a proper audience.

Nietzsche’s final lucid year, 1888, was a period of supreme productivity. He wrote and published Der Fall Wagner (The Case of Wagner) and wrote a synopsis of his philosophy, Die Götzen-Dämmerung (Twilight of the Idols), Der Antichrist (The Antichrist), Nietzsche contra Wagner (Eng. trans., Nietzsche contra Wagner), and Ecce Homo (Eng. trans., Ecce Homo), a reflection on his own works and significance. Twilight of the Idols appeared in 1889, Der Antichrist and Nietzsche contra Wagner were not published until 1895, the former mistakenly as book one of The Will to Power, and Ecce Homo was withheld from publication until 1908, 20 years after its composition.


Collapse and misuse
Nietzsche collapsed in the streets of Turin, Italy, in January 1889, having lost control of his mental faculties completely. Bizarre but meaningful notes he sent immediately after his collapse brought Franz Overbeck to Italy to return Nietzsche to Basel. Nietzsche spent the last 11 years of his life in total mental darkness, first in a Basel asylum, then in Naumburg under his mother’s care and, after her death in 1897, in Weimar in his sister’s care. He died in 1900. Informed opinion favours a diagnosis of atypical general paralysis caused by dormant tertiary syphilis.

The association of Nietzsche’s name with Adolf Hitler and Fascism owes much to the use made of his works by his sister Elisabeth. She had married a leading chauvinist and anti-Semite, Bernhard Förster, and after his suicide in 1889 she worked diligently to refashion Nietzsche in Förster’s image. Elisabeth maintained ruthless control over Nietzsche’s literary estate and, dominated by greed, produced collections of his “works” consisting of discarded notes, such as Der Wille zur Macht (1901; The Will to Power). She also committed petty forgeries. Generations of commentators were misled. Equally important, her enthusiasm for Hitler linked Nietzsche’s name with that of the dictator in the public mind.


Nietzsche’s mature philosophy
Nietzsche’s writings fall into three well-defined periods. The early works, The Birth of Tragedy and the four Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen (1873; Untimely Meditations), are dominated by a Romantic perspective influenced by Schopenhauer and Wagner. The middle period, from Human, All-Too-Human up to The Gay Science, reflects the tradition of French aphorists. It extols reason and science, experiments with literary genres, and expresses Nietzsche’s emancipation from his earlier Romanticism and from Schopenhauer and Wagner. Nietzsche’s mature philosophy emerged after The Gay Science.

In his mature writings Nietzsche was preoccupied by the origin and function of values in human life. If, as he believed, life neither possesses nor lacks intrinsic value and yet is always being evaluated, then such evaluations can usefully be read as symptoms of the condition of the evaluator. He was especially interested, therefore, in a probing analysis and evaluation of the fundamental cultural values of Western philosophy, religion, and morality, which he characterized as expressions of the ascetic ideal.

The ascetic ideal is born when suffering becomes endowed with ultimate significance. According to Nietzsche the Judeo-Christian tradition, for example, made suffering tolerable by interpreting it as God’s intention and as an occasion for atonement. Christianity, accordingly, owed its triumph to the flattering doctrine of personal immortality, that is, to the conceit that each individual’s life and death have cosmic significance. Similarly, traditional philosophy expressed the ascetic ideal when it privileged soul over body, mind over senses, duty over desire, reality over appearance, the timeless over the temporal. While Christianity promised salvation for the sinner who repents, philosophy held out hope for salvation, albeit secular, for its sages. Common to traditional religion and philosophy was the unstated but powerful motivating assumption that existence requires explanation, justification, or expiation. Both denigrated experience in favour of some other, “true” world. Both may be read as symptoms of a declining life, or life in distress.

Nietzsche’s critique of traditional morality centred on the typology of “master” and “slave” morality. By examining the etymology of the German words gut (“good”), schlecht (“bad”), and böse (“evil”), Nietzsche maintained that the distinction between good and bad was originally descriptive, that is, a nonmoral reference to those who were privileged, the masters, as opposed to those who were base, the slaves. The good/evil contrast arose when slaves avenged themselves by converting attributes of mastery into vices. If the favoured, the “good,” were powerful, it was said that the meek would inherit the earth. Pride became sin. Charity, humility, and obedience replaced competition, pride, and autonomy. Crucial to the triumph of slave morality was its claim to being the only true morality. This insistence on absoluteness is as essential to philosophical as to religious ethics. Although Nietzsche gave a historical genealogy of master and slave morality, he maintained that it was an ahistorical typology of traits present in everyone.

“Nihilism” was the term Nietzsche used to describe the devaluation of the highest values posited by the ascetic ideal. He thought of the age in which he lived as one of passive nihilism, that is, as an age that was not yet aware that religious and philosophical absolutes had dissolved in the emergence of 19th-century Positivism. With the collapse of metaphysical and theological foundations and sanctions for traditional morality only a pervasive sense of purposelessness and meaninglessness would remain. And the triumph of meaninglessness is the triumph of nihilism: “God is dead.” Nietzsche thought, however, that most men could not accept the eclipse of the ascetic ideal and the intrinsic meaninglessness of existence but would seek supplanting absolutes to invest life with meaning. He thought the emerging nationalism of his day represented one such ominous surrogate god, in which the nation-state would be invested with transcendent value and purpose. And just as absoluteness of doctrine had found expression in philosophy and religion, absoluteness would become attached to the nation-state with missionary fervour. The slaughter of rivals and the conquest of the earth would proceed under banners of universal brotherhood, democracy, and socialism. Nietzsche’s prescience here was particularly poignant, and the use later made of him especially repellent. For example, two books were standard issue for the rucksacks of German soldiers during World War I, Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Gospel According to St. John. It is difficult to say which author was more compromised by this gesture.

Nietzsche often thought of his writings as struggles with nihilism, and apart from his critiques of religion, philosophy, and morality he developed original theses that have commanded attention, especially perspectivism, will to power, eternal recurrence, and the superman.

Perspectivism is a concept which holds that knowledge is always perspectival, that there are no immaculate perceptions, and that knowledge from no point of view is as incoherent a notion as seeing from no particular vantage point. Perspectivism also denies the possibility of an all-inclusive perspective, which could contain all others and, hence, make reality available as it is in itself. The concept of such an all-inclusive perspective is as incoherent as the concept of seeing an object from every possible vantage point simultaneously.

Nietzsche’s perspectivism has sometimes been mistakenly identified with relativism and skepticism. Nonetheless, it raises the question of how one is to understand Nietzsche’s own theses, for example, that the dominant values of the common heritage have been underwritten by an ascetic ideal. Is this thesis true absolutely or only from a certain perspective? It may also be asked whether perspectivism can be asserted consistently without self-contradiction, since perspectivism must presumably be true in an absolute, that is a nonperspectival sense. Concerns such as these have generated much fruitful Nietzsche commentary as well as useful work in the theory of knowledge.

Nietzsche often identified life itself with “will to power,” that is, with an instinct for growth and durability. This concept provides yet another way of interpreting the ascetic ideal, since it is Nietzsche’s contention “that all the supreme values of mankind lack this will—that values which are symptomatic of decline, nihilistic values, are lording it under the holiest names.” Thus, traditional philosophy, religion, and morality have been so many masks a deficient will to power wears. The sustaining values of Western civilization have been sublimated products of decadence in that the ascetic ideal endorses existence as pain and suffering. Some commentators have attempted to extend Nietzsche’s concept of the will to power from human life to the organic and inorganic realms, ascribing a metaphysics of will to power to him. Such interpretations, however, cannot be sustained by reference to his published works.

The doctrine of eternal recurrence, the basic conception of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, asks the question “How well disposed would a person have to become to himself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than the infinite repetition, without alteration, of each and every moment?” Presumably most men would, or should, find such a thought shattering because they should always find it possible to prefer the eternal repetition of their lives in an edited version rather than to crave nothing more fervently than the eternal recurrence of each of its horrors. The person who could accept recurrence without self-deception or evasion would be a superhuman being (Übermensch), a superman whose distance from the ordinary man is greater than the distance between man and ape, Nietzsche says. Commentators still disagree whether there are specific character traits that define the person who embraces eternal recurrence.


Nietzsche’s influence
Nietzsche once wrote that some men are born posthumously, and this is certainly true in his case. The history of 20th-century philosophy, theology, and psychology are unintelligible without him. The German philosophers Max Scheler, Karl Jaspers, and Martin Heidegger laboured in his debt, for example, as did the French philosophers Albert Camus, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault. Existentialism and deconstructionism, a movement in philosophy and literary criticism, owe much to him. The theologians Paul Tillich and Lev Shestov acknowledged their debt as did the “God is dead” theologian Thomas J.J. Altizer; Martin Buber, Judaism’s greatest 20th-century thinker, counted Nietzsche among the three most important influences in his life and translated the first part of Zarathustra into Polish. The psychologists Alfred Adler and Carl Jung were deeply influenced, as was Sigmund Freud, who said of Nietzsche that he had a more penetrating understanding of himself than any man who ever lived or was ever likely to live. Novelists like Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, André Malraux, André Gide, and John Gardner were inspired by him and wrote about him, as did the poets and playwrights George Bernard Shaw, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stefan George, and William Butler Yeats, among others. Nietzsche is certainly one of the most influential philosophers who ever lived; and this is due not only to his originality but also to the fact that he was the German language’s most brilliant prose writer.

Bernd Magnus

 

 

Discuss Art

Please note: site admin does not answer any questions. This is our readers discussion only.

 
| privacy