Friedrich Jacobi - Main Philosophical Writings

May 3, 2018 | Author: a thinking reed.... | Category: Immanuel Kant, Age Of Enlightenment, Idealism, Baruch Spinoza, Philosophical Theories
Share Embed Donate

Short Description

Jacobi on Spinoza...


THE MAIN PHILOSOPHICAL WRITINGS AND THE NOVEL ALLWILL Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi Translated and edited by George di Giovanni

This scholarly edition of Jacobi's major works is the first extensive English translation of these literary and philosophical classics. A key but somewhat eclipsed figure in the German Enlightenment, Jacobi had an enormous impact on philosophical thought in the later part of the eighteenth century, notably on the way in which Kant was received and the early development of post-Kantian idealism. Jacobi was propelled to notoriety in 1785 with his polemical tract Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza in Letters to Herr Moses Mendelssohn, included in this translation, along with David Hume on Faith, or Idealism and Realism; Jacobi to Fichte; and the novel Allwill. In his comprehensive introduction, George di Giovanni situates Jacobi in the historical and philosophical context of his time. Avoiding a simplistic portrayal of Jacobi as a fideist or proto-existentialist, di Giovanni shows how Jacobi's life and work reflect the tensions inherent in the late Enlightenment. To learn about Jacobi is also to learn about the period in which he lived. This book will be invaluable to students of German Idealism and to anyone interested in the Enlightenment and early Romanticism. George di Giovanni is professor of philosophy, McGill University.


Translated from the German, with an Introductory Study, Notes, and Bibliography by George di Giovanni

McGill-Queen's University Press Montreal & Kingston • London • Buffalo

© McGill-Queen's University Press 1994 I S B N 0-7735-1018-4 Legal deposit fourth quarter 1994 Bibliotheque nationale du Quebec Printed in Canada on acid-free paper This book has been published with the help of a grant from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities, using funds provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data

Jacobi, Friedrich Heinrich, 1743—1819 The main philosophical writings and the novel Allwill (McGill-Queen's studies in the history of ideas; 18) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0-7735-1018-4 1. Jacobi, Friedrich Heinrich, 1743-1819. I. Di Giovanni, George, 1935II. Title. III. Series E D B3°55. 5 441 1995 !93 C94-9°°769-2 This book was typeset by Typo Litho Composition Inc. in 10/12 Baskerville.




I N T R O D U C T I O N : THE U N F I N I S H E D P H I L O S O P H Y OF F R I E D R I C H H E I N R I C H JACOBI I Jacobi and His Spiritual Landscape: An Essay in Synthesis II Philosophical Arguments: An Essay in Analysis III Literary Witnesses: An Essay in Interpretation


67 117

IV The Last Word: Jacobi on Jacobi 152 Note on the Texts


TEXTS Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza in Letters to Herr Moses Mendelssohn (1785) !73 David Hume on Faith, or Idealism and Realism, A Dialogue (1787) Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza in Letters to Moses Mendelssohn (1789), excerpts 339 Edward Allwill's Collection of Letters (1792)




Contents Jacobi to Fichte (1799)


David Hume on Faith, or Idealism and Realism, A Dialogue: Preface and also Introduction to the Author's Collected Philosophical Works (1815) 537 Notes to Jacobi's Texts


Notes to Jacobi's Footnotes Bibliography


Index of Names


Index of Subjects




W H E N I A P P R O A C H E D Emil Fackenheim—it is now a quarter-century ago—to ask him whether he would be willing to direct a thesis on Hegel's Logic, I remember his first look of disconcertment and the warning that followed. It was not just that the Logic is a fiendishly difficult work and that nothing very enlightening had ever been written about it. Experience showed that serious students of Hegel have a tendency to lose themselves in their subject and not come up with anything publishable for years after their first exposure to it. That was not a happy prospect for someone who would soon be looking for a job in academia. I did manage to find a position a few years later. Yet Fackenheim's warning proved true in a way. The thesis was completed in a reasonable length of time, but at the price of limiting it to what had originally been intended as only its introductory chapter. The rest, which I had hoped to complete and publish as a book in short order, has yet to see the light of day. I soon discovered that Hegel's Logic cannot be properly understood without being studied in the context of the Enlightenment sceptical tradition, which continued unabated throughout the high period of German Idealism. Hegel has more in common with this tradition than is usually recognized. With an eye to my planned future book, I therefore undertook to document it, in co-operation with H. S. Harris, with a translation of relevant texts from the period (Between Kant and Hegel, 1985). However, it did not take me long to realize that the discussions in those texts of the epistemological and metaphysical issues were all motivated by broader and deeper interests in religious and moral matters. The ancient "faith versus reason" debate was in all cases just below the surface. One could not, however, broach this debate without comingO face to face with Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi. Jacobi was not, indeed, a



first-rate philosopher. Yet his polemic against abstract reason on behalf of faith undoubtedly shaped the course of philosophical discussion in Germany in the last fifteen years of the eighteenth century. Its influence continued in the following century and was, in some respects, just as important for the development of philosophy as Kant's Critique. At the time when I was preparing Between Kant and Hegel I found it impossible to represent Jacobi among the texts chosen for translation. Jacobi simply defied every attempt at excerption. I promised myself, however, to make up for this failure sometime in the future. The present work, which turned out to be a much greater enterprise than I had originally bargained for, is the fulfilment of that promise. The book on Hegel is of course still to be written, but I am not despairing yet. I chose the first five texts that I have translated because, in my opinion, they best convey the philosophical promise that unfortunately Jacobi never fulfilled. The open letter to Fichte is a good expression of Jacobi's growing concern, at the time, over the new idealism that was taking shape in Germany in the wake of Kant. The introduction to the 1815 edition of the David Hume was chosen because it is Jacobi's final statement of his philosophical position. In the case of his two novels, Allwill and Woldemar, the choice was difficult. Practical considerations finally tipped the scales. I chose Allwill because of its relative brevity in comparison to Woldemar. I have made it a point in my introductory study and in my notes to Jacobi's texts to cite extensively from the rest of Jacobi's major works, and from most minor ones as well, in an effort to provide as complete a picture of Jacobi's opus as possible. I have made my translations from first editions, and I have ordered them chronologically. I have followed this policy because Jacobi's thought altered over the years, not necessarily for the better, in my opinion, and the reader ought to be given an opportunity to note the changes. Although I make no pretensions to have provided a critical edition of the texts translated, I have made every effort to identify Jacobi's many references and to explain their context. Two of Jacobi's quotations (Otway, p. 257; and Heder, p. 324) have, however, escaped my most diligent searches. I trust that some reader will eventually find them for me. Finally, I have made no effort in the footnotes and in the Bibliography either to modernize or in any way to standardize the eighteenth-century spelling of German, French, or Italian words. A work as complex as the present one would not have been possible without the help of many. It is now my pleasure to acknowledge this help. The staff at the libraries of the Universities of Munchen, Munster,



and Tubingen were always very kind and helpful. Most of all, however, I must thank the staff of the McGill Library. The fine collection at McGill of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century texts was for me a veritable treasure-trove. So was the Kierkegaard Library, now housed at McGill. It appears that Kierkegaard had in his possession copies of many of the books that Jacobi had also read and used. Any book that I could not find in either of these two funds, or that I had not already examined in Europe, was procured for me by the staff of the Interlibrary Loans Department. I thank them for their competence, their graciousness, and the humour with which they met even my most extravagant requests. My colleagues Harry Bracken, David Norton, and Jeremy Walker were invaluable sources of scholarly information and of encouragement. I thank them for both. Jeremy Walker came to my aid with his poetic skills by rendering in English verse Goethe's two poems that appear in the Spinoza Letters. Hans-Jakob Wilhelm and Louise Collins (both PhD candidates at McGill) were, at different times, my research assistants. Hans-Jakob, whose first language is German, tested my translations for accuracy and occasionally found them wanting. Louise tested my English, and she too had cause to protest. Louise also subjected my introductory essays to a rigorous analytical examination that often made me feel as if I were back in the hands of a stern teacher. I thank her for her splendid work, just as I thank Hans-Jakob for his. My thanks to Frederick C. Beiser and the anonymous reader for McGill-Queen's University Press, whose sharp and informed criticisms helped me to clarify some of my statements, at least to my satisfaction, though not necessarily to theirs. To H. S. Harris I owe a special debt. It was he who first suggested to me, shortly after I completed my thesis on Hegel, that I turn my attention to Jacobi. I did not take the bait then, mostly because I was too ignorant to recognize Jacobi's historical importance. But I eventually came around to his early suggestion. To Harris also fell the ungrateful task of reading and improving the first version of my translations, when the text was still raw and definitely German-sounding. I thank him for this work, for his original suggestion, and for all the encouragement. The Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada awarded me a two-year grant for research assistants and travel to German libraries. Computer equipment was provided through a grant from the McGill Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research. It is a sign of the times, and hopefully an indication that we are back to the cosmopolitanism so dear



to the Enlightenment, that this translation of German texts into English was done by one whose first language is Italian, in an institution of Scottish origin in a French-speaking part of Canada. I am responsible for any error. George di Giovanni

Introduction The Unfinished Philosophy of Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi

I Jacobi and His Spiritual Landscape. An Essay in Synthesis THE FIGURE

I. When Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi died in 1819, four years had elapsed since the Congress of Vienna and the second Peace of Paris finally put an end to Napoleon and the Napoleonic regimes in Europe.1 The Restoration was in full swing. "Old Fritz," as Jacobi was known to friends and foes alike, died a septuagenarian. The years of his life saw many changes in German society. At his birth in 1743, almost a century had elapsed since the Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended the Thirty Years' War. That war had been fought mostly on German lands and, apart from the carnage and the material devastation that it wreaked in the towns and countryside, it had also brought to a standstill whatever cultural and intellectual life German society had previously enjoyed. Nor was the cen1. For the general historical and literary background I have drawn from many sources, but especially from the following: Emil Adler, Herder und die deutsche Aufklarung (Wien: Europa Verlag, 1965); Richard Benz, Die Zeit derDeutschen Klassik, 1750-1800 (Stuttgart: Reclam, 1953); Ernst Cassirer, DiePhilosophie der Aujkldrung (Tubingen: Mohr, 1932); Hajo Holborn, A History of Modern Germany, 1648-1840 (New York: Knopf, 1968); H. A. Korff, Geist der Goethezeit, iv (Leipzig: Koehler and Amelang, 1966); Friedrich Meinecke, Machiavelism: The Doctrine of Raison d'Etat and Its Place in Modern History, tr. D. Scott (New Haven: Yale, 1962); Angelo Pupi, Alia soglia deU'eta romantica (Milano: Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, 1962); Paul Rilla, Lessing und sein Zeitalter (Miinchen: Beck, 1973); Hermann Timm, Gott und die Freiheit. Studien zur Religionphilosophie der Goethezeit: I, Die Spinozarenaissance (Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1974); Valerio Verra, F. H. Jacobi, daU'illuminismo aU'idealismo (Torino: Filosofia, 1963; in my opinion, still the best general treatment of Jacobi and his age); Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Deutsche Gesellschaftsgeschichte, 1700-1815 (Miinchen: Beck, 1987). I have also made ample use of the Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, the Neue deutsche Biographic, and the Biographie universelle.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

tury that followed to be a peaceful one. Wars followed upon wars with singular regularity, and in the process the whole socio-political face of Europe was modified. England rose to the status of unchallenged world power, and in the eighteenth century it began to exercise direct influence on the German lands through its possession of Hanover. On the continent, while the influence of Spain eventually collapsed and the Holy Roman Empire was reduced to an ineffectual symbol, other centres of power were beginning to assert themselves. France soon became the single strongest continental nation. Austria gradually gained in strength and eventually turned itself into an empire. There was also the steady rise of Brandenburg-Prussia, which, together with the influence that Russia had begun to exercise, added one more factor to the balance of power in Central Europe. It was the ordinary folk who bore the brunt of the destruction caused by all these changes. Yet in spite of the constant dislocations, cultural and intellectual life had slowly come alive again in Germany. The revival was clearly dependent on influences coming from France and England, which exercised cultural and political hegemony over Europe at the time. But to these foreign influences the Germans always added elements drawn from their particular intellectual and religious tradition, so that, by the middle of the eighteenth century, the typically German phenomenon of the Aufklarung was in full swing. Jacobi was born, therefore, to a world full of the tensions and contradictions that rapid change always leaves in its wake, and the rest of his life was to witness changes even more radical. At the political level, the French Revolution was to challenge long-established ideas about the role of the prince in society. At the intellectual level, under the stress of ideas that it had itself nurtured, the Aufklarung gave way to new attitudes that eventually provided the ideology required to justify the French Revolution. The attitudes themselves persisted even after the revolution had run its course, so that, under the trappings of the old political order, the "Restoration" of 1815 in fact established a totally new one. A new state absolutism emerged that had little to do with the absolutism of the eighteenth-century princes. Jacobi did not shy away from active life, as we shall see. He was also to suffer at first hand some of the effects of the French Revolution. But unlike his younger and more famous contemporary Goethe, he never was an effective participant in the great events of the day. Like the characters of his philosophical novels, for whom action is mostly restricted to emotion and discussion, Jacobi lived through those events emotionally and verbally, through his writings and countless letters to just about everyone



of consequence in his day. If he did leave a mark on his world, it was precisely in his role as a commentator on the contemporary scene—most of all, as an acute critic of the ideas by which the new socio-political tendencies were seeking legitimization. In this respect Jacobi's literary work proved to be a catalyst for both the ideologies justifying the new order and the reaction against it, as we shall see in what follows. As a commentator on a world in transition, Jacobi came to reflect the tensions and contradictions of the latter in his own personality and work. In order to be justly measured, therefore, his figure must be viewed as part of a larger and complex spiritual landscape. Jacobi was not just a defender of faith vis-a-vis the Enlightenment or a man of feelings (a typical Herzensmensch} in opposition to the rationalism of the schools. Nor was he just a realist in opposition to the scepticism of Hume and the idealism of Kant. Jacobi was all these and much more, at his best holding his beliefs together in a unity of tension, at his worst, especially in his later years, reconciling them under a facile account of the notions of faith and reason. 2. The main events of Jacobi's life can be related here briefly. He was born in Dusseldorf, of a merchant family. His older brother, Georg, was to make a name for himself as an anacreontic poet. His two younger halfsisters, Charlotte and Helene, eventually became part of Jacobi's family, acting as secretaries and, at the death of Jacobi's wife, as household managers. Of his childhood we know only what Jacobi himself gives us to understand from hints in the David Hume and from what are probably autobiographical characterizations in his Allwill.* As a child Jacobi apparently was very awkward and withdrawn, stubborn and highly strung, and given to brooding on religious matters such as the existence of God and the reality of an everlasting time. His father intended him for a business career and so had him apprenticed for a brief period (1759) at a merchant house in Frankfurt-am-Main. After that he was sent to Geneva for a three-year period of general education. Jacobi himself explains that there, under the tutelage of the renowned Lesage, he became acquainted with both the traditional philosophy of the schools and the thought of the French philosophes, notably, among the latter, Rousseau and Bonnet. After this Geneva stay, on his father's refusal to have him pursue medical studies in Glasgow, Jacobi returned to Dusseldorf, where 2. See below, David Hume, pp. Gyff., and Allwill, pp. a8ff. References to texts included in this translation are to the pagination of Jacobi's editions.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

he joined his father in running the family business. There, after a brief liaison with an older maidservant3 that resulted in an illegitimate son and was kept secret by Jacobi for fear that it might jeopardize his betrothal, Jacobi married Elisabeth (Betty) von Clermont in 1764. From all accounts (including Goethe's) Betty was a most charming and talented woman.4 Her premature demise in 1784, coming soon after the death of an eleven-year-old son, proved a heavy emotional blow for Jacobi, and he never remarried. Jacobi enjoyed excellent relations with Betty's family, especially her brother. To the latter's capable hands he soon entrusted his financial affairs, thus freeing himself more and more from the burdens of business. Together with Betty he established in Pempelfort near Diisseldorf, at his father's country estate, what amounted to a centre of social, literary, and philosophical activities.5 Few people of literary consequence at the time did not manage to make their way there, or were not reached from there through Jacobi's lively correspondence. Among his acquaintances were Sophie La Roche, Heinse, Wieland, Goethe (whose friendship with Jacobi took, as we shall see, a rather uneven course), Lavater, Diderot, Hemsterhuis, Furstenberg, Princess Gallitzin, Dohm, Stolberg, Hamann, Herder, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Georg Forster—and the list could continue. We also know that at Pempelfort Jacobi was in close contact with a congregation of pietists, for whose particular brand of religiosity he always felt a special affinity. The Pempelfort period lasted until 1794, at which time the French Revolution touched Jacobi directly.6 Because of the occupation of 3. Anna Katharina Miiller. The liaison has come to light only recently through the discovery of the correspondence between Jacobi and Marc Michel Rey, bookseller and editor in Amsterdam, whom Jacobi used as an intermediary for passing money to the mother of the illegitimate child and apparently buying her silence. See: LesAnnees deformation deF. H. Jacobi, d'apres ses lettres inedites a M. M. Rey (1763—1771), avec "Le Noble," de Madame de Charriere, ed. J. T. de Booy and Roland Mortier (Geneve: Institut et Musee Voltaire, 1966). The affair (which does not do honour to Jacobi) is related on pp. 27-34. 4. Goethe describes her as "having the right feelings without a trace of sentimentality." Aus meinem Leben, Dichtung und Wahrheit, ed. Karl Richter, Part m,Johan Wolfgang Goethe, Sdmtliche Werke, 19 Vols. (Miinchen: Hanser, 1985 ff), Vol. 16, p. 661. 5. Goethe describes it in Campagne in Frankreich 1792, Sdmtliche Werke, Vol. 14, p. 470. 6. Jacobi had already had occasion to feel the threat of the invading French armies. See his letter to Herder of 23 October 1793, in which Jacobi describes the fears in his household, during a return trip from Karlsruhe to Pempelfort, upon hearing that a French army had crossed the borders and had set Speier in flames, and that another army was three hours from Karlsruhe. Fortunately, the rumours about the French advance on Karlsruhe



Diisseldorf by French troops, he moved north, first to Wandsbeck as the guest of Claudius,7 then to Eutin, where he settled. Earlier Jacobi had demonstrated his interest in political economy practically, by serving, from 1773 to 1779, as a member of the treasury of the duchies ofjulich and Berg along the Rhine,8 and in 1779 he had also been appointed minister and privy councillor for the Bavarian department of customs and commerce. In both posts he gave evidence of his strong preference for open trade policies. However, his plans for a liberalization and rationalization of local customs and taxes were never implemented. Upon being appointed to the Bavarian position he soon ran into stiff opposition from his superiors and from enemies at court; unwilling to engage in a power struggle, he resigned within months of his appointment. And that was the end of Jacobi's active intervention in practical politics. The only remnants of it, apart from the correspondence that it generated, are two essays ("A Political Rhapsody" and 'Yet Another Political Rhapsody," both written in 1779)9 that attack the mercantilistic policies of the Bavarian government and defend free trade along orthodox physiocratic lines. Jacobi's early literary ventures also belong to this time. They took the form, at first, of translations and occasional pieces on topical themes.10 By temperament, and because of his close connections with his brother Georg and his poetic circle, Jacobi was naturally drawn to the baroque sentimentalism much in vogue at the high point of the Enlightenment. But he could not for long remain immune to the cult of genius and proved to be false. Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi's auserlesener Briefwechsel, 2 Vols., ed. Friedrich Roth (Leipzig: Fleischer, 1825-27), Vol. n, Letter 217, pp. 11 iff. (henceforth, Auserlesener Briefwechsel). 7. For Claudius, see below, David Hume, footnote to p. 206. 8. See letter to Sophie La Roche, 29 November 1772. Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Briefwechsel, 1.1, ed. Michael Briiggen and Siegfried Sudhof (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Fromann-Holzboog, 1981), Letter #268, p. 178 (henceforth, Briefwechsel). 9. Eine politishce Rhapsodie and Noch eine politische Rhapsodie. They are reproduced in Vol. vi of Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi's Werke, 6 Vols. (Leipzig: Fleischer, 1812-25). This is the edition that Jacobi personally supervised until his death in 1819, and was brought to completion by Friedrich Koppen and Friedrich Roth (henceforth, Werke). It can of course be argued that Jacobi exercised considerable political influence indirectly, through the intellectual influence he had on other figures such as Wilhelm von Humboldt and Georg Forster. For Jacobi's liberal ideas and their influence, see Frederich C. Beiser, Enlightenment, Revolution, and Romanticism: The Genesis of Modern German Political Thought, 1790-1800 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992), especially ch. 6. 10. See below, Bibliography.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

the interest in the deeper and often darker side of the emotional life that the Sturm und Drang movement was promoting in reaction to what they took to be the superficiality of Enlightenment reason and Enlightenment sentiment. In 1774 Jacobi made the personal acquaintance of the young Goethe, the great exponent of this new group of literati. He thereupon embarked on two novels, Allwill and Woldemar, in which he explored but also sharply criticized some common themes of the Sturm und Drang. The two novels were initially published in fragments and were not given final form until the 17908. Their literary value was questioned from the beginning. But then, the constant, long drawn-out philosophical discussions engaged in by the novel's characters should have made it clear that Jacobi was basically a philosopher, not a poet. Metaphysics— specifically the problem of establishing the possibility of theoretical and moral truth—had been Jacobi's concern since the Geneva years, and it was still the interest motivating his novels. One significant development of these years—one directly related to the encounter with Goethe—was precisely Jacobi's discovery of Spinoza. This previously much-reviled philosopher was enjoying a revival because of the Sturm und Drang's attraction to those very views about God's immanent relation to nature that had been the cause of his earlier rejection. Jacobi made an intensive study of Spinoza's philosophy, with a twofold result. On the one hand, he found in it what he took to be the root cause of philosophy's inability to deal with questions of existence effectively. In this respect Spinoza helped Jacobi to formalize his opposition to the philosophy of the Enlightenment. Even more than before, therefore, Jacobi found himself squarely on the side of those who, like Hamann, Claudius, Herder, or Goethe, were all reacting, though for a variety of reasons, against the rationalism of the Berlin Aufklarer. On the other hand, Jacobi also found in Spinoza the justification for his suspicions about the cult of nature and history that the reaction against the Enlightenment was promoting. When his famous correspondence with Mendelssohn regarding the alleged Spinozism of Lessing was published in 1785—thus giving rise to what was to be known as the Spinozism Dispute—the book could justly be taken as a critique of Goethe no less than an attack on the Enlightenment of which Mendelssohn was at the time the most brilliant light. The second edition of 1789 was to include a critique of Herder as well. Two polemical political pieces had appeared in 1781 and 1782, about which more in the following section. In these essays Jacobi had attacked



the absolutism of the princes vehemently (just as he would eventually attack, after 1789, the absolutism of the new order engendered by the French). However, it was the Spinoza Letters that established Jacobi firmly at the centre of the literary discussion of the day as a commentator and critic of all things philosophical. In this work Jacobi appealed to common sense and faith as means of overcoming the inability of philosophical reflection to reach out to existence. He did not, however, spell out the exact nature of the evidence that he hoped to achieve through these instruments, nor for that matter the exact place, within the economy of human knowledge, of the evidence thus achieved. In the dialogue David Hume, which followed in 1787, Jacobi tried to remedy this deficiency by defining his own position in more positive terms and by somehow connecting it with both Hume and Leibniz. He also went on to develop the thesis, which he had already stated in the Spinoza Letters,11 that there is no "I" without reference to a "Thou," and on this basis sought a way out of idealism. Yet this work too remained inconclusive, as Jacobi himself later admitted (though not necessarily for the right reasons).12 It showed signs, moreover, thatjacobi's attention was now being drawn to Kant's transcendental idealism, which at die time was dislodging the philosophy of the schools from centre stage, and that, as he braced himself for a new polemic, Jacobi was instinctively reverting to the polemical stance of the Spinoza Letters. However much Jacobi admired Kant, he came to interpret his idealism as one more form of crypto-Spinozism and as therefore ultimately liable to the same fatalism and consequent amoralism that the latter implied. This line of criticism culminated with the publication in 1801 of the essay "On the Attempt of Critique to Reduce Reason to the Understanding, and in General to Give a New Purpose to Philosophy."13 By that time Jacobi was also busy attacking the new kind of idealism born of Kant's critique. Jacobi's first target had been Fichte—a thinker

11. See below, Spinoza Letters, p. 163. 12. See below, Preface to the David Hume (1815), pp. 3—9; andjacobi's footnote to p. 221 of the 1815 ed. of the David Hume (in the present text, pp. 2ggff.). 13. Uber das Unternehmen des Kriticismus, die Vemunft zu Verstande zu bringen, and der Philosophie uberhaupt eine neue Absicht zu geben, in Beytrdge zur leichtern Ubersicht des Zustandes der Philosophie beym Anfange des 19. Jahrhunderts (Contributions to an Easier Overview of the Situation of Philosophy at the Beginning of the igth Century), ed. C. L. Reinhold, 6 Vols. (Hamburg: Perthes, 1801-03), Vol. in (1802), pp. 1-110. The essay is reproduced in Vol. in of the Werke (1816).


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

who, ironically, had drawn his inspiration fromjacobi's personalismjust as much as from Kant's subjectivism. At first Jacobi had admired him. ^ But he soon began to be suspicious of the highly reflective constructions on which Fichte's science of the "I" was being built, not least because Jacobi also perceived a connection between this new idealism and the political ideologies behind the French Revolution. He came to interpret Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre, or "Doctrine of Science" (the new name that Fichte gave to philosophy),15 as a type of inverted Spinozism, an idealized mathesis that merely replaced Spinoza's abstract concept of substance with an equally abstract idea of subjectivity and was, in fact, just as incompatible with personalism and individual freedom as Spinozism. Jacobi made public his criticism of Fichte in an open letter of 1799, at the height of the so-called Atheism Dispute—a sad episode that saw Fichte charged with atheism and eventually forced to resign from his university chair at Jena. At that time Jacobi was collaborating with Reinhold (a sometime popularizer of Kant and erstwhile Fichte sympathizer), even though the two men had little in common intellectually and temperamentally except their dislike for idealism and a bent for religious piety.16 In his campaign against idealism, however, Jacobi was also to attract to his side members of a younger generation, such as Koppen and Salat (both his disciples), Bouterwek, and Fries. The last famous battle took place after Jacobi—in financial straits because of the bankruptcy of the Clermont family—moved to Munich in 1805 to an14. See letter to Wilhelm von Humboldt of 2 September 1794, Auserlesener Briefwechsel, Vol. ii, #234, 180-81. 15. The first statement was published in 1794. J. G. Fichte, Uber den Begriff der Wissenschftslehre oder der sogenannten Philosophic (Concerning the Concept of the Doctrine of Science or So-called Philosophy; Weimar: Comptoire, 1794). Wissenschaftslehre has commonly been translated into English as "Science of Knowledge." 16. Jacobi registered his first impression of Reinhold to Elise Reimarus in a letter of 11 January 1775 [sicl It should read 1795 instead]; Auserlesener Briefwechsel, Vol. 11, #240. The impression was not too favourable. Jacobi thought of Reinhold as too narrow a philosopher, only interested in the mistakes and prejudices that prevented others from understanding him. He did not really care for what others had to say, since he already carried everything with him—the metaphysics of nature in one pocket and the metaphysics of morals in the other. "One should just make him turn these pockets out!" (p. iga^Jacobi's opinion did not change with the years. See his letter to Bouterwek of 5 July 1804, in which Jacobi says to Bouterwek that he has let Reinhold know that he has had enough of him and now hopes to be delivered from Reinhold's "logical enthusiasm" for a long time to come. Friedr. Heinr. Jacobi's Briefe an Friedr. Bouterwek aus demjahren 1800 bis 1819, ed. W. Meyer (Gottingen: Deuer, 1868), #11, p. 81 (henceforth, Bouterwek-Briefiuechset).



swer a call to join the newly founded Academy of the Sciences there, and was thereupon elected its first president.17 The attack was directed this time at Schelling, with whom Jacobi had already skirmished in connection with the publication of Hegel's essay Faith and Knowledge18 (to which Jacobi had replied in three letters to Koppen).19 It culminated in 1811 with the publication of Of Divine Things and Their Revelation, in which Jacobi took issue with Schelling because of his pantheistic doctrine of nature.20 Jacobi's attack was a bitter one. Schelling replied in kind,21 and thus was launched the so-called Pantheism Dispute, the third (and last) of the three famous disputes either initiated by Jacobi or in which he played a leading role.22 This last cost him the final break in relations with Goethe, who sided with Schelling.23 In 1812 Jacobi retired. He spent the remaining years of his life supervising the publication of his Werke, which, however, he did not see to completion. Throughout his life Jacobi had developed his own philosophical position indirectly, mostly through polemics against others. In 1815, in a new introduction to the dialogue David Hume that was also to serve as preface to the rest of the collected works, Jacobi finally gave his most direct and positive statement of what he stood for, though even 17. Jacobi's inaugural address is included in Vol. vi of Werke. Ubergelehrte Gesellschaften, ihren Geist und Zweck, gelesen . . . zu Miinchen i8oj (Of Learned Societies, Their Spirit and Goal, read . . . at Munich in 1807). 18. "Glauben und Wissen, oder die Reflexionphilosophie der Subjectivitat, in der Vollstandigkeit ihrer Formen, als Kantische, Jacobische, und Fichtesche Philosophic" ("Faith and Knowledge, or the Reflective Philosophy of Subjectivity in the Complete Range of Its Forms as Kantian, Jacobian, and Fichtean Philosophy"), Kritische Journal, 11.1 (1802): 3-4H19. Published in F. Koppen, Schellings Lehre oder das Game der Philosophic des absoluten Nichts, nebst drei Briefen verwandten Inhalts von F. H. Jacobi (Schelling's Doctrine or the Whole of Philosophy of the Absolute Nothing, Together with Three Letters of Related Content by F. H. Jacobi; Hamburg: Perthes, 1803). 20. See below, Preface to David Hume, footnote to p. 77. 21. Jacobi complained to Bouterwek: "In the meantime Schelling has had fifteen folios of the most wrathful vituperations published against me and my little book." Letter of i February 1812, Bouterwek-Briefwechsel, #23, pp. 139—40. 22. See Lewis S. Ford, "The Controversy between Schelling and Jacobi," Journal of the History of Philosophy, ill (1965): 75-89. 23. Goethe wrote to Jacobi: "As poet and artist I am polytheist, pantheist instead as student of nature, and am the one just as decidedly as the other." Letter to Jacobi of 6 January 1813, Briefwechsel zwischen Goethe andF. H. Jacobi, ed. Max Jacobi (Leipzig: Weimann, 1846), #121, p. 261 (henceforth, Goethe-Briefwechsel). See also Letter #119, 10 May 1782, PP- 254~55- The tone between the two remained courteous and affectionate to the end.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

here he did not eschew polemic. How true to Jacobi's own past this statement was, and how cogent the philosophy it delivered, are points at issue. He died in Munich. THE L A N D S C A P E : POLITICS 5. So much for a sketch of Jacobi's figure. Now, to the landscape. The rise of the absolute state was perhaps the one most important political and social development in the Europe of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Thirty Years' War had made this development practically possible by sweeping away in the aftermath of its general destruction the institutional remnants of post-feudal political pluralism. But the phenomenon was also in keeping with the general mentality of the age, and there were many attempts to legitimize it theoretically. People looked at the world as an aggregate of individual units of energy, each striving blindly for its own preservation yet achieving a wonderful harmony with the rest through a universal self-equilibrating system. It was not difficult to extend this picture to apply to the power-plays of political entities. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588—1679) provided the ideological justification for this move by claiming that the laws of political behaviour are only special cases of physical necessity. And since the force thereby identified as the basis of political life was the amoral nature of the new contemporary science—selfishly blind in its striving for self-preservation—the same could be expected of the political entities supposedly born of it. As the new theoreticians of the raison d'etat were to argue, the state ultimately had no other rule of conduct except the interest to assert its power. All other considerations, moral and religious ones included, had to be subordinated to this fundamental rule. Yet it was part of the complexity of the age that the same picture of nature that made for political absolutism could also support the individualism and the respect for conscience so much prized by Enlightenment culture. In fact it did. One had only to apply the image of autonomous units of energy seeking discharge to the individuals who make up any society to come up with a thoroughly liberal theory of the state. Starting from premises about the relationship of moral to physical laws essentially the same as Hobbes's, a philosopher like Spinoza (1632-77) could nevertheless draw the most liberal conclusions concerning freedom of conscience and expression. And the situation was further complicated



because of the continued widespread appeal of classical (essentially Stoic) ideas of cosmic reason and cosmic harmony, and the general tendency to apply them to the contemporary scientific picture of the universe—though in fact there was little in common between the morally qualified world of the Stoic and the Newtonian universe. All this meant that state absolutism and liberal ideals as well as liberal practices could often go hand in hand. In some of the smaller German lands absolutism meant little more than the despotism of some petty tyrant intent on extracting as much taxation as possible from the impoverished subjects for the sake of personal advantage.24 But in a state like Prussia, by contrast, the situation could be quite complex. Frederick William i had ruled the country between 1713 and 1740 and organized it strictly around the needs of the army. However, Frederick the Great (1740—86), his son and successor, turned out to be of much more refined temperament. A keen student of philosophy, one of his first acts upon ascending the throne was to recall Christian Wolff (1679-1754), whom his father had exiled from Prussia at the instigation of pietist theologians, to the University of Halle. During his reign he revitalized the existing Berlin Academy originally founded by Leibniz. It now assumed the name of Academic des Sciences et Belles Lettres. Frederick drew to it renowned scholars from all over Europe, Voltaire included. There is no doubt that his commitment to the ideas of the Enlightenment were genuine—even in matters concerning the duties of a ruler towards his subject—and that in times of personal tribulation he often drew consolation from a spirit of resignation nurtured by a deeply held scepticism. He was, in brief, a truly enlightened ruler. Yet for all his philosophy, Frederick the Great did not alter the policies of his father but on the contrary reinforced them. The state needed power in order to assert itself as an autonomous entity. But since power required a strong army, the whole society had to be organized around the needs of maintaining one. Frederick the Great never questioned this imperative. At least in continental Europe, then, state absolutism was part of the ethos of the eighteenth century, even though there were in that same ethos strong elements militating against it. It is in the context of this tension that Jacobi's two political pieces referred to above must be read. In 1777 his friend and literary collaborator C. M. Wieland (1733-1813) 24. For some striking examples, see Rilla, p. 262.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

had argued that power is the only source of legitimacy for political authority.25 Right follows upon the ability to enforce obedience. Jacobi replied in the first piece with a scathing point-by-point rebuttal that was only published four years later.26 Wieland was wrong on all counts. Historically, he had misconstrued anthropological data regarding the origin of societies. Conceptually, he had failed to notice that moral law and natural necessity are parts of the one concept of natural right only in a very broad sense. Because of this failure he was forced to absurd conclusions, such as that every human action is morally correct, given that it occurs, for, like any natural event, if it occurs it must presumably be governed by necessary laws. An attempt on the monarch's life is thus morally justified provided that it is successful—so regicide is always morally justified. Wieland would also have to hold that the right of an individual to defend his life or property follows with the same necessity as that by which a heavy body falls to the ground, or certain seeds grow into big trees and others into smaller ones. But this is absurd. Contra Wieland, Jacobi asserted that moral rights derive their force from the freedom of an individual, not from any consideration of natural laws. There is an irreducible difference between the domain of nature and that of freedom. This is Jacobi's crucial point. But even assuming per impossibile that human conduct is purely a natural product, Wieland was still wrong in his defence of despotism as the most effective form of government. On the contrary, a philosopher like Spinoza, starting from purely naturalistic premises, had argued quite consistently to the very opposite conclusion—for it is unreasonable to expect that any individual, driven 25. See Wieland's essay, "Ueber das gottliche Recht der Obrigkeit" ("On the Divine Right of Authority"), which appeared in Der Teutsche Merkur, xx (1777): 119-45. Jacobi told Hamann some years later that the essay "had revolted him." Johann Georg Hamann, Briefwechsel, Vols. v-vn, ed. Arthur Henkel (Wiesbaden: Insel, 1965-79), Vol. vi, Letter #896, 17-18 November 1785, p. 147 (henceforth Hamann-Briefwechsel). See Levy-Bruhl, La Philosophic deJacobi (Paris: Allcan, 1894), pp. 126. Levy-Bruhl is wrong in saying that there is an inconsistency in Jacobi, in that he wants to be a liberal but rejects the moral philosophy of Kant. This objection makes sense only on the assumption that Kant's moral philosophy (as contrasted to Kant's personal attitudes and intentions) leads to liberalism. But this is an assumption open to challenge. Levy-Bruhl speaks from the point of view of the neoKantianism of the nineteenth century. 26. "Ueber Recht und Gewalt, oder philosophische Erwagung eines Aufsatzes von dem Herrn Hofrath Wieland, iiber das gottliche Recht der Obrigkeit" (anonymous, "Concerning Right and Power, or a Philosophical Consideration of an Essay by Councillor Wieland on the Divine Right of Authority"), Deutsches Museum, i (1781): 522-54; reprinted in Werke, Vol. vi, pp. 419-64.



as he is by private interest, can fairly recognize the welfare of a whole society. Wieland's essay led to a cooling off of Jacobi's relations with him.27 Jacobi renewed his attack in 1782 with his second piece, on the occasion this time of the publication by the historian Johann von Miiller of a pamphlet entitled The Travels of the Popes,*8 in which, contrary to current "enlightened" views, a positive revaluation of the role of the papacy in the Middle Ages was offered. Miiller himself was reacting against the Austrian emperor Joseph n's attempt to assert complete control over the Catholic church in his domains.2Q With Etwas das Lessing gesagt haft0 Jacobi came out in defence of Miiller's position. This was not because Jacobi felt any particular affinity toward the papacy,31 nor was it a reversal of his secularism,32 but because he thought that its spiritual despotism was much to be preferred over the secular, supposedly enlightened, despotism of the princes.33 At least the popes' authority over their subjects presupposed a spiritual life on their part, whereas that of the modern princes worked only to its destruction. The basic issue for Jacobi was how one conceives of humanity. On one conception the motive force behind man's actions are his passions, and these are purely natural sources 27. See Briefwechsel, 1.2, Letter #475, to Wieland, Middle of December, p. 69. 28. The pamphlet was originally published in French in 1782. Jacobi asked for a copy from Princess Gallitzin. See Briefwechsel, 1.3, Letter #774, to Princess Gallitzin, 10 May 1782, p. 27; Letter #775, toj. Miiller, 14 May 1782, pp. 28-29. An anonymous German translation, complete with a point-by-point refutation, appeared shortly after. DieReisen derPdbste, aus dem Franzosischen. Neue rechtmdssige Auflage mil notigen Anmerkungen und einer Vorrede vermehrt (The Travels of the Popes, from the French; A New Legitimate Edition, Augmented with Required Comments and a Preface; n. p. p., 1783). 29. See Pupi, Alia soglia dett'eta romantica, pp. 1—3. 30. Subtitled Ein Commentar zu den Reisen der Pdpste (Something That Lessing Said, A Commentary on the Travels of the Popes). It was published in Berlin anonymously. See Werke, 11, p. 327. 31. See letter to J. A. J. Reimarus, 30 October 1782, Briefwechsel, 1.3, #825, pp. 72-73. 32. See Jacobi's letter (in French) to F. F. Fiirstenberg, in connection with the educational reform that the latter was introducing in the Bishoprics of Minister and Cologne: "The principle you are establishing is indeed a wonderful triumph for sane reason: that in the colleges natural morality, or philosophy, and Christian morality ought to be taught separately. Whenever we found the system of our obligation solely upon revealed religion, we almost always destroy the precious germ of morality in the hearts of children." Briefwechsel, 1.1, #203, i7july 1771, p. 118. 33. Kant takes the opposite position, perhaps deliberately, in Religion innerhalb der Grenzen der bloflen Vernunft. Kant's Werke, Academy Edition, Vol. vi (Berlin: Reimer, 1907), p. 133, footnote (end of Book Three).


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

of energy seeking their discharge blindly. Reason's function in this context is simply to channel the energy thus released in the most efficient way consistent with the greatest discharge possible. On the opposing conception, action's motive force is reason itself and the spiritual desire for happiness that accompanies it. The passions are merely channels through which reason, which is an autonomous source of energy, makes its way, drawing indeed from their natural resources but for purposes that transcend them altogether. On the first conception, the laws of a state are merely formal devices that regulate the blind passions of the subjects from the outside. The state itself is a machine (as Hobbes had said) and its ruler necessarily a despot. On the second conception, ruler and state are subject instead to the rule of the same reason that also animates the citizens as individuals. External coercion has no place in this context, except to the extent that it is necessary to remove obstacles to the free exercise of individual rights. Jacobi sees these two models as exhausting the conceptual possibilities. On his interpretation, Wieland endorses the first, and he himself the second. What strikes one in these early essays is how much Jacobi still assumes an essentially classical notion of reason, even though he is obviously thinking within the conceptual framework of a theory of individual liberties that only made sense in the context of eighteenth-century scientific ideology and eighteenth-century socio-economic debates. This explains why the Platonizing of a Hemsterhuis could have such a fascination for him. For this early Jacobi, reason has nothing to do with the abstract concept of humanity in general, or with universal laws of conduct, nor, for that matter, with the concept of an "individual" as such. It is the measure, rather, of right action and right feeling with respect to the individuals of one's immediate society, just as it was at the time of Aristides, Epaminondas, or Timeleon.34 Political upbringing means the internalization of this measure through proper guidance and practice. It means moral education in the classical sense, in other words, and if Jacobi objects to the princes of his day ("Our popes," as he calls them), 35 it is precisely because with their despotic policies they ignore the moral nature of their subjects and, in ignoring it, they corrupt it. But despotism suffers from practical weaknesses as well, as Jacobi 34. See letter to Furstenberg, 17 July 1771, Briefwechsel, 1.1, #203, pp. 119-20. 35. See letter toj. Miiller, 14 May 1782, Briefwechsel, 1.3, #775, p. 28. Jacobi calls the princes "popes" because they exhibited all the despotics traits of which the Aujklarer accused the popes.



points out. History shows that no single ruler can ever be clever enough to take into consideration all the contingencies that affect the workings of a state-machine. Sooner or later the passions of its members will overflow the margins set by formal reason, and the state will be flooded from within. But above all the problem lies in the functional definition of what constitutes its external boundaries. On the assumption of the state as a machine, the most that one can do is to define its boundaries in terms of a number of square miles of territory. But who is to say that this square mileage is inviolate and that some neighbouring state will not at some point want to annex it? If we deny that the state is merely a machine and claim that it is rather an entity with some defining good or function, then a non-arbitrary limit can be found to its boundaries. But Jacobi had difficulty understanding what the good of a state could consist in, except the good of the individual members freely associated in it. When Jacobi wrote Etwas das Lessing gesagt hat, he was already in private correspondence with Moses Mendelssohn on the subject of Lessing's Spinozism, and it probably was with the ulterior motive of showing his affinities to Lessing that he quoted Lessing's words to the effect that whatever Febronius and his followers had said against the supremacy of the popes over the churches applied to the princes in twofold, nay threefold, measure as well. "Justinus Febronius" was the pen-name of the Austrian bishop Johann Nicolaus von Hontheim, who defended the autonomy of local churches against the supremacy of Rome. For both Lessing and Jacobi, to withdraw the churches from the authority of the popes meant in fact to subject them to the more repressive power of the princes. From Mendelssohn there came a reply in defence of the princes, and also the suggestion that Jacobi had not understood the spirit of Lessing's words.s6 Jacobi countered with another article.37 All in all the picture was that of a surprisingly free exchange of political ideas. Most remarkable of all was the fact that (as Jacobi himself was to note retrospectively in 1815) Jacobi's essay, though rejected byj. A. 36. "Gedanken Verschiedener iiber eine merkwiirdige Schrift" (anonymous; "Reflections of Various People concerning a Remarkable Writing"), Deutsches Museum, i (1783): 3-9; see Werke, 11, pp. 389-411. 37. "Erinnerungen gegen die in den Januar des Museums eingeriickten Gedanken iiber eine merkwiirdige Schrift" (anonymous; "A Memorandum Regarding the Reflections Reported in the January Issue of the Museum Concerning a Remarkable Writing"), Deutsches Museum, i (1783): 3-9, 389-400. Cf. Werke, 11, pp 400-11.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

H. Reimarus for publication in Hamburg because it might offend the Austrian royalty, was published in Berlin unaltered with the approval of the censors.38 We have again an example of the complexity of the Enlightenment, where despotism could harbour liberal dissent and Enlightenment philosophy provide the conceptual basis for a defence of despotic political practices. The situation was soon to change, however, and not in favour of liberalism. The events leading up to the French Revolution and the subsequent Terror naturally promoted a conservative reaction. But it would be a mistake to interpret this reaction simply as a defence reflex on the part of established despotism against the new freedoms being declared by the revolution. Both in practice and in ideology the new order turned out to be even more tyrannical than the old one, for the state was now identified with the will of a quasi-mystical entity called the "people," and individual citizens were therefore expected not only to obey it externally but to feel loyalty towards it as well. The bond uniting them to the "people" was supposed to be an internal one. The tyranny of the state was now extended over the domain of the mind as well, whereas according to the old order external obedience did not in any way imply personal loyalty. In Germany the average burgher, not to speak of the peasants, had been notoriously indifferent to the fortunes of his prince. It is this new absolutism that the nineteenth century inherited and that, as we suggested above, made of Europe after the Restoration a totally new political entity. Jacobi, who quickly became engrossed in the affairs of the revolution,39 harboured suspicions about it from the beginning.40 It has been said that one motive behind Jacobi's rejection of it was fear of the threat that the revolution seemed to pose to private property.41 And the claim is very likelyjustified. But there certainly also were conceptual and moral 38. See Werke, n, p. 327. See letter toj. Miiller, 4 October 1782 (Briefwechsel, 1.3, #808, pp. 54—55), which shows Jacobi in search of a publisher, and Letter #851, to C. K. W. Dohm, 3 December 1782 (p. 100), in which Jacobi praises "die Berliner PreBfreiheit." 39. Letter to Georg Forster, 12 November 1789, Auserlesener Briefwechsel, H, #181, p. 11: "The French doings have totally immersed me in the political realm." 40. See letter to Reinhold of 7 November 1789, in Karl Leonhard Reinhold's Leben und litterarisches Wirken, nebst einer Auswahl von Briefen Kant's, Fichte's, Jacobi's, und andrer philosophirenden Zeitgenossen an ihn (K. L. Reinhold's Life and Literary Work, Together with a Selection of Letters of Kant, Fichte, Jacobi, and Other Philosophers to Him), ed. Ernst Reinhold (Jena: Fromann, 1825), p. 226 (henceforth, Reinhold's Leben). 41. Thus Reiser in Enlightenment, Revolution and Romanticism, p. 150.



reasons behind it, all consistent with Jacobi's past attitudes. At least since the Spinoza LifersJacobi was no longer using "reason" in a classical sense but had rather given the term a pejorative meaning that he was to reserve for it until the last phase of his development. "Reason" now meant for him the misuse of the power of abstraction. It stood for the tendency to assume as the principle of explanation or moral action a conceptual representation of reality that in fact has no meaning except by reference to the very matter it is expected to clarify or direct, and owes its appearance of intelligibility only to its lack of content. This poverty on its part makes it a particularly apt instrument for simplifying our perception of the world and thus satisfying our innate desire for order. But its pragmatic value apart, reason's ideal order is not to be mistaken for the requirements of actual existence. It is at best only a distant reflection of it, and to assume it instead as the source of intelligibility and value is in fact to invert the real order of things. It is like transforming reality into a nothingness by means of abstraction and then trying to retrieve the reality from the nothingness by means of purely conceptual means of inference. This is in effect the objection that Jacobi raised in the fragment of a letter intended for Jean Francois Laharpe, member of the Academic franchise, in lygo,42 but repeated in other contexts as well. It is not surprising that people do not everywhere flock to the cry of liberty for all coming from Paris. For the freedom being proclaimed there is only an empty concept, and common people do not see how it connects with their individual needs and individual desires. Brave words indeed those of Mirabeau, according to which one has finally discovered "a fixed way of being governed by reason alone,"43 a feat accomplished by finally destroying the rule of the passions. But in fact this creation of a new society ex nihilo is achieved at the price of ignoring "individual and person." "Until now," Jacobi says, "reason never was alone for us; considered as a separate entity or as pure reason, it appeared to us neither as legislative nor as executive but simply as judging, simply as applying given determinations to given objects. Reason is a superb bearer of light; by itself, however, it would neither give light nor move."44 42. Bruchstuck eines Briefes an Johann Franz Laharpe, Mitglied der franzosischen Akademie (Fragment of a Letter to Johann Franz Laharpe, Member of the French Academy), published in Werke, n, pp. 513-44. 43. Jacobi cites in French. An Laharpe, Werke, n, p. 515. 44. An Laharpe, p. 516.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

It is interesting that Jacobi's objection to Laharpe is essentially the same as the one he had moved in 1787, only three years earlier, against the Berlin Aufklarer, who at the time were waging a campaign against the new religious piety promoted by such people as Lavater. Behind that piety the Aufklarer detected a hidden papist plot to subvert the principles of the universal religion of pure reason that they advocated.45 Jacobi made his counter-objection to the Aufklarer in an occasional piece published in the Deutsches Museum, where he has a fictional believer reply to the charges of superstition levelled against him by an enlightened philosopher.46 The believer's basic point is that the philosopher might indeed have the right to criticize faith. But the believer has just as much right not to accept the philosopher's portrayal of his faith. For at the abstract level of conceptualization on which philosophy operates he is in no position even to recognize the true nature of the object of his attack. He cannot see that there is nothing that he expresses about God and the world with his abstract concepts that the believer does not already know and has not already held on the strength of his historical faith from time immemorial. The philosopher also forgets that his reason too has a history—that it was born of the very faith he is now trying to discredit but on which he still relies even to be understood, let alone command assent. By attempting to destroy historical faith, philosophical reason thus runs the risk of undermining its own source of evidence. And this objection to the Aufklarer was in effect also Jacobi's objection to Laharpe concerning the social experiment undertaken by the French Revolution. The enterprise was a self-defeating one, for in trying to establish a society de novo exclusively based on the supposed needs of individuals in general, the architects of the new social order had lost sight of the fact that real individuals have the needs that they really have only because they are all born in historically given societies. They can therefore respond to the call of enlightened needs only to the extent that they have been prepared for them by their particular society. By cutting itself loose from the past, the new society was actually destroying its own social material. 45. See below, footnote to p. 15 of David Hume. 46. "Einige Betrachtungen iiber den frommen Betrug and uber eine Vernunft, welche nicht die Vernunft 1st" ("A Few Comments Concerning Pious Fraud and a Reason Which Is No Reason"), Deutsches Museum, 1.2 (1788): 153-84; reproduced with some alterations in Werke, n, pp. 457-59)-1 suspect that this dialogue between believer and philosopher is behind Hegel's dramatic confrontation of reason with faith in chapter vi of the Phenomenology of Spirit.



So far as Jacob! was concerned, both the tyranny of the French Revolution and the despotism of the enlightened ruler were phenomena of one and the same abstractive reason. Constitutional monarchy appears to have been his favourite form of government,47 and during the French Revolution he was clearly drawn to the conservative ideas of Burke.48 But then, we cannot expect a fully worked-out theory on the part ofJacobi here. It is notjust that he eschewed systematization in principle. Jacobi's attitudes harboured an inconsistency that of necessity stood in the way of any clearly defined position. Signs of it could be seen even in his letter to Laharpe. For there, to Mirabeau's exalted picture of a society founded on the formal rule of reason Jacobi opposed the more pedestrian one of individuals held together, organically, as it were, by bonds forged dirough history on the basis of particular needs. This picture of Jacobi's presupposed, however, a rational order in human affairs that would unfold out of the historical and biological basis of experience without any break with it. It presupposed, in other words, some sort of pre-knowledge rooted in muscle reflexes, so to speak, or in sexual drives, which Jacobi could then oppose to the rule-driven reason of the philosophers. Jacobi had in fact presupposed this (classical) notion of reason in his early political writings, when he had clearly and deliberately defended the idea of the liberal state without, however, espousing the ideology of abstractive rationality upon which the liberalism of his day was based. Now that the French Revolution was dramatically demonstrating the possibly catastrophic effects of this same rationality, one would have expected him to develop his own implicit theory of reason in open contradistinction to it. But Jacobi did nothing of the sort. Nor could he, for, as we shall see, Jacobi indulged in a purism of sentiment that was the exact counterpart of the purism of reason for which he was attacking the revolutionary ideologues. And this purism denied him the historical and organic basis for the kind of social rationality he was groping for—the net result being that, as the letter to Laharpe illustrates (and so too, as we shall see, his Woldemar},^ while he could clearly argue against what 47. See letter to C. K. W. Dohm, 3 December 1782, in the aftermath of the publication of his Etwas, das Lessinggesagt hat: "I won't allow that you should pass my essay for an apology of democracy. I have made crystal clear, on the contrary, my indifference to any nominal property of the states, and condemned every arbitrary use of power. I have only praised the rule of law." Briejwechsel, 1.3, #851, p. 100. 48. See letter to Rehberg, 28 November 1791, Auserlesener Briefwechsel, vol. n, #205, pp. 68-69. 49. See below, Section in, pp. 146-48.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

politically he stood opposed to, he could only fall back upon a statement of traditional values when it was a matter of defending what he stood for. But then, in this respect Jacobi was only reflecting inconsistencies that had been deeply rooted in the Enlightenment from the beginning. THE LANDSCAPE: PHILOSOPHY 4. Many ingredients had gone into the making of the characteristically German form that the Enlightenment assumed in the German lands, where it was blooming by the middle of the eighteenth century. The remote inspiration of the Enlightenment everywhere had been Descartes—more specifically, Cartesian rationalism, which had rid the world of final causes and thereby made the world itself into a machine. "Under mechanism I include every concatenation of purely efficient causes," Jacobi was to define. "Such concatenation is eo ipso a necessary one, just as a necessary concatenation, qua necessary, is by that very fact a mechanistic one."50 This kind of rationalism was part and parcel of Enlightenment thought, yet, though always present, it by no means constituted its essence in Germany or anywhere else. For one thing, philosophers and theologians had been quick after Descartes to reintroduce finality by picturing the world as indeed organized according to mechanistic lines of causality, but for purposes that God had formulated and that lay in his mind. Of course, this kind of external finality had very little if anything in common with Aristotelian ends, which made up the very nature of things. It determined the whole of reality formally without intrinsically affecting the determination of any of its parts (which had to be left to efficient causality). In Germany, however, Cartesian rationalism had meant most of all Leibniz's (1646—1714) version of it. And in this version, though the Cartesian picture of a universe in which every part reflected and balanced every other part was preserved, the harmony of the whole thus established was conceived as induced, so to speak, from within each of the parts, because of a part's specific intensive degree of life. The result was a peculiar synthesis of Cartesian mechanism and Aristotelian vitalism, and this synthesis, in the systematic and highly scholasticized form given to it by Christian Wolff (1679-1754), became the basis in Germany of Enlightenment philosophy. Spinoza (1632-77) also entered into the picture, albeit belatedly. Although perhaps the most consequential of all Cartesians, he was indirectly to provide the im50. Spinoza Letters (1789 ed.), p. 355.



petus for the emergence of early Romanticism because of his quasimystical insistence on the immanent presence of God in the universe. Leibniz must be mentioned a second time because, with the posthumous publication in 1765 of his Nouveaux Essais sur Ventendement humain, he made a second entrance on the scene, so to speak. And this time he came equipped with a vitalistic theory of the mind in which the unconscious figured prominently as a dimension of consciousness itself. When Herder or Goethe (andjacobi himself in the David Hume) reacted to the contemporary vogue for mechanistic explanations of mental processes, and when they strove for a more organic view of nature, they were drawing from a vitalistic tradition deeply rooted in German thought. More to the point for our immediate purposes, however, the Enlightenment was also born of a reaction against the formalism of Cartesian rationalism. The rationalists came under attack because of their utter disregard for experimentation and sense experiences and their naive pretence that they could derive knowledge of the real world from the mind a priori. The inspiration for this new recognition of the importance of empirical knowledge had come from England—from John Locke's (1632—1704) theory of mind based on the primacy of sensations, and from Isaac Newton's (1642-1727) experimental method in physics. By the middle of the century, therefore, Wolffs metaphysics was already falling into disrepute in Germany.51 This is not to say that his style of philosophy died out in Germany. But, although always faithful to its metaphysical ancestry, Wolffian-style philosophy remained alive precisely because it began to respond to the issues raised by English empiricism and eventually incorporated many of its elements. Kantian critique was a case in point. According to Kant's explicit testimony, his critical work was inspired by the desire to establish metaphysics on a sure conceptual foundation. To the extent that Kant still shared in the belief that science is foundational and systematic that is the hallmark of Wolffs metaphysics, his critique fell on the side of the Wolffian tradition.52 But according to Kant's equally explicit testimony, he had been awakened from his "dogmatic slumber" by Hume's scepticism;53 much of his cri51. Though in all fairness to Wolff it must be said that he had already made plenty of room in his rationalism for a role to be played by the senses. 52. Kritik derreinen Vernunft, and ed. (Riga: Hartnoch, 1787), p. xxxvi. 53. Prolegomena zu einerjeden kunftigen Metaphysik (Prolegomena to Every Future Metaphysics; Riga: Hartknoch, 1783), Academy Edition, Vol. iv, p. 260.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

tique, moreover, was intended to restrict science to empirical knowledge. Here was a case in which Wolffian metaphysical assumptions and classical metaphysical problems were being reasserted indeed, but in the light of English empiricism. The English influence had come to Germany through various channels, including France. Since the seventeenth century French culture had established a massive presence in the German territories, where it had found a natural ground of expansion because of the cultural vacuum caused there by the Thirty Years' War. The French language had become the accepted medium of communication in the chancelleries, and in the Prussia of Frederick the Great it was the language of the court. Since Frederick had imported French experts to introduce French methods of tax collection in the kingdom, the language had also filtered through to the lower echelons of the bureaucracy. (Hamann was bitterly to resent the petty tyranny of these French tax experts, to whom he was subjected first as translator and then as a minor official in the customs house in Konigsberg). The French language was also adopted by the German nobility for daily use. Until 1778 state minister Furstenberg and the Princess Gallitzin (both friends of Jacobi) carried on their thick correspondence, which was entirely dedicated to personal and even intimate matters, in French; and when in 1780 they shifted to the use of their mother tongue, they did so deliberately, knowing quite well that they were conforming to new trends in Germany.54 Along with the French language there had come into Germany French tastes and French ideas. As it happened, by the middle of the eighteenth century the passion for things English had become almost a craze in France, and this passion too was exported into Germany. The first to fuel it had been Voltaire (1694-1778). Originally an orthodox rationalist, Voltaire made his acquaintance with the philosophy and the political institutions of England during an early exile there (1726-29), from which he returned to France totally converted to the historicoempirical study of nature and the human mind and (a refugee as he had been from the intolerance of the French establishment) enthusiastically convinced of the merits of political, juridical, and economic liberalism. During the following fifty-odd years he translated these newly acquired beliefs into a relentless, often satirical, always brilliant attack on the ste54. See Gisel Oehlert, "Fiirstenbergs Briefe an die Fiirstin Gallitzin," in Furstenberg, Furstin Gallitzin, und ihr Kreis, Erich Trunk (Miinster: Aschendorff, 1955), pp. 7-14: p. 8.



rility of the doctrine of innate ideas, the naivete of Leibnizian-style metaphysical optimism, and the inhumanity of any form of autocracy. And Voltaire used poetry and the stage as his medium of expression just as effectively as the philosophical essay.55 This point is important, because it touches on the essence of the new Enlightenment philosophy. Abstraction is now considered the one great source of error. In order to yield knowledge, representations ought to respect the details of the reality that they portray; they must remain as close as possible to the existential conditions under which such reality appears in sense experience. All knowledge, in other words, must respect the individuality of its objects. And since the narrative form of representation, even when fictional, still models itself after real situations and real people, it follows that plays, stories, or novels can be vehicles of truth just as good as, if not better than, any other, more theoretical means. The upshot was that in the literature of the Enlightenment the distinction between literary and philosophical production tended to blur. Hence Jacobi, and others besides him, could write in the new literary form that was establishing itself at that time and yet think of themselves as doing philosophy. Voltaire was not isolated in France. He was one among a whole group of enlightened philosophes, all of whom had drawn their basic ideas from England but were now remoulding them in a uniquely French cast. They all figure, in one way or another, in Jacobi's life. Their special contribution was an anti-establishment (also anti-ecclesiastical) spirit that obviously reflected the social situation in France at the time. But even more important, they added to empiricism the belief that if one were ever to discover by observation and experimentation the basic laws of nature— and there was no doubt that one eventually would—then the whole machinery of the universe could be deduced from them as if a priori. This belief was definitely Cartesian in inspiration, and when transposed into moral and social affairs it gave rise to the expectation that eventually, on the empirically discovered laws of human nature, a new society would emerge free from every form of oppression and other evils. In fact this unbounded trust in the power of reason eventually begot the tyranny of the French Revolution and could be harnessed in defence of state 55. Voltaire at times supplemented literary action with more political manoeuvres in the defence of individuals unjustly persecuted. There is the celebrated case of his defence of the Protestant Jean Galas (1762). Voltaire's break with Frederick the Great in 1753 was due in part to the unjust condemnation of the philosopher Johannes Samuel Konig by the Berlin Academy.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

despotism. Yet so far as established institutions were concerned, it still remained the most destructive element of the empiricism of the philosopher. The trust came to be documented in many ways. Its most effective channel of propaganda was the Encyclopedic, a monumental work in twenty-eight volumes published intermittently, at times underground, between 1751 and 1772 under the editorship of Jean d'Alembert (1717-83), best known as a mathematician, and Denis Diderot (1713-84) ,56 a literary figure of Voltaire's type. But it also found expression in such works as Etienne de Condillac's Traite de sensations (1754), or the Essai de psychologic (1754) and the Essai analytique sur lesfacultes de Vdme (1760) of the Swiss Charles Bonnet (with whomjacobi became acquainted during his Geneva years). These works tried systematically to account for all the contents of the human mind (including the belief in an external world) and every aspect of man's personality on the basis of primitive sense impressions. They argued using such purely imaginary experiments as the assumption of a marble statue in the shape of the human body, to which the five senses were added one at a time. As impressions began to flow into it through them, the extent of the mental life thereby aroused was measured methodically, in the experimenter's imagination at least.57 Neither Condillac nor Bonnet would have wanted to be called "reductionist" in the modern sense of the word. They simply wanted to build an explanatory model of mental life, taking into consideration the best empirical (including anatomical) data available at the time. Yet to their step-by-step reconstruction of the mind on the basis of sensory elements they were applying the same a priori method Descartes had advocated for the combination of his clear and distinct ideas, and the result was an organized whole (whether one called it "body" or "mind") that was as much of a machine as Descartes had claimed all bodies to be. In other words, materialism, and a Cartesian one at that, was always just below the surface in the thought of the philosophes. There were those among them who made it explicit. A case in point is Diderot, who also managed to slant the whole Encyclopedic to reflect his own avowed materialism and atheism. Another to be mentioned is Julien de 56. "During the past week Diderot was here, and I have got to know him fairly well. This famous man possesses a fiery spirit, a keen and lively wit. But the ascendancy of the feeling of the beautiful and the true is certainly not what makes him a Genius—if he is a genius." Letter to Sophie La Roche, 30 August 1773, Briefwechsel, #300, p. 211. Jacobi was writing from Diisseldorf. 57. See below, footnote to p. 142 ("breathe the fleeting soul into it") of David Hume.



la Mettrie (1709-51), who in his influential L 'Homme machine (1747) depicted man precisely as a mechanism without soul. La Mettrie eventually found refuge at the Berlin Academy, and when he died his eulogy was delivered by Frederick the Great. It was to be one of the paradoxes of the Enlightenment, and a source of its inner tension, that, when transposed on to French soil, English empiricism should yield a new form of Cartesian rationalism.58 In Germany the results were not quite the same, because of the other forces there that militated against French-style rationalism. This circumstance made for an even more complex situation. We have already mentioned the influence of Leibniz. Another major difference was the direct influence that English ideas had also had in the formation of the Aufklarung and the role that the English presence itself played in the growth of German self-awareness. The very fact that there was an English language—that there had been a Shakespeare and, before him, an Ossian (the legendary ancient Celtic bard whose apocryphal ballads the Germans universally accepted as authentic)—and that this language and its products shared a common origin with German indicated that there was great potential yet to be tapped inherent in the latter. In German philosophy it was the scepticism of Hume, the Scottish dimension of British empiricism, that provided one important corrective to the rationalism of the philosophes. This is not to deny that Hume was known in France59 or that his reception in Germany was mediated by the French in part at least. Nor is it to deny that the philosophes were also sceptics in their way, or that there was a tradition of scepticism indigenous to French culture— witness Montaigne (1533—92) and Bayle (1647—1706). 6o But it is significant that Voltaire attacked Montaigne in his writings just as vigorously as he attacked Pascal and Leibniz. Voltaire's scepticism, which was representative of the scepticism of the philosophes, constituted more an attack on the possibility of a priori metaphysics than a genuine doubt about the possibility of ever achieving certain knowledge through unaided scientific means. Condillac and Bonnet had no doubt that their imaginary experiments provided indubitable evidence for the existence 58. But perhaps it is not a paradox at all, because Locke's method had many Cartesian elements. On this point, see Peter A. Shouls, "The Cartesian Method of Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding," Canadian Journal of Philosophy, iv (1975): 579-601. 59. He was even known personally. He was for a few years charge d'affaires at the British embassy in Paris. 60. Pierre Bayle had to operate from Holland because, born a Calvinist and converted to Catholicism, he relapsed to Calvinism. He used his scepticism to promote religious tolerance.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

of an external world, apparently unimpressed by Hume's point that, inasmuch as "sensations" (understood in Locke's way as events internal to the mind) are the only direct objects of our knowledge, any claim that they actually represent an outside world must constitute an inference and cannot therefore ever deliver certainty. Hume's doubt touched upon the very possibility of theoretical knowledge of an external world, and it is this doubt that became the central problem in post-Wolffian metaphysics. The importance of Hume for German Enlightenment philosophy is well known because of the Kant connection. It is less well known but also important that Hume's Scottish critics were known in Germany and exerted a considerable influence there as well, notably on Jacobi.61 By the "Scottish critics" are meant the Thomas Reid (1710—96) school of common-sense realism that met Hume's doubt by attacking it at its base, in the "sensationism" of Locke. Reid's contention, in brief, was that sensations are indeed mental acts that give rise to knowledge and, in this sense, are cognitive media. They are not, however, the direct objects of knowledge, which are to be sought rather in the things of the external world towards which the sense acts are directed. These acts have a revelatory function; they provide the immediate evidence on the basis of which external things are apprehended in a judgment of perception precisely as external. That the senses have this function must be accepted, according to Reid, simply as a fact of experience.62 Common-sense realism was an original attitude of mind, just as was Hume's "idealism."63 Jacobi defended this kind of realism in his David Hume. Much later in

61. On the subject, see Manfred Kuehn, Scottish Common Sense in Germany, 1768—1800: A Contribution to the History of Critical Philosophy (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen's, 1987)62. See Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man (1785), Essay 11, chs. 3 and 4, where Reid argues that "sensations," understood as mere impressions in the manner of Locke and Hume, are physical events that do not constitute as such consciousness proper, even though God has made them the necessary pre-conditions of mental life. The latter begins only with perception, and it is clear that "if, therefore, we attend to that act of our mind which we call the perception of an external object of sense, we shall find in it these three things:—First, Some conception or notion of the object perceived; Secondly, A strong and irresistible conviction and belief of its present existence; and Thirdly, That this conviction and belief are immediate, and not the effect of reasoning." The Works of Thomas Reid, ed. Sir William Hamilton (Edinburgh: MacLachlan and Stewart, 1872), Vol. i, p. 258. See also Reid's critique of Hume's theory of ideas in ch. 14. Reid's An Inquiry into the Human Mind on the Principles of Common Sense was published in 1764. 63. At the time a common name for his phenomenalism.



his life, in 1804, in a letter to his young friend Frederick Bouterwek concerning the latter's latest attempt to sum up recent trends in philosophy, he complained that Bouterwek had not done him justice. Bouterwek had attributed to Schulze and Fries the merit of having attacked idealism at its source, whereas in fact, "so far as [Jacobi] knew, he [Jacobi] had been the first [in the David Hume] to do away in a radical way with the "third thing" which, since Locke, had been assumed between knowing subject and things to be known."64 Jacobi was of course correct in claiming priority of credit over Schulze and Fries. But he was equally being disingenuous not to note how much he, as well as Schulze and Fries, owed to Thomas Reid. Jacobi indirectly acknowledged this debt to Reid in at least one place—in a passage of the 1784 Woldemar in which he has one of his characters (a Scotsman named Sydney, who expresses many of the views dear to Jacobi's heart) praise the Scottish philosopher.65 But then, 64. Bouterwek-Briefwechsel, Letter #8, 8 January 1804, p. 64. 65. Part i, p. 80 of the 1796 ed. (Konigsberg: Nicolovius). See Werke, v (1820): 71. Jacobi also praises Reid in a letter to Johann Neeb, 18 October 1814, Auserlesener Briefwechsel, u, #351, p. 445. For Reid's influence on Jacobi, see Kuehn, pp. 143-49, 158-66, and also Giinther Baum, Vernunft und Erkenntnis: Die Philosophic F. H. Jacobis (Bonn: Bouvier, 1969), pp. 42-49. In his "Tagebuch der Reise nach dem Reich 1788" Wilhelm von Humboldt reports Jacobi as saying to him in 1788: "No proposition which is not based on mere analysis of concepts should be held as true until it is intuited in concrete. Intuition is the one single means by which to attain certainty oneself and convince others. We must get the other also to intuit. But this is not otherwise possible except by turning the thing around on all possible sides and trying to position it in the right point of view. For this turning around we need dialectic." "There is a great and important distinction between perception and sensation, between the beholding of external alterations and the feeling of internal ones, and this is a distinction that Kant denies, because, according to him, everything is only a modification of the soul itself, only sensation. We do not perceive, as usually assumed, merely the picture of external things; we perceive these very things (though, to be sure, modified according to the relation of our position to the thing that we perceive and to the rest of things in the world). This perception occurs, as Reid quite correctly says [in English], by a sort of revelation; hence we do not demonstrate that there are things outside us but believe it. This faith is not an assumption based on probability. It is a greater and more unshakeable certainty as a demonstrarion could ever afford." "We intuit the things outside us; these things are actual things, and the certainty which intuition affords us we call faith. This certainty is for us so strong, and so necessary, that every other certainty, indeed, our very self-consciousness, hangs on it. We cannot be certain of our selves before being certain of some thing outside us. Here is where Kant has gone wrong: he reduces all things to man himself; explains all things as modifications of the soul, accepts external things only in word while denying the reality itself." Wilhelm von Humboldt, Gesammelte Schriften, Academy Edition; Vol. xiv, Wilhelm von Humboldts Tagebuecher, ijSS-ijyS, ed. Albert Leitzmann (Berlin: Behr, 1916), pp. 58, 61.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

Reid's influence on Jacobi should have been obvious to everyone, given the wide acceptance of Scottish common-sense realism in Germany. Among the neo-Wolffians it helped to temper the rationalism of their otherwise purely conceptual inferences about reality, yet it also checked the possibility of scepticism implicit in their otherwise sensationist psychology by providing for both their metaphysics and their theory of knowledge a basis of immediate evidence in the senses. It made possible, in other words, that mixture of old-fashioned metaphysics and Englishinspired empiricism typical of the Aufklarung philosophy that was centred in Berlin, with Nicolai as its most vocal spokesman and the Allgemeine Literatur Zeitung, which he edited, as its official voice. Yet the same realism could also be used, as it was by Jacobi and others besides him, as a weapon against the Aufklarer. For on its basis one could also easily argue that reason is impotent as a source of truth apart from the revelatory character of the senses and that metaphysics is therefore an empty, and possibly dangerous, conceptual game. This play of conflicting tendencies can be seen in the Jacobi-Mendelssohn dispute, where the two parties ended up using the same weapon to defend diametrically opposite results. To counter the destructive effects of reason, Jacobi had fallen back upon a simple realism based on the revelation of the senses, clearly a theme of common-sense philosophy. Mendelssohn, for his part, counter-attacked also in the name of common sense66 by refusing to accept what he took to be the impossible demands that Jacobi was making on reason. Add to the dispute the further misunderstanding caused by the inherently ambiguous Enlightenment notion of "feeling" (also associated with immediate evidence), and the opposing religious preoccupations motivating Jacobi and Mendelssohn, and one begins to have a full picture of the complexities and confusions of the Aufklarung. Thomas Wizenmann (1759-87) is a striking illustration of how fluid the situation could be—how easy it was to lump together the most diverse of concepts. Summing up the lesson to be learned from the JacobiMendelssohn dispute in The Results ofjacobi's and Mendelssohn's Philosophy Critically Assessed by an Impartial [Observer],6? a book that was very well

66. Mendelssohn could very well have drawn his notion of "common sense" from the scholastic recta ratio ("right or sound reason"), but if this was the case, it all made for an even more complex situation. 67. Die Resultate der Jacobi'shen und Mendelssohn'ischer Philosophic kritisch untersucht von einem Freywilligen (Leipzig: Goschen, 1786).



received at the time,68 he argued thatjacobi and Mendelssohn agreed in at least two important respects. The first was that reason is bound to immediate existential evidence; it is dangerous for it, therefore, to draw inferences without constantly returning to such evidence and orienting itself from there. The second was that all men, be they cultivated or not, possess an inherent certainty that God exists, and this certainty too ought to count as immediate evidence. But Mendelssohn oriented his reason mainly from the testimony of the external senses and what he called "common sense," without realizing that this testimony is conditioned by presuppositions that we, because of the awareness that we have of our internal life, project on to it. Jacobi, by contrast, took his startingpoint from the image of God that he found within himself. He had an advantage over Mendelssohn in that, on the basis of the feelings and the actions that this image generates, he had available a source of immediate evidence for the infinity of God. The same image, when projected on to the external world, becomes fragmented and dispersed. And since Mendelssohn oriented his reason from this externalized image of God, he was necessarily bound to a finite standpoint. His metaphysics had to be materialist and fatalist. But neither were Jacobi's subjective intimations of infinity sufficient as a basis of true religion unless they were subjected to the discipline of a personal relationship to God. This meant, in effect, accepting the historical evidence of a direct manifestation of God throughout the ages, in virtue of which God has established such a relationship with us. Ultimately, therefore, the difference between Jacobi and Mendelssohn, or, for that matter, between the two of them and the Christian believer, was the extent to which one's common sense is conditioned by Christian faith in God's self-revelation in history.69 It is noteworthy that Kant's only public contribution to the dispute was an essay that represents an attempt to define the nature and scope of

68. Daniel Jenisch considered this book to have been responsible, together with Reinhold's Briefe uber die kantische Philosophic (1786-87) and Jacobi's doings, for the reawakening of interest in speculative philosophy among the general public, and for the building up of support for Kant's critical work. See letter to Kant, 14 May 1787, KantBriefwechsel, Academy Edition, #297. 69. This is only a brief sketch of a long and often confusing book. See pp. 39, 47, 55ff., 65ff., i42ff., isoff., 184, 196, 223ff., 236, 246-47. For the scepticism implicit in Wizenmann's position, see Frederick C. Reiser, The Fate of Reason (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard, 1987), ch. iv.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

common sense critically.70 This is an important point to note, because Kant was reflecting what had been from the beginning the peculiarly German way of receiving common-sense realism, which was not just to use the alleged evidence yielded by common sense as a basis for judgment but rather to justify it on rational grounds.71 It is in this respect that Aufklarung metaphysics remained true to its Cartesian heritage. And Fichte was still operating within this general tradition when he defined the task of his new Wissenschaftslehre precisely as the determination of the grounds that justify the feeling of necessity accompanying our sense impressions—their revelatory power, in other words.72 Jacobi was of course shocked to learn that Fichte thought of himself as in fact supplementing his work—as executing at the reflective level, conceptually, the union of theoretical cognition and moral feeling to which Jacobi was giving witness, emotionally, from the standpoint of life.73 And in a way Jacobi was justified in reacting as he did. But then it could hardly be said that his polemics had done much to bring the many conflicting concepts and interests of the time into any sort of order. Nobody could blame Fichte for trying, as had Kant and Reinhold before him, to do just that.

70. Was heifit: Sich im Denken orientiren? (1786; What Does It Mean To Orient Oneself in Thought?) Kant accused Jacobi of irrationalism, since Jacobi considered Spinozism to be the perfect rational system yet demanded its rejection through a salto mortals. But neither did he approve of Mendelssohn's claim that faith can be justified by rational knowledge. Kant's claim, which is in keeping with his general standpoint, is that faith must be criticized in the light of reason's definition of the limits of experience. But it does not follow that it can be transformed into "knowledge" or be replaced by it. In a letter to Marcus Herz (7 April 1786) Kant described Jacobi's doings as "Grille" (chicanery), "an enthusiasm of genius [ Genieschwdrmerei] which is not serious but only affected in order to make a name for himself; hence hardly worthy of a serious refutation." Letter #267. 71. See Kuehn, p. 84, igSff. 72. "The question that the Science of Knowledge has to answer is, as known, the following: Whence the system of representations that are accompanied by the feeling of necessity? or, How do we ever come to attribute objective validity to something which is only subjective?" ZweiteEinleitung in die Wissenschaftslehre (i797),/- G. Fichte Gesammtaitsgabe, ed. R. Lauth and H.Jacob (Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Fromann, 1964-), Vol. 1.3, §2. 73. See Fichte's Letter to Jacobi, 26 April 1796, Fichte-Gesammtausgabe, 111.3, #335, p. 18; To K. L. Reinhold, 22 April 1796, #440, pp. 325-26. For Jacobi's influence on Fichte, see my "From Jacobi's Philosophical Novel to Fichte's Idealism: Some Comments on the 1798-99 'Atheism Dispute,'" Journal of the History of Philosophy, xxvn (1989): 75-100, especially pp. 76-77.



THE LANDSCAPE: SENTIMENT 5. There was of course more behind Fichte's early philosophical project than the attempt to establish Jacobi's "feeling" on a rational foundation. Another likely object of Fichte's a priori justification was the moral and social theories of Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-78), which in turn represented a peculiarly Cartesian development of the theory of moral sentiment originally imported to the continent as part of the empiricist baggage from Britain. All British empiricists—from Lord Shaftesbury (i67i-i7i3) 7 4 down through Hume, Hutcheson, Lord Kames, Adam Smith, Butler, and Ferguson—appealed in some form or other to this theory. It argued that, just as in theoretical science all rational evidence had finally to lead back to the witness of the senses, so too at the moral level values had ultimately to be justified, not on rational grounds but on an innate feeling or sentiment for the good, the beautiful, the pleasurable, or whatever. It might seem strange that so much attention and importance should have been given to the emotional side of man in an age when the cosmos was being represented more and more as just a machine. But the incongruity is only apparent, for the sentiments upon which the new moral thinking was based were the psychic equivalent of the physical forces that held the cosmic machine together. Moral man was a psychic machine, in other words, a bundle of feelings, passions, and emotions that could be dissected and put together again according to their dynamic laws. Now, this affective side of empiricism also had, just like its theoretical counterpart, subversive implications so far as traditional metaphysics was concerned, and equally subversive social implications as well. The spontaneity of natural feelings was played against the repressive nature of established culture. Accordingly, the new and broadly accepted theories of education were all based on the assumption that reason ought not to be used to impose artificial constraints upon man's natural desires but ought to release instead the creative energies inherent in them so that individuals could learn to cope with the necessities of their world spontaneously and realistically. In upholding, however, the rights of nature over culture, these theories were only anti-rationalist in appearance, for they all operated with a normative concept of "nature" and "natural sen74. He is reputed to have been the first to use the expression in philosophy.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

timent." These were native endowments that nevertheless needed the cultivation of an enlightened reason in order to bloom. Thus, despite the cult of the simple and rustic that they spawned, the new theories fostered a new kind of affective elitism based on a sublimation of feeling that still amounted to a kind of rationalism. And in France at least, this rationalism still had Cartesian overtones. Rousseau—who had also done his stint of exile in Prussia under the protection of Frederick the Great75 and whose fastidiousness of feelings is notorious—is a clear illustration of the point. Rousseau could, on the one hand, oppose natural virtue to the constraints of society in his theory of education (Emile, 1762), yet, on the other, advocate in his social theory (Du contrat social, 1762) the complete alienation of individual freedom in favour of a supposed will of society as a whole. And such an alienation was advocated precisely for the sake of safeguarding the affective freedom that education ought to foster, because, in identifying with society as such, individuals removed even the possibility of social compulsion.76 Rousseau himself did not hesitate to justify theoretically, on this basis, political actions that in practice would have amounted to social terror. And the French Revolution was eventually to put the theory into practice. But the point to note is that this strange transformation of affective freedom into political despotism would not have been conceptually possible had not the natural sentiments that the new moral and educational theories were opposing to reason and society been theory-laden entities from the start. They were the kind of units of psychic energy that a Cartesian reason, bent on manipulation, could transfer to configurations of a higher order, all for the sake of its abstract requirements of order. In Germany this Cartesian reason was given the critical orientation that we all know, and Fichte took his bearings from there. Hegel had a valid point when, in retrospect, he interpreted Fichte's morality as an interiorization of the Terror—a transformation, 75. He also spent a brief period in England at the invitation of David Hume, with whom he however quarrelled just as quickly as he quarrelled with everyone he came in contact with. 76. In a recent book, which unfortunately came too late for me to profit from, Asher Horowitz argues that this apparent opposition can be resolved if Rousseau is seen as departing from the Enlightenment idea of nature and implicitly developing instead a historical view of human nature and society. Rousseau: Nature and History (Toronto: University Press, 1992).



in other words, of Rousseau's political tyranny into a tyranny of conscience.77 Jacobi personally testified to the influence that the British moralists had over him. In the same letter to Bouterwek in which he took credit for having been the first to attack idealism at its foundation, he also reproved his friend for not having given enough credit to Butler and Ferguson in moral matters.78 In this connection he referred Bouterwek to Woldemar, to a passage in which the title character "relate [s to the company] how Ferguson's first work, his Essay on History, had marked a turning point in his life."79 The reading of Ferguson had led Woldemar (who in this instance clearly stands for Jacobi) to the rereading of the classics. In the conversation that follows, which amounts to a treatise on ethics, Aristotle's doctrine that a good man's judgment is the final and infallible norm of correct conduct is made to sound like a version of the British theory of moral sentiment.80 As for Rousseau, Jacobi became acquainted with him in his Geneva years. He signalled his affinity with him by appending to the 1776 version of All-will excerpts from the dialogue on the nature of fiction with which Rousseau had prefaced his Julie, ou la Nouvelle Heloi'se (1756). Jacobi's attitudes towards him obviously underwent modifications with the changing social and political situations—witness the addition to the 77. See Phdnomenologie des Geistes, G. W. F. Hegel: Gesammelte Werke (Hamburg: Meiner, 1968-), Vol. ix, p. 323 (The Phenomenology of Spirit, tr. A. V. Miller; Oxford: Clarendon, 1977), p. 363: "So does absolute freedom leave its self-destroying reality and pass over into another land of self-conscious Spirit where, in this unreal world, freedom has the value of truth. . . . There has arisen the new shape of Spirit, that of the moral Spirit." Neither Kant nor Fichte is referred to by name, but I take it that Hegel is referring to them. Hegel of course interprets both the Terror and its subsequent idealization as positive phenomena in the development of self-consciousness. 78. Bouterwek-Briefwechsel, Letter #8, 8 January 1804, p. 59. 79. 1796 ed., Part i, p. 79. Werke, v, p. 69. Jacobi also praises the "philosophical taste" of the Scots, who have never held that "virtue has no value in itself but only serves as a means to a happiness, a respect, and a culture distinct from it." The French are quite different in this respect. "As soon as their philosophy truly became just philosophy, and by that token ceased to support popular belief, it became materialistic." 1796 ed. pp. 84-85, Werke, v, pp. 74-75. 80. Jacobi thought of these pages as his "greatest contribution." "These few pages," he said, "cost me more work, effort, and reflection than anything else that I have had to offer in the philosophical field." Letter to Wilhelm von Humboldt of 2 September 1794, Auserlesener Briefwechsel, Vol. n, #234, p. 180.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

1792 edition of Allwill, "To Erhard O**," which can be read as a scathing attack on the ideology of the French Revolution and, by implication at least, on Rousseau's social theory.81 Butjacobi's ties to the cult of sentiment are much more complex than his connection with Rousseau or the influence of the British moralists. Back in Germany from Geneva, Jacobi had naturally found a place within the group of sentimental poets who gravitated to the figure of Wieland.82 The official organon of this group was the Teutscher Merkur. Wieland was its editor, but Jacobi had personally taken the initiative in founding it in 1773-83 In 1774 Georg Jacobi had added his own periodical, the 7m. Friedrich Jacobi also had close ties with Sophie La Roche, whose literary salon in Frankfurt provided the social focal-point for the group.84 One has only to look at the early versions of Jacobi's two novels to recognize all the moral and literary commonplaces of the ethos of sentimentality—the outpourings of emotion, the empathy with nature, the exaltation of the simple coupled with the utter contempt for the woodenness of the lower classes, the antagonism against purely theoretical reason, the issue of the relation of 81. The criticism is explicit elsewhere. Jacobi obviously shared Burke's opinion in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) that Rousseau had inspired the French Revolution (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1973), pp. 181-84, 279-84. See injacobi's letter to Rehberg, 28 November 1791 (Auserlesener Briefwechsel, vol. n, #205, pp. 68-73), what he has to say about Burke, and the notes (in French) which he had written for himself at the time of reading Contrat social and which he now communicates to Rehberg: "It's indeed a beautiful distinction that Rousseau draws between "general will" and the "will of all," and then abandons at every turn. The "general will" should not be the property of a particular society; reason alone dictates it, and dictates it equally to all men. Rousseau has badly grasped his own idea, which is evident from the ambiguous manner in which he first proves at the beginning of his book that the general will cannot err. It's worse later on. All these sophisms concerning the general will particularized and then again distinguished from the will of all go back to this big original sophism. . . . The general will of the men of today is to have dollars, and certainly this kind of will does not annihilate the individual, what the general will, inasmuch as it is general, must necessarily do. All that Rousseau says against Christianity . . . can be said with greater justification against reason assumed as perfect; for reason would then annihilate the individual to a greater degree than would Christian religion in its perfection. Conclusion: as system the Social Contract is a superficially profound work yet profoundly superficial, and this makes it a very bad work" (pp. 79—71). 82. Reinhold was to marry one of his daughters. 83. " [It] must be something like the Mercure deFrance. We must write it in such a way that it will not only be interesting to the learned, but also to ladies, the nobles, and the like." Letter to Wieland, 10 August 1772, Briefwechsel, 1.1., #253, p. 159. 84. For La Roche's salon, see Heinz Nicolai, Goethe und Jacobi, Studien zur Geschichte ihrer Freundschaft (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1965), pp. 2 iff.



art to nature, the glorification of personal relationships, the sexless eroticism.85 And one has only to read Jacobi's correspondence of the time, or listen to the witness of individuals close to him, to see how much he actually lived the ethos.86 The great enemy of the group was the abstract reason of the philosophers, and that meant above all the Berlin Aufklarer. But the group had also come under attack from the representatives of the new Sturm und Drang movement—notably from Goethe—although the Sturm und Drang too had no particular fondness for the scholasticism of the philosophers. It made sense that the new movement should be opposed to both the Wieland and the Berlin group, for the feud between these two was, after all, a family affair. The devotees of sentiment might have disliked the abstractions of post-Wolffian metaphysics. Yet they both drew their psychology and their ethics from the same shallow empiricism that was commonplace in the Enlightenment, and this meant that neither had a secure conceptual basis to offer for the individualism and autonomy of reason that were the Enlightenment's fundamental values. And it was precisely this basis that Goethe wanted to provide through his artistic medium. To be sure, Goethe's thought evolved over his long lifespan. Yet the problem of how individuals establish themselves through 85. For a documentation of the artificiality of the cult of sentiment within Jacobi's social circles, see Heinz Nicolai, Goethe und Jacobi, note 135 to ch. iv, pp. 301-02. See also Brachin, pp. 162-63. Wilhelm von Humboldt reports this impression of Jacobi during a visit to Pempelfort from i to 6 November 1788: "His look, his posture, the great warmth with which he embraced me, all confirmed my judgment of yesterday. The capacity to feel [empfinden] is great in him, and he very easily goes over to enthusiasm." "He said that he once composed an essay on love. He spoke beautifully on the subject, though, to be sure, less with philosophical precision than with depth of sentiment. As he wanted to define love, he said that it is the strongest of sentiment, the sense of all senses, etc." Gesammelte Schriften, Vol. xiv, pp. 57, 59-60. 86. See letter of io August 1774, Briefwechsel, 1.1., #340, pp. 242-43. Wizenmann relates the following scene that took place one evening in Jacobi's garden at Pempelfort. The two (Jacobi and Wizenmann) were full of wonder at the sight of the setting sun. Jacobi said that if God would grant him but one miracle to give him certainty of his grace, he would be so enflamed by enthusiasm that he would gather the whole of humanity in one place to preach God to the assembled crowd. Wizenmann was so moved by those sentiments that he kissed Jacobi's hand. At that they could resist no longer. "He [Jacobi] looked around him. Blissfully he embraced me, drew me mightily to his heart, and our lips rested long on each other, full of fire." Alexander Goltz, Thomas Wizenmann, der Freund Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi's, in Mittheilungen aus seinem Briefwechsel and handschriftlichen Nachlafle (Thomas Wizenmann, The Friend of F. H. Jacobi, in Reports Drawn from His Correspondence and Unpublished Works, 2 Vols.; Gotha: Friedrich Andreas Perthes, 1859), Vol. i, p. 310.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

action as valid personalities—as self-justifying moral works of art— remained with him to the end. Goethe had little patience with metaphysicians, as is well known. It is not far-fetched to say, however, that his artistic work paralleled on the literary side the critical revolution that Kant brought to post-Wolffian metaphysics. Whether through the medium of the imagination on the one side or that of the concept on the other, the incentive behind both was the desire to justify the aspirations of the Enlightenment by establishing them on a valid emotional and conceptual foundation. Jacobi never freed himself from the rhetoric of the cult of sentiment nor from the frames of reference of Enlightenment rationalism and Enlightenment empiricism. He was, however, deeply influenced throughout his life both by Goethe and by Kant. Allwill and Woldemar were originally motivated by Jacobi's encounter with Goethe, and Kant's presence is everywhere to be found in his philosophical output. With respect to Goethe, an extra factor that precluded a meeting of minds was Jacobi's puritanism, which made him incapable of accepting much of Goethe's literary production, let alone his personal life. Jacobi's frustration at Goethe's apparently cavalier treatment of his early passionate feeling of friendship must also have been an obstacle. These factors aside, however, Jacobi was indeed in a position to appreciate what both Goethe and Kant were doing conceptually. He rejected their efforts precisely because he found them self-defeating. Kant's critical subjectivism ended up engendering a strange kind of impersonal personalism, and Goethe's naturalism made for a pantheism that harked back to Spinoza. And both, so Jacobi thought, militated against the very autonomy of the person that the Enlightenment had stood for. But the question again is whether, his negative contribution as critic aside, Jacobi ultimately had to offer, as an alternative defence of the Enlightenment ideal, anything more than the rhetoric of sentiment. THE LANDSCAPE: RELIGION 6. That rhetoric had a strong religious component. One cannot fully appreciate the nature of the eighteenth-century cult of feeling unless one also recognizes its religious dimension, and it is especially in this respect that the overall picture becomes extremely complex. First, it must be stressed that, despite the atheism of some and the opposition to the church and traditional Christian faith of all, the philosopheswere not necessarily anti-religious. On the contrary, they admitted a God as the chief



architect of the world-machine, and some of them (Voltaire among them) gave evidence of a deep aesthetic religiosity in the feelings of admiration they displayed before the order and immensity of the universe. So-called "secular religion," which really only amounted to right conduct in the light of truths potentially available to every man, had widespread appeal. It was held up against the cults of the past as the only true religion, for it alone could claim an authority that every man could respond to from inner conviction.87 Charles Bonnet was of course a special case, for he tried to justify scientifically, on the basis of his theory of preformation, such fundamental Christian beliefs as the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of bodies. Using biological knowledge available at the time, he argued that all possible individuals were created at the beginning of all things at once, but in the form of "germs" that only come to fruition at their pre-appointed time. The soul, which is only a subtler form of matter, is also the germ of the future glorified body.88 Bonnet's case is significant because it is a perfect illustration of how tenuous, if extant at all, was the dividing line between the sacred and the secular for the philosophes. Religious beliefs and religious practices were for them simple extensions of beliefs and practices based on the feelings and empirical evidence they supposed to be common to all. In this respect their religiosity did not differ at all from that based on the rational theology of the post-Wolffian metaphysicians, who also claimed to be establishing religious beliefs on natural criteria of truth. The only difference (admittedly a big one) was in how the two schools defined these criteria, whether on the basis of a priori reason or on that of the sense impressions and internal feelings favoured by the anti-metaphysical side. The unstructured nature of the supposed empirical evidence on which the latter based its religiosity could easily accommodate a shallow type of Christian piety. In the sentimental literature of the day it is commonplace to find effusions of feeling for Jesus mingling with praise of classical virtues or expressions of other more erotic sentiments, as if love for Jesus, sincerity of mind, and sincerity of feeling were all on essentially the same level of experience. Then there were those who appealed to miracles to establish the truth of Christian beliefs, as if such wondrous 87. See Cassirer, Philosophic des lumieres, p. 179. 88. Palingenesie philosophique, ou Idees sur I'etat passe et sur I'etat futur des etres vivants (Amsterdam: M.-M. Rey, 1769). Bonnet was no charlatan. He made original contributions to the science of entomology. See his observations on the reproductive characteristics of the aphis and other insects in Traite d'insectologie (1745).


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

events could afford the same kind of evidence as empirical science drew from its facts. Thus we find Kaspar Lavater (1741 -1801), also known as the inventor of physiognomy, describing the future state of the resurrected body in a glorified world with a facile mixture of biblical testimonies and the evidence of contemporary biology and psychology. It is this same Pastor Lavater who caused a furore by challenging Mendelssohn either to refute Bonnet's Palingenesie (which he had translated into German) or to convert to Christianity.89 The Berlin Aufklarer lumped individuals of this sort under the derogatory rubric of enthusiasts (Schwdrmer),, attacking them bitterly because they perceived them as opponents of the Enlightenment and, for this reason, also suspected them of being crypto-proponents of popish obscurantism.90 One cannot blame them for their suspicions. Yet it must not be forgotten that the battle was, again, one between two sides internal to the Enlightenment. It was really a case of a new form of secularism coming into conflict with an older one, but a secularism in both instances just the same. This is an important point to note in coming to a fair understanding of the nature of Jacobi's religiosity. To make him out to be an irrationalist91 or to portray him as a counter-Enlightenment figure92 is to adopt the standpoint of the metaphysicians. And it is anachronistic to project onto him attitudes that really belong to a post-Kierkegaard age. So far as we know, Jacobi could value the friendship of a pagan like Goethe as well as of a Schwdrmer like Lavater.93 And he could befriend many others as well who together stood for the most contrasting forms of religiosity. There was the pietist theologian Herder and Herder's erstwhile mentor 89. Johann Caspar Lavater, Herrn Bonnets, verschiedener Akademien Mitglieds, philosophische Untersuchung der Beweisefiir das Christentum, samt desselben Idem von der kiinftigen Gliigseligkeit desMenschen, etc. (Philosophical Essay in the Demonstrations of Christianity, by Mr Bonnet, Member of Various Academies, together with his Ideas regarding Man's Future Happiness, translated from the French, and edited with notes, by J. C. Lavater. Attached to it, the Editor's Dedication to Moses Mendelssohn, and a Collection of the Subsequent Polemical Exchanges between Messrs Lavater, Mendelssohn and Dr Kobbele, as well as the First Speech Held at the Baptism of Two Israelites; Frankfurt/Main: Bayrhoffer, 1774). See Alexander Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study (University, Alabama: University Press, 1973), ch. in; Blum, pp. 389-90. Also, Jean Blum, La Vie et I'oeuvre deJ.-G. Hamann, le "Mage du Nord," 1730-1788 (Paris: Alcan, 1912). 90. See note to p. 15 of David Hume. 91. As in Beiser, The Fate of Reason, pp. 86-88. 92. As in Kuehn, p. 141. 93. Goethe too was a great friend of Lavater, even though their minds were worlds apart. Goethe could be quite sarcastic about him. See Heinz Nicolai, Goethe und Jacobi, p. 176.



and eventual critic Hamann (about whom more later on); the evangelist Wizenmann and the neo-classicist Hemsterhuis; the catholicizing Munster group that gravitated to the personalities of state minister Furstenberg and Princess Gallitzin; and the Protestant Claudius, or, later in Jacobi's life, the pietist poet Jean-Paul. The list could be extended. If Jacobi rejected the rational theology of the post-Wolffians, so did he also attack the new theology of Herder, however much he shared his type of piety. Indeed, Jacobi could find true piety even in Spinoza, whose philosophy he never ceased to battle as a conceptual denial of God. The only time Jacobi showed extreme intolerance in matters religious was on the occasion of the Stolbergs' entrance into the Catholic church. Jacobi was emotionally shattered—even angered—by the conversion, which he considered a personal betrayal as well as a betrayal of the ideal of intellectual and moral freedom that he and his friends all stood for.94 By contrast Herder, and especially Lavater, exhibited in this case an exceptional degree of understanding and tolerance.95 On the face of it, in other words, Jacobi's attitude towards religion was typical of the Enlightenment humanist. He simply accepted as a universal fact of human nature that religion is an indispensable dimension of experience and that nothing is subjectively more certain than God's presence in the cosmos. But few in his day would have thought or felt otherwise. The real issue was how to remove the historical and moral obstacles that stood in the way of a true expression of this natural religiosity. As we know, Jacobi included the reason of the philosophers and the materialism that was its practical counterpart as chief among these obstacles, and on this ground he fought his many battles. But the conflict, we must repeat, was one internal to the Enlightenment. Other facts about Jacobi's life, and other witnesses, confirm this view. We know, on his own testimony, that as a child he was given to brooding and to experiences that bordered, perhaps, on the mystical. Other individuals have reported similar experiences. Since they are purely subjective, however, the only factor relevant to historiography is how they translate into external actions. In an earlier age they might have inspired Jacobi to retreat to a monastery; in a later one they might have caused him to fall into a mood of existentialist despair and to compose novels in that spirit. In fact they moved him to reflection and to philosophy, a 94. See, on the subject, Pierre Brachin, Le Cercle de Munster (1779-1806) et lapensee religieuse deF. L. Stolberg, p. 113. Jacobi eventually toned down his expressions of resentment. 95. Brachin, p. 115.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel All will

manner of behaving congruent with his epoch's rationalism and which is also reflected in his two romans. There is no serious plot in either of them, except as an occasion for the characters to engage in endless debates on ethical and epistemological issues. Philosophical discussion is Jacobi's idea of dramatic action and dramatic interest. Goethe was to sum up the figure of his late friend precisely by regretting that "speculation (a metaphysical one at that) [had] become Jacobi's mishap, though neither had he been born to it nor trained for it."96 Jacobi naturally found the scholastic philosophy of his day insufficient to express what he intimately knew to be the truth of human existence, and in this regard he attacked "reason"—the reason of the post-Wolffian metaphysicians. But he was not alone in this, nor was he alone in seeking a more immediate, historical source of evidence than conceptual reflection. He may indeed have made a greater show of appreciating the role of the "historical" element in religious experience than the typical Aufklarer was wont to. Even in this regard, however, he was not adding anything to the meaning of "historical" that would have exceeded the limits of the Enlightenment. So far as Jacobi was concerned, religious belief required no more willingness to accept the immediate testimony of external senses and internal feelings than did any other knowledge based on historico-empirical evidence. It followed that religious belief was no less, but also no more liable of sceptical doubt than any such knowledge. This claim, however, had been the accepted basis of the sceptical defence of religious faith long before Jacobi. Jacobi was simply reiterating it. That defence, moreover, was the only one consistent with the assumption (which every Aufklarer would have accepted) that any valid religious belief must have some basis in experience. Jacobi was not willing to accept the validity of the conceptual framework, or of the rational inferences, with which the typical Aufklarer controlled that basis a priori. But neither was he willing to put much trust in "sacred history"—and in this he rejoined the typical Aufklarer. We know, from Wizenmann, that at first he maintained at least a psychological distance from Christian believers;97 and when, in his correspondence with Hamann at the time of his polemic against Mendelssohn, he argued for a special mechanism in the

96. As reported by Kanzler von Miiller from a conversation with Goethe. Cited after Heinz Nicolai, Goethe und Jacobi, p. 271 and note 10 (p. 329). 97. See Goltz, Vol. i, pp. 324-25. See also the testimony of Princess Gallitzin of 1787, Brachin, p. 57.



human soul that would enable man to perceive God's presence, he was obviously thinking of a disposition innate to human nature.98 In brief, Jacobi's religiosity was thoroughly secular in nature. His fondness for biblical allusion and pious Christian effusions might seem to indicate otherwise. But there is no reason to believe that he looked upon the Bible as more than a source of historically sanctioned wisdom, or that he quoted from it in any spirit other than he also quoted, often in the same breath, from pagan sources. Jacobi's defence of biblical anthropomorphisms must be understood in the context of the perfectly legitimate question of whether the conceptual fictions of the philosophers are any better constructs to enlighten our knowledge of God than are unashamed metaphors." Again, one wonders to what extent Jacobi's defence of Christianity, especially in the face of the French Revolution, was more than just the reflex of a Tory instinctively falling back upon past values and ideas in order to ward off the madness of the present. But Jacobi knew that the faith of old could not satisfy the new order of things.10° At any rate, he insisted to the end that his faith was a perfectly natural dimension of human existence, available to all men and indispensable even to the most fundamental of human enterprises. In the final stage of his conceptual development, when Kant's distinction between reason and understanding had become canonical, Jacobi even went so far as to rehabilitate reason by belatedly acknowledging it as the source, all along, of what he had previously called the certitude of faith—not the reason of the philosophers, of course, which was only an extension of the faculty of understanding, but an inward-looking reason that had immediate access to the divine in us. One is indeed left wondering how this alleged inner light of Jacobi in any way differed, so far as the value of the evidence that it yielded was concerned, from the Cartesian reason that at all times functioned with the innate idea of God as its standard of perfection. To the end Jacobi remained a rationalist. Far from heralding future post-rationalist movements, he failed even to understand, let alone celebrate, the breakdown of rationalism. By the time of his death Jacobi was an anachronism.

98. Letter to Hamann, 8 October 1784, Hamann-Briefwechsel, v, #774, p. 240. 99. See Allwill, 1792 ed., p. 315. 100. See letter to Pestalozzi, 24 March 1794, AusF. H. Jacobi's Nachlaft. UngedruckteBriefe von und an Jacobi und andere, ed. Rudolf Zoeppritz (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1869), #54, p. 178 [henceforth, Nachlaji].



The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

THE LANDSCAPE: SPIRITUALITY 7. This last point needs amplification—and also qualification, lest we give the impression that the religiosity of Jacobi's age, and Jacobi's own, were just a shallow mixture of rationalism, empiricism, and sentimental rhetoric. Their pietistic component also had roots that reached deep into the faith of the established churches, where a new and highly personalized form of religious piety had been taking hold at least since the seventeenth century. Faith was being experienced, and described, as an intimate affair between the soul and God that implicated God in his salvific (and hence personal) presence in the world.101 This saving God had little to do with the moving principle of the universe, which was the only divinity acknowledged by the rationalists. Accordingly, the new piety tended to be anti-intellectual and, inasmuch as the practices of ecclesiastical faith always degenerated into mere formalism, antiestablishment as well. It fostered a rather pessimistic view of the moral capabilities of man, whose nature it represented as radically prone to sin and burdened by guilt even when sin had been forgiven. Hence, although rigorist in matters of conduct and conscience, in their intimate relation to God the believers promoted the suspension of all internal activities, including intellectual ones, since any effort coming from human nature ultimately only stood in the way of God's intervention. The aim was to practise total, quasi-mystical abandonment to God's grace. In Protestant Germany this spiritual movement came to be known as "pietism."102 It had its intellectual representatives103 and, at the University of Halle, its centre of learning.104 Its theology and philosophy 101. I am not implying that faith had not been a personal affair in the past as well— witness St Augustine and a host of other saints and mystics. But since the sixteenth century this affair had become an object of reflection and was being documented with psychological interest. On the Catholic orthodox side the works of St John of the Cross and St Theresa of Avila are perfect examples of this interest, even though the two mystics wrote within the framework of accepted scholastic theology. 102. From the collegia pietatis in Frankfurt. 103. E.g. Thomasius, Grotius, Pufendorf, Buddeus, Crusius, Oetinger, and Rudiger, among the most notable. 104. The pietist theologians there instigated the expulsion and exile of Christian Wolff by King Frederick William i. Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf (1700-60) founded a pietist community in Herrnhut that was to have great influence in the future. Friedrich Schleiermacher and Jacob Friedrich Fries, whose names appear in the last portion of Jacobi's life, were both educated in schools maintained by the Brethren of Herrnhut. "Faith" will play a central role in the philosophy of both. See Holborn, p. 141.



were rooted in the nominalistic strand of late scholasticism (the party of the via moderna), though they eventually came to incorporate elements from Locke's psychology. They stressed the need of divine revelation in matters that concern man's destiny, since the presence of sin in his nature interposes insurmountable psychological obstacles between him and the truth. Accordingly, pietist thought was deliberately eclectic, i.e. anti-systematic. The emphasis was on learning that brought practical benefits to man, "logic" being essentially a method for cleansing the mind of obscurities due to impure desires, chief among them the prejudice that the authority of reason is the only criterion of truth. This pietist-inspired critique of reason was another important element of the Enlightenment in Germany and added to it another typically German note. In some respects, especially in his insistence that reason remain close to actual experience, Jacobi's own critique mirrored it and probably drew from it.105 But the movement was not restricted to Germany. As a form of spirituality it could accommodate itself to the most diverse social and cultural contexts. Granted Jacobi's intellectual ties to the French world and his 105. Yet one must resist the temptation to locate Jacob! within this German pietist tradition of thought. Of course, Jacobi had pietist friends (Wizenmann, Lavater, Claudius, among others) and was exposed to German pietist rhetoric and German pietist ideas. But the following must be kept in mind: (1) Conceptual parallels do not, by themselves, establish historical links. Jacobi's intellectual mentors were not the likes of Buddeus and Crusius but (even when he was reacting against them) such individuals as Le Sage, Rousseau, Bonnet, Hemsterhuis, Diderot, Pascal, Fenelon, Hume, Reid, Ferguson, Burke. Unless otherwise demonstrated with specific contrary references, the historical presumption must be that his critique of reason drew its inspirations from these individuals. (2) If it is true, as has been asserted (see Beiser,, TheFate of Reason, pp. 50-51 and relevant notes), that the pietists were the first in Germany to draw inspiration from Spinoza, then Jacobi, by distancing himself from what he took to be the pantheism (hence, in his mind, the atheism) of Spinozism, was also distancing himself from the pietist tradition. As a matter of fact Jacobi waged one of his most vigorous polemics against Herder, who clearly belonged to that tradition. Nor could the school of juridical positivism, which grew out of it, be attractive to him. He had attacked this kind of positivism in his early polemic against Wieland—though, to be sure, Wieland can hardly be taken to be an intellectually reputable exponent of it. (3) Although a critic of abstractive rationalism and himself an empiricist of a sort, Jacobi was definitely not a nominalist in the Ockham tradition (any more than Kant was). In fact, if one were forced to apply some broad philosophical label to him, "Platonist of a sort" would probably do better than most others. Jacobi himself made it a point of explicitly harking back to Plato in his final Introduction to the David Hume (pp. 27-29).


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

social ties with the Munster circle, one would expect that he would be exposed to it in a variety of forms. There were the so-called "enthusiasts" among the Protestants in England and, among the French Huguenots, the inspires. But (more to the point so far as Jacobi is concerned) some of its traits were to be found also within the Catholic church, associated with Jansenism. In seventeenth-century France this spiritual movement had found supporters among such intellectual giants as Pascal (1623-62)lo6 and Arnauld (1612-94), and nacl1caused a controversy (with the Jesuits lined up on the side of the establishment) that rocked the whole church. Jansenism was eventually condemned by Rome and forced underground. As an attitude of mind, however, it persisted unabated among Catholics during the eighteenth century and kept on inspiring a kind of rigorist spirituality always suspect in the eyes of orthodoxy. Many personalities fell under its suspicion of rigorism, notable among them Pascal and Francois Fenelon (1651-1715).107 Jacobi was wont to quote both. Now, whether in German territories or elsewhere, whether among Protestants of various confessions or among Catholics, the interest of the new piety centred on the personal life of the individual before God. This interest led all sides to the dissection and examination of the most intimate aspects of man's feelings and emotions and to the formulation of strategies of control that would ultimately lead to their purification. A new type of spiritual director was born—one whose task was to help individuals bring to consciousness and analyse their most secret motives in order to establish their relation to God on a new and healthy basis. This phenomenon, together with the spiritual hypochondria and the elitism it nurtured, was perfectly consistent with the secular spirit of the age because, despite the professed preoccupation with God that inspired it, it also brought the emotional life of the individual to a new level of self106. . . . whom Voltaire particularly disliked. 107. Jacobi saw an agreement between Spinoza's religion and Fenelon's. See below, Jacobi toFichte, pp. 42-43 ofjacobi's text. In the letter to Humboldt of 2 September 1794, concerning the new edition of Woldemar, Jacobi advises Humboldt to read Fenelon's Oeuvres spirituelles and then to let him know "whether this mystic has anything to learn from Kant." Auserlesener Briefwechsel,, Vol. n, #234, pp. 177-78. See also An Schlosser uber dessen Fortsetzung des Platonischen Gastmahlen (To Schlosser, Concerning His Resumption of the Platonic Symposium; 1796), Werke, vi, pp. 73-74. Herder referred to Fenelon as "St Fenelon" in a letter to Jacobi in which he reminds him of Fenelon's spiritual prescription: "Let all cares drop." In the same letter (though in a different context) Herder defended Spinoza. Cf. Briefiuechsel, 1.3, #1102, 20 December 1784, pp. 405, 406-07.



awareness. A perfect illustration of this point, within Jacobi's social ambit, is the life of Princess Gallitzin.108 A forceful and self-educated woman, she eventually actively re-embraced the Catholic faith109 and provided a source of inspiration for the late eighteenth-century Romantic revival of Catholicism in Germany. Originally, however, her energies were totally directed to a program of intellectual and moral selfimprovement quite independent of any special faith, apart, of course, from whatever faith there was in the secular religiosity of the time. And she carried on this narcissistic regime of perfection by deploying all the techniques of self-examination and control that any Jesuit might have recommended, even to the point of adopting a life-style not unlike that of a convent.110 Her two great teachers and partners in this spiritual adventure were Fiirstenberg, an ecclesiastic deeply involved in the reform of clerical education and in the political life of the bishopric of Munster, and Francois Hemsterhuis, a Dutch diplomat and aesthete who developed his philosophy, a mixture of empiricism and Platonism, for the sake of instructing and guiding his spiritual friend. 11J Nothing could have been more foreign to this new Socrates than the Bible or anything else connected with revealed religion;112 and if his letters to his dear Diotema (Princess Gallitzin) were full of talk about God, the only divinity in question was that of Athens, not Jerusalem. Such was the ease with which pietistic forms of spirituality could blend with secular, even pagan search for individual perfection. Jacobi must have known Fiirstenberg from the i76o's, and must have heard of Princess Gallitzin at least from Diderot, a great admirer of her qualities, during Diderot's visit to Dusseldorf in 1778.113 He met her in 108. On Princess Gallitzin and the Munster Circle, see the excellent work of Brachin already cited. Goethe too came in close contact with this group and was even rumoured at one point to have become a Catholic. On this point, see Heinz Nicolai, Goethe und Jacobi, pp. aaSff. 109. The decision was taken on 27 August 1786. Brachin, p. 161. no. Brachin, 17-18. 111. At the time of his encounter with Princess Gallitzin, Hemsterhuis had only published Lettres sur I'homme et ses rapports (1772). The Lettre sur les desirs was translated into German and commented upon by Herder (Brachin, p. 19, notes). Jacobi translated Alexis (1787). The translation is included in Werke, vi. 112. Jacobi reported to Hamann that to Hemsterhuis "the Bible is a totally intolerable book." Hamann-Briefwechsel, i February 1785, Vol. v, #805, p. 345. 113. Brachin, p. 54, 17. Jacobi describes Amalia von Gallitzin to Hamann in his letter of i February 1785 (Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. v, #805, p. 345). He tells him that the Christian religion had been at first totally foreign to the princess. He also tells him that the


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

person at the end of June 1780114 and met Hemsterhuis through her at the end of February 1781.115 Jacob! said of the princess some years after her religious conversion: "I found her [during my visit] as I have always found her: tense, pushy, bound to the letter, without true simplicity and calm, and highly unreliable in everything that she related. Her prejudices deceive her in ways hard to conceive; they corrupt her eyes, ears, tongue. She has ceased to pout, but has become more agitated instead. . . . I was horrified by the false piety and false devotion that she has introduced in Holstein"116—this despite the fact that he could still find warm words of praise and admiration for her.117 We hear of him proclaiming to the princess in 1797 that Herder's treatise on the Saviour contains a profession of Jacobi's own faith, to wit, "Nobody possesses God, or could ever possess Him, unless he engenders Him within himself, unless God has made Himself man in man's own heart." * l 8 And the princess notes in her diary that Jacobi gave a definite anti-Catholic turn to his declaration. Yetjacobi also opposed Herder, who also stood within the pietistic tradition of thought, though squarely on the Protestant side. Jacobi feared the pantheism that might be fostered by Herder's attempt to show God becoming man in man's heart. Here is where we must confront the issue of Jacobi's relationship to the spirituality of his own times. The philosophers of the Enlightenment opposed traditional religions because they all relied on historical witnesses as a basis for authority and meaning, whereas, because of their historical accidentality, these very witnesses necessarily set peoples of different historical backgrounds against one another. The light of universal reason was supposed to rid mankind precisely of this source of irrationality. Now, inasmuch as this critique of established religions was based on the assumption that true religion must spring from inner conviction and not be externally imposed, Enlightenment philosophy and the new pietist spirituality actually

princess had once expressed curiosity about Hamann but that he (Jacobi) had discouraged her from reading any of his works on the ground that she would not have enjoyed them. The princess managed to get hold of Hamann's works just the same, and had found them edifying. 114. Brachin, 54. 115. Brachin, 51. See below, note to p. 39 of the Spinoza Letters. 116. Letter to Nicolovius, 9 May 1794, Auserlesener Briefwechsel,l Vol. n, #229, pp. 164-65. 117. Ibid., p. 165. 118. Brachin, 109.



agreed. Any quarrel between the two was a family affair because based on a common assumption. Yet granted the mental set of the pietist, for whom inner conviction had to be the product of a personal encounter between one person (mortal) and another (divine), since any such encounter depended on God's free decision to meet individuals at their highly particularized location in history, legitimacy for any belief or authority had somehow to be sought in historical events. Hence some pietists (such as Lavater) sought validation for their faith in private inspiration, prophecy, and a renewal of miracles—all these phenomena dependent on highly individualized (and in this sense historical) witness. To the philosophers and the traditional theologians this reliance on personal witness seemed indeed perverse; they branded as Schwarmer the proponents of the religiosity based on it. Yet the problem was how to invest particular events of history with universal significance, and this problem the Schwarmer shared with the whole Enlightenment. What the traditional philosophers and theologians did not see was that the Schwarmer relied on historical witness for the same reason they rejected it. Jacobi found himself lumped with the Schwarmer at the time of the Spinoza dispute, much to his declared surprise but not altogether unfairly, since he had prominently cited Lavater in the Spinoza Letters and in the David Hume had concluded the dialogue with vague yet suggestive hints about the need for miracles. All the same, the sincerity of his protestations cannot be doubted, and we can accept that he had never intended to foster irrationalism. He was also obviously unable to accept the philosophers' way of bringing the universality of reason to bear upon the accidentalities of history by simply abstracting from the particular and seeking refuge in the abstractions of reason. But then Jacobi had no justification for being scandalized by Princess Gallitzin's return to traditional faith (and by the return later of Stolberg and Schlegel) or by the pantheism of Herder or Goethe. He should have seen that, if neither the abstractive reason of the philosophers nor the prophetic witness of the Schwarmer were acceptable, then one solution to the problem of investing the particular with universal significance was precisely to interpret the history of mankind as somehow the history of God as well. Princess Gallitzin's newly rediscovered Catholicism had just as little to do with traditional Catholic faith as had Herder's Spinozism with Luther or Goethe's worship of nature with paganism, or, after 1815, the new state absolutism with the absolutism of the eighteenth-century princes. What made the difference was precisely the abstractive reason of the


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

Enlightenment and its symbiotic counterpart, the new pietist spirituality. The search for the ancient roots of languages and customs that the late Enlightenment spawned, the romantic nostalgia for the old church, the divinization of history and nature—all these, however diverse and some of them unexpected and unwanted, were in fact products of the Enlightenment itself. Once again Jacobi saw each of these new turns that the spirituality of the day was taking and justly criticized them as sharply as he had also criticized Enlightenment rationality. But it is not clear whether he had any creative alternative to offer. To be sure, he openly advocated a historical method in philosophy,119 and—perhaps his main contribution to the philosophical discussions of the day, one that also had significant implications for the spiritual life—he tried to pinpoint the source of all evidence in the I-Thou relationship, on the grounds that it is impossible to assert "I" except in the face of an independent "Thou." But "I" and "Thou" can be empty abstractions too, as Hamann was to complain, and history simply a source-book of abstract verities of the type the metaphysicians thrived on, unless one substitutes real names for those placeholders and shows how the actions of the individuals thereby named actually give rise to truth. This is the path followed by those of Jacobi's contemporaries whom he was accusing either of crypto-paganism or obscurantism. Jacobi, for his part, stayed at the level of abstract moral statement. 120 Indeed, to the extent that in his final thought he reinterpreted reason as an inner light, he actually withdrew it from the flux of history, whereas the central problem of the Enlightenment was precisely to show how reason, qua reason, could nevertheless be a historical act. SURROUNDING FIGURES

8. Many figures have already crowded into Jacobi's landscape, though by no means all who deserve to be there. And of those who have made an appearance, for a complete overview many would require a detailed portrayal. Much could be said, for instance, about Moses Mendelssohn (1729-86), the poor student of the Talmud who first learned how to read German and Latin when he moved to Berlin in 1750 but quickly 119. See below, p. 183 of the Spinoza Letters. 120. Goethe is reported as saying ofJacobi:"He lacked the sciences of Nature, and one can hardly encompass a large worldview with just a bit of morality." From a conversation with Kanzler von Muller; cited after Heinz Nicolai, Goethe und Jacobi, p. 271.



made his way up the social and cultural ladder to become a partner in an important industrial firm in the city, a central figure in the literary and philosophical life of the day, an authority on all things Jewish, and a leader of the Jewish community. Mendelssohn became a close friend of Lessing, in whose eyes, as in those of the Berlin philosophers, he came to typify the new universal culture the Enlightenment was striving for, based on reason and on transcending historical and ethnic particularities. But because he had thus become a symbol of the new light brought about by reason alone, he also came under attack from those who were not comfortable with it—notable among them Pastor Lavater, who at one point tried to convert Mendelssohn to Christianity.1z 1 Implicit in Jacobi's claim diat Lessing had revealed his Spinozism to him was also the suggestion that Mendelssohn, who had known nothing about it, was not as intimate a friend of Lessing as Mendelssohn himself and the Berlin philosophers believed. And this denial was in turn an attempt to wrest Lessing and the Enlightenment from Mendelssohn (this "modern Socrates," as he had been renamed) and the ideal he typified. Yet so far as our portrayal of Jacobi and his world is concerned, Mendelssohn stood as an external figure, a mere foil for Jacobi's plan (which very likely was the deep motive behind his decision to reveal Lessing's alleged Spinozism) to attack Goethe and at same time retroactively claim for himself a historical place close to Lessing. It is therefore to Goethe and Lessing, to whom Jacobi felt much more direcdy related, that we now want to turn and add a few more strokes—and to a third figure as well, to Hamann, who also presided, though in a different and much more personal way, over Jacobi's dispute with Mendelssohn. 9. In 1804 Goethe summed up his relationship to Jacobi in three paragraphs full of sadness and regret. Goethe regretted that two men such as he and Jacobi, who obviously loved and trusted one another, could not even understand one another's language. "We loved one another, without understanding one anodier . . .Jacobi had spirit in mind; I, nature; we were separated by what should have united us."122 Indeed, the 121. For a sympathetic and exhaustive study of Moses Mendelssohn that also conveys a vivid picture of the life of the Jewish community in Berlin and Germany at the time, see Alexander Altmann, Moses Mendelssohn: A Biographical Study (University, Alabama: University Press, 1973). 122. Aus dem Zusammenhang der Tag- undjahreshefte, (Daily and Yearly Note-Books), Samtliche Werke, Vol. xiv, pp. 327-28.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

friendship between the two men underwent the wildest fluctuations. Their first contacts were marked by bitter conflict. Goethe was part of a moral and artistic movement radically opposed to the Wieland group, to which the early Jacobi belonged. The movement acquired its own literary organ with the change in editorship in 1772 of the Frankfurter Gelehrten Anzeigen. The journal stood in antithesis to the Teutscher Merkur, which Jacobi had been instrumental in founding. In 1773, in the opening editorial of the Merkur, Wieland had implicitly criticized Goethe, and the latter reacted with a satirical piece (never published and later destroyed by Goethe but much gossiped about) entitled Das Ungluck der Jacobis (i773), 1 2 3 and later with a farce, Goiter, Helden, und Wieland (1773). 124 Jacobi and Goethe were not obviously slated for friendly relations. Yet the two men moved in the same social circles (such as the Frankfurt circle of Sophie La Roche) and had friends in common. Because of the friendship of Jacobi's step-aunt with Cornelia Goethe, which led to contacts between the two households, Goethe had come to know Betty Jacobi during one of her stays in Frankfurt, and a genuine friendship, accompanied by a brief period of correspondence, ensued between the two. It is not surprising, therefore, that, despite all the quarrelling at a distance, Goethe should have suddenly resolved, on the occasion of a tour by Lavater to the Frankfurt area, to meet Jacobi personally. 125 He presented himself unannounced at the Jacobis' house in Dusseldorf on 21 July 1774 and, since the Jacobis were at their residence in neighbouring Pempelfort, proceeded there forthwith. His first encounter with Jacobi occurred during a meeting of the local pietist circle called in honour of Lavater. It is not surprising that an emotionally charged friendship should immediately have developed between the 123. The Jacobis' Misfortune. 124. Gods, Heroes, and Wieland. 125. Goethe travelled along the Rhein with Lavater and Basedow—with Lavater expounding the mysteries of StJohn's gospel and Basedow casting doubts on the modern relevance of the ritual of baptism. As Goethe saw his situation: Prophete rechts, Prophete links, Das Weltkind in der Mitten. ("Prophets left and right:/the child of the world in the middle." Dichtungund Wahrheit, i v, p. 661). For a description of his encounter with Jacobi, see Dichtung und Wahrheit, in, pp. 66iff.



older representative of sentimentalism and the younger genius. The two men had been nurtured on the same cult of feeling and were by temperament disposed to divinize personal encounters.126 As it happened, Spinoza was the central topic of the heated discussions that took place between them during the two-day visit.127 Goethe had first been exposed to this philosopher in i773;Jacobi, on the occasion of Mendelssohn's publication of his Philosophical Dialogues,1^ in 1755. But it is clear that, whereas Goethe was fascinated by the picture of man as a tragic collaborator in God's anonymous creation, which he saw implicit in Spinoza's pantheism, Jacobi was worried by the denial of personal freedom that he, for his part, saw in it. Goethe's vision was expressed in the poem "Prometheus," one of the acknowledged documents of the Sturm und Drang movement, and this is the poem that Jacobi used to entice Lessing into a discussion of Spinoza and an admission of Spinozism in the summer of 1780.12Q By that time Jacobi's friendship with Goethe had first cooled off (perhaps because of the publication in 1777 of Goethe's Stella,1"*0 which Jacobi found morally inadmissible) and then totally broken off in a great flurry of emotions on Jacobi's part in 1779, with the publication of Woldemar. The occasion of the break had been the report, which made the rounds of all the literati circles, of Goethe's satirization of the novel. Goethe had dramatically crucified a copy of the book on a tree, before a company of friends, in the Ettersburg Park.131 Yet 126. In his later years Goethe was to criticize that cult of sentiment and friendship as shallow and self-deceiving and as promoting a narcissistic type of individualism. He considered Lavater to be at the centre of it. See Campagne in Frankreich, pp. 476—77. 127. Dichtung und Wahrheit, in, pp. 667-68. 128. Philosophische Gesprache, in which Mendelssohn tried to redeem Spinoza by showing how much he had in common with Leibniz (who was the great authority of the German philosophers at the time). 129. "That poem . . . became important in German literature because it occasioned Lessing to take a stand against Jacobi on important issues of thought and sentiment. It served as the spark for an explosion that uncovered, and forced to the level of spoken word, the most secret relationships of worthy men—relationships of which they themselves were not conscious yet which lay dormant in an otherwise very enlightened society. The rapture was so violent that on its occasion, because of intervening contingencies, we lost one of our worthiest men, Mendelssohn." Goethe, Dichtung und Wahrheit, in, p. 681. 130. In the same year, 1777, Goethe also wrote the libretto for the comic opera The Triumph of Sentimentality (Triumph der Empfindsamkeit), obviously a take-off on everything that the Jacobis' stood for. 131. See Jacobi's letter to H. C. Boie, upon hearing of the incident, August or September 1779, Briefwechsel, 11.2, #517, pp. 104-05.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

despite this emotional diremption, or perhaps precisely because of it, Goethe's "Prometheus" still was to preside over Jacobi's public entrance into the field of philosophical debate. This is how much Goethe had captured Jacobi's imagination and affected him emotionally. The friendship resumed in 1782 on Goethe's initiative, though the original pitch of intensity was never recaptured. During the Spinoza controversy Goethe could not give Jacobi the support that the latter expected, nor could he extend any praise for the 1794 revised edition of Woldemar, which Jacobi had dedicated to him, much to Goethe's surprise.132 The final break came in 1811-12, during Jacobi's controversy with Schelling, when Goethe clearly lined himself up on the side of Schelling. 10. Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-81) was by all standards the giant of the German Enlightenment. The most that we can (or need) do here is to evoke his presence. Without personal financial resources, and by nature something of a spendthrift and wanderer, Lessing spent his life between Leipzig, Berlin (where he became personally acquainted with Voltaire),133 Breslau, and Hamburg, finally to settle as librarian in Wolfenbiittel, in the Duchy of Brunswick—in every place trying to eke out a living while always engaged in the promotion of German theatre and in countless other literary enterprises. IM At all times, dependent as he was for his income on the nobility, he had to suffer (like his junior contemporary Mozart) the degrading effect of the despotic power of the princes,135 and this experience permeated his whole literary production. Lessing's drama carries the socio-political message that despotic power is essentially seductive because it drives individuals to irrational acts by forcing them into situations where they cannot exercise their judgment freely. 13° 132. Goethe's reaction is very diplomatic. See letter to Jacobi, 26 April 1794, GoetheBriefwechsel, #90, pp. 182-83. 133. Voltaire eventually quarrelled with him. 134. Among them, Beytrdge zur Historic und Aufnahme des Theatres; Briefs, die neue Literatur betreffend, in co-operation with Nicolai and Mendelssohn; Allgemeine deutsche Bibliothek, a huge undertaking by Nicolai to which Lessing contributed; Hamburgische Dramaturgie. 135. See Rilla, p. 261. 136. See the play Emilia Galotti, where the false situation created by a despot leads to the killing of a daughter by her father. Odeardo kills the daughter Emilia with the sword with which she wanted to kill herself and that had been given to her by the tyrant's former mistress.



From a literary point of view Lessing's very complexity, the critical distance that he maintained with respect to all literary trends, was his main contribution to the German Enlightenment. Lessing was essentially antiCartesian in that he deliberately nurtured ambiguity for the sake of respecting the complexity of a situation. Nowhere was this aspect of his personality more obvious than in the theological part of his output, which was just as extensive as his literary one. Lessing had dedicated some of his early years exclusively to the study of theology137 and always retained a deep interest in religion. All the indications are that in this early period he was a straightforward rationalist intent on ridding Christianity of spurious historical accretions and restricting its beliefs to such truths as were accessible to reason unaided by any positive revelation. It was only much later, in the ten years of the Wolfenbuttel stay138 and the last of his life, that Lessing began to exhibit a much more nuanced position by producing a group of writings that, as it turned out, his contemporaries found totally puzzling, if not downright perverse. These writings were ancient texts on theological questions that Lessing had found in the Wolfenbuttel library and was now publishing with commentary as part of a wider program of making the library's treasures available to the learned public.139 His aim, apparently, was to show that the texts expressed beliefs that reflected deeply felt human values and needs and that, therefore, though not rationally demonstrable, were not irrational. They were at least conceptually coherent and hence could be understood. It followed—and here Lessing's polemical intent against the contemporary rationalist school of theology came out—that the beliefs were not to be dismissed out of hand as all superstition.14° Thus 137. Lessing spent time reading the Fathers of the Church during his Breslau stay. 138. Here too there seems to have been Scottish influence. See Henry E. Allison, Lessing and the Enlightenment (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1966), pp. 81-82. 139. Beytrdge zur Geschichte und Literatur. Aus den Sckdtzen der Herzoglichen Bibliothek zu Wolfenbuttel (Contributions to History and Literature. From the Treasures of the Ducal Library at Wolfenbiittel; Braunschweig: Waysen, 1773-81). 140. "With orthodoxy, thank God, things were fairly settled. A curtain had been drawn between it and philosophy, behind which each could go his own way without disturbing the other. But what is happening now? They are tearing down the curtain, and under the pretext of making us rational Christians, they are making us very irrational philosophers. . . . We are agreed that the old religious system is false, but I cannot share your conviction that it is a patchwork of bunglers and half philosophers." Letter to Lessing's brother Karl, 2 February 1774 (cited after Allison, p. 84). See also "Des Andreas Wissowatius Einwiirfe wider die Dreynigkeit" (Andreas Wissowatius's Objections against the Trinity), Zweyter Beitrag (1773), Sdmtliche Werke, Vol. 12, pp. 96.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

Lessing produced reasons for defending the doctrine of the Trinity141 and for casting doubt on the belief—much cherished by rationalist Protestants—that the orthodox doctrine of transubstantiation was an adulteration of an earlier Christian doctrine according to which the sacramental bread and wine were only signs of the body and blood of Christ.142 He also found occasion to defend Leibniz's apparent acceptance of the doctrine of eternal punishment against the rationalist Pastor Johann August Eberhard, who had argued that Leibniz was being inconsistent. 143 Lessing's point was that the eternity of punishment follows quite naturally from Leibniz's axiom that nothing (and this includes sin) happens in the world without carrying infinite consequences with it. Nor is eternal punishment inconsistent with Leibniz's doctrine of the perfection of the universe (which Eberhard had failed to grasp in all its complexity anyway)—neither metaphysically, because the perfection of the whole is perfectly consistent with the imperfection and even the progressive degradation of individual parts, nor anthropologically, because eternal punishment is perfectly conceivable provided that its "eternity" is understood as extended over an infinite time, i.e. provided that the punishment is a never-ending reformation. The only contradictory idea is that of an "intensive eternity" of punishment, i.e. an infinite suffering all concentrated in one place and for all times, because it would make God concentrate the full effect of his infinite might in a finite creature.144 Lessing's polemical pieces caused surprise and aversion in the enlightened circles. Even Mendelssohn found it difficult to accept the disassociation of the perfection of the whole from the perfection of the 141. "Des Andreas Wissowatius Einwiirfe wider die Dreynigkeit," Zweyter Beitrag, Vol. 12, pp. 7 iff. Here Lessing reproduced Leibniz's essay Defensio Trinitatis, with a history of the circumstances that gave rise to it. See p. go, where Lessing says that it was not Leibniz's intention to defend the doctrine of the Trinity with new philosophical insights but simply to show that the doctrine was free of contradictions and sophistries. 142. Berengarius Turonensis: oder Ankundigung eines wichtigen Werkes desseWen, wovon in der Herzoglichen Bibliothek zu Wolfenbiittel ein Manuskript befindlich, welches bisher vollig unerkannt geblieben (Berengarius of Tours: or Announcement of an Important Hitherto Totally Unknown Work of His, To Be Found in the Ducal Library at Wolfenbiittel; ; Braunschweig: Waysen, 1770), Sdmtliche Werke, Vol. 11. Lessing wants to suggest that originally the bread and wine were "pregnant signs," i.e. signs reflecting some vital human needs. He makes his point while setting the record straight regarding the true beliefs of Berengarius, an eleventh-century suspected heretic. See pp. 67-71, 161-62. 143. In Neue Apologie des Socrates (Socrates's New Apology; 1771). 144. Leibniz von den ewigen Strafen (Leibniz on Eternal Punishment), Enter Beytrag, Sdmtliche Werke, Vol. 11, pp. 461-87.



individual.145 In the conversation that Jacobi eventually had with Lessing, to test his Spinozism Jacobi was to probe him precisely on his views regarding the relation of universal order to individual freedom. But the reaction of the rationalists on this occasion paled in comparison to what Lessing was to suffer at the hand of the orthodox Christians when he published another group of texts. This time they included fragments of a manuscript authored by a recently deceased Hermann Samuel Reimarus, professor of Oriental languages at Hamburg and popular author. The work was a stinging attack on the reliability of the biblical narratives, conducted along the customary lines of rationalistic interpretation, and was so radical in tone that the author himself had kept it secret during his lifetime. Lessing had got hold of the manuscript from Reimarus's daughter Elise after her father's death and published anonymous excerpts from it together with a rejoinder of his own in which he defended the validity of Christian historical faith.146 The texts drew responses from the orthodox camp that at first defended the literal truth of the biblical narratives against Reimarus's critique of them.147 But then Pastor Goeze stepped onto the scene with an attack on Lessing's own rejoinder, which he considered hypocritical and subversive, and with his intervention Lessing became involved in a bitter controversy that quickly degenerated to the level of personal attack, until the affair was finally stopped by the authority of the Duke himself.148 What the two sets of texts show is that neither the rationalists nor the orthodox could understand where Lessing actually stood. They could not see that Lessing was saying both, namely that there is more to the bib145. Die Sache Gottes (apparently written in 1784). See Altmann, 554-56. 146. Lessing first tried to publish the fragments in 1771 in Berlin but was frustrated in the attempt by the censors. Two years later he published one fragment, "On the Toleration of Deists," within the series of his Wolfenbuttel Beitrage (Drifter Beytrag, 1774, Samtliche Werke, Vol. 12, pp. 254-70). Freedom from censorship in matters relating to the library had been one condition for Lessing's accepting the job at Wolfenbuttel. In 1777, also as part of the Beitrage (Vierter Beytrag), he published five more fragments, "On the Denunciation of Reason in the Pulpits," "The Impossibility of a Revelation Which All Men Can Believe on the Grounds of Reason," "The Passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea," "That the Books of the Old Testament Were Not Written To Reveal a Religion," and "On the Accounts of the Resurrection." A final fragment, "On the Aims of Jesus and His Disciples," was published in 1778,, Samtliche Werke, Vol. 13, pp. 217-327. 147. This elicited Lessing's reply, On the Proof of the Spirit and the Power, one of his more influential polemical writings. Uber den Beweis des Geistes und derKraft (Braunschweig, 1777), Samtliche Werke, Vol. 13, pp. 1—8. 148. The texts are collected in Vol. 13 of Samtliche Werke.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

lical narrative (i.e. the "letter" of Scripture) than the universal truths implicit in Christianity (i.e. the "spirit"), and yet substantially less. There is less (this is what the orthodox could not appreciate) because no single historical event can ever be so related to all men as to carry for them equal authority. Lessing's famous saying, that there is a "broad ugly ditch" separating the accidental events of history from the necessary truths of religion, sums up this point vividly.149 (Jacobi, incidentally, had precisely this image in mind when, in his conversation with Lessing, he exhorted him to perform a salto mortak, or a leap "head down first," in order to reach out from the highly particularized place where he stood to eternal truth.) But there is more to the biblical narrative as well (this is what the rationalists missed) because the biblical narrative is also an account of the events in the history of a people through which the latter came progressively into possession of what we now call the universal truths of Christianity. These events are narrated in Scripture in a manner that reflects the relative level of sophistication with which those truths were being apprehended by the people, at any given time, through the instrumentality of the events. The rationalist theologians could not appreciate this, and for this reason they were led to pointless attacks upon the veracity of the biblical stories. In other words (this is the point that neither side could understand), Lessing was emptying the religious truths of Christianity of all their historical content while at the same time elevating the historical event to a new level of importance as the indispensable vehicle for achieving universal truth. In this way he was responding to the two strains deeply engrained in the Enlightenment— the Cartesian demand for universal truths of reason, and the emphasis on the importance of the historical individual. Lessing's two final great works, the drama Nathan the Wise150 and the essay The Education of Mankind151 celebrate in quasi-Leibnizian style the great harmony that holds together different strands of humanity and different historical epochs by showing how the encounter of individuals with different historical backgrounds, or, on a more abstract level of consideration, the progression of history, makes for the experiences that reveal the truth common to all mankind. In 1777 Lessing had lost his newly born son, and soon after, in 1778,

149. Uber den Beweis des Geistes und der Kraft, Sdmtliche Werke, Vol. xm, p. 7150. Nathan der Weise (1778). Mendelssohn is reputed to be portrayed by Nathan. 151. Die Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts (1780).



the wife he had recently married.152 It was therefore a much-buffeted Lessing, harassed by long controversy,153 whom Jacobi and his sister Helene met in Wolfenbuttel in the summer of lySo.154 The visit was part of an eleven-week trip that took Jacobi first to Hamburg, where he saw Klopstock and also made the acquaintance of the Reimarus family. He then went on to Wandsbeck to visit Claudius, by whom he was deeply impressed. Jacobi visited Lessing twice during the trip: first on the way to Hamburg, where he was Lessing's guest from 5 to 10 July; and then on the way back from Wandsbeck, on which occasion Lessing joined Jacobi on a visit to "Father Gleim" in Halberstadt. In the course of these visits Lessing allegedly confessed to Jacobi that he was a Spinozist, and the seed was thus sown for the later controversy with Mendelssohn. Jacobi's account of what went on between him and Lessing at this time is very likely accurate, even though Jacobi's handing over of Goethe's "Prometheus" to Lessing for his perusal—the occasion for the alleged confession—cannot have been as fortuitous as it appears in that account. Jacobi must have gone to Lessing with the deliberate intent of confronting him with Goethe's Spinozism. At any rate, whether fortuitous or intentional, the act of handing over the poem must appear in retrospect as replete with historical significance. The great representative of the German Enlightenment was being presented with a work by the greatest among his offspring in which the tragic side of the same rationality that Lessing had upheld was celebrated. It is not just the sinners who stand to suffer when the perfection of the whole is considered compatible with the imperfection of any of its parts, and reason is thereby conceived of as a cosmic force anonymously pursuing its goal of universal order without regard for what might happen to particular individuals in the process. All men suffer, for since the ultimate result of their actions is determined from the beginning a priori, their freedom turns out to be just an epiphenomenon of impersonal forces. The only way for the individual to maintain dignity is to defy the forces governing the universe, as Goethe's Prometheus does, by rejoicing in his actions and glorifying them, however evident their insubstantiality might be. And the philo152. Eva Konig, the young widow of a former friend of Lessing. Lessing spent much of the 17705 trying to establish himself on a financial footing secure enough to marry. 153. Mendelssohn hints at Lessing's sad state at the time. See below, p. 5 of the Spinoza Letters. 154. Jacobi relates the trip in a letter to J. J. W. Heinse, 20-24 October 1780, Briefwechsel, 1.2, #582, pp. 201-11.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

sophical inspiration for the neo-Prometheus is now Spinoza because he, much more than Leibniz, clearly perceived that Cartesian reason is incompatible with the freedom of individual choice. The intuitions that motivated Jacobi's fateful act were right after all. The Enlightenment could not have it both ways. It could not replace the personal God of the Christians with an impersonal reason that none the less possesses all the power attributed by the believers to their Father in Heaven—it could not substitute salvific action for cosmic process—and yet safeguard the moral inalienability of the individual. Lessing's attempt to do just this by interpreting social situations and historical events as learning experiences could not in principle succeed because (as we have since learned from Kierkegaard) it is committed by its very logic, on the assumption of an anonymous rationality as the principle of all things, to a vision of things sub specie aeternitatis in which the sheer accidentality of individual events is finally revealed. Jacobi's merit is to have comprehended this limitation of Enlightenment reason. Yet to Lessing's request for an alternative Jacobi could only respond by exhorting him to a salto mortale, and later, in the course of the controversy that was to follow, when he found himself accused of irrationalism, by making Lessing's observation at the time his own, namely that the leap would only bring him back on his feet (i.e. back to reason).155 Eventually, in the final years of his life, Jacobi ended up declaring that that very "faith" on the strength of which he had then proposed the "leap" was a kind of intuitive reason; he was thus to revert to a typical Enlightenment standpoint that was as dated by then as the Enlightenment itself. In the conversation with Jacobi, Lessing politely declined Jacobi's offer of the "leap" on the grounds that the move was too much for his old limbs. Hamann was to consider it a mere exercise in verbalism. ii. Johann Georg Hamann, also known as the Magus of the North,156 is one of the more picturesque and endearing eighteenth-century German figures. Born in 1730, the son of a wound-physician in Konigsberg, he studied without ever graduating; became tutor in Hofmeister in Kurland; was then sent to London by a Riga merchant house on a business mission with strong political overtones; went morally astray in London but rediscovered the Bible and found himself a born155. Spinoza Letters (1789 ed.), p. 353. 156. Justus Moser is responsible for the name. "Magus" refers to the Magi who saw the star of Bethlehem and followed it to the newly born Jesus.



again Christian; returned to his father's house in Konigsberg and spent his time there privately studying every conceivable subject and enjoying the company and the table of the likes of Kant; became a translator for the French tax collectors employed in the bureaucracy of Frederick the Great and eventually became a petty official himself; took his father's maidservant to himself without marrying her, yet led with her and their four children an exemplary Christian family life; ate as voraciously157 as he read, and his health suffered from it; was the mentor and teacher of Herder and a great influence on the young Goethe, but showed nothing but antipathy for Hemsterhuis; corresponded with two dozen significant and insignificant personalities (Jacobi, whom he dubbed "his dear Jonathan," among the more significant ones); died on 18 May 1788 while on a trip to Munster that he had undertaken, after long preparations, to visit the Princess Gallitzin and also to see in person for the first time his beloved Jonathan, with whom he however ended up having a tempestuous encounter. He was buried in the garden of the princess's house.158 Hamann did not write much, and what he wrote consists of occasional pieces renowned for their eccentricities and obscurities. Yet they have been universally acknowledged as a powerful source of inspiration for the anti-rationalist movement that eventually overtook the Enlightenment. One wonders, however, to what extent the influence Hamann had on his contemporaries was due more to what they misunderstood about him than to what they actually understood. Hamann resists any simple historical categorization. His statement in Aesthetica in Nuce (1762) that poetry is the mother of reason has been hailed as paradigmatic for the whole Sturm und Drang movement.159 Statements to 157. See Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. v 11, Letter # 1060, Hamann to Jacobi, 2 7 April-3 May 1787, where Hamann refers to his "Herculean appetite." The whole letter is interspersed with references to eating. 158. For a study of the life and works of Hamann, see Josef Nadler, Johann Georg Hamann, ijjo-ijSS: Der Zeuge des Corpus Mysticum (Salzburg: Muller, 1949). For an earlier study, see Jean Blum, La Vie et I'oeuvre deJ.-G. Hamann (cited). For an exhaustive study of his early life and his early relationship to Kant, see Angelo Pupi, Johann Georg Hamann I: experimentum mundi, 1730-7759 (Milano: Universita del Sacro Cuore, 1988). For a significant collection of critical essays covering all aspects of Hamann's work, see Johann Georg Hamann: Ada des Internationales Hamann-Colloquiums in Luneburg 1976 (Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1979). !59- "Poesy is the mother language of the human race. . . . The entire treasure of human knowledge and happiness rests in images. "Johann Georg Hamann, Sdmtliche Werke, ed. Josef Nadler (Wien: Thomas Moms, 1949-57), Vol. 2, p. 66.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

the same effect can be found strewn throughout his words and letters. Yet Hamann unequivocally disassociated himself from Herder's protoRomantic theory of the origin of reason from unconscious forces of nature.160 Obviously he did not mean by poetry's being the mother of reason the same as his younger contemporaries took him to mean. Hamann's relation to Jacobi is also ambiguous. We know that Hamann shared every bit of Jacobi's dislike for the Berlin Aufklarer, and even nurtured an extra measure of animosity towards them because in his mind they had become associated with the despotic French overseers in his tax-collection bureau. He kept Jacobi informed of the goings-on in Berlin through the pages of a thick correspondence, and in the period leading up to the publication of the Spinoza Letters he at least gave the impression of being in collusion with Jacobi in the attack that the latter was slowly mounting against Mendelssohn. Some of the vivid turns of phrase that he used in his letters found their way into Jacobi's published text. Actually, at that time Hamann was mounting an attack of his own that led him even to accuse Mendelssohn openly of atheism—a charge for which he subsequently felt guilty, especially in view of the ties of friendship that had always bound him to the great Jewish Aufklarer.161 The attack had come in a short piece that Hamann entitled Golgotha und Scheblimini (1784). It was directed specifically at Mendelssohn's Jerusalem,l62 a work that had scandalized Hamann because of the theory of "natural right" and the idea of "natural religion" that Mendelssohn defended there. Hamann would have neither of them—the first because it made for political despotism, the second because it was a mere figment of the philosopher's mind. These, we must remember, had also been themes of Jacobi's political essays only a few years before, and this circumstance certainly added to the quasi-conspiratorial bond that was forged between the two men. Yet Hamann opposed Jacobi in substantial matters at all points. He opposed him not only during the Mendelssohn affair but from the beginning of their relationship and throughout it. He did so unequivocally, at times even stridently—to the point even of complaining, in the after-

160. Nadler, Hamann, pp. soyff. 161. See letters to Jacobi, 10 January 1786, 15 January 1786, Hamann-Briefwechsel, , vi, ##917, 919, pp. 222, 227. 162. Jerusalem, oder uber religiose Macht und Judentum (Jerusalem, or On Religious Power and Judaism', 1783).



math of the publication of the Spinoza Letters, that Mendelssohn's treatment of Spinoza made more sense to him than Jacobi's.l63 But perhaps understanding what separated Hamann from Jacobi might also be the key to understanding how Hamann stood with respect to his age. Jacobi's Woldemar had been the occasion of his entering into correspondence with Jacobi,164 just as it had been for Lessing, though by the time of Hamann's first personal contact with Jacobi, Lessing had already died. Lessing seems to have liked the work much more than did Hamann,165 who found its hero's ideal of autonomy "too supercilious for [his] enfeebled nerve-system." "This lovely hero," he complained, "seems to me to belong to the class of beings who would like to combine an unlimited independence of raw nature with the delights of social life."lG& This combination of extremes would of course have resolved the problem of human happiness. But Hamann doubted that the combination was really possible on Woldemar's terms, and in his usual cryptic style he asked Jacobi: "Is [Woldemar's solution] a wall? or is it a door?"167 And again, to Jacobi's description of the anguish that he experienced as he delved into the depths of his hero's heart and discovered there, opening up before him like an abyss, the limitations of human nature in which whatever image of God there is in us is ultimately bound to be lost168— to this Hamann replied, somewhat tongue in cheek, by reproving Jacobi for his propensity to brooding.169 But then he also accused Jacobi of being given to rationalism—for still making reason the main current 163. 15 February 1786, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vi, #933, p. 271. See Letter #911, 28 December 1785, p. 202. 164. 12 August 1782, Briefwechsel 1.3, Letter #794, pp. 46-47. 165. Lessing to Jacobi, 18 May 1779, Briefwechsel 1.2, #510, p. 96. 166. Letter #794, p. 46. Hamann is referring to Jacobi's Vermischte Schriften, Part i (Breslau: Korn, 1781), that contained under the new title of Der Kunstgarten, but with only slight alterations otherwise, the text ofEin Stuck Philosophie des Lebens und der Menschheit: Aus dem zweiten Bande von Woldemar, originally published in Deutsches Museum, i (1779). Also included in the volume was a reproduction of Eduard Allwills Papiere, originally published in Iris, iv. 3 (1775), and in Der Teutsche Merkur, x i v - x v i (1776). Volume i of Woldemar had been originally published in Der Teutsche Merkur, x v n i - x x (1777), under the title of Freundschaft und Liebe: Eine wahre Geschichte, von dem Herausgeber von Eduard Allwills Papieren, and then reissued in somewhat altered form as Woldemar: Eine Seltenheit aus der Naturgeschichte, Vol. I (Flensburg and Leipzig: in der Kortenschen Buchhandlung, 1779). See below, Section in, p. 117, note. 167. Letter #794, p. 47. 168. 16 June 1783, Briefwechsel, 1.3, #908, p. 164. 169. 2 November 1783, Briefwechsel, 1.3, #963, p. 223.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

from which our wisdom flows and relegating passions to a merely regulative role (like banks containing a stream). 170 For Hamann true wisdom consisted in becoming like children again, and that could hardly be achieved by means of clear and distinct ideas. Jacobi had reasons for being puzzled. It was Hamann who insisted that existence precedes any conceptual expressions of it and that the metaphysicians were guilty of hiding it by substituting a play of empty intentions. Hence Hamann stayed away from metaphysics, which he claimed not to understand anyway, but preferred instead to look for the power of reason in language—by which he meant the spoken word and not any scholastic jargon.1*71 Hence, in opposition to Mendelssohn's contractual theory of society, Hamann had argued that the beginning of society lies in the power of saying "yea" and "nay," which makes us beholden to our word and hence also capable of entering into contracts.1?2 Again it was Hamann who said (referring to Lessing) that true religion consists in acknowledging God, professing him, and praying to him, and nothing besides; 173 and he who also said that "experience and revelation (Erfahrung und Offenbarung)g) are one and the same."174 Yet Hamann objected to Jacobi's suggestion of a salto mortale to Lessing. Hamann's point was that "to the Kingdom of God there belongs no salto mortale"; on the contrary, so far as that kingdom is concerned, "the first commandment is 'eat!', and the second, 'everything is accomplished!' "1?5 He found Jacobi's talk about "the I and the Thou," and the objective evidence of the presence of an "other" that the "I" supposedly brings with it, another form of metaphysical formalism, nothing short of logomachy;176 and Jacobi's conflation in the David Hume of immediate empirical evidence with religious faith he considered not only conceptually muddled but downright dishonest.177 Hamann repeatedly reacted with irritation, almost peevishly, to Jacobi's claim that in order to discover God in us we must presuppose a special propensity for the divine

170. 171. p. 386. 172. 173. 174. 175. 176. 177.

Letter, 2-22 November 1783, Briefwechsel, 1.3, #963, p. 224. See Briefwechsel, 1.3, #963, p. 224; 14-15 November 1784, Briefwechsel, i. 3, #1091, Golgotha und Scheblimini, Nadler, Sdmtliche Werke, Vol. 3, p. 300. 31 March 1785, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vi, #823, p. 405. 14-15 November 1784, Briefwechsel, 1.3, #1091, p. 388. 1-5 December 1784, Briefwechsel, 1.3, #1098, p. 399. See 27 April-5 May 1787, Humann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vn, #1060, p. 166. 27 April-5 May 1787, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vn, #1060, p. 167.



in us, a special faculty.178 So far as Hamann was concerned, it seemed, Jacobi could do nothing right. The more the latter strove to reflect in his thought and writing Hamann's religiosity, his sense of the sacredness and historicity of reason, the more Hamann rebuffed him. To Jacobi himself, or, for that matter, to any external observer, Hamann's behaviour might indeed have looked capricious. Yet there was method in it. Jacobi and he were simply not operating at the same intellectual level. What inspired Hamann's claims about the preeminence of existence, or his realism in general, was a kind of orthodox Christian religiosity to which Jacobi was blind. To Hamann's eyes God was present everywhere in the world, not just as a law-giver or foundation of existence in general but through his highly personalized acts of creation and redemption. Every fact of nature and every event of history assumes, therefore, a double meaning. It stands for what it appears to be, and for God's presence and God's action as well. Hence Hamann could compare his own thinking to an exercise in the Cabbala. It is as if God's being were strewn haphazardly, so to speak, across the world, and our task were to piece it back together, just as the Cabbalists try to reconstruct God's true name, deliberately disguised by him in the words of the Torah, by endless mutations and permutations in the letters of the latter. It is no surprise, therefore, that Hamann would show little patience for Jacobi's assumption of a special faculty for the divine in us. The assumption presupposed all the subjectivism of the philosophy of the day. So far as Hamann was concerned, evidence for God's presence was to be found everywhere, simply by looking at things outside us. To believe in God and grow in his grace was no more exceptional or requiring of special spiritual gymnastics than being born and dying. Thus it is no surprise that Hamann's notion of faith did not concur with Jacobi's, or that Hamann should have found Woldemar too "supercilious" for his nerves or Jacobi's fastidiousness of feeling especially irritating. To Princess Gallitzin, who was looking for spiritual perfection with a Jansenist-like rigorism, Hamann was to say during his visit to Minister that this quest is itself a form of pride, and that God is best found in the mundane activities of eating and drinking and communing with one's friends, with all the imperfections that these imply.' 79 178. 14-15 November 1784, Briefwechsel, 1.3, #1091, p. 388. See Jacobi to Hamann, 18-22 October 1784, Briefwechsel, 1.3., #1084, p. 373. 179. Brachin, p. 166.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

In a different culture and at a different time this attitude of Hamann would have been recognized as a form of sacramentalism.18o This was an attitude that his age was particularly unable to understand, let alone appreciate, for, contrary to all that the Enlightenment stood for, it presupposed the belief that rationality is not a system (not even a historical one as in Herder) but is a sense that grows out of individual situations, adapting itself, so to speak, to the contingencies of the moment. In the case of Jacobi there was an added impediment—widely shared by his contemporaries—his quasi-Manichean attitude to sexuality or to anything connected with the body, which made it even more difficult to look for God in finite flesh. Jacobi, incidentally, did not particularly encourage Princess Gallitzin to get involved with Hamann. This reluctance to share his friend proved to be premonitory, because, as is widely acknowledged, it was Hamann's visit to the princess that provided the catalyst required for her return to the church.181 Be that as it may, Jacobi's intention was still, like Hamann's, to conceive of reason historically. That is the one theme that brings together all aspects of his work—the political, literary, philosophical, religious, or polemical. And the issue that still faces us is whether Jacobi ever really succeeded in giving to it a coherent sense. At the height of the Spinoza Dispute, Jacobi's first, Mendelssohn bitterly complained to Kant that the Spinoza Letters was a strange monster that sported Goethe for head, Spinoza for torso, and Lavater for feet. l8a Hamann, to whom Kant had shown the letter in confidence,183 could not refrain from repeating the bon mot to Jacobi, though in modified form and without attributing it to Mendelssohn.l84 He left enough ambiguity in the way he used it that it could conceivably be taken as expressing his own opinion.185 Could it serve as a final statement on Jacobi's work?

180. This is Nadler's thesis in Hamann 1730—1788. 181. Brachin, pp. i62ff. 182. Letter of 16 October 1785, #248. 183. Hamann-Briefwechsel, letter to Jacobi of 5 November 1785, Vol. vi, #889, p. 119. 184. Ibid., pp. 119-20. 185. See his later letter to Jacobi of 30 November 1785, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vi, #900, p. 159, a propos the image: "Your composition, dear Jonathan, is like my sleeping pelt. . . . The beginning is historical, the middle metaphysical, and the end poetic at least and betrays your weakness for dithyrambic writers."

II Philosophical Arguments: An Essay in Analysis^ The philosophers analyse, and argue, and explain: To what extent do we actually experience that something exists outside us? I must laugh at these people, among whom I too was once numbered. I open my eye or my ear, or I stretch out my hand, and in that very instant I feel the You and I; the I and You. Were everything outside me cut away from me, I would sink in insensitivity, in death. You, You give life. [. . .] God, I abide with You and in You, separate and one, i I in You, and You in Me. Were you without number, You would be without life, without love, without power and name. [. . .] Jacobi, Letter to an unknown, 16 October 17752 And just as Lavater required that we become one substance with the Christ, in accordance with his example, so Jacobi asked that we make his way of thinking our own, individualistic, deep, and hard to understand as it was. Goethe, Daily and Yearly Note-Books, 17943

1. I am indebted to the following authors, even though I generally follow quite different lines of thought and reach different conclusions: Gunther Baum, Vernunft undErkenntnis; die Philosophic F. H. Jacobis (Bonn: Bouvier, 1969); Karl Homann, F. H. Jacobis Philosophic der Freiheit (Miinchen Alber, 1973); Klaus Hammacher, Die Philosophic Friedrich Heinrich Jacobis (Miinchen: Fink, 1969). I have also learned from the contributions to the excellent collection Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Philosoph und Literal der Goethezeit, ed. Klaus Hammacher (Frankfurt/Main: Klosterman, 1971). 2. Briefwechsel, 1.2, #424, pp. 27-28. 3. Tags- und Jahreshefte, Samtliche Werke, Vol. xiv, p. 30.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

/.Jacob! used the Prometheus poem as a means of luring Lessing into declaring his position vis-a-vis Spinoza.4 But how could that poem ever be taken as a manifesto of Spinozism? This issue was raised as early as 1786, in an anonymous review of the Spinoza Letters published in the Allgemeine Literatur Zeitung. To the author, that Lessing should have thought of those verses as "good, indeed very good," was itself a mystery (unless perhaps Lessing had assumed thatjacobi was their author and was just being courteous). But it was an even greater mystery that Lessing had found Spinozism in them. "For to say," as the reviewer goes on to argue, "that the Gods are wretched beings, that man saves himself, that he is his own help, that the Gods do nothing but sleep and we need not revere them— none of this yet amounts to agreeing with Spinoza."5 It could also have been said that, in spirit at least, the Prometheus was not unlike the other poem by Goethe thatjacobi had put at the head of his book,6 in this case with Goethe's own name attached to it. 7 The only difference between the two was that, whereas in the Prometheus the gods are rejected because they stand in the way of a new humanity, in the other they are praised because, being nothing but man writ large, they prefigure the true Man. In believing in them, we thus believe in our own true self. Yet Jacobi had chosen this poem as the visage with which his book was to face the world. One can well appreciate the reviewer's puzzlement. Not only was Spinoza not widely read or understood at the time, but Jacobi's understanding depended on a philosophical position that he was adumbrating for the first time in the Spinoza Letters. Neither his position vis-a-vis Spinoza nor his general philosophical assumptions were to be found anywhere clearly spelled out. It is unlikely thatjacobi himself clearly saw through those assumptions at the time. Nor could the 1786 reviewer have known that Goethe was the author of the Prometheus, or that in Jacobi's mind Goethe was naturally associated with Spinoza because of the circumstances of Jacobi's first encounter with the poet. On that occasion it had been the memory of Spinoza that had fuelled the passionate friendship that suddenly sprang up between the two men.

4. For an account of how Goethe himself understood the poem, see his Dichtung und Wahrheit, Part in, Book 15, Samtliche Werke, Vol. xvi, pp. 68iff. 5. Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, i (1786): 292-96; see column 293. 6. I.e., only in the first edition. 7. For the poems, and their connection with the text of the first edition of the Spinoza note Letters, see below, pp. 175-77, note 4' PP- 185-86.



In retrospect, now that we can fill in many of these details, the association of the Prometheus with Spinoza makes more sense. We can at least understand how it might have appeared obvious to Jacobi. On the one hand, his pietistic religiosity demanded a personal God. On the other, at a conceptual level Jacobi was under several further constraints. He was unable to disassociate "personality" from "consciousness." Consciousness required, in turn, the real distinction between at least two terms, a subject and an object—ultimately, between two subjects who recognized one another to be "subjects." So far as Jacobi was concerned, however, a real distinction had to be one between actual existents, and existence entailed radical individualization. A person, in other words, had to be numerically distinct from all others.8 Individualization was also required (again, so far as Jacobi was concerned) to satisfy another indispensable condition of personality. And that was responsibility of action, or the possibility, in any given situation, of connecting an action with an individual subject as its absolute initiator. Personality implied individual and irreducible freedom of action. The God whom Jacobi the believer worshipped had to be, in other words, a "person" in the common understanding of that word. Jacobi recognized that it was difficult, indeed impossible, to explain how this understanding could extend to an infinite God. But the main thrust of his criticism of the philosophers was precisely that their concepts were not suited to deal with God. For that one needed faith, and whenever one tried to philosophize where one ought to believe instead, the result was the creation of a false image of God. Spinoza's philosophy was a case in point. His "substance" could not be a recognizable individual since it had no counterpart before which it could utter "I" in a meaningful sense. It had neither consciousness nor individual freedom—no personality, in other words, as Spinoza himself clearly admitted. And since by its very presence it tended to dissolve whatever distinction was introduced within it, neither did it allow for personality to subsist within it as a limited reality. In a Spinozistically conceived universe, individual freedom and individual consciousness—the necessary conditions of personality—had to be mere phenomena due to a limited, and ultimately false, view of things. "Personality," in other words, its meaning and its denial in metaphysical systems, was the issue that Jacobi wanted to raise by pushing the 8. See David Hume, p. 202.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

philosophy of Spinoza to centre stage. Goethe's Prometheus (Jacobi's personal reasons for calling it into play apart) served as a natural stagingpoint for his strategy because in that poem Goethe subjugated man to impersonal Fate and, to this extent at least, accepted Spinoza's monistic view, which, in Jacobi's mind, ended up denying human freedom and personality. Once this piece of Jacobi's strategy is seen, one can also detect, as the 1786 reviewer was unable to do, two clues—one purely typographical, the other contextual—thatjacobi himself so carefully laid out for his readers, to direct them to his special point of view. The first is Jacobi's handling of Goethe's poem, with which he had prefaced his work. In its printed text he was careful to emphasize in boldface on his own initiative certain key words, thereby lifting them out of context and, by this purely mechanical means, conveying the message dear to his heart that in the deeds of Goethe's gods we have an intimation of man's transcendence over nature. For brute nature is without feelings or discernment, whereas man can judge, draw distinctions, and dare the impossible, and it is this ability that we see, writ large, in Goethe's gods. This was Jacobi's message, not Goethe's, and one may well object to this kind of opportunistic interpretation. Yet at a purely rhetorical level the device worked because, as so edited byjacobi, the poem stood in conceptual opposition to the Prometheus, and the resulting contrast served to highlight precisely what Jacobi found so objectionable in the latter. For the Prometheus suggested that, though endowed with superhuman emotions and superhuman discernment, the gods no less than men are subject to the blind "almighty time" that rules over all. But in a world thus governed by "eternal fate," mortals have one quality that puts them at an advantage over the gods, and that is their ability to capitalize on their very finitude in order to rebel against the order of things and thereby to retain their dignity. This is not to say that mortals can ultimately escape, any more than can the gods, the rule of Fate. But the point is that mortals, as typified by Prometheus, can rejoice in their very sufferings. They can go on acting and rejoice in their actions, in full knowledge that all their efforts will eventually be swept away by anonymous time, and by this defiant agency they manage to uphold their individuality in the face of Fate. For Goethe this was enough to maintain man's claim to personality. But it was not for the believer Jacobi, who looked for a much more positive relationship of man to God and the universe and to whom, therefore, this Promethean playing at being free while knowing all along that the language of freedom is only a game appeared to be merely nihilistic nonsense.



The second clue that Jacob! used to direct his readers to the issue of personality was his reference to §73 of Lessing's Education of Mankind.9 In this paragraph Lessing uses the traditional Christian doctrine of the Trinity as an illustration of the thesis, which he has been developing throughout the essay, that many doctrines found in the Old and New Testaments convey deep philosophical truths, but under a pictorial guise more suited to an earlier stage in the development of man's mind. Lessing's point is that God's unity cannot have the same meaning as the unity of any finite thing, for God could not know himself without a complete representation of himself, but in order to be true to its prototype this representation must render God present once more as necessarily actual, i.e. according to the fullness of his existence. It follows, therefore, that God's knowledge of himself constitutes a true doubling of his existence, and according to Lessing there is no better way of expressing this philosophical truth in popular form than by invoking the picture of a Son of God generated by God from all eternity. Now, why is it that Jacobi should have singled out this paragraph of Lessing's essay as being for him particularly obscure prior to his discovery of Lessing's alleged Spinozism?10 What is especially Spinozistic for Jacobi in §73 of the Education of Mankind? Jacobi himself hints in his text that there is more at issue in the paragraph than the unity of God's being. For the moment one introduces the idea of a doubling of God's being, by virtue of which all the properties of his essence come to exist "twice over," his identity or personality also becomes problematic. How can the two terms in this doubling of God be kept numerically distinct? Given Leibniz's principle of the identity of indiscernibles, to which Jacobi explicitly refers, one would have to say that they are only relatively distinct—that, although the distinction posited between them expresses something true about God's being, it does so only from our finite standpoint. Or, in other words, the distinction itself, and the terms dependent on it, are at best phenomena bene fundata. But that is all that Spinoza's modes are, even the necessary ones; and that is all that God's personality would have to be on Lessing's interpretation of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity.11 Jacobi required, by contrast, irreducible numerical identity. 9. See below, Spinoza letters, p. 4 of Jacobi's text. 10. Ibid. 11. According to orthodox doctrine, the three Persons, although one in substance, are truly distinct per se, and not just from a finite point of view.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

According tojacobi's report of his conversation with Lessing, the latter had discussed with Mendelssohn that aspect of §73 that had also struckJacobi—i.e., presumably, its Spinozistic implications—but the discussion had never reached a conclusion.12 Apart from the desire to sound as historically objective as possible, Jacobi's motive for bringing the point up could only be to show that Mendelssohn was not, after all, as privy to Lessing's mind as Mendelssohn himself and the Berliner philosophers in general had assumed.13 "Pantheism" can mean many things, and Jacobi has often been reproached (by Mendelssohn first of all) for having mistakenly identified it with "atheism." From the beginning, however, Jacobi had given clear signals that, on his definition of the casus controversies, the whole point of bringing up the issue of Lessing's Spinozism was to argue that neither Spinozism, nor, for that matter, any metaphysical system was in a position to express conceptually the possibility of true individuation and hence (in Jacobi's concatenation of ideas) true personality. The real issue was not whether, in some sense or other, a true distinction could still be maintained within a Spinozistic universe between God and finite existence but whether, in any such distinction, the terms thereby being distinguished could still stand with respect to one another in the relation of one true individual (and possibly a person) to another. Jacobi's claim was that they could not—that Spinoza's God was not an individual and therefore not a genuine person. But since it was part of Jacobi's religiosity to expect that God be a person,14 it followed that Spinozism and all 12. Ibid., p. 3. 13. At the time of the publication of Mendelssohn's Philosophical Dialogues, Lessing had objected to Mendelssohn for positing a created world over and above Spinoza's universe of attributes and modes. In those Dialogues Mendelssohn had tried to save Spinoza from the charge of pantheism by interpreting his doctrine about God's attributes and modes as referring to God's knowledge of himself before creation, as if all that Spinoza says about the universe applied in fact to God's representation of himself. Jacobi could not have been aware of Lessing's objection. If he had, he could have used it as further evidence for his claim that Lessing was at heart a Spinozist, for Lessing's point had been that God's representation of himself in the universe already constitutes creation. On this argument it follows that the procession of the Son from the Father as interpreted by Lessing in his §73 is exactly what Jacobi took it to be, i.e. a metaphor for the Spinozistic relationship of natura naturans to natura naturata. See Rilla, pp. 367—68. 14. See letter to Hamann, 11 January 1785, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. v, #797, p. 321: "I'll have none of a being without consciousness, without personality. I would rather be the neediest among the natura naturatce than a Spinozist natura naturans, which, if we care to play with words, we can call the most perfect form of love since it is all things only in something else: a nothing yet all!"



traditional metaphysics as well were in fact forms of atheism. One can of course reject Jacobi's religiosity. Since Jacobi, however, had subjectively sufficient reasons for holding on to it that cannot be objectively disputed, on his statement of the terms of the controversy the inference was both logically incontrovertible and sound. Yet it must be stressed that if one rejected Jacobi's religiosity—if one believed, contrary to Jacobi, that happiness and salvation consist in freeing oneself of the mirage of individual identity and individual freedom—Jacobi's polemic would have lost its motivating force. Spinoza, for one, would have failed to appreciate its value. Nor would Spinoza have reacted any more positively to Goethe's Prometheus, for there too, however Spinozistic in inspiration the poem might have been, the implicit moral assumption was that individual identity has value per se and hence must be upheld at all cost, even at the price of futile defiance. This—that personalism based on individuality is a moral goal in itself—is precisely the premise that Spinoza would have denied but that Goethe and Jacobi equally took for granted. The two were much closer to each other than either was to Spinoza. Jacobi's polemic was more of a lover's quarrel with Goethe than a dispute with Spinoza. This is the deep sense in which the Prometheus presided over the Spinoza-Letters.1 ^ 2. Jacobi's treatment of Spinoza in his correspondence with Mendelssohn and in the consequent "little book"l6 is hardly methodical, and one cannot blame Mendelssohn for having at one point mistakenly assumed that Jacobi belonged to the party of the Spinozists.17 Yet in 15. It also presided over the attempt to reconcile Jacobi's language of the "I" with a monistic metaphysics that constituted the first phase of post-Kantian Idealism (the Fichtean phase). Holderlin (who, incidentally, had first come in contact with Spinoza through Jacobi's Spinoza Letters) inaugurated the second phase by rejecting Fichte's idealism and, by implication, Goethe's Promethean view of the human situation on which Fichte's idealism was based. Holderlin marked a return to a more genuinely Spinozistic standpoint. I owe this insight to Margarethe Wegenast, Holderlins Spinoza-Rezeption und ihre Bedeutungfur die Konzeption des "Hyperion" (Tubingen: Niemeyer, 1990). 16. Das Spinoza Buchlein is the title that Claudius gave to it and which stuck. See Hamann's letter to Jacobi, 5 November 1785, Hamann-Briefwechsel, vi, #889, p. 119. 17. This is at least the impression that Mendelssohn conveys in his memorandum to Jacobi of i August 1784. See especially Spinoza letters (1789), p. 80 ("Your view is that. . . ."); p. 89 ("In my opinion the source of these illusory concepts . . . ."). Jacobi was especially keen to set the record straight on this point. See Spinoza Letters (1785), p. 177. We gather from Wizenmann that Jacobi was given to citing Spinoza as a philosophical authority. See Goltz, Vol. i, pp. 3oiff.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

spite of the confusing presentation, Jacobi there evinces a sophisticated understanding of the philosophy that he was criticizing.18 He had understood—as neither Bayle nor Wolff had—that Spinoza had finally made explicit the ultimate logical consequences of the principle on which Western metaphysics had been based from the beginning, namely that gigni de nihilo nihil, in nihilum nil potest reverti.19 In brief, these were the consequences according to Jacobi. First, it follows from the principle (again, according to Jacobi) that, as regards the dynamics of the universe, there cannot be any absolute beginning or absolute cessation of any action or determination of being. For to be absolute and not merely apparent, any such transition would have to be preceded (or followed) by a state at which the action or determination was not (or shall rn^be), i.e. by an element of nothingness, and this contradicts the principle. A parallel conclusion can be drawn with respect to the structure of the universe. Absolute determination is not possible, for determination implies exclusion, the negation of one thing by another, and this too would contravene the principle that being cannot be qualified by nothingness. It also follows, therefore, that substance, or unqualified being, can only be a blind stirring of efficient causality with no inherent formal or final determinations, for any such limits would imply nothingness and, therefore, only qualified existence. Second, it does not follow that one therefore cannot attribute properties to substance nor, for that matter, grant the existence of determinate, i.e. finite, beings. But properties must be simply attributed or imputed to substance with reference to the structure of our consciousness of reality—i.e. inasmuch as we must conceptualize substance precisely as the ground of all reality, our consciousness included. And since the distinction between subject and object is of the essence of consciousness, we must think of substance as having both infinite extension and infinite thought; the attributes of "thought" and "extension" thus simply express substance as constituting the ground of the possibility of our consciousness of an objectively determined world. However, we do not thereby imply that substance itself is to be identified with any individual extended thing or any individual mind. So also with respect to finite existents—the so-called modes or modifications of substance. These too 18. I am basing the following exposition of Jacobi's understanding of Spinoza on his several statements of Spinozism in both the 1785 and the 1789 editions of the Spinoza Letters, as included in this volume. 19. Nothing is generated from nothing; nothing can revert into nothing.



must be referred in toto to substance as the ground of their reality in general, without, however, thereby implying that substance is the direct cause of the particular determinations that individualize them. The particular determination of each is explained, rather, with reference to the equally particular determination of some other individual mode—the regression or progression from mode to mode extending ad infinitum.20 It is essential that this chain of explanation be thus infinitely extended because, should the chain ever reach a final point in either direction, it would follow that at that point we would have found within substance itself the explanation for the existence of a certain particular set of modes (i.e. a certain finite world) as contrasted with some other. But this would amount to determining absolute substance, or to absolutizing determination, two possibilities that are both denied to us ex hypothesi. Of course, once substance and its infinite attributes (which Spinoza, according to Jacobi, considered to be infinite in number as well as in kind) 21 are posited on the one hand, and the infinity of finite modes on the other, one can posit a hierarchy of sets of finite modes with reference either to thought or to extension. Some of these sets will have a relatively more and some a relatively less definite number of members than others, and they will carry degrees of necessity accordingly. We can thus think of an Infinite Understanding, or an Infinite Will, or of natura naturans (the creator Father, according to Jacobi) and natura naturata (the created Son), all of which, though finite with respect to substance and dependent on it, are however considered by Spinoza infinite in the sense that they contain all other modes. Yet their determination and their necessity are functions of the role that such "infinite" modes play in our conception of the universe. They define conditions of the possibility of intelligibility, in other words, whether on the side of thought or on the side of extension. In no way can they be taken to signify acts or actual states of being, let alone actual determinations of substance as such. Third, it follows that, whether in principle, with reference to substance, or in particular concrete cases, with reference to the mode that exercises localized control over the relevant portion of the world, everything can be explained in Spinoza's universe—everything, that is, except the fact that there are finite modes in the first place, or, since rationality 20. On this point, see also Wizenmann's testimony, Goltz, Vol. I, p. 301. 21. Jacobi thought that Spinoza had a problem on this score. See the comment added to p. 140 of the 1785 edition of the Spinoza Letters (pp. igoff. of the 1789 ed., as included below).


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

is itself a function of distinctions that imply finitude, everything except rationality itself. This surd is what the system predicts rather than an embarrassment for it. It points to the absurdity of the task that opponents would wish to impose upon the system, namely to retrieve in rational terms, i.e. from within the system itself, the grounds of rationality that ex hypothesii lie outside it. So far as Spinoza is concerned, the only way to deal with the surd is to move beyond the process of ratiocination through a process of intellectual ascesis that allows the mind to escape from the determination of space, time, and logic and see things all at once sub specie ceternitatis. Accordingly, insight, not conceptualization, was for Spinoza "the best part in all finite natures."22 Jacobi did not dispute this point. On the contrary, Spinoza's recognition that truth is ultimately its own immediate witness especially endeared the Benedictus (the Blessed One) to him. 23 But granted Spinoza's conceptual system, the substance that one was to behold immediately at the end of spatio-temporal distinctions and at the limit of ratiocination evoked in Jacobi's mind the picture of a sheer outburst of self-creating energy that does not aim, itself, at anything in particular and in relation to which, therefore, the finite modes are superfluous by-products, so to speak. Jacobi instinctively recoiled at this vision because it meant the obliteration of individuality. Were Spinoza's substance to be conscious of its effects (as in fact it cannot, since consciousness requires distance between subject and object and hence limitation), or were it in any way interested in them, it would find their presence surprising—a "brute fact" that strictly speaking ought not to be, since it adds nothing to its infinite energy, and that therefore must ultimately be denied. This, so far as Jacobi was concerned, was the upshot of Spinozism. And Jacobi found it all the more frightening because of the political implications that he saw in it, namely that all rational and social relationships are epiphenomena of what is in fact only a play of competing forces all blindly spewing forth from the same undifferentiated source. There was one final consequence of the principle on which Spinoza's system was based, an ethical consequence that brought this implication home to Jacobi in an especially significant way. As Jacobi understood Spinoza, in a Spinozistic world the term "I" can no longer be used in any recognizable sense. We are back to the issue of individuation as a neces22. Spinoza Letters (1785), p. 20. 23. Ibid., p. 29.



sary condition of personality, or of the possibility of identifying a truly autonomous and hence responsible source of action. The problem is that there cannot be individuation without genuine determination, i.e. without an individual standing in a significant relation to another individual through determinations that establish each on its own and apart from the other. But Spinoza's substance does not meet these conditions because, though a One, it is an all-encompassing One; and hence, though the source of activity in general, it cannot be directly connected to any single act in particular. The finite modes fail the test too, though this time not because they do not stand in relation to one another but because their mutual relations are so far extended that whatever determination they entail is never complete. The individuality of the modes, in other words, can only be a passing phenomenon. It follows that, on Spinoza's principles, there is no strict determination and, since actuality entails determination, no "act" in a strict sense of the word either. Nobody, according to Jacobi, has the right in a Spinozistic world to say unequivocally, "I act." One would rather have to say, "There is an anonymous action taking place of which I appear—but only appear—to be the subject." Or, as Jacobi liked to say, in that world would-be subjects of action can in fact only observe themselves going through certain motions (which we mistakenly call "action") as if they were things external to themselves. And of course, upon being asked whether they are at least responsible for the operation of observing, they would have to reply that they are in fact only observing themselves observing; and if the question is repeated, that they observe themselves observing an observation, and so on ad infinitum. So far as Jacobi was concerned, Spinoza had subverted the very language of the "l."24 3. Jacobi's brief against Spinoza thus came down to the objection that Spinoza had undermined the possibility of freedom understood not just as spontaneity—a sense perfectly consistent with the picture of a universe of forces blindly seeking to discharge themselves—but as the source of individual responsibility. The brief extended to the whole of traditional metaphysics as well. Part of Jacobi's veneration of Spinoza was directed precisely towards Spinoza's consistency in carrying his principles, which also constituted the premises of any kind of metaphysics, to their logical conclusion. Leibniz's doctrine concerning freedom did not differ in principle from Spinoza's, according to Jacobi. And it could also 24. See ibid., pp. i8ff., 99-104.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

be argued that, despite all the vincula supposedly binding them together internally, how Leibniz's monads stand apart from God or, for that matter, from one another, is difficult to understand. Jacobi felt justified in saying that in Leibniz's world of monads he still could not tell "left from right."25 But Jacobi's attitude towards Spinoza was a complex one—ultimately not as negative as it might appear at first. His attack was directed at Spinoza's system only to the extent that the latter shared the assumptions and the methodology of rationalistic metaphysics. There was another aspect to the system, however, of which Jacobi was well aware and which, as we must now see, he even shared. When, in his conversation with Lessing, Jacobi came to defend his own position, he turned for help to none other than Spinoza himself. To recognize this positive side of Jacobi's relationship to Spinoza, however, we must first consider what, in his mind, was the fundamental cause of reason's tendency to destroy itself. For Jacobi had come to Lessing with more than just a brief against Spinoza and metaphysics in general. He also had a diagnosis of what he saw as the intellectual sickness affecting them. According to Jacobi, the problem was that by its very nature explanation requires that whatever is to be explained be reduced to something else already known, which thereby provides the sought-for explanation. Explaining is essentially a reflective process. It is a synthesis of the representations of things known carried out on the basis of what is common to them, according to the general formula idem per idem.2& Now Spinoza, driven by the common metaphysician's need to explain everything, had ended up inverting the natural order of knowledge by substituting the requirements of reflection for the requirements of existence. Instead of limiting conceptualization to the representation of actual existence, he had taken as the criterion of true being the capacity on the part of its representation to provide the basis for as comprehensive a synthesis of other representations as possible. As a result, he had elevated to the level of first principle of explanation, and of existence as well, an inadequate concept of substance. This concept was the product of an abstractive reflection upon the content of the representations of individual actual beings and had no meaning except with reference to the latter. According to Jacobi, since it was impossible to retrieve the determinations of a real world out of an empty abstraction, as Spinoza's logicism 25. Ibid., pp. 2gff. 26. The same through the same. See ibid., p. 32.



required, Spinoza found himself in the absurd position of having to treat as an inescapable surd of his system what by any standard of common sense constitutes the real, i.e. the very presence of a world of finite individuals.27 Jacobi's attack on rationalistic metaphysics as typified in Spinoza's system thus focused on the "irrationalism" that that metaphysics in fact bred. Jacobi was therefore understandably surprised when, in the wake of the publication of the Spinoza Letters, he found himself accused of irrationalism because of the salto mortale that he had proposed to Lessing as a way out of the impasse posed to human freedom by Spinoza's system.28 As he eventually was to say in his own defence, the proposal had to be understood in context. His conversation with Lessing had been about all those individuals (i.e. the metaphysicians) who, since they confused conditions of existence with conditions of explanation, were already as good as walking on their heads. To ask of these people to jump down head first was tantamount to asking them to fall back upon their feet, where they would rejoin upright common sense.29 But Jacobi had more than common sense to appeal to in the presence of Lessing in his critique of rationalism. He also had Spinoza's authority. Here is where the positive aspect of his relationship to the very man he most criticized begins to show. Jacobi himself had no reticence signalling it to Lessing. "I love Spinoza," he said to him, "because he, more than any other philosopher, has led me to the perfect conviction that certain things admit of no explication: one must not therefore keep one's eyes shut to them, but must take them as one finds them."30 Despite Spinoza's predilection for expressing his insights in reflective form more geometrico, Spinoza still considered insight itself the basic vehicle of truth: the knower was immediately related to the known at the moment of knowledge. This is the very point that Jacobi wanted to make against the rationalists. Paradoxically, therefore, in rejecting Spinoza's metaphysics he could equally think that he was thereby turning "towards 27. This point is made explicit in Supplement vii of the second edition of the Spinoza letters. It is also clear from this text that, granted Jacobi's conception of "reason" at the time, apprehension of God must be intuitive for him, just as it is for the Spinoza whom he is criticizing. But Spinoza's contemplative knowledge escapes space and time, whereas Jacobi's must be rooted in it. Jacobi's intuition is a historical event, and for this reason the title of "faith" that Jacobi gives to it is not altogether inappropriate. 28. Spinoza Letters (1785), p. 32. 29. See Spinoza Letters (1789), p. 353 (included in this volume). 30. Spinoza Letters (1785), p. 29.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

the light," as he declared to Lessing, "of which Spinoza says that it illumines itself and the darkness as well." In a footnote to this passage introduced in the published report of the conversation, Jacobi went on to cite Spinoza: "Truth is the index of itself and of what is false."31 The subjective state of mind corresponding to this self-revelatory character of truth is immediate and infallible certainty, and Spinoza's whole system requires and implies the possibility of such states. But this was precisely the certainty that Jacobi had in mind when, in his diatribe against Mendelssohn, he opposed faith (i.e. immediate knowledge, subjective certainty) to the derived or "second-hand"32 knowledge of reason. Jacobi himself acknowledged this much—witness the letter that he sent to Herder on 2 September 1785, accompanying a copy of the just published Spinoza Letters. "The definition of certainty," Jacobi wrote, "is translated from [Spinoza] verbatim, and the whole first paragraph almost verbatim; he just does not use the word 'faith,' which I, for my part, only use because, as I go on to explain explicitly, it is common practice to call any acceptance of a truth [Fiirwahrhalten] not inferred from principles faith."33 But Jacobi had chosen that term for another reason that again connects him back to Spinoza. "Faith" denotes an element of passive receptivity before the accepted truth—also implicit in Spinoza's metaphor of vision—that suited Jacobi's religious as well as conceptual needs. Faith and revelation are correlative terms that presuppose immanence as much as transcendence in the relationship of subject to object. The compelling authority that a revealed truth has, leaving its receiver no choice but to accept it immediately, is due precisely to its self-presentation to the receiver as something transcendent. The receiver has no power to assert control over it. The receiver's acceptance of this transcendent truth is faith. But faith equally presupposes that the receiver interiorizes that transcendent truth—and thereby renders it immanent—so totally that his very identity is defined in accepting it. The essence of any faith lies precisely in this willingness to stake one's whole existence on the acceptance of a revealed truth. But then again (here we return to the moment 31. For the reference to Spinoza, see Jacobi's text. 32. Spinoza Letters (1785), p. 162. 33. Auserlesener Briefwechsel, Vol. i, #142, p. 390. The intended passage in the Spinoza letters is likely on pp. 162-63 of the first edition. See Spinoza's Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect, tr. E. Curley (Princeton: University Press, 1985), Vol. i, pp. 18.5-21 (Gebhardt, 11.15). Timm's thesis is that Jacobi's use of "faith" derives from Spinoza, and has little, if anything, to do with Hume's "belief." Gott und die Freiheit, p. 217.



of transcendence), in thus defining his self in terms of the accepted truth, the receiver equally sets that self apart from it because he thereby defines the limits of his being. The result is two individuals (a subject and its object) who are significantly related to one another precisely because of the distance that separates them. This is the very relationship that Jacobi enshrined in the saying that there is no "I" except with reference to a transcendent "Thou." The "Thou" stands first and foremost for God, whose immanence yet transcendence with respect to every created subject serves to individualize the latter radically. But once thus individualized, a created "I" is in a position to meet another equally created and individualized "I," and the two can then enter into a genuine relationship because, being irreducibly limited, they can truly face one another as real individuals. Of course, to the classical metaphysician this position would appear paradoxical—even scandalous, for it implies that God himself would have to be somehow individualized, hence in some sense finite, precisely in order to play his role as absolute Thou. And how can the infinite God be finite?34 But here is where Jacobi would refuse to be drawn into argument, for any paradox arises only on the assumption of the philosophers' "infinite," which eschews determination and individuality by definition. So far as Jacobi is concerned, he only needs to identify the conditions that make for genuine personal relations. And if, to be true to these conditions, one must use with respect to God the language of metaphor—which portrays him both as almighty yet as someone who loves and hates like us—then metaphor will have to take precedence over concept. Through conceptualization we cannot penetrate to God's being anyway; why should we then dismiss the witness of universal common language? Faith and revelation thus were for Jacobi the conceptual vehicles for conveying his vision of a world made up of individuals radically distinct yet significantly related. Yet Jacobi made this vision dependent on an immediate relationship to truth such as Spinoza too claimed to have. To refute Spinoza's system he was appealing to the very kind of certainty that he endorsed. To return to the passage already cited, "I love Spinoza," Jacobi had said to Lessing, "because he, more than any other philoso34. Herder had indirectly pointed out this difficulty to Jacobi while defending his own Spinozism. 'You want God in human shape, as a friend who thinks of you," he wrote to Jacobi. "Consider that He then must also think of you humanly, i.e. in a limited way, and, if he is a partisan on your side, he must be against others." Briefwechsel, 1.3, Letter #1102, 20 December 1784, p. 406.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

pher, has led me to the perfect conviction that certain things admit of no explication." And then he had continued, "I have no concept more intimate than that of the final cause; no conviction more vital than that / do what I think, and not, that I should think what I do." Given that Jacobi also shared with Spinoza a vitalist vision of existence that made of each form of life a striving for self-preservation, it is no surprise, therefore, that the readers of the Spinoza Letters should have found Jacobi's message puzzling. Mendelssohn among them had more than just the historical style of the book (which was, incidentally, the only feature of Jacobi's work that Goethe approved of) 35 to excuse him for assuming at first that Jacobi was a Spinozist. And Mendelssohn's confusion and discomfort at Jacobi's message was further heightened by the fact that, to the extent that Jacobi tried in his text to articulate his positive vision of reality as based on faith, he appealed quite indiscriminately to every antirationalistic tendency of his age without ever drawing them into a coherent picture. His words suggested variously that reason derived its validity from proper feelings, uprightness of character, right action, social tradition, sacred history, or from education. Whatever Jacobi took to be the theme common to these claims was never made clear. And Jacobi cited from his authorities just as indiscriminately—from classical authors as well as from the Bible, from Hamann as well as Herder, from Claudius as well as Voltaire, Goethe as well as Lavater—his whole discourse infused with a tone of pious self-righteousness that fully deserved the charge of Schwdrmerei. Faced by the rhetoric of Jacobi's text, Mendelssohn had every right to suspect himself the target of an assault mounted by the Christians.36 In the general confusion, the fundamental weakness in Jacobi's confrontation with Spinoza went unnoticed. Jacobi was relying on immediate intuition for the fundamental criterion of the truth that he saw. Yet Spinoza, as Jacobi recognized, had operated on the strength of a conviction just as vital. He had been motivated by a vision of the truth just as immediate and compelling as Jacobi's seemed to him, yet had been led to a totally different conceptualization of the world and its relation to God. It was well and good for Jacobi to reject the conceptualization and even to offer a historico-psychological account of how one might be way35. Goethe-Briefwechsel, #35, 11 September 1785, pp. 87-88. 36. See the report that reached Jacobi of what Mendelssohn had said about him: "He [Mendelssohn] could not see any other purpose [in Jacobi's book] except his [Jacobi's] wish to convert him, just as he [Jacobi] perhaps also wanted to convert Lessing." Letter to Hamann of 23 December 1785, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vi, #909, p. 193.



laid into it. The fact remains that, short of engaging in a contest of competing prophecies, the import of any presumed insight can only be measured and tested in terms of how one translates it into some reflectively articulated, intersubjectively available vision of reality. Spinoza's merit was that he had, after all, defined more geometrico the implications of his allegedly ineffable insight into the truth, and in this he had at least held himself up to refutation. Butjacobi's insight apparently precluded the possibility of its being expressed in any methodical form. And how was one to have a reasoned argument with him? It is no wonder that his salto mortale provoked charges of irrationality from his contemporaries. In all fairness to Jacobi it must be said that hidden in the general verbosity of the Spinoza Letters there were seeds of a definite and original position. But this position, though implicitly the object of much reflection in the literature of the day, was one for which Jacobi's age and Jacobi himself were singularly unequipped in language and concepts. At issue was the problem that Lessing had dramatized only a few years before, at the time of his polemic against Pastor Goeze, with his striking image of a "broad ugly ditch" separating the contingent truths of history from the necessary ones of reason.37 It was Leibniz's original problem of connecting universal truths of reason with contingent facts of history without sacrificing either the concreteness of history to the abstractions of metaphysics or the universality of truth to the relativism of space and time. Jacobi had played on that image of Lessing when he recommended his salto mortale to him. Metaphors and rhetoric apart, however, Jacobi was making the point that, to resolve the problem, rationality could not be based on metaphysical abstractions but had to be defined—though Jacobi did not spell out how—in terms of relations between actual individuals. Theory of rationality and theory of human individuality had to be inextricably bound together. This was an extremely important philosophical point to make. And if Jacobi had himself seen it and stated it clearly and distinctly, he would have indeed cut himself loose, once and for all, from the prejudices of classical metaphysics. He would have succeeded at least in making explicit the parameters of what we might call (for lack of a better name) a theory of "historical reason." Any such theory would not be concerned with reason as presiding (so to speak) over the creation of the physical universe, either as a system of laws that govern every detail of existence without regard to individuality or (in the way the philosophers of the 37. In Uber den Beweis des Geistes und der Kraft (1777), Samtliche Werke, Vol. xin, p. 7.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

Enlightenment had tried to invest the universe of Newtonian physics with finality) as a system of ends that God conceived at creation and realized (also without regard to individuality) through the general laws of physics. Its concern, rather, would be with rationality as it emerges through human actions—within relations between human individuals and (as Jacobi would insist) between human individuals and God, which relations establish meanings and values that are absolute yet never to be abstracted from the historical contexts within which they arise. Jacobi had a model of a rationality of this sort in the classical sources he constantly cited. "Natural right," in its more classical formulations, had more to do with the dignity of persons (which can never be emptied of historical content) than with any cosmic theory. These sources, rather than the ideology of the standard liberalism of his day, had been the real inspiration behind Jacobi's defence of individual freedoms in his early political writings.38 In the present confrontation with Spinoza and Enlightenment philosophy, however, the problem was how to define, in opposition to their abstract rationality, a reason thus bound to the historical individual. And this, despite his claims in defence of both, Jacobi was failing to do. So too was he to fail in later writings. But it was perhaps too much to expect him to leap over his own age. Standing in the way was the prejudice that had given rise to the "broad ditch" problem in the first place, namely the belief that to bring reason down to history was to detract from the universal validity of its truths and values. Jacobi knew of those who—as, for instance, Herder and Moser39—were trying to understand rationality developmentally. And he recognized that interest in the particularity of historical events was what motivated them. But Jacobi could not see how their "historical system" (their "historicism," as we would now call it) was any improvement over the metaphysical system of the traditional philosophers. In both cases the present was reduced to something else that undermined its absolute standing while explaining it; the only difference was that, whereas the metaphysicians took the abstract concept as their explanatory principle, the proponents of the new historical system replaced it with the "past." In both cases the reality of the individual rooted in the present was being relativized, exactly what Spinoza had done and the very opposite of what the proponents of the historical 38. See above, p. 16. 39. Justus Moser (1720-94), lawyer, diplomat, playwright, and historian; an advocate of patriotic values.



system intended. But it was there, in that present, that Jacobi made his stand.40 What Jacobi needed, and was groping for, was not an explanatory system but a theory of reason based on relations established between individuals. This kind of reason Jacobi's age was not equipped to conceive of, precisely because it could not see past the relativism that it assumed history necessarily implied. Yet Jacobi had not shied away from claiming that "faith" (which must be a historical phenomenon) is the matrix of reason. And he must have known that at least some Christians never found it particularly irrational to stake their beliefs in universal values on the testimony of highly individualized events, on the miracle, the "exception."41 Why then did not Jacobi explore, despite his loud religious trumpeting and his professed love for Hamann, the intellectual resources of this religious tradition? Why go on identifying, as he did, the certainty of his faith with the certainty of Spinoza's intellectual vision when, on Jacobi's avowed premises, that faith ought to be the matrix of individual encounters resulting in highly particularized actions and expressions, whereas Spinoza's vision marks, on the contrary, the point at which time and space, even language, is absorbed into the allencompassing substance? We are back to the fundamental weakness, already signalled, in Jacobi's confrontation with Spinoza's rationalism. Jacobi was using a Spinozistic assumption (intellectual intuition) to combat the Spinozistic system, apparently without realizing that that assumption was devised to serve the conceptual needs of the system. It provided the existential basis for a system of concepts (as Jacobi saw it) that abstracted from the con40. "I can hardly understand how you [Rehberg] should believe that the historical system would better hold its ground in the present state of things [i.e. the French revolution] than the metaphysical. What is has absolutely no more rational ground in what was. [ . . . . ] Yes, my dear! Only a historical being has style [Haltung]; but the old history is apparently at an end, and the fables which kept it moving are too fatuous for reason to put up with them. And so we now start with a new history! From the fashionable [Tauglichkeit] to the fashionable? Give me a place on which to stand!!!" Letter to A. W. Rehberg, Auserlesener Briefwechsel, 28 November 1791, vol. n, #205, pp. 72-73. (Frederick Reiser reminded me of the importance of this text, and also made me aware of the importance of distinguishing what I have called "historical reason" from "historicism" as usually understood.) August Wilhelm Rehberg (1757-1836), philosopher, literary figure, and a proponent of the "historical system," is best known for his journalistic activities and his political writings. He contributed to the Spinoza controversy with Uber das Verhdltnis der Metaphysik zur Religion (On the Relationship of Metaphysics to Religion; Berlin: Mylius, 1787). 41. See Jacobi's panegyric on the "exception" in the Letter to Fichte, pp. 32ff.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

ditions of actual existence. It validated the abstractness of the system's rationality (again, as Jacobi saw it) by finding truth beyond the distinction of subject and object. Jacobi's faith, if it seriously was a function of historical reason, should have led him, on the contrary, to that testing and interpretation of witnesses, that constant dialogue with others and reflection upon oneself that make for historical truth. Jacobi had not sufficiently disentangled himself from the rationalism that he was combatting. This was, in short, the source of the confusion of the Spinoza Letters. That he had also chosen to couch his historical faith in the language of Lavater's piety did not help matters either. Mendelssohn—we remember—had put Goethe at the head of the monster that the Spinoza Letters was, and in a sense Goethe had indeed presided over that work. From a metaphysical if not a moral standpoint, however, Hamann's edited version of the image, which made Spinoza the head and Herder the torso,42 was a more likely statement of the case. That is how complex Jacobi's relation to Spinoza was. One thing is certain. Mendelssohn was right about the monster's feet. They were Lavater's, and there were clear indications that they were made of clay. 4. This combination of Spinoza and Lavater is consistent with the judgment that Jacobi was to pass upon himself at the end of his life. 'You see, dear Reinhold," he wrote in 1817, "I am still the same—a thorough pagan with my intellect, constitutionally totally a Christian, I swim between two waters that simply won't come together for me and, the two at once, deceive me."43 Jacobi's Christianity had none of Hamann's or Herder's theological depth. Jacobi was arguably mistaking for Christian faith what was in fact his own propensity for pious but highly individualistic and self-centred feelings. It must be remembered that, in the correspondence leading up to the publication of the Spinoza Letters,4* Hamann had criticized Jacobi most of all for being too much of a philosopher and for thereby misconstruing the attitude of true faith. He had reproached Jacobi for his tendency to brood, which had no place in a world where the word of God 42. Goethe's were the toes. See Hamann-Briefwechsel, letter to Jacobi of 5 November 1785, Vol. vi, #889, pp. 119-20. Jacobi felt flattered by the image, or at least so he gave Hamann to understand. Letter to Hamann, ibid., 17-18 November 1785, #896, pp. 145-46. 43. Auserksener Briefe, 8 October 1817, Vol. 11, #362, p. 478. 44. See above, Part i, p. 63.



grew on its own like the mustard seed. His basic complaint throughout was thatjacobi's need for a salto mortale, and his assumption of a special faculty of the soul for the apprehension of the divine, belied the attitude of passive receptivity that is essential to faith and, for that matter, the selfrevelatory power of God's presence everywhere. Jacobi's spirituality (like Princess Gallitzin's) was too busy with itself, too concerned with human things rather than with God, for Hamann's tastes. To the extent that there were flaws in human nature, philosophy alone could not remedy them.45 And Hamann did not really change his tune after the publication of the book. His letters to his friend became more frequent than ever, and even though much space was taken up by familial affairs, Jacobi's dispute with Mendelssohn still ran through them as the unifying thread. Hamann keptjacobi informed of Kant's reaction. It transpired that Kant could not understand Spinoza either per se or in Mendelssohn's or Jacobi's treatment of him,46 and had admitted that he had never studied Spinoza's philosophy seriously.47 Kant also intended to write an exact refutation of Mendelssohn's Morgenstunden, and Hamann did his best to satisfy Jacobi's curiosity about his plans on this score too,48 although, so far as the dispute with Mendelssohn and his adepts was concerned, Hamann finally had to console Jacobi by telling him not to take to heart Kant's decision to remain strictly neutral in the matter.49 The two men were also in collusion in the preparation of Hamann's defence of his attack against Mendelssohn in Golgotha and Scheblimini, and of Jacobi's reply to Mendelssohn's reaction (which appeared posthumously) to the Spinoza Letters.^0 Though Hamann felt pangs of remorse upon Mendelssohn's death on 4 January 1786, because he had failed to reassert his friendship with the man despite his hostility to Mendelssohn's thought,51 there can be no doubt about Hamann's basic feelings on 45. 22 January 1785, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. v, #801, p. 329. 46. Letter of 22-30 October 1785, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vi, #884, p. 107. 47. Letter of 30 November-4 December 1785, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vi, #900, p. 161. 48. See the following letters, all from the Hamann-Briefwechsel: Vol. vi: 22-30 October 1785, #884, p. 107; 5-6 November 1785, #889, p. 119; 28 November 1785, #899, p. 152; 15 January 1786, #919, p. 228. 49. Letter of 9 April 1786, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vi, #953, p. 350. 50. Talk about Hamann's work, and Jacobi's, pervades the correspondence of the period. 51. Letters of 10-11 January 1786, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vi, #917, pp. 222-23; and 15 January 1786, #919, p. 227.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

the matter. "Certainly you are to be blamed," he wrote to Jacobi, "and this is your unacknowledged guilt, that you have sought and presupposed truth in a Jew, a natural enemy of it."52 Yet despite this general closeness Hamann maintained his distance with respect to the Spinoza Letters. Indirectly he poked fun at it.53 Directly, he simply withheld judgment, on the ground that he did not understand Spinoza and needed more time to study his philosophy.54 He declared himself in agreement with Jacobi in form alone—not in content, which he had still to understand. And he kept on advising Jacobi to temporize, not to rush into a reply to the Berliners, at least not until his own defence had come out. Ab hoste consilium! became his refrain, until Jacobi, piqued, asked for a clarification of its meaning.55 Hamann never really gave one. It eventually transpired, however, that he had given up studying Spinoza56 and that he did not really think his philosophy worth refuting.57 Actually, he had put his substantive judgment on the Spinoza Letters on record from the beginning, as if by accident. "Therein is my whole friendly advice quoad formam," he wrote to Jacobi, "until I come to the very matter and substance, which, as it seems to me, [. . .] ultimately comes down to a mere logomachy, or to an optical illusion of reason, as our dear Kant teaches his readers but not himself."58 So far as Hamann was concerned, the Spinoza Letters was too much of a work of philosophy—it had engaged Mendelssohn and the Berliners on their own ground. Worse still, with the poems, Goethe's at the beginning and Lavater's at the end, Jacobi had in fact fed sweets ("douceurs") to the Berliners, who had seized upon them in order then to expel them with their Spinozism and atheism—their heroic cure for the superstition they saw in the poems. Jacobi had played into the hand of his oppo52. Letter of 4 March 1786, Hamann-Briefivechsel, Vol. vi, #939, p. 299. 53. See above, the footnotes at the end of Part i, pp. 64-66. 54. See the letters of 28 September-3 October 1785, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vi, #874, p. 75; and of 5-6 November 1785, #889, p. 120-21. Hamann goes so far as to say that Mendelssohn's "translation" of Spinoza in the Morgenstunden is more enlightening to him than Jacobi's exposition of the system. Letter to Jacobi, 15 February 1786, HamannBriefwechsel, Vol. vi, #933, p. 271. 55. See among others, Jacobi's letter to Hamann, 17 November 1785, HamannBriefwechsel, Vol. vi, #896, p. 144; Hamann to Jacobi, 15 February 1786, #933, p. 269; and also the note to Ab hoste consilio, below, in the David Hume, p. 6. 56. Letter of 28-29 December 1785, Hamann-Briefwechsel, #911, p. 202. 57. Letter of 15-16 March 1786, Hamann-Briefwechsel, #944, p. 318. 58. Letter of 22-30 October 1785, Hamann-Briefwechsel, #884, p. 110.



nents.59 Hence, in the face of the dispute with Mendelssohn and his Berlin friends that the Spinoza Letters caused, Hamann's opinion on how best to deal with it was simply to drop it. Hamann was right. Jacobi had not disentangled himself from the rationalism of his Berlin opponent. But if lack of clarity (injacobi's own mind first of all) about Jacobi's philosophical position was the cause of the conceptual confusion that reigned on all sides of the dispute subsequent to the publication of the Spinoza Letters, the book's pious component added a personal dimension to it. Given the lack of a clear statement of how the two, Spinoza's head and Lavater's feet, fit together, the book's pious tone had to appear tendentious to the Berlin philosophers. To Jacobi, since he had a point, after all, in believing that he understood Spinoza better than his adversaries, and that Spinoza's monism was not reconcilable with Christian personalism, the philosophers' reaction to his book had to appear, on the contrary, politically motivated. It was part of the Berliners' attempt to impose their religion of reason upon society. The ensuing controversy was therefore bitter, and quickly deteriorated to the level of personal attack. It also became implicated in the crypto-Catholicism dispute raging at the time.60 Mendelssohn replied to Jacobi's book with his To Lessing's Friends: An Appendix to Herr Jacobi's Correspondence Concerning the Doctrine ofSpinoza.&1 He died while arranging for its publication, and Jacobi was even accused of having caused his death, thus completing the job begun by Lavater.62 Jacobi came back with his Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi against Mendelssohn's Accusations Relating to the Letters Concerning Spinoza's Doctrine6^—all in all, not an edifying 59. See letter of 15 March 1786, Hamann-Briefiuechsel, #944, p. 318. Hamann's text is very obscure, and I am interpreting. 60. See the note on the subject to p. 15 of the David Hume. 61. An dieFreunde Lessings. EinAnhangzu Herrnjacobis Briefwechsel uberdieLehre des Spinoza (Berlin: VoB and Sons, 1786). The text can be found in Heinrich Scholz, ed., Die Hauptschriften zum Pantheismusstreit zwischen Jacobi und Mendelssohn (Berlin: Reuther & Reichard, 1916). 62. See Scholz, Hauptschriften, pp. Ixxv-lxxvi. Also, Jacobi's letter to Hamann of 2-3 February 1786, Hamann-Rriefwechsel, Vol. vi, #925, p. 251. 63. Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi wider Mendelssohns Beschuldigungen betreffend die Briefe uber die Lehre des Spinoza (Leipzig: Goeschen, 1786), also to be found in Scholz's Hauptschriften and injacobi's Werke, iv.2. Excerpts from both Mendelssohn's and Jacobi's polemical pieces have been translated into English and can be found in The Spinoza Conversations between Lessing and Jacobi: Text with Excerpts from the Ensuing Controversy, introduced by Gerard Vallee, tr. G. Vallee, J. B. Lawson, C. G. Chappie (New York: University Press of America, 1988).


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

spectacle. Again, in the general confusion the genuinely philosophical issue that Jacobi was raising—that of the possibility of a historical reason—was obscured. 5. Closely connected with the issue is the problem of how one is to understand faith. Jacobi turned to this task—the clarification of the notion of faith—in a dialogue, David Hume on Faith, or Idealism and Realism, that he published in 1787 while preparing a second edition of the SpinozaLetters.64 The first part of the dialogue, which constitutes Jacobi's justification of his use of the word "faith" in the Spinoza Letters, is the most polemical, and also, although artistically successful in the sense that it skilfully leads to the discussion of Jacobi's realism, philosophically the least enlightening. In fact, if Jacobi succeeded in anything, it was to compound the original confusion by his appeal to the authority of Hume. There was, of course, the special difficulty caused by the German word Glaube, which, like the English word "faith," is replete with religious connotations, yet was the only one available to Jacobi when, in the Spinoza Letters, he apparently had Hume's "belief in mind. This point was brought home incisively by an anonymous reviewer of the dialogue in the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung. The reviewer began by decrying the association of a speculatively sophisticated and learned man like Jacobi with confused characters like Lavater. Jacobi now claimed that by "faith" in the Spinoza Letters he had only meant the immediate evidence that accompanies sensations, as in the Humean mode of perception. But how, asked the reviewer rhetorically, could he have also cited Lavater—that crude defender of Christian dogma—on this subject, and also said, with Lavater, that God and immortality were the proper objects of faith, and yet expect that he would be understood to mean anything but "blind faith"? "Furthermore," the reviewer continued, "Hume's precedent is not relevant here, for the simple reason that in English 'belief does not have the connotations that the German Glaubehas assumed through theological use. . . . The English equivalent of this Glaube is 'faith,'" and surely Hume would not have said "Faith is the true and proper name of this feeling" (to wit, sensible evidence), even though he once used the expression "repose faith in the senses."65 This complication could easily have been disposed of with proper explanation. 64. The dialogue was originally planned as three separate works on themes that are still clearly recognizable in the one published text. See Jacobi's prefatory note to the dialogue. 65. See Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, n (1788), No. 92, columns 105-07. The reviewer is Rehberg. See Samtliche Schriften von August Wilhelm Rehberg, 2 Vols. (Hanover: Hahn, 1828-31), Vol. i, p. 25.



The real problem was that Jacob! defined faith as the assent given to a stated truth even though the said truth does not admit of proof. Since by "proof Jacobi here clearly means inference based on premises, i.e. the product of ratiocination, he might as well have said that faith is an immediate assent to truth. However, there can be two distinct and potentially conflicting reasons why some truth requires such an immediate assent—because it is incapable of proof or because it is self-evident and thus does not require proof. In the first case the assent must be based on subjective factors that compensate for the lack of objective evidence from which the presumed truth suffers. In the second, truth provides its own objective "evidence," so compelling that it elicits immediate subjective assent. But by any common standard, assent informed by compelling objective evidence constitutes basic knowledge. Unless, therefore, one wants to restrict objective evidence to the product of ratiocination, which Jacobi definitely did not, by defining faith as he did Jacobi denied himself the possibility of drawing in any unequivocal fashion the distinction just made. The result was that he could not avoid conveying the impression that, so far as he was concerned, all our presumed knowledge is in fact ultimately dependent on subjective grounds for assent rather than on objective evidence, i.e. that it normally depends on faith as normally understood. But this was precisely the sceptical position that he wanted to oppose. In appealing to Hume's authority Jacobi simply reinforced the misleading impression that he was giving. The test of any theory of truth is whether it can account for the possibility of an existential judgment. Quite properly, therefore, Jacobi immediately directed his dialogue to the question of how we can know, not just that things appear to us as existing outside us (for no doubt they do), but that they actually do exist there. But now, in the Humean context, Hume's point in the passages cited by Jacobi was that, strictly speaking, we have no objective evidence that there are things outside us, since our immediate knowledge does not extend further than our representations. Our certainty about their objective existence is based solely on certain characteristics inherent in some of our representations, such as their vividness, that ineluctably elicit in us a feeling for which Hume can find no better name than that of "belief," i.e. Glaube in German, or "faith." But these characteristics, and the feeling associated with them, are subjective factors. On this score Hume was actually conforming to the traditional definition of religious faith as the assent to a truth based on subjective interest rather than sufficient objective evidence, except that, in die non-religious context Hume assumed, the reliance on belief was only intended as a subjective


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

device for dealing with an otherwise practically untenable scepticism regarding all objective truth. Jacobi's name for the position that Hume represented was "idealism," a term that at this stage he still used almost interchangeably with "scepticism." And Jacobi was at pains to distance himself from it.66 But if that was not his own position, why, in order to justify his use of the word "faith," did he ever appeal to the authority of its most famous exponent? If it was not the case that in the Spinoza Letters he had sounded a retreat from rational argument under the banner of Christian faith, as Mendelssohn had thought, why did he seek refuge, in the David Hume, behind the banner of Hume's scepticism? The answers to these questions can only be sought in Jacobi's special psychological make-up and cannot be dealt with here. The important point is that Jacobi was a realist—to the point that he reacted impatiently even to the idea that our direct knowledge stops at representations and that we can only reach certainty about the reality of things outside us indirectly, by way of rational inference. And he had a theory to justify his position, a theory that in turn implied a notion of historical reason. It is to these that we must turn. 6. In the David Hume Jacobi provides all the elements for what we would now call a transcendental argument in defence of his realism. The premises had already been adumbrated in the Spinoza Letters. The most fundamental is Jacobi's claim, which he assumes as a fact of experience, that existence is irreducibly individualized. According to Jacobi, however, individualization requires a multiplicity of individuals, each explicitly denned as distinct from the rest. It requires number, in other words, for a "one" that is not the first of a series would be without definable limits and, as such, lack the fundamental condition of existence. Moreover, purely formal distinctions are not sufficient to keep individuals apart, for they are a function of conceptual systems and (another of Jacobi's strong claims) conceptualization is necessarily abstractive. It serves a purpose indeed in conscious life, but only on the assumption of a prior and more immediate awareness of existence on which it depends for its meaning. Significant distinctions, so far as Jacobi is concerned, must implicate actual existents. Once these premises are granted, Jacobi's argument goes through easily. In reconstructed form, it would go like this. We cannot act without in fact giving witness to the immediate awareness that we have of our own 66. See David Hume, p. vii.



existence. But we could not name this existence—we could not say "I" in a significant way—without at the same time positing it in contradistinction to another existent with reference to which that existence is individuated. Awareness of this distinction must be implicit in the original immediate awareness of our existence, for otherwise the utterance of the "I" would lack an adequate existential basis. The relevant "other" sufficient in this case to individuate the "I" (and, in turn, sufficiently individuated by it) is a "Thou." As certain, therefore, as we are that we say "I" with existential seriousness, just as certain we also are of the existence of a "Thou." But we do say "I" and mean thereby to make an existential assertion. Therefore, a "Thou" exists independent of my existence though significantly related to it. Any doubt that might arise in this respect is merely due to the work of reflection. In later years Jacobi hinted that Kant's refutation of idealism in the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason was based on this argument about the impossibility of positing an "I" without a "Thou."67 At the time of the David Hume, however, Hume's scepticism was at issue, and Jacobi thought that with his argument he was turning a Humean observation against Hume. We are in no better position to apprehend the reality of a supposed "self than we are to apprehend the reality of "things" supposed outside us. From this observation Hume had derived what Jacobi later described as Hume's "twin-scepticism,"68 i.e. a scepticism directed to the subject as well as the object of consciousness. Jacobi's retort was that it is indeed true that our knowledge of the self is not privileged with respect to the knowledge of other things. But precisely for this reason we are just as certain of the existence of other things as we are of the existence of the self.69 Jacobi thought that, once this principle had been established, he could justify rationally the objectivity of other categorial relations under attack by Hume, notably the relation of cause to effect. This further argument depended on the claim, already made, that the distinction between a self and its object posited in consciousness is a real one, i.e. it 67. See below, Preface to the David Hume (1815), p. 40, footnote. 68. See David Hume, p. 107. The gloss "universal twin scepticism" was added to the text in the 1815 ed., p. 204. 69. This is not the place to enter into a discussion of Hume. It could be argued, however, that that is precisely what Hume also wanted to say. Hume and Jacobi are both making the same point, namely that certainty of the existence of the self and of things outside it is experiential. Experientially speaking, that existence is indubitable, even though it might be doubted at the reflective level.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

implicates actual existents. It requires a real, not merely conceptual distance between two terms, and so far as our experience is concerned, any such distance would have to be cashed out as a measure of extension. Jacobi now makes a crucial move. If it is an extended distance that separates a subject from its object, since extension is in principle infinitely divisible, to determine the distance in question, to determine the point at which the two terms would actually meet, we must introduce some other experiential factor. The subject meets its object precisely at the point where it feels the presence of the object interfering with its own presence, i.e. at the point where the two have in fact already transcended their respective limits and invaded those of the other, yet, in so doing, they are forced to recoil back into into themselves and thereby add further determination to their individuality. In other words, the subjectobject distinction ultimately translates in experiential terms into a play of action and reaction acted out between the subject and its world. It is this play that gives concrete content to the otherwise empty concept of the cause-effect relationship. As interpreted by Jacobi, every effect turns out also to be a causal contributor to the cause. Little did Jacobi know that his analysis of the subject-object relationship was to provide the blueprint for Reinhold's, and later Fichte's and Schelling's construction of the genesis of consciousness. At the time of the David Hume he could only have had the rationalists and Kant in mind, and it is clear that he did have them in mind. He congratulated himself for having established the objectivity, i.e. the universal validity, of the cause-effect category experientially, without having to fall back upon its logical characteristics or to consider it a prejudgment of human understanding. In an oblique reference to Kant, Jacobi added that, if the category of causality were a mere prejudgment of the understanding, it would lack strict universality, since its validity would be dependent on an accident of the human mind.70 Jacobi's demonstration had been based, by contrast, on an analysis of the structure of consciousness in general, of what it took before one could meaningfully say, with reference to actual experience, that a subject is aware of itself and of its object. Kant could have pointed out, of course, that that amounted to a transcendental argument and that he had the patent on that kind of inference. Yet, Jacobi could have responded even to this. For on his use of the argument it should have become clear, as we must now see, that the "I" and the 70. See David Hume, pp. n8ff.; also, David Hume (1815), Introduction, p. 215, footnote.



"Thou" facing it had to be historical entities, and so too (though Jacobi never drew this conclusion) the reason binding them together. 7. Kant had posited an irreducible distinction between sensation and thought, assigning to sensation the function of providing the existential touchstone of experience and to thought the function of bringing together into meaningful totalities, by means of its reflective representations, the otherwise rhapsodic content of sensations. By this distinction, however, Kant had precluded ex hypothesi the possibility of demonstrating that the determinations required by thought can be instantiated in objects actually present to the senses; that such determinations are not just superimposed on an otherwise meaningless sense-content in order to form objects only capable of being exhibited in the imagination. The scepticism that immediately reasserted itself in the wake of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason was based in part on precisely this difficulty.71 Hamann had immediately seized on it too—though he veiled his criticism in his usual eccentric language. He accused Kant of intellectual puritanism ("purismus of reason" are his words) or of wanting to have a virgin birth of experience by the concepts of reason alone. For his part, Hamann preferred to talk of "language" rather than "reason," presumably (to gloss on Hamann) because language was a meaningful yet incarnate activity of the mind. 72 Jacobi recognized the power of the objection. The most significant element of Jacobi's analysis of experience is its basic assumption that consciousness is a complex state of mind requiring from the beginning that a subject distance itself from, yet relate to, an object. Thus, sensation is not at all "blind," as Kant would have it, but is itself a process of distinguishing and comparing that from the beginning amounts to a sort of judgment.73 The implication is that there is no strict separation of sensation from reason. There is no need for reason to intervene and impose its abstract categories of meaning on otherwise "blind" sensations. Reason is itself a degree of sensibility; to the extent that reason remains true to its origin, as it should, it only adds a higher degree of reflectivity 71. See my "The Facts of Consciousness," in Between Kant and Hegel, Texts in the Development of Post-Kantian Idealism, tr. and annotated by George di Giovanni and H. S. Harris (Albany, N . Y . : S U N Y , 1985), pp. 3-44.; also, my "The First Twenty Years of Critique: The Spinoza Connection," in The Cambridge Companion to Kant, ed. P. Guyer (Cambridge: University Press, 1992), pp. 417-48. 72. See Letter to Jacobi, 27 April 1788, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vn, #1060, p. 169. 73. See p. 142 of the David Hume, and the note on Uber ein Weissagung Lichtenbergs.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

and hence determination to objects that have already been apprehended in principle even in the simplest of sensations. A reason that has to function in the way prescribed by Kant, as if bringing to the senses distinctions and relations not already present there, is a reason that has become abstracted from its existential foundations and now finds itself in the absurd position of having to bring forth existence again out of empty concepts. The precedent for Jacobi's theory was to be found in Leibniz, and in the David Hume Jacobi explicitly appealed to his authority. He also turned to Leibniz to support his further claim that reason is an activity coextensive with life, so that a higher degree of rationality, which equals a higher degree of sensibility, also equals a higher degree of life. Yet despite this stress on reason as a form of action, Jacobi continued to assert its essentially contemplative character. He disputed the practice, widespread among his contemporaries, of referring to reason as a "light"; according to Jacobi, it was an "eye"74—reason is life's conceptual re-enactment of its vital forms and vital activities. The problem of how one can be assured that the re-enactment conforms to the original act simply does not arise in Spinoza's system, since thought and extension (the two presuppositions of all conscious life) are just two aspects of the one undivided substance. In Leibniz the problem is dealt with via the assumption of pre-established harmony. As for Jacobi, he simply sidestepped the issue by claiming that conscious life is existence and awareness of existence—simultaneously both action and the setting up of the "eye" that beholds the action, in a complex yet undivided event. All this could have amounted to a theory of historical reason. For, on Jacobi's position, reason indeed retains for its concepts their claim to universal validity. Their function is simply to represent forms of life ideally, as "types" that, in principle, can be realized at any time and any place. In this respect reason is universal. Moreover, although reason can err by overstepping its limits and can also accidentally muddle its representations, so long as it limits itself to the careful analysis of these types thus abstracted from their existential conditions, it cannot go wrong. In this respect it is also in principle infallible. Yet despite this universality and infallibility, its work is dependent on the existential conditions under which the forms of life from which it draws its concepts are realized. Its only necessity is ex post facto, based on the assumption of a historical situation in which it is rooted but which, from the standpoint of its ab74. See David Hume, p. 179.



stracted types, it declares merely "contingent." In fact reason never overcomes the contingency. For the Jacobi of the David Hume there could not be any ugly ditch separating contingent truths of history from eternal truths of reason. Rather, rationality itself should be found in the very contingency of history. 8. However, Jacobi's overall position suffered from problems of internal consistency. At issue was the very claim of existence's primacy over conceptualization, which Jacobi had made the hallmark of his philosophy from the beginning. In the David Hume he was reasserting it, this time in the context of a critique of the widely accepted proof of God's existence "from the concept" (the "ontological argument," as we now call it since Kant), which Jacobi claimed never to have found in the least convincing. He used his criticism also as a way of connecting his name with Kant's, whose early essays New Elucidation of the First Principles oj Metaphysical Cognition75 and The Only Possible Ground of Proof for a Demonstration of God's Existence7^ had caught his attention from the beginning.77 Kant's way of demonstrating God's existence met with Jacobi's approval because it amounted to no more than a statement that any process of explanation necessarily assumes that there be something to be explained. Any statement of possibility is ultimately dependent on the first condition of all possibility, and that is existence itself. To the extent that the ontological proof was simply a recognition of the primacy of existence over thought possibilities, Jacobi had no difficulties with it. According to Jacobi it was another way of saying, as he had maintained all along, that there is no need to demonstrate God's existence, since we cannot say or do anything without in fact giving witness to it. The problem, however, for the coherence of Jacobi's view—a problem that he apparently did not realize—is that final causality presupposes the distinction between actuality and possibility, and this distinction presupposes in turn the distinction between existence and the thought of existence. But now, if God's being is to created existence what existence as such is to thought (as Jacobi seemed to imply), it follows that, on Jacobi's assertion of the primacy of existence over thought, God's being would have to transcend all modal distinctions. These apply rather to the realm of created being alone. It also follows, therefore, that the only fair way 75. Neue Erhellung der ersten Grundsdtze metaphysischer Erkenntnis (1755). 76. Der einzig mogliche Beweisgrund zu einer Demonstration des Daseyns Gottes (1763). 77. See David Hume, pp. 74-75, 84.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

of referring to God would be as causa sui, an expression that is indeed self-contradictory (as Hamann had once pointed out tojacobi)78 but appropriate precisely because, in subverting meaning, it at least betokens God's transcendence to the universe of thought distinctions. The Spinozistic implications ought to have been (but were not) obvious to Jacobi. The irreducible element of contingency that existence (or, more concretely, any historical fact) holds out to philosophical reflection would turn out to be a phenomenon of this very reflection. If we were to assume the point of view of existence—while still operating, however, within the categories of reflection—it would be the reflection itself, and the illusion of historical contingency consequent on it, that we would have to declare contingent. That reflection occurs has no explanation, nor is any required for the event outside the event's own sphere. In the Spinoza Letters Jacobi had summed up this conclusion (as applying to Spinoza) in the formula "substance precedes thought." Thought is therefore reduced to a mere accident of substance. And he had opposed the formula on the ground that it amounted to a denial of freedom of choice and of final causes in general. Yet precisely this Spinozistic position was now implicit in the David Hume. The fault did not lie injacobi's claim that thought is a form of life; taken narrowly and by itself the claim could have been interpreted in a purely Aristotelian sense to mean that "thinking" is a goal-oriented act like all other vital activities. What caused the trouble was rather the larger claim, which the dialogue suggested by the way it unfolded, that the narrower claim was intended by Jacobi as a particular expression of his fundamental belief that existence precedes reflection, and that the latter is therefore only an accidental by-product of an otherwise blind yet efficient power. Ironically, Jacobi's figure for representing reason—an "eye" that certain forms of life don at the moment of action to add to their being the sentiment of being79—carried this implication with singular rhetorical force. The picture conveyed was of an observer simply taking stock of activities that originate at a level of life where there is yet neither consciousness nor, hence, any issue of individual attribution and responsibility. Jacobi's objection to Lessing and Spinoza had been precisely that their descriptions of the human situation make of human individuals observers rather than responsible agents of their own actions. Yet in the picture implicit in the David Hume he now seemed to be adopting just this description as his own. 78. Letter tojacobi, 16January 1785, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. v, #800, p. 326. 79. See David Hume, p. 184.



Jacob! apparently never noticed this inconsistency in his own position. Decades later, in a retrospective look, he declared the dialogue inconclusive.80 Even then, however, Jacobi showed no awareness of the Spinozism implicit in it. In retrospect the source of embarrassment seemed to be, rather, the Lavatarian note on which the dialogue ends. Jacobi's claim throughout the dialogue had been that knowledge cannot transcend the intuitive certainty attained in sensations and feelings; reason, to the extent that it yields real knowledge, must be a higher form of sensitivity.81 The problem with this claim is that, when it is applied to our knowledge of God, it follows that any such knowledge would also have to carry intuitive certainty—that in some sense we must be able to see or feel God. The claim thus calls for a special manifestation of God's presence. It calls for some extraordinary events on his part that would make him sensibly present to us—for miracles, in other words, the sort of things that Hamann found objectionable but Lavater's gospel required. The David Hume concludes precisely with intimations of the possibility of special supernatural interventions in our life.82 Though Lavater is not mentioned by name, his influence here is clear. And Lavater was present in another way as well. It was Jacobi's religiosity, the Lavaterian element in his make-up, that very likely conspired to hide from him the Spinozistic implications of his thought. Jacobi found the "eye" metaphor especially fitting as a characterization of human reason because the physical eye, just as human reason, according to Jacobi, must presuppose its object as given. The metaphor underscored the difference between a reason that, like the human, is finite and receptive, and God's creative one. The distinction was motivated by the desire to retain a filial-like, personal relationship between creature and creator. Jacobi's religiosity, not any logical necessity, required it. Yet by the time Jacobi came to it in the David Hume, he had already implicitly undermined it because of his stress on the primacy of existence over essence, which, as we have seen, logically led to the conception of a nonpersonal God. This is where the inconsistency in Jacobi's position lay. But the same religiosity that required a personal relationship to God also forbade (again, for the sake of protecting that relationship) that God be known philosophically. Jacobi was simply not looking for a system of 80. See David Hume (1815), p. 221, footnote (below, pp. 298-99). 81. See David Hume, p. 184. 82. See pp. igGff. The reviewer cited above, p. 90, remarks on how suddenly the dialogue ends when the subject of God and immortality, and in what sense they are the object of "faith," is brought up. See columns 111-12 of the cited article.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

premises and conclusions. Nor was he promoting any particular philosophical concept of God. It is no surprise, therefore, that he failed to notice the inconsistency. Had an objector pointed it out to him, he would only have become more convinced that the intellect is radically pagan and that nothing good can come from trying to work into a full metaphysical theory comments he intended only as a description of how human reason de facto operates.83 These are, of course, only hypothetical glosses on howjacobi might have reacted to the charge of Spinozism in the David Hume. The one indisputable fact is that the Spinozism was in the dialogue and that Jacobi never confronted the issue of its being there. It is perhaps ironic that the philosopher who so clearly saw the irrationalism implicit in the rationalistic metaphysics of the day should not have detected it in his own position. Be that as it may, at the end of the David Hume Spinoza still stood as the head of the monster of the Spinoza Letters. The only significant new development was that in the dialogue, while trying to give some sort of definite content to what he had meant by faith and reason in the Spinoza Letters, Jacobi actually moved in the direction of the new vitalism that Herder was promoting as a reaction to Spinoza. When, therefore, in the second edition of the Spinoza Letters that appeared two years later, Jacobi added two whole appendices in which he criticized Herder's reworking of Spinoza in God: Some Conversations, he definitely sounded as if he were protesting too much. Hamann had been right again from the beginning. The torso of the monster had turned out to be none other than Herder.84 As for the feet, they were still Lavater's. 9. Yet by the time of the publication of the David Hume, rational metaphysics was already a moot issue. The age of critique had begun, as the prominent references to Kant interspersed in the dialogue clearly signalled. In an appendix Jacobi confronted the new philosophy directly. 83. In Jacobi to Fichte, Jacobi was to praise Kant precisely because, unlike Fichte, he had been inconsistent and had dared to sin against System rather than against "the majesty of the place." See below, p. viii of Jacobi's text. 84. Jacobi was dismayed when, later, Hegel associated him with Herder. In fact Hegel was showing more insight than Jacobi was willing to grant. See Jacobi's letter to Koppen, 10 August 1802, in Friedrich Koppen, Schellings Lehre oder das Ganze der Philosophie des absoluten Nichts, nebst drey Briefen verwandten Inhalts von Fr. H. Jacobi (Schelling's Doctrine, or the Whole of the Philosophy of the Absolute Nothing, Together with Three Letters of Related Content by F. H. Jacobi; Hamburg: Perthes, 1803), p. 213; G. W. F. Hegel, "Glauben und Wissen" ("Faith and Knowledge"), Kritisches Journal der Philosophie, 11.1(1802): 93-94-


i oi

The text is historically important because the fundamental objection that Jacobi raised against Kant there was to become canonical in the Kant reception. As Jacobi argued, critical philosophy must be committed to subjectivism, since any attempt at inferring the existence of the "thing in itself as the source of sense impressions would require the uncritical extension of the use of the category of causality outside the realm of possible experience. On the face of it the argument was a strong one, and it did find a wide audience.85 On a deeper level, however, it showed by how far Jacobi had failed to grasp the meaning of the Critique and how much Jacobi's failure was symptomatic of a lack of insight into his own position. For there was a continuity of thought between The Only Possible Ground of Proof for a Demonstration of God's Existence, which Jacobi had so much admired, and the Critique of Pure Reason, which he now criticized. Jacobi had more than he supposed in common with Kant, even more than what he had shared with Spinoza. Kant's Critique focused, after all, on reason's inability to overtake itself, and concluded that reason can explain everything except itself. On this score even Hamann,86 as well as Jacobi, agreed. The function of the "thing in itself is not to account for the origin of sense impressions— except perhaps at a very superficial and controvertible level—but to canonize the limitations to which reason is subject. For in its operations, reason must presuppose that it is itself already at work and that the "thing in itself is already implicated in the conditions of the operations in question. To try to transcend such conditions and objectify the "thing" as it is "in itself," not just as it is "for reason," would be tantamount to reason's trying to re-enact its own beginning—or to a creature's wanting to preside over its own creation. Kant's assumption of the "thing in itself was precisely his way of canonizing the radical contingency that affects the whole of rationality with respect to existence. It played in the critical system the conceptual function equivalent to Spinoza's primacy of substance over thought and extension. Kant had denied, of course, the possibility of the sort of insight into being per se that Spinoza had taken for granted. When it is a matter of determining the "thing in itself," one must go beyond reason and rely on what Kant called "faith." On this score Hamann, Jacobi, and Kant were agreed, at least verbally. The substantive difference (and it was a crucial one) was that Kant retained the classical ideal of the autonomy of rea85. On this see my "The Facts of Consciousness." 86. Letter to Jacobi, 25-27 March 1786, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vi, #948, p. 331.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

son, though he restricted it to "formal reason" and tried to have reason legislate the content of "faith" by subjecting the latter to reason's theoretical and practical interests. To Hamann and Jacobi any such move appeared nothing short of blasphemous. To be sure, unlike his rationalist predecessors Kant had understood that reason cannot function without assuming realities that it cannot comprehend and must, therefore, accept on faith. His system relied for its closure on certain admittedly contingent doctrines. In this respect at least, his reason, like the reason of any religious believer, was historical in character. But instead of simply relying for the validation of the required faith on the authority of certain privileged historical events or on a communal witness, Kant was trying to determine its content a priori, on the basis of reason's interests. Here, so far as Hamann and Jacobi were concerned, was the blasphemy. It was not just a matter of pure reason's trying to beget objects "virginally" (Hamann's word), as all philosophers do when they determine existence from abstract principles. It was also a matter of excogitating a priori the kind of ideal world within which this miraculous parturition would appear perfectly normal. It was like arrogating to pure reason the miraculous power of God's presence in history in order to validate pure reason's pretensions to the miraculous parturition. So "faith" did turn out to be, at the end at least, the main issue of the David Hume—though Jacobi had certainly done his best in the dialogue to mask its true significance. Years later he was to return to the issue of Kant's formalism, and he then succeeded in formulating his objections to Kant in a way that truly touched the essence of Kant's system.87 So far as the appendix to the David Hume was concerned, however, Jacobi was still interpreting Kant psychologically—as if the central issue of the Critique were the justification of our belief in things "outside us"—and this is how Kant's contemporaries as a rule also read the work.88 However, since that was not the central issue of the Critique, neither Jacobi's objections to it in the David Hume nor those of Kant's other contemporaries really touched it. To the extent that the issue was, rather, the limitations of reason, Jacobi had failed to see, first, that he and Kant were both saying that rationality is itself a contingent phenomenon; second, that that position was also implied in Spinoza's system; third, that 87. Von den Gottlichen Dingen und ihrer Offenbarung (Of Divine Things and Their Revelation; Leipzig: Fleischer, 1811), in Werke, in (1816); see especially pp. 369-71. By that time, "reason" meant for Jacobi what "faith" had previously meant. On this point, see my "The First Twenty Years of Critique: The Spinoza Connection." 88. On this point, see my "The Facts of Consciousness."



Kant's way of determining the content of faith reflectively was a way of checking the irrationalism potentially inherent in the position and already recognized byjacobi himself in Spinoza's system; and finally that, short of retreating to a purely religious position or, at the opposite extreme, of providing an alternative and perhaps more attractive theory of historical reason, Jacobi could not oppose Kant without at the same time showing up the inconsistency of his own position. In the wake of the Critique Reinhold duly tried to demonstrate the existence of the "thing in itself," in Kant's defence.89 Schulze came along and attacked both Kant and Reinhold on the ground that no such proof was ever given, or could be given, on critical any more than on metaphysical premises.90 He recommended Pyrrhonic scepticism as the only reasonable alternative to the new "critique of reason." And more of the same came from other quarters as well. At least two of Jacobi's contemporaries, however, gave evidence of having appreciated the metaphysical significance of Kant. One was Solomon Maimon;91 the other, Johann Gottlieb Fichte, had also noted the connection with Jacobi. jo. Before turning to Fichte, at least enough must be said about Hamann's reaction to the David Hume to allow us later to show how prophetic Hamann's words were to prove of Jacobi's handling of the new idealism. Jacobi sent Hamann a first copy of the book (still without preface) on i April lySy. 92 Hamann acknowledged receipt on the twenty-second of the same month but withheld any judgment.93 On 27 February, Jacobi had announced Wizenmann's premature death to Hamann,94 and so the friends were devoting a great deal of attention to Wizenmann's Resultateand critical reaction to it. Hamann's judgment on the David Hume finally did arrive, in a long letter that took him from 27 April to 3 May to write,95 and there was no comfort in it for Jacobi. Hamann let Jacobi know that Kraus had complained about the book's lack of unity (p. 162), and himself complained because too much had 89. For Reinhold's attempt at reading Kant as a compromise between Jacobi and Mendelssohn, see my "The First Twenty Years of Critique: The Spinoza Connection." 90. For the details of the story, which can only be hinted at here, see my "The Facts of Consciousness." 91. He can only be mentioned here. See my "The Facts of Consciousness," pp. 32-36. 92. Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vn, #1052, p. 132. 93. Ibid., #1058, p. 154. 94. Ibid., #1045, p. 114. 95. Ibid., #1060, pp. 161-81.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

been compressed into one single dialogue.96 Hamann simply could not understand how Jacobi's claim in the Spinoza Letters that we are all born in the faith could possibly be interpreted as Humean or philosophical in nature. And Jacobi now had the gall to say that Mendelssohn had no cause to read Christian motives into it! (p. 167) As far as Hamann could see, Jacobi's whole thesis amounted to the old "Nil in intettectum. . . . " But if this was all that he wanted to say, why confuse the issue by bringing up faith and mixing its evidence with the evidence of the senses? Nobody else was tweaking Jacobi's nose; language was the wax nose that he had himself donned, and the only tweaking going on was at his own doing (p. 166). Furthermore, Jacobi had failed to recognize that any distinction between faith and reason, realism and idealism, was really a product of the reason of the schools—not anything that we find in real life. Faith has as much need of reason as reason has of faith (p. 165). Jacobi's fault was that he had set up the distinction in the first place and then had confused its terms by his use of language. The result was that anyone nurturing a religious belief in petto would expect to find its truth as self-evident as the testimony of the senses, and would by the same token be justified in suspecting any opponent who refused to accept this alleged evidence of being under the undue influence of an opposite religious belief also held in secret.97 If Jacobi was born in the faith, and if faith was the source of his evidence, why was he building his case on unreliable human authorities such as Spinoza and now Hume as well? (p. 168) "Your theory is truly a piecemeal assortment of philosophical and human authorities," Hamann went on. " . . . Fail to feel this, dear Jonathan, and you'll go the way of women who turn from street walkers into church pillars."98 There was more in Hamann's letter, about which more later. Hamann's principal complaint against Jacobi is already clear. Jacobi had 96. Hamann added that the three dialogues originally intended would have been a more adequate forum (p. 165). With reference to the opening of the dialogue, where the main character (obviously Jacobi himself) is represented sitting up in bed nursing a cold, Hamann says: "Had you cited your Hume without a cold and a flu, with a bottle of wine and after a good pudding, I would have done my reading with greater social involvement and sympathetic appetite." (pp. 168-69) • ^tnis was in keeping, of course, with Hamann's irrepressible and impertinent humour. But the humour had an edge to it. 97. See p. 174. Here I am systematizing Hamann's usual stream-of-consciousness comments. 98. P. 173: literally, "from paramours to bigots." I am trying to create a coherent image in English just as Hamann does by playing on the German words.



not had the courage to stand on his Christianity alone. Just as in the Spinoza Letters, Jacobi was here attacking philosophy while at the same time playing its game. Worse still, he was not aware of what he was doing. "Alas, my dear Jonathan Pollux!" Hamann warned him, "You do not understand yourself, and you rush to make pwrs^understood by others and to share your sick philosophy with them" (p. 168). And he lamented, "It pains me, [dear Jonathan], to see you still chewing on your Spinoza" (p. 175). If he ever got to Pempelfort, he would abduct that "highway bandit and murderer of common sense" (i.e. Spinoza), even at the risk of being accused by Jacobi of temple robbery and sacrilege (p. 177). As events turned out, Hamann eventually did make his way to Munster, and while there he did visit Pempelfort. Much of his correspondence from this point on is taken up with the preparation for the impending visit to Princess Gallitzin. But Hamann's days were numbered. He died at Munster, and Jacobi lost perhaps the only contemporary critic who really understood him. More about this in due course. The point here is that Hamann was right. Jacobi's polemic against rationalistic philosophy did imply a definite philosophical position, however much Lavater's pious rhetoric, into which Jacobi constantly lapsed, tended to mask it. How would somebody who did not share Jacobi's prejudice against philosophical abstraction but yet was sympathetic to Jacobi's implicit position set about to make a system of it? From statements gleaned from Jacobi's own texts, the task would appear as follows. Find a system of the kind that posits that (i) existence precedes essence (Jacobi's fundamental claim); (2) the origin of determination and intelligibility is connected with the origin of consciousness (the distinction between the "I" and the "Thou," which is the most significant determination and the source of intelligibility, originates in consciousness); (3) the "I" must be (in some sense to be specified) the system's absolute first principle (this to satisfy Jacobi's concern that the "I" be never reduced to a mere object of impersonal observation); (4) action (and the freedom that action presupposes) is the source of meaning, yet human reason must remain (in some sense also to be specified) irreducibly theoretical (this to retain the finitude of human reason); (5) philosophical abstraction acquires existential significance precisely as a form of action and hence as an expression of freedom (this to sidestep Jacobi's polemic against philosophical abstractions); (6) the system must be perfectly rational, yet be born of faith (this to overcome the dichotomy between system and faith posited by Jacobi); and finally (7) "feeling," of the kind that must be connected


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

with the body yet is not merely "natural," is a dimension of rationality, and so too is historical contingency (this, again, to habilitate reason existentially). Thus would the task appear. Fichte took up the challenge of realizing it. ii. It is well known that the early Fichte drew much inspiration from Reinhold for his project of systematizing Kant's critique of reason," and that Fichte admired Jacobi.100 Fichte's thought developed, even during its earliest stage, and this is not the place to document either the development or his final thought. Yet it is important to take cognizance of the extent to which Fichte's new idealism was a reflection of Jacobi's thought if one wants to understand the significance of Jacobi's reaction to Fichte for Jacobi's own thought. Fichte's master-stroke was to use as the instrument for constructing his system the very operation of "reflection" that to Jacobi had meant the end of "first-hand" knowledge. In the act of reflection subject and object are distinct, for reflection implies taking cognizance of "something"; yet the two are inextricably bound together, because in the cognized "something" (i.e. the object) the subject expects to recognize itself. What more appropriate paradigm, therefore, for the act of which Jacobi had spoken in the David Hume—in virtue of which subject and object are first distinguished in consciousness and individuated—than reflection itself, so understood? And Fichte used the very same metaphor of the "eye" as had Jacobi. For Fichte existence indeed precedes reflection (Jacobi's condition one); yet reflection is existence's original deed, whereby it sets up an eye for itself with which it can then contemplate itself.101 Since consciousness only begins with this act, the subject-object identity that pre99. See "The Facts of Consciousness," p. 26. 100. On this point, see my "From Jacobi's Philosophical Novel to Fichte's Idealism: Some Comments on the 1798-99 'Atheism Dispute,'" Journal of the History of Philosophy, xxvii.i (1989), especially pp. 76-77. 101. "Es werden Augen eingesetzt dem Einem" ("Eyes are inserted into the One"). This is a gloss entered by Fichte in his copy of Das System der Sittenlehre (Jena und Leipzig: Gabler, 1798), on the margin of §2, p. 29. See Fichte-Gesamtausgabe, 1.5, p. 48 (note). This work of Fichte contains the clearest and most concise statement of his system in the first period of Fichte's development. I am using it as my basis for my exposition. It must be noted that Fichte made use of the metaphor of the "eye" in his Wissenschaftslehre only from 1801 on. But the distinction between the "I" as purely creative activity and the determinate consciousness of the "I" that results from that activity is in Fichte even in the first stage of his thought. The metaphor of the "eye" expresses precisely that distinction.



cedes it, and that the subject expects to recognize in its object is always apprehended at a distance—always as having been left behind with the onset of the subject-object distinction or as being yet to be retrieved in actual consciousness. Hence, although the whole of consciousness originates in an attempt at ^consciousness (condition three), it must discover its object as if it were just given to it.—i.e. consciousness retains an irreducible theoretical moment (condition four). The consequence of this theoretical moment is manifold. Its presence implies that subjective certainty always exceeds objective evidence (condition six). Thus it implies that reflective conceptualization necessarily apprehends its object indirectly, at "second hand," according to Jacobi's expression, i.e. as an attempt to objectify an identity that ex hypothesi it cannot bring to representations but must presuppose as its motivating principle none the less. Access to that identity can only be attained by each individual subject directly, in that immediate awareness of its own existence that the said subject gains by engaging in an act of reflection. Fichte called this self-awareness "intellectual intuition" and made a point of asserting its possibility as against Kant's denial of it. He also made a point of denying the need to posit the "thing in itself," since consciousness was now being reduced to a dimension of self-consciousness. Yet however existentially important the assumed intellectual intuition was, its content could still only be determined through a process of reflective conceptualization (condition six). Fichte's Wissenschaftslehrehad to operate strictly at the level of reflection, no less than did Kant's transcendental idealism. And as for the "thing in itself," the transcendent pull that it exercised with respect to the whole world of experience in Kant's sys tem was still retained in Fichte's. But Fichte now reinterpreted that "thing" constantly eluding objectification as a "self yet to be brought to reflective consciousness. This way of bringing the "thing" into consciousness itself, and of replacing its interplay with "appearances" with a play between pre-conscious existence and reflective objectification, made for a more coherent picture of mental life. However, it did not in any way lessen the distance between existence and reflection or allow reason ever to retrieve its own origin rationally (condition six).102 102. This is a brief exposition deliberately slanted to highlight the affinities between Fichte and Jacobi, which, in my opinion, are considerable. A more thorough and balanced treatment would point out that "intellectual intuition" was first brought into play by the young Schelling in his earliest attempt at interpreting Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre, and that Schelling, in thus introducing "intellectual intuition," was in fact injecting (very likely under the influence of Holderlin) Spinozistic elements into what Fichte had originally in-


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

This last point is especially important because it suggests why Fichte might reasonably have thought that he was in spirit a disciple of Jacobi and that he had turned Jacobi's very objections against philosophy into a philosophical asset. On Fichte's new statement of the premises of idealism, the object of the alleged intellectual intuition that accompanies every act of reflection does not acquire determination except as a result of the reflection itself. Therefore, that it should be conceptualized as an absolute "I" and not, as in Spinoza, as "substance" requires a decision that exceeds objective evidence and hence constitutes an act of faith. This faith can only be motivated by the desire on the part of free individuals to conceive of their world as itself the product of an original act of freedom (condition 5).103 The Wissenschaftslehre consists in a series of ever more complex reflections, each an attempt at interpreting things that would otherwise appear to our consciousness as "thrown at us," i.e. as predetermined by unknown external factors,104 rather than as objects that derive their determinations from being incorporated into a network of intentions freely undertaken by us.105 The series culminates in an attempt to interpret the whole of reality as essentially social in character, i.e. as a system of legal and ethical relationships, with respect to which nature itself becomes just a medium for defining property rights. The meaning of nature, its only justification, is to be an extension of human existence—an object for exploitation that testifies to human freedom. In this respect Fichte was indeed the great German spokesman of homo predator. The important point is that, on Fichte's own assumptions, the vision of humanity incorporated in the Wissenschaftslehre can only appeal to anyone who shares Fichte's intuition of freedom and subscribes to his account of the nature of this freedom. Fichte could honestly say with tended simply as a conceptual reconstruction of the dynamics of mental life. "Intellectual intuition" became for Fichte part of this reconstruction only at a second moment of reflection, to ground the whole reconstruction. (See Xavier Tilliette, Schelling: Une philosophic en devenir, 2 vols (Paris: Vrin, 1970), Vol. i, pp. 72-73. At any rate, whether simply intent on describing mental facts or already trying to add a subjective dimension to Spinoza, Fichte was still mirroring elements of Jacobi's thought, namely Jacobi's desire, on the one hand, to restrict himself simply to the description of experience, and, on the other, his apparent symbiotic relationship with the great philosopher whose atheism he was trying to expose. 103. Das System der Sittenlehre, §3, p. 58—59. 104. Fichte uses the word Objekt, which is the German transliteration of the Latin Ob-iactum, i.e. "thrown in front." 105. The Objekt thus becomes a Gegenstand, as in the Latin contra-stare. 106. Jacobi to Fichte, p. 55 of Jacobi's text below.



Jacob! that, on his own assumptions, what a man is also determines what his philosophy will be.lo6 Furthermore, Fichte granted to Jacobi that philosophy is the product of a totally arbitrary abstraction and that to anyone not animated by "logical enthusiasm"107 it might therefore look like a mere conceptual game. But it is precisely this feature of philosophy that makes it the most compelling witness to that freedom of which the whole of experience is the expression (condition five). The philosopher's freely taken decision to reconstruct experience conceptually, on the basis of the idea of the "I," is itself the conscious re-enactment of the absolute "I" 's original preconscious act that gave rise to consciousness and its world of determinate objects (condition two). The very fact that the decision is freely taken is guarantee of its validity—of the potential not to accept any world as real except one that conforms to logical requirements. Accordingly, in Fichte's new Wissenschaftskhre one always finds two series of reflective objectifications of the content of experience, one that describes how an object appears to consciousness in immediate experience and another that defines what it in fact is and how it ought to appear to be, on the assumption that the world is the product of freedom.lo8 The ideal is ultimately to reach a point at which the content of immediate experience is to be found again, with no residue, reflectively expressed. At that point the two series of objectifications would coincide. The philosopher would then indeed rejoin the standpoint of ordinary people—but that is because ordinary people have been shown to be, in fact, philosophers. Admittedly this situation can only be the object of an ideal that must be nurtured in faith and that can only be realized pragmatically through proper social action, without ever finding adequate theoretical expression. But then, the point of freedom is action, not theoretical explanation. And the great service that philosophers accomplish for humanity is that, though they might seem to be playing intellectual games, they in fact bring to the level of reflective awareness and reflective expression the sense of freedom that would otherwise remain in ordinary people just a feeling.109 In this spirit Fichte could say to Jacobi that the two of 107. Ibid., pp. 6-7. 108. See "Zweite Einleitung in die Wissenschaftslehre" ("Second Introduction to the Science of Knowledge"), Philosophisches Journal, v (1797): 319-78, vi (1797): 1-40, §§3-4 (Vol. v, especially pp. 330-31). 109. See ibid., Vol. vi, §§10-11, especially pp. 3%2ff.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

them were in fact fighting for the same cause of freedom. Whatjacobi testified to in the language of feeling from the standpoint of life, he, Fichte, was expressing instead in the language of the concept from the standpoint of speculation110 (condition seven). 12. As one might expect, Jacobi did not appreciate Fichte's casting of his part in the cause of freedom. It was not just that the role offered conflicted withjacobi's understanding of himself and of Fichte. Jacobi also detected an element of disingenuity in Fichte. Fichte left unsaid that his faith was tailor-made to suit the requirements of his system. It was the faith that a reflection bent on reflectivity for reflectivity's sake required to validate itself existentially. Without that faith, and the logical enthusiasm that motivated it, there was no compelling ground for interpreting the so-called standpoint of life as the pre-reflective acting out of the freedom to which Fichte was giving expression reflectively. Ordinary people would have already to have stepped into the "magic circle" of Fichtean reflection, and to have been at least inchoately Fichtean, to be able to recognize their humanity in Fichte's system. Jacobi, for his part, was refusing to step into that circle precisely because from his uninterpreted standpoint of life he found no good reason for making the leap. He had on the contrary every good reason to shun it. Jacobi's own statement of how he stood vis-a-vis Fichte came in his open letter of 1799, at the height of the atheism dispute. The bitterness of Jacobi's declaration is evident despite the pervasive rhetoric of brotherly love. Historical circumstances, which included the political situation at the time and the acerbic attack on the Woldemar by a disciple of Fichte, J11 contributed to this bitterness. But Jacobi was obviously also galled by the patronizing attitude that Fichte had displayed towards him. There was moreover nothing in Fichte's new science that could in any way satisfy Jacobi's personalism, Fichte's disclaimers to the contrary. Fichte had indeed chosen to give the name of "I" to his first principle and had clothed his account in the language of the "I." But this choice had meaning only programmatically, i.e. only inasmuch as, in terms of the assumed principle, it was possible to explain the possibility of genuine "selves." On Fichte's own admission, any such self would require in-

110. See on this point "From Jacobi's Philosophical Novel to Fichte's Idealism," PP- 96-97111. See Jacobi to Fichte, p. 7, and footnote on Schlegel.



dividuation and hence historical determination. The supposed original "I," however, was ex hypothesi an unlimited act, a sheer Agilitdt112 that in itself defied all determination. Fichte himself compared it to an empty space, an x, that makes determination possible without itself being determined. 113 There was nothing to distinguish it per se from Spinoza's substance, in other words, except perhaps, as just mentioned, the systematic work that it performed. As Fichte's system unfolded, the original "I" gave place to a series of finite selves that were absolute only in the sense that they strove to become so. Any one of these selves might have given the appearance of coming closer to recognizable historical entities. But the appearance was deceptive, and it certainly did not fooljacobi. As the object of theoretical determination, the "self was now to be understood as a "willing in general," as "tendency" and "intelligence."114 These are categories that carry indeed connotations of personal life, but only because they are parasitic on ordinary language usage. Taken objectively, according to their meaning in Fichte's system, they could just as well stand for some blind force of nature that has no intelligence in a subjective sense—even though, to a hypothetical external observer, such a force might well appear as if issuing forth into a series of intelligibly connected effects. Again, there was nothing intrinsic to the categories in question that would significantly distinguish them from Spinoza's "thought" and Spinoza's "extension." At the practical level the situation might have appeared more congenial tojacobi's personalism. As the subject of moral obligations and legal contractual relations, the self did finally acquire an actual body and, therefore, genuine individuation. In Fichte's system nature is finally granted reality, but precisely because it is needed for this individuation. The struggle against the pull in the direction of heteronomy coming from empirical feelings adds existential seriousness to the striving after autonomy in which moral life consists, and also constitutes the content of individual moral histories. Furthermore, the very presence of a physical space, which provides the possibility of establishing spheres of terri-

112. See Jacobi to Fichte, p. 70, and Fichte, "Versuch einer neuen Darstellung der Wissenschaftslehre" ("Attempt at a New Exposition of the Science of Knowledge"), Philosophisches Journal, vn (1797): 16. 113. See Das System der Sittenlehre, §3, pp. 42—43. 114. See ibid., §1, pp. 23-24.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

torial influence, makes for the concept of "private property."115 This in turn makes conceptual room for private property and, at the practical level, for the particularized demarcation of one self as contrasted to another. Here especially Fichte seemed to be dancing to Jacobi's tune of the primacy of action over theoretical signification. Yet in the practical part of Fichte's system nature was being incorporated into the play of human intentions only as a tool to be controlled and not for its own sake.116 Nature appears as a means whereby a historical self could, by dint of hard work, demonstrate that nothing (not even lakes and forests) would be allowed to exist except as it ought to be, in accordance with property laws or whatever other imperative of freedom a particular situation called for. In this way the self exhibits its transcendence vis-a-vis anything natural, or (it amounts to the same thing) it gives proof that its existence is but an expression of the absolute freedom of the original indeterminate "I." But by this very fact the whole world of nature and the individuation of the historical selves dependent upon it are reduced, no less than were Spinoza's nature and Spinoza's individuals reduced, to the level of mere phenomena with no intrinsic existence of their own. And the original "I" loses any claim to the language of personality, except by way of metaphor. Jacobi could well have said that if the "I" at the head of Fichte's system was said to have eyes to see with, or ears to hear with, it was only because Ficthean believers had chosen to conceptualize their own historical ability to see and hear in terms of that ultimate abstraction. They had done so for the sake of legitimizing in the light of reason what was in fact a very subjective interpretation on their part of an otherwise immediate feeling of being free. Jacobi was perfectly justified, therefore, in calling Fichte's idealism an inverted form of Spinozism117—one in which the attribute of thought replaces substance, and substance itself is reduced to an attribute of thought. Contemporary scholars have criticized Jacobi for making this identification, on the grounds that Fichte was not interested in a metaphysics or a cosmology but rather in conceptualizing—and in this way bringing to reflective awareness—certain fundamental facts of consciousness. In this sense the Wissenschaftslehreeis a purely ideal construct. 115. See J. G. Fichte, Grundlage des Naturrechts (Foundation of Natural Right; Jena und Leipzig: Gabler, 1796), §§5-6 (where the concept of "material body" is legitimized apriori) and §18. 116. See ibid., §19. 117. Jacobi to Fichte, p. 4.



Jacobi's criticism, if at all valid, would rather apply to Schelling.ll8 But Jacobi could reply to this criticism by pointing out that, in bringing his alleged facts of consciousness to reflective awareness, Fichte is interpreting them, and he could not interpret them as he does without assuming a Spinozistic metaphysics. Unless Fichte's science is a mere conceptual game (something that Fichte would not wish to grant), it cannot avoid making ontological commitments. One cannot conceive of human freedom, as Fichte does, as an unceasing effort to overcome limits and achieve the pure spontaneity of an unlimited act (which ex hypothesi is void of personality) without implying that the supposed limits, and the human individuality dependent upon them, ought not to be. That there are such limits and that human individuality is possible must itself be a product of finitude since there cannot be a positive ground for what amounts to a lack, something to be overcome, a mere epiphenomenon of consciousness. But this is exactly Spinoza's position. Fichte had only added to it a language by which the individual caught up in the Spinozistic cosmos, though in fact an epiphenomenon of substance, can none the less go on talking about his or her experience of freedom as if subjectivity in general were the origin of being and substance itself an epiphenomenon of it. If Spinoza had subverted the language of subjectivity, and if Goethe, as we saw in the Spinoza Letters, had tried to redeem it artistically through his figure of the Prometheus, Fichte had turned it instead into a language of lies.119 118. See R. Lauth's review of Hammacher, Die PhilosophicJacobis, "Nouvelles recherches surjacobi," Archives dephilosophic, xxiv (1971): 285. 119. In all fairness to Fichte it must be added that he, on the contrary, thought that Jacobi was the one who undermined human personality and human freedom by subjugating it to a transcendent and infinite God. Fichte agreed with Jacobi that personality and the freedom associated with it require individuality. But precisely for this reason he restricted it to the sphere of legally defined entities and their contractual relations. These entities might feel themselves to be infinitely free, but immediately translate their would-be infinite freedom into finite social determinations. This picture derived of course from the same liberal tradition of thought from which Jacobi also drew his inspiration. Jacobi was, however, interpreting that tradition with traditional, Aristotelian notions of individuality and personality in mind. He accordingly objected to Fichte's picture because it was based on an abstract conception of freedom and this, according to him, ultimately negated real freedom of action. This shows how much the opposition between Jacobi and Fichte was due to an opposition between an old fashioned, Catholic-like understanding of "person" and a Cartesian one. For Fichte's suspicion that Jacobi was sacrificing human freedom to divine omnipotence, see his letter to Reinhold, SJanuary 1800, Fichte-Gesamtausgabe, 111.4, #5*8. the whole letter but especially pp. 182-83.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

73. One can therefore appreciate the quiet rage that animates Jacobi's open letter to Fichte. Yet, for an understanding of Jacobi himself, the most important passages in the letter are not those that directly attack Fichte but those that do him the ambivalent honour Jacobi accords great philosophers. In the Spinoza Letters Jacobi had praised Spinoza as the most consistent and honest of all philosophers, but precisely for this reason—since philosophy is an inherently flawed enterprise—Jacobi had felt himself obliged to reject him. He now hailed Fichte as the "Messiah of reason"'20—the great mind who had carried the work of reason to its ultimate limit, extending it even beyond Spinoza by adding to it a subjective dimension. But he now had to reject Fichte as well and with even more urgency. One no longer finds in Jacobi's letter the delicate attempt to reach a non-rationalistic understanding of the dynamics of the human mind that one finds in the David Hume. There still is an attempt, in the appendices, to formulate a concept of freedom free of the absurdities of philosophical reflection. In that attempt Jacobi simply fell back upon Augustinian images of a soul that can either be earthbound, and hence slave to the passions, or heaven-bound and free— images that have significance only in a religious context. By contrast, what one finds in the letter, as an alternative to Fichte's philosophically consequent yet wrong-headed conception of freedom, is merely the strident preaching of religious faith. Jacobi had reverted to the simple dichotomy of philosophy and faith with which he had confronted Mendelssohn in the Spinoza Letters, and was now insisting on the need to make a choice between the two with more passion than ever before. Jacobi would not have been forced to the choice, of course, had he not accepted Fichte's definition of rationality as reflection for reflectivity's sake. But it is even more significant that the definition had been Jacobi's own in the first place. In exploiting it for systematic purposes, Fichte was only trying to demonstrate that, far from being detrimental to the cause of freedom, reflectivity was on the contrary its best expression, and a philosophy based on it the clearest manifesto of the primacy of action and existence over theory that Jacobi had promoted from the beginning. Jacobi thus found himself in the curious bind of having to grant to Fichte the title of philosopher par excellence in order to be consistent with himself, yet of not being able to make this concession without implicitly also conceding that Fichte's idealism was, philosophically, the consequent result of some of the premises dearest to his own heart. As he 120. Jacobi to Fichte, p. 2.



turned to faith infugam vacui, he was fleeing not just before the nihilism of Fichte but from himself as well. Hamann's critique of Jacobi becomes relevant again here. In his correspondence with his friend we also find these glosses on the David Hume: "Are being and being in itself an actual object? By no means. [They are] rather the most universal relations, whose existence and properties must be believed, and without instruments they cannot either be brought nearer to the insights of a third [person], or made clearer, or greater in extension and intension."121 And, "Actual existence is nothing but an ens rationis. Sensation [Empfindung] and rational cognition both rest upon relations of things and their properties to our instruments for receiving them as also upon relations between our representations. It is pure idealism to separate faith and sensation from thought. Sociability is the true principium of reason and language, through which sensations and representations are modified."122 The problem with Jacobi, as Hamann had complained from the beginning, was that, while inveighing against the philosophers for not respecting the individuality of existence, he had himself adopted their mode of thought. He had treated existence, sensation, and reason as abstractions. Since by their very nature abstractions exclude one another, he had thereby landed himself with the problem of bringing them together that lies at the base of all idealism. "It is pure idealism," as Hamann was saying, "to separate faith and sensation from thought."123 In actual life, where people do not worry about existence in general or explanation in general but are involved in highly particularized situations that they need to clarify through verbalization, no such problem arises. It is obvious to everyone concerned that experience consists throughout of passive acceptance and active interpretation, individual perception and social confirmation. Let anyone, however, generalize problems that are by nature particular, and let this person then try to resolve them in universal terms as if there were one simple formula that could cover all cases, then that person is caught in the impossible situation of having to retrieve existence in general out of thought in general. And for that feat one indeed needs a special act of faith. Furthermore (Hamann would have added if only he had lived to witness the Fichte phenomenon), let anyone treat existence in general as if it were something actual, and one also 121. Letter of 27 April-3 May 1787, Hamann-Briefwechsel, Vol. vii, #1060, p. 169. 122. Ibid., p. 174. 123. Ibid.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

comes up with the idea of a Tat-Tat, an act pure and simple, which a Promethean effort at perfect reflection would then try to objectify. But the idea of such a pure act has no meaning apart from the task of resolving the impossible problem for which it is posited. And the reflection that should objectify it is not anything that anyone would want to posit as the prototype of all rationality unless, by virtue of a very peculiar moral decision, one were already bent on reducing all human relations to a system of formal laws and obligations. Jacobi was fleeing before the nihilism implicit in the possibility of this decision, and in flight he cried out for faith. But so far as Hamann was concerned, Jacobi was only paying the price for having waged war against his adversaries on their own ground. Hamann's prophecy had come true. Jacobi had taken pleasure in philosophy, and had now become a pillar of the church. 74. It was not clear in what kind of faith Jacobi could possibly find refuge. It could not be the sacramental faith of a Hamann, who could conclude his letter criticizing the David Hume with the fatherly advice: "Do not fret about anything that would intrude on your sleep, appetite and peace of mind, for you would thereby neglect the joys of the father and the happiness of the groom."124 As for Fichte's faith, Jacobi was repudiating it precisely because it was a philosopher's faith—one of those empty faiths (as Hamann had called them) 125 that go hand in hand with pure reason. Yet if Fichte's faith was motivated by Fichte's "logical enthusiasm," and in this respect it was a philosopher's faith, the motive force behind Jacobi's was the need to escape the consequences of a system of thought that he, Jacobi, conceded to be the best that philosophy could offer. But this concession itself amounted to a philosophical position. It presupposed an understanding of the nature and role of reason in human experience that Jacobi could have refused to accept on philosophical grounds. The dreadful consequences that he was trying to escape by taking refuge in faith were therefore of his own making. But if Jacobi's need for faith had been generated by Jacobi's philosophy, it follows that, in this respect, his faith too was that of a philosopher. As of 1799, at the height of the atheism dispute, the monster that had been haunting Jacobi since the Spinoza Letters was still making its presence felt. And there is no doubt that its head was still that of Spinoza. 124. Ibid., p. 180. 125. See ibid., p. 180: "Yes, unfortunately there is more pure reason and empty faiths, and more rationes[,] than portiones."

III Literary Witnesses: An Essay in Interpretation i. To the objection that his faith was that of a philosopher, Jacobi might have replied that it was bound so to appear in the context of philosophical polemic. But he had also given clues to the nature of his faith in another context, the literary, through the fictional characters that he had created for the very purpose of "display [ing] humanity as scrupulously as possible the way it is, whether explicable or not."* It is to this evidence that one should turn before passing judgment on his faith. Of course, it is often difficult in Jacobi's two novels to draw the line between speeches that are aesthetically required (that develop a character) and those that are polemically required (that expound Jacobi's views). Still, Jacobi's response would be a fair one, and for this reason the witness of his characters deserves a hearing. This is not the place to detail the publication history of Allwill and Woldemar,2 nor to discuss the development in Jacobi's mind of the 1. Allwill (1792), p. xvi,of Jacobi's text. 2. For Allwill, see the introductory note to the translation below. As for Woldemar, it was first published in 1777 as Freundschafi und Liebe (Friendship and Love). A revised version of this first version appeared in 1779 under the title of Woldemar: Eine Seltenheit aus der Naturgeschichte, Theil I (Woldemar: A Rarity in the History of Nature, Part /). In the same year, however, Jacobi also published in the Deutsches Museum a piece entitled "Ein Stuck Philosophic des Lebens und der Menschheit: Aus dem zweiten Bande von Woldemar" ("A Fragment of Philosophy of Life and Humanity: From the Second Volume of Woldemar," and this second piece was republished in revised form in 1781 under the title of Der Kunstgarten (The Artificial Garden), as part of Jacobi's Vermischte Schriften, Band I. The Woldemar of 1794 (two parts) and the again-revised version of 1796 are a combination of the Woldemar of 1779 and Der Kunstgarten of 1781. For Woldemar, see the very instructive work of Frida David, Friedrich Heinrich Jacobis "Woldemar" in seinen verschiedenen Fassungen (Leipzig: Voigtlander, 1913).

ii 8

The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

themes and characters of the two novels.3 In his final version Allwill lost whatever charm he might have had at his first conception, whereas Woldemar in his finally gained credibility as a human being by undergoing conversion and learning the meaning of humility. These changes are important so far as Jacobi's intellectual biography is concerned. What interests us most, however, is the critique of the Sturm und Drang hero—the Herzensmensch or "man of feelings"—implicit in Jacobi's treatment of his characters, which in many respects anticipates the judgment that Jacobi was to pass on Fichte's new idealism only a few years later. The Fichte phenomenon marked a resurgence in philosophical form of the Promethean vision of humanity that the young Goethe had epitomized. Jacobi's critique comes through unambiguously only in the final versions of the two novels, and it is on these that we shall therefore concentrate. One must also be careful not to transpose the philosophical pronouncements made by Jacobi's characters directly to Jacobi himself. These fictional personalities allow Jacobi to explore ideal possibilities without necessarily committing himself to them personally. In this respect they play a rhetorical role not unlike that played by "Spinoza" in the Spinoza Letters. Moreover, the distance that their presence establishes between Jacobi and whatever philosophical position is being advocated in the two novels satisfies a requirement dictated by the very logic of Jacobi's discourse. For the necessary consequence of Jacobi's belief in the intuitive nature of truth is that any attempt to convey the latter discursively must fall short, thereby leaving a gap between speaker's intention and actual pronouncement that can only be traversed through extra-logical means. Ultimately what must count most in Jacobi's discourse is not what is being said (which is by definition inadequate) but how it is said. Jacobi's whole authorship is conditioned by this requirement.4 In the Spinoza Letters he satisfied it by using Spinoza as the spokesman for reason. He thus managed to engage in philosophical discourse 3. Nor need we be concerned with identifying figures from Jacobi's actual life among his fictional characters. Perhaps Allwill, who was conceived at the time of Jacobi's first friendship with Goethe and of the first cooling off in the relationship between the two friends, is a portrait of the young poet, whereas Woldemar is throughout a stand-in for Jacobi himself. But then, Allwill and Woldemar have many traits in common. See "Woldemar" und "Allwill" alias Johann Wolfang Goethe. Authentische Schilderungen von F. H. Jacobi uber Goethe, Henriette von Roussillon und deren empfindamsame Freunde nebst originalbriefen Goethes, ed. Lothar Baus (Homburg/Saar: Asclepios, 1989). 4. It will also determine Kierkegaard's pseudonymous authorship.



while simultaneously suspending belief in its ultimate veridicality, by vicarious participation via the character "Spinoza." The true judgment on Spinoza's objective position is only made manifest by Jacobi's subjective resolve, expressed at the appropriate rhetorical moment, to defy the logic of abstract systems for the sake of asserting individual freedom. A parallel rhetorical device is to be found in the novels. Here it is the fictional characters who generate, by virtue of not being identified with Jacobi, the required distance between any authorial voice and the many philosophical positions they articulate. What they say is not necessarily what Jacobi means. Yet by virtue of what they are and what they do they also provide the required existential background against which the true value of their words is to be gauged. What Jacobi makes them be is his way of displaying the value of what they say—all this in keeping with Jacobi's fundamental belief that words have no meaning except in concrete situations. I have called the two novels "philosophical" for lack of any better descriptive term. In fact they are sui generis. Whether Allwill ought to be called a novel at all is itself a problem, since the work is void of dramatic action in any obvious form. It consists of a series of letters exchanged among the members of a closely knit group of friends and relatives, of late infiltrated by the ominous figure of a certain Allwill. The group is made up of Sylli, a much-afflicted woman who has recently lost her beloved husband as well as the only child born issue of the marriage. Because of a lawsuit to which she must attend, which prevents her from leaving the place where she had once settled with her late husband, Sylli is kept apart from her brother-in-law, Heinrich Clerdon, and his wife, Amalia, both of whom she loves and respects, as well as from her two young first cousins, Leonore and the little Glair, who frequent the Clerdon household. The letters exchanged among these intimately connected individuals provide the structural support for the whole narration as well as the context into which other letters are introduced—one, on the subject of Allwill's character, from Sylli's brother, Clement von Wallberg, the rest from Allwill himself and a certain Lucy, apparently a character from Allwill's past. Throughout there are echoes of past actions and decisions and intimations of actions and decisions yet to be made. Nothing definite, however, ever happens—except growth in selfunderstanding on the part of some of the dramatis persona and clarification of their characters to the readers and other actors. The epistolary exchange is the medium of this clarification, particularly in the reports of the philosophical discussions in which some of the characters


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

delight—notably Heinrich, little Clair, and Allwill himself. What we have at the end is a psychological tableau rather than a roman—a study in human nature painted in the variety of lights and shades that different characters project upon one another through their words and feelings. Woldemar is a somewhat different case. Here we have a very eccentric though still recognizable instance of the Bildungsroman so beloved of the eighteenth century. Woldemar is the typical Herzensmensch of the Sturm und Drang, the young man endowed by nature with such a lively sensibility and such a wealth of internal resources on which to draw that he becomes a world unto himself. Initially, his imagination defines reality for him. But this young man cannot avoid coming in contact with an external world that imposes requirements on him quite different from those of his imagination, and, short of simply withdrawing into himself and ultimately suffering the fate of Goethe's Werther,5 he must learn to temper his subjectivity with a sense of reality. This process of learning, which the creators of the Sturm und Drang had to undergo in their real lives much as did their heroes in their fictional lives, is the subject-matter of the typical Bildungsroman. It is also the subject-matter of Woldemar, though the situation that gives rise to the central conflict is far-fetched even by eighteenth-century standards, and the action leading up to it implausible to say the least. Nor is the pace of the plot helped by the many philosophical discussions with which the story is interwoven. Yet, although structurally these discussions could all stand on their own as Platonic dialogues, thematically they all deal with the central issue of the novel. That issue is the tension felt in the education to the life of virtue between the requirements of nature and those of culture and art, between contemplation and worldly practicality, between individual action and social demands. They provide the conceptual statement of a problem that we should then expect to see resolved through the actions of the novel's protagonists. In this respect—if not artistically, at least thematically—philosophical dialogue and dramatic situation become integrally connected in the novel. The plot itself can be sketched out as follows. Woldemar comes into a circle of family and friends from another city. The circle consists of the old Eberhard Hornich, a practical-minded businessman with a contempt for idle philosophizing; his three daughters, Caroline, Henriette, and Louise; Henrietta's friend Allwina, who is Hornich's ward; Dorenburg, another businessman; and Biderthal, a lawyer by training who is also the 5. He committed suicide.



brother of Woldemar. Dorenburg marries Caroline and joins Hornich's firm. After a quarrel with Hornich, who does not wish to see one of his daughters marry a scholar, Bidertahl is finally allowed to marry Louise provided he too joins the firm. Henriette is not physically as beautiful as the other girls but her personality has considerably more depth. She acts as a mediating figure between the three households, and her sisters emotionally continue their virginal existence (sic!) in her, just as she shares in their pleasure in being wives and mothers. Now, of the two approximately equal parts of the Woldemar, the first relates Woldemar's settling into this circle, where he assumes the role of philosopher, moralist, and sage-in-residence. Woldemar has obviously been unhappy in the past, but as he experiences the friendship of these people, he gradually opens up and begins to feel more comfortable with his life. Through a series of quarrels about the nature of philosophy with the old Hornich, however, the stage is set for the catastrophe that ensues in the second part. Hornich has developed a contempt for Woldemar. Bidertahl thinks that his brother loves Henriette and would like to see them married. Woldemar, however, has developed a Seelenfreundschaft with Henriette, as he explains in a letter to his brother: "We became friends in the noblest sense of the word; friends as persons of the same sex could never become, and persons of different sex perhaps have never been before."6 Henriette has like feelings with respect to Woldemar. In fact she has decided to remain single and to serve the world as a mediating auntfigure. In this spirit she has chosen her friend Allwina to be the wife of Woldemar, so that the three of them can remain together and live in the same household after her father Hornich has passed away. But it is precisely with his death (with which Part Two opens) that the problem begins. On his deathbed Hornich asks Henriette to take a formal vow never to marry Woldemar. Henriette resists because she wants nothing to come between her and her friend. She tells her father that it had never occurred to her that she would marry Woldemar. However, when even the disclosure of Woldemar's engagement to Allwina fails to appease the old man, and when Henriette fears that her refusal to take the vow might shorten her father's life by even one hour, she finally gives in. Later, after Hornich's death, she feels uneasy about the whole affair but decides never to tell Woldemar about it. However, some time later Woldemar by chance hears of the vow from Louise, in whom Henriette 6. 1820 ed., p. 282.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

had confided. From then on Woldemar begins to have doubts about his friend, whom he had trusted and thought so completely his own. His world threatens to fall apart because it had been constructed solely on the supposition that he and Henriette are one soul. Henriette, for her part, knows nothing of the cause of Woldemar's unrest, since Louise tells no one about her accidental indiscretion until the very end of the novel. Hence, although Woldemar and Henriette are in physical proximity throughout this crisis and also keenly aware of each other's evident suffering, they never tell each other what is on their minds. To this extent they never really meet. And this situation persists until the very end, when Henriette discovers the cause of Woldemar's strange behaviour towards her, whereupon (with a great show of emotion that Jacobi fails to control artistically) Henriette finally opens up and confesses her secret, while Woldemar falls to his knees and begs all his friends for forgiveness. So much, then, for introductory sketches of the Allwill and the Woldemar. The task now is to define Jacobi's idea of humanity as it emerges through the words and actions of the protagonists, and the nature of the faith he thinks required by that humanity for its realization. 2. Allwill, like Woldemar, is a "beautiful soul,"7 a member of the Herzensmensch species. Also like Woldemar he is portrayed by Jacobi as arriving on the scene from a foreign place, a stranger to the given situation who in many ways always remains a stranger, like a soul that never reconciles itself to embodiment. In the case of Allwill this sense of unreality is reinforced by a lack of temporal indices. Amalia complains about the difficulty of placing his age (he always appears either too young or too old) and makes a point of obtaining his birth certificate—to pin him down somehow. And AllwiU's letters all lack dates.8 Like an ethereal entity (a disembodied soul), Allwill flits in and out of the lives of other people yet manages to leave an indelible mark on them. We get a biographical report about his childhood from Clerdon, who introduces it with a play on his name—literally, "one who is all will," or, in Clerdon's more imaginative rendition, "He who does not yield." It appears that even as a child AllwiU's name suited him to perfection. Little Allwill was a stubborn creature who preferred to suffer the most painful physical consequences and the cruellest punishments rather than submit to the judgments of others or accept as real anything but the dictates 7. See Allwill (1792), p. 163. 8. See Kierkegaard's Diary of the Seducer. The parallels are remarkable.



of his vivid imagination. Rather than the result of a constitutional deficiency, this failure to confront outside reality was in fact the unfortunate consequence of a superabundance of natural gifts. The wealth of his internal life made it so attractive to him that, by comparison, everything external paled in importance. Hence, because the standards by which little Allwill functioned were not those of the average individual, his actions were doomed to be misunderstood. He was often taken to be a half-wit because of his apparent inability to size up the likely consequences of a situation. In fact he was endowed with a livelier sensibility and a greater power for feeling than anyone around him. He often appeared to be a hero, for he was wont to assume responsibility for the misdeeds of other boys and suffer the consequent punishments with the impassivity of a stoic. Yet little Allwill was not motivated by any special compassion for his friends or feelings of generosity towards them but by disdain for their inability to rise above circumstances and take pain without fuss. Self-centredness, in other words, was Allwill's defining trait from the beginning. It was this that made him appear to others a totally muddled boy. And a muddled adult Allwill has turned out to be. Allwill is full of contradictions. There is no doubt about the abundance of his talents, his charm, and the natural beauty of his sentiments. Everybody gives testimony to these gifts. In comparison to the average mortal he is like the highest among the angels. But it is precisely his extraordinary natural beauty that inspires fear in those with whom he comes into contact. As happened to Lucifer, his beauty may be too much for him to savour, and, in enjoying it, he may end up tasting evil. Indeed, despite Allwill's obvious beauty, there is something just as obviously repulsive about his personality. The problem is not in anything that he says or does but rather in the contextual impropriety of what he says and does. His words and deeds are out of place and therefore, however beautiful abstractly considered, obscene in their enactment. Nothing could be more beautiful than Allwill's praise of the abundance of Amalia's love, or of the fullness of her family life, or more perceptive than his analysis of the nature and growth of her relationship to Clerdon. Nothing could be as close to Jacobi's heart as Allwill's distinction between false friendship, which is based on self-interest, and the true friendship that consists in two conscious entities becoming one in mind and heart. True friendship provides the limit that prevents the dispersal of natural potentialities for feeling. It makes for genuine individuality and, therefore, true existence. Or again, Allwill's passionate defence of the superiority of natural nobil-


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

ity of feelings over artificial morality, and of the rights of the exception over and against the universality of principles, play on themes that are cherished byjacobi. We find them reasserted byjacobi himself in his attack on Fichte only a few years after the final version of the Allwill was published, and in words often reminiscent of Allwill's. And it is from AllwiU's lips that we also hear Jacobi's most concise and eloquent refutation of Humean phenomenalism,9 as part of a philosophical discussion in which Clerdon (strangely enough) is made to defend idealism. On the basis of his set speeches, in other words, Allwill could well be taken to be Jacobi's most eloquent spokesman. Yet there are aspects of AllwiU's biography, some recorded for us by characters who have witnessed him in action and others that Allwill himself reveals in apparently unwitting confessions, that make his words ring hollow. His panegyric on Amalia is indeed eloquent. But just before embarking on the praise of her womanhood, Allwill has denied that women are capable of love and has displayed an attitude towards women in general that is both flippant and degrading. This is a sensitive point because, according to the ideology of the day in which Jacobi fully shared, woman is the figure of creative nature. She stands at the origin of all the raw life-forces to which reason must then give shape (Sylli is said to be the one who "knows the beginning"). To be frivolous about woman is therefore tantamount to being frivolous about the ground of one's own existence. But Allwill is definitely frivolous about his women. As he himself confesses, his temptation is to transform them all into goddesses resplendent in beauty and virtue, into figments of his own imagination. But this attempt at divinizing them is not fair to them in AllwiU's own view, since the poor things cannot live up to the expectations thus imposed upon them. It is also troublesome to the perpetrator of the attempted transformation because of the disappointments to which he makes himself liable, and (again in AllwiU's own view) socially dangerous as well, because of the threat that such disappointments pose to marriage in general. Hence Allwill prefers not to become too involved with his women. He prefers to leave them be with all their limitations, always with the hope (which he explicitly expresses with respect to Lucy) that they will be married off to somebody else at some suitable stage in the relationship, and thus no longer pose a threat to him. In fact Allwill does not leave his women be. It is not just that he obviously manages to insinuate himself into their lives—and not to their ad9. I believe that it is echoed in the first chapter of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit.



vantage, as the vague but dark intimation of a past catastrophic relation with a certain "Nanny" indicates, and so too the definite but equally dark evidence of an affair with Lucy, or the inner turmoil that his flirting causes in Clair. Allwill degrades his women by his practice of either turning them into an object of glorification or otherwise dismissing them, for ' he cannot then recognize them for what they really are. But to this extent he also fails to grant them the status of real existents. The ultimate loser is Allwill himself, because, on Jacobi's principle of individuation, by not confronting the real "Thou" in the women with whom he comes into contact, he also fails to establish himself as a real "I." Allwill remains an unreal entity, a phantom of being rather than anything really existing. With the exception of Clair, who is too dazzled by Allwill's brilliant exterior to be able to penetrate to its empty core, the effects of the failure are seen by everyone around him. It is Allwill himself, however, who identifies its cause in one of his perspicacious but, as usual, misplaced observations. Moments after the philosophical debate in which he has sided with realism against phenomenalism, Allwill sits at the clavier engaged in a tete-a-tete wi\h Clair, alternating between virtuoso playing (musical character that he is) and whispered comment. Suddenly, with a flurry of notes for overture, he announces to Clair that he cannot, after all, stand by his earlier argument. Clerdon was right. Just as a note is nothing except its own sounding, so too there is no reason to believe that a seeing is anything more than the seeing of a seeing, or a feeling, the feeling of a feeling. Now, as philosophical statement, this pronouncement is not to be taken any more seriously than any of Allwill's many others. Artistically, however, it is a perfect verbalization of the situation—of the mood of suspended sensuality that is established between Allwill and Clair and that, despite the serious philosophical talk between the two, simply feeds upon itself. Allwill and Clair are colluding in an orgy of self-adulation. And if this narcissistic exercise can be forgiven Clair (she is still very young), in Allwill it is particularly repulsive, not just because of his age (he ought to know better) but because, granted all that we know about him so far, this self-adulation constitutes his very character. This is what Allwill is, merely a feeling that feeds upon itself, a display of events that seems to constitute a public world of meaning but that, in fact, has no content beyond the display itself. Jacobi's device of putting some of his most cherished beliefs in the mouth of this otherwise dubious Allwill is his way of showing that, ultimately, what an individual says is not as important as the test of its truth that he or she provides through what he or she does. Clerdon can afford


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

to be a phenomenalist (an "idealist," in Jacobi's language) and sceptic in theory, for in practice, as some scenes in the Allwill show, he is a realist. Allwill, however, enacts phenomenalism because, whatever his theoretical pronouncements, he has made it his vocation to turn his whole existence into a series of events—be they sensations, thoughts, feelings, utterances, what have you—that give the appearance of being directed towards an objective content but in fact have nothing to offer but themselves. To this extent, i.e. as the result of Allwill's own doing, phenomenalism is the truth of his world. For this reason, although the destructiveness of his behaviour is obvious to us or to any observer who does not share his attitudes, Allwill is incapable of apprehending it. He can throw himself into the most disparate forms of behaviour, wholeheartedly engaging in each, without thereby acting out of character at any time, since it is of the essence of his character that it be exclusively defined by the passion of the moment. We said that Allwill is full of contradictions. This is again how he appears to us, or to anyone else who expects to find a subjective core in him—a source of self-determined and therefore coherent action. Viewed from within, however, Allwill is made immune to contradiction by the very fragmentation of his being. He has fallen victim to the lure of his own natural endowments that make him run, now after this feeling, now after that image or that word, each time totally dedicated to the beauty of the event. The ultimate contradiction of Allwill's character is that he, the "All Will," the "One who does not yield," has never succeeded in pulling his natural forces together into a single internal principle of action. What he regards as subjective independence is only caprice, the type that madmen also exhibit. The truth is thus that Allwill lacks the power of choice. 'Yes, Edward," Lucy cries out to Allwill, "Theory of Immoderateness, Principles of the Most Extended Gluttony, these are the proper names for what you endeavour with so much zeal, with such great expenditure of wit, hair-splitting, and poetic imagination, to put in place of wisdom."10 And she continues, "A frightful vocation, to be this Edward Allwill! Unceasingly shaken to the marrow, in so many different ways; and a multitude of deep sorrows in the wake. You, poor thing!—It's amazing that you do not finally crumble into ruins under the shocks, everything in you gone to pieces; or that you do not smother under the rubble."11 "Innocence, Edward!—dear Edward," she implores, "innocence, inno10. 1792 ed., pp. 258-59. 11. Ibid., p. 260.



cencel—Doesn't any memory of it awake in your soul?"12 But Edward has placed himself outside the bounds within which innocence has meaning existentially, and this is indeed his fall. He is now a "sorcerer," for he can conjure up a mirage of reality out of mere words and gesture—a seducer, for while giving the appearance of pointing in one direction or of being in one place, he is in fact already elsewhere—and this is so necessarily, because it is not in Allwill's character to deceive in any particular situation by choice, with some specific aim in mind. Dispersion is the rule of his being, and the price that he has paid for having made the flux of nature the determinant of his existence. Allwill—it should by now be clear—is Jacobi's reply to the Sturm und Drang's cult of nature and feeling, the embodiment of his claim that that cult makes for a false subjectivity. Jacobi may indeed have sided with the proponents of that movement against the Berlin philosophers, and it may also be the case that the movement was a temptation to one of his temperament. But so too was philosophy, and if the Spinoza Letters was his way of exorcizing his philosophical demon, the Allwill could serve the same purpose for the demon of nature. It is remarkable that the objection that Jacobi raised against the philosophers in the one work and against the poets in the other was essentially the same although in different media. Just as the philosophers, in their subjective effort to comprehend reality reflectively, end up draining the concept of all existential content and thus actually remove the conditions that make subjectivity possible, so too the practitioners of the morality of natural feeling, in their attempt to distil from experience its supposed moment of pure spontaneity, actually reduce it to a series of fleeting events with no social or moral significance. Allwill is as much a reflective animal as any philosopher. Indeed, he is worse than a philosopher, for the philosophers can at least retain theoretical distance from the products of their reflective concepts, whereas feelings are AllwiU's medium and the sole product of his work is his own existence. Or perhaps one should say that Allwill would have been worse than any philosopher prior to Fichte, for with Fichte philosophy becomes a way of life. It is as if Fichte were an Allwill who had finally heeded Lucy's exhortations and converted. He has finally recognized the need to pull his otherwise scattered existence together by committing himself to live by a freely accepted limit. But the converted Allwill still only knows how to deal in abstractions, and it is an abstract "I," confronted by a limit in general, that he now sets out to re12. Ibid., p. 247.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

alize with all the earnestness of a penitent.13 It is thus no surprise that in Jacobi's open letter to Fichte we hear echoes reverberating from the Allwill. If we read the character of Allwill in this way, we can clarify certain aspects of Jacobi's authorship that are otherwise obscure. It seems strange thatjacobi would accuse the philosophers of having excogitated themselves out of natural existence and oppose the virtues of nature to the abstractions of philosophy, arguing the need to revert constantly to the intuition of the senses; and yet that he would also accuse the philosophers of materialism, of being held captive by nature. On the basis of his polemic against abstractions, we would rather expect Jacobi to accuse the philosophers of being too angelic for their own good, of ignoring the demands of nature. But Jacobi is being perfectly consistent because, as transpires from his treatment of Allwill's character, when he praises nature, he is using the concept in a normative sense. What he really means by it is a nature that has been informed and interiorized through decision and action. Taken on its own, nature means flux, hence dispersion of existence and lack of subjectivity. Allwill's type of reflectivity, like the philosophers', is fatal to the life of the spirit precisely because, instead of containing nature's flux and its consequent dispersion, it hides it behind figments of the imagination and, indeed, colludes with it. Allwill has transformed the flux of nature into a phantasmagoria of brilliant forms. As for the philosophers, Jacobi's repeated complaint is that their science is merely an instrument of manipulation. It does not comprehend nature but harnesses it externally with empty symbols. Jacobi's polemic, whether directed against philosopher or poet, thus is of one piece. And it is motivated throughout primarily by the dread nature inspires. It is not reason thatjacobi fears but the darkness of unconscious life, the death that lies there in wait. In this respect, Sylli is the other important figure in the Allwill. There is no enemy of Allwill as implacable as she. Lucy inveighs against him, and her words carry the authority of one who has suffered at his hand. But there is also a tone of detachment and superiority in her reproaches—the voice of one who has stared into Allwill's emptiness and withstood the trial, and can now afford to show exasperation but not hatred, as towards a spoiled child. Sylli hates Allwill, however, and with the fury that only a like can harbour for a like. Sylli is the female counterpart of Allwill. The fact thatjacobi puts in her mouth some of his more rapturous descriptions of the beauty 13. See Judge William in Kierkegaard's Either/Or.



of nature should not distract us from her true character, any more than Allwill's display of wisdom should distract us from his. If Allwill stands for all that is fascinating about nature, Sylli represents its creative side—a force that is much more primitive than the demonic power of the genius, much less susceptible to control of language, and therefore all the more dangerous. Sylli is wife and mother, she "knows the beginning"14—but she is a wife and mother who has lost both husband and child, and now, deprived of these two objective limits, she runs the risk of turning in upon herself and sinking into the indeterminateness of her own creative energies. Despair is her malaise. If dispersion is Allwill's sin, too much concentration of power without the possibility of objective expression is Sylli's. Hence Sylli is as threatening a figure as the nature that surrounds her. Like unconscious nature she is sunk deep in her dream,15 and death is what she beholds in her slumber: "However warmly my heart feels touched from the outside, however glowing it is from its own light, in its depth it still seems cold to me. Yes, the problem is that every impulse of trust and friendship in my soul turns into a thought of affliction and horror; that I see immediately and vividly before me, that I am once more being visited by that long departed angel-like figure that left a dead skeleton on my lap."16 It is significant that Sylli, like Allwill, makes her first appearance on the stage as an individual who is totally alienated. Though among people, she does not really belong to them—not just because of unfortunate circumstances but by choice as well. Sylli shows nothing but contempt for the average mortal, and in this respect her social alienation only reflects her psychological state. It is as if she were fated to be the victim of the Gierigsteins, the people with whom she is engaged in a lawsuit—as if these ugly people, who embody her worst expectations of human nature, had been called forth from the depths of her own imagination. Her relationship to the Clerdon household is to all appearances a loving and passionate one. But it is geographically at a distance and morally not immune to self-deception. Despite Sylli's protestations of love and devoted concern, she no less than Allwill preys on the emotions that bind the household's members together. They provide the required supporting cast for the acting out of her solitary drama. Unlike Allwill she knows that she is foundering and liable to sink in despair. In this she shows 14. See 1792 ed., p. 100. 15. Ibid., p. 186. 16. Ibid., p. 17.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

great insight. But she instinctively wants to pull herself together on the strength of her own inner resources. "How often has it happened to me," she writes to Clerdon, "that I thought I would have to cry out: Help, Clerdon, help\—But I did not have to, and I did not. What would happen to me, if I were to let myself be sustained only in that way! What would I gain by it? Not any steady and reliable help. That is the help I want, and that's the help I shall go after. It is my will to pull through, even if I don't pull through."17 No less than Allwill, Sylli too is "all will." Yet Sylli's salvation can only come from the outside. Short of retreating completely within herself, her alternatives are very limited indeed. She might try to become a young woman again, as she was before her maternal energies were unleashed. But this is clearly impossible. Her at tempt at reliving the past vicariously through her association with the two adolescent daughters of family friends constitutes at best another bout of emotional self-indulgence, at worse another case of selfdeception. The one real alternative is for her to resume actively the role of mother—to rejoin society. According to hints dropped in the course of the correspondence, it appears that this is precisely what happens. Sylli is saved by responding to Amalia's call to her to remember that by nature she is, and will always remain, a mother. She accordingly gives up her solitary existence to find a place in the Clerdons' household. But whatever the resolution of Sylli's situation, the lesson thatjacobi imparts through her, as through Allwill, is that, despite its beauty and creative energy, nature is ultimately empty. It harbours death within, and hides the God who is in us. It would be a mistake, therefore, to interpret the scenes of family life at the Clerdons' as idylls of nature. To be sure, Amalia has little patience for the "therefore's" and the "wherefore's" of philosophers, and she seems to place more trust in the natural reactions of even a Bombaccino (the household dog) than in their most considered reflections. Clerdon, for his part, exhibits more wisdom in his practical affairs than in his philosophizing. Yet these two figures are the nucleus of an existence of which others (even parasites like Allwill and Sylli) partake, and by partaking of which are kept alive. Amalia and Clerdon are complete personalities because they have succeeded in establishing a social bond on the basis of their respective natural endowments and in this way have held the flux of nature in check. Left on their own, Amalia's creative energies would devour their offspring just as they are begotten, in the manner of blind nature. But in Clerdon those energies find limit and stability. At 17. Ibid., p. 187.



the same time, Clerdon's penchant for reflection is prevented from running amok in an endless pursuit of interesting but empty possibilities by the role that he must play as husband and father. This role keeps him close to existence and gives content and seriousness to his thoughts and actions. The will to exist as individuals that Sylli and Allwill cannot realize on the strength of nature alone Amalia and Clerdon achieve by means of a communal bond. Jacobi's faith, as it emerges from the Allwill, is a social one. But a heroic faith it must also be if the social union by which it stands is poised so precariously between the demonic mania of an Allwill on the one side and the turbulence coming from the unconscious of a Sylli on the other. One wonders how the Clerdons' family life would fare under attack from a moral ideology of the Fichte type, or in the midst of the destructive frenzy of a social revolution like the one in France (from which we hear echoes in the letter to Erhard O**), if the only language it had at its disposal to justify itself were that of Bombaccino, or the affectionate outpourings of Amalia, or the sententiousness of Clerdon. Nowhere is the fragility of Jacobi's social ideal more evident than in the Allwill, and the need of a philosophical justification more pressing. And the irony is that the source of the fragility lies in a conception of nature that need not be accepted. Since Jacobi accepted it as obvious, this presupposes a prior philosophical commitment of a very specific type. It might be that this commitment satisfied his deep and idiosyncratic psychological needs rather than any logical requirement, and was thus made unreflectively by him. So it would be accurate to say that his philosophy was that of a believer rather than, as it appears in his polemic against Fichte, his faith that of a philosopher. But then, either formulation amounts to the same thing. For it was Jacobi's fear of the heteronomy of nature (which we shall see even further documented in due time) that made him willing to accept Fichte's statement of the role and vocation of philosophy. And this willingness forced him, in turn, to fall back upon faith to avoid what he took to be the consequences of Fichte's position. Be that as it may, the fact is that, even by the end of the Allwill, Jacobi, who is otherwise so perceptive about the dynamics of other people's minds, still seems to be in the dark about the dynamics of his own. He still does not see that he is in collusion with the philosophy he criticizes. 3. The Woldemar of 1794 was produced by interpolating two long dialogues into the 1779 story- Both were in the style of Plato and dealt with epistemological as well as social and moral issues. One had already been


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

published twice (under the titles of Ein Stuck Philosophic des Lebens und der Menschheit and Der Kunstgarteri),18 and the other was brand new. From a literary point of view this interpolation had catastrophic effects. It prevented the story from ever hanging together organically, and also created the unfortunate effect (duly noted by the critics from the beginning) that Jacobi was talking about his characters rather than displaying them, as if the Woldemar were a review of itself. '9 Philosophically speaking, however, since the interpolations constitute Jacobi's commentary on the characters and the action, they offer perhaps the best evidence of just where Jacobi stood as philosopher and believer. We have already alluded to the features that make the Woldemar a kind of Bildungsroman. It is a study in the education of the Herzensmensch that the Sturm und Drang had created. Jacobi himself indirectly calls attention to this aspect of his novel by invoking the name of the one who had been the creator, but who also became the most eminent critic, of this type of hero. Despite the earlier Ettersburg incident, Jacobi dedicated the 1794 version of the Woldemar to Goethe,20 and in the dedication he let the poet know that it had been the publication of the Torquato Tasso that had reminded him of his Woldemar. Goethe's Tasso was clearly a type of Herzensmensch—a character who acts purely on the strength of feelings but, in his attempt to create a world accordingly, loses all sense of direction, is drawn into a solipsistic orgy of mere sentiment, and finally collapses within himself.21 He is a Werther, in other words. Sylli too, as we have seen, belongs to the species, and so would Allwill, were 18. See note 2 above. 19. The point made was that the Woldemar gave the impression of being a sketch of Humboldt's review of it (a comment by Rahel Lewin to David Veil, as cited by Frida David, p. 192, and notes). Wilhelm von Humboldt reviewed the novel in three issues of the AllgemeineLiteratur-Zeitung, ##315-17, 26-27 September 1794, columns 801-07, 809-15, 817-21, under the rubric "Philosophy." The review was couched in very diplomatic language. It included a summary of the novel that gave to it a much more organic unity than it actually had. It also cast the novel in a Kantian light by interpreting it as if the philosophical point it illustrated was that virtue is indeed based on practical reason and freedom but cannot ever be divorced from feelings and sensations; virtue must be an expression of individuality and hence cannot develop except in encounters of individuals. Throughout the review Humboldt was at pains not to offend his very sensitive friend. Jacobi felt flattered by it. Jacobi to Humboldt, 2 September 1794, Auserlesener Briefwechsel, n, #234, pp. 173-81. See on this point, Frida David, p. 92. 20. The dedication was dropped in the 1786 edition but reintroduced in 1820. 21. For an insightful description of the type, see Hermann Timm, Gott und die Frtiheit (Frankfurt/Main: Klostermann, 1974), p. 293.



it not for his flippancy and general fragmentation of character, which make him too insubstantial for a tragic figure. In the Tasso, however, Goethe is not intent on developing a tragic situation. He does not explore his Herzensmensch solely from within but subjects him rather to the scrutiny of external observers, thereby exposing his impotence in the face of the real world. The poet Tasso is thus cast in an ironic mould that, were it not for the artistic control exercised by Goethe, might easily produce comedy—it could never, however, yield tragedy. But Woldemar too is subjected byjacobi to a similar external scrutiny. Not only does he belong, more clearly than either Sylli or Allwill, to the species of the Herzensmensch. He is a Herzensmensch who, like Tasso, is made to confront the objective world and perhaps gain from the experience a new sense of reality. Jacobi's treatment of Woldemar would be much gentler than Goethe's treatment of Tasso. None the less, the similarities between the two characters and the situations in which they find themselves are striking. In act n, scene i, Goethe has Tasso say to his Princess Leonore: Whatever things reecho in my poem, I owe them all to one, to one alone. No unclear, immaterial image hovers Before my brow, now dazzlingly approaching My soul and now retreating. I have seen It with my very eyes, the archetype Of every virtue and of every beauty. What I have copied from it will endure.22

Tasso is of course talking about the ideals of virtue and beauty that shape his poems and will make them endure forever. His problem is that he expects the objects of the real world to exhibit the same purity of virtue and beauty as reigns in his poetic imagination. And since such real objects necessarily fail to correspond to his expectation, they become mere phantoms to his eye, "now dazzlingly approaching [his] soul and now retreating." Princess Leonore and the state secretary Antonio Montecatino undergo for Tasso a transformation of this sort. They become disappointing and, to his eye, deceptive objects. Antonio is the man of action. According to the story, he has become somewhat estranged from court society because of a long absence on state business. In complete disregard of these circumstances, Tasso approaches him with the demand 22. Lines 1092-99. Tr. Charles E. Passage.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

that they become friends right there and then, even though the princess has warned him, "You must not ask for everything/From one man."23 The practical man Antonio tries to make the poet aware of the fundamental laws that reign in the world of time and space: "All in a single minute you ask for/What time alone can grant with careful thought."24 But Tasso sees this as a complete rejection and a betrayal, since, in the typical manner of a Herzensmensch, he has opened himself up completely and in good faith to the elder statesman, and this act alone, according to poetic logic, should have induced friendship. Therefore Tasso challenges to a duel the man whose friendship he had sought just a moment before. The apparent instability of his objects, to which Tasso himself has given rise because of his unrealistic expectations, thus rebounds on him and ultimately causes him to go mad. But madness is exactly the danger to which Woldemar too is exposed. We are given a glimpse of his childhood: "His heart grasped with intensity at all things that moved him, and drew them to himself in long trains. As soon as thoughts could form in him, every sensation turned in him into thought, and every thought back into sensation. . . . Thus, the closer he came to his object, the farther, in equal measure, would the object recede from him."25 Like Tasso, Woldemar lives the life of the imagination in search of that one object that will endure, i.e. that will correspond to his expectations, and the effect is the same as in Tasso's case—he finds reality escaping him. In the midst of a circle of people who do indeed love each other but for whom there is a tendency to identify human relationships with business contracts, he makes (just as did Tasso at the Princess Leonore's court) for a welcome and charming contrast.26 Jacobi treats this aspect of Woldemar very sympathetically. But there is no doubt that, however beautiful Woldemar's life in company with others might appear, it is nothing substantial. Woldemar's own ecstatic description to Biderthal of his relation to Allwina and Henriette gives the story away: "Moon and stars come to life whenever Allwina and Henrietta enfold me in their radiance. And all the love that I hopelessly and infinitely poured out is given back to me—the breath of life penetrates into the earthly receptacle; it becomes man!—Now, the whole 23. Act ii, Scene i, lines 952-53. 24. Act n, Scene 3, lines 1269-70. 25. 1820, p. 14. 26. We hear: "After half a year the marriage was contracted, and at the same time the business contract between Hornich and Dorenburg, to which Biderthal now became a party, renewed." 1820 ed., p. 7.



creation flesh of my flesh, and limb of my limb—clutched to my breast and returning my kisses!"27 The biblical imagery of the description makes it clear that Woldemar has assumed for himself the role of world-creator. But the only creation of which he is capable is an aesthetic one (Biderthal thinks of his brother's happiness in his life with Allwina and Henriette as a "kiinstliches Gebaude,"28 an "artificial construct"), and it is of course always dangerous to react towards the real world with one's eyes fixed upon an imaginary one. This is not to say that Woldemar is not aware of the necessity to test one's perception of the world, or even of oneself, against the perceptions of others. As he says: "Man feels himself in others more than in himself. We cannot become aware of our bodily shape except in another body that mirrors it to us; our soul cannot sense itself except by means of another spirit who throws back at it the impression that it makes. This is the breath of life [breathed] into the nostril of the earthly receptacle."29 But unless one is serious in accepting others precisely as one finds them and in subjecting oneself to their judgment without any attempt on one's part to manipulate it, one runs the risk of including the "others" in one's own imaginary world—to make them too the object of an artistic creation. In this case the artist would be all the more thrown back within himself and all the less likely to confront actuality, for the subjective product of his imagination would now come complete with the illusion of an objective determination. This is exactly what happens to Woldemar in his relations with Henriette. He has built his friendship with her on the totally unrealistic assumption that there can be nothing in her that he does not know—that she exists merely as an extension of his own heart and mind. And to the extent that Henriette's actions seem to confirm this belief, all goes well for Woldemar. He even shows signs of what appears to be a permanent recovery from the frequent bouts of doubt and depression that have afflicted him since childhood. But the moment Henriette contracts her vow with Hornich and begins to act while harbouring a secret in her heart, she acquires autonomy with respect to Woldemar. Her motives are no longer at one with his because, as it happens, they now are actually her own. This circumstance makes for a qualitative change in her behaviour that Woldemar, because of his 27. Ibid., p. 271. 28. Ibid., p. 246. 29. Ibid., pp. 49-50.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

whole mental outlook, cannot countenance. His Henriette—the product of his subjective needs—becomes estranged to his eye. Like Tasso in his relation to Princess Leonore,30 he feels betrayed. And since Henriette constituted his world, he becomes estranged from himself too. It is at this point that Woldemar has his close encounter with madness. Towards the end of his play, Goethe has Antonio give the half-mad Tasso this fatherly counsel: All that you think and do, leads you deep down Into yourself. On every side of us There lie abysses dug by destiny, The deepest being here within our hearts, And it gives us delight to plunge therein. I beg you, tear yourself away from you. The man will gain all that the poet loses.3'

This is the advice that Woldemar also needs, and the Woldemar is the story of how he comes to make it his own counsel. Jacobi's sympathy for his hero is manifested here by the gentle way he stages the learning process. There is no harsh light projected onto him from a disinterested source, as there is on Goethe's Tasso. Rather (Hornich's reaction to Woldemar apart), the illumination of his character is induced through discussions among friends in which Woldemar himself takes part, or, if absent, he is at least the object of devoted concern. The two long dialogues interpolated in the 1794 edition are the two main vehicles in this process of illumination, even though, as regards the first of the two, which is only a reworking of the early Der Kunstgarten, it must be conceded that it is difficult to see how it contributes in any organic way. Much of the dialogue (the Waldgesprdch, as Jacobi now calls it) 32 is taken up by such issues in the acquisition of virtue as the relative importance of the natural nobility of feelings as contrasted to the social discipline of manners. This was no doubt a topical issue in the 17705 because of the clash of the new cult of nature with accepted French baroque culture. 30. Yes, everyone flees from me now. You too, Beloved Princess, you withdraw from me! Have I deserved that of her?—You poor heart, For whom it was so natural to adore her! Act iv, Scene 5, lines 2792-97. 31. Act V, Scene 3, lines 3073-78. 32. 1820 ed., p. 218.



But it had little relevance by the mid-nineties, when France was in the grip of a revolution that abrogated all past terms of reference, and it was only vaguely connected with the central issue of Woldemar's reality therapy. One important point that does emerge from the dialogue is that, as of the mid-nineties, Jacobi still held on to his early fundamental beliefs. Therefore, however much of his mental baggage Woldemar must jettison before he rejoins reality, he cannot do it at the expense of these beliefs. For one thing, Jacobi still upholds the primacy of individual existence over the abstractions of the concept. He has Woldemar relate to his friends how he once wondered about the nature of the object that the human spirit seeks in its striving for virtue. If that object were the ideal, it would follow that the Urbild, the prototype, of the Good would be unfathomable; if it were rather the fleeting shadow of earthly goods, then virtue could never recognize itself as virtue and acquire permanence. Both alternatives posed difficulties. There was yet a third, however, that truly frightened Woldemar: "Or was perhaps this will [for the good] only the immediate consequence of a personal consciousness tied to universal concepts and pictures—only the instinct for self-preservation, essential to every nature, but in a purely rational form?—But then that will had no object except its own activity. The prototype and the source of every virtue would have been merely the pure and empty form of existence in thought—personality in general without person or personal distinction."33 Whatever metamorphosis the Herzensmensch will have to undergo, he cannot afford to lose his sense of radical individuality. Accordingly, against Biderthal and Dorenburg and basing himself on classical sources, Woldemar argues that the just, virtuous, noble, and excellent simply is what the just, virtuous, noble, and excellent person does, and that this person has no standard outside himself. This poetic order of morality is what made the simple and upright Hornich so upset and so hostile to Woldemar. Not that Woldemar doubts the existence of universal laws. His claim is that the grammar of virtue must allow for poetic licence: "For such exceptions, such licences of higher poesy, the grammar of virtue did not have any determinate rule, and did not, therefore, make reference to them. No grammar, least of all a universal one of philosophy, could encompass within itself all that belongs to a living language, or teach how each form of speech must adapt itself to any given time. 33. Ibid., p. 119.

The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill


[But] it would be nonsensical to deny, for this reason, that there are universal laws of combination of human concepts and their signs; nonsensical to claim, for the same reason, that anyone may speak as he pleases."34 Nor has Jacobi changed his mind about the derivative nature of reason with respect to sentiments and feelings: "We do not say of the reason present in a man [Woldemar argues] that it makes use of its man; but of the man, that he makes use of his reason. Reason is the original art, the immediate organ of the spirit hidden within sensibility [Sinnlichkeit]; it is the unifying reflection [Besinnung] striving for unceasing light. And so arise its pictures of what is common and universal, pure pictures. . . . [So does it] produce, by dividing and combining, science and art, and establishes theoretical and practical systems."35 And Woldemar continues: Everything first and last in an absolute sense lies outside the range of reason. Its whole proper occupation is a merely intermediary one on behalf of the sense, the understanding, and the heart, whose common economy it is its business to manage. This reason cannot therefore possibly be the very source of that wisdom, towards which we all strive.36 This much is certain: virtue cannot be excogitated; good and noble dispositions can only derive in us from good and noble instincts.37 Sensations, desires and passions must already be there if human reason is to emerge. Clear concepts will never arise out of dumb senses; and where there is weakness of instincts and desires, there neither virtue nor wisdom will find a place.38 All this, of course, we have already heard in the Spinoza Letters. But there Jacobi was defending the claims of existence against the abstractions of the philosophers. Although he had never unreservedly accepted the Herzensmensch, he was in the Spinoza Letters pitting him against homo philosophicus. In the Woldemar of 1794, by contrast, the issue is the incul-

34. 35. 36. 37. 38.

Ibid., Ibid., Ibid., Ibid., Ibid.,

pp. 74ff. p. 123. p. 124. p. 191. pp. 193-94-



cation of a sense of reality in the otherwise purely subjective feelings of the Herzensmensch. And how isjacobi to accomplish this feat of education if, as it appears, he still stands by the tenets—notably the primacy of feelings over reason and of the individual over the requirements of society— upon which the ideal of the Herzensmensch is based? For on these tenets is also based this creature's tendency to solipsism. From this first dialogue, which, after all, originates in the late 17705, we cannot expect much satisfaction on this score. There is, however, the new concluding speech, in which Woldemar expresses the hope, which he pins on the power of the moral instinct in us, that humankind will progress in the quality of their feelings over time. "For the moral instinct," he says, "cannot cease to show itself effective in man and active as well with respect to the whole of mankind: it is the truly human energy, God in man. Its object is virtue in its proper form; namely pure virtue, virtue as an end in itself."?>? After all that Woldemar has said in defence of the moral exception, this recourse to thinly veiled Kantian rhetoric comes as a surprise. We shall have to return to it. For the moment, however, all that can be said is that it is Woldemar's last word on the education of the Herzensmensch in the Waldgesprdch. More hopeful as a source of elucidation of Woldemar's character is the second dialogue and the completely new ending of the roman to which it leads. Jacobi interpolates it into the story at the place where Woldemar has learned of Henriette's vow and his inner disturbance has swelled to a new high point. He must now either change course and begin a voyage of recovery or continue and founder upon madness. The dialogue takes place in his absence and is thus all the more clearly a comment on his character. The three active participants are Biderthal, Dorenburg, and Henriette, and the subject-matter precisely the possibility of a recovery on the part of Woldemar—an immediate concern that provides the staging for a discussion of the general issue (harking back to the first dialogue) concerning the nature and the realization of virtue. If one takes Bidertahl as a representative of Kant's morality of formal duty and pits his comments against the many classical texts with which the dialogue is interspersed—especially the many free adaptations of passages from Aristotle's Ethics—the whole dialogue can be read as a debate between Kantian deontology and classical eudemonism. It is Jacobi's attempt to reconcile a morality of autonomy with the requirements of happiness. 39. Ibid., p. 217.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

Henriette, after first succumbing to severe emotional distress as she learns that Woldemar has been made aware of her secret, is now in a buoyant mood, for she can now open herself up to her friend again and expects that, upon asking him for forgiveness, she will be granted pardon, and the old friendship will then resume. She has no doubt that Woldemar will come out of his present emotional crisis because there is a strong ethical force in him that will prevail over his present emotional dispersion. He will pull himself together again. The natural beauty of Woldemar's feelings worked against him in the situation leading up to the fall because it hid from him the equally natural fragility of every man's heart and the need to be on guard against it. She, Henriette, also conspired to conceal this through her friendship itself, which gave Woldemar an added objective reassurance of the nobility and infallibility of his feelings. According to Henriette, Woldemar was not really seduced by his feelings. He did not slide into his present hysteria simply because he followed them, uncontrolled, in all directions. His fall was due, rather, to a failure of faith in their nobility on his part—a failure that Henriette's sudden, apparently unstable behaviour occasioned. She is confident that Woldemar will regain his stability, that he will regain his faith. Henriette's optimism, however, does not go unchallenged. Nobody can deny nature's innate tendency to strive, not just after the transitory appearances of the good and the beautiful but after the good and the beautiful in themselves. But neither can anyone deny its power, equally innate, to distract the human heart from its search for everlasting values. And granted this negative side of nature, is Henriette's optimistic prognosis of Woldemar's recovery really justified ? Jacobi here begins to shift to a more universal level of reflection. In brief, these are the theoretical options open to the interlocutors. On the one hand, one can adopt an extremely pessimistic attitude and claim—on the basis of evidence well grounded in daily experience—that human feelings and emotions are at the mercy of any passing external influence and that an upright and virtuous life is therefore possible only through a system of external social coercion. Woldemar will recover only if he learns obedience—which means, of course, losing the very individuality that makes him a Herzensmensch. On the other hand, one can take as one's starting-point the equally evident fact that without freedom—without the spontaneous choice of a given course of action—no moral life is possible. Classical wisdom testifies to this fact. Morality is equivalent to self-directed life, and virtue is therefore just as dependent on the subjective control that one



has over one's actions as on the products of those actions. In this sense the virtuous man is a law unto himself. To assume that morality is possible is to trust in the presence in man of a love for the good and the beautiful—the ethical energy of which Woldemar spoke earlier in the story—that must eventually triumph over the adverse power of external circumstances and, acting from within the individual, lead to the kind of behaviour that social obedience can only ape but never produce. But is this trust justified? Woldemar's present state of emotional dispersion testifies to the proclivity of human love to lose its sense of direction—and how could one have expected that merely formal injunctions of virtue would keep it on course? The ideal would be for that love to feed upon its own energy, i.e. to add motivation to its striving for virtue, spurred on by the happiness that its good and beautiful actions would generate in the agent. In such a case, virtue—again according to classical sources— is its own reward. But on this assumption, the Herzensmensch would have to be the ultimate guarantee of the success of the virtue of the Herzensmensch—a simple and attractive formula that would resolve every problem of moral strategy, were it not that Woldemar's present sad state is there to discredit it. Such, then, is the peculiar situation in which humankind finds itself. "Man," Biderthal says, "is in this strange fix. On the one side: reason and freedom, which he cannot give up. On the other side: their forms, their externalities and determinations—the seat of transitoriness—which he cannot avoid and which require, for their use, passivity, often the most unconditional obedience."40 Yet there is a way of bridging the two sides, and the dialogue, after much divagation to and fro, finally comes to it. Woldemar has, after all, discovered the right moral formula. For what is needed to reconcile individual spontaneity with external direction is a form of discipline that indeed comes to the individual from the outside but respects the individual's autonomy all the same. And what could satisfy this twofold requirement better than friendship—that bonding of heart and mind in which two individuals, though acting spontaneously out of love, yet make the being of the other also the law of their own? Woldemar was right from the beginning, therefore, in seeking salvation in his friendship with Henriette. His attempt failed only because the logic of friendship requires that the "otherness" of the other person be respected, and on this score he, and Henriette as well, had been in the wrong. Henriette had wanted to share her existence with Woldemar 40. Ibid., pp. 430—31.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

while at the same time, because of her secret vow, leading a private life. And Woldemar had been so fascinated by his own feelings that he had failed to allow for the possibility that Henriette's could be motivated by circumstances foreign to him. Once the power of friendship in disciplining otherwise potentially destructive emotions has been recognized, the roman can quickly proceed to its denouement. Henriette asks for forgiveness, and in granting it, Woldemar equally recognizes his wrong and asks for forgiveness in turn. "Dear Henriette," [Woldemar said,] "no word can say how I feel! Loudly could I—and would I—confess before the whole world that I am the guiltiest among all men."41 "I will learn humility," he said. 'You bring me back to myself! What in me now [lies] so dead against my own self. . . . That too is pride! Always the same hard, unbending, pride. . . . I was not good, Henriette! But I shall becomeit—I will learn humility; I will be yours. . . . Oh, do accept me!"42

The Herzensmensch has been socialized by learning humility, and in this transformation he finds his salvation. The two injunctions with which the roman ends are reminders of the two sides—the one negative, the other positive—that make up his personality. "Whoever relies on his heart is a fool—Judge not!" "Trust in love. It takes all but gives all." Of the two, however, it is significant that the second comes at the very end and that Jacobi puts it on the lips of Henriette, the one whose instincts about Woldemar were finally proved right. At the end of the Woldemar, even more so than at the end of the Allwill, it is clear that Jacobi's faith is a social one. 4. But the love on which friendship is based can be perverted. This too is clear from the Woldemar. The question that confronted the reader at the end of the Allwill is still to be answered. On what does Jacobi pin his social faith? The question becomes all the more pressing because it is 41. Ibid., p. 461. 42. Ibid., p. 476. See ch. vi of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit: "The reconciling Yea, in which the two Ts let go their antithetical existence, is the existence of the T which has expanded into a duality, and therein remains identical with itself, and, in its complete externalization and opposite, possesses the certainty of itself: it is God manifested in the midst of those who know themselves in the form of pure knowledge." Tr. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Clarendon, p. 409).



ever clearer now that the love of friendship is flawed in its very nature. In the Tasso we have heard Antonio warn the poet of the "abysses" that lie on every side of us, "the deepest being within our hearts," all dug for us by destiny. These lines are strangely reminiscent of words thatjacobi wrote to Hamann on the subject of Woldemar at the very beginning of their correspondence. What he said then was that his intention was to pursue Woldemar to his grave and "show in the noblest philosophy known to him the great hole [Loch] that he [i.e. Jacobi] has himself discovered in it," namely that "we may act as we wish; we still remain passive beings incapable of giving anything to ourselves. It may indeed be the case that we bring forth our ideas, as ideas, on our own strength; yet we cannot have ideas that are not representations, and hence would not imply passivity. Thus all that we have, including our consciousness, we hold on loan. I cannot make my being, my substance, other than it is; and all its accidental traits come to it from outside. . . . It is therefore false [to say] that our happiness depends, not on circumstances, but on our self alone."43 Jacobi then concludes by confiding to Hamann: "I cannot tell you, dearest Hamann, what came upon me when I became aware of this hole; suffice it now to say that I saw a horrendous abyss before me. . . . Everything finite engenders death and finally extirpates the very picture of divinity."44 Exactly what is the nature of this abyss thatjacobi so much dreads? It is here that the figure of the Herzensmensch and the world of Spinoza, which confronted Jacobi together at the time of his first encounter with Goethe, begin to merge conceptually. There is no doubt that, in the context of Jacobi's letter to Hamann, by "the noblest philosophy known to him" Jacobi meant the moral attitude that Woldemar personifies—i.e. the attitude of total reliance on the creative energy of one's own being. But Jacobi was to use equivalent praises for the philosophy of the Benedictus, the blessed Spinoza, whose vision of reality was obsessed by the presence of God overflowing from everywhere. In both cases, whether in Woldemar's subjective experience or in Spinoza's objective vision, what elicited Jacobi's enthusiasm was the fullness of existence to which witness was being given. But the witness is in both cases ambiguous, for the very plenitude of existence that makes for Woldemar's creativity and Spinoza's religiosity also conspires to undermine the individuality of the carrier of that existence. Woldemar's radical individ43. 16 June 1783, Briefwechsel, 1.3, #908, p. 164. 44. Ibid.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

ualism is the feature of his being that makes him a fascinating character, just as individuation in general, so far as Jacobi was concerned, is what makes existence ultimately significant. And precisely this moment of individuation is lost in the plenitude of existence that both Woldemar and Spinoza celebrate. In that fullness the individual can only stand for finitude, and that means "death" and the extirpation, finally, of "the very picture of divinity." This is the "abyss" that confronted Jacobi in the figure of his Woldemar, just as it had confronted every other Sturm und Drang protagonist in the figure of their Herzensmensch. At the philosophical level it had been relatively easy for Jacobi to deal with it simply by refusing to accept Spinoza's system of concepts. But how was he to deal with it in Woldemar? Jacobi could not kill off the character Woldemar, both because Woldemar obviously was too close to him personally and because he apparently earnestly believed that the character represented reality as it truly was. Within the cultural and intellectual context of his time, the options open to him were limited. One could accept as a fact of human existence that individuality is a mere epiphenomenon, yet stand by the beauty and worth of the individual despite its being destined from birth to destruction. This was Goethe's reaction—his Promethean Spinozism—which, in the play Tasso, we still see reflected in Torquato's concluding words to Antonio: I now throw both my arms around you. Thus The helmsman at the very last clings to The rock on which he was about to founder.

Antonio, who stands for objective reality, is the rock that destroys but also saves. This picture may at first appear to convey the same interplay of pessimism and optimism that we also find at the end of the Woldemar. But the two conclusions are radically different in spirit. Tasso's stance is heroic. Like the Prometheus of Goethe's poem, Tasso will henceforth "enjoy" the reality held out to him by Antonio and "rejoice" in it, knowing full well, however, that this same reality also means his end as the poet-creator. In "enjoying and rejoicing," he will also "suffer and weep."45 Not so Woldemar. His socialization is a much more positive event. It establishes the possibility of a new outpouring of creative power now that the tendency for destruction inherent in him as an individual 45. See the final lines of the Prometheus.



is held in check (however precariously perhaps) by social bonds. The Woldemar is, at the end, not an epitaph of the Herzensmensch but a eulogy.46 Another option available would have been to adopt Herder's reformed Spinozism, which promised to be much more positive with respect to individual reality than Spinoza's pantheism was. In Herder's Christianized pantheism the individual no longer has merely negative value because, on the contrary, it is only through the work of such radically individual entities as cultures, languages, and political structures that God is realized. In the Woldemar Jacobi comes dangerously close to this pantheism with his talk about a moral energy in man that works itself out in him for the good of all, or with his expressions of hope (put in the mouth of Woldemar) that in the future humanity will reach a higher level of moral sensibility. He had already come close to it in the David Hume when he denned reason as a higher form of sense-consciousness.47 It is clear that this option was not open to Jacobi either. In the first place, as long as individuals are used as carriers for a purpose that transcends them as individuals (in Herder's case, for the realization of God), their individuality is not seriously being respected. Jacobi would have objected that to be swept away by the march of historical progress is no better fate for man than to be pitted against the gods (in the manner of Goethe's Promethean Spinozism) in a battle that he is bound to lose. There was, moreover, Jacobi's resistance to the idea that anything perfect could come out of the imperfect, especially if the imperfect, as in this case, meant the dark powers of the unconscious. We are faced again, in the Woldemar as in the Allwill, by the paradox of Jacobi—the great advocate of the primacy of feelings over the concept, of immediate over reflective experience—recoiling in dread before the unpredictable potentialities of the unconscious. This paradox runs through Jacobi's 46. I owe to Wegenast's already cited book, Holderlins Spinoza-Rezeption, und ihre Bedeutungfur die Konzeption des "Hyperion," the insight that throughout Goethe's classic Bildungsroman, Wilhelm Meisters Lehrejahre, an ironic light is cast on the central character's attempt at denning a social personality for himself. The attempt is bound to fail because individuality is only an appearance, and ultimately humans can only play at being "somebody," never actually be one. (See pp. 25off.) For Holderlin too the individual is only an appearance. But in the Hyperion, which is also a type of Bildungsroman, salvation rests in the wisdom finally achieved by the narrator upon recognizing that the universal is the truth of the individual and that the latter is only realized, therefore, by merging into it. 47. See above, pp. 95, 100.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

thought at all levels. In principle, at least, it makes for an intellectually interesting and fruitful tension of opposite tendencies, just as his image of the "abyss in the human heart" at the time of the first conception of Woldemar made for interesting poetic and psychological possibilities. But one has reason to wonder how much, by 1794, the paradox had given way to a plain confusion of language and how much this confusion limited Jacobi's intellectual options. For it is clear that by "feeling" Jacobi now only means a highly refined emotion, nothing obviously connected with nature or with feelings as normally understood but something in the context of emotional life more analogous to the very abstractions that Jacobi had decried with respect to intellectual life. As for the "abyss" of which Jacobi once spoke, in 1794 he has his Woldemar say what its nature was: "He [Woldemar] searched through every fold of his being> and soon he discovered, to his shame and remorse, that he no longer could consider himself pure in the very place where he had so considered himself. He shuddered before the abyss, at the verge of which he still stood— before the depth of his heartl"4® And in a letter to Claudius, Jacobi glossed: "There lies deep in all men a shame of their animal nature, and / have always found that those who least partake of "cold blood"4^ are the ones most inclined to be ashamed of it. Ask yourself, ask every well-disposed man, whether upon love's first prompting the thought of sensual desire could come near him—whether any such thought would not be loathsome to him? Here is where the enmity between the spirit and the flesh manifests itself most openly—where the two are accustomed to engage in their greatest battle later."50 So the flaw in Woldemar's character that had jeopardized his friendship with Henriette was due to his animal nature, and the battle that raged within him had been one between the spirit and the flesh. The stake all along had been Woldemar's purity of heart. Jacobi's puritanical religiosity thus seems to win the day. The tension in the Herzensmensch between the creative and the dispersive tendency of his being, Spinoza's sublime intoxication with the divine, despite its power to consume the individual—all this is reduced in Jacobi's mind to the classical moral trope of a contest for man's heart between the spirit and the flesh. This result is indeed surprising, for it brings back into play that very dualistic view of human nature that the Sturm und Drang movement and the pantheistic aspirations that gripped German culture 48. 1820 ed., p. 481. 49. I take this to mean, more prone to sensual desires. 50. 12 April 1794, Auserksener Briefwechsel, Vol. n, #228, p. 163.



in the second half of the eighteenth century were resolved to overcome. It undoubtedly is, however, the final result to be gathered from the Woldemar of 1794. And on this basis we can also finally determine on whatjacobi pinned his social faith. For if it is the case that human nature is a mixture of such ex hypothesi heterogeneous elements as the flesh and the spirit, and if it is the flesh that leads to destruction, then if there is to be any hope for man's salvation, it must be based on the belief that, however intermingled with the flesh the spirit might be, the spirit still retains even in man a vestige of its suprahuman character. It is on this more-than-human element in man thatjacobi pins his social faith. As he was to say to Fichte only a few years after the Woldemar. "As surely as I possess reason, just as surely I do not possess with this human reason of mine the perfection of life, not the fullness of the good and the true. And as surely as I do not possess all this with it, and know it, just as certainly do I know that there is a higher being, and that I have my origin in Him. My solution too, therefore, and that of my reason is not the /, but the "More than I"! the "Better than I"!—Someone entirely Other."51 These words are an echo of Woldemar's: Woldemar now related to his friends how he had once become profoundly preoccupied, to the point of melancholy, with the question: What does the human spirit actually strivefor with its striving for virtue? What does it truly and solely aim at by being directed to this object truly and solely? [. . .] I was terrified, Woldemar said, by the darkness and emptiness that arose in, and all around me. I anxiously stretched both my arms out, to see whether I could still grasp something that would restore a feeling of actuality and being to me. And it happened to me as in Buffon's beautiful poem, the "First Man," where the protagonist, overpowered by slumber, had feared to possess only an accidental and transitory consciousness, no life of his own. . . . Then, as he awoke, found himself twice over. . . . Astonished he cried out: I! ... Delighted he cried out: More than I! ... Better than I! ... All my life flows in there!52

It is the transcendent presence of God in man—the "better than I"—that guarantees the actuality of the distinction between the "I" and the "Other" and the solidity of the bond connecting the two. In the words of Dorenburg, with which he puts a final touch to a collage of freely interpreted Aristotelian texts: 51. See below, Jacobi to Fichte, p. 30 of Jacobi's text. 52. Jacobi reproduces the whole passage in an appendix to his letter to Fichte. See below, pp. 10 iff. of Jacobi's text.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

Whoever believes in friendship necessarily believes in virtue too—in a faculty of the Divine in man; and [. . .] whoever does not believe in such a faculty or in virtue cannot possibly believe in true friendship. For both are grounded on the one and the same disposition towards disinterested, free, immediate, and hence immutable love. And this love must be all-powerful in man—not because of its preponderance, in the way one desire overcomes another, but because of its nature, which is otherworldly [literally: "supra-earthly"].53

As of 1794, while one of the most radical social experiments ever recorded in history was taking place just across the Rhine from Pempelfort, Jacobi was pinning his social faith on the transcendent power of the divine in man. 5. Sophie Stolberg found the "most pregnant formula" (as Frida David puts it) to capture the spirit of Woldemar: "Words cannot say how much your Woldemar touched my heart [she wrote to Jacobi]. Yea, how much is the whole man, in his greatness and his wretchedness, just this: the body from earth and the spirit in the image of God."54 Her statement about human nature certainly reflects Jacobi's view. However, it would be a mistake to take it as an expression of Augustinian dualism.55 There is nothing Christian, let alone Augustinian, about Jacobi's religiosity. 53. 1820 ed., p. 444. 54. Letter of 11 February 1794, in Rudolf Zoeppritz, ed., Aus F. H. Jacobi's Nachlafl: Ungedruckte Brief von und an Jacobi und andere, 2 Vols. (Leipzig: Engelman, 1869), Vol. I, #53, p. 174 (see Frida David, p. 194). The roman was a great success with the public (see Frida David, p. 195). Friedrich Schlegel's review of the 1796 edition amounted to a scathing attack (Deutschland, 111.8 [ 1796]: 185-213). Schlegel accused Jacobi of "hatred of reason" (e.g. pp. 188, 205). He also complained about the roman?, lack of artistic unity, which was due, according to him, to a contradiction inherent in the Woldemar-Henriette-Allwina relationship. Schlegel could not understand how Woldemar was to unite within himself his idealistic love for Henriette with his sensual desires for Allwina. Woldemar's pampered heart might indeed desire "to love a woman as if she were a man, and to be loved by a [surrogate male] friend with womanly care and adoration." But so far as Schlegel was concerned, there was nothing particularly noble about this desire. On the contrary, it imposed impossible burdens on the women it implicated, in effect requiring them to destroy part of their personality (190-91). Schlegel concludes by claiming that there is something immoral about Jacobi's philosophy, because it ultimately subjugates virtue to religion; it denies limits (208-09). Whereas morality begins with a categorical imperative, Jacobi's philosophy begins with a categorical "optative"—with a decision motivated by an individual desire; this desire is thus given universal value (210). Jacobi has in fact identified "humanity as it is" with "Heinrich-Jacobiness as it is" (201). The Woldemar is, according to Schlegel, a theological work of art (213). 55. As Frida David does.



And it was Sophie's husband, the Count Stolberg, who brought this point out into the open—though in a context, and in such a way, that indirectly cast doubt on the genuiness of the count's Christianity as well. The occasion for the Stolberg-Jacobi exchange here at issue was not the Woldemar but a work by the count himself, and the point in dispute the relative merit of Christian versus pagan mysticism as pathways to God. As one might expect, Jacobi had a low opinion of the virtues of the visible church56 and hardly gave tuppence for a virtue motivated by the church's promise of eternal life.57 He held, on the contrary, that "all theologies are equally true according to their mystical side, and equally false in all other respects."58 And he quoted a historical authority of the time to the effect that mystical theology is not the property of any special age or area or culture but is to be found anywhere and at any time, patently rooted in a disposition of the soul common to all men.59 True Christianity does not consists in the power of any particular event such as Christ's resurrection but in the power of a "continuous miracle that everybody can experience." Jacobi elaborated: "In a word: only He who works wonders is God: the rest is nature."60 So far as Jacobi was concerned, the philosophies of Socrates or Aristotle were much more eloquent witnesses to this miracle than the sacred events of official Christian history. Stolberg, in reply, reproved Jacobi precisely for relying on the witness of the ancient philosophers rather than on the power of Christ's resurrection, which alone, as he believed, could save. He pleaded long and eloquently, and as a parting remark said of the Woldemar. "After what has been said you can easily imagine what it is that I miss in your Woldemar, which is otherwise so rich in marvellous passages. I miss the warm, lifegiving breath of Christianity. Why is this society of excellent people, full of spirit and love, who think with such depth, and feel with such purity, such sublimity and refinement—why is this society restricted to Aristotle?"61 Now, the count's reaction to Jacobi's Woldemar was just as predictable as that of Jacobi to the count's apology for Christianity. But the most interesting point in the whole exchange was the count's obvious sense of 56. 57. 58. 59. 60. 61.

Letter of 26 January 1794, Auserlesener Briefwechsel, Vol. n, #226, p. 144. Ibid. Ibid., p. 146. Ibid., p. 145. Ibid., p. 147. Letter of 9 February 1794, Auserlesener Briefwechsel, Vol. 11, #227, pp. 159-60.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

vulnerability before Jacobi, his fear of giving the impression of being too much of a materialist—too concerned with the afterlife and everlasting happiness and, most of all, too tied down to contingent historical events.62 To Jacobi he felt obliged to protest that in fact he was himself an "arch-mystic," and the whole of Christianity a form of mysticism. "Our whole religion is mysticism," he wrote; "take this away, and the religion falls apart."63 Shortly before this protestation, he had claimed: "Historical faith could not be elicited without mysticism. It is required by God because God promised help to those who seek. If the Christians and their teachers do not accept mysticism, that is not the fault of the Bible."64 The interesting point in the passage is not Stolberg's insistence on the mystical aspect of Christianity (which nobody would deny) but his need to subordinate the historicity of the Christian faith to its mysticism—as if this historicity were not, after all, essential to that faith. Still at issue was the scandal that Christianity's promise of eternal salvation based on the contingency of a historical event gave to the philosopher of the Enlightenment. And Stolberg's attempt at presenting it to suit Jacobi's prejudices—whatever it said about the Christianity of his faith, which is not our concern here—said even more about Jacobi's. The champion of the historical fact over reflective representation, the apologist of the "exception," could not countenance the possibility that human salvation could be sought anywhere except in a subjective intuition of the truth that somehow raised the individual above the contingencies of space and time. In this Jacobi showed himself to be still not so different from the typical Aufklarer, who also preached about the need to base all knowledge on empirical evidence yet thought of reason as a light that shines from above the contingencies of history and potentially illumines all men equally. In fact Jacobi's mysticism appeared to be the direct counterpart of the Aufklarer's rationalism. They both functioned within the presumed economy of moral life in the same way, the only difference being that, according to Jacobi's version, the mystical apprehension of truth does not subject the latter to the limitations of reflection. A negative claim does not, however, amount to a positive characterization, and so long as Jacobi failed to offer a positive remedy for the alleged inability 62. Letter of 9 February 1794, p. 159. 63. Ibid., p. 159. 64. Ibid., p. 154.



of Enlightenment reason to deal with the particular, he still could not claim to have escaped the conceptual framework that he was criticizing. At the time of the publication of the final versions of the Woldemar and the Allwill, the reason of the Enlightenment was showing its destructive power across the Rhine from Jacobi. One wonders how much it would have helped to stem the destruction if, in place of that reason, people had simply enthroned the claims of Jacobi's mysticism. From the literary evidence as well it transpires, therefore, that Jacobi's faith is that of a philosopher—the kind of faith that Jacobi requires because he has unwittingly been in collusion all along with the philosophy that he set out to criticize. What appears even more clearly is that the faith in question is not just the faith of a philosopher but, more specifically, the faith of a philosopher of the Enlightenment.


The Last Word: Jacobi onjacobi

True friendship is as certain as that God is truthful. And it has and maintains its existence in the heart of man, just as religion also has and maintains its existence there. It is the same faith that generates both, and the same power of faith that gives them constancy. Jacobi1 The dawn of the bel esprit [das Gdstreich] has charm, because it glows with the light of the Idea. But when the light of Reason shines, it loses this merit and, before that light, takes on the property of darkness. Hegel2 1. Was gebieten Ehre, Sittlichkeit und Recht in Absicht vertraulicher Briefe von Verstorbenen und noch Lebenden ? Eine Gelegenheitschrift von Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi (What Do Honour, Morality, and Law Command Regarding Letters of [People] Dead or Still Alive ? An Occasional Writing by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi; Leipzig: Goschen, 1806). The occasion for this piece was Jacobi's fruitless attempt to retrieve his correspondence with Gleim from the executor of Gleim's estate after his death. Jacobi complains bitterly about the common practice in Germany of publishing letters of friends as soon as one of them has died for the sake of making money and/or gaining reputation as an editor. Jacobi considers this practice an invasion of privacy and a breach of trust. It can also be an attack on still extant bonds of friendship, for often one says things between friends about a third party, also a friend, that one would not want that party to hear. All this is, according to Jacobi, sacrilegious, because friendship is a witness to God's presence in us. Jacobi argues that even letters between strangers ought not to be published without the permission of all the parties implicated, and he enlarges his argument to claim that the practice of many of relating things they have heard or seen in the households of others in their travels is also an invasion of privacy. Jacobi praises the French for being very sensitive to this issue and for having established strict laws protecting privacy. "'Thou shalt not gossip!' Thus the universal, unconditional prescript," proclaims Jacobi. The piece consists of a twenty-four-page statement by Jacobi, followed by his correspondence with Wilhelm Korte (Gleim's executor), complete with notes and comments. 2. G. F. W. Hegel, "Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi's Werke," Heidelbergische Jahrbiicher der Litteratur, x.i (1817): 1-32, p. 25.



He [Hegel] may well be right, and I would dearly love to undertake with him, once more, a thorough research into what the power of thought can yield by itself, were not the head of the old man too weak for the job. Jacobi3

The final period of Jacobi's life saw, besides the publication of some minor pieces,4 three major undertakings by him—the first, a critique of Kant's Transcendental Idealism;5 the second, an attack on Schelling's Philosophy of Nature, which, as we have seen, sparked the "pantheism controversy"; and the third, the overseeing of Friedrich Roth's and Friedrich Koppen's edition of his collected works. In the first two Jacobi tried to show how the critique of philosophy with which he had made his debut as a polemicist at the time of the Spinoza Letters also applied to the various forms of idealism that had since crowded the philosophical scene—indeed, how the very advent of this new idealism vindicated the validity of that critique. In the third, notably in a new preface to the David Hume that he also declared an introduction to his whole philosophical opus, Jacobi took stock of his philosophical authorship in order to spell out for the public in which respects it had been animated throughout by a single conviction despite the change in some of his ideas over the years.6 3. Letter tojohann Neeb, 30 May 1817, Auserlesener Briefwechsel, Vol. n, #360, p. 468. 4. Notable among them "Uber eine Weissagung Lichtenbergs" ("Concerning a Prophecy by Lichtenberg," Taschenbuch fur das Jahr 1802, ed. Johann Georg Jacobi [Hamburg: Perthes, 1802], pp. 3-46), and Ubergelehrte Gesellschaften, ihren Geist und Zweck (Concerning Learned Societies, Their Spirit and Goal; Leipzig: Goschen, 1806). This latter was" the text of Jacobi's lecture delivered at the festive inauguration of the re-established Academy of the Sciences at Munich, to which Jacobi was appointed as first president. The other was Jacobi's reaction to an essay by Lichtenberg (published in Part i of his Vermischte Schriften [Gottingen: 1800], in which it is said, according to Jacobi, that some day "our world will become so fine, that it will be just as laughable to believe in God as it is now to believe in ghosts" (Concerning a Prophecy, p. 3 of the 1811 ed.). Jacobi replied with a prophecy of his own—namely, that "after a little while yet the world will become finer still. And the supreme height in refinement will then swiftly come about. At its peak, the sages'judgment will reverse itself; for one final time knowledge will undergo change. Then—and that will be the end—then shall we believe in nothing but ghosts. We shall ourselves be like God. We shall know that being and substance everywhere are, and can only be, ghosts." The piece was reproduced in the first forty pages of Of Divine Things and Their Revelation (1811), obviously as a parody of Schelling, whom Jacobi was accusing of deriving reality from the "Nothing." For the cited passage, see Of Divine Things (1811), pp. 3-4. 5. "On Critique's Attempt to Reduce Reason to Understanding" (1802). The final part of this essay (as indicated in the text) was composed by Koppen. 6. A translation of this Introduction is included in this volume.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

In his Kant critique Jacobi exhibited the same sharpness of insight and polemical flair that had caught the public's imagination thirty-five years before, at the time of his Spinoza critique. Hegel praised the critique in his review of the third volume of Jacobi's collected works for treating its subject "dialectically."7 Shorn of Jacobi's metaphorical language and reduced to its essentials, the critique directed a two-pronged attack at Kant. On the one side Jacobi argued that Kant had tried to establish the possibility of synthetic a priori judgments on the assumption of an object (= x) and a subject (= x) that we ex hypothesi cannot know but upon which the system of experience based on the said judgments none the less depends. There is, however, a contradiction in this attempt according to Jacobi, for although the assumed subject and object are factors that ex hypothesi fall outside the system of the a priori judgments to be validated, they can only be defined in terms of concepts and distinctions that have meaning exclusively inside that system. The possibility cannot be discounted that, in the eye of a hypothetical observer capable of escaping the limits of the system, those assumptions might appear totally unjustified, and the system based upon them nothing, therefore, but a web of illusions. But so long as this possibility cannot be discounted, Kant's transcendental assumptions remain question-begging hypotheses, and the task of establishing the possibility of a priori synthetic judgments is thus unfulfilled. 8 Pursuing this line of attack, Jacobi found also fault with the function attributed in Kant's Transcendental Idealism to reason. For it is the task of reason to enshrine in ideas the very extra-systemic conditions that make Kant's system of experience possible. But, ex hypothesi, reason has no knowledge of these conditions. Its ideas must remain, therefore, empty conceptual constructions that maintain their meaning and value only to the extent that the understanding requires them to carry out its task of systematizing its knowledge of experience. To this extent, reason is totally subordinated to the understanding. Yet the understanding needs reason, and to the extent that reason does satisfy this need with its ideas, it cannot help creating the illusion that, through them, it yields genuine cognition—that, logically, its conceptions are therefore prior to those of the understanding. Jacobi objected to this strange requirement (which he found contradictory) thus being forced on reason: that it should generate illusions for the sake of discharging its systematizing function yet 7. "Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi's Werke," p. 12. 8. See pp. 85-91 (I am citing from the Werke edition, vol. in).



recognize that, though unavoidable, these illusions are nothing but that. As Jacobi summed up his point in the introduction to the essay: "[In Transcendental Idealism] Reason has a right to look for the unconditional in the things in themselves. It cannot, however, make its right good, because the understanding, for its part, impedes the upholding of reason's entire demand with true and actual right. Because of this better legitimized demand, reason's claims are, when viewed in the light [of the understanding], dialectical. Yet reason is necessitated to make its demands; it has the right to be dialectical and has [thus] a right to be wrong."9 This, in brief, constituted one side ofjacobi's attack. The other was directed at the interior of the system, at the work of the understanding itself. Since, on Kant's transcendental terms, the adcequatio rei (i.e. object = x) et intellectus (i.e. subject = x) could not in principle ever be established, the issue of a priori synthetic judgments resolved itself into a problem of establishing the possibility of an a priori synthesis between thought and sensation. However, as conceived of by Kant, these two components of the mind were so disparate in kind that, according to Jacobi, no antithesis between the two could ever be established. There was no common ground upon which they could even conflict and therefore no possibility either that the antithesis could be overcome and replaced by a genuine synthesis.10 More specifically, Jacobi's objections add up to two major aporias that can be reconstructed as follows: ( i ) Let it be granted Kant, for the sake of argument, that thought is as such a purely reflective activity and sensation an amorphous event entirely void of reference or meaning—that the two, though for directly opposite reasons, are totally indeterminate. But how is it then possible— Jacobi asks—for two such indeterminate sources as pure thought and raw sensation to produce together a determinate object of experience? For such an object requires, on the one hand, a suitably determinate category of thought and, on the other, an appropriately determinate material to be subsumed under it (a schema of the imagination). But how did Kant ever derive from his original indeterminate sources either the required categorial determination or the required schema of the imagina9. P. 81; see pp. 100-01, 115. In the translated passage Jacobi is using "dialectical" in its traditional meaning. Yet if we were to consider reason's position of having to uphold two conflicting "rights" at once as having a possible positive result, we would have a "dialectic" in the sense developed by Hegel in his Jena period, shortly after the publication ofjacobi's essay. 10. See pp. 122-23, ! 34-35. 107-08. I am reconstructing Jacobi's argument.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

tion? On Kant's stated terms, the only possible ground connecting thought and sensation is the empty copula "is"—an endlessly repeated "is, is, is . . ."—to which any determination can indeed be affixed, but not any in particular.11 (2) Let it be granted Kant, again for the sake of argument, that the pure intuitions of space and time intervene between thought and sensation to yield the basic delimination of determinate objects of experience. Leave aside such questions (which Jacobi actually raises) as How is it possible for an intuition to be, as Kant claims of space and time, both pure and sensible, intuition and object of intuition? 12 The problem still remains how space and time themselves are to be determined in the first place, for they too are indeterminate.13 In the case of space, since it in principle contains the determinations of all possible material objects, the problem is to determine where to make a starting-point in the process of introducing limits.14 In the case of time, the problem is the when to make a starting-point, for time is in principle the end of all objects; the difficulty lies, therefore, in holding on to enough of a "now" to be able to introduce distinctions between a "past" and a "future."15 Jacobi expounds these aporias in different ways. The only apparent solution he can find in Kant, however, is an appeal to the secret art of a supposed transcendental imagination that, spanning pure thought and raw sensations, manages to generate determinate objects out of the two.l6 But this, according to Jacobi, is no solution at all. It is rather a begging of the very question of the possibility of a priori synthetic judgments that Kant's Critique was supposed to answer. For even on the assumption of a transcendental imagination, the question still remains how this faculty is to perform its feat of synthesis, and to this question Kant has no answer. Moreover, the question cannot in principle be answered by a reflective examination of the workings of the assumed imagination because such workings are self-conscious, and hence open to inspection, only to the extent that they are directed to determinate objects, i.e. to the extent that the transcendental imagination has already performed the synthesis to be explained. Thus, to engage in such an examination 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16.

See pp. See pp. See pp. See pp. See pp. See pp.

125, nsff., i22ff. 77-79i22ff. 134-35136-39. 95, 97, 115**"., n8ff., 126, 135, 150, 154^



would be tantamount to trying to transcend the limits of consciousness while still remaining within them. The truth, according to Jacobi, is that Kant has never resolved his problem. Implicit throughout Jacobi's analysis is that Kant has rather assumed synthetic a priori judgments and has reduced them to abstract components from which they cannot be reconstructed. The parallel between this critique of Kant's Transcendental Idealism and the one that Jacobi had directed at Spinoza's rationalism almost two decades earlier is obvious. At issue in both cases is the possibility of determinate objects; and Jacobi's claim, also in both cases, is that no such possibility can ever be established on the basis of abstractions. The name of Spinoza was explicitly connected by Jacobi with that of Kant, however, only in the second of his three final major undertakings—in the essay Of Divine Things and Their Revelation (1811), which was intended as a critique of Schelling's recent "System of Identity" and of the new Philosophy of Nature connected with it. Jacobi had begun writing the essay over ten years before and had originally intended it as a review of volume 6 of the collected works of the Messenger from Wandsbeck.1? Evidence of this earlier purpose can still be seen in the first part, which consists of a discussion (based mostly on classical sources and reminiscent of similar discussions in Woldemar) of the origin of morality—whether morality is to be based on virtue of the soul alone, or on natural happiness, or on a combination of the two. Jacobi concludes this part by distinguishing two possible extreme positions that one can assume on the subject, by defining virtue as exclusively a product of the inner determination of the soul (this is the position of the "party of total inwardness") or as exclusively the result of tendencies originating outside spirit in nature (the position of the "party of total externality") respectively. Jacobi himself professes to uphold a position between the two (pp. 338-39), which he explains in a discussion that begins as apparently another attempt to come to terms with Kant, although it eventually turns into a critique of Schelling's Philosophy of Nature. As we shall see, the discussion will leave many points unclarified, including, ultimately, Jacobi's own position. It is clear, however, that Jacobi now holds that there are two immediate sources of knowledge—one, the 17. I.e. Claudius (see p. 206 of the David Hume, and the note on Asmus). For the history of Of Divine Things and Their Revelation, see Jacobi's preface to the first edition, pp. 257ff. of the Werke in, from which I shall be citing.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

senses, from which we derive our knowledge of the external world through the intermediary of the understanding; the other, now identified as "reason," from which we directly draw our knowledge of God, the soul, and freedom (see pp. 395ff., 400, 434-35). It is also clear that Jacobi wants both to praise Kant and to criticize him. He praises him on several accounts. Kant unequivocally declared that a true God must have personality (see pp. 341-44). He also acknowledged in practice, despite his official statements to the contrary, that we have an immediate knowledge of God, freedom, and immortality, and recognized that such knowledge cannot be achieved through merely conceptual means (pp. 363, 435). Finally, just as Jacobi does, Kant tried to respect and harmonize the claims of both a reason intent on God and an understanding attentive to the senses (see pp. 351—52). But Jacobi's criticisms outweigh these praises. Kant ultimately undermined his own insights and, as witness the German philosophical scene since the publication of the Critique, thereby unwittingly encouraged the perpetration of some of the most extravagant philosophical experiments ever. For one thing, he invited Fichte's "ideal materialism" with his claim that the mind only knows what it constructs—a claim that, coupled with the failure to provide a clearly unified principle for his system, quite naturally led to an attempt to make the self s creativity the principle of all objects, nature included (pp. 354ff.). Moreover, Kant failed to reconcile the opposite tendencies of reason and understanding positively, as Jacobi, presumably, thought of himself as having done. Kant rather tried to prevent conflict negatively by restricting the claims of both—in effect denying the possibility of any truth inasmuch as, on the one hand, he reduced reason's intuitive knowledge of God to the reflective possession of a mere idea of God, and, on the other, he reduced understanding's sense-bound knowledge of nature to the apprehension of mere appearances. In this way Kant hid from himself reason's immediate knowledge of the divine, which his system, positively understood, required (see pp. 369-72). And he thereby also let loose on the philosophical landscape the second of his monstrous offspring, the Philosophy of Nature. To understand how this came about one must enquire, according to Jacobi, into the motive that confined Kant to a purely negative harmonization of the claims of reason and the understanding. Kant's system was motivated by the desire, explicitly recognized by Kant, according to Jacobi, to serve "the interests of science"—where by "science" Kant meant first and foremost a cognition of the understanding directed at the objects of the senses. But despite its earth-bound nature, the under-



standing cannot help falling (again, according to Jacobi) under the influence of the higher faculty of reason. Specifically, the understanding is caught up in reason's desire—motivated in reason by its immediate knowledge of a transcendent divinity—to behold all things under a single principle. Since this desire can only be satisfied by transcending the realm of the senses, yet the understanding is neither capable of performing this feat on its own nor willing to admit its limitation, the understanding seeks to substitute for the knowledge it requires ideas that, though they ape the universality of the things of God as immediately beholden by reason, are in fact drawn from the things of the senses. They are empty abstractions, in other words, and the result of trying to subjugate the whole of existence to their control is to drive away from our world the possibility of freedom and personality, the very things that reason beholds intuitively and that secretly motivate the dynamics of the human mind. Thus was born the myth of worlds emerging from, and eventually returning to, an original chaos—of minds being driven by a mindless unconscious while yet nurturing the illusion of being in conscious control of their own existence (see pp. 372—94). This surreptitious attempt to satisfy the demands of reason with abstractions of the understanding is, according to Jacobi, the great deception that the science of nature perpetrates when it usurps the role of wisdom. It is a deception, according tojacobi's reading of history, as old as philosophy itself. It was practised in ancient times by the cosmologists whom both Plato and Aristotle criticized, and it never altogether ceased to attract adepts. Within the tradition of dogmatic metaphysics it was given its latest and most sophisticated expression by Spinoza. Kant gave the impression of having put an end to it by exposing the empty claims of that kind of metaphysics. But in fact he paved the way for its revival by way of Fichte's idealism. Just how this happened Jacobi explains in a supplement to his essay.18 Spinoza's great philosophical "deed" was to distinguish extended substance from thinking substance absolutely without, however, separating the two. With this innovative deed he founded his system, which—Jacobi claims—is "in truth one and the same as the most recent system of object-subjectivity, or the system of the absolute identity of being and consciousness" (p. 429). And Jacobi continues: [For Spinoza] spirit and body [. . .] constitute together one and the same substance in the most stringent of senses; spirit is nothing different from, or nothing 18. Supplement A.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

more than, the soul of a body [ . . . ] . In no way, therefore, can Spinoza's extended substance be viewed as a material to which the thinking substance imparts form—as in Plato, for whom the soul is cause and comes, in principle, first. For Spinoza extended substance is all that there is of objective being (formal being, in his way of speaking), of substantial and efficient being; it is the true real. Thinking substance, by contrast, is only a representation in conformance to extended substance. However sharp is Spinoza's [. . .] distinction of spiritual from corporeal being, his doctrine is, therefore, in truth materialistic throughout, for, despite its independence from extended substance, thinking substance has no other object of representation and thought except that very extended substance, (p. 431)

The only way of deflating this full-blown materialism is to deny the reality of extended substance. And this, according to Jacobi, is what Malebranche, Leibniz, and Berkeley tried (pp. 431-32). But then Kant came along, and he established for thinking substance what his predecessors had demonstrated regarding the extended, namely that, as substantial being, it can only be considered an appearance. The cogito, now transposed to predicate, could no longer voice its ergo; it lost the sum and, with it, reality in general. Thus it is that our Kant, quite unintentionally, founded a second Spinozism [. . .]. The older system [could be] characterized with the name of material idealism; the new, with the name of ideal materialism, (p. 432)

Ultimately Kant's false move was the denial that we can have knowledge of the mind as an independent substance. He had reduced it to a series of events that, since they do not originate in a cognizable real source of activity, depend for their determinate unity and objective content, just as in Spinoza's system, on the world of extended reality. In this sense Kant's system was, in Jacobi's view, thoroughly materialistic. Thought must comply of course with its own reflective requirements, which are totally independent of the requirements of extended reality, as both Kant and Spinoza recognized. Capitalizing on these logical requirements, Fichte had indeed tried to construct a purely idealistic system, in which the limits of the real world are defined a priori as satisfying those requirements. But this meant identifying the living God, i.e., according to Jacobi, the transcendent author of cosmic order, with this order itself. And the moral consequence of this move was that a subject of activity would have to attend to the details of the world of the senses, which are ex hypothesi bound by strict necessity, while at the same time entertaining the inner belief that in so doing he or she was in fact working



in the cause of God and freedom. The move meant, in effect, a practical materialism.19 Schelling, according tojacobi, simply unmasked this materialism thus implicit in all idealism by declaring the absolute identity of subject and object—by proclaiming once again, as Spinoza had already done, that, though distinct from it, the world of thought does not transcend that of extension.20 This, in brief, is howjacobi summed up the logic behind the development of philosophical ideas in Germany since Kant's Critique, in that turbulent period of intellectual history where new systems replaced one another at such a speed that, as Jacobi said citing an Italian proverb, "una meraviglia dura tre giorni."21 The fact that Schelling explicitly referred to Spinoza as the precursor of his System of Identity bolstered in Jacobi's mind his claim that he had nothing substantial to alter in the critique of philosophy that he had launched at the time of the Spinoza Letters. There had, however, been at least one change in his critical strategy, and that was his substitution of "reason" for "faith." This change, according to Jacobi, was to be seen more precisely as a correction. A footnote to the new edition of the David Hume in the second volume of his Collected Works22 explains why he had previously used the inappropriate term "faith," thereby giving rise to false charges of irrationalism. Like many philosophers new and old since Aristotle, he had previously failed to distinguish between "reason" and "understanding," i.e. between an intellectual power that is directed at the things that transcend the world of senses and has traditionally been known as reason, and the same power inasmuch as it is exclusively concerned with the theoretical and practical control of the objects of sense experience. Because of this confusion he had attacked reason, whereas he had intended to criticize pre19. See pp. 345-56. I am elaborating on Jacobi's text. 20. Pp. 347ff., 431. In one of his more humorous moments, Jacobi once wrote to Bouterwek that Schelling's merit had been to provide paper goods for Kant's and Fichte's paper money, thereby setting Transcendental Idealism on a firm economic footing. "The money is 'defined' by the goods; the goods, however, are 'subjected' to the money. Theyjustify and realize one another . . ., both through the intermediary concept of absolute value. This value must somehow dirempt, in an incomprehensible yet necessary, hence rational, manner—so that, under absolute value, goods and money, the sign and the thing, are also made possible as relative value, [the two being indexed] with an infinite plus and an infinite minus, now predominantly with the one, now with the other" Letter of 5 November 1802, Bouterwek Briefwechsel, #4, pp. 34-35. 21. "A wonder lasts three days," p. 347. 22. P. 221, translated below, and entered to p. 123 of the first edition of the dialogue. See also the first pages of the Introduction to the David Hume, included in this translation.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

cisely the reduction of reason to "the understanding." And since he had unwarrantedly distorted the meaning of reason, he had left himself no alternative for expressing the true function of reason except through the use of the term "faith." Hence the confusion thatjacobi had caused and that he now hoped finally to dispel. In fact Jacobi was being too sanguine in his expectations. For a mere terminological confusion could easily have been remedied with a suitable explication of terms. However, the idea behind Jacobi's use of the term "faith" was itself confused; hence this confusion persisted despite Jacobi's substitution of terms. In the essay Of Divine Things it is most obvious in Jacobi's attitude towards the Science of Nature, which is the product of the understanding. Jacobi seems to be saying both: (i) that the Science of Nature, predicated as it is on the assumption that every event is mechanistically determined, 23 is a perfectly legitimate kind of knowledge provided that it remains neutral to the higher claims of reason regarding God and does not try either to prove or disprove that nature is the absolute;24 and (2) that the understanding could not produce a science without being inspired by reason's sense of the absolute, which the understanding, however, translates into abstract, universal principles—i.e. it could not produce a science without in fact denying freedom and personality; its knowledge is therefore essentially deceptive.25 This contradiction is nowhere resolved in Of Divine Things. It reflects an ambivalence in Jacobi's mind regarding the cognitive value of concepts that in turn betrays a confusion regarding the nature of the knowledge to which true reason has access. Jacobi does not say very much specific about this knowledge except that it is intuitive, that it has as its objects (which it apprehends as transcendent) such eternal verities as the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, and that these objects can never be expressed reflectively through concepts.26 Although this knowledge is now attributed by Jacobi to "reason," it does not in any way differ from what Jacobi had previously attributed to "faith." Indeed, like faith this knowledge is more akin to "intimation" and "feeling" than to anything recognizably cognitive. In this respect Jacobi was quite right when he claimed that, despite external changes, his final position on the nature of our knowledge was substantially still the same as his original 23. See pp. 401—02. 24. See pp. 410-11. 25. Pp. 384-85. The point is repeatedly made in different ways in the pages that follow. 26. See Introduction to David Hume, pp. 59-63 of Jacobi's text. The point is repeated throughout the Introduction.



one. But then, the unresolved problem that had plagued him from the beginning and had given rise to the charges of irrationalism had also substantially remained. How can concepts (and any science based on them) yield true knowledge when the truth is ultimately apprehended only by reason and is apprehended by it immediately, in such a way that it cannot be reflectively expressed without thereby being falsified? Jacobi's own friends complained about Jacobi's negative attitude towards science.27 Jacobi responded in his introduction to the Collected Works by reserving for the understanding the function of reflective conceptualization and by stressing the fact that, without this function, and without the understanding's power to synthesize in abstract representations the content of sensations, reason, just like the senses, would have no form and hence no cognition of itself.28 Yet he equally stressed the understanding's innate tendency to naturalism and its consequent atheism. And the question could naturally be asked how, on Jacobi's premises, reason had to be both dependent on the understanding for its form yet naturally exposed to falsification at its hand. In his review of Of Divine Things Friedrich Schlegel (definitely not a friend of Jacobi) had cast doubts on the authenticity of Jacobi's newly established peace with reason. He thought that Jacobi had still not decided whether to treat reason either as Baal or as God. On either choice, Schlegel thought, Jacobi was in difficulty. For if reason was Baal, then reason was the source of naturalism and there was no point in identifying it with divine revelation. If, on the contrary, reason was God, then what could the source of naturalism be? Schlegel, at that time a convert to Catholicism, avoided the difficulty by distinguishing between reason as prior to the Adamic fall and as affected by original sin.2Q Could it be thatJacobi too was labouring under precisely this distinction—that despite his avowed secularism, the understanding and its science were unwittingly still being considered by him the product of sin? One would expect this to be precisely the issue that Jacobi would have taken up in his final major work, his introduction to the Collected Works. Jacobi did nothing of the sort, however. Just as, in a letter to Bouterwek of 1816, he was to declare the union in man of necessity and freedom 27. SeeJ. F. Fries, Von deutscher Philosophic, An, undKunst. Ein Votum fur Friedrich Heinrich JacobigegenF. W.J. Schelling (Heidelberg: Mohrund Zimmer, 1812), pp. 40-49, especially 40-41, 44, 48. 28. See Introduction, pp. 58, no. 29. Deutsches Museum, 1.1 (1812): 79-98, especially pp. 8gff.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

(i.e. of understanding and reason) to be a mystery,30 so he now openly confessed his "incapacity to define in which form the knowledge of freedom and providence that dwells deepest in us [in reason] will present itself (pp. 105-06). He made use more than ever of the pious rhetoric originally displayed in the concluding part of the Spinoza Letters. His main concern was to reassert his epistemological realism and his moral dualism. The text of the original David Hume was duly edited and annotated in order to dispel any misleading impression that he had then thought of reason as continuous with sensibility, and hence an essentially animal faculty.31 Butjacobi had in fact asserted that continuity at the time. To deny it now was to deprive his early philosophy of its most interesting and promising element. And to proclaim a radical dualism of matter and spirit, as Jacobi now was doing, for the sake of denying unequivocally reason's dependence on the senses, was for Jacobi to expose himself, ironically enough, to the very charge of materialism that he now laid against Kantian and post-Kantian idealism. For to the extent that reason's transcendent knowledge was intuitive and reflectively inexpressible—to the extent, in other words, that reason was "Christian" in Jacobi's sense of that epithet—to that extent the understanding and its works had to be pagan. The other side of Jacobi's mysticism of reason was, as in Fichte, a practical materialism with respect to our sensible world. Jacobi apparently did not see this consequence in the introduction to the David Hume of 1815. Yet that work was to be Jacobi's last word on Jacobi himself. How disappointing this last word was can be seen if we remember the philosophical promise implicit in Jacobi's Spinoza Letters and more explicit in the David Hume. To the Enlightenment's manifold and often contradictory aspirations, to its mixture of empiricism and rationalism, of religious faith and secular rationalism, Jacobi had reacted with the idea of a rationality that, though it transcended and encompassed the particularity of the senses, was none the less rooted in the latter. This rationality evolved from the distinctions that individuals, immersed as they were 30. That this union is a mystery was one in a list of theses that Bouterwek had apparently posed to Jacobi in writing, and to which Jacobi had replied by entering a "Yes." The theses were on a sheet included in the letter to Bouterwek of 2 March 1816, Bouterwek Briejwechsel, #30, pp. 170-74. 31. See the alteration made in the 1815 edition of the David Hume to the text on p. 123 of the original edition, and the new note entered by Jacobi.



in their immediate experiences, would begin to draw between themselves and the world around them—first of all in the distinction between an "I" and a "Thou." And although this rationality led to the laborious productions of the concept, it did not ever forget its origin in the immediacy of the feelings and the sensations that we first harbour about ourselves and our world; faith remains its matrix. Jacobi's implicit promise, in other words, was the idea of a historical, social rationality. Hegel was the critic who understood and appreciated this promise best, even better than Jacobi's friends and disciples, although, ironically, Hegel had practically begun his public philosophical career with an attack onjacobi and his faith. The attack had come in 1802, with the essay "Faith and Knowledge" in the first issue of the Critical Journal of Philosophy, which Hegel edited together with Schelling.32 Jacobi was at the time taken aback by the strident tone of the essay. He found it altogether comic, moreover, that he—the flesh-and-bone Jacobi—should be treated as an idea satisfying certain systematic requirements. "It is priceless to read," he wrote to Koppen, "how the three sinners [indicted] in the introduction are [in the essay] summarily heard, summarily confronted, and summarily levelled off [ indifferenzirt]. They are integrated and differentiated as the three dimensions of body. Kant's is 'the objective dimension,' Jacobi's 'the subjective,' and Fichte's 'the synthesis of both.' Through us, and in us, all the hitherto dispersed sins of the philosophical universe finally interpenetrate and become one substance."33 Years later, however, in Hegel's 1817 review of the third volume of Jacobi's Collected Works, Hegel's tone was to be quite different; it conveyed sympathy and appreciation, and we know that Jacobi reacted to it in kind. Hegel's main point was that Jacobi's merit throughout his work had been to celebrate the rationality implicit in the structure and the activities of natural bodies and natural societies. Humankind was immediately aware of this rationality and expressed it in myth and metaphor long before reflection and science set in. It is the rationality of a spirit that is still slumbering, but is not any the less a true spirit for that. Jacobi was so rich in this spirit, and so keenly aware of it, that he instinctively 32. "Glauben und Wissen, oder die Relexionphilosophie der Subjectivitat, in der Vollstandigkeit ihrer Formen, als Kantische, Jacobische, und Fichtische Philosophic" ("Faith and Knowledge, or the Reflective Philosophy of Subjectivity in the Complete Range of Its Forms as Kantian, Jacobian, and Fichtean Philosophy"), Kritisches Journal der Philosophic, n . i (1802), the full issue. 33. Letter to Koppen of 10 August 1802, in Koppen's Schellings Lehre, p. 221.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

reacted to any abstract form of explicit rationality that, in expressing that spirit reflectively, would falsify it. Hence Jacobi's unceasing polemic against the philosophy of his day. Yet, Hegel continued, however beautiful the innocent state of spirit thatjacobi celebrated, and however rich in unreflective insight Jacobi's grasp of it, spirit does not come into its own until it expresses its rationality reflectively. It is only then that true knowledge, or science in the strict sense, is born. Jacobi was indeed justified in resisting a type of reflection that, like that of much of past philosophy, really misses and hides its object. But he himself was not innocent. He too did not eschew reflection. His polemicizing was, on the contrary, a form of reflection—just as abstract, and just as much of an impediment to the fruition of spirit, as the one that he was criticizing.34 Hegel was of course interpreting Jacobi in the light of his own concept of rationality. Yet he at least conveyed a true sense of Jacobi's accomplishments. Jacobi's merit lay more in what he had promised than in what he ever actually delivered. And Jacobi did not protest Hegel's judgment, at least not with too much conviction. He wrote to his friend Neeb: Hegel too regards Spinozism as the final and the truest result of thought to which any consequential philosophizing could possibly lead. But the difference between him and me is that [ . . . ] , beyond Spinozism, he comes to a system of freedom on a road which is only a higher, though still the same road of thought (hence, fundamentally not higher)—without a leap. I, on the contrary, [arrive at it] by means of a leap, by jumping on the springboard of a merely substantial knowledge—the kind which Hegel too indeed assumes and presupposes but treats differently than I do. To Hegel my method appears like the one we follow when, as living beings, we transform food into fluids and blood through unconscious digestion, without the science of physiology [intervening].35 And Jacobi added: "He [Hegel] may well be right, and I would dearly love to undertake with him, once more, a thorough research into what the power of thought can yield by itself, were not the head of the old man too weak for the job."36 If Jacobi had pursued the implications of his early inkling of a new understanding of historical rationality, he might have discovered that there 34 "Jacobi's Werke," pp. 6-7, 24-25. 35. Letter to Johann Neeb, 30 May 1817, Auserlesener Briefarechsel, Vol. n, #360, pp. 467-68. 36. Ibid., p. 468.



was, after all, no need of a leap to reach his goal. But Jacob! never surpassed the dichotomies that encumbered the very Enlightenment to which he was reacting. He never succeeded in explicitly formulating and in developing the one idea that would have reconciled the Enlightenment's many conflicting interests. In this respect, his philosophy remained unfinished.

This page intentionally left blank

Note on the Texts

I have used three sets of notes: (1) Footnotes listed by numbers preceded by an asterisk. These are Jacobi's own footnotes. (2) Footnotes listed by symbols. These are purely editorial notes. (3) Endnotes listed by numbers. These are historical and explanatory notes. To avoid formidable technical difficulties, I have made two sets of these, one for Jacobi's texts, the other for his footnotes. Anything introduced into Jacobi's text within square brackets is an addition. Jacobi normally cites his sources in their original language. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations of these citations are mine. In the case of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, I have tried to follow the Norman Kemp Smith translation (London: Macmillan, 1992) as much as possible. In the case of biblical references, I have used the Kingjames version. The pagination of Jacobi's original texts appears within the translations in square brackets. All cross-references refer to this pagination. In citing works in German or French, or in reproducing Jacobi's quotations in French or Italian, I have retained the original spelling even when this does not conform to modern usage. G.diG.

This page intentionally left blank


This page intentionally left blank

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza in Letters to Herr Moses Mendelssohn dos moi pou sto1 Give me a place to stand. Archimedes.2 Breslau at Gottl. Lowe 1785

NOTE: This translation is made from the first edition (1785), which I have chosen for two reasons: It is substantially shorter than the two subsequent ones, and its relative brevity makes it all the more effective as a piece of philosophical polemic. I have made no attempt to note all the textual variations from the later editions, but I have noted a few significant ones, and I have also appended under an independent heading substantial excerpts from the edition of 1789. This edition also differs in places, but not substantially, from the third edition of 1819. The text is complete except for certain footnotes (as indicated) in which I have only made reference to sources that Jacobi cites in full. Pagination from the first edition is in square brackets, that from the second edition in curly brackets.

The precepts of the dialecticians [are] forms of reasoning in which the conclusions follow with such irresistible necessity that if our reason relies on them, even though it takes, as it were, a rest from considering a particular inference clearly and attentively, it can nevertheless draw a conclusion which is certain simply in virtue of the form. But, as we have noticed, truth often slips through these fetters, while those who employ them are left entrapped in them. Others are not so frequently trapped and, as experience shows, the cleverest sophisms hardly ever deceive anyone who makes use of his untrammelled reason; rather, it is usually sophists themselves who are led astray. Descartes3

Be noble, Man, Heart-good, lordly helper! For this alone Sets us apart From all the beings That we know. Hail, then, unknown Higher powers That we divine! Man is like to them: From his example we learn Belief in those others. Nature is blind, unfeeling; The sun gives light To both evil and good, On the best of men And the breaker of laws The moon and stars cast their glance. Wind, streams, Thunder, hail; They storm on their ways, Seizing up In their headlong rush The one and the other.


Luck, too, Groping through the crowd, Touches now the innocent Curly-headed boy, Now the old sinner's Bald crown. All, we all must, According to great, Honoured, eternal laws Accomplish the cycle of our existence. But only Man Strives for what cannot be: Divides, Elects, and orders; Can make the instant Endure. Only he may give Rewards to the good, Chastise the wicked man: May heal and deliver, May bring together All that is drifting and straying And give it a use. [page]

And we revere The Undying Ones As if they were human, In their great deeds As the best of us In our little doings are Or might be. O Noble Man, Be generous, be good! Unresting, shape The useful and the right!

Be for us a pattern Of those mysterious powers!


This page intentionally left blank



I have named this book after its occasion and most of its content, since even the Letter to Hemsterhuis* should here be counted as a supplement to my letters to Mendelssohn. The story of these letters, which I give here with them, will itself justify my giving it. After the last letter I have briefly stated the purpose of the work. I believe that from there to the end I have made my purpose known clearly enough. For the moment I have no more to say to the attentive and enquiring reader, whose only concern is the truth, [page] If a different sort of reader takes up this book, that is not my fault. Let him make no demands on me, just as I make none on him. Pempelfort, near Diisseldorf5 August 28, 1785 Friedrich Heinr. Jacobi . . . . It is in relation to the king of all and on his account that everything exists, and that fact is the cause of all that is beautiful. In relation to what comes second, the second class of things exists, and in relation to a third, the third class. Now the mind of man, when it has to do with them, endeavours to gain a knowledge of their qualities, fixing its attention on * See p. 56 of Jacobi's text, below.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

the things with which it has itself some affinity; these, however, are in no case adequate. In regard to the king and the things I mentioned there is nothing like this. Thereupon the soul says, "But what are they like?" This question, thou son of Dionysius and Doris—or rather the travail that this question occasions in the soul—is the cause of all the trouble, and if that be not expelled from a man, he shall never genuinely find the truth. Plato to Dionysius, Letter n [3i2e~3i3a; tr. L. A. Post]

[ i ] [The first edition has a vignette here portraying a resplendent altar, with smoke (perhaps of burnt offerings) rising from it, and a harp leaning against it.] In February of the year 1783 a close friend of Lessing, who through him became my friend too, wrote to me that she was planning to make a trip to Berlin, and asked me whether I had any commission for her there.6 She wrote to me again from Berlin. Her letter dealt mainly with Mendelssohn, "this true admirer and friend of our Lessing." She reported to me that she had talked a lot with him about the deceased of glorious memory, and about me as well; and that Mendelssohn was about to begin his book about [2] Lessing's character and writings.7 Various obstacles made it impossible for me to reply to this letter immediately, and my friend's stay in Berlin lasted only a few weeks. When she was home again, I wrote to her, and asked how much, or how little, Mendelssohn knew of Lessing's religious inclinations.—I said that Lessing had been a Spinozist.8 Lessing had declared himself on the matter to me without any reticence, and since he was not generally inclined to conceal his opinions, I could fairly presume that what I knew about him had become known to several others as well. However, I came to know that he had never clearly declared himself on the matter to Mendelssohn, in the following way. I once invited Lessing to accompany me to Berlin;9 and [3] his answer was that we would discuss the matter together at Wolfenbuttel.10 When I got there, some serious obstacles developed. Lessing wanted to persuade me to travel to Berlin without him, and every day he grew more


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

insistent. The main motive for this was Mendelssohn, whom Lessing treasured most among all his friends. He was very eager that I would get to know Mendelssohn personally. In one discussion I expressed my amazement that a man of such clear and straight understanding as Mendelssohn could have endorsed the proof of God's existence from the idea [of God] as zealously as he had done in his treatise on evidence;11 and Lessing's excuses led me straight to the question whether he had ever declared his own system to Mendelssohn. "Never, Lessing replied. . . . I once only told him, more or less, just what struck you in §73 of the Education of Mankind.12 We never came to a conclusion, and I let it go at that." [4] So the likelihood that several had been informed of Lessing's Spinozism on the one hand, and the certainty that Mendelssohn had never known anything reliable about it on the other, induced me to drop him a hint about it. My friend fully grasped what I had in mind; to her the matter seemed to be extremely important, and she wrote to Mendelssohn at once to reveal to him what I had told her. Mendelssohn was astounded, and his first reaction was to doubt the accuracy of my statement.13 He wanted to know precisely "how Lessing had expressed the opinions that I was attributing to him. Whether he had bluntly said: 'I hold Spinoza's system to be true and well-grounded'; and which system was he speaking of? the one expounded in Spinoza's Tractatus Theologicus Politicus or the one in his Principia Philosophiae Cartesianae, or the one that Ludovicus Mayer had [5] published after Spinoza's death in his name.14 And if it was the system that is universally known for its atheism, then, Mendelssohn also wanted to know, whether Lessing had taken it in the way that it was misunderstood by Bayle,15 or as others have better explained it.16 He added, moreover, that if Lessing had reached the stage where he could simply go along with anybody's system without further qualification, then at the time he was no longer in his right mind, or else he was in that peculiar mood of his, when he would assert something paradoxical which he then himself rejected in a more serious moment. Or perhaps Lessing had said something of this sort: "Dear Brother, the much decried Spinoza may well have seen further on many points than all the criers who have become heroes at his expense. His Ethics, in particular, contains many admirable things, better things than many an orthodox moral doctrine, or many a compendium of world-wisdom perhaps. His system is not as absurd as is believed." [6] If this is what had happened, then Mendelssohn could endure it.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


In conclusion he reiterated the wish that I would be so good as to inform him of the relevant details exhaustively—what Lessing said on the matter, how, and on what occasion—for he was convinced that I had thoroughly understood Lessing, and that I retained in my memory every circumstance of such an important conversation. As soon as I had done this, Mendelssohn certainly meant to discuss the incident in what he still proposed to write about Lessing. "For," so the guileless wise man said, "even the name of our best friends should not shine in posterity either more or less than it deserves. The truth above all. With truth the good cause always triumphs." I did not have the least misgiving in following this invitation, and on the fourth of [7] November I sent him the following letter by way of my friend. And to preserve its documentary status, I shall have it printed without change, from the first line to the last.17 Pempelfort near Diisseldorf November 4, 1783. Because of certain opinions that I have attributed to the departed Lessing in a letter to }i8 vou ^^ to iearn tne precise detail from me; in that case, it seems best that I direct whatever I am capable of communicating straight to you. It pertains to the matter at hand, or at least to the statement of it, that I preface it with something about myself. And since I will thereby bring you into a somewhat closer acquaintance with me, I shall gain more courage to tell you everything freely, and shall perhaps forget what would otherwise worry or intimidate me. [8] I was still wearing my child-frock when I began to worry about things of another world.* I was eight or nine years old when my childish depth of sense^ led me to certain remarkable "visions" (I know no better word for them) that still stick with me to this day. My yearning to attain certainty regarding the higher expectations of man grew with the years; and it became the leading thread on which all my fortunes were to hang. My innate character and the upbringing that I received conspired to keep me duly diffident about myself and, for too long a time, in all the greater expectation of what others might have to offer. I came to Geneva where I found excellent men who received me with magnanimous love * See Supplement in, below. t Tiefsinn


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

and truly fatherly fidelity. I later came across others, some of equal reputation, and others of even greater fame, who did not however ever become as much to me; and I often entrusted myself to them to my own great disadvantage. This gradually brought me back to some [9] trust in myself; I learned how to gather my own forces and muster them for counsel. Spiritually minded men who search for the truth out of inner need—of these there are only a few, as you know. Yet to each of them truth has revealed something of its inner life, so that none of them is so insignificant that there is not some advantage in heeding to him.* I picked up this clue, and followed it among the living and the dead; and the more I did so, the more intimately I noticed that real depth of sense t has a common direction, like gravity in bodies, but that this direction, since it runs from different points on the periphery, cannot yield either parallel lines or lines that cross. It is quite different with sharpness of sense,* which I may compare to the chords of the circle and is often taken for profundity of sense because it has depth as regards relations and form. Here the lines intersect at will, and at times are also parallel. A chord can run so close to the diameter as to be taken for the [10] diameter itself; yet it only cuts across a greater number of radii without touching the ends of those it gave the impression to be.19 Where both depth and sharpness are missing—where there is only mere so-called knowledge, without sharpness or depth, without the need or the enjoyment of truth—what could there be more disgusting?. . . . Please forgive all this imagery most honoured Sir—I come to Lessing. I had always revered the great man. But ever since his theological disputes,20 and after I had read the Parable,21 the desire for a closer acquaintance with him had become more lively in me. It was my good fortune that he took an interest in AllwilVs Papers; he sent me many a friendly message, at first through travellers, and finally, in the year 1779, he wrote to me.22 I replied that I planned a trip for the following spring which would take me by Wolfenbiittel, and there I yearned to [ 11 ] conjure up in him the spirits of several wise men whom I could not induce to speak to me about certain things.23 * I am following the text of the first edition, which also corresponds to the text of Jacobi's letter in the Briefwechsel. Jacobi made some stylistic improvements in the second edition. t Tiefsinn. t Scharfsinn

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


My trip took place, and on the fifth of July, in the afternoon, I held Lessing in my arms for the first time. On that very same day we talked about many important things; and about individuals, moral and immoral, atheist, theist and Christian. The following morning Lessing came to my room where I was still busy at some letters that I had to write. I reached out to him a number of things from my briefcase, to help him while away his time as he waited. When he gave them back he asked me whether I had something else that he could read. "But yes!" I said (I was ready to seal my letter), "here's a poem yet—you have given so much scandal; you might as well receive some for once. . . . "*1 [Cover, Zeus, your heavens with A mist of clouds: Practice, like a boy With thistles, cutting The heads off oaks and mountains heights; But leave my Earth Standing for me; My cottage (you did not build it!) My hearth, too, Whose warmth Gives you such envy. Gods, I have seen nothing Under the sun sorrier than you! Miserably you feed Your greatness On tithes of sacrifice, On breaths of prayers; If babes and beggars Were not filled with foolish hopes, You would be starving. When I was a child, And all was new and strange, * i. There are good reasons why this poem, which inveighs with harsh expressions against all Providence, cannot be communicated here.'


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

I turned my straying eyes Sunward—as if there was an ear Above to hear my complaint, A heart like mine, Formed to pity the afflicted. Who helped me Against the Titans' hubris? Who delivered me from death And slavery? Did you not achieve all this yourself, My holy, ardent heart? Yet, young and good, beguiled, You glowed with thanks for your life To one who is sleeping up there. I, give you honour? Why? Have you ever lightened his sorrows For one who is labouring? Have you ever stilled his tears For one in anguish? Was I not forged into a Man By Time, the all-mighty, And everlasting Fate, My lord, and yours? Did you believe, then, I would come to hate life, And flee to the wasteland, Since budding dreams of my youth Have failed to ripen? Here sit I, shaping Men In my likeness: A race that is to be as I am, To suffer and weep, To relish and delight in things, And to pay you no regard— Likeme!] 2 4

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


Lessing: (After reading the poem, [12] and as he was giving it back to me) I took no scandal. That I already did long ago, but at first hand.25 I: Do you know the poem? Lessing: The poem I have never seen before; but I think that it is good. I: It is good in its kind, I agree; otherwise I would not have shown it to you. Lessing: I mean it is good in a different way. . . . The point of view from which the poem is treated is my own point of view. . . . The orthodox concepts of the Divinity are no longer for me; I cannot stomach them. Hen kai panl26 I know of nothing else. That is also the direction of the poem, and I must confess that I like it very much. I: Then you must be pretty well in agreement with Spinoza. Lessing: If I have to name myself after anyone, I know of nobody else. I: Spinoza is good enough for me: yet, what a wretched salvation we find in his name! Lessing: Yes indeed! If you like . . . ! And yet. . . . Do you know of a better one . . . ? In the meantime Wolke, the director from Dessau, had come in, and we went together to the library. [13] The following morning, when I had returned to my room to dress after breakfast, Lessing joined me after a while. I was in a chair, having my hair done, and in the meantime Lessing quietly settled himself near a desk at the end of the room. As soon as we were alone, and I sat down on the other side of the desk against which Lessing was leaning, he began: "I have come to talk to you about my hen kai pan. Yesterday you were frightened. I: You surprised me, and I may indeed have blushed and gone pale, for I felt bewilderment in me. Fright it was not. To be sure, there is nothing that I would have suspected less, than to find a Spinozist or a pantheist in you. And you blurted it out to me so suddenly. In the main I had come to get help from you against Spinoza. Lessing: Oh, so you do know him? I: I think I know him as only very few can ever have known him. Lessing: Then there is no help for you. Become his friend all the way instead. There is no other philosophy than the philosophy of Spinoza. [14] I: That might be true. For the determinist, if he wants to be consistent, must become a fatalist: the rest then follows by itself. Lessing: I see that we understand one another. I am all the more anxious to hear what you hold to be the spirit of Spinozism; I mean the spirit that inspired Spinoza himself. I: It is certainly nothing other than the ancient a nihilo nihil fit*7 that Spinoza made an issue of, but with more abstract concepts than the philosophers of the cabbala or others before him. In keeping with these more abstract concepts he established that with each and every coming-to-be in the in-


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

finite, no matter how one dresses it up in images, with each and every change in the infinite, something'^ posited out of nothing. He therefore rejected any transition from the infinite to the finite. In general, he rejected all causae transitoriae, secundariae or remotae, and in place of an emanating En-Soph28 he only posited an immanent one, an indwelling cause of the universe eternally unalterable within itself, One and the same with all its consequences. . . .*2 [15] This immanent infinite cause has, as such, explicite, neither understanding nor will. For because of its transcendental unity and thoroughgoing absolute infinity, it can have no object of thought and will; and a faculty to produce a concept before the concept, or a concept that would be prior to its object and the complete cause of itself, or so too a will [16] causing the willing and thus determining itself entirely, are nothing but absurdities. . . . . . . . The objection that an infinite series of effects is impossible (bare effects they are not, for the indwelling cause is always and everywhere) is self-refuting, for if a series is not to arise from nothing, it must be infinite absolutely. And from this it likewise follows that, since each and every concept must arise from some other individual concept and refer to an actually present object immediately, neither individual thoughts nor individual determinations of the will can be found in the first cause, which is infinite by nature, but only their inner, primal, and universal material. . . . The first cause cannot act in accordance with intentions or final causes, any more than it can exist for the sake of a certain intention or final cause; it cannot have an initial ground or a final end for performing something, any more than it can itself have a beginning or end. . . . Fundamentally, what we call consequence or duration are mere illusions; for since a real effect coincides with the totality of its real cause, and is distinguished from it only in representation, consequence and duration must in truth only be a certain way of intuiting the manifold in the infinite. *2. I cany on with this exposition joining things together as I can, without writing down what was said in between, not to be too long-winded. What now follows was occasioned by Lessing referring to, as the darkest in Spinoza, something that Leibniz had found obscure too, and had not quite understood (Theod., #i73)- 2 I note this here once and for all, and shall not repeat it in what follows, whenever I take similar liberties.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


Lessing: . . . . We shall not dissent about our credo therefore. I: We wouldn't want to do that in any case. But, my credo is not in Spinoza. Lessing: I dare hope that it is not in any book. I: That's not all. I believe in an intelligent personal cause of the world. Lessing: Oh, all the better! I must be about to hear something entirely new.* I: You had better not get your hopes up too much. I extricate myself from the problem through a salto mortale,^ and I take it that you are not given to any special pleasure in leaping with your head down. Lessing: Don't say that; provided that I need not imitate you. Moreover, you will come down standing on your feet. So, if it is not a [18] secret, let's have it. I: You can always pick it up by looking at me. The whole thing comes down to this: from fatalism I immediately conclude against fatalism and everything connected with it.—If there are only efficient, but no final, causes, then the only function that the faculty of thought has in the whole of nature is that of observer; its proper business is to accompany the mechanism of the efficient causes. The conversation that we are now having together is only an affair of our bodies; and the whole content of the conversation, analyzed into its elements, is extension, movement, degree of velocity, together with their concepts, and the concepts of these concepts. The inventor of the clock did not ultimately invent it; he only witnessed its coming to be out of blindly self-developing forces. So too Raphael, when he sketched the School of Athens,29 and Lessing, when he composed his Nathan. The same goes for all philosophizing, arts, forms of governance, sea and land wars—in brief, for everything possible. For [19] affects and passions would have no effect either, so far as they are sensations and thoughts; or more precisely, so far as they carry sensations and thoughts with them. We only believe that we have acted out of anger, love, magnanimity, or out of rational decision. Mere illusion! What fundamentally moves us in all these cases is something that knows nothing of all that, and which is to this extent absolutely devoid of sensations and thoughts. These, the sensations and thoughts, are however only concepts of extension, movement, degrees of velocity, etc.—Now, if someone can accept this, then I cannot refute his opinion. But if one cannot, then one must be at the antipodes from Spinoza. Lessing: I note that you would like to have a free will. For my part, I don't crave one. On the whole I am not in the least frightened by what you have just said. It is


* The second edition refers here to Supplement iv. t Literally, "a mortal jump," i.e. a leap in which a person turns heels over head in the

i go

The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

human prejudice to consider thought as being first and pre-eminent, and to want to derive everything from it—whereas everything, representations included, [20] depends on higher principles. Extension, movement, thought, are patently grounded in a higher power that is yet far from being exhausted by them. It must be infinitely more perfect than this or that effect; hence there can be a kind of pleasure which not only surpasses all concepts, but lies totally outside the concept. The fact that we cannot entertain any thought about it does not remove its possibility. I: You go further than Spinoza; for him insight was above everything.* Lessing: For menl But he was far from pretending that our dismal manner of acting by way of purposes is the highest method, or from placing thought on top. I: For Spinoza insight is the best part in allfinitenatures, for it is the part through which each finite nature reaches beyond its finitude. One could almost also say that he has attributed two souls to each and every being—one, that only relates to the present individual thing; and anodier, that relates to the whole.*3 [21] To this second soul he also grants immortality. But as far as the One infinite Substance of Spinoza is concerned, it has no determinate or complete existence on its own outside the individual things. If it had a particular and individual actuality of its own as its unity (to express myself in this way), if it had personality and life, insight would be the best part of it too. Lessing: Good. But then, how do you represent your personal, extra-mundane, Divinity on your assumption? In the way perhaps that Leibniz represented it? I am afraid that he was a Spinozist at heart too. I: Are you serious? Lessing: Do you seriously doubt [22] it?—Leibniz's concepts of truth were of such nature that he could not tolerate any narrow limits being imposed on it. Many of his assertions derive from this kind of thinking, and it is often difficult to uncover his true meaning even with the greatest acumen. This is just the reason why I appreciate him so much—I mean, because of the far-reaching character of his thought and not because of this or that opinion which he only appeared to have, or may even actu*3. Although only by means of this body which [21] cannot be an absolute individual (for an absolute individual isjust as impossible as an individual Absolute. Determinatio est negatio, Op. Posth., p. 558) but must rather contain universal and unalterable properties and qualities, the nature and the concept of the infinite. With this distinction one has one of the principal keys to the system of Spinoza, without which one only finds confusion and contradictions in it.3 * The second edition refers here to Supplement v.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


ally have held. I: Quite. Leibniz liked to "strike a spark from every flint."30 But you said with reference to a specific opinion, namely Spinozism, that at heart Leibniz was committed to it. Lessing: Do you recall a place in Leibniz where it is said of God that he is in a state of incessant expansion and contraction: would this be the creation and conservation of the world?31 I: I know about his "fulgurations";32 but the passage you speak of is unknown to me. Lessing: I'll look for it, and then you'll have to tell me what a man like Leibniz could, or must, have thought by it.33 I: [23] Show me the passage. But I must tell you from the start that with so many other places that I recall in this very same Leibniz—so many other letters, essays, his Theodicy and Nouveaux Essays, his philosophical course in general—I reel at the hypothesis that this man did not accept a transcendent cause of the world, but only an immanent one. Lessing: On that side I must yield to you. And it is this side that will retain the upper hand. I must grant that I have said a bit too much. But, for all that, the passage that I have in mind, and many another yet, remain odd.—But let's not forget our problem! On what representations do you base your anti-Spinozism? Is your view that Leibniz's Principia^ put an end to Spinozism? I: How could I when I am firmly convinced that the consistent determinist does not differ from the fatalist . . . ? The monads, with all their vincula,* leave extension and thought—reality in general—just as incomprehensible to me as before, and I can't tell [24] right from left. I feel as if I am being led. . . . For the rest, I know of no doctrinal system that concurs with Spinozism as much as Leibniz's does; and it is difficult to say which of the two authors was fooling himself and us most—with all due respect of course . . .! Mendelssohn has clearly demonstrated that the harmonia prcestabilita is in Spinoza. From this alone it already follows that Spinoza must contain much more of Leibniz's fundamental teachings; for otherwise Leibniz and Spinoza (who would hardly have been touched by Wolffs lesson) would not be the consistent minds that they incontestably were.*4 I would dare to extrapolate the whole of Leibniz's doctrine of the soul from Spinoza. . . . Fundamentally they have the same teaching on freedom too, and it's only an illusion that distinguishes their theories. If Spinoza can explain our feeling of freedom through the example of a stone that thinks and that knows that it is striving to maintain its move*4. See Mendelssohn's Philosoph. Writings, the 3rd discourse, at the end.4 * bonds


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

ment as much as it can, (Epist. LXII, Op. Posth., pp. 584 & 585), [25] Leibniz, for his part, explains the feeling with the example of a magnetic needle that desires to move in the direction of the North and believes itself to be moving independently of another cause, for it cannot be aware of the unnoticeable movement of the magnetic matter. (Theod., #50. )*5. . . . Leibniz explains the final causes through an appetitus, a conatus immanens (conscientia sui pceditum).* Spinoza could [26] say the same, for he could perfectly well allow them in this sense; and for him, as for Leibniz, representation of the external, and desire, constitute the essence of the soul.—In brief, when we penetrate to the heart of the matter, it turns out that each and every final cause presupposes an efficient one in Leibniz just as much as in Spinoza. . . . Thought is not the source of substance; rather, substance is the source of thought. Hence a non-thinking something must be assumed before thought as being first—something that must be thought as prior to everything else, if not in its very actuality, then in representation, essence, and inner nature. For this reason Leibniz has called the souls, honestly enough, des automates spirituels.*6 But how can the principle of all souls subsist on its own somewhere and *5- In the same 63rd Letter, Spinoza says: "And this is that human freedom, which all boast to possess, and which consists solely in the fact that men are conscious of their own desire but ignorant of the causes by which they are determined."$ Spinoza did not at all lack the concept of that expedient by which the determinists seek to avoid fatalism. But it appeared to him to be so far from being genuinely philosophical, that he preferred the arbitrium indifferentice or the voluntas cequilibrii. See, among other places, in Part i of the Ethics, the 2nd Schol. of the 33rd Prop., at the end. Farther, in Part in, the Schol. of the gth Prop., and especially the Preface of Part iv. *6. The same characterization can be found in Spinoza, although not in his Ethics, but in the fragment De Intelkctus Emendatione. The passage deserves quotation here: "As regards a true idea, we have shown that it is simple or composed of simple ideas; and what it shows, how and why something is or has been made; [27] and that its subjective effects in the soul proceed according to the formal ratio of its object. This conclusion is identical with what the ancients said, that true science proceeds from cause to effect; though the ancients, so far as I know, never conceived the soul (as we do here) as acting in accordance with fixed laws, like an immaterial automaton as it were." (Op. Posth., p. 384) I am aware of the derivation of the word automaton, and what Bilfinger says about it.6 * endowed with consciousness of itself

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


be efficient (I speak here in accordance with Leibniz's deepest and [27] fullest sense, so far I understand it) . . .; how can the spirit be before the matter; or thought before the object? This great knot, which he ought to have untied for us if he was really going to help us get out of our predicament—he left it just as tangled as it was. . . . Lessing:. . . . I won't leave you be; you must clarify this parallelism. . . . Yet people always speak of Spinoza as if he were a dead dog still. . . . I: And so they will go on speaking of him. It takes too big an effort of mind, and too much determination to understand Spinoza [28]. And no-one to whom a single line in the Ethics remains obscure has grasped his meaning; nor has anyone who does not comprehend how this great man could have as firm an inner conviction in his philosophy as he so often and so emphatically manifested.35 At the end of his days he wrote still: ". . . . non prcesumo, me optimam invenisse philosophiam; sed veram me intelligere sa'o."*7—Few can have enjoyed such a peace of the spirit, such a heaven in the understanding, as this clear and pure mind did. Lessing: And you, Jacobi, are no Spinozist? I: No, on my honour! Lessing: But then, on your honour, by [29] your philosophy you must turn your back on all philosophy. I: Why turn my back on all philosophy? Lessing: Come, so you are a perfect sceptic. I: On the contrary, I draw back from a philosophy that makes perfect scepticism a necessity. Lessing: And where do you turn to then? I: Towards the light, of which Spinoza says that it illumines itself and the darkness as well.—I love Spinoza, because he, more than any other philosopher, has led me to the perfect conviction that certain things admit of no explication: one must not therefore keep one's eyes shut to them, but must take them as one finds them. I have no concept more intimate than that of the final cause; no conviction more vital than that / do what I think, and not, that I should think what I do. Truly therefore, I must assume a source of thought and action that remains completely inexplicable to me. But if I want to have absolute explanation, then I must fall back upon the sec*7. In his Letter to Albert Burgh.7 He adds: "And if you ask how I know it, I reply: In the same way as you know that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles: that this is sufficient will be denied by no one whose brain is sound, and who does not go dreaming of unclean spirits inspiring us with false ideas resembling the true. For the truth is the index of itself and of what is false."—Spinoza drew a clear distinction between being certain and not doubting.8


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

ond proposition, and hardly any human intellect could countenance the application of it to individual cases, [30] taken in its full compass. Lessing: You express yourself with almost as much boldness as the Augsburg Diet;36 but I remain a honest Lutheran, and I hold to the error and blasphemy that is more bestial than human, namely that there is no free will—an error in which the pure and limpid mind of your Spinoza could find itself embroiled even so. I: Spinoza also had to wriggle quite a bit to hide his fatalism when he turned to human conduct, especially in his fourth and fifth Parts [of the Ethics] where I could say that he degrades himself to a sophist here and there.—And that's exactly what I was saying: even the greatest mind, if it wants to explain all things absolutely, to make them rhyme with each other according to distinct concepts and will not otherwise let anything stand, must run into absurdities. Lessing: And he who will not explain? I: He who does not want to explain what is incomprehensible, but only wants to know the boundary where it begins and just recognize that it is there—of such a one I believe that he [31] gains the greatest room within himself for genuine human truth. Lessing: Words, dear Jacobi, words! The boundary that you want to establish does not allow of determination. And moreover, you give free play to phantasies, nonsense, obscurantism. I: I believe that that boundary can be defined. I have no intention of establishing a boundary, but only of finding one that is already established and leaving it in place. And as for nonsense, phantasies, obscurantism. . . . Lessing: These are to be found wherever confused concepts rule. I: And even more where fictitious concepts do. Even the blindest, most nonsensical faith, if not the stupidest, finds its high throne there. For once one has fallen in love with certain explanations, one accepts blindly every consequence that can be drawn from an inference that one cannot invalidate—even if one must walk on one's head.* . . . . In my judgment the greatest service of the scientist is to unveil existence, and to reveal it. ... Explanation is a means for him, a pathway to his destination, a proximate—never [32] a final—goal. His final goal is what cannot be explained: the unanalyzable, the immediate, the simple. . . . . Obsession with explanation makes us seek what is common to all things so passionately that we pay no attention to diversity in the process; we only want always to join together, whereas it would often be much * In the second edition Jacobi refers to Supplement v 11 here. See David Hume, p. 62 of the 1787 ed.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


more to our advantage to separate. . . . Moreover, in joining and hanging together only what is explainable in things, there also arises in the soul a certain lustre that blinds us more than it illumines. And then we sacrifice to the cognition of the lower genera what Spinoza (being of profound sense and sublime as he was) calls the cognition of the supreme genus; we shut that eye of the soul tight by which the soul sees God and itself, to look all the more undistractedly with the eye of the body alone. . . . Lessing: Good, very good! I can make use of all this too; but I myself cannot do the same with it. On the whole I don't dislike your salto mortale, and I see how [33] a man can turn his head up-side-down in this way, to move from it.* Take me with you, if it can be done. I: If you were just to step on the elastic place that propels me, it would be no sooner said than done.37 Lessing: But that too takes a leap that I can no longer ask of my old legs and heavy head.38

This conversation, of which I have here conveyed only the essentials, was followed by others that brought us back to the same topics by more than one route. Lessing once said, with half a smile, that perhaps he was himself the supreme Being, and he was now in the state of extreme contraction.—I beseeched him for my existence.—He replied that that was not at all how it was intended to be, and explained himself in a way that reminded me of Henry More39 and von Helmont.40 Lessing became ever more explicit, to the point that, when pressed, I [34] could again raise the suspicion of cabbalism against him. That delighted him not a little, and I took the occasion to speak in favour of the Kibbel, or the cabbala in the strict sense—that is, taking as starting point the view that it is impossible, in and for itself, to derive the infinite from a given finite, or to define the transition from the one to the other, or their proportion, through any for* " . . . und ich begreife, wie ein Mann von Kopf auf diese Art Kopf-unter machen kann, um von der Stelle zu kommen." ". . . von Kopf. . . Kopf-unter machen" conveys the double image of jumping heels over head starting from one's head, and of bringing down (i.e. humbling) the head. I take it thatjacobi is here referring to the kind of man, of whom he has just spoken, who is addicted to explanation and therefore "must walk on his head." The head inversion would of course bring the man back on his feet. See Supplement v, p. 353 of the second edition. The expression "leap of faith" is nowhere to be found in Jacobi.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

mula whatever. Hence, if anyone wants to say anything on the subject, one must speak on the basis of revelation. Lessing insisted on having everything "addressed to him in natural terms" and I, that there cannot be any natural philosophy of the supernatural, yet the two (the natural and the supernatural) obviously exist.

Whenever Lessing wanted to represent a personal Divinity, he thought of it as the soul of the All; and he thought the Whole after the analogy of an organic body. Hence, as soul, the soul of this Whole would be [35] only an effect, like any other soul in all conceivable systems. *8 Its organic compass, however, cannot be thought after the analogy of the organic parts of this compass, inasmuch as there is nothing existing outside it to which it can refer, nothing from which it can take or give back. In order therefore to preserve itself in life, this organic compass must somehow withdraw within itself from time to time; unite death and resurrection within itself with life. One can however envisage several representations of the internal economy of such a being. Lessing was fascinated by this idea, and he applied it to all sorts of cases, sometimes jokingly, sometimes in earnest. At Gleim's house, 9 when it suddenly began to shower while we were sitting at table and Gleim was moaning because we were to have retired to the garden after dinner, Lessing, who sat next to me, said: 'You know, Jacobi, perhaps I am doing it."*10 And I said: "Or perhaps I." Gleim looked at us as if we were going too far;* but then, for the whole three days that we spent with him he took great care to face us constantly and untiringly with his cheerful, intelligent, and spirited whimsicality, his humorous wit, and his always loving and friendly teasing, sharp though it is.

*8. According to Leibniz's system too.—The entelechy only becomes spirit through the body (or the concept of body).9 *g. Lessing was kind enough to accompany me to Halberstadt [where Gleim lived] the second time I visited him, on my way back from Hamburgh.10 *io. In the sense in which one says, I digest, I produce good or bad fluids, etc. * Second edition: "looked at us somewhat perplexed, but did not investigate further."

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


Lessing could not accept the idea of a personal, absolutely infinite Being, unfailingly enjoying his supreme perfection. He associated an image of such infinite boredom with it, that he was troubled and pained by it. [37] He regarded a continuation of life associated with personality after death not unlikely. He told me that he had run across ideas on this subject that coincided remarkably with his own and with his system in general in Bonnet, whom he was reading up just then. Because of the tenor of the conversation and my exact acquaintance with Bonnet (whose collected works I had just about learned by heart), I neglected at the time to question him more closely on this point. After that, since there was nothing either obscure or debatable left in Lessing's system for me, I never consulted Bonnet on this score, until the present occasion led me to do it. The essay of Bonnet that Lessing was reading at the time was probably none other than the Palingenesie that you know so well;41 and Section VII of Part I, in connection with the 13th main paragraph of Section IV of Contemplation de la Nature (to which Bonnet himself refers), presumably contains the ideas that Lessing had in mind. [38] I was struck by a passage (p. 246 of the original edition) where Bonnet says: uSerait-ce done qu'on imagineroit que I'univers seroit moins harmonique, j'ai presque dit, moins organique, qu'un Animal?"42

There still was much and lively talk on all these subjects the day I parted from Lessing to continue my journey to Hamburg. We were not far apart in our philosophy, and only differed in faith. I gave Lessing three writings of the younger Hemsterhuis of whom, apart from the Letter concerning Sculpture,43 he knew nothing. They were, Lettre sur Vhomme & ses rapports, Sophyle [ou de la philosophie], and Aristee [ou de la divinite].44 I let him have the Aristee, which I had just obtained as I was journeying through Miinster and had not yet read, reluctantly; but Lessing's desire was so very great. On my return I found Lessing totally fascinated by just this Aristee, so much so that he had resolved to translate it himself.—It was patent Spinozism, [39] Lessing said, and in such a beautiful and exoteric a guise that this very guise contributed in turn to the development and the explication of the inner doctrine.—I assured him that Hemsterhuis, so far I knew him, (and at that time I still did not know him personally) was no Spinozist; Diderot had personally said this to me about him.—45


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

"Read the book," retorted Lessing, "and you won't doubt it any more. In the letter sur I'homme & ses rapports there still is a bit of hesitation, and it is possible that Hemsterhuis did not at the time know his Spinozism fully yet; but now he is quite clear about it." One must be as conversant with Spinozism as Lessing was, not to find this judgment paradoxical. What he called the exoteric guise of the Aristee, can with all justice be considered a mere elaboration of the teaching on the indivisible, inner, and eternal conjoining of the infinite with the finite; of the universal and (to this extent) indeterminate power with the determinate and individual; and of the necessarily contrary tendencies of these [40] powers. As for the rest of the Aristee, one would hardly want to use it against a Spinozist.46—Here I must however solemnly attest that Hemsterhuis is certainly not an adept of Spinozism, but that on the contrary he is entirely opposed to the essential tenets of the doctrine. At that point Lessing had not yet read the essay of Hemsterhuis, Sur les desirs. It arrived in a packet at my address just as I was leaving.*11 Lessing wrote to me that impatient curiosity had given him no peace until he had broken open the envelope; he sent the rest of the contents to me in Cassel. "About the essay itself (he added), which gave me uncommon gratification, more later on."47 Not long before his death, on the fourth of December, he wrote to me: "A propos Of***,48 it [41] occurs to me that I committed myself to communicate to you my thoughts on Hemsterhuis's 'love system'. You wouldn't believe how exactly those thoughts chime with this system. And this, in my opinion, does not help explaining anything but, to speak with the analysts, seems to me only to be the substitution of one formula for another, by which I am more likely to end up on some new wrong track than come closer to a solution.—But am I in a condition to write what I want?—Not even what I must, etc."

Before I came to know Lessing's opinions in the way just narrated, but had firm and convincing evidence that Lessing was an orthodox theist,* there were things in his Education of Mankind that were totally inexplica* 11. I had had to write home for it during my stay at Wolfenbuttel in order to satisfy Lessing's great desire for this essay. * Second edition: "deist"

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


ble to me, especially §73.49 I would like to know how anyone can make sense of this passage except in accordance with Spinozistic ideas. With these, the commentary becomes quite easy. Spinoza's God is the pure principle of the [42] actuality in everything actual, of being'm everything existent; is thoroughly without individuality, and absolutely infinite. The unity of this God rests on the identity of the indiscernible and hence does not exclude a sort of plurality. However, considered merely in its transcendental unity, the Divinity must do without any actuality whatever, for actuality can only be found expressed in determinate individuals. This, i.e. the actuality, and its concept rest therefore on the natura naturata (the Son from all eternity); just as the other (thepossibility, the substantiality of the infinite) and its concept rest on the natura naturans (the Father).*12 What I have said earlier about the spirit of Spinozism allows me to [43] dispense with further elaborations here. You know as well as I how common these same representations have been among men from the mistiest past, more or less confusedly, under many a different pictorial shape.—"Language is undoubtedly subordinated to the concepts here, just as one concept is subordinated to another."50

Several people can testify that Lessing often and emphatically referred to the hen kai pan as the sum-concept of his theology and philosophy. He spoke it and wrote it, whenever the occasion presented itself, as his definitive motto. That is why it stands in Gleim's garden house, written in Lessing's own hand,* 51 under a motto of mine. Yet many other things pertaining to this point might be learned from the Marchese Lucchesini.52 He visited Wolfenbiittel not long before me, [44] and Lessing had uncommon praises for him, as having a very clear mind.

*12. I beg the reader not to dwell on this overly compressed commentary, which is rendered extremely obscure by the compression. The issue will become clear enough in the third letter. * "Written in Lessing's own hand" was dropped in the second edition. See the explanatory note immediately following.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

What I have recounted is not one tenth of what I could have related, if my memory had served me well enough in point of form and expression. Just for this reason I have let Lessing speak, in what I have related, as sparingly as possible. When people talk with one another for entire days, and of so many very different things, the detail is bound to escape one. Add to this that, once I knew quite decisively that Lessing did not believe in a cause of things distinct from the world, or that Lessing was a Spinozist, what he said afterwards on the subject, in this way or that, did not make deeper impression on me than other things. It did not occur to me to want to preserve his words; and that Lessing was a Spinozist appeared to me quite understandable. Had he asserted the contrary, which is what I anxiously wanted to hear, then I would very [45] likely still be able to give an account of every significant word.

With this I should have absolved myself of a large part of what you, my most excellent Sir, have requested, and I now only have to make brief mention of some particular questions. These particular questions, my most excellent Sir, rather took me aback I must confess, for they suppose an ignorance on my part (not to say something worse) that might perhaps be there but you had no external cause to suspect or to be so quick in making your suspicion manifest. You ask whether Lessing has said in so many words, "I hold Spinoza's system to be true and well grounded?" and which one? Did he mean the one presented in Spinoza's Tractatus Theologicus Politicus or in his Principia Philosophiae Cartesianae, or the one that Ludovicus Mayer published after Spinoza's death in his name? [46] Anyone who knows anything of Spinoza knows the history of Spinoza's demonstration of Descartes's doctrine as well; so he knows that this doctrine has nothing to do with Spinozism.*13 I know nothing of a system of Spinoza that Ludovicus Mayer is alleged to have published after his death. What you must mean by this is the Op. *ig. That is, inasmuch as these Princ. Phil. Cart, contain propositions that do not accord with the system expounded in the Tract. Th. Pol. and in the Ethics— which is the only sense in which one can be opposed to the other. See the Preface to the Princ. Ph. Cart., the letter of Spinoza to Heinr. Oldenburg, Op. Posth., p. 422; and the letter to W. Bleyenberg, ibid., p. 518.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


Posth. itself—or perhaps only the Preface: but then Lessing would have been making fun of me in having me believe that the exposition of Spinozism contained there was his credo.—But that would be a bit too much!—Hence, it must be the Op. Posth. itself. But if so, [47] I cannot then understand how you could oppose the Tract. Theo. Pol to it in any way. Spinoza's posthumous writings fully agree with what the Tract. Theo. Pol. contains of his system. Moreover, Spinoza himself explicitly referred to it, to the end of his days, and in more than one place. You ask further whether "Lessing had taken the system in the way that it was misunderstood by Bayle, or as others have better explained it." Between understanding and not misunderstanding there is a difference. Bayle did not misunderstand Spinoza's system so far as its conclusions are concerned; all one can say is that his understanding did not go far enough back, that he failed to penetrate to the system's foundations as intended by the author. If Bayle misunderstood Spinoza, as your objection implies, then, by the same standard, Leibniz misunderstood him even worse. Compare, if you please, Bayle's exposition in the first lines of the remark N with [48] what Leibniz says about Spinoza's doctrine in §§31, Prcgf. Theod., 173, 374, 393, Theod.53—But if Leibniz and Bayle did not misunderstand Spinoza's system, then those54 whose intention was to explain it better have actually misunderstood it, or falsified it. These last are not friends of mine, and I guarantee also that they were not Lessing's. Lessing did not address me with: "Dear brother, the much decried Spinoza might well . . . , etc." Do not take it to heart that my complaints to you are so blunt and dry, even a bit harsh, my dear and noble Mendelssohn. Towards a man whom I revere as much as you, this tone was the only proper one. I am, etc. [49] In spite of the somewhat too strident conclusion of the letter, the venerable man to whom it was addressed received it very kindly indeed, and even thought that he ought to ask my forgiveness. Immediately after receiving it, he conveyed these benevolent intentions to me through our common friend, together with a very flattering judgment of me and my essay.55 He wished to reply to my letter after he had gone through it again in a more leisurely way, with all the attention that was needed; and he begged for further clarification on one thing and another in my essay before he went to work with his piece on Lessing's character. He said


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

that the use he would make of the conversation recorded through me would then depend on me and my friend, and another man equally dear to all of us, who had also been Lessing's friend.56 As for himself, his own view was that it should not be suppressed, for it was both necessary and useful to give fair warning to all lovers of speculation, and [50] to show them by striking examples to what danger they exposed themselves whenever they indulged in speculation without any guidance. "As for those outside philosophy," wrote our venerable friend, "let them rejoice or grieve; we stand unmoved. We shall not factionalize, we shall not recruit or proselytize, for indeed, by soliciting and trying to form a party we would be traitors to the flag to which we are sworn." Seven months went by without my hearing anything at all from Mendelssohn.57 Since during this time fate was dealing me some very hard blows,58 I did not think about this matter much, and my correspondence, which I have never carried on energetically, came to a complete standstill. What occurred in the meantime is that a judgment on Spinoza by my friend Hemsterhuis enticed me to bring Spinoza into battle against the Aristee. I sketched a dialogue on these lines in June of the year '84; but from week to week I kept on postponing turning it into a [51] letter to send to Hemsterhuis. This was just when a letter reached me from my friend, with the news that Mendelssohn had resolved to put aside the proposed essay on Lessing's character for the moment, in order to have a go at the Spinozists or, as he preferred to call them, the All-Oners* this summer, if health and leisure allowed. My friend congratulated me for having occasioned so useful a work through my essay, for surely it was most urgently necessary that the dazzling errors of our times should be dissipated once and for all through the irresistible light of pure reason, held high by so firm a hand.59 Full of joy over Mendelssohn's decision, I replied by return post; I stopped working on my letter to Hemsterhuis, and banished every thought about the whole affair from my head. [52] At the end of August I journeyed to Hofgeismar, to restore my much weakened health, and regain myjoie de vivrein company of two of the loveliest and greatest human beings, the Princess von Gallitzin and the Minister von Fiirstenberg.6o There I was surprised by a letter of Mendelssohn; it came with some comments directed against the philosophy contained in my letter to him.61 The packet had arrived at * All Einern

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


Diisseldorf right after my departure; it went unopened through the hands of our common friend, who provided it with an envelope. In this letter Mendelssohn reiterated the excuses that our friend had already conveyed to me, and revealed his plan to write against Spinozism to me in the following words: "Since for the moment I have set aside my project to write about Lessing, and wish instead to sketch out something on Spinozism first, you see how important it must be for me to grasp your thoughts correctly, and to gain proper insight into the [53] grounds with which you try to defend the system of this man of wisdom. I am taking the liberty therefore of laying out my thoughts and reservations before you in the enclosed essay.* Like a knight you have thrown down your gauntlet; I am picking it up; so let us now fight our metaphysical duel according to the rules of chivalry under the eyes of the lady whom we both revere. . . . Etc. Here is my reply.62 Hofgeismar, Sept. 5, 1784 To Herr Moses Mendelssohn in Berlin. My bad health, which has been worsening for some months, has driven me to the waters here; and it will probably drive me farther away yet. Amid the vapours of the mineral waters that [54] oppress me both inside and out, I am quite unable to reply straight away to your esteemed letter of August the first (which reached Diisseldorf only on the twentyseventh). A happy coincidence, however, still allows me to offer you a kind of satisfaction on the battlefield. The Princess von Gallitzin, who is also making use of the springs and the baths here, has with her the copy of a letter concerning the philosophy of Spinoza that I wrote to Hemsterhuis some time ago. I have had another copy made from that one, and I enclose it here. What I have to say to the most important points in your comments is to be found in my letter in a context that sheds more light on the whole, and will remedy many a misunderstanding. . . . As soon as I return home and have some leisure, I shall re-read my report to you on Lessing, and compare my statements with your comments, and make up for anything that [55] the essay which is here sent to you leaves unresolved. That I chivalrously threw down my glove, of this I am not in the least aware. If I happened to drop it, and you want to con* Jacob! reproduces them in full in the second edition. For a translation, see pp. 35off. below.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

sider it as having been thrown and pick it up, well and good. I shall not turn my back, but shall defend myself as vigorously as I can. What I have stood and shall stand for, however, is not Spinoza and his system; it is rather the dictum of Pascal: La nature confond les Pyrrhoniens, & la raison les Dogmatistes.63 I told you loudly and clearly what I am and who. The fact that you regard me as someone else is not due to any sand that I might have kicked in your eyes. The battle and its outcome will show that I am not availing myself of any illicit art, and that nothing could be further from my thoughts than hiding myself. I recommend myself to Heaven, our lady, and the noble disposition of my opponent.

[56] ]


Copy of a Letter to M. Hemsterhuis in the Hague64 It is two months now since I threatened you with a reply to the article "Spinoza" enclosed in your letter of April 26.6s I shall now finally give myself satisfaction in the matter. You say that you cannot think of this famous man without [57] reproving him for not having lived thirty years later. For then he would have seen with his own eyes, because of the advances of physics itself, that geometry lends itself for immediate application only to things physical; further, that he confused the formula-method of geometry with its spirit, and that if he had applied the latter to metaphysics he would have produced things more worthy of his stupendous genius. Perhaps I possess too little of the [58] geometrical spirit myself to presume to defend Spinoza on this score. But even if he so far lacked that spirit as to confuse it with the formula-method of the geometers, still, it is a spirit that is at any rate an easily dispensable thing, since even without it Spinoza possessed a most correct sense, a most exquisite judgment, and an accuracy, a strength, and a depth of understanding that are not easy to surpass. These advantages have not prevented him from erring, and admittedly he erred in letting himself be enticed [59] into using the formula-method of geometry in metaphysics. But his system did not invent that method, whose origin is on the contrary very ancient, lost in the traditions from which Pythagoras, Plato, and other philosophers have al-

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


ready drawn. What distinguishes Spinoza's philosophy from all the other, what constitutes its soul, is that it maintains and applies with the strictest rigour the well known principle, gigni de nihilo nihil, in nihilum nilpotest reverti* If Spinoza [60] has denied a beginning to any action whatever, and has considered the system of final causes the greatest delirium of the human understanding, he has done so only as a consequence of that principle, not because of a geometry applied immediately to non-physical reality. Here, more or less, is how I conceive the concatenation of Spinoza's ideas. Let's suppose that he is speaking to us in person, and that he has just finished [61] reading the Aristee,*14 a circumstance that we shall however ignore. Spinoza: Being is not an attribute; ^ it is not anything derived from some sort of power; it is what lies at the ground of every attribute, quality, * and force—it is that which we designate with the word "substance." [62] Nothing can be presupposed by it, and it must be presupposed by everything. Of the various expressions of being, there are some that flow directly from its essence. Of this sort are the absolute and real continuum of extension, and that of thought. Thought, which is merely an attribute, a quality of substance, cannot in any sense be the cause of the latter. It is dependent on that in which it has its being; it is its expression and [63] deed; it is impossible that it should at the same time be what makes substance act. Concepts (that is, thought in so far as it is determined in a certain way) are sorted by their content; but this content, or what corresponds to it, does not produce thought. The content of the concepts, or what corresponds to it, is what we call the "object" of the concept. [64] In every concept therefore there is the following: ( i ) Something absolute and original which constitutes thought independently of its object. *14- Aristee ou de la Divinite, Paris, 1779. The other two works in what follows are by the same author, M. Hemsterhuis, Lettre sur I'homme & ses rapports, Paris, 1772; and Sophyle ou de la philosophic, Paris, 1778. * From nothing, nothing is generated; into nothing, nothing returns. t Eigenschaft: This is the term that Jacobi regularly uses for Spinoza's attributus. I normally translate it as "property" because this is what Eigenschaft means. Here I am conforming to the French text, which has attribut. %

Beschaffenheit; French: qualite


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

(2) Something secondary or transitory* which manifests a relation, and is the result of this relation. These two pertain to each other necessarily, and it is just as impossible for [65] thought (considered simply and solely in its essence) to produce the concept or the representation of an object, as it is for an object, or an intermediary cause, or any alteration whatever, to set thought in motion where there is none. The will is posterior to thought, because it presupposes self-feeling. + It is posterior to conception because it requires the feeling of a relation. Hence it is not immediately conjoined with substance, nor even with [66] thought; it is only a remote effect of relations, and can never be an original source, or a pure cause.

Let us check Spinoza's attack with a sally, and see whether we cannot fill his trenches, destroy his fortifications, and explode his mines in his own face. Fire all together! Poor old Spinoza, you are just a dreamer! Let's cut it short, and come to the facts. [67] "Do you agree that any action whatever must have some direction?" Sp.: No. On the contrary, it seems to me evident that every original action can have only itself as object; and hence it has no direction, since what one calls "direction" is never anything but the result produced by certain relations. "But is there a cause why everything [68] that is or that appears to be, whether essence, modus, or whatever, either is or appears to be as it does and not otherwise?" Sp.: Undoubtedly. "So a direction has a why, a cause. And this why is not in the direction, for otherwise it would have been before it was." Sp.: To be sure. [69] "It follows that the why is in the agent, and it has its ground there. But now, you cannot proceed from cause to cause in infinitum, for there is a determinate instant when the agent imparts direction. Hence you will find the first cause either in the efficacy of the agent, which is its ap* Variibergehendes; French: phenomenal t Selbst-Gefuhl; French: conscience d'etre

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


titude for willing,* or in a modification of the agent. But the latter has its why, and, after you have gone from cause to cause, you finally come to determinate efficacy, [70] or to the will of some agent: hence direction has will as its first cause. But we cannot conceive of any determinate efficacy, of a will that imparts direction, without an understanding that foresees, without self-feeling. The first cause of all effects is therefore the action of a rational will which is infinitely great and infinitely powerful. I say, infinitely, because from cause to cause we must necessarily come to that point."*15 Sp.: I have proven to you that the will, [71] like directed movement, is only a derived being diat has its origin in relation. Just as the cause of the movement's direction cannot be in the direction itself, (for otherwise it would have been before it was), so too, for that very reason, the cause of the will's direction cannot be in the direction itself, for otherwise the latter would have been before it was. Your will, which determines the faculty to will, is exactly an effect that brings about its cause. You grant me (for you have [72] yourself remarked on it) that the will is not only intrinsic to thought, but to the idea as well. Considered in its essence, however, thought is nothing but the being thatfeels itself. The idea is being with a feeling of itself, + inasmuch as it is determinate, individual, and in relation with other individual singular things. The will is nothing but self-feeling being, inasmuch as it is determinate, and acts as an individual being. . . . "Hold on, my dear Spinoza; you are losing yourself in your fancies again. What leads you [73] astray is your failure to distinguish two things which are quite different and even opposite in kind; efficacy and inertia.*16 There is as much movement in the physical world as there is rest. A part that is in movement communicates its movement to another part, that is at rest, and receives rest from it in return. Whatever their origin, action and reaction balance one another. So the sum of all effects in the world is equal to the [74] sum of all counter-effects. The one cancels out the other, and this brings us to perfect rest and genuine inertia.*17 Inertia (vis inertice) in a thing is really just the force by which it is what *15- Aristee, pp. 81—82. *i6. Aristee, p. 64. *i7- Aristee, p. 112. * Fdhigkeit zu wollen; French: velleite t I'idee est le sentiment de I'etre


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

it is; the thing reacts only through this force and in proportion to it. So reaction and inertia are the same. Whatever makes us aware of the inertia, makes us at the same time aware of a movement that either overpowers [75] the inertia or is cancelled out by it; aware, that is, of a radically different kind offeree, which we call activity.*18 So the world divides into two parts. One part, being completely inert and passive, offers us the most perfect image of inactivity and rest; the other, being alive and lifegiving, takes over the dead parts of nature so as to bind them together and force them to live and act, precisely through the force of their own inactivity.*19 This activity, this [76] energy, this primordial force in a being, is the faculty of being able to act upon the things that lie in one's sphere. This activity is directed in all possible directions, and this is what its freedom consists in; it is an indeterminate force that constitutes the aptitude to will, or the faculty of being able to will."*20 Sp.: I have let you speak as you liked. Now here is my answer. For one thing, I have no comprehension of a primary force other than the force by which [77] something is what it is—of a faculty, or an ability to be able to act upon what lies within the sphere of the being thus endowed with this ability to be able. I do not comprehend an activity directed in all possible directions; or "an indeterminate force that exhales its force and its energy in all directions, just as a spice seems to exhale its odour."66 In my opinion this talk offers shadow figures instead of concepts, and does not say anything [78] intelligible. What sort of thing is passivity, or a being that only has force to suffer? And what is an activity that communicates itself to this passivity, and becomes an entirely foreign cause of action in it—an activity that even contradicts the very being of this passive thing which reacts through its inactivity? Can a force sunder itself from its origin? can it give up a portion of itself, and can this portion exist apart, or, stronger still, become the quality of some other thing, even of an entirely heterogeneous one?—"But we see this [79] happening!" you will say.—And I reply: We also see that the sun turns around the earth. Let us leave the appearances aside, and strive to cognize things as they are instead.*21 Truth cannot come from the outside; it is in us.*22

*i8. *ig. *2O. *2i. *22.

Aristee, pp. 74, 115. Aristee, p. 81. Aristee, p. 123. Aristee, p. 52. Lettre s. I'homme & c., p. 51- ! 1

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


But few heads are made for perfect abstraction, that is, for an attention directed solely upon the inner being. We don't want to tax our own too much this time. Let us leave your theory of a particular world aside, and [80] take only a brief look at your explication of it. Here are your results in a nut-shell. The efficient cause determines the course of things from its own self; hence this cause is intelligent, and its activity* lies in its will. I ask you then: is this cause intelligent because it has willed to be intelligent, or is it so independently of its will? You must of course reply that it is intelligent independently of its will. But indeterminate thought is empty, and every thought or representation is indeterminate. [81] So I ask you again: What has brought representation into the thought of your creator who is one and only, with no externality, or whose externality, if it is not pure nothingness, is his own creation—what has made the thought of this creator represent objects—that is to say, individual, determinate, and temporally successive beings? Has he created his concepts, has he determined them, before they were, through his faculty of being able to have concepts? And the aptitude to will, this creator's will that is neither the origin nor the result of [82] his understanding but is none the less intelligent for all that—the will that comes I know not whence, and goes I know not whither—what is it, pray? how is it? and what does it want? In brief, to sum up everything in one question: Does your creator owe its being to thinking and willing, or its thinking and willing to its being? Perhaps you'll reply that this question is laughable, and that in God thought, will, and being, are one and the same thing. I quite agree with you, with only this difference, that [83] what you call "will" is in my terms the "ever efficient power," and I hold it to be that and nothing else. So we agree. But in that case, don't keep on talking about a will that directs action, or an understanding that foresees all, and to which the first cause is subject too—for to talk of these things is the height of absurdity in any case. "Don't get excited, dear Spinoza; instead [84] let us quickly see where all this has led us. I want to deal with your propositions the way you have dealt with mine, and simply ask you: How do you begin to act in accordance with your will, if your will is nothing but a consequence of your activity and a mediated activity to boot, as you tell me. I presuppose that you grant me the fact without any demonstration. For to request a demonstration of man's faculty to will is to request [85] a demonstration of


French: energie


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

his existence. One who does not feel his being whenever he receives representations from outside things, and does not have an awareness of his faculty to will* whenever he acts or desires, is something other than a man, and it is impossible to decide anything about his being."*23 Sp.: As for my being, decide what you will about it. But this much I definitely know, namely that I possess no faculty to will, even though I do have my particular volitions and [86] my individual desires, as much as anyone else. Your faculty to will is a mere ens rationis that relates to this or that particular volition in the same way as "animality" relates to your dog or horse, or "humanity" to you and me. It is because of these metaphysical and imaginary beings that you fall into all your errors. You dream up aptitudes to act or not to act according to a certain I know not what, which is a nothingat all. Through these aptitudes that you [87] call capacities to be capable, etc., you contrive to conjure up something out of nothingness, without our even being aware of it, and while you cleverly avoid the scandalous word, you excite the admiration of the sophists, and only irritate the true researcher. Of all these capacities and capacities to be capable, there is not one that is not repugnant to existence. The being that is determinate being is determined in the same way in all its effects. There is no force that does not work, and that is not effective at every instant. [88] Forces act according to the degree of their reality, without any interruption ever. "I pray you, Spinoza, answer my question!" Sp.: Do you think that I am going to beg it? Here's my reply. I only act according to my will whenever it so happens that my actions correspond to it; but it is not my will that makes me act. Our opinion to the contrary derives from the fact that we know very well what we want and [89] desire, but we do not know what makes us want and desire that. Because of this ignorance we believe that we produce our volition through the will itself, and we often go so far as to attribute even our desires to it. "I don't quite understand you. You know that there are three systems concerning what determines the will: one, which is called the 'indifference or equilibrium system' but one should rather call the 'system of freedom'; another, the 'choice of the best or moral necessity system'; and [90] the third, the 'physical necessity or fatalism system'. For which do you declare yourself?" *23- Lettre s. I'homme & c., p. 60. 12 * "Faculty to will" (Vermogen zu wollen) is the French velleite.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


Sp.: For none of the three. The second, however, seems to me the worst. "I am for the first. But why do you hold the second to be the worst?" Sp.: Because it presupposes final causes, and this doctrine is sheer nonsense. [91] "I will abandon the 'choice of the best' or 'moral necessity' to your mercy, since it does away with freedom. But so far as final causes are concerned, I claim for my part that it is sheer nonsense to reject them." Sp.: You cannot leave the one at my mercy without the other as well. You concede that the nature of every individual thing has the preservation of that same individual thing for its object; that every thing strives to preserve its being; and that this very striving is [92] what we call its "nature." You will further concede that the individual does not seek to preserve itself for any reason that it knows, or for any particular purpose, but that it seeks to preserve itself only in order to preserve itself, and because its nature, or the force that makes it what it is, so requires. We call this striving "natural impulse" and, so far it is accompanied by feeling, "desire"; so that desire is nothing but the striving of the individual thing after what [93] can serve for the preservation of its being, accompanied by the feeling of this striving. What corresponds to the desire of the individual thing, it calls "good"; and what is opposed to it, "evil." So our awareness of good and evil originates from desire, or from impulse conjoined to consciousness, and it is a palpable absurdity to suppose the opposite, and derive the cause from its effect. As for the will, it too is nothing but impulse or desire, but only so far as they concern the soul alone; or in other words, so far as they [94] are simply representations, or are located in the thinking being. The will is nothing but the understanding applied to desire. In observing the various modifications in the tendency or desire of an individual thing due to the composition of the thing's being and its relations to other individuals, the understanding (which is nothing but the soul itself, so far as the latter has clear and distinct concepts) decides on whether the said modifications are in harmony or not with the particular nature of the individual thing, so far as the understanding itself is in a position to perceive it. But the understanding's activity, which [95] consists only in affirmation or negation, does not determine the action of the individual thing any more than its other decisions or judgments, be they what they may, determine the nature of things. "What you say is not altogether free of obscurity. But this much is clear at any rate: you deny all freedom; you are a fatalist, even though you have earlier denied this."


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

[96] Sp.: I am far from denying all freedom, and I know that man has received his share of it. But this freedom does not consist in a chimerical faculty of being able to will, for willing cannot occur except in an actually present, determinate, will. To ascribe any such faculty to a being is the same as ascribing to it a faculty of being able to be, in virtue of which it is then up to it to procure actual existence for itself. Man's freedom is the [97] very essence of man; that is, it is the degree of his actual power or of the force with which man is what he is. In so far as he acts solely according to the laws of his being, he acts with complete freedom. Hence God, who acts and can act only on the basis of what he is, and is only through Himself, possesses absolute freedom. That is truly my view about this subject. As regards fatalism, I disavow it only to the extent that it has been made to rest on materialism, or on the absurd [98] opinion that thought is only a modification of extension, like fire, and light, etc.; whereas it is just as impossible for thought to derive from extension, as for extension, from thought. The two are entirely different beings, even though together they constitute only one thing, of which they are the properties. Thought, as I have already said, is being that feels itself: hence whatever comes to pass in extension must equally come to pass in thought; and every genuine individual is animated in proportion to its manifold [99] and unity, or according to the degree of force by which it is what it is. In the individual thing thought is necessarily conjoined with representations, since it is impossible that the individual should feel its being if it does not have the feeling of its relations. "What you accept in fatalism is sufficient for me, for no more is needed to establish that St. Peter's Church in Rome built itself; that [100] Newton's discoveries were made by his body; and that the soul only had to look on through it all. It follows, moreover, that each and every thing can only be produced by another individual thing, and this in turn by another, and so on to infinity. Yet you need at the same time a first cause and a determinate instant at which it acts. Remember now my arguments of a little while ago. Will you please respond finally to the crucial point that I made?" Sp.: I will do that as soon as [101] I have explained my view about St. Peter's Church, and the discoveries of Newton. The Church of St. Peter in Rome did not build itself; everything that is contained in the entire universe of bodily extension has contributed to it. And as for Newton's discoveries, they concern only the power of thought. . . . "Good! But the modified thought that you call soul is nothing but the idea or the concept of body, or nothing but the [102] body itself seen

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


from the side of thought. Newton's soul has its character from Newton's body. Hence it is his body, though it had no thought, that did the discoveries that are observed, conceived, sensed or thought, by Newton's soul." Sp.: Though you give the matter a somewhat distorted look, I shall let you have your conclusions, provided you are willing to keep in mind that nothing less than the whole [103] universe comes into play in order to give Newton's body its character at every moment, and that the soul attains the concept of its body only through the concept of what gives the body its character. This important comment will not prevent the imagination from rebelling against the truth that I am claiming. Tell a man who is not a geometer that a bounded square is equal to an infinite space. After you have given your proof, he will remain perplexed, but will eventually shake himself [104] free of bewilderment through deep reflection.*24 It would not be impossible to reconcile even the imagination in some degree with my doctrine, provided that one approaches the task in the right way, and shows the gradual advance that leads from the savage's impulse, harking back to the tree or the cave that once sheltered him, to the construction of a St. Peter's Church. Reflect upon the organization of political bodies, complicated as they are, and discover what made them a totality. The more one reflects upon this and delves into it more and more deeply, [105] the more will one perceive only blind impulses, and the whole manner of operation of a machine—but of course a machine in which, as in first order* mechanisms, the forces arrange themselves according to their needs and the degree of their energy—where all the springs have the feeling of their action and communicate it to each other through reciprocal striving, in a necessarily infinite progression. The same goes for languages: the totality of their structure seems a miracle, yet [106] none of them came to be through the help of grammar. When we look carefully, we find that in all things action precedes reflection, and that reflection is only the continuation of action. In brief, we know what we do, and no more. Now for your main proposition. You claim that one cannot proceed from cause to cause in infinity, but that there must, at some determinate point, be a beginning of action on the side of a first and pure cause. [107] I maintain, on the contrary, that one cannot proceed from cause to cause otherwise than to infinity; that is to say, that one cannot suppose *24- Sophyle, p. 68. * von der ersten Hand - de la premiere main: literally, "first hand"


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

an absolute, and pure, beginning of an action, without supposing that nothingness produces something. This truth, which only needs to be displayed in order to be grasped, is at the same time capable of the strictest demonstration. Hence the first cause is not a cause to which one can climb through the so-called intermediary causes: it is totally immanent, and equally effective at every [108] point of extension and duration. This first cause, that we call "God" or "nature," acts in virtue of the same ground in virtue of which it is; and since it is impossible that there should be a ground or a purpose to its being, so it is equally impossible that there should be a ground or a purpose to its actions.

At this point I leave Spinoza, impatient to throw myself into the arms of that sublime genius [109] who said that the occasional occurrence in the soul of even one aspiration for the better, for the future and the perfect, is a better proof of the Divinity than any geometric proof.*25 For some time my attention has been directed with full force in this direction, which can be called the standpoint of faith. You know what Plato wrote to Dion's friends: "For regarding divine things, there is no way of putting the subject into words [no] like other studies. Acquaintance with it must come rather after a long period of attendance to instruction in the subject itself and of close companionship with it, when, suddenly, like a blaze kindled by a leaping spark, it is generated in the soul and at once becomes self-sustaining."67 You say almost the same in the Aristee*26 namely, "that the conviction of the feeling from which all other convictions are derived, is born within the very essence, and cannot be communicated." But must not the feeling that lies at the ground of this conviction [in] be found in all men, and should it not be possible to liberate it to some extent in those who appear to be destitute of it, by working to remove the hindrances that inhibit its effective action? It occurred to me, as I reflected upon this subject, that the issue of a certainty that yet lacks sufficient foundation may be so dealt with as to lead us to new principles. I don't want to [112] abuse your patience by detailing my reflections on the subject. It was not in order to instruct you, but rather to receive instruction from you, that I took up my pen. Grant me, I beg, the teaching that I desire, and supply me with grounds that are *25- Aristee, p. 168. *26.. Aristee, pp. 167, 170.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


sound enough to counter Spinoza's arguments against the personality and understanding of a first cause, against free will and final causes. I have never been able to gain the advantage over them through pure metaphysics. Yet it is necessary to uncover their weakness, and to be able to demonstrate it. Without that [113] it would be useless to bring down Spinoza's theory, so far as there is anything positive in it. His disciples would not surrender; instead they would entrench themselves in the remaining ruins of the collapsed system, and answer us by saying that we rather accept patent absurdity than the merely inconceivable, and that that is not the way to do philosophy.

I sent the letter with the supplement to our lady unsealed, for her further disposition.68 In his memoranda Mendelssohn had complained that here and there I [114] had upset the idea ofSpinozism that he had formed in his mind; that many passages in my letter were simply unintelligible to him; that he failed to see how others fitted into my system; dial he could see himself being led around in a circle, and that he doubted equally whether, at the bottom of my heart, I was committed to atheism, or to Christianity. In my judgment all the other complaints followed from the first one; and so long as we did not agree about what Spinozism was, we could not do battle on the real issue, whether for or against it. I believed for my part that I had made an important contribution to the determination of the issue by sending him my letter to Hemsterhuis. Nevertheless, I firmly intended to explain myself to Mendelssohn even further, had not a coincidence of obstacles delayed the execution of my resolve. After [115] I had heard not a word from Mendelssohn all winter long, my friend sent me in February the copy of a letter that she had received from him in which he said that he did not actually know whether it was he who owed a letter to me, or I who owed him one.69 When I sent him my letter to Hemsterhuis, I had promised a reply specially for him as well. Had I forgotten him since then? Since he had not forgotten me, but always held me vividly in remembrance, he was hoping to oblige me with a manuscript of perhaps twenty sheets or more. . . . He could not say how soon this manuscript would be in a fit condition to be laid before me. . . . But in the meantime he wished to know whether I would permit him to make public use of my philosophical letters at some point. "At the moment," Mendelssohn wrote, "my work is indeed not concerned with


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

Spinozism alone, but is rather a kind of revision of the common proofs of God's existence. But subsequently I shall also go into the particular grounds of the Spinozistic system, and it [116] would be highly convenient to me then, and of great use to many readers, if I could avail myself of Herrjacobi's lively exposition, and have him speak for Spinoza. I wish I could have an answer on this as soon as possible, since I must plan my exposition accordingly." I wrote that very instant to Mendelssohn granting him the free use of my letters, and promised to send the special reply for which he was still waiting the following month without fail. Immediately thereafter I was afflicted by a severe illness, from which I only began to recover at the very end of March. I reported the delay to my friend, so that she might pass the news on to Mendelssohn, and at the same time assure him that I was now actually at work. I completed my essay on the twenty-first of April.70 It is printed here without the introduction, since [117] that just gives the reasons why I found it expedient to respond to Mendelssohn's comments only with a new exposition of Spinoza's system, and so make the justification of my concept of this system the main point.*2"7 To Hen Moses Mendelssohn concerning His Memoranda Sent to Me^1

[ . . . . ] So the longer and the more deeply I ponder about it, the more I realize that if we are to get anywhere, or [i 17] at least to make contact instead of moving further apart, we must above all else be clear about the principal issue, the doctrine of Spinoza itself. That is what I thought after my first reading of your comments, and for this reason I regarded a copy of my letter to Hemsterhuis as the best reply for the time being. That is what I still think, so I shall now again try an exposition of Spinoza's doctrine.

*27- For the most part the citations to be found at the bottom of the text are there because of this justification. If explanation had been my object, I would have had to choose quite different texts.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


i. At the ground of every becoming there must lie a being that has not itself become; at the ground of every coming-to-be, something that has not come-to-be; at the ground of anything alterable, an unalterable and eternal thing. ii. Becoming can as little have come-to-be or begun as Being; or, if that which subsists in itself (the eternally unalterable, that which persists in the impermanent) had ever been by itself, without the impermanent, it would never have produced a becoming, either within itself or outside, for these would both [119] presuppose a coming-to-be from nothingness. in. From all eternity, therefore, the impermanent has been with the permanent, the temporal with the eternal, the finite with the infinite, and whosoever assumes a beginning of the finite, also assumes a comingto-be from nothingness.*28 i v. If the finite was with the eternal from all eternity, it cannot be outside it, for if it were outside [ 120] it, it would either be another being that subsists on its own, or be produced by the subsisting thing from nothing, v. If it were produced by the subsisting thing from nothing, so too would the force or determination, in virtue of which it was produced by the infinite thing from nothingness, have come from nothingness; for in the infinite, eternal, permanent thing, everything is infinitely, permanently, and eternally actual. An action first initiated by the infinite being could not have begun otherwise than from all eternity, and its determination could not have derived from anywhere except from nothingness.*29 [121] vi. Hence the finite is in the infinite, so that the sum of all finite things, equally containing within itself the whole of eternity at every moment, past and future, [123] is one and the same as the infinite thing itself.

*28. "Anyone wishing to determine all the motions of matter up to the present by reducing them and their duration to a certain number and time, would be doing the same as trying to deprive corporeal substance, which we cannot conceive except as existent, of its modifications (movement and rest, which are the equally eternal and essential modi of extension, and the a priori of all individual corporeal configurations), ' 3 and to bring about that it should not have the nature that it has." Ep. xxix; Op. Posth., p. 469. *2Q. Ethics, i, P. 28. . . j Op. Posth., pp. 25 & 26.'4 t Here Jacobi cites the demonstration and scholion in full.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

vu. This sum is not an absurd combination of finite things, together constituting an infinite, but a whole in the strictest sense, whose parts can only be thought within it and according to it.*3° [124] vni. What is prior in a thing by nature, is not on that account prior in the order of time. [125] According to nature, corporeal extension is prior to any of its modes, although it can never exist without this determinate mode or that, that is, it cannot be prior to them in the order *30. The following passages from Kant, which are entirely in the spirit of Spinoza, might serve for explanation: ". . . We can represent to ourselves only one space; and if we speak of diverse spaces, we mean thereby only parts of one and the same unique space. Secondly, these parts cannot precede the one all-embracing space, as being, as it were, constituents out of which it can be composed; on the contrary, they can be thought only as in it. Space is essentially one; the manifold in it, and therefore the general concept of spaces, depends solely on [the introduction of] limitations. . . ." Critique of Pure R,, [A] 25; "The infinitude of time signifies nothing more than that every determinate magnitude of time is possible only through limitations of one single time that underlies it. The original representation, time, must therefore be given as unlimited. But when an object is so given that its parts, and every quantity of it, can be determinately represented only through limitation, the whole representation cannot be given through concepts, since they contain only partial representations (since in their case the partial representations come first); on the contrary, such concepts must themselves rest on immediate intuition." Critique of Pure R., [A] 32. I want to give the following propositions of Spinoza as accompaniment to these words of Kant. . . .* l5 I will also surrender to the temptation of copying still another passage from Spinoza's Cogitata Metaphysica, [126] which contributes a lot to the elucidation of what just preceded, especially the last two sentences, and also throws a new light on the whole subject.^ "[. . . .] For it is one thing to inquire into the nature of things, and another to inquire into the modes by which things are perceived by us. Indeed, if these things are confounded, we shall be able to understand neither the modes of perceiving, nor nature itself.'"6 Later on I shall refer to Spinoza's own proofs that his infinite substance is not composed of parts, but is absolutely indivisible, and "one" in the strictest sense. * Here Jacobi cites extensively from De Intell. Emend., Opp. Posth., pp. 390-91. t Here Jacobi cites extensively from Spinoza's Renati Des Cartes Principiorum Philosophies Pars I et II. More Geometrico demonstrates . . . Accesserunt Ejusdem Cantata Metaphysica etc. (Amsterdam: Johannes Riewertsz, 1663), pp. 94-96.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


of time outside the understanding. [126] So too thought is prior to any of its representations according to nature; [127] yet it cannot be actual except in some determinate mode or other, that is, in the order of time, with this representation or that. ix. The following example may [128] explain the matter better, and lead us to a clear conception of it. Let us assume that all modes of extension can be exhaustively reduced to the so called four elements, water, earth, air, and fire. Now corporeal extension can be thought in conjunction with water, without extension being fire; in conjunction with fire, without being earth; in conjunction with earth, without being air, etc. But none of these modes can be thought for itself without the presupposition of corporeal extension, which is accordingly the first by nature in each of these elements, the truly real, the substantial, the natura naturans. x. The first—not in things extended alone, not in things of thought alone, but what is first in these as well as in those, and likewise in all things—the primal being,* the actuality that is unalterably present everywhere and cannot itself be a property, [129] but in which, on the contrary, everything else is only a property it possesses—this unique and infinite being of all beings Spinoza calls "God," or substance. XL This God therefore does not belong to any species of things; it is not a separate, individual, different, thing.*31 Nor can any of the determinations that [131] distinguish individual things pertain to it—not a particular thought or consciousness of its own, any more than a particular extension, figure, or colour of its own, or anything we may care to mention which is not just primal material, pure matter, universal substance, xn. Determinatio est negatio, sen determinatio ad rem juxta suum esse non

*3i. "!" " [ . . . . ] All that needed be noted here is that God can be called one in so far as we separate him from other beings. But in so far as we conceive that there cannot be more than one of the same nature, he is called unique. Indeed, if we wished to examine the matter more accurately, we could perhaps show that God is only very improperly called one and unique. . . ."* (Ep. L, Op. Posth., P- 55?[ff-]) *

t pp. t PP-


Here Jacobi cites extensively from Cogitata Metaphysica, Part i, ch. 6, Curley's tr., Vol. i, 311-12. I am only entering the key sentences. Jacobi then cites most of Spinoza's letter tojarigjellis, 2 June 1674; Elwes's tr., Vol. n. 369-70-


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

pertinet* *32 Individual things therefore, so far as they only exist in a certain determinate mode, are non-entia; the indeterminate infinite being is the one single true ens reale, hoc est, est omne esse, & prater quod nullum datur esse.^ *33 xiii. To clarify the matter further, [132] and allow the impending difficult issue of God's understanding to display itself for us in its full light and cast off every ambiguity, let us try to seize by some hanging tail the veil of terminology in which Spinoza saw fit to wrap his system, and lift it right off. xiv. According to Spinoza, an infinite extension and an infinite thought are properties of God. The two infinities together make up just one indivisible essence,*34 so that it makes no difference under which of the two we consider God; for the order and connection of concepts is one and the same as the order and connection of things, and everything that results from the infinite nature of God formaliter, must also result from it objective, and vice versa.*35 [133] xv. Invividual, alterable, corporeal, things are modi of movement and rest in the infinite extension.*^ xvi. Movement and rest are also immediate modi of infinite [134] extension,*37 and are just as infinite, unalterable, and eternal as extension is. *38 These two modi together constitute the essential form of all possible corporeal configurations and forces; they are the a priori of these. *32. Ep. L, Op. Posth., p. 558.17 *33. Delntell. Emend., Op. Posth., p. 381.l8 *34. Eth., Part i, p. 10. *35. Eth., Part n, p. 7: "The order and connection of ideas is the same as the order and connection of things."* Op. Posth., p. 46. *36. "Bodies are distinguished from one another by reason of motion and rest, quickness and slowness, not by reason of substance." Eth., Part n. Lemma i.19 *37. Ep. LXVI, Op. Posth., p. 593. *38. Eth., Part i, Props 21,22,23. Rest and movement are opposed to one another, and neither of these determinations can have been produced by the * "Determination is negation, i.e. determination does not pertain to a thing according to its being." t "This is the real being; it is the all of being, and apart from it there is no being." : Jacobi proceeds to quote the text of the corollary in full; Ehves's tr., Vol. 11, p. 86.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


xvn. Connected with these two immediate modi of infinite extension are two immediate modi of the infinite and absolute thought: will and understanding.*39 These modes of thought [135] contain objectively what the modes of extension contain formally; and they are, in each case, prior to all individual things, in the order of extended as well as thinking nature. xvin. Infinite, absolute, thought is prior to infinite will and understanding, and only this thought pertains to natura naturans, just as the infinite will and understanding pertain to natura naturata.*40 xix. Natura naturans, i.e. God [136] considered as free cause, or the infinite substance, apart from its affects and considered in itself, that is, considered in its truth, does not therefore have either will or understanding, whether infinite or finite.*41 [137] xx. How these things can have being in one another simultaneously, yet can be prior to or after one another according to nature, needs no further explanation in the light of what has been said about this already. xxi. It has been shown clearly enough by now that outside individual corporeal things there cannot be yet another particular infinite movement and rest, together with a particular infinite extension; any more

other. God must therefore be the immediate cause of them, just as he is the immediate cause of extension and of himself. Ep. LXX., Op. Posth., p. 596. Ep., LXXIII, Op. Posth., p. 598. *3g. Eth., Part i, Coroll. 2, P. 30. "Hence it follows, secondly, that will and intellect stand in the same relation to the nature of God as do motion and rest. . . ."20 *40. Eth., Part I, p. 29, Schol.: "By natura naturans we should understand that which is in itself, and is conceived through itself, or such attributes of substance as express the eternal and infinite essence, that is, God, inasmuch as he is considered as free cause. . . . By natura naturata I understand all that which follows from the necessity of God's nature, that is, all the modes of God's attributes, inasmuch as they are considered as things which are in God, and without which God can neither be nor be conceived." Op. Posth., p. 27. 21 *4i. Eth., Part i, P. 31: "Intellect in act, whether finite or infinite, as also will, desire, love etc., should be referred to natura naturata and not to natura naturans."* Op. Posth., pp. 27-28. * Jacobi cites the proof and the scholion in full; Elwes's tr., Vol. 11, pp. 107-08.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

than, according to Spinoza's principles, there can be outside thinking finite things yet another particular infinite will and understanding, together with a particular infinite absolute thought, xxn. But that not the shadow of a [138] doubt, not the possibility of a further recourse, be left lingering, let us also take a look at Spinoza's doctrine concerning finite understanding. I presuppose my letter to Hemsterhuis throughout, but here in particular. In that letter I was able to be a lot clearer on several issues, since I only had to present the content of the doctrine. xxni. Finite understanding, or the modificatum modificatione* of the infinite absolute thought, originates from the concept of an actually present individual thing.*42 [139] xxiv. The individual thing can no more be the cause of its concept than the [140] concept can be the cause of the individual thing; or

*42. Eth., Part n, Props. 11 & 13.2a What Spinoza demonstrates about the human understanding must also hold, according to his doctrine, about any other finite understanding. On this topic one should consult the scholion of the just cited i gth Proposition of the second part of the Ethics (which is important in more than one respect). It is apparent that the different nature of the objects of the concepts does not cause any essential change with respect to the understanding itself; and [ 139] among the infinite properties ascribed by Spinoza to infinite substance, none belong to thinking nature, apart from the infinite thought itself and its modes. They must all be so related to thinking nature, therefore, exactly as corporeal extension relates to it, that is, when considered on their own, they must be seen as mera ideata, and their individual things can only be objects of concepts—and if it is a case of immediate concepts, then the objects are only the bodies of concepts. Therefore I shall not further concern myself with those other properties about which we know nothing at all, except that there must be something of the sort; instead I shall stick to the one and only object of the soul, the body. For that matter, the soul-body relation can be a very important topic for discussion, but instead of embarking on it, I shall only remark here that Spinoza's doctrine of the infinite properties of God, together with the fact that we know absolutely [140] nothing apart from our body and what can be derived from the concept of it, is an excellent indication of the true meaning of Spinoza's system. (See Ep. LXVI and the passages cited in it). 23 * i.e. a second-order modification, or a mode conditioned by another mode

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


thought can no more derive from extension, than extension from thought. The two of them, extension and thought, are totally different beings, yet are only in one thing; that is, they are one and the same thing, unum & idem, simply seen under different properties, xxv. Absolute thought is the pure, immediate, absolute consciousness in universal being, being kat'exokhen, or substance. 43 [141] xxvi. Since among the properties of substance we have, apart from thought, only the single representation of corporeal extension, we shall stick with just these two, and say that, since consciousness is indivisibly conjoined with extension, whatever occurs in extension must also occur in consciousness. [142] xxvu. We call consciousness of a thing the "concept" of it, and this concept can only be an immediate one. xxvin. An immediate concept, considered in and for itself alone, is without representation.* xxix. Representations arise from mediated concepts, and require mediated objects, that is, where there are representations, there must also be several individual things that refer to one another; with something "inner" there must also be something "outer." xxx. The immediate or direct concept of an actually present individual thing is called the spirit, the soul, (mens), of that thing; the individual

*43> The expression, le sentiment de I'etre, which the French language put at my disposal in the Letter to Hemsterhuis, was purer and better; for the word "consciousness" appears to imply something of "representation" and "reflection," and this has no place here. The following passage from Kant might clarify the matter a bit more. [141] "There can be in us no modes of knowledge, no connection or unity of one mode of knowledge with another, without that unity of consciousness which precedes all data of intuitions, and by relation to which representations of objects is alone possible. This pure original unchangeable consciousness I shall name transcendental apperception. That it deserves this name is clear from the fact that even the purest objective unity, namely, that of the a priori concepts (space and time), is only possible through relation of the intuitions to such unity of consciousness. The numerical unity of this apperception is thus the a priori ground of all concepts, just as the manifold of space and time is the a priori ground of the intuitions of sensibility." Critique of Pure R., [A] 107. * In the second edition Jacobi adds: "—is a feeling!"


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

thing itself, as the immediate or direct object of such a concept, is called the "body."*44 [143] xxxi. The soul feels anything else of which it is aware of outside the body within this body itself, and the soul becomes aware of all that only through the concept of the modifications which the body receives from outside (and in no other way). Hence, that from which the body cannot receive modifications, of that the soul cannot have the least awareness.*45 xxxn. On the other hand, the soul cannot become aware of its body either—it does not know that the body is there, nor is it cognizant of itself in any way—[144] except through the modifications which the body receives from the things outside it, and through the concepts of these.*46 For the body is an individual thing determined in such a way that it attains to being only after, with, and among other individual things, and it remains in being only after, with, and among them; its inwardness cannot subsist therefore without its outwardness, that is, without a manifold relation to other outside things, and without a manifold relation of these things to it. Without a perpetual alteration of modifications, the body can neither exist, nor be thought as being actually there. [145] xxxin. The immediate concept o/the immediate concept of the body constitutes the consciousness of the soul, and this consciousness is united with the soul in the same way as the soul is united with the body. To wit: consciousness of the soul expresses a certain determinate form *44- "The object of the idea [143] constituting the human mind is the body, or a certain mode of extension actually existing, & nothing else." Eth., Part n, p. i3.24—On the distinction between a direct and an indirect concept, or a mediated and immediate one, we should consult the scholion of prop. 17, in the second part of the Ethics. *5 *45- " . . . the images of things are affects of the human body, or modes in which the human body is affected by external causes." Schol. P. 32, Eth., Part in. 26 Here too the scholium of the iyth prop, (cited above) should be consulted (with the 2nd corollary of the i6th prop.) *46. "The human mind does not know the human body, nor does it know that it exists, except through the ideas of the modes by which the body is affected." Eth., Part n, P. ig. 27 "The mind does not know itself, except in so far as it perceives the ideas of the affects of the body." [Ibid.] P. 33.a8

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


of a concept, just as the concept itself expresses a certain determinate form of an individual thing. (Eth., Part n, prop, xxi, and its schol.) But the individual thing, its concept, and the concept of this concept, are entirely one and the same thing (unum & idem), which is only being viewed under different attributes and modifications. (Ibid., prop. XXI, schol). xxxiv. Since the soul is nothing but the immediate concept of the body, and is one and the same thing as the body, the excellence of the soul also cannot be anything but the excellence of its body.*47 The [146] capacities of the understanding are nothing but the capacities of the body in the order of [147] representation, or objectively; likewise the decisions of the will are only the determinations of the body. *4§ So the essence of the soul is nothing but the essence of its body objective (in objective representation).*49 xxxv. Every individual thing presupposes other individual things, ad infinitum, and [148] none of them can originate from the infinite directly. (Eth., Part i, prop, xxvin). But since the order and the combination of the concepts is the same as the order and the combination of things, so too the concept of an individual thing cannot originate from God di-

*47- There is no point that Spinoza makes in more ways or more exhaustively than this one. [146] I will only refer to the scholion of Prop. 13, and Prop. 14 in the and Part of the Ethics; and to the most remarkable schol. of the 2nd prop., in the grd Part, and to Prop. 11 together with its scholion; then in the demonstration of Prop. 28, notice the words: "But the mind's striving, or its power of thought, is equal to, and simultaneous with, the striving of the body, or its power of action . . ." And then also the following words in the explication of the general definition of "affects": [. . . .].* Op. Posth., p. 160.29 *48. In the scholion of Prop. 2 of Part in of the Ethics (cited previously), we read: "All these considerations clearly show that a mind's decision, just like an appetite of the mind, and a determination of the body, are simultaneous, or rather, are one and the same thing, which we call decisionwhen considered under and explained through the attribute of thought, and determination when considered under the attribute of extension, and deduced from the laws of motion and rest. This will appear more clearly in what follows." Op. Posth., p. 100. *4Q. "The mind does not conceive anything under the form of eternity, except in so far as it conceives its own body under the form of eternity." Eth., Part v, p. 31, demonstr.30 * Here Jacob! cites Spinoza's text in full.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

rectly,*50 but [149] must attain existence in the same way as any individual corporeal thing, and cannot exist in any way except together with a determinate corporeal thing. xxxvi. Individual things originate from the infinite mediately; that is, they are produced by God in virtue of the immediate affections, or modes, of his being. These, however, are just as eternal and infinite as God: He is their cause in the same way as He is the cause of himself. Individual things therefore originate (immediately) from God only eternally and infinitely, not in a transitive, finite, and transitory way; that is only how they originate from one another, by mutual generation and destruction, without thereby any the less persisting in their eternal being, xxxvu. The same applies to the concepts of individual things; that is to say, they are [ 150] not produced by God, nor do they exist in the infinite understanding in any way other than as corporeal configurations are present in the infinite extension all at once, and always equally actual, through the intermediary of infinite motion and rest.*51 [151] xxxvin. In so far as God is infinite, therefore, there cannot be in him the concept of any actually present, individual, and thoroughly determinate thing; there is such a concept in him, however, (and he produces it) in that [152] an individual thing comes-to-be in him, and its concept with it; that is to say, this concept exists at the same time as the

*5O. Once more I must insist, since it is of the utmost importance in Spinoza's system, that outside absolute thought, which has absolute priority in the concept and is without any representation, every other thought must refer to the immediate concept of an actually present individual thing and its constituent parts, and can only be given in it, so that it is absolutely impossible that there can be any sort of concept of individual things before they are actually present. Individual things have however existed from all eternity, and God has never existed prior to them in any other way save that in which he still exists prior to them now, and will exist prior to them in that way for all eternity, namely simpl) by nature. *5i. Eth., Part n, P. 8: "The ideas of particular things, or of non-existent modes, must be comprehended within the infinite idea of God, in the same way as the formal essences of particular things or modes are contained in the attributes of God."* Op. Posth., p. 47.31 * Jacobi then cites in full the demonstration, corollary, and scholion.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


individual thing only once, and outside this one time it is not in God, either together with the individual thing, or before it, or after.*52 [153] xxxix. All individual things mutually presuppose one another, and refer to one another, so that none of them can either be or be thought of without the rest, or the rest without it; that is to say, together they constitute an indestructible whole; or more correctly, and properly speaking: they exist together in one absolutely indivisible and infinite thing, and in no other way. 53 [154] XL. The absolutely indivisible essence, in which the bodies exist together, is the infinite and absolute extension. [155] XLi. The absolutely indivisible essence, in which all concepts exist together, is the infinite and absolute thought. *52. Eth., Partu, P. 9: "The idea of an actually existing singular thing is caused by God, not in so far as he is infinite, but in so far as he is considered as affected by another idea of an actually existing thing, of which he is the cause, in so far as he is affected by a third idea, and so on to infinity."* Op. Posth., pp. 47ff.32 *53_ "If one part of matter were to be annihilated, the whole of extension would disappear at the same time." Op. Posth., p. 404.33 [154] Concerning this important point one must consult the 12th and 13th proposition in the irst Part of the Ethics, but especially the scholion of the 15th proposition. Also, the remarkable letter de infinite to L. Mayer, Op. Posth., p. 465; the no less remarkable one to Oldenburg de toto &parte, ibid., p. 439. And so too the 39th, 4Oth, and 4151 Letter to an Unknown, Op. Posth., pp. 519-27. It is hard to understand how anyone could have objected to Spinoza that he had produced the unrestricted out of the sum of restricted things, and that his infinite substance is only an absurd aggregate of finite things, so that the empty unity of substance is a mere abstraction.34 I say that it is hard to understand how anyone could have accused him of anything of this kind, since his system proceeds from the very opposite position, and this opposite position is its true moving principle. Among philosophers, moreover, no one has taken as much care as he did [155] not to take or give for real what is in fact only a modus cogitandi, or a mere ens rationis. "Totum parte prius esse necesse esf^ was already a universal principle of Aristotle which this king of thinkers certainly knew how to apply to the figurative whole of a communal entity (Politics, Lib. i, cap. 2 [12533.20]). Spinoza adheres to this sublime and fruitful principle throughout. * Jacob! then cites in full the demonstration, corollary, and demonstration of the corollary. t It is necessary that the whole be prior to the part.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

XLII. Both of these belong to the essence of God, and are comprehended in it. Hence God can no more be called an extended corporeal thing in a distinctive sense, than He can be called a thinking one. Rather He is the same substance, extended and thinking at the same time. Or in other words again, none of God's attributes has some particular differentiated reale as its foundation, so that they could be considered things existing outside one another, each with its own [156] being. Rather, they all are only reifications,* or substantial, essential, expressions of one and the same real thing—namely that transcendental being which can only be simply and uniquely one, and in which all things must necessarily compenetrate and become absolutely One. XLIII. The infinite concept of God, therefore, of his essence as well as of all that necessarily follows from his essence, is only one single, indivisible, concept.*54 XLIV. This concept, since it is one and indivisible, must be found in the whole just as much as it is in each part; or, the concept of each and every body, or of an individual thing, whatever it may be, must [157] contain the infinite essence of God within itself, completely and perfectly. *55

With this my exposition is at an end. I believe that with it, and with my letter to Hemsterhuis, I have adequately replied to all the essential points in your essay, and in conclusion I want now to take up a couple of places that concern me personally, and [158] which I cannot pass over in silence like so many other ones. You say: "I pass over the many witty notions with which our friend *54. Eth., Part n, Props. 3 & 4, to be compared with the 45th, 46th, and 47th proposition of this same Part n, and with the 3001 and 3151 of Part i. *55. Eth., Part n, 45, 46, 47, and the respective scholions; to be compared with the 3rd and 4th prop, of this same Part, with the 3001 and 3151 of the first part. It is necessary to recall here the proof, which Spinoza so often reiterates, that the essence of a thing does not include number, and that a plurality of things, inasmuch as they have something in common with one another, cannot be considered as plurality, but only as parts of one single thing. He built his inspired and truly sublime theory of true representations, of universal and complete concepts, of certainty, and of human understanding in general, upon precisely this basis. * Realitdten

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


Lessing entertained you in what follows, and of which it is difficult to say whether they were intended as play or philosophy. . . . Everything that you have him say on p. 24, 25 of your manuscript*56 is of this sort: his ideas about the economy of the world-soul, or about Leibniz's entelechies which are supposedly a mere effect of die body; his dabbling in weather making, his infinite boredom, and similar thoughts which, like fireworks, crackle and then fizzle out. My letter states: Lessing said about the world-soul tfiat, granted that there was one, "die soul of this Whole would be only an effect, like any other soul in all conceivable systems."72 I added at the bottom, as a note from me, not as words [159] of Lessing: "According to Leibniz's system too.—The entelechy only becomes spirit dirough the body (or the concept of body)"—which is somediing quite different from saying that Leibniz's entelechies are merely the effect of the body. To accompany this note I wrote the following words of Leibniz in my writing pad: [2.] A monad, in itself and at any given moment, could not be distinguished from another except by its internal qualities and actions, and these cannot be anything else than its perceptions (which is to say, the representations within the simple of a composition, or of what is external to it), and its appetitions (which is to say, its tendencies to pass from one perception to another) which are the principles of change. For the simplicity of substance does not at all prevent multiplicity of modifications, which must be found together in this same simple substance, and must consist in the variety of relations to things that are external. And then also: [4.] Each monad with a [160] particular body makes up a living substance. Thus there is not only life everywhere, accompanying members and organs, but there is also an infinity of degrees among monads, some dominating more or less over others. But when the monad has organs so adjusted that by their means there is depth and distinctness in the impressions that it receives, and hence in the perceptions that represent these impressions (as, for example, when by means of the shape of the humours of the eyes, the rays of light are concentrated and act with more force), this may lead to feeling,* which is to say, to a perception accompanied by memory, namely, one that echoes for a long time so as to make itself heard upon occasion. And such a living being is called "animal, " as its monad is called a "soul. "And when this *tj6. P. 33 of this writing. * sentiment


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

soul is elevated to reason, it is something more sublime and is reckoned among spirits, as will soon be explained. (Principes de la nature & de la grace fondes en Raison, Nos. [161] 2 & 4.73

And next to that I put a reference to the Theodicy, §124, and to the Letter to Wagner, de vi activa corporis, de animd, de animd brutorum.'74 Afterwards I struck out the entire quotation as being superfluous. For it occurred to me that the foundation of my claim was all too obvious everywhere in Leibniz, and also that the simple incisive form that I had given to it could, after some reflection at least, hinder the recognition of the fact. And you go on pontificating: I shall pass over too the noble retreat under the banner of faith which you propose for your own part. It is totally in the spirit of your religion, which imposes upon you the duty to suppress doubt through faith. The Christian philosopher can afford the pastime of teasing the student of nature; of confronting him with puzzles which, like will-o'-the-wisps, lure him now to one corner, and now to the other, [162] but always slip away even from his most secure grasp. My religion knows no duty to resolve doubts of this kind otherwise than through reason; it commands no faith in eternal truths. I have one more ground, therefore, to seek conviction.

My dear Mendelssohn, we are all born in the faith, and we must remain in the faith, just as we are all born in society, and must remain in society:75 Totumparteprius esse necesse est.* ?6—How can we strive for certainty unless we are already acquainted with certainty in advance, and how can we be acquainted with it except through something that we already discern with certainty? This leads to the concept of an immediate certainty, which not only needs no proof, but excludes all proofs absolutely, and is simply and solely the representation itself agreeing with the thing being represented.^ Conviction by proofs is certainty at second hand. Proofs are only indications of similarity to a thing [163] of which we are certain. The conviction that they generate originates in comparison, and can never be quite secure and perfect.77 But if every assent to truth not derived from rational grounds is faith, then conviction based on rational grounds must itself derive from faith, and must receive its force from faith alone.* * Latin quote dropped in 1819. t 1819 ed. adds: "(hence has its ground within itself)." t Footnote of 1819: "On the simple authority of reason, of which faith is the principle."

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


Through faith we know that we have a body, and that there are other bodies and other thinking beings outside us. A veritable and wondrous revelation! For in fact we only sense our body, as constituted in this way or that; but in thus feeling it, we become aware not only of its alterations, but of something else as well, totally different from it, which is neither mere sensation nor thought; we become aware of other actual things, and, of that with the very same certainty with which we become aware of ourselves, for without the Thou, the /is impossible. We obtain all [164] representations, therefore, simply through modifications that we acquire; there is no other way to real cognition, for whenever reason gives birth to objects, they are all just chimeras. Thus we have a revelation of nature that not only commands, but impels, each and every man to believe, and to accept eternal truths through faith.* ?8 The religion of the Christians teaches another faith—but does not command it. It is a faith that has as its object, not eternal truths, but the finite, accidental nature of man. The religion of the Christians instructs man how to take on qualities through which he can make progress in his existence and propel himself to a higher life—and with this life to a higher consciousness, in this consciousness to a higher cognition. Whoever accepts this promise and faithfully walks the way to its fulfilment, he has the faith that brings blessedness. Therefore the sublime teacher of this faith, in whom all its promises [165] were already fulfilled, could with truth say: I am the way, the truth and the life: whoever accepts the will which is in me, he will experience that my faith is true, that it is from God.79 This therefore is the spirit of my religion: Man becomes aware of God through a godly life, and there is a peace of God which is higher than all reason; in this peace there is the enjoyment and the intuition of an inconceivable love. Love is life; it is life itself; and only the type of love differentiates between the types of living natures. He, the Living One, can only manifest Himself in one who is alive; and only through quickened love can He give Himself in knowledge to one who is alive. This is how the voice of one preaching in the wilderness cries out, too: "In order to do away with the infinite disproportion between man and God, man must [166] partake of a divine nature, and the Divinity take on flesh and blood."80

The second edition refers here to Wizenmann's Resultate, pp. 173-77.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

Reason that has fallen into poverty and has become speculative,* or in other words, degenerate reason, can neither commend nor tolerate this practical path. It has neither hand nor foot for digging, yet it is too proud to beg.81 Hence it must drag itself here and there, looking for a truth that left when the contemplative understanding left, for religion and its goods—just as morality must do, looking for virtuous inclinations that have disappeared; and laws must also, looking for the fallen public spirit and the better customs; pedagogy. . . . Let me interrupt here, that I be not swept off my feet by the flood coming my way. The spirit of truth be with you and with me. Diisseldorf, April 21, 1785.

Since I had already made Mendelssohn wait so long, I sent my parcel [167] directly to Berlin this time. That same evening I set out on a journey, and so my friend (who already owed me two letters) was left uninformed. On the twenty-sixth of May I received a letter from her, in which she passed on to me the following comments from Mendelssohn's response to the news that I had been confined to bed the whole of March: "I was just on the point of conveying to our mutual friend the request that he should not hurry to reply to my comments. I have decided to have the first part of my pamphlet printed after the Leipzig Fair.82 In it I deal principally with pantheism, but still make no mention of our correspondence. I am holding that back until the second part, and that will be delayed for a long time yet. Jacobi should read this first part of my essay before he makes any response to my comments. Please extend my greetings to my amiable adversary for me."83 [168] It was now exactly a month since I had sent my latest essay—and more than three months since I had promised to deliver it to him without delay. Thus the news, which should have spared me my effort, came somewhat too late, although I myself had not been too quick. In the enclosure, in a letter addressed particularly to Mendelssohn,84 I had expressed the opinion that it would be most useful at the present juncture if Spinoza's system were openly displayed in its true form, according to the necessity that held its parts together. I wrote: "A spectre of this system has been making the rounds in Germany for quite some time un* The third edition has: "which has become mere understanding."

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


der all sort of shapes, and it is treated by both the superstitious and the infidel with equal reverence. . . . Perhaps we shall live to see a battle over the corpse of Spinoza, just like the one between the Archangel and Satan over the corpse of Moses. . . .8s More about all this when I [169] have your reply, and shall know whether you can be reconciled with me over the doctrine of Spinoza." I was still hoping for an answer from Mendelssohn. After waiting for three months in vain, I was gradually moved to take the matter into my own hands; I became ever more inclined to publish, through the letters here printed, the kind of exposition of Spinozism which, in my opinion, was needed at this present juncture. I looked forward to the forthcoming work on pantheism by our esteemed Mendelssohn with all the more eagerness, since I knew the immediate occasion of its writing; and I felt that this knowledge would cause me to read it with more single-minded attention, and likely allow me to grasp its whole content more quickly and with greater profundity. I had, therefore, reason to hope that, by sharing my knowledge of the occasion, I should [ 170] make the same advantage available to a wider readership. But of course, my own essay would have won extra attention if it had appeared at the same time as Mendelssohn's, to which it bore such a close relation. I might therefore even succeed in stirring the serious heads of my fatherland into a motion which, for my own instruction, I dearly wished to witness soon.86 So I set about reviewing my papers, and extracted the following brief propositions from them, in order to present a final summary statement of my positions in the clearest terms. i. Spinozism is atheism.*57 [i? 1 ] iiThe philosophy of the cabbala, or so much of it as is available to research, and in accordance with its best commentators, von Helmont the youn*57- I am far from charging all Spinozists with denying God. But precisely for this reason the demonstration that, when properly understood, Spinoza's doctrine does not admit any kind of [ 171 ] religion does not seem superfluous to me. A certain Spinozistic froth is on the contrary quite compatible with all species of superstition and enthusiasm; one can blow the most beautiful bubbles with it. The committed atheist should not hide behind this froth; the rest must not be deceived by it.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

ger*58 and Wachter,*59 is, as philosophy, nothing but undeveloped or newly confused Spinozism.

in. The Leibnizian-Wolffian philosophy is no less fatalistic than the Spinozist philosophy and leads the persistent researcher back to the principles of the latter.



Every avenue of demonstration ends up in fatalism.

v. We can only demonstrate similarities. Every proof presupposes something already proven, the principle of which is Revelation. VI.

Faith is the element of all human cognition and activity.*60

[173] A friend of mine had written to me at the beginning of June of the work which Mendelssohn was busying himself about.8? According to reports coming to him from Berlin, it would carry the title, Matutine

*58. The younger [Franciscus Mercurius] von Helmont is at least the editor of the work published in Amsterdam in the year 1690 under the title of Opuscula Philosophica, quibus continentur Principia Philosophiae Antiquissimce & Recentissimce; AcPhilosophia VulgarisRefutata [auctorej. Gironnet] &c. [(Amstelodami, i6go)]. 35 *5Q. Elucidarius Cabalisticus, sive Reconditce Hebrcearum Philosophies Brevis & Succincta Recensio. Epitomatore Job. Georgio Wachtero. Romae [in fact, Halle], 1706. *6o. "Who can prove that this line here or that line there in a historical or poetic portrayal belongs to the author who affixed his name to the portrayal, or whose authorship is stylistically undeniable? Who can prove that a letter received from a known or unknown hand was written by a single one?—But this will be [ 173] confirmed to you by your feeling, your intuitive sense, or something in you that still has no name in our philosophies or theologies. It is nameless, but is at every moment and in all men, it is a thousand times more effective and quick than all the philosophies and theologies in the world—And this something, that directs you at every instant, drives you on or pulls you back, warns and cautions, and determines you in the most delicate yet most powerful of ways —. . . . This nameless, all-effective something is" (the sense of truth, the element and principle of faith). Lavater.36

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


Thoughts on God and Creation, or, Concerning the Being and Attributes of God.88 From the same friend I now received news that Mendelssohn's Matutine Thoughts had already left the presses.89 [ 174] Upon hearing this I put my papers aside again, until I could see the essay of my illustrious opponent, since mine could now no longer be published simultaneously with it. I made arrangements to obtain it as quickly as possible. Meanwhile a letter came from Mendelssohn, unsealed under an empty cover of our mutual friend.90—It was not the reply that I had so long looked forward to; not a syllable relating to that, but only a request that I would forgive him for leaving both of my two important essays, the French one for Hemsterhuis and the German one for him, still unanswered. Our common friend, and a third friend besides,91 were witnesses to the fact that he had not been idle in our controversy, given his present debility, and if a certain **** 92 did not totally reject his work, the catalogue of the next book-fair would corroborate their witness. He did not count on winning me over to his opinion with his essay. [175] He could still less flatter himself with any hope of doing so, since he had to admit that so many passages in my essays, as well as in the writings of Spinoza himself, were totally unintelligible to him. He hoped however to define the status controversies in the essay that would soon be submitted to my judgment, and thereby to inaugurate the controversy in due form. It would at least come to public attention why so many things struck him as totally unintelligible, and escaped his grasp all the more, the more I endeavoured to give him explanations. The real motive for Mendelssohn's letter was to ask me for a copy of his comments in reply to my first letter, since he had misplaced his own transcript. Fortunately a copy was available, and I had the satisfaction of sending it on to Mendelssohn the very hour in which I had received his letter. There was no need now to ponder [176] at length what I had to do. Since Mendelssohn had altered his plan to convey his work to me in manuscript form, and had suddenly given it to the printers93—since even the title of the work had only been made known to me by hearsay, and I was to have confirmation of it only from the Fair Catalogue—and since Mendelssohn had now decided to define a status controversy in this very essay—however great my trust in the probity and noble character of my great opponent was and will continue to be, I could not leave it up to him alone, quite one-sidedly, to "inaugurate the controversy, and to bring to the public attention why was it that so many things (in my


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

essays) were totally unintelligible to him, and escaped his grasp all the more the more I endeavoured to give him explanations."94 Even less could I permit the definition of a status controversies in which the role of advocatum diaboli somehow fell [177] to me, if the full occasion of the controversy that was to be inaugurated was not being made known at the same time. It was of the highest importance to me that the spirit in which I had taken up the cause of Spinoza should be accurately perceived, and that the issue was purely and solely one of speculative philosophy against speculative philosophy, or more correctly, pure metaphysics against pure metaphysics. And this in the authentic, not just the proverbial, sense of infugam vacui* 95

I return now to the propositions set out above, about which I still have to remark that I do not in any way intend to advance them as theses, or to defend them against every possible attack. Seldom too in the kingdom of truth is much gained through battle. Here too, diligence in the things that are one's own, and a freehearted, honourable exchange, are the most productive and best. What's the point of malign zeal against a failure of knowledge?—Instead of just exposing it, [178] this lack that annoys you, and punishing it with contempt, help to remedy it with your gift! By giving, you will show yourself to be the one who has more, and prove yourself to the one who lacks. Truth is clarity; it refers everywhere to actuality, tofacta. Just as it is impossible to make objects somehow visible to a blind man through art, as long as the man is blind; so too it is impossible for a seeing man not to see them, when there is light, and to distinguish them from himself. But we expect of error that it see itself, that it know itself, as if it were the truth; and we stand in fear of it, as if it were also as strong as the truth. Can the darkness possibly penetrate the light and extinguish its rays? It is the light that on the contrary penetrates the darkness and shows it for what it is by partly illuminating it. And just as day dawns only with the sun, so too night falls only with the sun's demise. Everyone can of course make his abode as dark as the night even at midday, and then bring light again into the narrow confines of his darkness. But this light is nothing [ 179] like that of heaven. An accident, perhaps even the hand that wants to cradle it, will kill the fragile flame. And * in flight before a void

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


even if this flame were to survive in spite of its faltering, it will undoubtedly make the eye sick in the long run. Wherever a putrid soil extends over vast regions, the heavy and cold vapours that emanate from it obscure the sun. And the soil degenerates even more, therefore, and becomes an ever more intimate part of the gloomy poisonous atmosphere. Here and there a rocket or some heavy projectile may perhaps break up the heavy cloud for a while, disperse the mist, and alter its form. But it cannot clear it away; it cannot destroy it. If there is an improvement of the soil first, however, the cloud will disappear by itself.

This present essay will be followed by dialogues96 in which I shall further explore many points that here remain unexplored. But above all, I shall develop my own principles more extensively, and [180] confront them from several sides. I shall retain as my leading theme those words of Pascal, "L« nature confond ks pyrrhoniens, & la raison confond les dogmatistes.—Nous avons impuissance a prouver, invincible a tout les Dogmatistes.—Nous avons une idee de la verite, invincible a tout le pyrrhonisme."* *Gl Thus I claim and shall further claim: We do not create or instruct ourselves; we are in no way a priori, nor can we know or do anything a priori, or experience anything without. . . . experience. We find ourselves situated on this earth, and as our actions become there, so too becomes our cognition; as our moral character turns out to be, so too does our insight into all things related to it. As the heart, so too the mind; and as the mind, so too the heart.97 Man cannot artificially contrive through reason to be wise, virtuous, or pious: he must be moved to it, and yet move himself; he must be organically disposed for it, yet so dispose himself. [181] So far no philosophy has been capable of altering this powerful economy. It is high time that we started to adapt ourselves to it obligingly, and gave up wanting to invent spectacles that enable us to see without eyes—and even betterl

*6i. Pensees de Pascal, Art. xxi. 37 * Nature confounds the Pyrrhonists, and reason the dogmatists.—We have an incapacity of proof that no dogmatism can overcome. We have an idea of truth that no Pyrrhonism can overcome.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

As Sperchis and Bulls were going from Sparta to Susa voluntarily, wittingly to their death, they came to Hydarnes, a Persian and the prefect over the peoples that lived in the coastal regions of Asia. He offered them gifts, and gave them hospitality, and tried to persuade them to become friends of his King and be just as grand and happy as he. 'Your counsel," the two men said, "befits your experience, but not ours. Had you tasted the happiness that we have enjoyed, you would advise us to sacrifice our possessions and our life for it."*62 No doubt Hydarnes laughed at these fanatics, and who, among our contemporaries, would not laugh with him? But suppose [182] that we and Hydarnes are wrong, and that those men from Sparta were not fanatics, would they not have to be in possession of a truth that we lack? And would we not stop laughing at them, were we to find this very truth within us? Sperchis and Bulis did not say to Hydarnis, 'You are a fool, a man of weak spirit"; they admitted rather that he was wise in his measure, understanding, and good. Also they did not try to teach them their truth; on the contrary, they explained why this could not be done. Nor did they become much more intelligible when they stood before Xerxes, in whose presence they refused to prostrate themselves, but who did not want to have them put to death but would rather have persuaded them to become his friends, just as happy as himself. "How could we live here," the two men said, "and forsake our land, our laws, and such men as we voluntarily undertook this long journey in order to die for?"*63 [183] Sperchis and Bulis probably had less facility in thought and reasoning than the Persian prefect. They did not appeal to their understanding, to their fine judgment, but only to things, and their desire for them. Nor did they boast of any virtue; they only professed their heart's sentiment,* their affection. + They had no philosophy, or rather, their philosophy was just history.

*6a. Herodotus, Book vri, chapter 129.38 *63- "Comment pourrions nous vivre icy, en [183] abandonnant nostre pais, noz loix; & de les hommes, que pour eulx nous auons volontairement entrepris un si loin tain voyage?" Plutarque, in the Diets Notables des Lacedamoniens, tr. d'Amiot, Paris, 1574. * Sinn t Affect

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


And can living philosophy ever be anything but history? As are the objects, so too are the representations; as the representations, so the desires and passions; as the desires and passions, so too the actions; as the actions, so the principles and the whole of knowledge. What caused the swift and universal reception of the doctrine of a Helvetius, or a Diderot?98 [184] Nothing but the fact that the doctrine really captured within itself the truth of the century. What it said proceeded from the heart, and had to return to the heart.—"Why is it," Epictectus asked, "that the fools have you in their power, and push you around any way they want to? Why are they stronger than you? Because, however dismal and unworthy their prattle may be, they always speak from their actual concepts and principles; whereas, the beautiful things that you have to offer always come from the lips only: so your speeches have neither force nor life, and it is only with a yawn that one listens to your exhortations, and the same applies to the small-minded virtue that you are constantly prattling about at every cross-road. That is why it comes to pass that the fools are your masters. For what proceeds from the heart, and what one attends to as a principle, that has a force that is unconquerable. . . . Whereas what you manage to concoct in the schools will melt away again each day like wax in the sun."*64 [185] Philosophy cannot create its matter; the latter is always there, in contemporary history, or the history of the past. Our philosophizing from past history will be but incompetent, if this history contains experiences which we cannot repeat. Our judgment is reliable only when it is directed to things that lie before us. Every age can observe what lies before it; it can analyze it, compare its parts, order them, bring them back to the simplest principles, render the correctness of these ever clearer and more relevant, and their strength more effective. And just as every age has its own truth, the content of which is like the content of experience, so too it has its own living philosophy that displays in progress the age's dominant pattern of conduct. It follows therefore that one ought not to derive the actions of men from their philosophy, but rather their philosophy from their actions; that their history does not [186] originate from their way of thinking, but rather, their way of thinking from their history. It would be wrong, for instance, to explain the corruption of the mores of the Romans at the time of the fall of the Republic by appeal to the encroaching irreligiosity *64. Epictetus, The Discourses, tr. J. G. SchultheB, vol. in, Speech 16.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

of the time; for, on the contrary, the origin of the corruption ought to be sought in the encroaching irreligiosity instead. In exactly the same way, the sexual lassitude and orgiastic feasting of the contemporaries of an Ovid or a Petronius, a Catullus or a Martial, is not to be charged to these poets, but rather these poets ought to be charged to that general lassitude. In saying this, I do not mean to deny that poets and philosophers powerfully reinforce the spirit of their time, if they are permeated by it. Human history comes to be through men, and then some of them contribute to its advance more, some less. So if the philosophy of an age, its thought style, is to be improved upon, its history, its ways of acting, its life style, must be improved on first, and [187] this cannot happen at will. This much seems to have been clear to many, and to have led some worthy men to the thought that, since nothing could be done with the old, they should take our children in hand, and build a better race from them. This was not at all an easy matter, and had this special difficulty besides, that we fathers could not countenance our children being directed along another path than the one we held as the best. The more sophisticated among those worthy men were therefore forced to entice us by the promise (which they came to believe earnestly) that our children ought indeed to be brought up in the right practical way, i.e. for the need of the age. And this really meant, according to the sentiment and taste of the age. But if the sentiment and taste of an age are exclusively directed to the comfortable life and the means thereto (riches, preeminence, and power), and if it is not possible to go after these objects with the whole of one's soul without thereby [188] cramping the best properties of human nature to such an extent that one ceases to be aware of them, then, if pursued in a truly rational way, this practical education comes down to this: that our progeny become duly skilled and ready in becoming ever worse.*65 [189] Thus, instead of the peace of *65- "The day's outcome is decided. Pull out the arrow from my wound, and let me bleed!" Epaminondas said.39 "In what situation, or by what instruction, is this wonderful character to be formed? Is it found in the nurseries of affectation, pertness, and vanity, from which fashion is propagated, and the genteel is announced? in great and opulent cities, where men vie with one another in equipage, dress, and the reputation of fortune? Is it within the admired precincts of a court, where we may learn to smile without being pleased, to caress without affection, to wound with the secret weapons of envy and jealousy, and to rest our personal importance on circumstances which we cannot always with honour command? No: but in a situation

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


God, which is only a chimera, [190] a real peace of the devil, or at least the preconditions for it, would descend upon earth. But these are words that still dismay us. We want rectitude, patriotism, love of mankind, fear of the Lord—and what not else? Above all things, however, we want the comfortable life, and perfect skill in the service of vanity; we want. . . . to become rich without falling into temptation, in brief, to give the lie to the saying: No man can [191] serve two masters; and, Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." But this saying won't let the lie be given to it. And since I feel this in the innermost recesses of my heart, I am crushed as I witness nowadays a total lack of direction in the ways of the good; the refusal to give countenance to the noble and great, to give encouragement and sensuous attraction to it, whereas whatever is attractive and chaste in it is being actively debased. . . . And just then my children come frolicking before me. . . . I am so moved, that I could often cry out: What is to become of you, you poor things! "Muse, evoke before me the youth to whom the vengeful l camels give their pelts for clothing;100 who dips his quill in wild honey, so that his eyes may become more alert; whose demonstrations are more akin to the flight of the grasshopper than to the slow track of the blindworm down the road; who prefers the baptism

where the great sentiments of the heart are awakened; where the characters of men, not their situations and fortunes, are the principal distinction; where the anxieties of interest, or vanity, perish in the blaze of more vigorous emotions; and where the human soul, having felt and recognized its objects, like an animal who has tasted the blood of its prey, cannot descend to pursuits that leave its talents and its force unemployed. "Proper occasions alone operating on a raised and a happy disposition, may produce this admirable effect, whilst mere instruction may always find mankind at a loss to comprehend its meaning, or insensible to its dictates. The case, however, is not desperate, till we have formed our system of politics, as well as manners; till we have sold our freedom for titles, equipage, and distinctions; till we see no merit but prosperity and power, no disgrace but poverty and neglect. What charm of instruction can cure the mind that is tainted with this disorder? What syren voice can awaken a desire of freedom, that is held to be meanness, and a want of ambition? or what persuasion can turn the grimace of politeness into real sentiments of humanity and candour?" Ferguson's History of Civil Society, P. i. Sect. 6.4°


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

of the proselyte to the service of the Levite. . . . Evoke before me the youth who can [192] afford to chide our scribes who have the key to knowledge, but are unable to enter into it and stand in the way of those want to get in; the youth who hisses at those doctors of secular wisdom who whisper in the ear: there is no palingenesis,101 nor is there genius, or spirit (as your Helvetius has written in large octavo)102—yes, the youth whose boldness strives to equal that of the King in Judea who crushed the serpent of iron that Moses had yet elevated on orders from the highest. 103 "Behold!. . . . And then a voice: "The salt of erudition is a good thing; but if the salt has lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted . . . P104 "Reason is holy, right, and good; we gain nothing from it, however, save the recognition of sinful non-knowledge. And when this non-knowledge reaches an epidemic state, then it takes upon itself the rights of worldly wisdom. As one among them, the very prophet of this wisdom, [ 193] has said: Les sages d'une nation sontfous de lafolie commune.1C>5 "But the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there too is freedom."lo6 Providence will justify to each its ways. It will let the knowledge (now almonst extinct under delusion and obscurantism) that God's image in man is the only source of any insight into the truth, and so too of all love of the good—it will let that knowledge shine forth once more in all its brightness. And after the wreckage of so many human forms, it will display the last and best form, the one that is beyond destruction. The Spirit is in Men, And the breath of the Almighty makes them wise. If from time immemorial all the nations have been pervaded by the conviction that religion is the one and only means by which [194] to help the ailing nature of man', and if all the men of wisdom since the most remote of times, when there was yet no rational wisdom but only traditional positive teaching out of which all philosophy has apparently originated, according to its own testimony; if all men of wisdom, I say, have taught with one voice that the knowledge which only has earthly things for objects is not worthy of its name; if all have said that man can only come to the knowledge that is above this world through a disposition that is above this world, that God announces himself to our hearts but hides himself from those who seek him by the understanding alone, that for the soul God's laws are like wings with which to propel itself above its present situation; if this is so, is it then a wonder that wherever ' human nature sinks low, the knowledge of God sinks low likewise, and

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


in the animal it finally disappears entirely, whereas, wherever this very nature rises higher, the love of the creator becomes all the more perceptible to the feeling, until it becomes totally impossible for man to doubt the pervasive presence in him of his God—[195] more impossible by far than for an earthly subject to doubt the reality of his lord, though he might never have seen him or come close to his distant residence? God's wisdom does not descend upon an evil soul, nor does it dwell in the enslaved body of one who is subject to vice. The spirit of discipline flees from deceit, and shuns evil thoughts; it will be found by those who do not tempt it; it appears to those who seek after it in simplicity of heart. In God's wisdom there is an intelligible spirit, holy, innate, manifold, nimble, honest, untarnished, open, inviolable, penetrating, quick, benevolent, human, firm, steadfast, sure: it can do all, and it oversees all, it encompasses all pure and intelligible spirits, and is the finest of all. Wisdom is nimbler than any movement; it reaches out to all things and encompasses them all because of its [196] purity: for it is the breath of God's power, a pure emanation of the splendour of the Almighty, the resplendence of eternal light, an untarnished mirror of divine action and reflection of his goodness. This wisdom is capable of all things all by itself, it remains within itself yet makes all things anew, it rises up here and there in holy souls, and raises the friends of God and his prophets.

The idea of a virtuous being originates in the enjoyment of virtue; the idea of a free being, in the enjoyment of freedom; the idea of a living being, in the enjoyment of life; the idea of one like unto God, and of God himself, in the enjoyment of what is divine.*66 [197]* Try to grow in a virtue perfecdy, that is, to exercise it purely and incessantly. Either you desist in the attempt, or you'll become aware of God in yourself, just as you are aware of yourself. The first will happen if your resolve is all that you bring to the task. For man is so imperfect and weak that he can neither find his law nor keep it. His law of the day

*66. t "I cannot blame Saunderson if he does not have a visual concept of the sun, since he cannot see it; but if he wants to deny the sun for this reason, or to establish how far the relation to the sun of one who has sight is true or false, would he not be going too far? As a spokesman of those who have sight he would perhaps be the least reliable precisely when he is engaged in the subtlest reasoning." Letters concerning the Study of Theology, No. i3- 41 * This paragraph and the one immediately following are omitted in the second edition. t This note is omitted in the second edition.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

is his resolve of the day, and his resolve of the day is his day's desire which can neither arouse his will nor secure it. He must obey and trust, keep to the word and to the faith. He must not aggrandize his conceit, and put it on a throne: this is his first virtue, and must also be his last. Just as living philosophy, or a people's mode of thinking, proceeds from a people's history or mode of life, so too this history or mode of life arises from a people's origin, from preceding institutions and laws. All history leads up to instruction and [198] laws, and the history of all human culture begins from them. Not from laws of reason or moving exhortations, but from instructions, exposition, model, discipline, aid; from counsel and deed, service and command. If the first men were produced like mushrooms from the earth, or like worms from slime—without foramen ovale, and without umbilical cord— not much more perfect than they are now born from their mother's body, then something must have looked after them. Was it chance? if not chance, then what? All men say with one accord that one God looked after them, even before they existed. All constitutions derive from a higher Being; they were all theocratic in origin. The first indispensable need, both for the individual men and for society too, is a God. [199] Complete submission to a superior authority; strict, holy, obedience—this has been the spirit of every age that has brought forth an abundance of great deeds, great sentiments, great men. The holiest temple of the Spartans was dedicated to Fear. Where firm faith in a higher authority gave way, and personal conceit got the upper hand, there every virtue sank low, vice broke through, sense, culture, and understanding were corrupted. And in no people did this faith give way until they let themselves be seduced by passion which has no law, and binds the spirit in chains. And thus each partook of the tree of knowledge, and knew what was good, and what evil.*617 *67. * In Sophocles's tragedy, Oedipus the King, the chorus sings at the end of the second act: "May my portion still and always be to win that [prize, namely] reverent purity from all words and deeds concerning which laws are established for us,/ [laws] * This note is omitted in the second edition.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


"Be not like the horse and the mule that lack understanding," the old Luther says. "They are like animals governed by the senses that only follow what they feel: where they don't feel or touch, they don't go. Horse and mule are not made to [201] comprehend things inaccessible to the senses; hence they are also not moved by them to love or sorrow. So too those men who won't do, or allow, or suffer, anything beyond what they can measure or conceive: they have no mastery of God's understanding. They do with reason what the horses do with the senses: both do not venture past what they can sense." And Herder glosses: ". . . Laudable commands of reason—where to every scoundrel is afterwards given to do with them what he wills, and, like an earth worm, to follow the wetness of its own slime: and there's what all the heroics of selfishness amount to."*68 Look at your children, or the children of your friend. They obey authority, without comprehending the father's mind. If they are obstinate and do not obey, they will never interiorize it; they will never truly know the father himself. If they are docile, [202] the father's mind, his inner life, will gradually be transferred to them; their understanding will awaken, and they will know the father. No pedagogical art, no instruction, would have been capable of bringing them to that point, if their living knowledge had not grown first out of their very life. In all things man's understanding comes only at second hand. Discipline must prepare instruction, obedience knowledge. The more comprehensive, penetrating, and sublime a command is, the more it relates to the inner nature of man and his improvement, to understanding and will, virtue and knowledge. The less can man discern

lofty-footed, begotten in the heavenly regions of the sky, whose father is Olympus alone, nor did any mortal nature of men engender them, nor shall oblivion ever lay them to sleep;/ divinity is great in them, and does not grow old. "Arrogance begets the tyrant. Arrogance, if it be surfeited to no good end with many things neither proper nor profitable,/ after climbing the topmost ramparts plunges to the most miserable straits, where no service of the foot can serve. But that struggle which is advantageous for the city, I pray the god never to end./ The god I will not cease to hold as our defender. "But if a man walks haughtily in deed or in word, with no fear of judgment, and not/ reverencing statues of gods, may an evil portion destroy him, because of his ill-fated self-indulgence, etc. . . ." 42 *68. The Oldest Document [of the Human Race], Vol. 2, pp. 26-27.43


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

the command's inner good before obeying it, the less capable is his reason to accept it, the more does he need authority and faith. The command of the Lord gives wisdom, His mouth Knowledge and Understanding. 107 Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it. Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone. [ . . . . ] [203] But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding? [ . . . . ] Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air. Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears. God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lighting of the thunder: Then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out. And unto man he said, Behold the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.

[204] But who is the Lord, the fear of whom is wisdom, and from whose commands come light and life? Is he the first, the best, and can we only grope after him blindly? Blindly, if you are blind! But are you really so? And what has robbed you of all light? What induced you to replace the teaching of your fathers with your own conceit? Was it in order to come closer to the eye of the invisible, or to remove yourself from it? Did it happen to please the truth, or the lie? could the Spirit reach to you, or was it the flesh, the will, and evil desire? I won't want to force myself on you, and extract a confession that would allow me to say to you: Return to the place where, as you well know, your will became impure; where you transgressed the law to which

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


you were subject, from disobedience, not from conscience; where you let go the faith that was in you; breached your word and your trust—Turn back, wash yourself pure, turn again to the light from [205] which you once turned away—or to another light that will shine in the same place. Only be faithful from now on; and keep to the faith that you have accepted, whatever its name: just renounce the conceit of your will, for this conceit will leave you without the law, like cattle, without light or right.* lo8 I say, I don't want to impose on you in this way. But accept this other proposal instead. You serve something invisible, or want to do service to it. Let it be honourl Whoever does homage to honour, swears by the altar of the Unknown God. He promises to obey a Being who sees into the heart: for the service of honour consists in this, that we are as we appear; that we do not arbitrarily or secretly transgress any law; in the brief, steadfast word, TRUTH! Go forth therefore, and obey your [206] Unknown God, faithfully and wholly. Appear in all things as you are, and be in all things as you appear. But take care that you don't let any spite slip by, for your God sees into your heart; that's his essence, his power. And if He does not soon announce his name to you then; if you do not soon experience who the Lord is, the fear of whom is wisdom, and from whose laws flow light and life, then, call me an impostor before the whole world, a fool, a fanatic— what you will! "We have a friend in us—a delicate sanctuary in our soul, where God's voice and intention has long since resounded, sharp and clear. The ancients called it the daimon, the good genius of man, whom they revered with so much youthful love, and obeyed with so much respect. This is what the Christ meant by the clear eye that is the light of life and enlightens the entire body.*69 David asks for it in

*6g. I cannot refrain from inserting a very [207] plain commentary on this saying, from an excellent recently published work: "The light of the body is the eye.44 This is not said in a physical sense, yet meaningfully. The eye receives the * From "what induced you. . . ." to "without light or right" is omitted in the second edition.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

prayer, [207] as the Spirit of Life that leads him on the straight and level path, etc.109 Let's call it conscience, inner sense, [208] reason, the logos in us, or what you will. It is enough that it speaks loud and clear, especially in youth, before the wild voices from inside and out, the roar of passions, and the chatter of a sophistic unreason, gradually silences it or falsifies it altogether. Woe to him, in whom it is made silent and false in this way! Woe especially to the young man and the child! He will gradually lose his God in the world; he will wander like a lost sheep, void of sound moral sense, without feeling the theion (the divinity) in even one thing of life, whether in himself or others. [209] We have only as much of God and his providence as we can cognize of them both living in the individual and the universal. The more we can see actively (without fanaticism or coldness of heart) how and why He acts with us, the more He is ours, and ours alone. Let the windbag and the doubter say what he wills against this: experience overrides empty talk and doubt"*?0

Let us say it again: man's understanding does not have its life, and its light, in its self, nor is the will formed through it. On the contrary, man's understanding is formed through his will, which is like a spark from the eternal and pure light, and a force from the Almighty. Whoever walks in

light for the entire body—the light which the body uses in all its doings.—If your eye is innocent, then your whole body is serene.—Innocent, healthy, uncorrupted: then the whole body has sufficient serenity.—If however your eye becomes bad (bad, unhealthy, corrupt), then your whole body will be in darkness—(the hands do not know what they reach to; the feet, where they are going).—But now, if the light that is in you is darkness (said very unphilosophically, yet with unmistakable meaning: If the member that ought to receive light for the entire body becomes corrupt, and ceases to receive light)—how great will the darkness then be!—(in what total darkness you will then sit, no amount of light being of any help to you!). [208] "The clear meaning of this passage, therefore, is as follows: Man has in his soul a sense which is to the whole man what the eye is to the body; a sense which, when healthy, receives secure light for moving and working, but when it is corrupt it plunges man into total darkness, and renders him quite incapable of walking straight or acting straight." Philosophical Lectures on the So-called New Testament, vol. i (Leipzig, 1785).45 *7o. [Herder] Letters concerning the Study of Theology [Letter #31], Part in, pp. 89-90 [2nd ed., p. 91].

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1785)


this light and acts by this power, will walk in purity from light to light; he will experience his origin and his destination. [210] It is a universal revelation, or a lie of nature, that all that happens, every alteration [210] and movement, stems from a will, that the power for it must derive from a will. If there is a case where the voxpopuli, vox del holds true, this is it. Thus the crude savage errs less than the learned sophist. For however often he confuses the outer with the inner, form with matter, appearance with essence, he knows them both none the less, and so he does not err in substance. The learned sophist on the other hand who only acknowledges the externality of things, and takes the appearance for the thing itself, and the thing to be the reflection—he is the one who errs in substance. I do not know the nature of the will, of a self-determining cause, its inner possibility and its laws. For I do not exist through my own self. But I feel such a power as the inmost life of my being; through it I have intimations of my origin, and through its exercise I learn what flesh and blood alone could not reveal to me. I find that everything [211] in nature and Scripture refers to this exercise; all promises and all threats are connected with it—with the purification and contamination of the heart.— Experience and history teach me, moreover, that man's action depends less upon his thought, than his thought upon his action; that his concepts are directed according to his actions, and in a way only imitate them; that the way to knowledge is therefore a mysterious one—not the way of the syllogism—and much less the way of mechanism. God spoke—and so it was—and all was good. "This action," says the worthy Jerusalem, "could not have been made truer and clearer to our reason. For the one and only ground [of the origin of things] on which reason can find rest is this: the Almighty willed, and so it was. This is at the same time the limit of all philosophy, where Newton too stood in awe. And the philosopher who regards it as below his dignity to abide by this divine will, but abandons himself [212] to an infinite progression from cause to cause beyond it, and to his own building of worlds, such a one will stray into eternal darkness, where he will ultimately lose track even of the Creator."110 This is the Majesty of the Lord, the Countenance of God, to which mortal eye cannot reach. But in his goodness He descends to us, and through his grace the Eternal One becomes a presence to man, and He speaks to him—to whom He gave breath from his mouth—through man's feeling for his own life, his own bliss. . . . I fall silent, I fall prostrate glowing with thanks and delight.—In shame lest I could still be asking for a better way


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

to knowledge and peace. . . . If anyone knows of one, let him show it to me!—Oh, would that I were strong and quick to run that way, the one royal way of God's love, and God's BLISS!

Allow me in conclusion—at the risk that I be called one of yours, and [213] be chided for being a loyal man—allow me, honest Lavater, to bless and seal my work with a word from your pious and angelically pure* lips. "/ came into the world that I may bear witness to the truth. Behold in that your mission, you man! you alone, though a creature of earth, are royal and capable of truth! Every mortal sees a portion of the truth that is the source of joy for all, and sees it in a particular way, as no other mortal can see it. To each the universe appears through a medium which is one's own. To give testimony to how things are present to us, to our point of view, means to think and to act royally. This is man's mission and man's worth! Through this honest testimony you will exercise the greatest influence on humanity; you will have the greatest power to attract those who are most similar to you and to unite them—and to sunder from you those who are most dissimilar, to set them at a distance from you, and make them united in opposition to you and all those who are like you—and thereby you will powerfully promote the unknown goal [214] of creation and providence—the great, the first and last, end—the highest possible union of all things unifiable. . . .l11 "He who sees everything as it presents itself to him, who does not want to see anything except as it thus presents itself; he who lets truth, or anything that appears good to him, work upon him freely without reacting to it either noisily or quietly, publicly or in private, immediately or through an intermediary; he who behaves towards truth in a merely passive way—who does not resist it either offensively or defensively; he who only wills what truth wills—who wills the truth, the true nature of things, and its relation to us—the truth which is the reason of all reason, illumining all; he who does not deny it even before hearing it, because of obstinacy or self-love, because of precipitousness, sloth, ambition, servility— who never judges before mature, patient, dispassionate reflection, and even after judgment still retains an open and attentive ear, and docile heart, for every exhortation—he who [215] rejoices in the truth, wherever and whenever, by whomsoever and through whomsoever, it may be found—who does not let himself be touched by the error on the lips of his bosom friend—who eagerly draws out the truth from the lips of his mortal enemy and presses it to his heart—who

* Engelreinen. In the second edition this is changed to "righteous."

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 785)


everywhere holds conviction in high esteem, and never acts, judges, or speaks without reflection—Such a one is the honest and righteous man, an honour to mankind—he is of the Truth. Christ would call him a Son of the Truth."112

David Hume on Faith or Idealism and Realism A Dialogue by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi Be sober of head and mistrustful of friends; hinges are these on which wisdom depends. Epicharm. Fragm. Troch.1 Breslau, at Gottl. Lowe's, 1787.

NOTE: This translation is made from the first edition of 1787, which differs in several places from the second edition of 1815. Some of the differences are purely stylistic, and these I have ignored. I have annotated all the rest, and in some cases I have entered the text of 1815. The text is complete except for the occasional footnote (as indicated) in which I have only referred to sources that Jacobi instead cites in full. Pagination in square brackets refers to the first edition; in curly brackets, to the 1815 edition.

[ii] Nature confounds the Pyrrhonists, and reason the dogmatists.—We have an incapacity of proof that no dogmatism can overcome. We have an idea of truth that no Pyrrhonism can overcome. Pascal2



The following Dialogue falls into three parts, each of which was originally intended to be published separately, the first under the title of David Hume on Faith; the second under the title of Idealism and Realism; and the third under that of Leibniz, or concerning Reason. Events however interfered with this plan, and the three Dialogues were contracted into one. The title of the second section could justifiably cover the content of the third as well. The "Or" under the heading of the first section cannot however be totally justified, and I [iv] apologize for it. The unusual use that I made of the word "faith" in the Letters concerning Spinoza refers to a need that is not mine, but a philosophy's that claims that rational knowledge does not deal just in relations, but extends to the very existence of things and their properties—so much so that knowledge of actual existence through reason would have an apodeictic certainty not ever to be ascribed to sensory knowledge. According to this philosophy there is a twofold knowledge of actual existence, one certain and the other uncertain. This [v] latter, [as] I said [in the Letters concerning Spinoza}, should be called "faith." For the assumption was that every cognition that does not originate in rational sources is "faith." My philosophy does not hold any such duality in the knowledge of actual existence. It claims but a single knowledge through sensation, and * This Prefatory Note is missing in the 1815 edition but is replaced by a long Preface that is intended also as an introduction to Jacobi's collected philosophical works. A translation of this Preface is included in the present volume.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

it restricts reason, considered by itself, to the mere faculty of perceiving relations clearly, i.e. to the power of formulating the principle of identity and of judging in conformity to it. With this claim, however, I am forced to admit that only the assertion of identical propositions is apodeictic and carries absolute certainty, and that any assertion of the existence of a thing in itself, outside my representation, can never be of this kind or [vi] carry absolute certainty with it. So an idealist, basing himself on this distinction, can compel me to concede that my conviction about the existence of real things outside me is only a matter of faith. But then, as a realist I am forced to say that all knowledge derives exclusively from faith, for things must be given to me before I am in a position to enquire about relations. The development of this point constitutes the content of the following Dialogue. I dedicate it, not without some inner satisfaction, to every upright friend of truth. To those, however, who love other things more than the truth, I commit it with my most unequivocal disavowal of their love. Two more considerations might not be superfluous here. [vii] i. Just as in the Dialogue that follows I declare myself for "realism" and against "idealism," so too did I clearly enough (so I believe) express myself regarding these two theses in the Letters concerning Spinoza, on pp. 162—64 and 180—81. In spite of this I was later suspected of leaning toward transcendental idealism. This suspicion flies in the face of every appearance, and can only be based on the respect and amazement with which I spoke of Kant in my defence against Mendelssohn. People have relied on the passage from the Critique of Pure Reason that I interpolated in my defence, without paying the least attention to the comment that [viii] I immediately attached to it, and to another which I added right after. The cautious tone of my statement might however have drawn a better response than I have experienced from the side of transcendental idealists who sufficiently understood me. ii. In the Supplement to this Dialogue, "On Transcendental Idealism," I have everywhere used the very words of the author in the exposition of Kant's doctrine, as anyone will discover by a perusal of the pages referred to, even where no particular indication is made through quotation marks. But since it is not impossible that someone will nevertheless say that I have not understood Transcendental Idealism, I [ix] propose the following for careful consideration. Such an objection has its place only on condition that it is also shown how Transcendental Idealism can be understood otherwise than I have portrayed it, or else

David Hume on Faith


the objector will run into an insoluble conflict with himself and forfeit all claims. My whole essay is calculated on this either/or. Diisseldorf, March 28, 1787 Speak not of all these shining qualities: The mind's preeminence is to be free, And freedom shews itself in openness and truth. Otway3 [i] It is said in ethics, "As many sentiments as there are heads"; the contrary is actually true; nothing is as common as heads, and nothing as rare as counsel. Diderot4 Be sober of head and mistrustful of friends; hinges are these on which wisdom depends.5

He: Still in dressing gown! Are you sick? I: A bit of a chill. I stayed in bed until noon, and I couldn't eat, so I have just been sitting. He: What's that jolly book you have there? /.•Jolly book? Why do you say that? He: The way you looked when I came in. [2] 1:1 was reading some reflections about faith. He: You mean in the May issue of the Berlin Monthly"? I: Are they so jolly? Have a look at my book! It is Hume's Enquiries.6 He: It's against faith, then. /: No it is for faith. Have you read Hume recently? He: Not the Enquiries, for many years. /: Not for many years? You have been bothering yourself with the Kantian philosophy, yet, after all that Kant says in the Preface to the Prolegomena7 you did not [3] immediately grab your copy of Hume and read it from beginning to end again? It's unforgivable. He: You know how it has been for me with Kant. Surely the whole history of a philosophical system does not belong to its concept. There would be no end in that case. /: No beginning, you mean. He: I understand why you smile. But let's leave it be, while you tell me about Hume as a teacher of faith instead. Or give me the volume to take home. *I swapped the translations after I learned English, but afterwards I have always postponed getting myself the original. * From here until the end of p. 5, the text in the 1815 edition differs.

David Hume on Faith


/: Well, I am glad to hear it. I have long held [4] my tongue so as not to betray my secret too soon, and now I have let it slip out, I don't know how. He: It is a strange secret surely, if it is printed in a book. /: But that's just the beauty of it all—that it is there in a printed book, one that has been translated into several languages, and is very famous. Yet it is a secret none the less.—And what about my Sextus Empiricus? He: I am very sorry. I was not at home both times that you sent for it. But my servant must have delivered it by now. /: If he had brought it, I could have made use of it. [5] He: May I ask why are you so impatient to consult it? /: . . . A passage about "orienting oneself'8—or about "faith": suit yourself. He: In Sextus Empiricus? /: Nowhere else.9 Something like it in Aristotle suddenly reminded me of the passage. He: This is all news to me! 7: ... News some two thousand years old! But surely you don't mean to keep the news and the secret to yourself forever! [6] When will the new edition of the Letters Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza be published with all of its appendices?10 /: Not before the next Jubilate Fair anyway.11 He: And it should have appeared already at the last one. /; Well, I wanted to let it come out then—and I almost did, but without the appendices. He: There you are! Back to the maxim of Seneca that I have often heard you quoting: Quae ego scio, populus non probat; quae probat, ego nescio.* ia I was once very much tempted to write in your Seneca, right where you have the "N.B.," our German proverb, He who is too clever is a dope. It is certainly not without reason that you have been criticized for having too often left out the necessary intermediary concepts. Ab hoste consiliuml^ 13 "Too much sharpness does not cut." [7] If you won't follow good advice, at least follow a successful example. It's all right to make arbitrary connections, you see, provided that one makes them extensively enough, and providing above all, that one takes care that the connecting ties finally fall into the proper order. For the love of symmetry it is necessary to

* The things I know people do not accept; those they do accept I do not know. t Learn from your enemy!


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

bring up the invisible ties as well. So why this annoying stinginess with the volume? /: You are right. The force of your advice is irresistible. He: It's the truth, if you would only take it to heart. So the fault is all yours of course if someone puts a wax nose on you. //You mean, because I do not hide mine behind a nose made of papiermache, in the proper style of a masquerade. He: Just let your own nose be seen properly. [8] Surely you cannot find it so very difficult to remove every ambiguity from the propositions that were the main objects of attack. I: It is actually an easy matter—so easy. . . . He: . . . . that you loathe doing it. /: Well, it's a useless task. Just think of that youthful fable of Lessing, where an unhappy creature longs for eyes, and just as soon as it gets them, it cries out: "These can't be eyes!"*1 He: Say what you like—but anyone who understands himself, can also manage to make himself understood by others, provided that he does not lose patience, [9] even if all the learned reviews and journals conspire to hold back the truth at the bar of officious justice. /: The moment P. Claudius let the sacred hens, which did not want to eat, drink, he lost the battle.*2 He: Fair enough. But no one is suggesting that you should lay hands [ 10] on the sacred hens in full view of a people who fix so devout an eye on their auspicious eating or non-eating like no other civilized people in Europe. Follow your own way without bothering over these superstitions, and let the dead bury their own dead.14

* i. Lessing's Selected Writings (Berlin, 1784) vol. 11, p. 94; (older edition, 1770) vol. I, p. 125.' *2. Cicero, de Natura Deorum (Concerning the Nature of the Gods), Book n, §g.2 A friend to whom I had shown this dialogue in manuscript form added to this quotation the following passage from the Oration for fiosdus Amerinus [xx.56] "Food for the geese is contracted for at the public expense, and dogs are maintained in the Capitol, to give notice if thieves come. But they cannot distinguish thieves. Accordingly they give notice if any one comes by night to the Capitol; and because that is a suspicious thing, although they are but beasts, yet they oftenest err on that side which is the more prudent one. But if the dogs barked by day also, when any one came to pay honour to the gods, I imagine their legs would be broken for being active then also, when there was no suspicion."3

David Hume on Faith


7: My dear fellow, I carry forty-three years on my shoulders, and fate has buffeted me on all sides with heavy blows. Many might surpass me in gifts of the mind, but I am sure that only a few surpass my steadfastness and zeal in the pursuit of insight and truth. I have delved into the most renowned sources of truth indefatigably, and the not so renowned ones as well;*3 [i i] and I have explored the source of some of them to the point where they get lost in invisible veins. For a long time I was aware of other explorers close by, and not a few of them were among the best minds of my age. I had occasion, indeed I was compelled, to put my forces to the test repeatedly, and to let them be put to the test. It would be some sort of miracle therefore if, like an inexperienced youth, or a self-absorbed pedant, or in some other foolish fashion, I were to presume more about myself than I ought. But by the same token it would not be right either, [12] that I should be deceived into lowering myself too much, that I should take myself for less than others who, with only a portion of my miserable knowledge, already think they know so much—who only want to convert me to errors that I have long since repudiated—and to do it on the strength of their own even more obvious sophistries. But that is what was expected of me. I was supposed to accept compliantly as natural, proper, and perfectly fair, that like a steed that is for sale I be ridden to market by some rascally half-blind Philistine, to be inspected in the mouth by every passer-by, and examined for every possible defect, while impish urchins pluck hair from my tail and prick my back with needles.—Maybe it's nothing but my not being used to it, that it is a bit more than I care to bear.—You shake your head? He: Less pride, or less sensitivity!—-Just name one worthy man [13] who did not have to accept a similar fate.* That wind-bag from Halle, the ir*3. "Another error, that hath also some affinity with the former, is a conceit that of former opinions or sects, after variety and examination, the best hath still prevailed and suppressed the rest; so as if a man should begin the labour of a new search, he were but like to light upon somewhat formerly rejected, and by rejection brought into oblivion: as if the multitude, or the wisest for the multitude's sake, were not ready to give passage rather to that which is popular and superficial than to that which is substantial and profound; for the truth is, that time seemeth to be of the nature of a river or stream, which carrieth down to us that which is light and blown up, and sinketh and drowneth that which is weighty and solid. "4 * From here until "Just name me oner is missing in the 1815 edition.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

ascible Ludwig, who comes to mind simply because of a local connection, called Jerome Gundling none other than a "bagatellist"! *4 I just picked one example in a thousand! Give yourself eight full days to think of another upright man, some profound writer, whom a better fate befell than the thousands out of which I picked my Gundling. Just name me onel And has any come to grief because of it? [14] /: Oh, I am not afraid of grief at all. Danger stimulates. What I hate is the malaise, the disgust that follows upon having to summon contempt from the bottom of one's soul—having to spit in the presence of men because they have impudently done violence to their own feeling of what is right and true and have yielded, unscrupulously, to the lie.*5 Why should I embitter the few days that I may still have left, to live in this way? He: Because a man does not leave what he has begun unfinished. /: Good. But so that we do not lose ourselves in words, what exactly is it that I should finish? Where should I start again? He: With all this outcry about [15] your teaching blind faith and degrading reason, how can you ask that? /: What is blind faith? Is it anything but assent based on outward appearances, without reason or genuine insight?—Anything that causes you to hesitate? He: No, there is no reason to object to your definition. I: Good. And you say that I am suspected of having taught a faith of that sort. Right?

*4- *Cf. Putter's German Public Law Literature, Part i. No better fate than Gundling's befell the excellent Herman Conring, the man who has still rendered the greatest service to German Constitutional Law. He looked for the basis of German law and the Constitution of our Fatherland in their proper sources, in history and in the old laws. And for this he had to let himself be chided by Chancellor Tabor as a "barbarian" who set aside the light of Roman jurisprudence in order to stumble again in darkness in the company of our brute, ignorant, forefathers. Yet Gripenkerl knew how to understand our Conring otherwise. Cf. Putter, ibid., and Heinec., Preface to the Corp. J. Germ.5 *5> "In truth, lying is an accursed vice. We are men, and hold together, only by our word. If we recognized the horror and the gravity of lying, we would persecute it with fire more justly than other crimes." Essais de Montaigne, Book i. Ch. ix. p. 79. See also: D. Mus. 1787. Jan. S. 4Q.6 * This note is omitted in the 1815 edition.

David Hume on Faith


He: Yes, indeed. But why are you asking me these questions for heaven's sake? I sent you the Preliminary Exposition of Jesuitism15 a couple of days ago. Do you have it at hand? /: It is right there. [16] He: Well look, here on p. 173, it says explicitly "that you recommend an unconditionally blind faith, and in so doing snatch away the strongest support of Protestantism, namely, the unrestricted spirit of research and the use of reason . . . " I: Read, rather: " . . . he snatches away the strongest support of the secret ultraJesuitism, namely, the unrestricted spirit of distortion, and the use of mental reservation, word twisting and hot air. . . . " He: " . . . and hence you subject the rights of reason and religion to the maxims of human authority." In the note to this passage it says even more clearly "that your theory of faith and revelation promotes Catholicism, and [17] denigrates the use of rational enquiry in the justification of the trudi of religion . . . and that you want to induce acceptance of a. human authority through a cunning modification of the current use of words." Have you had enough? /: Quite enough. But now, take what I wrote and show me what there could excuse any such accusation, I will not say justify. Is there anything on the basis of which it could even be sneaked in with some sort of rational justification? Except for the mere word "faith," you won't find a thing. And the man who put that accusation in writing, found nothing except the mere word. But he found things in my book that he did not like, and being confident of the political clout of his party, he thought nothing of fabricating a quite baseless charge against me; even though he was clearly [18] and distinctly conscious that it was a fabrication. And to make things that much more venomous, he added yet another accusation, just by using an empty "therefore."—Is this true, or is it not? He: Of course it is. /: So it is true then, that there is not the slightest, not the remotest ground in my book for the accusation that I teach blind faith; and it is true too, that I am suspected of this teaching by the general public all the same. And how can I even begin to defend myself against the charge of blind faith before a public that believes so blindly? One only needs to bring up the same false charge against me on the spot, and the suspicion sticks. He: Not so fast, my friend. Let's go back to that definition of blind faith which you gave earlier. [19] Perhaps your opponents would say that it restricts the concept of blind faith too much. Any assent, any affirma-


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

tion, that does not rest on rational grounds, could and would have to be called blind faith. /: Would my opponents really want to say that? He: Why not? /: You are right. Why not?—Well then answer me this: do you believe that I am now sitting in front of you, and talking to you? He: I don't just believe that; I know it. /: How do you know it? He: Because I have a sensation of it. [20] /: Is that so? You have a sensation of me sitting in front of you and speaking with you. That is all quite unintelligible to me. What on earth do you mean? That I, who am now sitting here talking to you, am a sensation to you? He: You are not my sensation, but you are the external cause of my sensation. The sensation, connected with that cause, gives me the representation that I call "you." /: Well then, do you have a sensation of the cause as a cause? Do you become aware of a sensation, and in this sensation of another sensation through which you sense that this sensation is the cause of that sensation, and together they make up a representation—one that contains something that you call the object? Is this what happens? Go over that again, please; I do not understand any of it. And then tell me simply this: [21] How do you know that the sensation of a cause qua cause, is the sensation of an external cause, of an actual object outside your sensation, a thing in itself?* He: I know it in consequence of the sensible evidence. The certainty that I have of it is an immediate one, like the certainty of my own existence. /.'You're pulling my leg! A philosopher of the Kantian school, one who is only an empirical realist,*6 could say all that, of course, but not a genuine realist, such as you pretend to be. The validity of sense-evidence is precisely what is in question. That things appear to us as outside us is not, of course, in need of proof. [22] But that they are not mere appearances in us all the same, mere determinations of our own self, and hence absolutely nothing as representations of something outside us; that, as representations, they rather refer to really external beings present on their own, and are taken from them—all of this is not only open to doubt; it has also been *6. See the Appendix on "Transcendental Idealism." * "a thing in itself is omitted in the 1815 edition.

David Hume on Faith


shown repeatedly that the doubt cannot be eliminated on grounds that are rational in the strict sense. So your supposed immediate certainty about external objects is therefore, on the analogy of my faith, a blind certainty. He: But don't you say yourself, in your third letter to Mendelssohn, "that we become aware of other actual things [. . .] with the same certainty with which we become aware of ourselves"'?16 I: That was after I had just said [23] that in a strict philosophical sense this knowledge is only a faith, since whatever is not capable of strict proof can only be believed, and there is no other word in the language for this distinction. Of course we do not talk like that in everyday life. But then, in everyday life, there is never any question of the distinction that we are pointing out here; it belongs rather to philosophy where this distinction is of the greatest importance in the investigation of human reason and its functions (provincia sua]—and how we settle it has crucial consequences. That was the issue between Mendelssohn and me. Mendelssohn had saddled me, without the slightest cause,17 with Christian motives which were in fact neither Christian nor mine, and against them he set his own, which he presented as Jewish, when he said: "My religion knows of no duty to remove doubts of this sort otherwise than through reason; [24] it commands no faith in eternal truths. I have one more ground, therefore, for seeking conviction."18—It was easy to detect in this sarcastic sally the accusation that I was trying to save myself by the back door. But since I did not want to counter it with a refutation that would have involved me in questions in which I did not want to get involved, I just gave the following answer: "If every assent to truth not derived from rational grounds is faith," (since this opposition between rational cognition and faith had been adduced by Mendelssohn himself), "then conviction based on rational grounds must itself derive from faith and receive its force from faith alone."19—I was expressing myself in this way in a private communication with a famous philosopher for whom I had to assume that the premises on which I was taking my stand would be known and their truth accepted. [25] Fairness would have required that when this private communication became a public record without any revision, it must still be read and judged as a private communication (a communication meant to go only from the desk of one scholar to the desk of another, and not intended for the public at large at all) and that the context of what was being said would not be ignored. In that case, because of the extension that Mendelssohn had given to the concept of eternal truths, my statement would. . . .


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

He: My dear man, I am afraid we are straying too far afield and we shall lose our way. We must beware of that mistake. You say: Whatever is incapable of strict proof can only be believed, and language has no other word except faith to designate this difference in the way that we assent to truth. [26] But as you also maintain, this distinction has long been accepted by many of us. How is it, then, that it has been possible to avoid the one word for it that our language has? For the use that you make of the word is unheard of. It is nowhere found with that meaning. /: Nowhere? Just turn to the review of Reid's Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, in the April issue of the Universal Journal of Literature for this year (1786). You will find it used with precisely my meaning there.20 And you will find the same everywhere these things are philosophized about. I repeat: language has no other word.*7 He: Did you say in the Universal Journal of Literature? [27] //Read there, on p. 182: "He (Reid) distinguishes Conception. . . . from Perception, which is perhaps best rendered as Empfindung, for according to his definition it is the representation of a thing bound up with the belief in its outer object."21 He: It makes me laugh to see how you can come up with an authoritative statement at once from the very journal that has levelled the most severe reproaches against you for the use of this very word. I: I have excerpted the most striking of these reproaches and collected them together. They are here in my copy of Hume. Should we read out the page together then? He: Gladly. [28] /: Universal Journal of Literature, #36 and #i25: 2 2 "We do not believe that we have a body and that there are other bodies and other intelligent beings outside us. Rather, we have a sensation of our self; we sense our body and that of others outside us, and we infer the presence of intelligent beings outside us. Logic and common sense have drawn a distinction between faith and sensation from time immemorial. To neglect it now means to bring unnecessary confusion to one of the primary concepts of the theory of reason. Also to call what others call "sensation," or "sense-conviction," "faith" is an arbitrary distortion of the common use of words; it is playing with words in order to give the impression that

*7. Mendelssohn makes use of it too. Cf. Morgenstunden, ist ed., p. 106.7

David Hume on Faith


one has said something new. But kenodoxia* is even worse than paradoxia.^ One should say familiar things with familiar words, and not recoin the accepted currency on one's own authority. [29] One should not raise pointless if not blinding dust,23 and cause misunderstanding by arousing the suspicion that one is surreptitiously trying to reduce everything to faith in the positive dogmas of religion."—Anything important that I might have left out? He: Nothing important. But I miss the insistence of the repetitions, even though their stress is fairly compensated, so it seems to me, by the tight sequence of judgments. I am curious to know how your reasons will be received when you come out with them. /: My reasons! I have something better, and not so easily countered or so simply ignored as reasonings. I have an Authority.*^1 [30] The bitter reproaches that I have just read out must all be unloaded onto the shoulders of my good David Hume here. I leave it to him to cope with logic and understanding, and to find his way back to the first rules of the use of reason. And I leave it to him to repel the charges of kenodoxia, of playing with words, of being a wind-bag, of raising blinding or pointless dust, but most of all the suspicion that his intention is to reduce unnoticed all things to faith in the positive dogmas of religion. For there is not one of these issues that does not touch him directly, since he not only made use of the word "faith" in the same [31] sense as I did, but also deliberately insisted on it in order to confirm that it is the proper word for what is meant; the only one that can appropriately be so used.*9 *8. Descartes, wishing to dedicate his Writing on Man [de homine] to the Sorbonne, wrote to Father Mersenne: "I must [ 150] at all costs try to support myself on authority, for truth has little value by itself." That the Sorbonne did not have in Descartes's own eyes any authority, need not be mentioned. Here are his own words: "I confess to you that I was led by the quibblings of some [Fr. Bourdin] to resolve from now on to arm myself with the authority of others as much as I can, for, with all the great, to do truth alone is left in the cold." Ep., p. ii. Ep. 43.8 *g. I have been particularly reproached for making what is said to be an utterly unheard of claim, namely that with respect to our own body too we can only have faith in its being. This charge is astonishing in the extreme, for the same claim can be found in Descartes and in a multitude of other philosophers after * i.e. vacuous opinions. t i.e. erroneous opinions.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

[32] He: Well, your secret is out. Just make a clean breast of it. [33] /: Without much coaxing, after already betraying so much. First, by way of preparation, consider this passage here in the section on the Academic or Sceptic Philosophy:*10 [34] It seems evident, that men are carried, by a natural instinct or prepossession, to repose faith in their senses: and that, without any reasoning, or even

him. In his Dilucid. Phil, §243, Bilfinger says: "I know that people laugh if someone requires them to prove that this body is their body. And they would be right to laugh if the questioner were to be put in doubt too. For an idea of that type is so common and clear to every man that nobody can be deceived about it. But it belongs to the philosopher to know distinctly what others know clearly, i.e. to be able to enumerate the criteria by which men recognize their body. Whence do you know that this body is your body? Nobody would want the philosopher to reply with [32] the children: I just know it!"9 Then, in §§247 and 248, he proves—irrefutably, it seems to me—that we cannot doubt the actual existence of the things that appear to us outside our body without doubting the existence of our own body as well. The learned and commendable editor of the Jena Literary Journal,* the Herr Prof. [C. G.] Schiitz [1747-1832], begins his Metaphysics10 (Lemgo, 1776) with these words (§§22 and 23): "The human soul is certain of its being in that it is certain of its representations. No-one has ever doubted their own existence. A doubt can however arise as to whether what we call 'body' exists outside the soul. This is not the place to enquire into this doubt, & c. . . ." There is a highly remarkable passage about this question (which I am sorry not to be able to insert here in toto) in Buffon's Natural History (Vol. n, pp. 432ff; first edition in quarto). I have torn the following lines [33] out of the middle (p. 434): "Yet we can BELIEVE that there is something outside us without being certain of it, whereas we are assured of the real existence of everything that is in us. So the existence of our soul is certain; that of our body appears however doubtful the moment we come to think that matter may well be but a mode of our soul, one of its way of seeing." There, even Buffon only believes that he has a body.' * *io. Since I am not satisfied with the current translation of Hume, and one might doubt the exactness of mine, I shall add throughout the English text. I am using the London edition of 1770, in small octavo of the Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. Sect, xn.t 12 * Jenaer Litteraturzeitung

t I am entering Hume's original English in the body of Jacobi's text, and shall only advert to Jacobi's German translation when it exhibits some peculiarity.

David Hume on Faith


before the use of reason, we always [35] suppose an external universe, which depends not on our perception,* but would exist, though we and every sensible creature were absent or annihilated. Even the animal creation are governed by a like opinion, and preserve this belief of external objects, in all their thoughts, designs, and actions. . . . This very table, which we see white, and which we feel hard, is believed to exist, independent of our perception,^ and to be something external to our mind, which perceives it.

Now, let's turn to the passages of real importance. You remember Hume's famous doubt about the reliability of the inferences that we normally draw from a necessary combination of cause and effect.24 [36] He: If I remember correctly, his reasoning is in brief this. Sense appearances reveal nothing to us about the internal powers of things. When Adam cast his eyes for the first time on a transparent lake, he could not know that he would suffocate if he were to throw himself into it; nor could he know that one body would have the power to nourish him, whereas another would not. Nor would we ever dare to decide on the basis of singular perceptions, whenever we see one appearance follow upon another for the first time, that the first is a cause and the second an effect of it. This link is only established in the imagination in virtue of the repeated appearance of the same succession. And how often does it happen that the link is suddenly broken by a startling new discovery after having held for hundreds of years? This is proof enough that what we perceive in the succession is only the order and not the connecting bond. Even with respect to the [37] movements of our own body we only know by experience which of them result from a certain determination of our will and which do not. I can rise from my chair whenever I want to, but I do not fall asleep, or feel hunger and thirst, at will. In both cases equally, however, the true medius terminus* of the success or failure is unknown to us. And to return now to the point at issue, this middle term is missing here just as much everywhere else [in appearances]. The bond that connects appearances, their very holding together, since it is never shown in intuition, can even less be found by means of inferences of reason. For propositions that are universal in a merely relative sense only express an indeterminate sum of preceding singular perceptions, and those that are universal absolutely express only relations of concepts, i.e. the element of identity in them. In this latter case the eternal * Wahrnehmen t Empfindung I middle term


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

medius terminus is indeed the incontrovertible proposition idem est idem.* [38] But thefacit^ of a direct and simple esse* can never be derived from that. /.- Exactly! Listen now. . . . . Nothing is freer than the imagination of man; and though it cannot exceed the original stock of ideas, furnished by the internal and external sense, it has unlimited power of mixing, compounding, separating and dividing these ideas, to all the varieties of fiction and vision. § It can feign a train of events, with all the [39] appearances of actuality, ascribe to them a particular time and place, conceive them as existent, and paint them out to itself with every circumstance, that belongs to any historical fact, in which it believes with the greatest certainty. Wherein, therefore, consists the difference between such a fiction and belief?" It lies not merely in any particular idea, which is annexed to such a conception as commands our assent, and which is wanting to every known fiction. For as the mind* has authority [40] over all its ideas, it could voluntarily annex this particular representation with any fiction and consequently be able to believe whatever it pleases, contrary to what we find by daily experience. We can in our conception join the head of a man to the body of a horse; but it is not in our power to believe that such an animal has ever really existed. It follows, therefore, that all the difference between fiction and belief lies in some [41 ] sentiment or feeling, which is annexed to the latter, not to the former, and which depends not on our will, nor can be commanded at pleasure. It must be excited by nature, like all other sentiments; and must arise from the particular situation, in which the mind is placed at any particular juncture. Whenever any object is presented to the memory or the senses, it immediately, by the force of custom, carries the imagination to [42] conceive that object that is usually conjoined to it; and this conception is attended with a feeling or sentiment, different from the loose reveries of the fancy. In this consists the whole nature of belief. For as there is no matter of fact that we believe so firmly, that we cannot conceive the contrary, there would be no difference between the conception assented to, and that which is rejected, were it not for some sentiment, which [43] distinguishes the one from the other. If I see a billiard-ball moving towards another, * the same is the same t Facit ("it does") is the third person singular of the present indicative offacere, "to do" or "to make." Factum (or "fact" in English) is also a form offacere (the past participle, i.e. "what has been done or made"). I to be § Jacobi has Wahn, "illusion." ii Jacobi has the word Glaube, which in German means "faith," with all the religious connotations that the English word carries. # Jacobi has Seek, "soul."

David Hume on Faith


on a smooth table, I can easily conceive it to stop upon contact. This conception implies no contradiction; but still it feels very differently from that conception, by which I represent to myself the impulse, and the communication of motion from one ball to another. Were we to attempt a definition of this sentiment, we should, perhaps, find it a very difficult, if not an impossible task; [44] in the same manner as if we should endeavour to define the feeling of cold or passion of anger, to a creature who never had an experience of these sentiments. B E L I E F is the true and proper name of this feeling; and no one is ever at a loss to know the meaning of that term; because every man is every moment conscious of the sentiment represented by it. It may not, however, be improper to attempt a description of this sentiment; in hopes we may, by that means, arrive at some analogies, which may afford a more [45] perfect explication of it. I say, then, that belief is nothing but a more vivid, lively, forcible, firm, steady conception of an object, than what the imagination alone is ever able to attain. This variety of terms, which may seem so unphilosophical, is intended only to express that act of the mind, which renders realities, or what is taken as such, more present to us than fictions, causes them to weigh more in the thought, and gives them a [46] superior influence on the passions and imagination. Provided we agree about the thing, it is needless to dispute about the terms. The imagination has the command over all its ideas, and can join and mix and vary them, in all the ways possible. It may conceive fictitious objects with all the circumstances of place and time. It may set them, in a manner, before our eyes, in their true colours, just as they might have existed. But as it is impossible that this faculty of imagination can [47] ever, of itself, reach belief, it is evident, that belief consists not in the peculiar nature or order of ideas, but in the manner of their conception,* and in their feeling to the mind. I confess, that it is impossible perfectly to explain this feeling or manner of conception. We may make use of words, which express something near it. But its true and proper name, as we observed before, is belief; which is a term, that every one sufficiently understands in common life. And in philosophy we can [48] go no farther than assert that belief is something felt by the mind, which distinguishes the ideas of the judgment from the fictions of the imagination. It gives them more weight and influence; makes them appear of greater importance, reinforces them in the mind; and renders them the governing principles of our actions. 11

Now, what do you say to this lecture? He: What everybody would have to say. Not [49] only is your same use of the word "faith" to be found there for everyone to see, but also your

*n. Hume's Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. Sect, v [Part ii]. * Jacobi has Wahrnehmung, "perception."


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

thesis that faith is the element of all cognition and action. It appears indeed that Hume includes even more than you do under that thesis, and extends its application further. /: True. I will give you the book later on, to take home and read the whole section carefully, and the two following ones, at leisure. That word of despair, "faith," occurs again and again; and you will find that without faith, we cannot cross the threshold, sit at table, or go to bed. He: Now, what's still missing is the ability to justify the use of the word "revelation" in the perception of things outside us, by appeal to Hume or some other famous man of equal authority. [50] /: But is there need of a special example or testimony for something that the general use of language warrants? We ordinarily say in German that objects reveal themselves to us through the senses; and the same form of expression is to be found in French, English, Latin, and several other languages as well. We cannot expect to find it in Hume with the special emphasis that I have put on it, among other reasons because he leaves it everywhere undecided whether we actually perceive things outside us or merely perceive them as outside us. Thus, he says in the passage that I have just read to you: ". . . the real, or what is taken for such." And in keeping with his whole mode of thinking he must be more inclined in speculative philosophy toward sceptical idealism than toward realism. The committed realist, on the other hand, unquestionably accepts external things on the testimony of the senses.* In keeping with this certainty he declines any other conviction; [51] his only thought is that all concepts, even those that we call a priori, must have derived from this fundamental experience. What name, I ask, should such a committed realist give to the means through which he partakes of the certainty of external objects qua things existing independently of his representation of them? He has nothing to support his judgment except the fact itself—nothing but that the things actually stand in front of him. Can he express himself in this regard with a more apt word than "revelation"? Isn't it here, rather, that the root of the word, the source of its use, is to be sought? He: It seems so, indeed. /: It follows automatically that this revelation deserves to be called a true miracle. For the moment that the reasons behind the claim that the con* In the 1815 edition, the following lines read: "He takes this certainty as an original conviction, and can only conclude that all employment of the understanding must find the ground for our cognition of the external world in this fundamental experience. What name, I ask, should. . . ."

David Hume on Faith


tent of our consciousness cannot be anything but the mere [52] determinations of our own self have been duly explicated, idealism appears in its full strength as alone compatible with speculative reason. And if a realist remains a realist despite this, and holds on to his faith that (say) this thing here which we call the table is not a mere sensation, a being that is to be found only in us, but is rather a being external to us, one that is independent of our representation, and only perceived by us—if this is so, then I can press him hard for a more suitable descriptive word for the revelation of which he boasts when he asserts that something outside him is being presented to his consciousness. For we have absolutely no proof*12 of the existence of any such thing outside us except its existence itself, and that we can become aware of it must be for us simply inconceivable. Yet, as we have said, we claim [53] to be aware of it all the same; and we do this with the full conviction that there actually are things outside us—that our representations and concepts conform to them just as we have them before us, and not, contrariwise, that the things which we only suppose to be before us conform to our representations and concepts.—I ask: what is this conviction founded on? On nothing in fact, unless it is founded precisely on a revelation to which we cannot give any other name than that of "true miracle." He: But at least, not one which is immediate. Right? I: It is immediate so far as we are concerned, since we have no cognition of its proper intermediary. But for this reason, either to deny that it does none the less occur through some natural intermediary or, like the idealists, to reject the fact itself because it is contrary to reason—neither way accords with the spirit of true [54] philosophy in my view. Too often we link inferences derived from very remote and incomplete experiences to others that are of a most intimate nature, and thoughtlessly build on inferences of this kind. Leibniz was right, to be sure, when he said: Men seek what they already know, and know not what they seek. *13 He: I agree with you completely. And now a passage of Hume occurs to me in which he too speaks of revelation in connection with sense representations. Don't you remember it at all? /: You must be referring to a passage in that same section from which I

*12. * Critique of Pure Reason, [A] 368. *ig. Nouv. Essais, p. 138.13 * The footnote is omitted in the 1815 edition.


77^ Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

first read to you. It does not really concern the point we are now discussing. Here it is. See for yourself. [55] He: Right. . . . . To have recourse* to the veracity of the Supreme Being in order to prove the veracity of our senses is surely making a very unexpected circuit. If his veracity were at all concerned in this matter, our senses would be entirely infallible, because it is not possible that he can ever deceive. Not to mention that, if the external world be once called in question, we shall be at a loss to find arguments by which we may prove the existence of that Being or of any of his attributes.*14 The passage is certainly not relevant in the way I thought. But it is relevant in another, for it calls attention to the enormous difficulty in this whole issue of determining the extent to which rational beings are justified in believing the testimony of [56] our senses or not. That they often deceive us is quite obvious, and if one considers how often they do it, one can easily forgive the suspicion that our whole world of the senses, and our understanding which totally refers to it, are nothing but an optical illusion. Bonnet is still the one whom I find the most satisfactory in this regard, with his list of limitations in Part x v of his Analytical Essay.25 /: What Bonnet says there is really very well considered. But even more thoroughly considered, and more profound, although still not sufficient, is the passage that you must remember in the Sophyk of my friend Hemsterhuis. *6 According to the Sophyk, our representations of objects are the result of the connections that obtain between us and the objects [on the one hand] and all that separates us from them [on the other]. [57] For instance, light, our eyes, and the nerve pathway stand between us and the visible objects. Let's take now (say) the number 4 as object; the number 3 as the sum total of all that stands between us and the object; and the number 12 as the representation of the object. Now, 12 would indeed not equal 4 ( 1 2 not = 4). But if the number 4 were not 4, 4 multiplied by 3 would not be 12. The representation that = 1 2 , therefore, is neither the pure representation of the number 4 which stands for the object; nor of the number 3 which stands for the sum total of all that is to be found between it and me; nor, again, of the operation of bringing [the two] together

*i4- Hume's Enquiry concerning Human Understanding. Sect, xn [Part i]. * In the 1815 edition Jacob! glosses here: "(like Descartes)."

David Hume on Faith


and taking [them] as such. It is rather the representation of 12. Consider a ball for instance. The external object together with all that stands between it and me (the total impression and its reception in me) yield the representation that I [58] call "ball." Consider now a column. The external object together with all that stands between it and me yield the representation that I call "column." However, since what stands between me and the ball is the same as what stands between me and the column, I must conclude that the distinction I perceive between the ball and the column is one to be found in the objects themselves.—You realize how rich in consequences this remark must be. Following this line, Hemsterhuis shows that there must be a true analogy between things and our representations of them, and that given within the relationships of our representations are the exact relationships of the things themselves. Experience confirms this too—for otherwise an artistic invention, of which the realization must be sought in accordance with a mere ideal, would hardly ever succeed in fitting into reality. He: This way of presenting things is in fact very attractive. Tell me. Does not Hemsterhuis [59] also claim that our conviction about the actual existence (or the existence in itself)* of things outside us is an immediate one? /: Well, he at least tries to originate it from the understanding, though only in passing. He: I know that Bonnet does try—and he even produces the "I""*" through an operation of the understanding, with the help of the imagination. /: Oh well, everyone travels that route—Who doesn't? But if the realist enters it, he falls inevitably into the idealist's trap. He: Just help me get out of the trap that I feel I have fallen into at this moment. I thought that I had understood, why our [60] conviction that the objects of our representation exist on their own can only be an immediate one. But now it seems to me to rest on an inference once more. I produce one part of my representations arbitrarily;—and these I can join together as I please. Here I have the sense of being active. But there is a multitude of other representations that I do not produce at will, and I cannot join them up just as I like. And there I feel passive. The com* "(or the existence in itself)" is omitted in the 1815 edition. t Instead of "produces the I," the 1815 edition has "lets the I arise." See Bonnet, Essai analytique, ch. xv, §244; ch. ix, §113; ch. xxiv, §§704-13.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

parison of these two [types of] representations, those that have arbitrary origin and connection and those that do not, leads me to the conclusion that the second type must have a cause outside me, and hence to my concept of, and conviction about, objects that are actually present outside me, independently of my representations. /: But is that how it happens in fact? So, here is this table, there that chess-board with its pieces in place, and your humble servant [61] speaking to you. Do we become things in themselves* for you, from representations, only through an inference? Is it only in retrospect, through a concept that you add to us, that we manage to be+ something external to you, and not as mere determinations of your own self?—Why not?* Representation, as mere representation, can and must indeed come ahead! It is everywhere the first. Actuality, or being, is added as predicate only later. Since our soul is a power of representation, it must start by producing a representation just as representation. Things first proceed from the Orphic ovum of intelligibility (i.e. from the principium contradictionis) without the dispensable circumstance of reality. Possibility is. . . , 27 He: Look here, you are losing your patience. I: True. I have difficulty keeping calm when I come to this point. [62] It is as if I saw people walking on their heads while they shout at the top of their voices: "Hop! Hop!" And, "Hop away from the heretic who, scornful of the head, remains standing on his feet!" He: You know that on this score I think like you, and that I find it highly absurd to have matter arise from form—to add the real to the ideal, the actual to the possible, the thing to its concept, as a merely surplus determination. But is it just as absurd to think that we derive our conviction about the actual existence of the objects outside us because their representations are given to us without any doings of ours; and because we could never be capable of shutting them out while our senses are in a waking state; in short, because we feel passive in regard to them? /: Our consciousness arises also without any contribution of ours. We are incapable of shutting it out too; [63] and we feel no less passive with respect to it than we feel in respect of the representations that we call * Instead of "things in themselves" the 1815 edition has "actual objects." t Instead of "manage to be" the 1815 edition reads: "it comes about that you regard us as." t From here until "But is it just as absurd to think that we derive" on p. 62 is omitted in the 1815 edition, where the text resumes with "He: Certainly not. But isn't it equally true that we derive. . . ."

David Hume on Faith


"representations of external things." So where does the distinguishing characteristic of the passive state in the two cases lie?*15 He: I see the light!—The object contributes just as much to the perception of the consciousness as the consciousness does to the [64] perception of the object. I experience that I am, and that there is something outside me, in one and the same indivisible moment; and at that moment my soul is no more passive with respect to the object than it is towards itself. There is no representation, no inference, that mediates this twofold revelation. There is nothing in the soul that enters between the perception of the actuality outside it and the actuality in it. There are no representations yet; they make their appearance only later on in reflection, as shadows of the things that were formerly present. And, we can always refer them back to the real from which they were taken, and which they presuppose; indeed, we must refer them back to it every time we want to know whether they are true. /.•You've got it! But strain your whole attention once more, I pray you, and collect your being at the point of a simple perception, so that you might become once and for all aware (and be unshakingly convinced, [65] for your whole life) that the /and the Thou, the internal consciousness and the external object, must be present both at once in the soul even in the most primordial and simple of perceptions—the two in one flash, in the same indivisible instant, without before or after, without any operation of the understanding—indeed, without the remotest beginning of the generation of the concept of cause and effect in the understanding. He: Yes, my friend; I have grasped this now, and in such a way that I shall

*15. * "Life is the principle of perception."^ "The representation internally of what is external, in simple form of what is composite, in unified form of what is manifold, effectively constitutes perception." "SENSATION is perception that involves something distinct and is associated with attention and memory." Leibniz, Opp. n, Part i, pp. 227, 232. Representations of external things without any sensation or consciousness are not impossible according to Leibniz's doctrine. It is however impossible, also according to his teaching, to have sensation and consciousness without representation of external things. * This footnote is omitted in the 1815 edition. Jacobi cites in Latin. t principium perceptivum


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

never again have any doubt about it. It's just as if I had awakened in the middle of the day from a deep dream. But now you must help me if you can, to wake from yet another dream. I can quite well see that we do not experience anything in our simple perception of external things that could lead us to the concept of cause and effect. So [66] how do we get to this concept? A lot has already been written on this subject, and a lot more is still being written on it now. Mendelssohn, in his Matutine Hours,28 bases the concept of cause and effect on the perception of the constant and immediate following of something upon something else, i.e. on experience and induction. When it is properly analyzed, this amounts to the mere expectation of similar instances; and this expectation is just a customary association in the imagination. And so Hume would win the point. My question is: Are we forced to concede this victory? An invincible feeling has so far prevented me from surrendering, even though in all the connections between what precedes and what follows I perceive nothing more in the world except the constancy of the sequence. Help me out of this awkward mess, unless you are in the same boat yourself. [67] /: No, I am not, but I was once. And I will tell you truthfully how I got out of it. If I go back a bit further than you might think necessary, take comfort in the fact that our attention does need a bit of a rest, and that it will make for a better progress on our part, even a speedier one, if we do not begrudge it.—* But let me first take a look into the hall, to see whether anybody is around. For I won't be able to give an account of myself without talking about myself, and you know how easily modest people take violent offense and, rather than rushing forward with one millstone, they bring ten instead, because none is too insignificant.^ He: I don't like to hear you joke this way, for it proves that you don't [68] after all ignore wretched claptrap, and I would rather see you risk anything but the pluck that has made you always so open, so carefree. /: Fear not! But your warning is a good one, and I won't forget it. Listen now to my faithful account, and let anyone listen who cares to. It has been a fact about me, for as long as I remember, that I could not make do with a concept unless its object, whether external or internal, were not made graphically present to me through sensation or through feeling. For me objective truth and actuality were one, just like

* From here until "It has been a fact about me" on p. 68 is omitted in the 1815 edition.

David Hume on Faith


clear representation of the actual and cognition. I was blind to, obstinately set against, any demonstration that could not be verified in this way, proposition by proposition, or any definition that could not be intuitively checked against its object, i.e. that was not established genetically. Thus, as long as [69] the mathematical point, the mathematical line and surface, were defined for me ahead o/"body," and not, rather, after it, and in reverse order (i.e. the surface as the extremity of the body, its end or limit; the line, as the extremity of the surface; and the point, as the extremity of the line), for so long, I took them to be mere fancies of the mind, or, as Voltaire says "comme de mauvaises plaisanteries."* Nor did I understand the essence of circle before I grasped how it arises from the movement of a line, one end of which is at rest and the other in movement.*16 He: And what about the nature of the body itself? /: Leave that for later. For the moment I am only telling my story. This philosophical idiosyncrasy of mine quickly became the cause of all sorts of unpleasant [70] encounters for me. I was continually being accused of stupidity, and quite often of being frivolous, or obstinate and antagonistic. But neither invectives nor the worst rudeness could heal me of my affliction. They only succeeded in giving me a very bad opinion of my mental abilities (which was all the more depressing for me because it was conjoined with the most ardent desire for philosophical insights). My destiny took a turn for the better when I moved to Geneva. My mathematics teacher, the venerable old Durand,30 advised me to study algebra with Le Sage,31 and introduced me to him. Le Sage soon took me over, and I cleaved to him with the deepest reverence and with affectionate trust. One morning, when I dared after the lesson hour to ask advice from that admirable man for some scientific purpose, he enquired in more detail about [71] the way I apportioned my lessons, and the use of my time in general. He was surprised to hear that I was taking no instruction in philosophy, but was only pursuing it by myself. I assured him that I was of such a slow and dull mind that I could not keep up even with the clearest teacher; that I would lose track of the context, and hence waste my *i6. + Cf. Simson's Euclid, note to the first Definition,' 4 and Spinoza. Op. posth.,l$ p. 387, p. 589. * like bad jokes t Jacobi's footnote added in the 1815 edition.tion


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

time.—" Vous etes malinl"* said Le Sage laughing. I turned red like a beet, and stammered a string of protestations to the effect that I had spoken in earnest. I assured him that I was by nature the most untalented man ever born, and that only through obstinate diligence had I somewhat overcome my own dullness. I was generous with illustrations and examples to bolster the truth of my claim, and to make it completely obvious that I was wholly lacking in the right dispositions, sharpness of mind, imagination, everything. Le Sage put various questions to me which I answered with the candour of a child. [72] Thereupon he clasped my hand in both his, and pressed it with a motion that I still feel. During the evening of the same day, I heard someone coming up my winding stairs to the fourth floor, and with a soft rap at my door there came the words, "Est il permis?"^ in a familiar voice. I jumped up, and there stood Le Sage in front of me. He: My heart beats faster at the thought of how you must have felt. It was only in the olden days that phenomena of that sort happened just like that; they belong to the time of the patriarchs and of innocence, when the heavenly beings still visited the abodes of mortals. /: Imagine a youth, fiery yet equally weak-hearted, shy and diffident about himself, but full of enthusiasm for the higher values of the spirit. . . . [73] That evening a new chapter of my life began. Le Sage showed me with various examples that the questions I had believed to be simply beyond my power of comprehension were for the most part either empty words or errors. He exhorted me to pursue my way in good cheer, and if need be to take courage from his words alone, if I couldn't get it from anywhere else. I expressed the wish to have a private course of instruction with him on S'Gravesande's Introductio ad Philosophiam,^2 with no more than two or three other students. He promised to see to it immediately (and in fact he did so). Through my kind patron I soon established some very advantageous connections, and in the meantime I was being guided and watched over by him as if I were his natural son—this in a way that at the time went unnoticed by me, because with his gracious familiarity he knew how to hide paternal care behind the expressions and exchanges of an almost brotherly intimacy. And so passed for me two of the happiest, [74] and certainly most fruitful years of my life. * You're being coy! t May I come in?

David Hume on Faith


I had enrolled in the medical faculty, and I had made overtures to my father to be sent to Glasgow, when suddenly my prospects were clouded over, and the designs of my patron and friend were brought to naught. My return to Germany coincided exactly with the announcement by the Berlin Academy of "Evidence in the Metaphysical Science" as the theme [for its essay competition].33 No question could have attracted my attention more. I awaited the publication of the essays anxiously. The moment finally arrived, and it turned out to be astounding for me on two counts. The piece that got the prize did not fulfil the expectations that the name of the author, at the time already a well known philosopher, had aroused in me.34 And my surprise was all the greater because in the second essay, which had only received honourable mention, I found adumbrations [75] and disclosures that could not have suited my needs better.35 This essay helped me develop in full the ideas in which the cause of my much rebuked obduracy lay hidden, the whole secret of my idiosyncrasy. As for the winning essay, what particularly struck me was to see how extensively the proof of God's existence from its idea was elaborated in it, and with what assurance its validity was asserted. The state of mind that I fell into when I read this section was most peculiar. He: How so? Was it because you still were little acquainted with this proof and its execution? /: Oh, I knew them both. But since the proof had struck me as equally subreptitious in all its forms, and myjudgment had only been reinforced at every re-examination, [76] this belated disturbance in my state of acquiescence came to me as a total surprise. He: So, the proof did carry more weight with you this time. /: Not so. I only felt the necessity of studying it exhaustively now, in order to be able to expose its mistake, and render the force that it had for others intelligible to me as well. He: I don't quite understand you. /: You will soon. Whenever I run across claims that to me appear ungrounded and mistaken, but which are made by someone of intellectual stature, and in a way that itself proves that the question has been given mature consideration—i.e. that it has been gone over repeatedly and from different points of view—my policy has always been this: [77] I know that my opposing opinion is based on just as mature a reflection as mine; but that does not allow me to conclude that, since truths cannot contradict one another and I have shown my view to be true, therefore


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

the assertion that contradicts it must be simply an error. No, something quite different is needed to set my mind at rest. It comes down to this: that I must make out how the opposing claim is, not absurd, but rational. I have to discover the ground of the mistake, to see how it could happen to a serious mind, and be able to get inside the mind of the thinker who made the error, to make it along with him, and so have a sympathy for his conviction. Until I have managed this, I cannot persuade myself that I have truly comprehended the man with whom I am in conflict. I prefer to throw doubt upon myself, as is only fair; to assume stupidity on my own part, and presume greater understanding and the support of a quantity [78] of reasons on the other. I have never diverged from this practice, and I hope to abide by it to the end of my life.—So I think that you will easily understand the state of mind I found myself in as I read the critical passages of Mendelssohn's essay. He: Absolutely. There you saw, still standing, the ancient proof that Descartes had refurbished one hundred years earlier, that Leibniz had accepted after a more serious testing, and on which first rate thinkers still rely with full confidence. You might well have begun to falter at the prospect of acting by your principles in a situation like that. I: Oh, I took the bull by the horns straight away. I began (as I usually do) by tirelessly retracing its historical threads. And it is at this time that I became more closely acquainted with the writings of Spinoza. I had read in [79] Leibniz that Spinozism is exaggerated Cartesianism.^ Spinoza's Principles of Cartesian Philosophy was known to me, and I remembered from the Metaphysical Thoughts appended to it what a totally different application the proof of God's existence from the concept receives there from its application in Descartes. I did not possess the Op. Posth., but fortunately I found the Ethics at a friend's house among the writings of Wolff, in a translation that had been prefaced to Wolffs refutation of it.37 It's here that the Cartesian proof shone forth for me in its full light,* and all that I was looking for I found all at once. My joy was only disturbed by the consideration that instead of coming to meet man, truth appears to flee from him, and often leaves the sharpest of minds the farthest behind. For what can be clearer and more distinct, what more obvious, than the truth of the following propositions? Being is not a property, but [80] what carries all properties. These

* From here up to "Once I was clear about the Cartesian proof on p. 83 is omitted in the 1815 edition.

David Hume on Faith


properties are (/being; they only are with respect to it; they are its modifications, its expressions. Hence, since all things can only be thought as compositions* of one fundamental reality, or Absolute Being, it is an absurdity to posit their possibility first, and to speak of this possibility as if it were something absolute that could subsist on its own, or at least be thought so to subsist; it is an absurdity of the first order to want to derive reality from these compositions, instead of deriving them from it. The concept of God is put together from the representations of compositions. If it is to be established that there is a God, it must be established that these compositions are to be found in being. And if the concept of God is formed in the manner of Spinoza (in such a way that the highest Being is nothing but Reality itself, and his works nothing but the compositions of this [81] Reality), then the Cartesian demonstration of God's existence is right enough: the concept of God is at the same time the unshakable proof of his necessary existence. But if the concept of God is construed from Deistic representations, i.e. if God is not only the highest Being, but a Being external to all beings, then neither can the intrinsic truth of his concept be made out from the concept itself, nor can the connection of this concept with the necessary Being ever be realized, even if one were to reverse the true order of things provisionally, and let matter arise from form, reality (or the subject) from its predicates, the thing itself from its compositions. He: I find all of this uncommonly clear. Your remark, however, that instead to coming to meet man, truth seems to flee from him, is not correct in my view. In my opinion truth not only comes out to meet man, but [82] forces itself on him. But if he distrusts its lesson and turns away from it, then there is no voice that can force him to listen to it. But neither does truth fall silent or abandon its post. If, in his digression away from truth, he still looks for it, then his wandering becomes circular, i.e. at the end he finds himself back at the place where he abandoned it. But if in this movement away from it he never looks for it, then he loses it forever.—In other words, it takes man a great deal of harsh effort and work to come to the point where he no longer trusts his senses, or the natural combination of their representations in the understanding, and the common inferences naturally drawn from them by reason. Once he has burrowed his way into the darkness below the surface above where there was light, everything depends on the direction he happens to have *



The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

taken. If this is at an angle, then even the last glimmer of light soon disappears from him. He will go on for all eternity digging himself under the surface in thousands of circles. But if his direction is perpendicular, [83] and his forces do not abandon him, he will eventually hit the nucleus. He will learn how to understand the external from the internal, the appearance from the essential.—I speak what I have a premonition of, not what I have experienced myself. /: How much I love you because of this premonition, which is so entirely like mine, as you shall soon hear. Let us press on. Once I was clear about the Cartesian proof, I collected my reflections on the subject in a small essay that must still be found among my manuscripts. I showed it to a very discerning man who had studied metaphysics zealously with Wolff and Meier,38 and was therefore a competent judge. Imagine now my vexation. Neither my essay nor all the explanations that I added orally could shake him from his faith in the Cartesian proof. And I had the same experience [84] with another learned man, a student of Daries,39 philosophically very sensitive, who lived in a neighbouring city. The failure of both these attempts lay heavily upon my mind, and I mentally plotted ways to make my point clearer still. This was the moment when the i8th Part of the Letters on Literature,^0 which contains the judgment on Kant's The Only Possible Ground of Proof for a Demonstration of God's Existence,41 came to my attention. The condescending tone in which this writing of Kant was there spoken of did not recommend it much, but that did not prevent me from becoming fully absorbed in it. The propositions, and the passages extracted, said enough.*17 My desire to possess Kant's essay itself [85] was so intense that, just [86] to be sure, I sent for it to two different places at once. *i7. * Letters Concerning the Most Recent Literature, Part xviii, pp. 6gff.16 "Existence is not a predicate or determination of a thing, but is rather the absolute positing of the [85] thing. It is distinguished from every other predicate by the fact that the latter, as predicate, is always posited in relation to some other thing.—Existence cannot therefore be considered as a relation to a thing. It is rather the thing itself; it is the subject to which all the properties designated through the name of the thing refer.—Hence one ought not to say, "God is an existing thing"; but conversely, "A certain existing thing is God"; or again,"All * This footnote of Jacobi's is omitted in the 1815 edition, probably because it was no longer topical.

David Hume on Faith


Nor did I regret my impatience. Even the first consideration, "On Existence in General," betrayed to me the same man to whom I was so much indebted for his essay On Evidence,42 [87] the one that had received honourable mention. As I read on, myjoy grew to the point where my heart began to palpitate violently. And before reaching my goal, at the end of the third Consideration, I had to pause several times in order to compose myself again in attention. He: You remind me of Malebranche, who experienced similar palpitations as he stumbled on Descartes's Essay on Man. In this regard Fontenelle remarks aptly, "Invisible and useless truth is unaccustomed to find such loyalty and warmth among men, and often the most common objects of their passions must content themselves with less."*18 [88] /.-You do me too much honour altogether with that comparison. There was in this case too much of a personal interest at stake. I could relate other instances which would perhaps redound more to my own

the properties comprehended under the name of 'God' accrue to Him." [pp. 71-73]. "Inner possibility always presupposes existence. If there is no material for thought, no datum, there cannot be any inner possibility for thought either. If all existence were removed, nothing would be posited absolutely, and nothing would therefore be given either. There would be no material at hand for an object of thought, and hence all inner possibility would be removed.—Inner possibility [86] must therefore presuppose some existence, and an intrinsically possible thing has, quoad materiam* its real ground in the existence of the very thing." [p. 78f.]. "Since everything possible presupposes something actual through which the material for the objects of thought is given, there must be a certain actuality, of which the removal would also remove all inner possibility. But that, whose removal eradicates all possibility, is absolutely necessary. Something absolutely necessary therefore exists." [p. 8af] "Whatever holds the ultimate ground of an inner possibility, must hold it for all possibilities in general. So this ground cannot be distributed among different substances." [p. 83] *i8. "L'invisible et inutile verite n'est pas accoutume a trouver tant de sensibilite parmi les hommes, et les objets les plus ordinaires de leurs passions se tiendroient heureux d'y en trouver autant." Oeuvres de Fontenelle, vol. v, p. 430.1? * with respect to matter


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

honour.* My joy was too much mixed with personal interest. I could however recount an instance to you, somewhat more to my credit, in which I found myself in a similar situation as regards a book, the content of which made a ridiculous contrast with my interests. It was a Doctrine ofReasonl The rational teaching of Reimarus. He: So your reaction was solely due to the book? /: So far as it could derive from that alone. I must surely have had something to do with it too. I had read and studied the best doctrines of reason, and even put one together myself. [89] None, however, not even the one produced by me, agreed in the course of its development, in the determination of one concept through another, with my individual way of sensing and thinking, as did Reimarus's.*19 * 19. In the past year I have been exhorted a couple of times by modest scholars to be reminded, in my presumptuousness, of the first principle of logic. (Concerning modesty and presumptuousness, cf. Anti-Goze, iv, p. 14). l8 I shall reciprocate this humanitarian act with one of my own, by interpolating here a few paragraphs from the Introduction to the doctrine of reason of the excellent Reimarus. Inculcating it by repetition cannot but be very useful. "#21. Since experience teaches that we do not have so clear and distinct a representation of each and everything as is required for insight into their identity or contradiction, it follows that our reason has limitations. Everything, of which we have the clarity and distinctness [of representation] required for comparison, falls within the limits of reason, and has a place before its judgment seat. But where we do not have the clarity and distinctness necessary to comparison, the matter lies outside the limits of our reason. We lack a proper concept of it, and are incapable of passing judgment on it. "#25. Whereas the right use of reason depends on the limitations of the required clarity and distinctness, its misuse consists in the application of the rules of identity and contradiction to cases that go beyond the limits of the required clarity and distinctness. "We therefore misuse reason whenever, without the sufficient clarity and distinctness [of representation], we maintain something as necessary with respect to the first rule; as impossible, with respect to the second; as [91] possible, with respect to the third; as certain, with respect to the fourth; and as probable, with respect to the fifth. But just as the right use of reason leads to reason, so is its misuse the source of all error. * From here up to "From what I said to you earlier" on p. 92 is omitted in the 1815 edition.

David Hume on Faith


[go] He: You mean, you saw yourself in a mirror that improved on you. . . . [91] 7 : . . . . or made me realize that the figure [92] I was looking at was my own in a mirror? Just trust your own judgment, if you can, and listen now my reply to your question regarding cause and effect. From what I said to you earlier about my method of philosophizing (when I only wanted to make it vivid for you), you can easily conclude that none could be worse for making speedy progress. I needed weeks where others only need hours; months, where they require days; and years, where they need months. This slow progression has the advantage, however, that whatever small advance [93] one makes is a real one, and one does not suffer the disappointment of discovering oneself lost just when one is ready to leave off, and of going astray another ten or twenty times when one retraces one's steps. But, on the other hand, there is a disadvantage too. For it is torture to the point of desperation to halt at every difficult place until decisive signs of the right way are uncovered. I came to one such spot when, on the basis of the possibility of developing a [193] clear representation out of a confused one, I was asked to grasp the possibility of the coming to be in time of an actual thing. I was supposed to derive the principium GENERATIONS s out of the principium COMPOSITIONS. If I grasped the principle of sufficient reason correctly—so my books said—I ought to be in a position to see the necessity of the combination in time of cause and effect clearly, or the source of real procession.

"#26. But nobody can knowingly think something without the rules of reason or against them. Yet, since all errors arise from the fact that we think of something without, or against, the rules of reason, all error must arise from the ignorance on our part of our lack of clarity and distinctness required to insight, i.e. from ignorance of our limitations of reason. "This ignorance of the limitations of our reason is partly brought about by the very limitations of reason, for it is not through any malice of ours, so to speak, that more is required for insight. But it is in part also induced [92] on the understanding through haste, by the strong likes and dislikes of the will. For when we are too eager to learn, or are prejudiced in favour of the truth or falsity of something, we are not inclined to enquire whether we have the required knowledge for it. "J. A. H. Reimarus, Vernunftkhre [The Doctrine of Reason] (3rd ed.; Hamburg, 1766), pp. 15, 20-21.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

The principle of ground43 is easy [94] to explain and demonstrate. It says nothing more than the totum parte prius esse necesse est* of Aristotle44 which, in turn, says no more in the present context than idem est idem. Three lines enclosing a space are the ground, the principium essendi (or compositions), of the three angles of a triangle. But the triangle does not exist before the three angles; on the contrary, they are both present at once, in the same indivisible moment. And this is how it is wherever we see a combination of ground and result. We are only conscious of a manifold within a representation. But since this occurs in succession, and takes a certain time, [94] we confuse the coming to be of the concept with the coming to be of the thing itself, and we then come to believe that we can explain the actual succession of things just as we can explain the ideal succession of the determinations of our concepts, through the necessity of their combination [95] in one representation.—I don't know whether I have made myself clear enough. He: I believe that I understand you. /; But you must not believe. Be sober of head and mistrustful of friends.45 I'll try to be clearer still. Imagine a circle, and then raise your representation to a clear concept. If the concept is determined exactly, and does not contain anything non-essential, the whole which is being represented will then have an ideal unity, and, since the parts are combined together with necessity, they will derive from it. But now, if we are speaking of the necessary combination of a succession, and believe that we are thus representing what does the combining itself in time, we never truly have anything in thought except just the kind of relationship that obtains in the circle. [96] And within this relationship all the parts are in effect already united into a whole, and they are present at once. We omit the succession, the objective becoming—as if it were self-explanatory how it occurs visibly before our eyes. But in fact, it is precisely this, namely the medium of the occurrence, the ground of the event, the interior element of time, in brief, the principium GENERATIONS, that should really have been explained.— Are you sure, now, that you understand me? He: I will let you decide about that for yourself, by repeating your principal claims. From the concept of a space enclosed by three lines there follows the concept of three angles to be found in it. In the concept, i.e. subjectively, the triangle truly precedes the three angles temporally too. But in na* The whole is necessarily prior to its parts.

David Hume on Faith


ture, or objectively, the triangle and the three angles are simultaneous. And the same goes for cause and effect in the [97] concept of reason. They are everywhere simultaneous, and the one is in the other. This concept of reason is taken from the relation of predicate to subject, or of parts to a whole. It contains nothing at all of a producing, or coming to be, which is objective, or outside the concept. I: Very good.—But will this not force us to assume that everything is simultaneous in nature, and that what we call succession is only an appearance? He: You have already proposed this paradoxical thesis in your first Letter to Mendelssohn. *20 But it seems to me that it can neither [98] be a thesis of Spinoza, nor be seriously meant by you. /: This utter paradox does not belong to Spinoza, and as for me, I only assert it as a consequence. I have been defending it against many a philosopher for the past fifteen years or more; and none of them have been able in the end to show me wrong. But Mendelssohn was the first to concede it as harmless. He: If I am not mistaken, he only faulted you for having written "illusion" rather than "appearance." /: That's right.*21 But, I still [99] don't understand why an appearance that contains nothing objective, and yet parades itself as something objective, why an empty appearance of this sort should not be called an "illusion." The objective construction of it would indeed, qua objective, be a typical delusion, not an appearance. He: And I don't understand how the objective appearance of sequence can be supposed to be only a subjective way of intuiting the manifold in

*2O. "Fundamentally, what we call consequence or duration are mere illusion ; for since a real effect is contemporaneous* with the totality of its real cause, and is distinguished from it only in representation, consequence and duration must in truth only be a certain way [98] of intuiting the manifold in the infinite." p. 17 [of the first edition]. *21. In the Memoranda: "What you say about 'consequence' and 'duration' in this connection has my full [99] assent, except that I would not say that they are mere 'illusion'. They are necessary determinations of restricted thought, and hence 'appearances' that can nonetheless be distinguished from mere 'illusion'" [p. 84 of the second edition]. * zugleich

2 go

The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

the infinite. If you now cut the apple that you have just peeled, we'll get to see the seeds. And if you plant one of them in the earth next spring, then after a few months [100] a stalk will shoot up from it. Well, what I should like to know is how this sequence of appearances in the actual world can be conceived as a way of intuiting the manifold in the infinite. Surely the objective sequence that I perceive in things is something quite other than the succession of the acts of perception in me. And quite apart from this obvious difference, what makes succession in thought one whit more intelligible than succession in other appearances'? If the objects were all simultaneous, that is, if they stood before the thinking being in unalterable [199] relations all at once, then they would also constitute only owe unalterable representation in him. /:You are meeting me half-way. [101] What cannot be conceived, therefore, is succession itself; far from explaining it to us, the principle of sufficient reason could tempt us to deny the reality of all succession. For if nothing else is obtained with the principium GENERATIONS than with the principium COMPOSITIONS, then every effect must be thought of as being objectively simultaneous with its cause. And if the effect is a cause in its turn, then its immediate consequence must again be simultaneous with it, and so on ad infinitum. So we simply cannot attain to a concept that would explain the appearance of sequence, of time, or of flux on these lines. For to want to shove in some hybrid of being and nothing between cause A and effect B would be tantamount (in my view) to making the absurd into the vehicle of the understanding. He: You are adding to my confusion, rather than helping me out of it. For if the concept [102] of cause and effect and the representation of succession are two entirely different things, then the concept can no more be developed from the representation than the representation can be explained from the concept. But then I see the concept of cause and effect totally vanish in front of me, as the principium fiendi, or generationis, and there is no option left to me except to wonder how these words could ever have entered the language. /: Well, they certainly would never have entered the language of beings who were only capable of intuition and judgment. But is that the sort of beings that we are? Surely, my dear fellow, we can also actl Whenever we start looking for the original meanings of words, we quite often find a light that illumines concepts that have become very obscure. The non-speculative man was talking long before the philosophers [103] began their discussion, and before some philosophers gradually managed to turn the use of language up side down. These phi-

David Hume on Faith


losophers wanted things to conform to words, just as the words previously had to conform to things. But in this present case we have an even shorter way to the answer. We can track the original constitution of the concept itself without pursuing the history of the words, for we have clear and unequivocal information about it. We know for instance, that ancient peoples, or the uncivilized tribes of today, did not, or do not now have, such concepts of cause and effect as those that arose among more cultured peoples before or since. They see living beings everywhere, and they know of no power that is not self-determining. For them every cause is a living, self-manifesting, freely acting, personal power of this kind; and every effect is an act. And without the living experience of such a power in us, a power of which we are continuously conscious, which we use in so many arbitrary ways, and which we can even let go of, without diminishing it—[104] without this basic experience we should not have the slightest idea of cause and effect. He: But I take it that you have not forgotten what Hume says about this basic experience.46 I: I have not forgotten that any more than I have forgotten the proofs in my letters to Mendelssohn and Hemsterhuis47 which establish that the faculty of thought is always a spectator, and cannot ever be a source of external actions. He: Yes but what you say in your letters, and what Hume says, are not one and the same thing. Let's stick to Hume. I: Well then, what does Hume say? [105] He: The main point is this: We know only from experience, hence only after the act, that one movement of our limbs or another follows after one representation or another, or that the two are bound together. It does not occur to us to speed up the motion of our heart—or slow it down—by an action of our will, or to alter the colour of our face, any more than it occurs to us to change the direction of the wind, or to give a mountain a different shape by such an action. We are not even in a position to attempt to apply what we call our will-power, for we do not even know where to look for this power, or where to take it once we have tracked it down. Let anyone who wants to dance the way that a Vestris48 can just try it. And even where the will has the act in control, we still do not know how it got that control; [106] and if we try to trace our way back to the act, moment by moment, we run into the deepest obscurities. For nobody will say that, through his will, he moves his hand or foot (let us say) immediately. The will must have first set the muscles and nerves in motion together with a multitude of solid or liquid parts; and this at least


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

it did without knowing what it was doing.—After we have considered this sort of thing, (and we could quite easily multiply or enlarge the list) how can we still claim to be conscious of a power that brings acts forth, and derive the cognition of a cause from it?* 22 /: Hume has no brief against you. It really is the very marrow of his objections that came out of your mouth, in a few words. But these objections are hardly even an oblique attack upon my assertions. As you know, Hume himself grants in [107] the same essay that we only derive the representation of power from the feeling of our own power, and specifically, from the feeling of its use in overcoming an obstacle.*2^ He concedes, therefore, that we have the feeling of a power, and that we perceive the results of its application. But he does not take this to be a complete experience of cause and effect, since we have no sensation of HOW the power brings about this result. His doubts are* after the manner of the idealists, and are closely connected with these. In the same manner I can of course doubt that it is I who (in virtue of what appears to me to be a power in me) stretch out my hand, move my foot, follow the thread of our present dialogue and control it from my side, since I have no possible insight either into the nature of what I take to be the cause of what happens, or into its connection with the result. [108] I can doubt this just as much as I can doubt that I perceive anything outside me. If it's in you to be disturbed by such doubts, then there is nothing that I can say to you. But I think that your faith triumphs over them just as easily as mine. You noted earlier that Spinoza's doctrine on this point is really quite different from Hume's scepticism, and you were perfectly correct about that. For although the representations only accompany actions according to Spinoza, still the two implicate one another; they are inseparably joined together in one and the same indivisible being and consciousness. Certainly, the will is not prior to the action and is not its efficient cause. But neither is the action prior to the will, and it is not its efficient cause. On the contrary, the same individual wills and acts simultaneously, in the same indivisible moment. He wills and acts in accordance with the constitution of his particular nature, and in conformity with the *22. Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, Set. vm. *2g. Enquiry concerning Human Understanding, the same Sect., p. 99, note c. * The 1815 edition reads: "in the spirit of the universal or twin idealism (Universal- oder Zwillings-Idealismus) that he was the first to introduce."

David Hume on Faith


requirements and relations of this nature. [109] And he displays all of this for his viewing in his consciousness, with more or less obscurity, or clarity. However much the individual may be determined from the outside, he can still be determined only as the result of the laws of his own nature, and to this extent he determines himself. He must be something absolutely on its own, for otherwise he could never be something for another, and receive this or that accidental determination. He must be able to be effective on his own, since otherwise no effect could occur or be sustained through him—nor, for that matter, could it even make its appearance in him. This last point is acknowledged in all systems equally, the idealistic ones excepted.* He: You have acquitted yourself with valour, and I must sue for peace. It's striking how our consciousness exhibits moments of activity and passivity, of action and reaction, that clearly involve one another. And these moments presuppose a principle which is real, determined within [no] itself, and independently active. Hence the concept of cause and effect does certainly rest on a fact whose validity cannot be denied if one does not want to fall into the void of idealism.—All the same, this does not establish that the concept of causality pertains absolutely to the concept of the possibility of things in general. When you derive it from experience you must, of course, forgo its absolute universality or necessity. I: It depends on what you understand by the absolute necessity of a concept. Suppose that the object of a concept is given in all singular things as an absolutely universal predicate, in such a way that the representation of this predicate is common to all finite beings endowed with reason, and must lie at the base of every experience of theirs, [in] If this is enough for you to call the concept necessary, then I believe that I can establish for you that the concept of cause and effect is a necessary one, a principle; and that the law of causal connection is a fundamental law governing the whole field of nature. He: If you could do that. . . . I: Let me try it out on you. You know (for we have agreed on this) that for our human consciousness (and let me add right away: for the consciousness of each and every finite being) it is necessary that besides the thing that does the sensing, there is also a real thing which is sensed. We must distinguish ourselves from something. Hence, two actual things outside one another, or "duality."

* The last sentence is omitted in the 1815 edition.

2 94

The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

Wherever two created beings (the one outside the other) stand in such a relation to one another that the one has an effect in the other, there we have an extended being. [112] Thus along with the consciousness of man, and of each and every finite nature, there is posited an extended being—not just ideally, but in actuality. It follows that wherever there are things outside one another that have an effect on one another, there must also be an extended being in actuality. It follows therefore that the representation of an extended being must be common to all finite sensible natures and is an objectively true representation. Will you grant me these four theses? He: In full, and with no little joy. /: Let us go on from there then. We feel that the manifold of our being is joined together in a pure unity which we call our "I." [113] The [element of] indivisibility in a being is what determines its individuality, i.e. it makes the being into an actual whole. Now, those beings whose manifold we see to be joined together inseparably in a unity, and which we can distinguish solely according to this unity (whether we now accept that the principle of their unity has consciousness or not)—these beings we call individuals. The organic natures all belong to this category.—We cannot take apart or divide a tree or plant as such; that is, we cannot take their organic being apart, the principle of their particular manifold or unity. Human art cannot produce individuals, or any real whole, for it can only put things together, and hence the whole arises from the parts instead of the parts arising from the whole. Moreover, the unity that it does produce is only an ideal one. It does not lie in the thing produced, but outside it, in the intention and [114] the concept of the artist. The soul of a thing of this sort is an alien soul.*24 *24- "Everything that we call an organ is a totality that we have either modified, or brought together from parts, in order that it answer to a determinate purpose, a proposed end, which is not this totality but its use or effect. A file is made for filing; a pendulum for keeping track of the hours; a poem for pleasing or instructing. Thus every work of men, of a limited being, is a means for producing a determinate effect—not a substance. In the mechanism of animals and plants man has caught a glimpse of means for bringing about the generation and growth of individuals. He believes he has detected a certain analogy between these means and the works of his own industry, and thus has called these means

David Hume on Faith


In corporeal extension we generally perceive something analogous to individuality, for extended being cannot ever be divided as such but everywhere exhibits the same kind of unity that inseparably joins together a multiplicity within itself. If, besides the immanent activity by which each preserves itself in [117] being, the individuals also have the faculty for external action, then, in order for an effect to follow, they must come into contact (either immediate or mediate) with other beings. An absolutely penetrable being is a non-entity. A relatively penetrable being cannot, in so far as it is penetrable by some other being, either touch this being or be touched by it. The immediate consequence of impenetrability at contact we call "resistance." So wherever there is contact there is mutual impenetrability; and hence there is resistance also—action and reaction. 'organs'—as is indeed fair to do, in some sense. Yet there remains this notable difference, namely that the work of man is a thing only with respect to a certain determinate effect, whereas the work of nature is a thing for its own sake—for the sake of its being independently of the effects. [115] When through abstraction you remove from the clock the faculty of measuring time, the clock ceases to be a whole but [becomes] a confused heap of heterogeneous parts, whereas a tree is always tree, however much you abstract from the effects that it might produce externally. Nature produces substances for the sake of their being; man, only means to modify effects." [Hemsterhuis] Aristee ou de la divinite, p. 56. '9 Leibniz says exactly the same thing in various places. I insert the following passages, principally in order to introduce what will be said on the subject later on in the Dialogue. "The unity of a clock that you mention is according to me totally other than the unity of an animal. The latter can be a substance endowed of true unity, such as we call the T in us, whereas a clock is nothing but an assemblage." Leibniz, Opp., Vol. 11, Parti, p. 68. [116] "By means of the soul or the form, there is a true unity corresponding to what we call the T in us. This is not the case either in the mechanical products of art, or in the simple mass of matter, however articulated [organizee] the latter might be. We cannot consider these except as an army or a herd, or as a clock made up of springs and wheels." Ibid., Vol. n, Part i. "A true substance, such as an animal, is composed of an immaterial soul, and of an organic body; and it is the composite of these two that we call unum perse." Ibid., Vol. 11, Part i, p. 215.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

Resistance in space, action and reaction, is the source of succession and of time (which is the representation of succession). [118] Hence wherever there are individual and self-revelatory* beings associated together, there must also be (infallibly) the concepts of extension, cause and effect, and succession. So the concepts of these objects must be present as necessary concepts, in all finite beings endowed with thought. And this is what I had to prove.—If you are not satisfied with my deduction, tell me why. He: Oh, I have nothing to say against it. For where several individual things are bound together, action and reaction must be there, and so to succession of determinations, for otherwise there wouldn't be several individual things but only a single one. And conversely, if there only were just one thing, there wouldn't be any action and reaction, or any succession of determinations. 7: Right. So it would seem that we have shown the concepts of [i 19] reality, substance or individuality, corporeal extension, succession, and cause and effect, to be concepts that must be common to all finite, selfrevelatory, beings; and we have shown also that these concepts have their concept-independent object in the things in themselves—consequently they have a true, objective, meaning. Concepts of this kind however—the kind that must be given in toto in every experience and with such a degree of primacy that, unless they were objective, no concept could have an object, and, without them as concepts, no cognition would be possible at all—these concepts have always in the past been called universal and necessary in an absolute sense; and the judgments and inferences derived from them have been called cognitions a priori. So we don't need to make these fundamental concepts and judgments into mere pre-judgments of the [ 120] understanding, whereby they become independent of experience. For in that case they would be prejudices from which we have to be cured by coming to recognize that they do not refer to anything that pertains to the objects in themselves—or, in other words, they have no truly objective meaning. We don't need to do this, I say, because these fundamental concepts and judgments lose none of their universality (or of their necessity) by being derived from what must be the common foundation of all experiences. On the contrary, if they can be derived from the essence and the association of individual things in general, then they gain a far higher degree of unconditional universality. As * sich selbst offenbare

David Hume on Faith


mere prejudices of the human understanding, they would be valid only for men and for the sensibility that is proper to humans; so they would be valid only under conditions which would, in my judgment, deprive them of all value.*25 He: I agree with you wholeheartedly about this. Suppose [121] that our senses taught us nothing of the properties of things—none of their mutual relations and connections, and not even the fact that they actually exist outside us. Suppose further, that our understanding only relates to a sensibility of this sort—one that exhibits nothing of the things themselves and, objectively speaking, is absolutely empty—only to provide entirely subjective intuitions, according to totally subjective forms, according to totally subjective rules. Suppose all this, and then tell me what kind of life this sensibility and this understanding would afford me. What would it be, at bottom, but the life of an oyster? I am all there is, and outside me there is, strictly speaking, nothing. Yet the "I," this all that I am, is in the end also nothing but the empty illusion of something. It is the form of a form, just as much of a ghost as the other appearances that I call things, a ghost like the whole of nature, its order and its laws.—And [122] this is the system that is to be exalted with the loud voice of choirs arrayed in full strength, as if it were the long awaited salvation of the world! A system that strikes at the very root of any claim to the knowledge of the truth, and leaves us only a blind faith in the most important objects—a faith quite devoid of cognition, the like of which never has been asked of man till now? The glory of laying all doubts to rest in this way, is like the glory of death that puts an end to all the misery in our lives. *25- * It was the Ethics of Spinoza that supplied me with this deduction (or rather with the seminal ideas for it) (see {216} Op. Posth., pp. 74-81).20 I am setting it forth here in opposition to Kant's deduction of the categories that derives the same concepts and judgments from a pure, ready-made, understanding. This understanding simply applies to nature the mechanics of a thought grounded already in the understanding alone. It just plays a conceptual game that in no way satisfies the understanding of the common man, but exposes it to ridicule instead (as we can see in Hume). Compare Schulze's Principles of General Logic, with the review of Schulze's work in The Gottingen Erudite Notices, #142 (i8o2); 2 1 also the essay On the Attempt by Criticism to Reduce Reason to Understanding in Reinhold's Contributions, fascicule in. 2 2 * Footnote added in 1815


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

/: Now, don't get so excited! The system you are decrying would hardly have any disciples if it were taught in the way you understand it. He: Can you say that I have not understood it right? I owe my understanding of it for the most part to you. [123] /: Good. But just because you have understood transcendental idealism right, as I believe you have, you should now look on calmly as it works itself out, and rejoice with good cheer at all the good that the critique of pure reason must of necessity bring about. He: The critique of something that does not exist? /: Things that do not exist are the ones that need criticism the most.* For language would have no word for something that simply is not Each word * From here up to "Remember the passages in Leibniz" on p. 125, the 1815 edition reads: What I mean is that it's impossible for a totally unfounded thought to arise in a human soul, and language would not even have a word for it. Every word refers to a concept; and every concept refers originally to a (219) perception obtained through the inner or the outer sense. The pure concepts, or as Hamann called them somewhere, these virginal children of speculation, are not exempted from this law. They must have a father somewhere, just as they have a mother, and they have come into existence in a natural way, just like the concepts of individual things and their names which were proper names before they became common nouns. He: Are you saying that you could actually exhibit pure reason for me—I mean, in man? I: Whyever not, since you are a human being? Just follow my instructions. Empty your mind of all material content. Nothing should remain in it that comes from experience alone, or that pertains to it alone. Give all that back to sensibility, all of it together. Cut yourself off entirely from it, so as to make ready for the moment of trial. {220} He: Let's dare it!—And now what? /: How can you ask?—If you have truly eradicated all material content from your consciousness it is impossible that at that very moment a self-contained power, one that brings forth effects from itself alone—or in other words pure reason itself—does not reveal itself to you irresistibly. He: Indeed it would. But shouldn't it be possible to prove that this pure reason is necessarily present everywhere, provided only that spontaneity is accompanied by consciousness? Only, in the creatures we call "animals" it dwells under some other body and acquires different tendencies, applications, and forms, according to the different properties of these bodies and of the means of support that they need—quite different tendencies and forms in my setter here, for instance, than in your loaches there. /: I can grant you that much, without {221} any cost to me. Here the following footnote is entered in the 1815 edition: (221) From here on, until the end of the Dialogue, the error of not distinguishing between reason and understanding mentioned in the Preface becomes more and more dis-

David Hume on Faith


refers to a concept; every concept to perception, i.e. to actual things and their relations. The purest concepts, or as Hamann said somewhere, the children virginally begotten by speculation, are not excepted.49 They must be admitted to have a father, just as they have a mother, and to have come into existence in a way just as natural as the concepts of individual things and their nomina propria. [ 124] He: So you are in a position actually to display for me the pure reason that we have. I would like for once to have it right before me. /: And why not, since you are a rational being yourself? Just empty out your consciousness of all facts, of anything actually objective. You'll then

cernible. In agreement with philosophers new and old since Aristotle, the author had accepted that reason and understanding are in truth just the simple faculty of reflection under two different names, i.e. the spontaneous power of representation as manifested in the fashioning of concepts (and concepts of concepts, judgments and inferences). As long as this was the case, there remained for him no word for the faculty of immediate certainty—i.e. for that faculty of revelation that he now calls reason—except "sense." Like the words reason and understanding, sensation and feeling, the word"sense"carries an ambiguity that can never quite be dispelled in use. Not for a moment did the author worry, however, that when he expressed himself in this way anyone would accuse him of making every cognition of one piece equivalent with every other, and of originating the life of spirit entirely from the senses too, like the philosophers of the Lockean school. The agreement of his fundamental insights with those of such a decided (and universally acknowledged) antisensualist as Leibniz, which is strikingly evident in this second part of the Dialogue, ought to have averted the danger of any such interpretation (as in fact it did). For his own part, however, the author was not satisfied, for in the last analysis Leibniz still played the same game as Locke. The intention of both was to reduce reason to understanding, Locke by sensualizing (in Kant's apt expression) [Critique of Pure Reason, A 271 /B 327] the concepts of the understanding; Leibniz, by intellectualizing sensations. Hence the author's own doctrine remained undisplayed in the Dialogue. Deep in his soul, the system of his convictions was already exactly the same (222) then as it is today, but it still had to be brought to the perfection of a philosophy that is communicable to others as well. And being shocked by the loud outcry raised in the schools against what he had said in his work concerning the doctrine of Spinoza, he was more inclined to turn in on himself than to expose himself further. Hence the unsatisfactory outcome of the dialogue which is only interrupted rather than concluded. In so far as the whole is concerned, I refer back to what I have said about it in the Preface. Whoever reads this Preface with any attention at all, provided that he reads it to the end, will have no trouble with any of the claims in the Dialogue itself, and will be able to decide by himself, without hesitation, how much of it I still hold as true today and to what extent; and how much (or how far) I now retract it as inadmissibly false. Jacobi's reference is to the Preface of the 1815 edition that was also intended as an introduction to the philosophical writings in the Werke (see Vol. 11, pp. 1-123, especially pp. 11-17, and our translation in this volume, pp. 537ff.).


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

be left with just your pure reason, and you'll be able to question it without witnesses about all its secrets. He: But you can make that request of my dog as well. The animal is not without conscious connections; hence, also not without the original faculty for them. And as for any difference in the application of this faculty due to the mechanism of the dog's organs, since the issue here is pure reason alone, there cannot [125] be any question about it. The same pure reason would therefore dwell in my dog as in me. /: That does not follow as simply as that. But I can grant it to you, without losing anything thereby.*26 [125] Remember the passages in Leibniz that I cited in my [ 127] last letter to Mendelssohn.50 Read Sulzers's analysis of the concept of reason.51 *26. * I would not like to be misunderstood on such an important issue as this for even a moment, and for this reason I now anticipate a point that will be developed clearly enough in the rest of the Dialogue, namely that absolutely pure reason presupposes an absolutely pure personality, such as belongs to God alone, and not to any created being. A pure reason that is not absolutely pure, however, is a fiction, or a mere abstraction. Degrees of approximation have no place here, for the distinction is absolute. It implies opposition, just as does the distinction between finite and infinite, composite and simple, creature and creator. Created beings are all composite, mutually dependent on one another in their existence. "It is otherwise with God," our [ 126] Leibniz says, "for since He is sufficient onto Himself, He is the cause of matter and of everything else. He is not therefore the soul of the world," like the "I" of the organic body, "but the author. For it is natural for creatures to have matter, nor could they be otherwise unless God furnishes a gift of matter through a miracle. . . . Although God may therefore deprive substance of secondary matter through His power, He cannot deprive it of primary matter, for He would then make something entirely pure, such as He alone is." (Opp., Vol. ii, Part i, pp. 275 & 276) *3 See also ibid., p. 44.24 To some extent, this also agrees with Kant, who proceeds from the necessity of a reference of thought to intuition. There is a striking similarity between his a priori form of intuition and the materiaprimapassiva of Leibniz, as well as between his a priori form of thought, or the spontaneity of the concept, and Leibniz's materia prima activa. Sensations themselves, or the actual appearances, are the materia secunda.—[127] With reference to this, Leibniz's Letters to Des Bosses are especially to be read. (Opp., Tome n, Part i, pp. 265-323). * This footnote is replaced by a different one in the 1815 edition; see above, editorial footnote to p. 298.

David Hume on Faith


Or even better, enter into yourself and search deep there—search deeper and deeper—for what we call reason. You will find that you either hold the principle of reason to be one with the principle of life, or must make reason into a mere accident of a certain organized whole.52 As for me, I hold the principle of reason to be one with the principle of life; I do not believe in any inner or absolute principle of irrationality. 27 *27- "Life is a principle of perception."25 "Perception is nothing but [223] the internal representation of an external change. Hence, since the original entelechies are dispersed in matter (as can easily be shown from the fact that the principles of motion are dispersed in it) it follows that the souls too are dispersed everywhere in matter, functioning in the manner of organs; and further, that the bodies of beasts also are endowed with organic souls."26 "Sensation is a perception that includes something distinct and is conjoined to attention and memory. The confused aggregate of many small perceptions lacking in anything outstanding that would excite the attention induces stupor instead. This is not to say that the soul or its power of sensation is of no use even if its exercise is at the moment suspended, for the mass can in time evolve anew and be made suitable to perception. The stupor would then cease in the measure that more distinct perceptions are born, as the body too becomes more perfect and ordered." (Leibniz, Opp., Vol. 11, Part i, pp. 227 and 232) "It has been held that confused thoughts differ from distinct ones toto genere, whereas they are in fact only less distinct and less developed because of their multiplicity. As a result, certain movements rightly called involuntary have been attributed to bodies so completely that it has been held that there is nothing in the souls corresponding to them and, conversely, that certain abstract thoughts are not at all represented in the body. But one view is just as mistaken as the other, as is usually the case with distinctions of this sort. This happens because one only attends to what is most apparent." (Ibid., p. 87) 27 "Nature is everywhere organic and ordained to certain ends by a most wise author, and nothing in it ought to be deemed unpolished, although to our [224] senses it appears at times to be only a brute mass. In this way, we avoid all the difficulties that the nature of a soul entirely separated from all matter would give rise to: (a) a soul and an animal before birth or after death differ from a soul or an animal living in the present life by their relation to things, and in their degree of perfection, not generically according to their entire being. And the same applies to the guardian spirits. I think that they are minds endowed with a body especially penetrating and disposed to action, which they can perhaps change at will, so that they do not even deserve the name of animal. Thus all the things in nature are analogical; the subtle can easily be apprehended from the gross, for both are


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

We attribute a higher degree of reason to one man over [128] some other [129] in the exact measure that he manifests [130] the power of representation in a higher measure. [131] But this power manifests itself only in reaction; and it corresponds exactly to the capacity to accept more or less complete impressions from the objects; or again, man's spontaneity is like his receptivity. I refer you here once more to Sulzer's analysis of the concept of reason—especially with respect to this last point.53 He: I know this treatise, and among other things I recall that Sulzer makes the extent of reason depend on the degree of taste, and locates its true ground in [132] the attention caused by the distinctness of representations.54 But this distinctness of representations, which is a cause of attention, must of necessity have the perfection of the impressions for its cause. And this really means that reason, as the distinguishing characteristic of man vis-a-vis animals, is only the characteristic of man's particular sensibility. /: Sulzer makes this claim explicitly also.55 But where, since the time of Aristotle, is the philosophy to be found whose principles do not yield this same result? Where is there a philosophy that does not also expound it

constituted in the same fashion. God alone is substance truly separated from matter. For He is pure act, endowed with none of the passive power which constitutes matter wherever found. In truth, every created substance has an antitype by which it happens naturally that each is kept outside the other, and penetration is thus excluded." (Opp., Vol. n, Part i, p. 228) s 8 The (a) above refers to the following note: "It can be objected with some truth against the immortality of the soul, in the systems of Leibniz and Christian Wolff, that the soul is the substance representing this world according to the position of its organic body in it. Remove the body which is the image of the world being represented, and you remove the representation. But without the representation there is no spirituality, no immortality. But who would not understand that this objection can easily be removed by claiming, with Leibniz, that finite spirits are never without bodies?" (Ibid.)2g "If I am correct, there would actually be in the human semen (and in that of any animal) innumerable sensible souls, but only those would have rationality, though still implicit, whose organic body is ordained to become at some time human; and this could already be discerned by one who was sufficiently perspicacious." (Ibid., p. 288).3° "Hence I declare that the souls which are doubtless latent in seminal animalcules [225] from the beginning of things are not rational as long as they are not ordained to human life through conception.'" (Ibid., p. 229). 3 '

David Hume on Faith


in some form or other as a doctrine, and does not fashion its favourite hypotheses in accordance with this doctrine? But then, more often than not, we let this reason, that has sprung from the senses, wondrously beget a miraculous youth, one who is supposedly equipped with his own special talents and powers for raising us far above the sphere of our sensations. I hope that I am not blaspheming against something which you too worship! [133] He: You can rest easy about that. You must have noticed that whenever I want to express what is most eminent about a man, I speak of his sense.* One never has more understanding than one has sense. I: The common use of language which, whenever philosophy tries to make a laughing-stock of it, usually turns out to be the wiser one, teaches us the same lesson, especially in our German tongue of which Leibniz said, ignorat inepta.^ 56 We derive from Sinn ("sense") the most characteristic forms of understanding as well as of the lack of it.57 Unsinn (or "nonsense"), which is the extreme lack of understanding, is its opposite. Then come Schwachsinn ("feeblemindedness" or "dullness of sense"), Stumpfsinn ("insensitivity"), Leichtsinn ("frivolity"), and their opposites, Scharfsinn ("sharpness of sense") and Tiefsinn ("profundity of sense"). He: You forget Wahnsinn, "madness" or "being out of one's senses," a word, whose meaning strikes upon me quite forcefully at this moment. [ 134] We say that a man is out of his senses when he takes his images to be sensations or actual things. And thus we deny that he is rational, because his representations, which he takes to be things, lack the thing, or the sensible truth—because he regards something as actual which is not. It follows that, with respect to all created beings, their rational cognition would have to be tested, ultimately, against their sensible one; the former must borrow its validity from the latter. I: It seems to me that whoever has doubts about this only needs to think of his dreams. Whenever we dream, we are in some state of madness. The principle of all cognition, of all feeling of truth, of every correct combination, the perception of the actual, abandons us, and the moment it forsakes us, or ceases to dominate, we can make things (i.e. the representations that we take as things, [135] as happens in dreams) rhyme in the wildest fashion. For we can never make objective sense out of things except according to the objective determinations of the order in which

* Sinn

t is innocent of anything unsuited


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

they appear to us, and the objective order in which they appear to us in a dream is mainly the result of merely subjective determinations. But since we normally consider what appears to us objectively as actual—or again, we believe what we see and cannot do otherwise—we are bound to believe the most absurd things in the dreaming state, because here actual being does not exclude the co-presence of the merely represented. Reason submits itself everywhere to appearances; it goes along with illusion just as it does with truth; with the soul it dreams, with the body it wakes. He: But whence comes the certainty, when we are awake, that we are not dreaming? How can being awake be reliably distinguished from dreaming, and dreaming from being awake? [136] /: Being awake is not distinguishable from dreaming, but dreaming is quite distinguishable from being awake. He: What do you mean by this play on words? /: You recall that for every distinction two things at least are required. He: I begin to understand you. You mean to say: in the waking state we have a clear representation of this state and of the dreaming state too; in dream, on the contrary, we have. . . . No, that's not how it goes. /: You do not know what you are more likely to have in a dream, a representation of being awake or one of dreaming. Right? [137] He: That's it. When we dream we believe we are awake; so in dreams we have a representation of being awake. And we often ask ourselves in a dream whether we are not dreaming; so we have a representation of dreaming in the dream itself. But now, the representation of being awake in the dream is a false one, and the representation of dreaming in the dream itself certainly deserves no better name. Unravel this for me, if you can. /: That's an arduous task. Let us look for the beginning of the thread. Do you still remember what you said only a hour ago that you could never in your life forget? He: By all means. I: Do you really? What you believed that you would never [138] be able to forget or doubt was this: the cognition of the actual outside us is given directly through the presentation of the actual itself, without any other means of cognition entering in between. Further: all of the mere representations of objects outside us are only copies of the immediately perceived actual things, and they can be traced back to actual things as their sources at any time. Wasn't this what you said that you had fully grasped? He: And I say it again now.

David Hume on Faith


/: Let's try again then. The representations of objects outside us are all copies of the actual things immediately perceived by us,*28 or are composed of parts [139] derived from them. In brief, they are beings that merely imitate the actual things and cannot in any way exist without them. Isn't that so? He: Yes, it is. /: But we are also agreed, I think, about something else. These imitations can be distinguished from actual beings only by comparison with the actual itself. He: Right. /. Then there must be something in the perception of the actual which is not in the mere representations, for otherwise the two could not be distinguished. But the distinction concerns directly the actual, and nothing else. Hence the actual itself, the objectivity, can never be made present in the mere representation. [140] He: How so? Representations are only copies of actual things; they are put together only from their parts; yet we are not to suppose that they can ever present the actual? /.-1 am saying that representations can never make the actual present as such. They only contain the properties of actual things, not the actual itself. The actual can no more be presented outside its actual perception than consciousness can be presented outside consciousness, life outside life, or truth outside truth. The perception of the actual and the feeling of truth, consciousness and life, are one and the same thing. Sleep is the brother of death, and the dream is only the shadow of life. Whoever has never been awake, could never dream, and it is impossible that there should be original dreams, or an original illusion. [141] This truth seems to me to be of the greatest importance, and for this reason I entreated you so urgently just now to hold firm to the ground of your knowledge of it, which is the ground of the knowledge of certainty itself and the only source of it. He: Honestly, it is only now that I feel what good cause you had for urging this on me so emphatically, and how difficult it is to awake completely from a long and deep dream. We bring the awakening itself into the dream and we dream again; then we have to make even greater efforts to return to our full senses. *28. * I pray you not to forget what "immediate" means here. See above, pp. 56-65. * Note omitted in the 1815 edition.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

/: So, my friend, in spite of what the philosophical devotees of magnetism*29 may claim for their [142] manipulations, and for the divinatory sleep induced by them, we prefer for our part to rub the sleep from our eyes completely and to open them as wide as we can instead of restricting them artificially; we prefer to improve on being awake rather than on dreaming, and we will not let ourselves be deranged at any price. He who ceases to perceive the things themselves because of his representations and the representations of his representations begins to dream. The combinations of these representations, the concepts that take shape from them, then become ever more subjective and proportionately poorer in objective content. It is indeed a great advantage of our nature that we are capable of receiving from things the sort of impressions that display their manifold distinctly; hence of conceiving the inner word, the concept, for which we then create an outer being with a sound from our mouth and breathe the fleeting soul into it.58 But these words begotten of finite seed are not like the [143] words of He Who /s,59 and their life is not like the life of the spirit that calls being forth from nothingness. The moment we lose track of this infinite distinction, we remove ourselves from the source of all truth; we forsake God, Nature, and ourselves. And how easy it is to lose track of the distinction! For our concepts, borrowed from nature as they are, are at first formed, advanced, combined, and ordered more or less according to the subjective determinations of attention. Afterwards, from our heightened facility in abstraction and in the replacement of things and their relations with arbitrary signs there emanates such a dazzling clarity that the things themselves are obscured by it, and in the end they are no longer discerned. Nothing can more closely resemble a dream than the state in which man then finds himself. For even in dreams we are not altogether without the sensation of the actual. But the more lively representations prevail over these weaker impressions, and truth is swallowed up in illusion. [ 144] He: I wish that this comparison could some day be developed by a great mind as it deserves to be. One notable distinction between common and philosophical dream must not be forgotten however. Namely, that from the common dream one does, at last, awaken by oneself— whereas, with the philosophical dream, we only slide deeper and deeper into it, until we finally rise to the perfection of a most wondrous somnambulism. *2Q. I leave medical magnetism alone, without deciding either for or against it, since intelligent, learned, and honourable men assert that they have seen it, whereas I have not.

David Hume on Faith


/: Very good! Imagine a sleepwalker who has climbed up to the highest point of a tower and is now dreaming, not that he stands on top of the tower and is being sustained by it, but that the tower is suspended from him, and the earth from the tower, and that he holds the whole thing hanging. . . . Oh Leibniz, Leibniz! [145] He: Why this sudden exclamation? Invocation it certainly cannot be. /: And why could it not be invocation? I don't know of any thinker more awake and alert than our Leibniz. He: Yet also none who dreamed so profoundly? If you deny this of the inventor of the pre-established harmony and of the monads, I would truly not know what to think of your panegyric on being awake. /: The pre-established harmony rests on a ground which seems very solid to me, and on which I build with Leibniz. The monads too, or the substantial forms together with the innate ideas, stand in no small respect in my eyes. Why are you staring at me? [146] He: I cannot believe that you are making fun of me. But surely you cannot be serious when you speak of black and white as a single colour! First you derive the property of reason from that of sensibility, and make the perfection of the organized whole determine the possible perfection of cognition; and now you deny with Leibniz any physical influence of the body on the soul, and let the soul spin all of its representations out of its self. I: You would not be reproaching me with uttering contradictions if you had studied Leibniz's philosophy in Leibniz himself. For this great man does indeed teach explicitly, and without wearying of repetition, that all created spirits are necessarily united to an organic body. I recall very clearly one passage among others, in the Nouveaux Essais sur [147] I'entendement humain, (p. 171) where it is said: . . . . The senses give the material for reflection, and we could not even think our own thought if we did not think something else, namely the particulars that the senses supply to us. And I am convinced that created souls and spirits can no more dispense with sensible instruments and sensible representations than they can make use of their understanding without availing themselves of arbitrary signs.60

The very same Leibniz even says in the Theodicy (§124), . . . . How could a rational being think if there were no movement, no matter, no senses? If this being only had distinct representations, (i.e. if it cognized everything at once, immediately and completely) then it would be God; its insight would have no limits. [. . .] As soon as an admixture of confused representations

The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill


is present, however, the senses are there too, and so is matter. [. . .] For this reason there is no rational creature according to my [148] philosophy without some sort of organic body, nor is there any created spirit separated from all matter.* You will find the same claim repeated everywhere in Leibniz, since it accords most accurately with all of his principles.*30 [149] He: But this same Leibniz also says just as [150] explicitly that he would be badly [151] misunderstood if one were to believe that he assigns to each and every soul a particular portion of matter, a certain mass, which would belong to it as its own, and be intended for its service. He says explicitly that even if there were no souls, the bodies would still behave [152] as they do now, and conversely, that if there were no bodies, the souls would still behave as they do at present, i.e. produce the same representations and determinations of will.*31 *3O. Among the most striking passages are those cited in the third letter to Mendelssohn from the Principles of Nature and Grace as founded on Reason, §§2, 4. t I publish them here again, in German, together with a few others.* "[. . . .] Just as an infinite multitude of angles can be constructed at a centre or point with lines coming together therein, even though the centre or point is quite simple." §2

tP- 32]. ". . . . Every simple substance or monad constituting the centre of a composite substance (such as an animal) and the principle of its unity is surrounded by a mass composed of infinitely many other monads that make up the body proper to this centre-monad. The monad represents the things outside it in accordance with the Affects of this body, [uniting them] as in [150] a kind of centre." §3. [ . . . . ] " . . . . The human spermatic animalcules are not rational but only become so when conception gives these animals the determination of human nature, goIn a Letter to Des Maizeaux ([8 July 1711] Opp., Vol. 11, Part 11, p. 66.) Leibniz says: "I believe that the souls of men pre-existed, not as rational but merely as sensitive souls that have attained their higher grade of reason only when the man whom a soul is to quicken was conceived." More passages will follow below. *3i. Principles of Philosophy, §§74, 84. ,




* I am translating from Jacobi's German translation of the Latin, which is accurate except for the omission of a few words (as indicated by the square brackets) and the gloss added in round brackets. t From here to the end, the footnote is dropped in the 1815 edition. : For the texts from §§2 and 4, see the footnote to p. 159 of the Spinoza Letters.

David Hume on Faith


/: You are joining two propositions that do not belong together. The only point of the first one is to emphasize that every substance is both sense and object to every other, and that there is no special matter for the organs of intuition. Every single form is determined through the form of the whole, and what we call "sense" is nothing but the mode of the relationship of one substance to another in the great "All."*32 [153] Soul, sense, and object; desire, pleasure, and the means of pleasure, are indivisibly united at every point of creation. For this reason, an entelechy united to a body constitutes, also according to Leibniz, a unumperse, and not merely a unum per accident.*^ If any part of matter did not belong to an organic structure, there would be a part of the world without connection to the rest. Every part of matter, even the smallest one, is therefore an articulated part of it. And matter is not only infinitely divisible; it is actually divided in infinitum.*^4 [154] *The composition of each individual organic structure determines the composition of each individual soul, for each soul first represents its body (which is expressed in if) and the world exclusively in *32. "Substantial unities are nothing but different concentrations of the universe represented from the points of view that distinguish them." Leibniz, Opp., Vol. u, p. 75.33 *33- Letter to Mr. Remond de Montmort [November 4, 1715], §3 (Opp., Vol. n, p. 215). New Essays [Book in, ch. vi, §24.], p. 278. Especially the Letter to Des Bosses ([4 February 1706] Opp., Vol. n, Part, i, p. 265). *34- Principles of Philosophy, §68. Reflections concerning the Principles of Life and Plastic Natures. Opp., Vol. n. Part i, p. 39. At the end (p. 44) Leibniz says: "Only God is above all matter, for He is its author. Creatures, however, if free or [ 154] freed of matter, would be at the same time cut off from the universal bond, like deserters from the general order." On p. 275 (ibid.),34 where he talks about angels he says:"To remove these (intelligences) from bodies and place is to remove them from the universal bond and order of the world constituted by temporal and local relations."— On the same page, just above, where he talks about the twofold way in which angels can be united with bodies, Leibniz says:"It must however be admitted that both ways of being united to a body is so that the entelechies have no reason."

* From here until the end of p. 155, the 1815 edition reads: "{242} Just as for Spinoza, so also for Leibniz, every soul represents its own body first, i.e. immediately, and the world only in accordance with the property and the constitution of this body." Jacobi proceeds to cite, in Latin, the same text of Leibniz as in the 1789 edition.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

accordance with this body. "The monads are not limited objectively," Leibniz says, "but through the modification of objective cognition. Everything tends towards the infinite confusedly, but acquires limit and [155] distinction through the degree of distinctness of perceptions."*^ [156] I believe that I can now go on to your second proposition. [157] He: I'm waiting for you right there! [158] /: And there I shall be glad to face you. Earlier we agreed on something that all systems [159] (the idealistic ones excepted) equally accept, namely that however much an individual may be externally determined, it can only be determined according to the laws of its own nature—and therefore that to this extent it must determine itself. We have asserted together, that any such individual would have to be something by itself and on its own account,* for otherwise it could never be something with reference to something else,^ and so be the recipient of this or that accidental property. It must be capable of

*35. Ibid., §62.35 The following passages, also taken from the Principles of Philosophy, may throw even more light on the subject. * It is hardly understandable how Kant (Critique, [A] 276) could blame Leibniz "for having left to the senses nothing but the despicable business of confusing and distorting the representations of the understanding." On just the same basis, one could claim that Leibniz also left to the whole universe nothing but the despicable business of confusing and distorting the representations of the understanding.—This charge (hardly intelligible to me) reminds me of another that I simply cannot explain. [158] According to Herr Kant (TheBerlin Monthly, October 1786, p. 323, note) in Spinozism one allegedly "speaks of thoughts that themselves think, and hence of an accident that yet exists at the same time on its own as subject." (But is this the Spinozism such as the Ethics teaches or I portray? And what business has any other Spinozism here?)—If ever there was a man far from allowing any such nonsense in him, this man was Spinoza. With judgments of this sort, how will one deal with the likes of us? On the other hand, it is comforting for those like us to read such judgments being passed even on men of the calibre of Leibniz and Spinoza.36 * an und fur sich selbst t fur ein anderes

t Here Jacob! cites in full §§24, 25, 62, 64, 85. (Op., Vol. II, Part I, pp. 23-30). From here to the end, the footnote is dropped in the 1815 edition.

David Hume on Faith


having effects by itself and on its own account, for otherwise no effect could arise through it, or be furthered by it, or even appear in it. So tell me whether you still stand by this opinion or not. He: I am holding fast to it; you can count on that. I: But then you will also admit without hesitation (and might have probably already granted to me) that the [160] objects we perceive outside us cannot elicit our perceiving itself, that is, the inner activity of sensing, representing, and thinking; but that our soul, or the power of thinking in us, must qua soul produce every representation and every concept by itself alone. He: I admit that without hesitation. The external object can no more produce a determination of thought, as such, than it can produce the thinking itself, or the thinking nature. The absurdity of the opposite position is really not sufficiently brought out when one asks, with Spinoza, whether the soul is only a lifeless tablet;61 or, with Leibniz, whether it has windows or other openings through which things make their way in.62 *I: It follows, [161] under the same limitation, that all the modifications or alterations of a thinking being (whatever their names) must be grounded exclusively in it. Imagination, memory, understanding, as exclusive properties of a thinking being, must also be caused or produced through it and in it alone. He: Indisputably so. /: Furthermore, the thinking being, as such, does not have any property in common with the bodily being as such. It is impossible that the determination of one ever be the determination of the other as well.—Do you grant this? He: Wait a moment, that I may reflect on it. [162] /: Take as long as you wish. He: If I grant your last proposition, you will go on to conclude that the two beings cannot acquire any composition from one another; hence, that they also do not act upon one another. So the harmonia prcetabilita is essentially correct. * From here up to "I don't understand what you can have against this" on p. 162, the 1815 edition reads instead: 7: And further: The thinking being does not have, as such, any property in common with the corporeal one, as [245] corporeal. It is therefore impossible. . . . He:. . . that they interpenetrate, you want to say; that they exchange determinations o a mutual basis, give to one another and take from one another. Hence. . . .


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

/: I don't understand what you can have against this, seeing that the same line of thought, and the same result, appeared so conclusive and so obvious to you in the Letters concerning Spinoza. He: But there was a huge difference in that case, it seems to me. In Spinoza, corporeal extension and thought are only different properties of one and the same essence; in Leibniz, on the contrary, they are two quite different [163] things that have tumbled into an unfathomable kind of harmony. /: There is certainly a distinction between the ways that Spinoza and Leibniz represent the union of thinking and corporeally extended being. But I believe that on closer inspection you will find that it is to the advantage, not of Spinoza, but of our Leibniz.*36 According to him, thinking and corporeal being are not at all those two totally different things which, as you put it, have tumbled into an incomprehensible kind of harmony (the words that Leibniz generally uses are conformitas and consensus). So far as created being is concerned, they are just as perfectly indivisible for him as they were for Spinoza. [164] He: But just reconcile this with the distinct claim that I have already put to you, namely that even if there were no souls, the bodies would still act as they do now; and conversely, even if there were no bodies, the souls would still act as they do now.63 //You forget the P E R I M P O S S I B I L E which Leibniz was careful to add to that claim. He often indulged in metaphysical fictions of this sort, as he has repeatedly called them himself. In the first public lecture on his system, he even declared on this very point, "that the perceptions, or the representations of external things, originate in the soul on the strength of its own laws, as in a special world, and as if nothing were present except God and the soul."64 And read the elucidations [165] that he adds, especially those directed against Bayle; read the Letter to Wagner, the Reflection concerning the Soul of Irrational Animals (Commentatio de Anima Brutorum); and the very remarkable Letter to Des Bosses.*37 But [166] I have no in*g6. [Leibniz's] distinction [from Spinoza] and [his] preeminence lie in the concept of forma substantialis, which is the true nucleus from which Leibniz's system grew. More about this elsewhere.* *37. To give a bit more incentive to those readers less disposed to look up texts, I insert here a couple of short passages from the letter to Des Bosses and a couple more from Leibniz's second reply to Bayle. "I have already pointed out in the preceding letters that the soul issues into actions of the body not by willing * The 1815 edition, adds: "See Letters concerning Spinoza, 2nd ed., Supplement vi."

David Hume on Faith


tention of getting myself involved in an argument about all this with some [167] philosophical sorehead. Leibniz tried to adapt his ideas to so many minds and systems; he tried so often as it were to interpolate truth into error [168]; in general, whether he was under pressure or it, that is, inasmuch as it is spiritual or free, but as the prime entelechy of the body and, to this extent, not without conforming to mechanical laws. In my programmatic statements in French dealing with the system of pre-established harmony I did indeed consider the soul only as substance, and not at the same time as the entelechy of a body, since [to consider it as such] did not pertain to the matter at hand, to wit, the explanation of the agreement between body and mind; nor did the Cartesians wish anything else." ([Letter to De Bosses] Opp., Vol. n, Part i, p. 269). "I have earlier established that a composite substance, or the thing constituted by a chain of monads, since it is not a genuine modification of monads, nor something that exists in them as subjects, [166] (and certainly one and the same modification could not inhere in several subjects) is dependent upon the monads. This dependence is not a logical one (such, that is, that could not be removed from the monads even supernaturally), but natural only, that is, it must occur in a composite substance unless God wants otherwise." (Ibid., p.300) "A composite substance does not consist of monads or their subordination formally, and thus it is simply an aggregate or a being per acddens." (Ibid., 320) "Whatever ambition or some other passion makes the soul of Caesar do, is also represented in Caesar's body; and all the movements of these passions derive from impressions of objects conjoined to internal movements; and the body is so constituted that the soul never comes to a decision which the movements of the body would not conform to; even the most abstract reasonings have their play there through the instrumentality of marks that represent them to the imagination. In a word, everything happens in the body as regards the details of phenomena as if the evil doctrine of those who, in the manner of Epicurus or Hobbes, believe that the soul is [167] material were true; or as if man himself were nothing but body or an automaton. These people have extended what the Cartesians grant with respect to all other animals to include man too, demonstrating in effect that nothing is done by man with his full reason which is not in his body as a play of images, of passions and movements. To want to prove the contrary is to debase oneself, and, by dinging to this bias, only to pave the way for the triumph of error." (Ibid., pp. 83—84)37 "The ground of the alteration of thoughts within the soul is the same as the ground of the alteration of the things within the universe that the thoughts represent. The mechanical grounds that unfold in the bodies are brought together and, so to speak, concentrated within the souls or entelechies, and there is where they find their source as well. (Ibid., p. 86).s8


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

not, he was so full of considerations for all sort of things, that in the present state of his writings it is easy to misunderstand him, even with the best intentions out of prejudice or shortsightedness. But it is easier still—infinitely easier—to set him at odds with himself wantonly. Let everyone use these priceless remains as he sees fit. But you. . . . You read the pieces I mentioned to you. Then we shall talk some more. He: I agree both to the reading later and the postponement now. There is, however, one thing that you must still tell me today. What understanding of the innate ideas and the monads do you favour? I have a quotation in petto* that I would dearly like to put to you. /: Let's begin with the monads, so you'll get to your point all the more quickly. We must take our start from propositions [169] that we have already agreed about once today, so that we shall presumably agree on them at once the second time. If I gather four or five different things together here on this table and unite them into one representation either according to number or through other relationships, then my representation is one of a totality or a whole. There is nothing outside me, however, that corresponds to this whole or totality which is a whole or totality in itself. The unity of my representation is not a truly objective unity, but is merely ideal. He: Quite right. But it must not be forgotten that the data required for this unity, not only as regards its matter but as regards the form as well, are actually present outside me, and that to this extent the whole or totality is also actually objective. [ 170] You would not have the representation of five things if only four isolated ones were out there. And if the five stood in some other order, you could not truthfully associate them with the same image with which you associate them now. If I am not mistaken, Leibniz called things of this sort semimentalia65 precisely for this reason, and compared them to the rainbow. /: Right. And your comment is of the greatest importance in several different respects. It establishes the true distinction between the idealist and the philosophical realist. The issue here, however, is not the data for an appearance, but what it is in a thing that holds it together, or in other words, the element of combination that binds it into a real, perfectly objective, unity. And would you not grant me without hesitation that the isolated bodies are not intrinsically combined in our case, either by the

Literally: "in my breast"

David Hume on Faith


number five or by any other form, and that outside the representation, therefore, they do not constitute a whole on their own'? [171] He: I do. I: The same applies to all artifacts, however admirably their manifold has been joined together in one purposive structure. The form that constitutes their unity dwells in the soul of the artist who invented them, or of the knower who passes judgment on them—not in the unity itself. In itself this unity is without essential cohesion, like a lump of the coarsest matter. He: Perfectly right. We can attribute an inner unity, i.e. one which is truly objective and real, only to organic beings. /: So, if we wanted to change the five objects here on the table into an actual whole, into a unumperse, would we not have to be able to fashion an organic body out of them? [172] He: That's right. /: But would we ever be in a position to produce this organic form through a mere fashioning, even assuming that we had at our disposal all the physical powers for a limitless and arbitrary division of matter, and for setting the resulting parts in motion against one another just as arbitrarily and infinitely? Could an aggregate result from this that would constitute an essence, a compositum substantiate, a unum per se"? He: It's impossible. /: So, in order to think the possibility of an organic being, is it not necessary to think first what constitutes its unity, i.e. to think the whole before its parts'? [173] He: Undoubtedly. And here am I quite ready to let some such thought work upon me through your intervention. /: It has already had its effect on you long ago, without any effort of mine. For you are yourself a compositum substantiate, and you would certainly have never come to the feeling of your being without having first sensed what constitutes your unity. Surely you did not come from the periphery towards the centre, but from the centre to the periphery. He: I did not move either from the periphery to the centre nor from the centre to the periphery. Rather, the whole circle that I am was there all at once. This is what you teach, too. /: Let's not stop at this point to remove a misunderstanding that is of hardly any consequence, and for present purposes of no consequence at all. It suffices that your body [ 174] is put together out of an infinite multitude of parts which it takes up and gives back again, so that not one of them can belong to it essentially. Yet you feel that these parts belong to


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

it by means of an invisible form that acts like a whirlpool in a current. You feel the multitude of parts only according to this form, and you feel the form in a single, unalterable, indivisible, point which you call your "I." Could this point be, perhaps, only a mathematical one? Or a physical one? He: So, a perfect non-entity. I: Yet our "I" must be something, if it has to escape the truth of what we have just established, namely, that a truly objective unity can never arise out of a multiplicity. This something, which couldn't possibly be something not real, [175] Leibniz calls the substantial form of organic being, the vinculum compositionis essentiak, or the monad.66 And to this extent I agree with the doctrine of the monads wholeheartedly. He: You surprise me. But please, go on and tell me what sort of representation do you have of this substantial form of organic being? /: I believe that I have already told you about that. Strictly speaking I cannot make a representation of it at all, for the peculiarity of its being is that it remains distinct from every sensation and representation. It is what I properly call "myself," and I have the most perfect conviction of its reality, the most intimate consciousness of it, since it is the very source of my consciousness and the subject of all its alterations. [176] The soul must be able to distinguish itself from itself, become external to itself, in order to have a representation of itself.*38 Certainly we have the most intimate consciousness of what we call our "life." But who can grasp it in a representation? He: True. [171 sic] I: And our soul is nothing else but a certain determinate form of life. I know of nothing more perverse than to make life into a property of things, when things are on the contrary only properties of life, only different expressions of it. For the parts in a manifold can penetrate one another and become one only in a living being. All being ceases where unity, real individuality, ceases. And whenever we represent something to ourselves *38. "[§2. . . .] We know our existence by intuition [ . . . . ] and that of other things by sensation. . . . [§3. . . .] The immediate apperception of our existence and of our thoughts furnishes us with the truths a posteriori, or of fact, i.e. the first experiences, as the identical propositions contain the first truths a priori, or of reason, i.e. the first lights. Both are incapable of proof, and may be called immediate; the former, because between the understanding and its object there is a [relation of] immediacy. . . ." New Essays [Book iv], Ch. ix, §3-39

David Hume on Faith


as individual that is not individual, we are extending our own unity to an aggregate. In any such case, it is not the concretum, but only its data, that are truly outside us. He: In other words, you are in full agreement with Leibniz on this point too, that there is not and cannot be in nature anything truly actual except organic being. And you claim that every created or [172 sic] finite substance must necessarily be composed of body and soul, for the two are connected to each other in such a way that neither can, in the natural order of things, subsist without the other. /.- And I make that claim in concert with Leibniz too. According to him, matter in the strict sense (materia secunda or mass, as he calls it) is the mingling of the effects of the infinite. *39 The things that are truly actual, [ 173 sic] being all of them composed of soul and body, i.e. organic beings, are to be found in this matter. But not every portion of this matter is an organic being. He: It is impossible not be awed by the splendour and grandeur of this system. 7:1 take it that I no longer need to give you a long explanation of why I am in favour of innate ideas. I need only remind you of how we dealt with the absolutely universal concepts earlier,67 and tell you that my innate ideas are precisely these concepts. Our earlier treatment should now be doubly clear to you, since my postulates have now been raised to the status of principles with all due procedure. Let us recapitulate and sum up: Every singular created being is connected with an infinite multitude of other [ 174 sic] singular beings, all of which are connected in turn with this one. And the present situation of each and every one of them is determined at each moment, and determined quite exactly, through its connection with all the rest. All truly actual things are individuals or sin*39- "[• • • •] The mixture of effects of the [surrounding] infinite [. . . .]" New Essays, [Preface] p. 12. "[. . . .] Matter is but a mass of an infinite number of beings. [ . . . . ] ! grant perception to all these infinite beings, each one of which is like an animal endowed with soul (or of some [active] analogous principle which constitutes its true unity), together with what is needed to this being in order to be passive and endowed with an organic body. Now these beings have received their nature, active as well as passive (i.e. what they have of immaterial and material), from a general and supreme cause. . . ." Ibid., [Bk iv, ch. x, §10] p. 407.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

gular things, and, as such, they are living beings (principia perceptiva et activa) that are external to one another. Hence, when an individual is posited, the concepts of unity and multiplicity, of action and passion, of extension and succession, must at the same time be posited in him necessarily. In other words, these concepts are innate in each individual; they are created in him. These concepts are distinguished from all others in that their objects are given immediately, and in all things equally and completely. So their objects are never simply present to us in representation but [175 sic] are always present in actuality also. And no disarrangement (of whatever kind) can ever withdraw them (even just for a moment) from immediate perception or from their necessary union in the concept. Even the most complete state of derangement is not capable of extirpating the understanding at its root. He: I have nothing to object against your innate ideas, when they are understood in this way. It is clear that we attain to the consciousness of our consciousness, to the feeling of ourselves, in no other way except by distinguishing ourselves from something outside us. This something is a manifold, an infinite; and we are ourselves included in its concept. The concepts of the "one," the "many," and the "all," must therefore be given already, together with their basic properties and relations, in every consciousness, even the weakest one, and they must remain essentially the same throughout all the possible changes of the individual. [176 sic] Their distinctness, however, depends on the distinctness of consciousness, that is, on the degree to which we distinguish ourselves, intensively and extensively, from the things that exist outside us. /: Could we not also use this measure in order to determine everywhere, and with certainty, the degree of reason and life that one species of creatures enjoys vis-a-vis another? He: I think we could. Life and consciousness are one. A higher degree of consciousness depends upon the greater number* of the perceptions united in consciousness. Every perception expresses something external and something internal at the same time, and it expresses the two in their relation to one another. So every perception is, as such, already a concept. As the action, so the reaction. And if the capacity to accept impressions is so

The 1815 edition adds: "and quality."

David Hume on Faith


perfect and so varied* that the properties of imagination and [177] memory, to which personality is connected, grow out of it, then what we call reason develops.*40 A rational being is therefore distinguished from an irrational one by a higher degree of consciousness, and hence of life. And this degree will increase in an understanding in proportion as the power to distinguish oneself from other things (intensively and extensively) also increases. God is the being who is most perfectly distinct from all things: He must possess the highest personality, and He alone possesses a totally pure reason. I: It is not possible [178] to have a low esteem of reason, therefore, unless one hates oneself and one's own life. But how can we best go about promoting reason in ourselves more and more? Wouldn't the wisest course of action be for us to get to reason immediately, so as to strengthen and enlarge its powers progressively? Wouldn't be best, in short, to keep on trying to make reason properly rational? What do you think? He: My opinion is that the hereditary flaw of mankind, its primordial cancer, is that it ignores the kernel in favour of the husk, the real thing for mere show, the essence for the form. Religion has everywhere degenerated into ceremonies and superstition; civil union into political machinery; philosophy into prattle; art into industry. And why should not reason too degenerate into the mere use of its forms and methods? [179] /: The various names for it that are now in vogue, testify that people do at least have the intention of making use of it in all sorts of ways, for all these names are derived from one use or other that we make of reason. It seems to me that what I hear most often, and the loudest, is that reason is a "torch." Apparently, this is what it has evolved into from the weak light that it was. And what is said about this torch, is that it shall everywhere be carried forward—which was not the case as long as reason was only a light. I must confess that, for myself, I have not yet seen this *40. t See above, p. 150 & 151, the footnote. The "I" and the "Thou" are distinguished in the first perception at the same time. But the "I" becomes more distinct in equal measure as the "Thou" does.—There arise concept, word, person. * From here to the end of the paragraph, the 1815 edition reads: "and so varied, that an articulated echo is heard within consciousness, then above sensation there rises the word; what we call reason appears, and what we call person." t Note omitted in the 1815 edition


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

reason that has become a torch. My own reason is an eye and no torch. And unless I am much deceived, we have always meant the power of seeing by the word "light," at least when we still had only a light in our reason. I cannot help being a bit suspicious of torches. A torch is often brought in so that a single [ 180] object may be seen clearly; and especially so that as a result of its being clearly seen, everything else around it may become all the darker.*41 He: I can solve the riddle about the torch for you. It is not just a matter of empty boasting. The torch in question is still the one that experience once carried to reason, where truth received the torch from the hand of experience. And they said: "The torch does not belong to experience." And those who, from behind, then tore the torch away from experience shouted loudly that it belonged to them, and that wherever they carried it, there reason and truth prevailed, [181] and falsehood everywhere else. The rumour has it, however, that the torch did not want to remain alight, no matter how much one tamped it and waved it in the wind. I: Oh, that it would return into the hands of experience, and that the ancient procession to reason and truth would start anew! Surely the keen and serious observer cannot fail to notice that all our cognition is based on positivity, and the moment we abandon the latter, we end up in dreams and empty fictions. As we have seen, even the concepts and propositions that we call a priori are taken, positively and immediately, from the actuality that presents itself to us. What is even more extraordinary is that our relatively universal concepts and propositions are also positively and immediately taken from the actuality that presents itself to us. The a priori concepts are based upon a confused representation of the "all," their object being present to us always and everywhere, even in the smallest [182] part of creation; the others are based on a confused representation of a "few," and their objects are not always present to us, and when they are, it is only in this or that particular thing. Hence, the absolutely universal concepts, as well as those that are only relatively universal, cannot lead us beyond what we actually sense, or have sensed in ourselves or outside us. It is in the more complete perception, and the higher degree of consciousness bound up with it, that the essence of the supe*4i. The blessed Leibniz used to characterize the spirit of the century with the analogy of crabs that are occasionally found with one claw immensely big, and the other wretchedly small. Obviously he would have preferred an in-between crab, with two equal claws.

David Hume on Faith


riority enjoyed by our nature that we call reason lies. All the functions of reason evolve out of it automatically. As soon as a manifold of representations, united in one consciousness, is posited, it is thereby at once posited that these same representations must affect consciousness in their likenesses and differences. Otherwise consciousness would indeed be a dead mirror—not a consciousness, not a self-concentrating life. Hence, we have no need, apart from the [183] original activity of perception, of special activities of distinguishing and comparing, with which nothing at all can be thought. And I explain "reflection," "deliberation," and all their effects in the same way—in terms of the constant forward movement (if I may put it this way) of the active principle in us against (but not contrary to) the passive one, in conformity with the received impressions and their relationships. With every repetition of the consensus of these impressions and relationships in respect of the same object, the representation must receive new determinations and expand, sometimes more subjectively, and at other times more objectively. In this way, both the discovery of important truths and the origin of ludicrous error become equally comprehensible. If we consider reason from the side of spontaneity alone, without taking into consideration how this spontaneity manifests itself only as a reaction, then we fail to grasp it at its foundation, and we shall never know just what it is that we get from it. If we characterize it as the power [ 184] to detect relationships, then the capacity to receive more complete impressions from objects is already presupposed. In abstraction from this capacity, the simple power to understand relationships would never enrich our cognition by discovering even one still unperceived "same" or "not same." An acute and comprehensive sense that penetrates deep and is always at work—that is the noble gift that makes us the rational creatures that we are, and the measure by which the superiority of one mind over another is determined (I take the word "sense" in the full extent of its meaning, as faculty of perception in general). The purest and richest reason is what follows from the purest and richest sensation. Any selfobservant researcher must have learned, from his own experience, that it is not the power of distinguishing and comparing, of judging and inferring, that he exerts in his research in order to make his representation as distinct as possible but simply and solely the power of his sense. [185] He holds his intuitions firm with all his might; he senses, and then he senses some more; and by sense he brings the intuition ever closer to the eye of the mind. And, as a luminous point suddenly stands out, the


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

soul pauses momentarily in order to absorb it passively. It passively receives every judgment that arises in it. It is only in arbitrary intuition, i.e. when it examines something, that it is active. He: But then one could indeed say that, in a certain way, the whole of reason comes to man from the outside, so to speak. /: What is there that can't be said "in a certain way"? But if reason presupposes a living principle that holds a world together in an indivisible point and, starting from this point, it can react to the infinite, then I don't see why one cannot say, even if only "in a certain way," that reason comes to man from the outside. The business of sense is to accept and deliver impressions. [186] Deliver them to whom? Where does the accumulation of impressions occur? And what would we do with a mere accumulation of this kind? "Multiplicity" and "relation" are living concepts that presuppose a living being capable of actively assimilating the manifold into its unity. But even the darkest sensation expresses a relationship. And therefore one must say, not only about the cognitions that we call a priori, but about all cognitions in general, that they are not given through the senses but can only be produced through the living and active faculty of the soul. Sensibility is only an empty word if we are to understand by it something other than a means of separation and union at once—whereby the substantial element to be divided and bound together is already presupposed. And as this means, it is the instrument of the almighty love, or (please forgive, allow me a daring expression) the secret laying on of the hand of the creator. Only by this means can the blessing of [187] life, the blessing of an existence that externalizes itself and thereby enjoys itself, be bestowed upon a multitude of beings, and a world be called forth out of nothing. A shiver goes down my spine whenever I think of this; every time it is as if I received my soul directly from the hand of the creator at that instant. He: You remind me of the venerable ancient book, in which it is written: "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."68 The receptacle, the body, must be fashioned first, and it was fashioned only in order to be receptacle. I: Men's modes of representation differ, and not everyone sees the same in things. In my own view of the being composed throughout of body and soul, and the life that is thus [ 188] endlessly replicated through separation and combination, the liberal hand of an all-supplying Giver is so far visible that we can actually touch it (so I would say). What we call matter borders on nothing because of its unsubstantial divisibility in infini-

David Hume on Faith


turn. What is a body? an organic body? It is all nothing, a non-entity, and without a hint of substantial permanence, unless we think of form through substance, and first posit a kingdom of spirits; it is nothing unless we start from the absolutely simple nature of life. So every system, even the smallest, of which there can be millions contained in one mite, requires a spirit that unifies it, moves it, and holds it together—a Lord and King of Life. And what about the system of all systems, the All of being? Could nothingness move it and hold it together? Must it not be unified? And if it is unified, then it must be unified by something, and the only thing that is truly something is the spirit. But the spirit that makes the All [189] into a One, and binds the heap of being into a whole, cannot possibly be a spirit that is only a soul. The source of life needs no vessel. It is not like drops that need a vessel to catch them one by one and hold them. CREATOR is this spirit. And that is his creation: to have instilled souls, founded finite life, and prepared immortality. He: It is as obvious to me as it is to you that the limited life we see everywhere (realized as it is through an infinite manifold of forms) points directly to an unlimited absolute life, to an author of the manifold who fashions it freely through separation. *And it is at the same time apparent why we have no concept of this Being of all beings, and why, if we wish to enquire into His nature, we must find that it is impossible on the basis of our mode of representation. For we would have to become dependent to the last limit of our [190] existence, and by the same token we would become and remain incapable (absolutely incapable) of forming the slightest representation of a totally independent nature, of a thoroughgoing pure activity. According to the oldest testimonies, and so too according to the most profound philosophy, our finite being must begin with the body and be constantly supported by it. Hence our reason must begin with sense-impression, and be constantly supported by it. Our natural cognition can never rise above the result of the relations of finite to finite, relations that flow into one another, back and forth without end.

* From here to the end of the paragraph, the 1815 edition reads: "To want to comprehend this transcendent being, however, to see its nature, to explain it, would mean to seek a God who would make God come to be for us. How foolish! We are amazed, and even quite terrified, because to us finite and hence necessarily restricted beings, conditioned both in being and action—to us who are essentially imperfect—a totally perfect being, one that exists solely in itself, appears to be an impossibility. Where is the Creator who is not bound to appear so to His creation?"


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

How foolish therefore to be surprised that we are only creatures, or indeed to be frightened by it. /: The pretensions and desires of men are odd enough. They would like to see with eyes alone, without light; and better still, they would like to see without eyes. Only then, they think, would one see properly, truly, and naturally. [191] Where this kind of view prevails, that considers the unnatural as natural, and the natural as unnatural, there is what is called "philosophy." I remember this question being raised once in a company of people of different backgrounds: "How could the human race have propagated itself without the occurrence of original sin?" A wise man quickly responded:"Oh, by means of a rational discourse no doubt!"* 69 He: That's splendid! But what would come of our rational discourses in your opinion, if we were to find ourselves, just as we are, in a world that resembled the legendary land of plenty by the absence of all rules? /: History provides most of the answer to this question for you. You will find a multitude of different world-manifestations in it; and you will see that the manifestations of reason have always conformed exactly to those of the world. [192] ^The Byzantine scholars have not lacked in thought, meaning, or language, century after century. Yet, how rational they have been is well known. He: So we must accept that at any given time the composition of human reason is determined by the way of the world, and never by reason on its own. In every epoch and in every place, therefore, men have precisely as much insight and reason as God allows them to have at that time and place, even though in their opinion they are always and everywhere capable of as much insight and rationality as they like. 42

*42. * "Reason was formed in the course of time. Whatever has educated, taught, and advanced the human race, has also formed reason. A child develops his reason [193] only through education. Reason owes what it has become, therefore, to all the things that have educated the human race, and it would be a game to separate the one from the other and treat reason as a self-subsisting abstraction where it is a nothingness. . . . So little could the human race come to be without * Instead of "a wise man," the 1815 edition has "Goethe." In a footnote, reference is made to Werke, i, p. 403. t From here up to "If we could play the master in nature" on p. 194 is omitted in the 1815 edition. t Note omitted in the 1815 edition

David Hume on Faith


[193] / : . . . . And of as much irrationality as, [194] they like! If we could play the master in nature, even in a limited fashion, or if we could work upon the whole of society the way that we do in our homes or in single states, then the senseless world of which you have just spoken and its correlate the senseless reason, would have been here long ago. But an unchanging objective reason constantly forces our subjective reason back on course—at least enough to keep it from capsizing totally. Here and there, now and then, there seems to have been an attempt on the part of men to meet force with force. And it was in this attempt, so it seems, that they left that course themselves. He: Supposing that this is our own case, it offers a peculiar contrast to the philosophical Gospel which proclaims that we are well on the way to being governed by reason alone and to inaugurating the Golden Age. [195] I: I would not know. *Some comparison at least is not altogether impossible. Let's briefly consider the matter.

creation; progress so little without divine aid; or know what it knows without divine education.1" Herder If this passage still does not suffice to determine the meaning of the statements above, allow me to refer to my work on Spinoza, pp. 183—go.40—One can possess a great deal of mathematics and physics, an immensity of external information, yet have very little of genuine reason. Genuine reason has to do with the soul itself, inasmuch as the latter becomes an object of desire or aversion through self-determination. A pure self-determination is however [194] impossible to composite beings, but must be occasioned by a given object. * From here to the end of p. 197, the 1815 edition reads: But let's be clear about (278) the essential point, and you'll find that, to some extent at least, it is conceivable and acceptable. Is human reason anything else than the human soul itself, in so far as it rises in concepts above its singular sensations and perceptions, and determines itself in its acts and omissions according to the representation of laws? But as for the soul, it is what voices the "I" in us distinctly, by distinguishing it from the Thou (the not-I). And since this very "I" is also reason, then every "I" that in its concepts, judgments, and determinations of the will, agrees with itself, must also agree with its reason. We must say that the "I" is then governed by its reason alone or (what comes to the same thing) it is governed by itself. The possibility of reason being in such a state of complete autarchy, depends on the restrictions that the "f' is willing to accept, in order to attain to it. These restrictions, which may well be likened to mutilations, can be so constituted that the "I" now considers itself capable of finding the right way to the only remaining goals it has retained and of attaining its end simply by turning always {279) back upon itself, i.e. solely through its thus restricted reason, without the inter-


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

The eye of the human soul, or human reason, is not, like the physical eye, merely a part that can be separated. For the soul does not have parts outside parts. Hence the eye of the human soul, or human reason, is the human soul itself inasmuch as the latter has distinct concepts. What in man expresses the "I" distinctly, that is called his reason, and is his reason. And if the "I" agrees in its actions with itself, it also agrees with its reason.—So, if the "I" acts coherently, but only according to its drives and the laws of its possible coherence, it then governs itself, i.e. it is governed by its reason exclusively. The possibility or impossibility of such self-governance depends [196] on the objects for which the soul strives. Now, these strivings can be so restricted that the soul would be in position to attain its goals by means of its reason alone, i.e. through its own self inasmuch as it (the soul) has distinct concepts. And if this state of restriction is the Golden Age, then it might indeed be achieved. He: Would it not be a main condition for this self-governing eye, however, that it rule itself far away from divine things and a world to come? /: Of course! But this too is self-evident. The more and the longer the self-governing eye exerts itself to learn about God and another world, vention of any other illumination and power. Hence the Golden Age announced by those prophets could still come to pass, and could usher in new forms of association—as perfected, unalterable, and^rro, as those o f . . . ants and bees! We have already a certain prefiguration of this condition of things in China, and European philosophers have already several times advertised it as such. He: You have made your point admirably, and I comprehend it fully now. Everything on earth must be levelled; whatever stands out pertains to evil. /: The temples and altars—not only the visible ones but the invisible ones as well—must gradually sink down and finally disappear altogether. Only then will the Golden Age have truly been inaugurated—when {280} there is no question of God or of things divine any more. In order for them even to come in question again at least, new prophets would have to arise, to work their miracles and instill wonder over all the land. He: But our friends of the Golden Age are more likely to go mad than to turn into believers. Men of this sort—I mean, the precursors of the age of true and unalloyed gold, the like of which we meet now often enough—men of this sort, who generally think very clearly within their own narrow sphere, and can do so easily, stubbornly insist on taking the limits of their imagination for the limits of possibility, and the laws of their imagination for the absolute laws of nature and reason. Any reasoning that contradicts their experience (or what they call their experience) must give way to it, and any experience that contradicts their reasoning (and which they would therefore dismiss) would have to yield to that reasoning. Whatever does not conform to their restricted mode of representation, is not; it cannotbe, {281} it is not to be thought in principle. They would sooner deny their sense than their pre-conceived opinions. And in fact, if they would deny them, they would be giving up the one understanding that they do have.

David Hume on Faith


the clearer it sees at the end that it sees nothing, and ceases to direct itself toward an empty place. Miracles, new positive revelations, must intervene at least.70 [197] He: Yet there are men who it is more likely would go mad than turn into believers. Such men, who generally think very clearly in their own narrow sphere and can do so easily, stubbornly insist on taking the limits of their imagination for the limits of possibility; the composition of their imagination for the true light of nature; and the laws of their imagination/or the absolute laws of reason. Any reasoning that contradicts their experience must give way to the experience, and any experience that contradicts their reasoning must do the same before the reasoning. Whatever does not conform to their restricted mode of representation, is nothing; it cannot be; it is not thinkable in principle. They would sooner deny their sense than their imagination. And in fact, they would be giving up the one understanding that they do have and go mad. //Yesterday I was visited by ** of ***, [198] who is still inconsolable over the loss of his truly precious wife. You know that he is a committed atheist, and is quite convinced that with death everything is over for man. He repeated on this occasion what I had heard him say several times already: that the testimonies about facts to the contrary, or even his own experience of such facts, would sooner make a fool of him than change his conviction. So I asked him in conscience whether, supposing that his dead wife were to appear to him in a form clearly her own, while he was fully awake, but in such a manner that the appearance would not shock him, and she were to say to him: "Be consoled. I live, happier than here on earth, and we shall meet again"—whether he would not then believe in a life after death. He: Very likely he protested that even then he would not believe, and showed you [199] in all sorts of ways how overwhelmingly probable it would be that the appearance he had witnessed could be explained in terms of his imagination, his present frame of mind, and so on. /.- So he did. I finally conceded his point so far as all other men were concerned, myself included. But I would not concede it in regard to him. I assured him that if he had been completely awake and not frightened by the beloved appearance, and had retained his presence of mind in full, then nobody could persuade him that the appearance was only a dream. And from that moment on he would also have gained the certainty of his continued existence after death. He: Whether it would have helped him to the end of his life is another question still. But, anyone who reflects on the case you are assuming


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

must feel the truth of the claim that you are staking on it. [200] This shows once more, in a striking manner, the pre-eminence of immediate intuition over inference. Inferences can never discover the existence of anything. So they must always presuppose that a consciousness of the truth is already available, to which they constantly appeal. It is not usual, however, for the dead to appear. And God does not give himself in sensation. So does our philosophy finally lead perhaps to the conclusion that those who do not admit any positive revelation must relinquish faith in God and in life after death as soon as they come back to their right senses? For in the end all faith must be supported by facts, by one's own experience or somebody else's. And every experience is made up only of sensations. /: If God did not let himself be sensed, or in any way experienced, then you would be right. For besides the sensations and the representations, our entire cognition consists only of concepts, judgments, and inferences. And we have seen that these, i.e. the whole fabric of our thinking, not only can but must be referred back to the [201] most perfect sensation and its progression,*43 in other words, to the progression of consciousness. It must be referred back to it if we do not want to lose confidence in our own reason. So, what we cannot sense* of God in this way, we cannot experience of him, or become aware of, in any other way. For, to repeat, it is only with the understanding and with reason that we experience, and become aware; and never through the understanding or through reason, as if these were particular powers.^ Considered just by themselves, according to their mere power to perceive relations, understanding and reason are entia rationis; their function, like their content, a nothing. In actuality [202] they are instead the perfection itself of sensation, the nobler life, the highest existence that we know. The perfection of sensa*43- I insist once more, ad nauseam, that I do not allow the concept of an exclusively passive faculty, but only as a modification of an active principle. "In true philosophy an incomplete substance is a monster." Leibniz, Opp., vol. n, P. i, p. 276.41 * Empfinden t The 1815 edition reads here: "of independent revelation. When they are sundered from the faculty of revelation, which is the sense or the faculty of perception in general, they are without content and function, mere thought-entities or imaginary beings. In actuality and in truth, therefore, unless they are a more perfect sensation itself, they are not the nobler life, the highest expression of {285} power that we know."

David Hume on Faith


tion* determines the perfection of consciousness with all its modifications. As the receptivity is, so is the spontaneity; as the sense, so the understanding. The degree of our faculty for distinguishing ourselves from external things, extensively and intensively, is the degree of our personality, that is, the degree of elevation of our spirit. Along with this exquisite property of reason, we receive the intimation of God, the intimation of HE WHO IS, of a being who has its life in its self. Freedom breathes upon the soul from there, and the fields of immortality become visible. He: Your last words have stirred a whole ocean of sensations and thoughts in me, my friend. . . . [203] /: It's getting late. It's time for us to take our leave. But so that our conversation may not end on a note that is either too solemn or too familiar, just listen to a couple of passages from a book that I picked up yesterday to while away the time, and which once did me more good on a day of sickness than I had experienced in many days of the best health. He: Let me see, before I hear! Leonard and Gertrude.'71 It rings a bell. I: It's odd that neither of us had heard enough about it not to have read it long ago. It is certainly not because of what the author might lack or what his book does or does not have that made it not entirely to my liking. But come! Let's not forget the book itself in our talking about it!^ [204] It's deeds that instruct man, and deeds that console him. Away with words!72 All that one might teach a man will only make him useful, or make of him a man on whom or on whose skill one can build, because his own knowledge and his skill are built on the toil of his time of apprenticeship. And where that is missing, all the skills and sciences of man are like the froth on the sea which, from a distance, often looks like a boulder surging up from the depths, but which disappears as soon as it's struck by wind and waves.73 To describe the night, or paint the sombre colours of its shadows, does not help seeing. It's only when you kindle the light that you can show what the night was, and it is only when you remove the cataracts that you can show what blindness was.74 This is so true that to lead men away from error [205] one must blot out in them the spirit of error, not just contradict the words of the fool.75 We lay our own inwardness to waste if we try to escape from the shadows in which God has enveloped us. * Empfindung t Jacobi's footnote, omitted in the 1815 edition: "The following passages are found in the third part passim, pp. 78, 292, 306, 408."


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

God has made the night just as he has made the day; why will you not rest in God's night until he shows you his sun which will never, in all eternity, call forth dreams from behind the clouds where God has hidden them? It is only through men that God is for man the God of men. Man knows God only in so far as he knows man, that is, himself. And he honours God only to the extent that he honours himself, that is, in so far as he deals with himself and with his neighbours in accordance with the purest and best instincts that lie in him. So a man too can raise another to the doctrine of religion, not through images and words, but only through his deed. [206] For it is in vain that you say to the poor: "There is a God," or to the orphan: "You have a Father in Heaven"; no man can teach another to know God with images and words. But if you help the poor man, so that he can live as a man, then you show him God. And if you bring up the orphan as if he had a father, then you teach him to know the Father in Heaven who is the one who shaped your heart in such a way that you had to bring him up so.76 He: Splendid! Splendid! But there has just come to mind, I know not how, an essay by Asmus in which there is talk of "feet heavy with gout," and of other feet "which the cloak hides.'"1'1 His last words, which made a great impression on me, are: "Ointment to the feet, man from Sinope!"78




On Transcendental Idealism

* 79 It is my opinion that the Transcendental or Critical Idealism on which Kant's Critique of Pure Reason is constructed is not treated with suf* This prefatory note is added in the 1815 edition: |2gi}The following essay refers throughout to the first edition of the Cr. of Pure Reason which was still the only one available at the time. The second edition of Kant's work was published just a few months after the essay, augmented by that "Refutation of Idealism" which I discuss at length in the Introduction to this second volume of my writings. In the Preface to this second edition (B. xxxviiff.) Kant informs his readers of the improvements in presentation that he has attempted in the new edition, but he does not conceal the fact that the improvement was not without a certain loss for the reader, since he had to leave out many things, or convey them in shortened form, in order to make room for a more comprehensible presentation. I, for one, find this loss a highly significant one, and it is my earnest hope that the readers who are serious about philosophy and its history will be encouraged by this essay to compare the first edition of the Cr. of Pure Reason with the second, improved, one. (The subsequent editions are only a line by line reprint of the second). I recommend for special consideration the section in the first edition on A iO5ff., "The Synthesis of Recognition in the Concept." Since the first edition has already become very scarce, care should be taken that at least the few specimens still held in public collections, as well as the larger private ones, do not eventually disappear. The advantage afforded by studying the systems of great thinkers in their earliest (292) presentation is in general not sufficiently recognized. Hamann once told me that the perceptive Christian Jacob Kraus never tired of thanking him for having made him acquainted with Hume's first philosophical work, The Treatise on Human Nature (1739). For it was only in this work that the true light regarding the later Enquiries dawned on him. See note 79 to the main text.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

ficient care by some of the supporters of Kantian philosophy—or, to speak my mind openly as I prefer, these supporters seem, in general, to be so much afraid of the charge of idealism, that they prefer to induce a misunderstanding rather than expose themselves openly to a charge that might frighten others away. Now, in itself, there is nothing reprehensible in this—for normally one must first subdue the prejudices of men before one can yoke them, and it is in general so difficult to attract attention that, if a universally accepted opinion happens to stand in the way, we might as well give up any hope of succeeding. In the present case, however, the nature of the issue is such that the least misunderstanding [210] spoils the whole lesson, and it is no longer possible to understand what is being expected of one. A reproach of this kind can hardly be laid at the door of the Critique of Pure Reason itself. It declares itself decidedly enough, and, after the few pages of the "Transcendental Aesthetics," one need only read the critique of the fourth paralogism of the "Transcendental Doctrine of the Soul" ([A] 367—380) to know what to make of transcendental idealism everywhere. The transcendental idealist, on the other hand, (Kant says in the section just referred to, [A] 370), may be an empirical realist or, as he is called, a dualist; that is, he may admit the existence of matter without going outside his mere selfconsciousness, or assuming anything more than the certainty of his representations, that is, the cogito, ergo sum. For he considers this matter and even its inner possibility to be appearance merely; and appearance, if separated from our sensibility, is nothing. Matter is with him, therefore, only a species of representations (intuition), which are called external, not as standing in relation to objects in themselves external, but because they relate perceptions to the space in which all things are external to one another, while yet the space itself is in us. From the start, we have declared ourselves in favour of this transcendental idealism. . . . [A 372]. . . . For if we regard outer appearances as representations produced in us by their objects, and if these objects be things existing in themselves outside us, it is indeed impossible to see how we can come to know the existence of the objects otherwise than by inference from the effect to the cause; and this being so, it must always remain doubtful whether the cause in question be in us or outside us. We can indeed admit that something, which may be (in the transcendental sense) outside us, is the cause of our outer intuitions, but this is not the object of which we are thinking in the representations of matter and of corporeal things; for these are merely appearances, that is, mere kinds of representation, which are never to be met with save in us, and the reality of which depends on immediate consciousness, just as does the consciousness of my own thoughts. The transcendental object is equally unknown in respect to inner and outer in-

David Hume on Faith


tuition. But it is not of this that we are here speaking, but of the empirical object, which is called an external object if it is represented in space, and an inner object if it is represented only in its time-relations. Neither space not time, however, is to be found save in us. The expression "outside us" is thus unavoidably ambiguous in meaning, something signifying what as thing in itself exists apart from us, and sometimes what belongs solely to outer appearance. In order, therefore, to make this concept, in the latter sense—the sense in which the psychological question as to the reality of our outer intuition has to be understood—quite unambiguous, we shall distinguish empirically external objects from those which may be said to be external in the transcendental sense, by explicitly entitling the former "things which are to be found in space." [A 374, note]. . . . [But] there is nothing in space save what is represented in it. For space is itself nothing but representation, and whatever is in it must therefore be contained in the representation. Nothing whatsoever is in space, save in so far as it is actually represented in it. It is a proposition which must indeed sound strange, that a thing can exist only in the representation of it, but in this case the objection falls, inasmuch as the things with which we are here concerned are not things in themselves, but appearances only, that is, representations. [A 378]. . . . [These idealist objections] drive us by main force to view all our perceptions, whether we call them inner or outer, as a consciousness only of what is dependent on our sensibility. They also compel us to view the outer objects of these perceptions not as things in themselves, but only as representations, of which, as of every other representation, we can become immediately conscious, and which are entitled outer because they depend on what we call "outer sense," whose intuition is space. Space itself, however, is nothing but an inner mode of representation in which certain perceptions are connected with one another. . . . [379] Neither the transcendental object which underlies outer appearances nor that which underlies inner intuition, is in itself either matter or a thinking being, but a ground (to us unknown) of the appearances which supply to us the empirical concept of the former as well as of the latter mode of existence.

From the "Transcendental Aesthetics," to [215] which I referred first, I only want to cite the following passages concerning the transcendental ideality of time. [A 36] Against this theory, which admits the empirical reality of time, but denies its absolute and transcendental reality, I have heard men of intelligence so unanimously voicing an objection, that I must suppose it to occur spontaneously to every reader to whom this way of thinking is unfamiliar. The objection is this. Alterations are real, this being proved by change of our own representations— even if all outer appearances, together with their alterations, be denied. Now al-


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

terations are possible only in time, and time is therefore something real. There is no difficulty in meeting this objection. I grant the whole argument. Certainly time is something real, namely, the real form of inner intuition. It has therefore subjective reality in respect of inner experience; that is, I really have the representation of time and of my determinations in it. Time is therefore to be regarded as real, not indeed as object but as the mode of representation of myself as object. If without this condition of sensibility I could intuit myself, or be intuited by another being, the very same determinations which we now represent to ourselves as alterations would yield knowledge into which the representation of time, and therefore also of alteration, would in no way enter. . . .8o [A 36 note] I can indeed say that my representations follow one another; but this is only to say that we are conscious of them as in a time-sequence, that is, in conformity with the form of inner sense. . . . So what we realists call actual objects or things independent of our representations are for the transcendental idealist only internal beings which exhibit nothing at all of a thing that may perhaps be there outside us, or to which [217] the appearance may refer. Rather, these internal beings are merely subjective determinations of the mind, entirely void of anything truly objective. ". . . Representations," nothing but representations, are [these objects] *44 which, in the manner in which they are represented, as external beings, or as series of alterations, have no independent existence outside our thoughts." [A 491] "[They]," i.e. these objects that are only appearances, that display nothing, absolutely nothing, objective, but everywhere only themselves, "are the mere play of our representations, and in the end reduce to determinations of inner sense." [A 101] [218] Hence: [Also] the order and regularity in the appearances, which we entitle nature, we ourselves introduce. We could never find them in appearances, had we not ourselves, or the nature of our mind, originally set them there. . . . [A 125]. . . . Although we learn many laws through experience, they are only special determinations of still higher laws, and the highest of these, under which the others all stand, issue a priori from the understanding itself. They are not borrowed from experience; on the contrary, they have to confer upon appearances their conformity to law, and so to make experience possible. Thus the understanding is something more than a power of formulating rules through comparison of ap-

*44_ For this reason Kant calls the idealists who are not, merely empirical realists, dreaming idealists—because they take the objects, which are mere representations, to be things in themselves.

David Hume on Faith


pearances; it is itself the lawgiver of nature. Save through it, nature, that is, synthetic unity of the manifold of appearances, according to rules, would not exist at all (for appearances, as such, cannot exist outside us—[219] they exist only in our sensibility). . . . 45 [220] I trust that these brief excerpts suffice to prove that the Kantian philosopher goes right against the spirit of his system whenever he says that the objects produce impressions on the senses through which they arouse sensations, and that in this way they bring about representations. For according to the Kantian hypothesis, the empirical object, which is always only appearance, cannot exist outside us and be something more than a representation. On the contrary, according to this same hypothesis we know not the least of the transcendental object. Whenever objects are being considered, that is not what we are discussing. At best this concept is a problematic one based on the entirely subjective form of our thought which pertains only to the sensibility proper to us. Experience does not yield it, nor can experience yield it in any way—for whatever is not an appearance can never be an object of experience, and appearance, or [221] the fact that some affection of the sense or other is in me, does not establish any reference on the part of representations of this sort to an object of any kind. It is the understanding that adds the object to the appearance by combining the manifold of the latter into one consciousness. We say that we cognize the object only when we have produced a synthetic unity in the manifold of intuition, and the concept of this unity is the representation of the object = x. This = x, however, is not the transcendental object. For about the latter we never know anything. And it is only assumed as intelligible

*45. One must be careful not to mistake this Kantian claim with that other one which Leibniz has so many times amplified and which is so beautifully and intelligibly presented in Mendelssohn's Phaedon, namely that order, harmony, or any agreement of a manifold, can only be found as such, not in things, but in a thinking being who takes the manifold and holds it united in one representation. For according to this latter claim, the order, and agreement, that I perceive is by no means merely subjective. Rather, their conditions lie outside me in the object, and I am necessitated by the constitution of the object to combine its parts in this way and no other. In this case, therefore, the object is the law-giver for the understanding also with respect to the concept that the latter constructs in conformity to it. The concept is given through the object in all its parts and relations; only the conceiving as such lies in me alone.42


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

cause of appearance in general simply in order that we may have something corresponding to sensibility understood as receptivity. *46 However much it may be contrary to the spirit of Kantian philosophy [222] to say of the objects that they make impressions on the senses and that in this way they bring about representations, still it is not possible to see how even the Kantian philosophy could find entry into itself without this presupposition and manage some statement of its hypothesis. For even the word "sensibility" is without any meaning, unless we understand by it a distinct real intermediary between one real thing and another, an actual means from something to something else; and it would be meaningless, too, if the concepts of "outside one another" and "being combined," of "action" and "passion," of "causality" and "dependence," were not already contained in the concept of it as real and objective determinations. In fact, they are contained in such a way that the absolute universality and necessity of these concepts must equally be given as a prior presupposition. I must admit that I was held up not a little by this difficulty in my study of the Kantian philosophy, so much so that for several years running I had to start from the beginning over and over again with the Critique [223] of Pure Reason, because I was incessantly going astray on this point, viz. that without that presupposition I could not enter into the system, but with it I could not stay within it. It is plainly impossible to stay within the system with that presupposition, since the presupposition is based on the conviction of the objective validity of our perception of objects outside us as things in themselves, not merely subjective appearances; and it rests equally on the conviction of the objective validity of our representations of the necessary connections of these objects to one another and of their essential relations as objectively real determinations. But these are assertions which cannot in any way be reconciled with Kantian philosophy, since the whole intention of the latter is to prove that the objects (as well as their relations) are merely subjective beings, mere determinations of our own self, [224] with absolutely no existence outside us. For even if it can be conceded, under Kant's view, that a transcendental somewhat might correspond to these merely subjective beings, which are only determinations of our own being, as their cause, where this cause is, and what kind of connection it has with its effect, remains hidden in the deepest obscurity. We have already seen, moreover, that we cannot attain to any experience of this transcendental something, or become in the least aware of it, either from near or from far, but that all the objects of our experience are mere appearances, the *46. Critique of Pure Reason, pp. [A] 246, 3, 254, 115 [in fact, 105], 494.

David Hume on Faith


matter and real content of which is nothing but our own sensation through and through. With respect to the particular determinations of this sensation, (its source I mean) or, to speak the language of Kantian philosophy, the manner in which we are affected by objects, we are in the most complete ignorance. And as for the [225] inner elaboration or digestion of this matter through which it receives its form, so that the sensations in us become objects for us—this rests on a spontaneity of our being, the principle of which is once more totally unknown, and all that we know about it is that its primitive manifestation is that of a blind faculty which combines forwards and backwards and which we call imagination. But since the concepts that originate in this way, together with the judgments and propositions that grow out of them, have no validity except with reference to our sensations, our whole cognition is nothing but the consciousness of the combinations of determinations of our own self. And from these we cannot pass by inference to anything else at all. Our universal representations, concepts and principles express only the essential form to which every particular representation and every particular judgment must conform because of the constitution of our nature, in order to be capable of being assumed and joined together into one universal or transcendental [226] consciousness, and in this way obtain a relative truth or a relative objective validity. But if we abstract from the human form, these laws of our intuition and thought are without any meaning or validity, and do not yield the slightest information about the laws of nature in itself. Neither the principle of sufficient reason, nor even the proposition that nothing can come from nothing, apply to things in themselves. In brief, our entire cognition contains nothing, nothing whatsoever, that could have any truly objective meaning at all. I ask: How is it possible to reconcile the presupposition of objects that produce impressions on our senses, and in this way arouse representations, with an hypothesis intent on abolishing all the grounds by which the presupposition could be supported? Consider what we showed right at the beginning of this essay, viz. that according to the Kantian system space and all the things in it are in us and nowhere else; [227] that all alterations, even those of our own inner state, which we believe we are immediately aware of through the sequence of our thoughts, are only modes of representations, and are not proof of any objective alteration, or of any succession of things either inside us or outside us. Consider the fact that all the principles of the understanding only express subjective conditions which are laws of our thought and not laws of nature in itself at all; on the contrary, they are without any truly objective content and use. Consider these points properly, and decide whether it is possible to


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

maintain along with them the presupposition of objects that produce impressions on our senses and by so doing bring about representations. You will find it impossible unless you give an alien meaning to every word, and a totally mystical sense to the whole complex. For according to the common use of language, we must mean by "object" a thing that [228] would be present outside us in a transcendental sense. And how could we come by any such thing in Kantian philosophy? Perhaps because in the representations that we call appearances we feel passive? But to feel passive and to suffer is only one half of a condition that cannot be thought on the basis of this half alone. It would be explicitly required in this case, too, that it is not possible to think the condition by this half alone. So we would have a sensation of cause and effect understood transcendentally, and we would be able to infer [the existence of] things outside us in a transcendental sense in virtue of it, as well as their necessary connections with one another. But since the whole of transcendental idealism would collapse as a result, and would be left with no application or reason for being, whoever professes it must disavow that presupposition. For it must not even be probable to him that there be things present outside us in a transcendental sense, or that they have connections with us which we would be [ 2 2 9 ] in a position of perceiving in any way at all. If he were ever to find this even just probable, if he were but to believe it at a distance, then he would have to go out of transcendental idealism, and land himself in truly unspeakable contradictions. The transcendental idealist must have the courage, therefore, to assert the strongest idealism that was ever professed, and not be afraid of the objection of speculative egoism, for it is impossible for him to pretend to stay within his system if he tries to repel from himself even just this last objection. If Kantian philosophy were to distance itself even by a hairsbreadth from the transcendental ignorance that transcendental idealism professes, it would not only lose every point of support at that very moment but be forced also to renounce what it alleges to be to be its main advantage completely—namely, that it sets reason at rest. For this presumption has no other base than [230] the absolute and unqualified ignorance thai is claimed by transcendental idealism. But this ignorance would lose all of its power if even a single conjecture were to rise above it and win from it even the slightest advantage.

Be sober of head and mistrustful of friends; hinges are these on which wisdom depends.81

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza in Letters to Moses Mendelssohn [Excerpts]

Breslau: Lowe, 1789 Second edition

This page intentionally left blank

{vii. Preface}


Concerning Man's Freedom


Man does not have Freedom

i. The possibility of the existence of all things known to us is supported by, and refers to, the coexistence of other individual things. We are not in a position to form the representation of a being that subsists completely on its own. n. The results of the manifold relations of existence to coexistence are expressed in living creatures through sensations. in. We call "desire" or "repulsion" the inner mechanistic behaviour of a living nature as conditioned by its sensations; or, the sensed relation of the inner conditions of a living nature's existence and persistence to the {xxvii} outer conditions of this very being, or also, only the sensed relation of the inner conditions among themselves, is mechanistically connected with a movement which we call "desire" or "repulsion." iv. What lies at the foundation of all the various desires of a living nature, we call its original natural "impulse"; this constitutes the very being of the thing. Its business is to preserve and augment the faculty of existing of the particular nature of which it is the impulse, v. We could call this original natural impulse "desire a priori." The mass of individual desires are only so many occasional applications and modifications of this unalterable universal one. vi. A desire can be said to be absolutely a priori if it pertains to each individual being without distinction of genus, species, and gender, {xxvii} inasmuch as they all equally strive simply to preserve themselves in existence.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

vn. A completely indeterminate faculty is a non-thing. Every determination, however, presupposes something already determined; it is the result of a law, and its fulfilment. Hence a priori desire, whether of the primary or the secondary species, also presupposes a priori laws, vin. The original impulse of rational being, like the impulse of any other being, consists in an unceasing striving to preserve and augment the faculty of existing of the particular nature which it determines, ix. The existence of rational natures is said to be "personal," as distinct from all other natures. This personal existence consists in the consciousness that a particular being has of its identity, and results from a higher degree of consciousness in general.* {xxix} x. The natural impulse of a rational being, or rational desire, is therefore necessarily directed to the enhancement of the degree of personality, i.e. the degree of living existence itself. XL Rational desire in general, or the impulse of the rational being as such, we call "will." xii. The existence of each and every finite being is a successive one. Its personality rests on memory and reflection; its limited but distinct cognition, on concepts, hence on abstraction and on verbal, written, or other signs. X I I L The law of the will is to act according to concepts of conformity and contextuality, i.e. according to principles; the will is the faculty of practical principles. xiv. Whenever a rational being does not act in conformity with its principles, {xxx} it does not act according to its will—it acts, not in accordance with a rational desire, but an irrational one. xv. Through the satisfaction of each and every irrational desire, the identity of a rational being is disrupted; hence its personality, which is grounded in rational existence, is injured, and the quantity of living existence is thereby diminished in the same measure, xvi. The degree of living existence that produces the person is only a type and mode of living existence in general, not a special existence or essence. Therefore the person attributes to itself not only those actions that result in it in accordance to principles but also those that are the effects of irrational desires and blind inclinations too. xvii. Whenever a man has transgressed his principles, being blinded by

* In the third edition of 1819 Jacobi adds: "a kind that comes with the power to discern."

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1789)


an irrational desire, {xxxi} he is later wont to say, when he feels the evil consequences of his actions: "It serves me right." For he is conscious of the identity of his being, and hence he must look upon himself as the author of the unpleasant situation in which he finds himself, and he must experience a most embarrassing discord within himself, xvin. So far as it is built upon one fundamental impulse alone, the whole system of practical reason is grounded upon this experience, xix. If man had only one desire, he would not have any concept of right and wrong at all. But he has several desires, and he cannot satisfy all of them in equal measure; on the contrary, there are thousands of cases where the possibility of satisfying one of them, removes the possibility of satisfying the others. However, if all these different desires are only modifications of a single original desire, then this last provides the principle according to which the {xxxii} different desires can be weighed against one another, and the relation determined according to which they can be satisfied without the person running into contradiction and enmity with itself. xx. An inner [measure or] right of this kind is built up in each man mechanistically, by virtue of the identity of his personality. External right, which men freely concede to one another, and establish without coercion whenever they enter into a civil union, is always just a copy of the inner right, publicly established among the individual members. I appeal here to the history of all peoples of whom we have any detailed information at all. xxi. The greater perfection to which inner right attains according to circumstances follows only as the continuation and elaboration of the very same mechanism that brought about the lesser perfection. All principles rest on desires and experience, {xxxiii} and to the extent that they are actually complied with, they presuppose an activity already determined from elsewhere. They can never be the beginning or the first cause of an action. The aptitude and readiness to cultivate effective principles, or to accept them practically, is proportionate to the capacity to receive representations; to the faculty to change these representations into concepts; to the vivacity and energy of thought; and to the degree of rational existence. xxn. The beginning (or the a priori) of principles in general is the original desire of a rational being to preserve its own particular existence, i.e. the person, and to subjugate anything that would injure its identity. xxiii. From this very impulse there flows a natural love and obligation to justice towards others. A rational being cannot distinguish itself qua


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

rational being (abstractly) from another rational being. The /and Man are {xxxiv} one; the He and Man are one; therefore the He and I are one. The Love of the person therefore limits the love of the individuum, and necessitates my not holding myself in high regard. But in order to avoid extending this last condition theoretically to the point where the individual might be totally destroyed, leaving us with a mere personified nothingness, more precise determinations are required. These have already been alluded to in the preceding, but is not our purpose to discuss them further here. It suffices for us that, along this way, we have attained to a clear insight into the origin of the moral laws that we call apodeictic laws of practical reason; and that we are now able to conclude that, even when developed to its highest form, simple impulse conjoined with reason exhibits unqualified mechanism alone and no freedom, although an appearance of freedom arises because of the often conflicting interests of the individuum and the person, and the varying fortunes of a mastery to which the person can lay claim only when conjoined with clear consciousness. {XXXV}


Man has Freedom xxiv. It is undeniable that the existence of all finite things rests on coexistence, and that we are not in a position to form the representation of a being that subsists completely on its own. It is equally undeniable however, that we are even less in a position to form the representation of an absolutely dependent being. Such a being would have to be entirely passive. Yet it could not be passive, since anything that is not already something cannot simply be determined to be something; in what has no property, none can be generated simply through relations; indeed, not even a relation is possible with respect to it. xxv. But if a completely mediated existence or being is not conceivable but is a non-thing, then a completely mediated, i.e. wholly mechanistic, action, is equally a non-thing: hence mechanism is in itself only something accidental, and it {xxxvi} must everywhere have a purely autonomous activity at its foundation. xxvi. Since we recognize that in its existence, and consequently also in its action and passion, every finite thing is necessarily supported by other finite things to which it relates, we must equally recognize the subjugation of each and every individual being to mechanistic laws. For, to the

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 789)


extent that its being and action is mediated, to that extent it must absolutely rest on the laws of mechanics.* xxvu. The cognition of what mediates the existence of things means "distinct cognition"; whatever does not allow mediation, cannot be distinctly known by us. xxvin. Absolutely autonomous activity excludes mediation; it is impossible that we should somehow cognize its inner being distinctly, xxix. Hence the possibility {xxxvii} of absolutely autonomous activity cannot be known; its actuality can be known, however, for it is immediately displayed in consciousness, and is demonstrated by the deed. xxx. This autonomous activity is called "freedom" inasmuch as it can be opposed to, and can prevail over, the mechanism which constitutes the sensible existence of an individual being. xxxi. Among living beings we only know man to be endowed with the degree of self-conscious autonomous activity that brings the impetus and the calling to free actions with it. xxxn. So freedom does not consist in some absurd faculty to make decisions without grounds; even less does it consist in the choice of the most useful, or the choice of rational desires. For any such choice, even if it comes about according to the most abstract concepts, always still is a mere mechanistic event. On the contrary, this freedom consists {xxxviii} essentially in the independence of the will from desires. xxxni. Will is purely autonomous activity elevated to the degree of consciousness that we call "reason." xxxiv. The independence and inner omnipotence of the will, or the possibility that intellectual being can have dominion over sensible reality, is de facto granted by all men. xxxv. We know that the philosophers of antiquity, especially the Stoics, did not allow any comparison between things of desire and those of honour. The objects of desire, they said, can be measured against the sensation of the pleasing, and the concepts of what is beneficial can be measured against one another, and one desire can be sacrificed to another. The principle of desire, however, falls outside any relation to the principle of honour which has {xxxix} one object alone, viz. the perfection of human nature per se, autonomous activity, freedom. Therefore all transgressions were alike to them, and the question was always just this: from which of the two incommensurable principles (which could never possibly * In the third edition of 1819 Jacobi adds: "Every action is to some extent the action of something else."


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

come into real collision with one another) did the action proceed? They would quite rightly only allow a man to be called free who lived just the life of his soul and determined himself according to the laws of his nature, hence only obeyed himself and always acted on his own. On the other hand, they saw mere slaves in those who, determined by the things of desire, lived in accordance with the law of these things, and subjugated themselves to such things so that they were unceasingly altered by them, and moved to act as suited their desires. xxxvi. However much our enlightened age may have arisen above religious fantasies, or the mysticism of an Epictetus1 or an Antoninus,2 we have not yet advanced so far in the distinctness and {xl} profundity of our ideas as to have cut ourselves loose from all feeling of honour. But as long as a spark of this feeling still dwells in man, there is an irrefutable witness to freedom, an invincible faith in the inner allmight of the will, alive in him. He can deny this faith with his lips, but the faith abides in his conscience, and bursts forth unexpectedly sometimes, as in the Mahomet of the poet, where the prophet, withdrawn into himself with his mind in turmoil, utters the dreadful words: There is remorse after all!3

xxxvii. But this faith cannot be totally denied, not even with the lips. For who would want to be known as one who is not always capable of resisting temptation to a shameful deed but must hesitate instead, weigh advantages and disadvantages and think of degree or magnitude"? And that is how we judge other men too. For if we see someone give the pleasant precedence over the {xli} useful; or choose crooked means to his ends; or contradict himself in his wishes and aspirations, we only find that he is acting irrationally, and foolishly. If he is remiss in the fulfilment of his duties; if he defiles himself with vice; if he is unjust and given to violent acts, we can hate him, loathe him, but reject him altogether we cannot. But if he deliberately denies the feeling of honour; if he shows that he can bear inner shame, or that he no longer feels self-contempt—then we mercilessly reject him. He is filth under our feet. xxxvin. Where do these unconditional judgments arise from? whence come these limitless presumptions and demands, which are not restricted just to actions but lay claim to feeling itself, and demand its existence apodeictically? xxxix. Are we to suppose that the validity of these presumptions, these demands, is based on some {xlii} formula, perhaps on the insight into the

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1789)


right connection, the indisputable truth of the consequence, in the following proposition: "If A equals B, and C equals A, then B equals C"? This is how Spinoza proved that man, so far as he is a rational being, would rather give up his life, even if he has no faith in the immortality of the soul, than save himself from death through a lie.*1 And in abstracto Spinoza is right. It is just as impossible for a man of pure reason to lie or to cheat, as for the three angles of a triangle not to equal two right angles. But will a real being endowed with reason be so driven into a corner by the abstractum of his reason? Will he let himself be made such a total prisoner through a mere play of words? Not for a moment! If honour is to be trusted, and if a man can keep his word, then quite another spirit must dwell in him than the spirit of syllogism.*2 {xliii} XL. I hold this other spirit to be the breath of God in the work of clay. XL i. This spirit gives proof of its existence first in the understanding, for without it the understanding would be a miraculous mechanism that not only enables the seeing man to be led by the blind, but also makes the necessity of this arrangement demonstrable through inferences of reason. Who controls the syllogism while it stipulates its premises? Only this spirit, through its presence in the deeds of freedom, and in an indestructible consciousness. 3 x LI i. Just as this consciousness is the very conviction that the intelligence is effective by its own strength; that it is the highest power, and indeed the only one truly known to us, so too it teaches us {xliv} to have immediate faith in a first and supreme Intelligence, in an intelligent author and law giver of nature, in a God who is a Spirit. XLIII. But this faith first reaches its full force and becomes religion, when the faculty of pure love develops in man's heart. XLIV. Pure Love? Is there such a love? How can it be proven, and where is its object to be found? XLV. If I answer, "The principle of pure love is the same as that of whose existence, qua principle of honour, we already made certain," then the reader may well believe that he has all the more right to insist that I must expound the object of it. *i. Eth., Part iv, prop. Ixxii. *2. Man's reason, {xliii} abstracted from man himself and from every incentive, is a mere ens rationis that can neither act nor react, neither think nor act. See p. 423 of this work [i.e. Supplement vu]. *3- See pp. 28 & 29 of this work [pp. 19-20 of first edition].


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

XLVI. So my answer is this: the object of pure love is the same one that Socrates beheld. It is the theion* in man; veneration of this {xlv} divine element in him is what lies at the ground of every virtue, of all feeling of honour. XLvii. I cannot construct either this impulse, nor its object. To be able to do that, I would have to know how substances are created, and how a necessary being is possible. But the following will perhaps yet clarify my conviction about its existence somewhat more. XLVI 11. If the universe is not God, but a creation; if it is the effect of a free intelligence; then the original tendency of each and every being must be die expression of a divine will. This expression of God's will in the creature is its original law, and the power to fulfil this law must also be given in it necessarily. This law, which is the condition of the existence of the being itself, its original impulse, its own will, cannot be compared to natural laws that are only the results of relations and rest everywhere upon mediation, {xlvi} Every individual being, however, belongs to nature; hence it is also subject to natural laws, and has a double tendency. XLIX. The tendency towards the earthly is the sensible impulse or the principle of desire; the tendency towards the eternal is the intellectual impulse, the principle of pure love. L. If anyone wants me to discuss this double tendency further; if he queries the possibility of such a relation, and the theory of its terms, then I shall quite properly decline any such investigation, since the object of a theory of creation is to state the conditions of the unconditioned. It is sufficient that the existence of this double tendency, and its relation, should be demonstrated through action, and recognized by reason. Just as all men attribute freedom to themselves, and set their honour only in the possession of it, so they all attribute a faculty of pure love to themselves too, and a {xlvii} feeling of its overwhelming energy upon which the possibility of freedom rests. They all want to be lovers of virtue, not of the advantages connected with it; and they all want to know of a beauty that is not just a source of pleasure; a joy that is not mere titillation. LI. We call the actions that actually proceed from this faculty "divine"; and their source, the dispositions to these actions, we call "godly dispositions." These actions are also accompanied by a joy which cannot be compared to any other joy: this is the joy that God himself has in his existence. LI i. Joy is pleasure in existence; just as everything that challenges existence brings pain and sadness with it. Joy's source is the source of life * divine

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 789)


and all activity. But if its affect only refers to a transitory existence, then it is itself transitory: the soul of the animal. If its object {xlviii} is the unchanging and eternal, then it is the very power of the Deity, and its booty, immortality.

[The text of Mendelssohn's memoranda in reply tojacobi's account of his meeting with Lessing appended to Mendelssohn's letter to Jacobi of i August 1784, mentioned on p. 52 of the first edition, is reproduced in the second edition of 1789 in its entirety, as follows:]


Supplement MEMORANDA

For the Attention of Herr Jacobi You say:4 "With every coming-to-be within the infinite, no matter how one dresses it up in images; with every change within the infinite, something out of nothing is posited." [And you believe that] "Spinoza therefore rejected every transition from the infinite to the finite; in general all causae transitoriae, secundariae or remotae altogether; and instead of an emanating En-soph he posited only an immanent one, an indwelling cause of the world, eternally unalterable within itself {79}, one and the same, taken together with all its consequences." Here, I come up against difficulties that I cannot myself resolve. ( i ) If a series without beginning did not seem impossible to Spinoza, then certainly the coming-to-be of things by way of emanation does not necessarily imply a becoming out of nothing. (2) Assume that for Spinoza these things are finite: then their indwelling within the infinite is no more comprehensible (indeed, in my opinion, it is even less so) than their emanation from it. If the infinite cannot effect anything finite, it can also not think anything finite. Generally, Spinoza's system does not seem apt to the resolution of dif-

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1789)


ficulties of this sort. Difficulties of this kind are bound to arise at the level of thoughts, as well as with respect to their actual objects. What cannot become objectively actual, cannot be thought subjectively either. The very same difficulty that Spinoza encounters in letting the finite be actual apart from God, he must, I say, come upon again {80} when he transposes the finite into the divine essence, and considers it as the thought of the Divinity. Subsequently you explain a passage of Spinoza that Lessing refers to as what is most obscure in him—and Leibniz*4 found it equally so, and did not quite understand. Your view is that the infinite cause, as you put it, explicitly lacks both understanding and will since, in consequence of its transcendental unity and thoroughgoing absolute infinity, it can have no object of thought or volition. You further explain that your only intention is to deny that the first cause, being of infinite nature, has individual thoughts, or individual determinations of the will, and you give as reason, that each and every individual concept must derive from another individual concept, and must refer immediately to an actually present object. Hence you only want to grant to the first cause {81} the inner and universal primal material of the understanding and will. I must confess that I can understand this explanation as little as I understand the words of Spinoza himself. The first cause has thoughts, but no understanding. It has thoughts, because according to Spinoza these are a principal property of the one true substance. Yet it has no individual thoughts, it has only their primal material. Which universal can be conceived without the individual? Isn't any such universal even less intelligible than a formless matter, a primal material without a mould, a being that has only universal, but no particular, characteristics? You say: absolute infinity has no object of thought. But is not this infinity its own object of thought? are not its properties and modes the object of thought for it? And if it has no object of thought, no understanding, how can thought be its attribute all the same? How can it be at the same time the one single thinking substance? Moreover, its modes, or the contingent things, do actually have individual determinations {82} of the will: so how is it that the substance itself only has the universal primal material of these determinations? In Spinoza I can at least understand the half of this. He does put free will simply in the aimless indeterminate choice of something perfectly indifferent. It seemed to him that it can belong to a mode of the Divinity inasmuch as the latter represents a finite being, but he rightly *4- Theod., §173.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the NovelAllwill

denies any such aimless arbitrary will to the Divinity itself, in so far as it is an infinite being. In his opinion, the cognition of the good through which a free choice is brought about belongs among the properties of the understanding, and is to this extent of the most consummate necessity; so all consequences, whether they proceed from the knowledge of the true and false or from the knowledge of the good and evil, must be equally necessary according to his theory. But since you, Sir, accept the system of the determinists, and do not allow even to men any other choice except one derived from the final practical consideration of all motives and incentives, I don't see any reason why {83} you should deny that the infinite cause has an eternally pre-determined choice of this kind. Of course, since you deny true individuality to die infinite, from this point of view no will, or freedom, can pertain to it either, since these presuppose actual individual substantiality. But this is not the ground that you anywhere propose; and this seems to me to be direcdy opposed to Spinoza's system, as I shall later have occasion to elaborate further. According to Spinoza's conception, whatever occurs in the visible world is of the strictest necessity, since it is grounded so (and not otherwise) in the divine essence and in the possible modifications of its properties. For Spinoza, what does not actually occur, is also not possible, not thinkable. So if Spinoza had granted that only the principle of contradiction establishes a limit to the inner possibility of things, as Leibniz, Bayle and others maintain, it would indeed have followed, as Leibniz remarks with reference to the cited passage, that all the romances of Scudery and all the fabrications of Ariosto, {84} must be accepted as actual events.5 But Spinoza also held to be impossible that which does not contain contradiction, yet is not grounded in the modes of God as necessary cause of all things. Here you see the pathway by which Spinoza too would have arrived at the ens perfectissimum, if he could only have gone along with the determinists regarding the concept of freedom. Only according to the system of the ens perfectissimum is it possible to comprehend why this series of determinations, and no other, has been actualized within the divine essence, or, to speak in the language of Spinoza, why no other has been possible. What you say about "consequence" and "duration" in this connection has my full assent, except that I would not say that they are mere "illusion." They are necessary determinations of restricted thought, and hence "appearances" that must nonetheless be distinguished from mere "illusion." Your salto mortale is a healthy expedient {85} of nature. Whenever I have been clambering along the way of speculation for any length of

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1789)


time, through thorns and shrubs, I seek to orient myself by means of bon sens, and look round at least for the way by which I can get back to it. Since I cannot deny that intentions exist, to have intentions is one possible property of the spirit; and inasmuch as having intentions is not a mere deficiency on the part of spirit, it must also pertain to some spirit in the highest degree possible; hence there is, besides thought, yet a will and a deed that can be properties of the infinite, and therefore must exist. The device proposed by Lessing at this point is entirely in keeping with his whimsicality. It is one of those leaps of fancy with which he made a show of surpassing himself, so to speak, and just for that reason never quite moved from where he was. To wonder whether there might not be something that not only transcends all concepts but lies completely outside the concept, this is what I call surpassing oneself. My credo is: what I cannot think to be true, does not trouble me with doubt. {86} A question that I cannot comprehend, I also cannot answer; for me it is as good as no question at all. It has never occurred to me to want to climb onto my own shoulders in order to have a less obstructed view. In one of his comedies Lessing has someone who believes he is seeing magic say: "This light is not really burning; it only seems to burn. It's not shining; it only makes a show of shining."6 The first doubt has some grounds; but the second contradicts itself. Whatever appears, must actually be appearing. Qua phenomenon, each and every phenomenon is supremely evident. Subjectively considered, all thoughts are quite conclusively true. So the power to think is a truly primal power too, one that cannot be grounded in a higher original power. It seems that you do not put any special weight on this strange notion of our friend Lessing either. {87} But when you say on p. 21 that the one infinite substance of Spinoza has no determinate and complete existence on its own apart from individual things, you detach me at once from the whole conception that I had formed of Spinozism. So, according to this system, do individual things have their own determinate actual existence, and is their ensemble a one as well, but without determinate complete existence? How am I to understand this? i.e. How can I reconcile it with your other utterances? If Sp. thought of freedom as Leibniz did, as you remark in what follows, then Spinoza must also have conceded that, with respect to the most perfect cause, the knowledge of good and evil cannot be without consequence, any more than the knowledge of the true and false; that


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

the most perfect cause must be pleased therefore by the good, and displeased by evil, that is, it must have intentions, {88} and when it acts, it must do so in accordance with intentions. Here again is a place where the philosopher of the schools meets with the Spinozist, and where the two clasp one another in brotherly embrace. On p. 26 I come across a passage that is absolutely unintelligible to me. Thought, you say, is not the source of substance, but substance is the source of thought. Hence a non-thinking something must be assumed before thought as being first—a something that must be thought as prior to everything, if not in its very possibility*5 then at least in representation, being, and inner nature. It appears here that our friend wants to think something which is no thought at all; that he wants to perform a leap {89} into the void, where reason cannot follow. You want to think of something that precedes all thought, and is not therefore thinkable even by the most perfect understanding of all. In my opinion, the source of all these illusory concepts lies in your holding extension and thought to be the sole matters and objects of thought, and these only to the extent that they actually exist. I don't know on what ground you can presuppose this as established. Cannot thinking being be both material and object to itself? Don't we know how we feel whenever we suffer pain, hunger, thirst, cold, or heat? whenever we fear, hope, love, hate, etc.? Call these the thoughts, concepts, or sentiments and affects of the soul; it suffices that in all these affects the soul has neither extension nor movement for its object. This is true even as regards the sentiments of sense: what does sound, colour, or physical taste, have in common with extension and movement? {90} I know very well that Locke has accustomed philosophers to consider extension, impenetrability, and movement, as primary qualities, and to reduce to them the appearances of the other senses (as secondary qualities). But what ground has the Spinozist for accepting any of this? In the end, can there not be a spirit who conceives extension and movement simply as possible, even though they are not really there? This must be all the more feasible for Spinoza, for whom extension is a property of the one infinite substance. I pass over the many witty notions with which our friend Lessing subsequently entertained you, and of which it is difficult to say whether they *5. This is a mistake in writing or print. The first edition of my Letters, and so my manuscript, reads "actuality."

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1789)


are philosophy or play. When he was in the mood, Lessing was given to coupling the most disparate of ideas, just to see to what products they might give birth. From this random cast of ideas there resulted at times some quite peculiar considerations, {91} which he knew how to make good use of afterwards. For the most part, however, they were just fancies, though entertaining enough at the coffee table. Everything that you have him say on p. 33 is of this sort: his ideas about the economy of the world-soul; or about Leibniz's entelechies which are supposedly a mere effect of the body; his dabbling in weather making; his infinite boredom; and his other extravagant ideas, the kind that shine brightly for a moment, crackle and then fizzle out. I shall also leave untouched the noble retreat under the banner of faith which you propose for your own part. It is totally in the spirit of your religion which imposes on you the duty of suppressing doubt through faith. The Christian philosopher can afford the pastime of teasing the student of nature; of confronting him with puzzles which, like will-o'-the-wisps, lure him now to one corner, and now to the other, but always slip away even from his most assured grasp. My religion {92} knows no duty to resolve doubts of this kind otherwise than through reason; it commands no faith in eternal truths. I have one more ground, therefore, to seek conviction.—I come to the place, p. 41, where you yet again try to clarify the principle of actuality, following Spinoza. "Spinoza's God," you say, "is the pure principle of the actuality in everything actual, of being in everything existent; is thoroughly without individuality, and absolutely infinite. The unity of this God rests on the identity of the indiscernible and hence does not exclude a sort of plurality. However, considered merely in its transcendental unity, the Divinity must do without any actuality whatever, for actuality can only be found expressed in determinate individuals." If I understand this rightly, only determinate individual beings are actually existing things; {93} the infinite, on the other hand, or the principle of actuality, is based only on the ensemble, the sum-concept, of all these individualities. So it is a mere collectivum quid* and lacks all substantiality apart from that of its constituent members. But now, every collectivum rests on the thought that binds it together; for outside thoughts, or objectively considered, every individual is an isolated thing on its own account; only relation makes each of them a part of the whole, a member of the ensemble. But relation is an operation of thought. You must help me, therefore, out of this muddle in which I find myself with respect to Spinozism. * collective something


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

I ask, first of all, where this thought, this collectivism, the relation of the individual to the whole, subsists. Not in the individual, for each individual subsists only for itself. If we were to deny this, we would not only have a kind of plurality in the Divinity, but a truly innumerable multiplicity. But neither does this thought subsist in a collection; for that claim would lead to obvious absurdities. So if this {94} pan, this ensemble, is to have truth, it must subsist in an actual, transcendental, unity that excludes all plurality—but then we would have slid back, imperceptibly, into the wellworn tracks of the philosophy of the schools. Or again: Until now I have always believed that according to Spinoza the one individual infinite alone has true substantiality and that the manifold finite is a mere modification or thought of the infinite. You seem to turn this around. You assign true substantiality to the individual, so that in consequence the whole has to be a mere thought on the individual's part. You drive me in a circle from which I cannot escape. For, in other circumstances, you also seem to agree with me that according to Spinoza only One Substance, transcendental and infinite, is possible, and that the properties of this substance are infinite extension and infinite thoughts. For me, however, the greatest difficulty that I find in Spinoza's system lies {95} in his wanting to derive the unrestricted from the ensemble of the restricted. How can degree be strengthened by addition? How can intensity be strengthened through an increment of extension? Whereas in all other systems the transition from the infinite to the finite is difficult to conceive, in Spinoza's system, so it seems to me, the return from the finite to the intensive infinite is simply impossible. We never achieve intensification through mere increment, even if the addition proceeds to infinity. If we attribute a quantity to degree, then this is an intensive quantity that cannot be increased through the addition of like things. Clearly the Spinozist must be confusing concepts here, and making multiplicity count as inner intensity. Wolff has already touched upon this objection briefly (in the second Part of his Natural Theology).7 {96} But, as far as I know, no defender of Spinoza has given any answer yet.

[The following is added to page 140 of the first edition, at the end of the footnote that starts on p. 138:] {190} It is my opinion that Spinoza's God has no other properties besides the properties of infinite extension and infinite thought. If Spinoza {191} ascribed infinite properties to God vaguely, even as regards their number, he did so because he defined and demonstrated God's being a priori, whereas it was impossible to demonstrate either the being of certain determinate properties or the non-being of others, both of which he would have had to do if he did not assume infinite attributes, even according to number. But now, only two properties of infinite essence were to be found in the human understanding: extension and thought. Thought, considered in itself, belongs as little to extension, according to Spinoza, as extension, considered in itself, belongs to thought; rather, the two of them are united simply and solely because they are the properties of one and the same indivisible essence. Moreover, it is impossible that any property of substance be more universal, that is, more omnipresent, than any other. But if extension and thought are united for this reason alone, and they are necessarily One Thing in every thing, then the same must also apply to all other properties of substance, and their entire summa must be contained in the content of each and every individual thing. Spinoza himself drew this correct conclusion, {192} and refrained only from developing it in the way that we have just done (see Ethics, Part n, props. 45, 46, 47).8 There was however an acute man in London (he is, alas, anonymous) who put this together in Spinoza's own lifetime. He asked our sage (Epist. Lxv) 9 whether the conciliation of his


The Main Philosophical Writings and theNovelAllwill

a priori and a posteriori did not necessitate the assertion that there are just as many different worlds as there are different properties of God. Spinoza sought a way out, and cited Schol. prop. 7, Part n,10 where he had given the demonstration that there can only be one universe. (Epist. LXVI) 11 That outstanding thinker turned then to this very Scholion, and from it derived the proof that in the concept of every individual thing there must be contained the concepts of all the different attributes. Spinoza replied as in the first instance, and as briefly as possible. I am convinced that Spinoza, who had suffered so many persecutions, and was still exposed to new ones all the time, did not want to give himself away on this point. {193} That is how I explain his reply to another unknown in Paris, who desired to know how Spinoza explained the being of individual things otherwise than Descartes, for whom extended being was set in motion through God. (Epist. Lxxi). 12 Spinoza replied thus: (Epist. LXXII) 13 extended being was for him quite other than in Descartes; perhaps he would explain himself on this subject more clearly in the future, for he had not quite satisfied himself on this yet. Surely, if Spinoza did not think that he had satisfied himself on this score, he must not have thought to have satisfied himself on anything. See Supplement vi and vn.

[The second edition of 1789 is augmented by eight supplements that practically double the size of the first.] {261} Supplement i [Here Jacobi reproduces long excerpts from De la causa, principio e uno (1584) of Giordano Bruno (1548-1600), in German translation but with samples from the Italian original as well. For an English text, see Sidney Thomas Greenburg, The Infinite in Giordano Bruno, with a Translation of His Dialogue, Concerning the Cause, Principle, and the One (New York: King's Crown Press, 1950). Bruno was an Italian Renaissance astrologer and alchemist who also dabbled in magic and advocated a religion of nature. His thought and practices were heavily influenced by the philosophy associated with Hermetic literature. He was eventually burned at the stake in Rome by order of the Inquisition, probably because of his claims to magical power. One can think of two reasons why Jacobi gives him so much prominence here. The first is that, in the dialogue from which the excerpts are taken, Bruno portrays the world and its relation to God in a way that strikingly prefigures Spinoza's picture in the Ethics. The second, and perhaps more important, is that, in the dialogue, Bruno distinguishes between "principle" and "cause" on the basis of the different relation that the two bear to an "effect." Whereas a cause remains outside its effect, a principle is immanent to it and in a sense also dependent on it. The effect of a principle is in turn a principle with respect to the effect's principle, as is the case in the relation of "matter" to "form" and "form" to "matter," where each term of the relation depends on the other for its


The Main Philosophical Writings and theNovelAllwill

function and together therefore constitute an indivisible whole. Once this distinction between principle and cause is established, Bruno goes on to show that the efficient cause of the world is its "soul" and hence also its "formal principle." But from this it is only one step to the conclusion that this formal principle is in turn dependent upon a "material" one, or "potentiality" in general, and that together the two constitute a "universe," i.e. a single self-contained totality. Now the distinction between principle or "ground" on the one hand, and "efficient cause" on the other, is one that Jacobi also makes, but only to claim that the two belong to totally different levels of thought—the first to logical reflection and the second to the perception of the real— and that to identify the two is to confuse the requirements of reflection with the requirements of actual existence. This confusion inexorably leads to a monistic view of reality. The introduction of Bruno here was very likely intended by Jacobi as an object lesson. Bruno makes his move to the One by means of the very identification of formal principle with efficient cause that Jacobi denounces. What is more (and in Jacobi's eyes this point would constitute important evidence for his belief that all metaphysics is ultimately monistic), Bruno backs up his own position with ample references to the authorities of classical metaphysics, Plato, Aristotle, and Democritus included. What Jacobi could not have expected, of course, is that by introducing Bruno to his contemporaries he was in fact contributing one more source of inspiration for the tendency to divinize nature already at work in the incipient Romantic movement of the time. F. W. J. Schelling would entitle his most trenchant statement of monism precisely Bruno, or On the Natural and Divine Principle of Things (1802).14 Bruno is mentioned by Hamann in a letter to Jacobi of 1785.15 After saying that Spinoza's causa sui is the equivalent of Wolffs sufficient ground, Hamann mentions the fact that for years he has been trying, but in vain, to locate Bruno's five Italian dialogues dela [sic] causa, principio ed uno. And he goes on to say that he has always preferred the "principle of the coincidence of opposites" to either the principle of contradiction or that of sufficient reason, neither of which he had been able to stomach since the academic days of his youth.] {307} Supplement n [Here Jacobi reproduces the text of a letter of Hemsterhuis to the Princess Gallitzin, dated 7 September 1787, under the title of Diokks to

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1789)


Dioteme, Concern ing A theism.16 Jacob! had tried to involve Hemsterhuis in his correspondence with Mendelssohn as early as 3 February 1785, but without success. He tried again in April of 1786, in the midst of the furore caused by the publication of his Spinoza Letters. This time he enlisted the help of Princess Gallitzin, who only succeeded in extracting Lettre sur Vatheisme from Hemsterhuis in 1787, after repeated solicitations. Even then Jacobi was not satisfied but, again through the intermediary of Princess Gallitzin, who obliged with hesitation, requested a number of modifications and further elaborations. Hemsterhuis agreed to cooperate, and also gave permission to have his letter published, declaring however that he had no intention of intervening in quarrels between philosophical systems.17 There is in fact nothing intrinsically polemical in the treatment of the theme of atheism found in the letter, which rather reflects Hemsterhuis's extreme dualistic view of man. God is to be found within man's inner spirit, i.e. by abstracting from everything that has to do with the external life of the senses. Atheism is the indirect consequence of man's attempt to understand nature for theoretical and practical purposes. This attempt leads him unwittingly to the production of concepts, and systems of concepts which he then projects onto the things of nature precisely for the sake of transforming them into entities amenable to the grasp of his intelligence. Since these ideal constructions are his own products, they partake of the life of spirit. But since they are now being used in conjunction with nature, through them nature itself begins to acquire for him the appearance of a spiritual life, until finally, granted man's instinctual belief in God and his fear and admiration in the face of the external world, it assumes divine character in his eyes. Atheism is the result of the mistaken identification of the inert content of the objects of the senses with the ideal entities generated by man in response to his own intellectual and practical needs. The difference between earlier forms of materialistic atheism and the post-Cartesian type is due to the more advanced state of the contemporary physical sciences, which makes for a greater intellectualization of matter, and hence for an even more compelling illusion that nature is alive and self-contained. Hemsterhuis concludes by saying {326-27} that this latest "colossal offspring of our foolish pride will only be destroyed when men . . . will become aware that matter is only a word. . . . " Little did Jacobi know at the time that Fichte was to say the same thing hardly a decade later, and that he was to do so precisely in order to meetjacobi's attack on reason head on.] 18


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill


Supplement III

[In response to a comment made in the Allg. Lit. Zeitung, 11 (1788), in a review by A. W. Rehberg (1757-1836, statesman, political writer, and philosopher), Jacobi feels obliged to clarify his statement on p. 15 (p. 8, ist ed.), "I was eight or nine years old when the depth of my childish sense led me to certain remarkable 'views'. . . ." Rehberg's comment is as follows: "Here, however, the Dialogue suddenly breaks off, precisely where a definite clarification would have been most necessary. Is it then any wonder if many a reader has confused the intimation of God here being indicated with the author's peculiar visions of his early years . . .?" (p. 112) Jacobi says:] [ . . . . ] That extraordinary thing was a representation of endless duration, quite independent of any religious concept. At the said age, while I was pondering on eternity a parte ante, it suddenly came over me with such clarity, and seized me with such violence, that I gave out a loud cry and {329} fell into a kind of swoon. A movement in me, quite natural, forced me to revive the same representation as soon as I came to myself, and the result was a state of unspeakable despair. The thought of annihilation, which had always been dreadful to me, now became even more dreadful, nor could I bear the vision of an eternal forward duration any better. [ . . . . ] ! gradually managed not be afflicted by this trial so often, and finally managed to free myself from it altogether. . . . And this had been my situation between roughly the ages of seventeen and twenty-one, {330} when all at once the old appearance came upon me again. I recognized its characteristic dreadful shape, but was steadfast enough to hold it in sight for a second look, and now I knew that it was\ It was, and had enough objective being to afflict every human soul in which it materialized just as much as mine. This representation has often seized me again since then, despite the care that I constantly take to avoid it. I have reason to suspect that I can arbitrarily evoke it in me any time I want; and I believe that it is in my power, were I to do so repeatedly a few times, to take my life within minutes by this means. [ . . . . ] [Jacobi goes on to report two comments made by the recently deceased Hamann with reference to the lines immediately preceding the passage quoted at the beginning, "I was still wearing my child-frock when I began to worry about things of another world." These lines had obviously caught Hamann's imagination, witness the fact that, as Jacobi reports, he

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1789)


went back commenting on them at least ten times. What Jacobi does not say is that the lines had somehow come to signify for Hamann all that he held against Jacobi's position on faith. Hamann showed no sympathy for his friend's youthful preoccupations. In the two reported comments he calls Jacobi's "things of another world" entia rationis, figments of the imagination that reflect our prejudices and mutilate the real world. The first comment is to be found among the random papers from Miinster (Sdmtliche Werke, Vol. 4, Die Mappefrom Munster, p. 456); there Hamann also says (but Jacobi does not report) that "our life's dawn is decked with lightheartedness [Leichtsinn] and curiosity. A child busy with things of another world loses heart [wird blodsinnig] for the elements of the visible world here." The second comment is another version of the same thought which Jacobi says Hamann sent to him from Munster on 7 May 1788, i.e. just before Hamann died.] {335} Supplement iv [Jacobi criticizes Herder's claim that Lessing knew that God was an intelligence but could not understand how he could be a person, since "personality" is a human term.19 With reference to p. 27 of the second edition (p. 17 of the first), Jacobi introduces a long quotation from the first edition of Herder's God. See Johann Gottfried Herder, God: Some Conversations, a translation with a critical introduction and notes by Frederick H. Burkhardt (New York: Veritas Press, 1940) p. 138. He then goes on to say:] {337} [ . . . . ] Of an intelligence without personality I had no concept, and I am convinced that Lessing did not presume to have one any more than any man is in fact in the position of having one. Unity of self-consciousness constitutes personality, and every being that has consciousness of its identity is a person. Hence, if I can entertain doubts about the stability of my consciousness as Kant claims, I can also doubt the objectivity of my own personality (that is, the actual identity of my subject); I cannot however entertain doubts about God's personality and the abiding truth of it, the moment I ascribe consciousness to God. We deny personality to animals, since to them we deny the distinct cognition on which consciousness of identity rests. The principle of personality must however be attributed to every individual endowed with consciousness, that is, to every living being. {338} With every extra degree of consciousness that we ascribe to any


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

such individual, we bring it closer to personality. The degree that finally raises it to "intelligence" also imparts the property of "person" to it fully. So, unless we completely abandon the region of the intelligible and decide to judge without making use of concepts at all, we must necessarily grant to the supreme Intelligence the highest degree of personality as well. Before Herder nobody that I know thought otherwise about this matter, and it really is quite astounding on his part to claim that Lessing must have been exposed to something unheard of when he heard the first cause of things being spoken of as a personal being. The topic only deserves discussion because the non-personal God is an absolute requirement of that poetical {339} philosophy which likes to waver midway between theism and Spinozism, and which has found many followers amongst us. This philosophy proceeds from the true proposition that divine intellect cannot be human intellect, nor divine will, human will. It then extends this true proposition to the point where the root of all rational thought and action is obliterated; it wipes out the principle of all intelligence, that is, of personal existence, without however at the same time wishing to claim, with the consistency of Spinoza, that the supreme cause of all things cannot be an intelligence. What am I to understand by an intelligence that possesses absolutely nothing of what I normally think of as rational being?—I can understand absolutely nothing by it, for through the removal of personal being, not only any similarity but also any possible analogy is done away with. The result is that there does not remain the slightest shadow or glimmer of a being, not even what's required for a chimera, but only a {340} senseless word, a mere empty sound. . . . [Jacobi goes on to say that he intends to develop this criticism of Herder further in the following supplement.] {342} Supplement v {349} [ • • • • ] The proposition from which Spinoza drew the conclusion that God, or the natura {350} naturans, can have neither intellect nor will, whether finite or infinite (which is a point well worthy of notice), is as follows. Actual thought, explicit consciousness, intellect, is a definite type, a modification (modificatione modificatum)* of absolute thought. Absolute modified by a modification

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1789)


thought itself, unmodified, (infinita cogitationis essentia)* is produced by substance immediately; all its various species, however, are produced by substance only through an intermediary, that is, these species can only immediately derive from something finite; hence they must be included on the side of created nature, not at all on the side of the uncreated one. Now, Herder himself says in the cited passage (p. i3g), 20 where he accuses Lessing and Spinoza of having got stuck half-way: "Existence is more eminent than any of its effects; it is the source of an enjoyment that not only {351} surpasses individual concepts, but cannot even be measured against them: for the power of representation is only ONE of the powers of existence, and many other powers obey it" Suppose now that Lessing were to reply: "Friend, you have not quite unravelled the tangle of Spinozistic ideas, for otherwise you would have seen that what for you is God's power of representation (and is only one of his powers, and like them originates from a primal ground of actuality) cannot possibly be a power that directs. For according to the logic of your own concepts (as you present them) the power of representation is nothing but consciousness—consciousness of "what every concept presupposes, of being or existence";*6 consciousness of what determines the law for all, thought included, and will not be determined by it, hence cannot be surpassed by thought. What's all this talk about a blind {352} power? Does thought implant eyes into your God? 21 Where does the light of these eyes come from, the light without which not even the inner eye can see? You make fun of Leibniz's anthropopathies and you won't allow the ascription of prearranged plans or intentions to God; you teach a necessity which is not implanted through wisdom, but is nature*7 yet you go on talking about a might that attains its precepts of order, regularity, and harmony, only through thoughts;*8 and about thoughts through which Nature is first excogitated, and which 'are the most perfectly and absolutely infinite powers, since thought is, and has, all that pertains to infinite, selfgrounded, might'.*9 Truly I understand you not. For what else is the fundamental idea of Spinozism, except that {353} God is extended being as such; that He is thinking being as such, the living and active being as *6. *7*8. *g.

Herder's Herder's Herder's Herder's

God, God, God, God,

pp. 138-39. [1787 ed.] p. 102. p. 102. p. 103.

* infinite essence of thought


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

such; and that therefore thought can no more be attributed to Him immediately than corporeal movements, explicit consciousness, no more than figure and colour? So if I want to speak of the pleasure of this supreme being, I must not only elevate it above every concept, but must boldly expel it from every concept. My acute friend Mendelssohn was right when he called this a 'surpassing oneself. It was a salto mortale, to which I immediately responded with a salto mortale of my own, and thereby I stood again next to the man with whom I was conversing." I can't think what Herder could say to Lessing about this, I mean, how he could give him a determinate, truly philosophical answer. The almost universal verdict on the Dialogues Concerning God of this talented author has been that it redeems, not {354} Spinoza's doctrine but another one which Spinoza ought to have taught, from the charge of atheism. But even then, the composition of Herder's God and the purification of Spinoza's, ought at least to be a possible composition and a possible purification, and this does not seem to me to be the case. For I deny that there can be an in-between system (such as could be conceived by us men) between the system of final causes and the system of purely efficient ones. If intellect and will are not the first and highest powers, not the one and all, then they are only subordinated powers that belong to created, not to creating, nature. They are not original springs of movement but a clockwork that can be taken apart, and its mechanism tracked down.*10 {355} Under "mechanism" I include every concatenation of purely efficient causes. Such concatenation is eo ipso a necessary one, just as a necessary concatenation, qua necessary, is by that very fact a mechanistic one. *iJ 1i * 10. "Because nothing more is evident from the Third Observation than that all reality is either in the necessary being as a determination or else must be given through that being as a ground, it would remain undecided up to this point whether the properties of understanding and will are to be met with in it as inherent determinations or merely to be regarded as consequences of it in other things. Were it the latter, despite the advantages that are obvious in this primordial being owing to its sufficiency, unity, and the independence of its existence as an eminent cause, its nature would remain far from what one must think if one thinks of God. For surely without knowledge and purpose it would be only a blind necessary ground of other things and even of other minds, distinguished not at all from the eternal fate of some of the ancients except that it would be described more comprehensibly." Kant's single possible Ground, p. 43. and 44. * *n. Cf. Supplement vn.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1789)


{366} If we grant that representation and desire accompany a merely mechanistic concatenation, and that they can be in and with it as part of it, then every confluence of powers, every harmonious result, must bring about a phenomenon, of which the representation will carry the concept of an activity according to goals with it, the representation of an art, a wisdom, a goodness, etc.*12 {357} A non-mechanistic concatenation is one according to aims or pre-established goals. It does not exclude efficient causes, so it does not rule out mechanism and necessity either; but there is this sole essential distinction, namely that in this case the result of a {358} mechanism precedes the mechanism itself as a concept, and the mechanistic conjunction is given through the concept rather than the concept being given in the mechanism, as in the other case. This system is called the system of final causes, or of rational freedom. The other system is that of merely efficient causes, or of natural necessity. No third system is possible, unless one wants to assume two primordial beings [. . . .]. [In the discussion that follows Jacobi disagrees with Herder's claim that Spinoza assumed Descartes's empty notion of "extension" uncritically. Spinoza's idea of extension implies a criticism of Descartes's idea, just as much as Leibniz's does, and, like Leibniz's idea, it is directed against Descartes's dualism. See following supplement.] *i2. "Should it be proposed that inclined planes be arranged with different slopes toward the horizon yet with such lengths that freely falling bodies reach the bottom of each one in the same time, anyone who understood mechanical laws at all would realize that a good many provisions are involved. Now the same contrivance may be found in the circle itself with infinitely many changes of position and with the greatest accuracy in this case. Any chords that cut through the vertical axis of the circle—whether from the highest or from the lowest point and from whatever slope one likes—together have in common that free fall through them occurs in the same time. I recall that a bright student for whom I had proved this law, having understood everything well, was stirred by it no less than by a miracle. And in fact one is surprised and justifiably marvels at the remarkable unity of the manifold according to such productive rules in a thing as base and seemingly so simple as a circle. But there is no miracle of nature which would give more reason for astonishment, owing to the beauty or order which rules in it. It must be then that this [astonishment] obtains because the cause [of such extensive unity] is not so distinctly discerned, and wonder is a daughter of ignorance." Kant's only possible Ground, p. 52. Cf. Herder's God, pp. 119 & 120.2


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

{361} Supplement vi Qacobi discusses Leibniz at length, showing that the "individuation" of substance is the element that distinguishes Leibniz from Spinoza. But Leibniz invoked "individuation" principally against the followers of Descartes, and not particularly with Spinoza in mind. Actually, there is at least one point in common between Leibniz and Spinoza, and that is their rejection of dualism.] {380} [. . . . ] Before Leibniz, and even more perfectly than he, Spinoza had already done away with the need of a hypothesis to {381} explain the de facto concordances between the alterations of extended and thinking substance, for he simply assumed that there is only one substance. Here, therefore, is a true similarity between the two philosophers. They both considered soul and body as a unum per se which can indeed be divided in representation, but never in actuality'.*13 The matter {382} deserves a closer look. Spinoza quite early rejected the Cartesian concept that makes extension something not distinguishable from space, totally inactive, or merely geometric.*14 {383} He instead laid at its basis a perpetually active power and actual being, so that extension stood as a property of the di-

* 13. On this point I appeal here to what I have established from Leibniz's writings in my Dialogue Concerning Idealism and Realism (pp. 146—73 [of first edition); more particularly I have in mind at this point the schema that our philosopher offered to Des Bosses (Opp. n, Part i, p. 3i4). 3 According to Leibniz's teaching, the finite monad by itself is still not a substance; on the contrary, the union with a body is absolutely required for a finite substance. Were it possible for finite monads to subsist and to act on their own, their finitude and {382} pure activity would not stand in contradiction. Whoever has rightly comprehended the necessity of the union of the active principle with the passive in Leibniz, and of the passive with the active, will find his way in all of Leibniz's accommodations, without ever straying from his meaning. * 14. "Again, from extension as Descartes conceives it, that is, as an inert mass, it is not merely difficult, as you say, but totally impossible to prove the existence of bodies. For matter at rest, as it is in itself, will continue to be at rest, and will not be set in motion except by a more powerful external cause. For this reason I have not hesitated to say on a former occasion that Descartes's principles of natural things are without value, not to say absurd." Op. Posth., p. 596.4 Cf. Supplement v, towards the end.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (iy8c>)


vine nature.*15 According to Spinoza, power in general is the living essence of God Himself. In what is corporeal, it appears as movement; in what thinks, as desire.*16 The life of an individual thing is the power through which that thing persists in its being and actual existence.*17 Thus {384} every individual thing has its own different life-power.*18 But since each and every individual thing presupposes all other individual things, and its nature and composition is thoroughly determined through its connection with all the rest,*19 this very connection must be sought in the decree of God in which it was predetermined.*20 These are only a few main points. In order to see how great, general, and deep, die similarity between the two doctrines {385} actually is on this point, one must pursue the two philosophers in the detailed implementation of their ways of thinking. But then, too, the similarity would become so conspicuous, that it would hardly occur to anyone to want to demonstrate it through laborious comparisons [. . . .]. [There follows a discussion on whether Leibniz borrowed his notion of pre-established harmony from Spinoza.]

*i5- "With regard to your question as to whether the variety of things can be demonstrated a priori solely from the concept of extension, I believe that I have already shown clearly enough that this is impossible; and that, therefore, matter was ill-defined by Descartes as extension but must be explicated instead through an attribute that expresses eternal and infinite essence." (Op. Posth., p. 598).5 With this we must consider also what is said at the end of Letter LXII (ibid., P- 593)> 6 together with the passages that are there recommended for consultation. *i6. The whole Ethics. One can find references to particular passages to consult in the demonstration of Proposition iv of Part iv. *i7. Cogit. Metaph., Part n, ch. vi. *i8. Definitions of the Affects, i & Explan. [After prop. LIX of Part in]. (Op. Posth., p. 146). General Definition of Affects & Explan. (ibd., p. 159-60) [End of Part in]. The Demonstration of prop, xxxix of Part, iv of the Ethics, together with the Scholion. *ig. See my Letter to Mendelssohn of April 19, 1785, Proposition x x x i x where I cite the relevant passages in a note. *20. Ethics, Parti, P. xxxni, together with the demonstr. and scholion; Prop, xxxvi, append.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

{398} Supplement vn 402} [ . . . . ] The principle of all cognition is living being; living being proceeds from itself, it is progressive and productive. The stirring of a worm, its sluggish pleasure or displeasure, could not arise without an imagination holding [such stirrings] together according to the laws of the worm's principle of life, and producing a representation of its state. The more manifold the felt existence that a being generates in this way, the more alive is such a being [ . . . . ] {403} The faculty of abstraction and language arouses the need for a more complete perception, a more manifold connection. A world of reason thus arises, in which signs and words take the place of substances and forces. We appropriate the universe by tearing it apart, and creating a world of pictures, ideas, and words, which is proportionate to our powers, but quite unlike the real one. We understand perfectly what we thus create, to the extent that it is our creation. And whatever does not allow being created in this way, we do not understand. Our philosophical understanding does not reach beyond its own creation. All understanding comes about, however, by the fact that we posit distinctions, and then supersede them. Even the most developed human reason is not capable (explicite) of any other operation than this, and all the rest refer back to it. {404} Perception, recognition, and conception, make up in ascending order the complete range of our intellectual faculty [ . . . . ] {408} [ . . . . ] Let me explain myself more clearly. From the proposition, "Becoming cannot have become or have originated any more than Being or substance," Spinoza drew the correct consequence that matter must have an eternal and infinite actuosity* of its own, and that this actuosity must be an {409} immediate mode of substance. This immediate, eternal mode, that he believed to be expressed by the relation of motion and rest in natura naturata, was for him the universal, eternal, unalterable form of individual things and of their unceasing change. If this movement did not have a beginning, individual things could not have begun either. Not only were these things eternal in origin, therefore; they also, according to reason, existed simultaneously, regardless of their succession: for in the concept of reason itself, there is no prior or posterior, but everything is necessary and simultaneous, and the one and only consequence permitted in thought is that of dependence. So the moment that Spinoza elevated the experiential concepts of movement, of individual things, of generation and succession, into concepts Actuositat

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1789)


of reason, they were at once purified of everything empirical for him; and, with the firm conviction that everything had to be considered only secundum modum quo a rebus ceternis fuit,* he could regard the concepts of {410} time, measure, and number, as one-sided representational views abstracted from this modus, and hence as beings of the imagination to which reason did not need to give any attention before it had first reformed them, and brought them back to the truth (vere consideratum).*21 The scholastics had prepared the way for him in these claims too. Several of their masters had taken refuge in a creation from all eternity, in order to avoid the unthinkable concept of creation in time which arises whenever one wants to assume a beginning for the series of natural events. As Spinoza concluded, from the fact that things move and alter one another, that they must have moved and altered one another from eternity; so those earlier masters concluded, from the fact that nature was created, that the unalterable creator of it must have created it from eternity.*22 {411} They had one more difficulty to overcome than did Spinoza, however, for their God was no mere natura naturans, but a being really distinct from nature who had produced it in its very substance. These difficulties did not prevent Leibniz from adhering to the scholastics, and from declaring that a creation (even according to substance) without any beginning was intelligible.*23 {412} And he did not lack followers on this question; and there still are many worthy {413} philosophers amongst us who hold that the concept of an actual {414} creation of actually individual and successive things from all eternity is possible. This somewhat more serious mistake comes about in the same way as the less serious one into which Spinoza fell, by confusing the concept of cause with the concept of ground, and so depriving the former of what is peculiar to it, and reducing "cause" for speculative purposes to a merely {415} logical entity. I have already elucidated this process elsewhere, and have, as I believe, sufficiently established that, so far as the concept of *2i. Op. Posth., Ep. xxix [to Lewis Meyer, pp. 465-70]. *22. See Cramer, Concerning Scholastic Theology, Continuation of Bossuet, Part vn, pp. 404 and 404, 416-19.7 *23- [A long polemical note in which Jacobi defends Lessing's saying that, according to Leibniz, God is in perpetual state of expansion and contraction. Cf. above, pp. 22-23 °f tne first ecU] * according to the way it came to be from things eternal


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

cause is distinguished from that of ground, it is a concept of experience which we owe to the consciousness of our own causality and passivity, and cannot be derived from the merely idealistic concept of ground any more than it can be resolved into it.*24 A union of the two, such as we find in the principle of sufficient reason, is not therefore inadmissible, as long as we never for a moment forget what specifically lies at the ground of each and which made of each a possible concept. {416} The principle of sufficient reason says: "Every thing dependent depends, on something"; that of causality: "Everything that is done, must be done through something." In the first principle, the "from something" is already implied in the word "dependent"; just as in the second, the "through something" is already implied by the word "done." Both of them are identical principles, so that they have universal and apodictic validity.*25 But they are unified through the proposition: "Everything conditional must have a condition," which is equally identical, and hence equally universal and necessary. If one forgets the essential difference between the two concepts, and what it rests on, then one may take the liberty of replacing one with the other, and using them in this way. The result is that things come to be without coming to be; that they change without changing; that they can precede or follow one another without being before or after one another.*26 {417} If one does not forget the essential difference between the two concepts, one is ineluctably bound to time by the concept of cause, *24- See my Dialogue Concerning Idealism and Realism, pp. 93—100 [of the first ed.]. * Professor Flatt of Tubingen, an acute and learned philosopher, whom I much admire, has offered several observations about my opinion in his Fragmentary Contributions, in a manner that deserves my gratitude. I shall not here expound my judgment concerning the principles of this philosopher, because I mean to do it where I shall have particular occasion.8 *25- See pp. 179-80 [of the first edition] of this work, the footnote. *26. This is the source of the causa sui. Once the apodeictic proposition, "Everything must have a cause" has been granted, it is difficult to claim that {417} "Not everything can have a cause." Hence the causa sui was discovered, with which the effectus sui necessarily belongs. * Omitted in the third edition. Obviously the note was eliminated because the implied promise was not kept.

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (ij8c>))


through which the concept of an action is necessarily posited; for an action which is not in time is a non-thing. Even with all its clever tricks, idealism cannot help us out of the difficulty here; it only affords a brief . respite. ' After these explanations, it should no longer seem strange to hear me claim that the actual existence of a temporal world made up of individual finite things producing and destroying one another in succession, can in no way be conceptualized, which is to say, it is not naturally explicable. For if I want to think of the series of these things as actually infinite, I run up against the absurd concept of an eternal time, and no {418} mathematical construction can get rid of this difficulty. If I want the series to have a beginning instead, I lack anything from which any such beginning could be derived. Should I say that this beginning is the will of an intelligence, I speak words devoid of sense. For just as the origin of the concept of a thing prior to the existence of any of its parts (for instance, the concept of an organic being prior to all organic beings) is no easier to comprehend than the origin of an object independent of any concept, so too in an eternal Intelligence subsisting in itself and for itself alone, the alteration with which a time originates is just as perfectly inconceivable as a self-originating movement in matter. The incomprehensibility is equal on either route. But reason need not despair* because of this incomprehensibility, for knowledge forces itself upon it, so to speak; namely, the knowledge that the condition of {419} the possibility of the existence of a temporal world lies outside the region of its concepts, that is to say, outside that complex of conditioned beings which is nature. So when reason searches for that condition, it is searching for something extra-natural or supernatural within what is natural; or again, it is trying to transform the natural into something supernatural And since, by doing this, it acts outside its own purview, it cannot get a single step closer to its goal, but is only able to uncover ever new conditions for what is conditioned, conditions for natural laws and mechanism.*28 In spite of this, {420} reason does not desist, and is not checked *27

*27- See the passages from the Dialogue Concerning Idealism and Realism, repeatedly cited in this Supplement vn. *28. We comprehend a thing whenever we can derive it from its proximate causes, or whenever we have insight into the order of its immediate conditions. What we see or derive in this way presents us with a mechanistic context. For * The third edition reads: "go astray."


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

{421} in its expectations, because it does know things that are unconditioned in their kind, and it is always advancing in this knowledge at various levels. Its general occupation is the progressive making of combinations; its speculative occupation is the making of combinations according to recognized laws of necessity, that is to say laws of identity, for reason has no concept of any necessity except the one that it establishes itself by means of its progressive and unrelenting process of separating and reuniting, by alternately retaining and letting go and finally displaying this necessity in identical propositions. But the essential indeterminacy of human language and designation, and the mutability of sensible shapes, almost universally allows these propositions to acquire an external appearance of saying more than the mere quidquid est, illud est;* of expressing more than a mere factum which was at some point perceived, observed, compared, recognized, and joined to other concepts. Everything that reason {422} can produce through division, combination, judgment, inference, and reflection, is simply a natural thing. Reason too, as restricted being, belongs among these things. The whole of nature, however, the sum-con-

instance, we comprehend a circle whenever we clearly know how to represent the mechanics of its formation, or its physics; we comprehend the syllogistic formulas, whenever we have really cognized the laws to which the human understanding is subject in judgment and inference, its physics, its {420} mechanics; or the principle of sufficient reason, whenever we are clear about the becoming or construction of a concept in general, about its physics and mechanics. The construction of a concept as such is the a priori of every construction; and at the same time our insight into its construction allows us to cognize with full certainty that it is not possible for us to comprehend whatever we are not in a position to construct. For this reason we have no concept of qualities as such, but only intuitions or feelings. Even of our own existence, we have only a feeling and no concept. Concepts proper we only have of figure, number, position, movement, and the forms of thought. Whenever we say that we have researched a quality, we mean nothing else by that, save that we have reduced it to figure, number, position, and movement. We have resolved it into these, hence we have objectively annihilated the quality. From this we can easily perceive, without further argument, what must in each case be the outcome of the efforts on the part of reason+ to generate a distinct concept of the possibility of the existence of our world. * whatever is, is t Third edition: the understanding

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (1789)


cept of all conditional beings, cannot reveal more to the searching understanding than what is contained in it, namely, manifold existence, alterations, play of forms—never an actual beginning; never a real principle of some objective existence. But how does reason ever come upon a task which is impossible, that is to say, irrational? Is it the fault of reason, or is it the fault of man? Does reason misunderstand itself, or are we the victims of a misunderstanding with respect to it? To resolve this somewhat strange-sounding question, we must raise another one that sounds just as strange; namely, Is man in possession of reason, or is reason in possession of man'? {423} If we understand by "reason" the soul of man only in so far as it has distinct concepts,* passes judgments, and draws inferences with them, and goes on building new concepts or ideas, then reason is a characteristic of man which he acquires progressively, an instrument of which he makes use. In this sense, reason belongs to him. But if by "reason" we mean the principle of cognition in general, then reason is the spirit of which the whole living nature of man is made up; man consists of it. In this sense man is a form which reason has assumed. I take the whole man, without dividing him, and discover that his consciousness is composed of two original representations, that of the conditional, and that of the unconditional. These two representations are inseparably connected, yet in such a way that the representation of the conditional presupposes the representation of the unconditional and can only be given with the latter. Hence we do not first need to look for the unconditional; {424} on the contrary, we have the same certainty about its existence as we have about our own conditioned one, or indeed, an even greater certainty. Since our conditioned existence rests upon an infinity of mediations, an immense field is thereby opened to our research, and we are already forced to labour in it for the sake of our physical maintenance. All of our investigations have as their object the discovery of what mediates the existence of things. Whenever we gain insight into the intermediary of a thing, that is to say, when we have discovered its mechanism, we can, if we are in control of the means, also produce the thing itself. Whatever we can construct in this fashion, at least in representation, we can also comprehend; and what we cannot so construct, we also cannot comprehend. * The third edition reads: "or is only understanding."


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

To want to discover the conditions of the unconditional; to want to invents, possibility for what is absolutely necessary, and to construct it in order to be able to comprehend it, seems on the face of it {425} an absurd undertaking. Yet this is precisely what we undertake to do whenever we strive to make nature into something that we can comprehend, that is, reduce it to a purely natural existence, and uncover the mechanics of the principle of mechanism. For if everything that is to come to be and exist in a way that is comprehensible to us must do so under conditions, then, as long as we can comprehend, we remain within a chain of conditional conditions. Where this chain ceases, there we also cease to comprehend, and the complex that we call nature ceases to exist too. The concept of the possibility of the existence of nature would also have to be the concept of an absolute beginning or origin of nature; it would have to be the concept of the unconditional itself, so far as this unconditional is the unconditional condition of nature, i.e. so far as it is what is not naturally connected, or what is, for us, unconnected. Should the concept of what is thus unconditional and unconnected, hence extra-natural, ever become possible, then the unconditional would {426} cease to be unconditional; it must itself receive conditions; and the absolutely necessary must begin turning into a possibility, so as to allow construction. Now, in consequence of all that we have said so far, the unconditional must lie outside nature and outside every natural connection with it. However, nature, or the sum-concept of the conditional, is grounded in the unconditional and hence connected with it, therefore this unconditional must be called "the supernatural" and cannot be called anything else.*29 From this supernatural source the natural, or the universe, cannot proceed, or have proceeded, in any other way except supernaturally. Moreover: since everything that lies outside the complex of the conditional, or the naturally mediated, also lies outside the sphere of our distinct cognition, and cannot be understood {427} through concepts, the supernatural cannot be apprehended by us in any way except as it is given to us, namely, as fact—IT is! This Supernatural, this Being of all beings, all tongues proclaim GOD. The God of the universe cannot just be the architect of the universe; he is the Creator whose unconditional power has made things also according to their substance. Had He not made them also according to their substance, there would have to have been two authors who must have somehow

*2Q. Cf. Jakob's Critical Principles for a Universal Metaphysics, §326. 9

Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza (i 789)


(and nobody knows how) struck up an association. And this is an absurdity which in our days needs no refutation (not because it is too great, but because it is not in our way of thinking). Our resistance to a coming to be of things even according to substance derives from the fact that we cannot comprehend any becoming that does not happen naturally, that is, in a conditional and mechanistic way. {428} How I wish I were able to make these propositions and their consequences just as comprehensible as they are evident to me. Not only would we then see the irrationality of the demand for a demonstration of God's existence, but through this insight we should also comprehend why a first cause invested with our understanding and will (both of which are grafted onto coexistence, i.e. on dependence and finitude) must appear to be an impossible, totally absurd, being. The more perfectly we cognize the second point (starting from the first), the more distinctly we can see the invalidity of the argument by which, since God cannot be a man, or a corporeal being, individuality and intelligence also cannot belong to Him either. But regardless of our finitude and our slavery to nature we do possess, or at least we appear to possess through the consciousness of our spontaneous activity in the exercise of our will, an analogue within us of the supernatural, that is to say, of a {429} being who does not act mechanistically. And since we are not in a position ever to arrive at an actual representation of the possibility of the beginning of any alteration whatever, unless it is the effect of an inner resolution or of a self-determination, so the naked instinct of reason has led all uncivilized peoples to regard as action every alteration whose origin they witnessed, and to connect this action with a living self-active being. They erred, in that they drew the connection immediately. But they erred far more forgivably and much less seriously than we do when we seek to dissolve everything into mechanism and, because our distinct representation of a thing does not reach beyond the representation of its mechanics, make to the principle of mechanism the absurd request that it too, if it is to be granted objectivity, exhibit a mechanism. Yet there already is something non-mechanistic in the possibility of a representation in general, and nobody is in a position to represent the principle of life, the inner source of understanding and {430} will, as the result of mechanistic connections, that is, as the simple result of mediation. Even less can causality ingeneralbe conceived simply as the result of mediation, or as resting upon mechanism. And since we do not have the slightest intimation of causality, except immediately, through the consciousness of our own causality, i.e. our life-principle, I don't see


The Main Philsophical Writings and the Novel allwill

how anyone can avoid assuming intelligence in general as the first and single principle, as the true primordial Being—I mean, an intelligence that is supremely real, and cannot be conceived in its turn under the image of mechanism (see Supplements IV and V), but must be conceived rather as a thoroughly independent, other-worldly and personal Being [ . . . . ] . Qacobi goes on to sum up what he has been saying.] {435} Supplement vm [A polemical note. Jacobi's claim, "Wie die Triebe, so der Sinn; and wie der Sinn, so die Triebe," was the object of much derision. Jacobi tries to defend himself. The claim can be translated loosely but faithfully to its meaning as: "As the heart, so the mind; and as the mind, so the heart." Triebis the equivalent of the scholastic conatus; it means "urge," "desire," "instinct," "drive." Sinn is the same as the English "sense" in such expressions as "in the sense of." It means "meaning" or "understanding" but is etymologically connected with "sense" as in "sensibility."]

Edward AllwilVs Collection of Letters edited by Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi with an Addition from Letters of His Own Such is truth's effect—one repels it, but in repelling it one looks at it, and is penetrated by it. Garat le Jeune l

Volume i* Konigsberg: at Friedrich Nicolovius' 1792

NOTE: This translation is based on the 1792 edition ofAllwill, which is substantially the same as the edition of 1812 but not identical to it. I have noted the more important variations but ignored those of a purely technical character. There were three other editions of the work prior to 1792, in 1775,2 1776,3 and 17814 (reprinted 1783). The text of these earlier editions is substantially different from that of 1792.1 have made no attempt to note variations from these earlier editions. They can be found in Terpstra's critical edition of the 1812 text.5 * Deleted in the 1812 edition, when it was clear that there would not be a second volume of letters

[ii] Though all things foul would wear the brows of grace, Yet grace must still look so. Macbeth, Act iv, Scene 36


To Privy Councillor SchloBer7 in Karlsruhe

[v] It is against every accepted practice to dedicate a book to someone behind his back. However, since it is Your custom, as friend and in almost every other respect as well, to comport Yourself outside commended practice—indeed, You have made Yourself the burden that You are to the Present Age behind its back—so even for this reason alone You are duty bound to let my audacity pass as an innocent imitation. But I can appeal to yet a stronger right—one which indeed runs contrary to anything merely dependent on current ethos and its accepted practices [vi] but stands fast between You and me as a right of the gods. It's not of today or yesterday; eternal Is its life, and its origin is hidden. In virtue of this right, I am allowed to say: Brother! Here is my best beloved Child! Consider it but Yours. With it I commend my whole soul into Your hands; I put my whole heart into Your bosom. Pempelfort, February 25, 1792 F. H. Jacobi



[to the 1792 Edition] The first two volumes of letters here published still throw no light on how Allwill managed to get possession of the complete collection and make them his property. The editor himself has so little information about this, and must make do with such uncertain conjectures, that he is justifiably horrified at the idea of inflicting them upon a honourable public whose curiosity is restricted simply to well established truths. He would much rather let these letters be regarded as a fabrication, and have the whole treated as a fanciful whim of his. Indeed he [viii] wishes that this hypothesis may find favour, so long as it is not believed as a truth that has been proved historically or otherwise, but voluntarily, simply because of the embarrassment that must otherwise prevail; it should be accepted for the sake of convenience. The twofold favour that is requested of the reader—first, of biding by an unlikely hypothesis; and second, of believing what is in keeping with the hypothesis, yet also not believing it in a strict sense—this twofold favour would in fact be more than could be expected from even the kindliest reader, unless there is something in it for him. But since, as I shall show, the unkindly as well as the kindly readers— indeed, the unkindly ones above all—will find an apparent advantage in it, I am all the more [ix] certain of their compliance because the twofold effort that is asked of them ought to be accompanied by a twofold lightening of their burden. For the unlikeliness of the hypothesis is [x] compensated by the fact that one should not believe it in a strict sense, and not believing it in a strict sense all but follows by itself because of the unlikeness of the hypothesis.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

So I only have to lay the reader's own advantage before his eye—which I hope to do in a few words. I presuppose that I have readers. Since these readers are my contemporaries, they are sworn enemies of everything obscure. As far as the present [xi] book is concerned, however, they will find themselves entirely surrounded by obscurities. They ask: Who is this Edward Allwill? Is he alive or is he dead? Where did he live? If he is still alive, where is he living? How did he ever get his own letters back in his hands? How did he get control of the rest of them? What is his aim in publishing them? How does he come to be connected with the editor?—And there are a multitude of further questions of this kind, that I must all leave unanswered, partly because of my own lack of knowledge, and partly by the fact that I have given my word. The reader, therefore, since he cannot be at ease [xii] with either the wherefrom of the book or its whereto, would be dissatisfied not only with the collector and the editor, but also with himself; for as soon as he gets entangled with the object of the questions, he will be as little capable of ridding himself of the problem as of getting the clear answers that he wants. So, amid all this embarrassment I have come to his rescue with my hypothesis. And if I can succeed in making it seem even moderately likely, the reader will certainly seize on this likelihood with joy. For with, and in, my hypothesis, the "whence" and the "whither" are both answered at the same time, and he can say to himself that he understands. So I suggest to the reader here and now that he should [xiii] imagine the editor to be someone for whom, from his tenderest youth, and even in childhood, it was an important matter that his soul be not in his blood, or that it be not a mere breath that passes away. This concern was so far from having just the common drive for life as its source in him, that, on the contrary, the thought that his present life would last eternally was dreadful for him. He loved to live because of another love, and—once more!—to live without this [xii] love seemed to him unbearable, be it even for just a day. So, even as a lad, the man was an enthusiast, a visionary, a [xiv] mystic—or whatever is the right name among the many that I have found all carefully defined in so many different new writings, though I have not retained them all. To justify this love—to this was his whole invention and aspiration directed. And it was only the wish to obtain more light on its object that drove him to science and art with a zeal that did not slacken before any obstacle.

Edward All-will's Collection of Letters


The youth bore a consuming fire in his bosom. But none of his passions could ever gain the upper hand over the one affect that was the soul of his life, [xv] If they were to take root, they had to draw their nourishment from it, and shape themselves after it. So it happened that he brought philosophical purpose, reflection, and observation, to situations and moments where they are very seldom to be found. He sought to fix whatever he explored in his mind, in such a way that it would stay with him. His most important convictions all rested upon immediate intuition; his proofs and refutations, on facts that (as it seemed to him) were either not sufficiently attended to, or not sufficiently collated yet. Hence his only method for convincing others was to exhibit these facts. [xvi] So there arose in his soul the plan for a work which, only cloaked in poetry so to speak, would display as scrupulously as possible the way humanity is, whether explicable or not. The work was not to be more edifying than creation; or more moral than history and experience; or more philosophical than the instinct of natures endowed with senses and reason.*1 * i. I call "instinct" the energy that determines the mode and shape of that self-activity which every species of living nature must be thought to be endowed with, since every nature initiates and maintains by its unique (independent) energy the action of its peculiar existence; it determines it originally [xvii] (without regard to any still unexperienced pleasure or displeasure). So far as rational natures equipped with senses (i.e. those that generate language) are considered simply in their rational property, their instinct has as its object the preservation and elevation of personal existence (the preservation of self-consciousness, or of the unity of consciousness turned back upon itself,* through a steady and ever more thorough combination or cohesion); the instinct is therefore uninterruptedly directed to everything that promotes this existence. In the highest abstraction, [xviii] when one separates the rational property in its purity and no longer considers it as a property, but entirely on its own, the instinct of such a bare reason is only directed to personality, to the exclusion of the person and of existence, since [xv] person and existence require individuality which is here necessarily omitted. The pure efficacy of this instinct could be called "pure will." Spinoza gave it the name of "affect of reason." One could also call it the "heart of bare reason." I believe that if one follows up this hint philosophically, several phenomena *



The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

[xvii] For what annoyed Allwill was precisely that so much was left out by the philosophers in order that they might be able to [xviii] explain things; and so much was passed over in silence by the moralists, in order that their [xix] supreme [source of] influence should not be denied. For [xvi] he had little yearning for a light that only makes visible what is not, and he put no trust in a supreme will-power of man beyond the human heart, perhaps out of a lack of talent in his own head. [xx] He went about collecting for his work with a love that prevented him from carrying it out to completion. Now he has become too old to think of completing it according to the first plan; yet, he will certainly produce a second volume still, and very likely a third.8 The second volume (which would already be published the middle of summer if wise men had not advised against it) covers the period of Clerdon's absence that is announced in this first. So much as regards the internal likelihood of my hypothesis, or about the central issue, in accordance with its pragmatic purpose. [xxi] As for the external likelihood, I shall try to produce it externally, by circumstantial evidences, as follows. If the alleged editor were not the actual author of this book, how could the letters in this collection, which were already published before,9 have received the altered form in which we see them here, and how could they have been altered in such a way as to fit the new ones? In one place we run up against an addition; in another, against a lacuna. And everywhere we catch a glimpse of a busy hand that is not too shy to deal with these letters as its own property. Against this view it can be objected that, because of the earlier desire not to publish the eleven letters here published for the first time, [xxii] the ten others that were allowed publication had perforce to be altered to the extent necessary to prevent their drawing direct attention to the ones that had been removed in between (a circumstance that would have made it impossible to leave them out). This tiresome task was done

which are otherwise difficult to explain, including the phenomenon of the indisputable presence of a categorical imperative [xix] of morality, of its power and the lack of it, will show themselves to be perfectly intelligible. But one must at the same time pay careful attention to the role of speech in our judgments and inferences, in order not to go wrong or become discouraged because of cases that rest simply on word-plays somewhat difficult to unravel.

Edward Allwill's Collection of Letters


in the way in which tiresome tasks are usually done; and in the process the copy became thoroughly corrupted. So it would be quite contrary to the truth, and would betray a shallow critical attitude, if one were to take as alterations of commission changes that are on the contrary only alterations of omission. [xxiii] I am too timid to deny outright that this objection outweighs my argument in probability, and hence invalidates it. I shall try rather to bolster the weight of my argument by appending what came into my hands as the Addition to this first volume of Allwill's Collection of Letters, the "Missive to Erhard O**." I ask each and everyone, therefore, whether he would venture to deny the family resemblance between the "Missive to Erhard O**" and the letters in Allwill's Collection. This missive is completely philosophical in content, yet does not have the philosophical characteristic of making an incoming [xxiv] attack just as convenient as the outgoing defence, and hence is not likely to be enjoyed and easily tolerated by enemies and friends alike. Why does it not have this superior trait? I say, because it is one part of Allwill's Collection that had got away. It could not survive alone, however. It came back, and was received as an addition. And now I think that I have done what I undertook to do. In other words, although I have not entirely appeased the reader regarding his questions, at least I have amused him to his fill—and even beyond all bounds. [xxv] I leave him to his amusement, and bring my Preface to a close with an old rhyme which is not as well known as it should be, or at least not sufficiently attended to. It holds a rich treasure of consolation, not only for the author, but for the reader as well, if he will only change one word and replace "reader" with "author": Reader, dost thou like me? Reader, do I like thee?

[xxvii] "In its beautiful forms Nature speaks to us figuratively, and the gift of deciphering its secret writing has been given to us in our moral feeling.—Even the charm of colours and tones takes on a language, as it were, that seems to possess a higher sense and brings Nature closer to us." Kant, Critique of Judgment, pp. 168-70.10


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel All will

{ [ l 8 l 2 : Xxi]

P O S T S C R I P T OF J A N U A R Y l 8 l 2

Twenty years have gone by since the above Preface was written, and no second Part of Allwill has seen the light of day. I should have to tell too long a story of myself and my fortunes if I were to explain satisfactorily how I came to be hindered from carrying out a project that was once so dear to my heart. But I hope that anyone who may wish that I had carried out that plan, will be compensated in many ways by the present collection of all my writings—of those already printed which I have deemed worth preserving, and the previously unprinted ones which I have deemed worth sharing. Friedrich Htinrich Jacobi]

[xxviii] [. . . . I have seen It with my very eyes, the archetype] Of every virtue and of every beauty. What I have copied from it will endure. [....] These are not shadows of illusion bred; I know they are eternal, for they are. Goethe's Tasso, Act 11, Scene 2 1 1 Why, there wasn't a note of Olympus' melodies that he hadn't learned from Marsyas. And whoever plays them, from an absolute virtuoso to a twopennyhalfpenny flute girl, the tunes will still have a magic power, and by virtue of their own divinity they will show which of us are fit subjects for divine initiation. Plato, Symposium, Bip. Ed. x, p. 257 12



Sylli, nee von Wallberg, was born in C** of an old patrician family. At the age of fifteen she lost her mother who had begotten more than just ordinary earthly life in her [daughter], and had felt her own self in her so fully that from these feelings an indescribable love had blossomed in both their hearts. Driven by an unhappy passion to the point of madness, her father had buried himself two years later in a Carthusian cloister, and there he still lived at the time the following letters were written. Together with her brother, Sylli ended up in guardianship, and in such a bewildering situation, that her heart could not but be overwhelmed by it. She might have been twenty-one years old when August Clerdon, who had been one of the closest companions of her childhood and impressionable youth, saw her again and fell passionately in love with her. He was a spirited man, of great gifts of soul but very unstable. The bond was contracted, and Sylli moved to [4] E*** where her husband occupied one of the most respectable positions. Immediately after that his brother, Heinrich Clerdon, came to C** as Counsellor. Both had been born in Switzerland but had moved to Germany with their father when still children. Sylli had had a foreboding of the many ways that August would make her unhappy, but had been swept off her feet by the element of greatness and glory in the young man. Three years later he died, all entangled in a lawsuit that had been brought against him out of mean perfidy, and now threatened to ruin his external fortunes completely. The widow, who had only slender means of her own and could see that even these


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

were now endangered, had to go on defending the suit against the evil men who were pressing it; and for this reason she had to remain in E***, [xxxi] a place which she had never loved. This was now all the more repugnant to her, because her whole soul longed for C**, where everything that still bound her to this earth was centred. The single child to whom she had given birth had followed the way of the father. At the time when she wrote her letters in this collection, she may perhaps have been twenty-eight years old. Amalia, to whom reference is made without any introduction early in the second letter, soon appears to be the wife of Heinrich Clerdon. Lenore and Clarchen von Wallberg (or just "the two sisters," as they are also sometimes referred to) were Sylli's first cousins. All of these characters had, at different times, spent many years with or close to one another, and they loved and looked upon one another as brothers and sisters—intimately connected as they were not only by external relations but also, even more so, by internal ones. Of Edward Allwill it would be superfluous to say anything in advance.


I Sylli to Clerdon

March 6 Yes, my friend, with each day desolation is closing in upon me, and the strange state of mind that you see as a fault in me, for which you know no name, takes hold of me ever more firmly. You want me to name for you a condition that is neither hypochondria, gloom, hatred or contempt of man, nor anything else for which an interpretation can be taken from novels or plays—one that makes my heart warm and cold at once, my soul open to the outside and yet closed upon itself. Dear Clerdon, let that wait till some other time; listen this time to what took place yesterday. [2] I happened for a few hours to be at the bed of a dying woman. She was a close acquaintance of my aunt Mossel; with me she had no other connection, she stood in no truly personal relationship to me; a commonplace creature, dull, but also without any malice. Her sufferings on her death bed were great. One of the most terrible operations had been tried on her in an attempt at cure. She took it all with equanimity; this was the make-up of her temperament: a straightforward pursuit of her life to its end. Four adopted children (she had none of her own) stood by her bed-side; closer stood her husband, who had married her only for profit and from business motives. Everyone wept and sobbed in profusion. I am sure, Clerdon, that their sorrow was heart-felt! But at the bottom, what did it amount to? A bit of remorse perhaps, a bit of gratitude, a mean fear of the shock when the departing soul would no longer be there,


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

uneasiness in the presence of death.—Oh, how nauseating it all seemed! I [3] sat there cold. I was physically in pain myself over the bodily sufferings of the sick woman; but otherwise I felt no sympathy for anyone. At this moment the pastor arrived, and began his business. Believe me, the good woman was not afraid about what was to come; she did not have the slightest anxiety. Only the dying-out of her forces, and the fatigue of life, drew many a painful sigh from her breast. What issued was each time a call, a saying, a verse from a song. And this roused die impotent organs again to inflict pain; it armed the soft hand of death, and prevented the soul from departing quietly and gently.—Oh, the chaos of the world! Today, because of her death, there is crying and lamentation also among my own folk here—so much so that one would despair of comfort, if one did not know that there is none among these highly afflicted people who would not always be prepared in their [4] own life to dispense with wife, mother, or friend entirely. And I now, who can see all this quite plainly, am in the midst of this crowd without being part of it, though, alas, I am shaken deep within my being by unbearable thoughts . . . ! Oh Thou of the many names, who pullest all men together, and intertwinest them—what art Thou? Source and current and sea of society; whence? and whither . . . ? I see the dark hollow, and the great cauldron where Macbeth's witches gather assorted limbs of beasts and men, toes of frogs and teeth of wolves, wool of bats and liver of Jews, noses of Turks and Tartars' lips, and Heaven knows how many other things, to prepare for the "deed without a name"; they boil and boil the stuff for their spell, until out of their stew all the phantoms appear: They appear and appear, They come like shadows, and again disappear. And then the antic round, [5] and the eerie music, and the enchanted atmosphere; the whole, the most marvellous and perfect of delights.13 Yet it is not so extraordinary, or so frightful as all that, by a long way. I must laugh at the horror that struck me. No, my good Clerdon, no; it is only a gaudy, wooden, market puppet; its stump and its coat cut from a small block of wood; arms, feet and head glued to it, and under it a small board on which to stand. And is that a phantom?—

Edward Allwill's Collection of Letters



ii Sylli to Clerdon

March 7 I got up this morning long before day-break. An extraordinarily beautiful light that fell ever more brightly around me drove me from my study into the room to the east, which has the wide view looking towards our little mountain. A shudder ran through me at the sight, and I remained motionless at the entrance of the room. What held me captive was the great stillness in all that radiance, in all that whirl of change across the broad sky: incessant mutations that defied an encompassing view, yet no visible alteration, no movement. Gradually the sun approached nearer. Now, all at once, it rose up from behind the hills, and my spirits rose up with it too.—Clerdon, those were blessed moments! And see, the whole day was just like this sunrise—the first day of spring, and dawn [7] of a new year, the first ray of light for a much greater creation than the creation of a single day. I had to be out of those walls into the open world. Sophie, whom I called as I went by, accompanied me. What a walk! The sky was so pure, the air so gentle, the whole earth as a smiling face full of consolation and promise, of innocence and fullness of heart. I could grasp it all wonderfully now; I looked about myself me gently, in a blessing. And so, unnoticed, I became once more the good, confident, creature who had nothing in her heart except bliss at the beauty of God's world, and plenitude of hope. Yes, dear Clerdon, I was full of hope, without knowing what I hoped for; every goodness and beautiful thing: and this pleasant confusion, this half-light, was precisely the reason why I felt so well, why no lack of faith could stir me into waking. [8] I meant to enjoy this day properly. I wanted to be in the open also for the sunset. We made our way over the embankments. I lingered at the spot where, two years ago, you stood with me late in autumn, and you were so enraptured by the breadth and variety of the view. "If only he could see it now!" A gentle spring breeze blew my way, and set you down at my side. Oh, how majestic and beautiful was everything around us! But it could not be so for long; I took myself off. I soon came to the place where you can see the long and broad road rounding the corner towards S** directly before you.*2 "That's where I came from six years ago; that's *2. The first post-station to S**.


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

where Clerdon came from two years ago; that's where the road goes to. But when, alas?" You remember the place. It is a boundless plain with nothing to obstruct the eye; the road stretches straight ahead, and it is so broad and even—I wanted to be able to roll away on it! [9] But meanwhile I could hear two instruments nearby, right behind the city-wall. They were a flute and a harp, and they fell in quite neatly with the melody in me, they accompanied it and led it on. I let myself go, and let myself get into such a state that I actually had tears in my eyes. My good Sophie stood by, obligingly waiting through all this. I stayed there for a long time in meditation leaning on my walking stick, and finally I walked swiftly home with my companion, and—Good night to you, Clerdon! Amalia, sisters, good night to you!



Clerdon to Sylli March 4 You should know, dear Sylli, of the many hours that I spend not writing to you. A letter is soon written; not to write it takes a lot longer. I have now been sitting in front of this sheet again, with quill in hand, a long half hour, perhaps even a whole hour, pondering on where I would find consolation for you, and how I would convey it to you. Your few lines of February 28, which reached us today, witness to such a feeling of depression that I was seized by it, and it oppressed my heart so much that I did not know how to calm my anxiety—and I decided not to share the letter with Amalia for now. [i i] You must have received the day after, the first of March, a letter from me in which I begged and beseeched you to pour yourself out to us without reservation, to lay your state of mind quite openly before us, since we are not really able to explain it for ourselves. No new misadventures have come your way; and after what you have experienced, no new reversal unknown to us could have brought you to the low point where you apparently are. So why have you sunk into this most frightful melancholy, this faintheartedness that is so out of character for you? It makes way for a deadening lack of faith in love, friendship, human worth! I too can feel that the world is so big that all sounds are lost in it; be-

Edward Allwill's Collection of Letters


lieve me, I do feel it. And as long as the same order abides in the whole, how can I avoid being oppressed and wounded, often constricted to the point of despair in the daily [12] affairs of my life and profession? Since I have no hope at all that things will improve? But it is true that these sufferings have a good side for the worthy man—he pulls himself together all the better because of them. If he cannot translate his best capacities into deed; if he is encircled by stupidity, baseness and evil, assaulted and importuned by it—this does at least sustain his spirit out of rage in any case. What ought to bring him down, actually raises him up, supports him, and gives him composure. And so, my sister and friend, dear gracious Sylli—take heart! Pull yourself together as well as you can; you will find help, for you possess it in yourself!—Oh, if only I were able to display my feelings to you here in all of their truth! The best in me is knowledge of what you are—What you are\ Yet you, [13] my Sylli; you, the child of heaven, are drowning in misery; you may indeed drown in the most dreadful desolation!— —Even one's own excellence cannot be the highest pleasure, because Sylli feels so wretched!—You angels before the throne of God, say: is even your bliss spoiled?—Sylli, you must look into my heart; not look; you must be able to take my heart into your bosom, if you are to feel the mourning over you that is in me, and the consolation for you that is in my heart.



Sylli to Clerdon

March 8 I wrote to you yesterday and the day before, dear Clerdon; yet I must reply to your letter, which I have just received, now, on the spot. If you only knew, how distressed I am that you should have so many worries, so much sorrow, on my account! But believe me, you good people, believe me, that things haven't been quite as bad for me as you imagine. All the beauty and the goodness in nature, is indeed good and beautiful for me; and it becomes all the more so with each day. Do you know anyone who tastes of every human joy more inwardly than your Sylli? How could I not believe in love, I, whose bosom is bursting with it? Look at this hyacinth here! How often have I stood before it, with pal-


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

pitating heart, drawing from its being with all my [15] sense* till my nerves were in a tremor, and I had all its beauty and goodness alive in me and felt its reciprocal love—call that foolishness, nonsense, and enthusiasm if you like! So I attend to each and every thing from whose being a blessing flows directly, whether this thing be shape or spirit, song or harmony, painting or whatever. I hold it close to me, I lend it hearth and fire, and do not rest until its inner being—the goodness, the beauty, the blessing—streams into me, and has received life and love in me. Behold! nothing shall perish that has directed a look of communion at me; whatever gave me life and took life from me shall not perish—not as long as I last anyway! To be sure, I am exposed in this way to many an injury which I would not otherwise suffer. Every dullness, heedlessness, or disdain on the part of other humans round me, [16] and the even worse insult of their fleeting delights—these strike me and wound. And so, assailed from every side, and with everyone's hand raised against me, still, my own hand is not set against anyone—I swear it to you. I see much love and goodness in human beings still. I have a few cheerful girls here who totally reinvigorate me whenever they run into me. One feels among them as if one were walking in springtime into a shower of flowers. They are so full of courage, so full of pleasure, that they cannot but bring help. And then they cling to my arms, and hang upon my neck; they unload their lips, and hold a spell for me in their innocent eyes that makes me forget everything. I press them blissfully to my heart then, almost as if it were love, lasting love. And, that's how I deal with a hundred other things too; I let everything take its course, and let whatever good come my way that can. I don't reject anything, don't trample on anything, but neither do I set store by human favour and respect. For, you see, even if it comes to pass, for once, [ 17] that something lasts as I expected it to, I am nevertheless overcome by such melancholy, such faint-heartedness, that I could waste away. However warmly my heart feels touched from the outside, however glowing it is from its own light, in its depth it still seems cold to me. Yes, the problem is that every impulse of trust and friendship in my soul turns into a thought of affliction and horror; that I see immediately and vividly before me, that I am once more being visited by that long departed angel-like figure that left a dead skeleton on my lap. Ah! Clerdon, Amalia, my sisters, do not be angry at your Sylli! You do, Sinn

Edward Allwill's Collection of Letters


of course, know my story in part;—and if you knew all of it, then what lies here deeply and firmly under seal would all be revealed to you!—But speak, give witness: is it my fault that such things have happened to me? Was I faint-hearted, or weak? did I spare myself pain and tears? did I ever consider anything [18] except love? Unshakable in faith, did I not endure all, dare all, give my all, full of courage, and of trust? All, all!—And what good did it do?—I saw them all decay, one thing after another, one with the other, the trees and garden-greens in the fields of my youth, with the flower-beds round them; only an empty wilderness was left to me. Oh! that poisonkss arrow shooting into our heart from the hand of a friend! and he, smiling, twists it, and asks in perfect innocence: How can it hurt? it was notpoisonousl Not those who exercised violence and evil spite against me were my destroyers; it was those who fell away from me quietly, as a ripe fruit falls away; it abandons its tree and away it drops with its fullness. Listen, I have not been split by lightning, not cut down—only drained; [ 19] I have still branches and leaves. And that is how the trunk will preserve itself, until the branches too have decayed, and the leaves have withered and will return no more. Oh! that I could keep my eyes from looking around; oh, that I knew where to turn them, away from the wretched monotony of human lies and deceits! It is truly a calamity, how much people ask of one another; how much they expect, hope, put trust in themselves and their brethren, truly intend to give and receive. Every sunrise brings immortal love, immortal friendship, to the world; if we only did not know that with every day there comes a dusk too, or did not remember what will happen thrice before the cock crows.14 One pities most those good souls who, after they have trudged along together for a few years, or have even kept company since infancy, and believe they are now quite certain about their common cause—they have eyes for but one [20] fate, and one grave, they defy every storm—and still, at the last, without knowing how, they manage to run each other aground, and often, simply lie shipwrecked there, without rescue because of some pettiness. Lucky for them, that they seldom know the secret of their fate! Before the eye of my soul I have long held an image of all human action and being, of our "life-course" as it is called: an image harsh but apt—the image of a treadmill. Everyone runs forward with eyes closed, in his own wheel; he congratulates himself on the stretch that he has put behind him; he knows of all the many foolishnesses, the many calamities


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

that are at his back; but he does not notice that right away they all rise up again, and again they fall upon his head, they lie before his gaze, and under his plodding feet. I would rather not talk about it, for he who sees it best, has only this advantage: that he stands still in his wheel, laughing at the others, or bewailing—[21] and himself—oh, he is far worse off! Wherever have I got to?—It's not where I wanted: but let it be my will now; for what's the harm? You know, of course, what has been said a thousand times: that one is bound to feel one's distress the most, at the moments when one overflows with one's whole being into the representation of it; so, let it be said yet once more to you that basically things in the world aren't so bad for Sylli. Believe me, trust the words of our dear Primrose: "Still, as we approach, the darkest objects appear to brighten, and the mental eye becomes adapted to its gloomy situation."15 And, Clerdon too has often on his lips the verses: "No situation, however wretched it seems, but has some sort of comfort attending it."l6 Believe, believe, however few the witnesses [22] for it may be: he who does not know what it is to make his bed on thorns, has yet to be invigorated by the best rest. But all this talk would be nothing, of course, if my heart had let go of my human brothers; but it clings tight to them with its strongest ties. Nobody can resist loving children from whom we certainly don't receive or expect more than I do from my grown-ups. Such a small, charming, lively little one—when you press him close to you, kiss him and fondle him, and can't let go of him: is it because you think of the good man who may perhaps lie hid in him? No; it's the mere child that attracts you, embodied and alive just as he is at this very moment; because he is lovely to look at, and he has a sweet mouth, and friendly looking eyes, limbs that move up and down, a body and a life, just like you, and his nerves resonate with yours. You know that you can buy his affection [23] with bribes of sweets and games, but you don't enjoy it with any the less hearty satisfaction for all that. You are not afflicted, or angry, if somebody else lures him away from you with shinier gifts or by fussing more, and then he doesn't like you any more and turns from you with a bah; or if he gets tired of you, the very moment you no longer cater to his whims, and cannot satisfy all his desires. It astounds me that the remark, We adults are only older children, is usually, if not always, uttered with a bitter expression of contempt, as a testimony to lack of love—to me it appears to be the most trustworthy balm of life. Oh yes! it's pure bliss to love human beings so; without vanity, without claims, just with plain love. Everything then goes to the heart so directly

Edward Allwill's Collection of Letters


and so unalloyed—and the heart is so powerful.—Oh, let me, let me just be suspended in Limbo, until I am made perfect!



Clerdon to Sylli

March 8 Dearest Sylli, it is so long since you wrote! We are all fretting our brains over it; kind Amalia, the nieces and I; each in our different way. But a letter will certainly come from you next Saturday, for I know that you won't let this latest one of mine go unanswered for a single day. In situations where the heart is touched, I can predict good deeds more confidently from you than from myself, for on that score Sylli cannot fail. Surely you are not now sighing over my strong faith? You should be here with us now, dearest Sylli—to join hands with us as we dance to celebrate the new spring. For you too must have felt the irresistible delight of yesterday. It has pierced [25] me through and through, and settled in my bones so to speak. I feel so joyful in my heart, and at the same time secretive, like a youth who has just drunk his soul's fill of love and hope from the eyes of a pious young woman. It started early in the morning. I was awakened by the earliest faint glow of dawn; I felt consoled as by the arm of a friend who was kissing me out of my slumber to an unexpected reunion. I stretched out my arms in the direction of that lovable friend; I wandered towards him, and found him—yes, I found him labouring at his rising.—Whoever doubts that there is music for the eye, should have seen the crimson of this dawn. Never did such angelic music come floating into my soul on hues. Yet, how do I know with which sense I took it in? I was besides myself. At the very first moment, upon the crowning of the presence, I was transformed, I shuddered; then, deep [26] in the breast, and yet deeper and more inward, a trembling—a trembling that shook everything loose in the most secret recesses of the heart, and killed the mortal in it. It was Death, that beautiful, heavenly youth! Unburdened of the corruptible part, I flew into his arms, sank into his lap, took up my abode with him, and in him, He who is, and was, and ever shall be; I tasted omnipotence, creation, eternal rest in love.—Ah, Sylli, that I had to come back! that the day had to come!


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

A glorious day nonetheless; one of the most beautiful in my life! With the first gleam of the sun, which directed my eye downward towards the glorious landscape stretching all around me, and returned me to the earth, a damning thought crossed my soul with the speed of light: how sinful, that one should only thus steal a glance at this majestic splendour of God, across embankment and moat; only sneak up to it briefly towards evening, [27] catching it in passing or from behind; while there is nothing to prevent one from taking up abode in the midst of this glory the whole day long, from covering oneself over and over again with this splendour of God, and enjoying what belongs to Him, the wide open Heaven, and the broad open earth. I pulled myself together again, dragged myself out into the full radiance of the sun, and wandered about. I took possession of the land, the meadow, the brook, the forest and the stream, the high and the low, heaven and earth. And as I now reached the hill, which was my destination, clambering up, and finally standing on top of it—as I looked far and wide around me, my blood rushed, my heart skipped, my bones resisted, and my hair bristled; while in all my nerves there rose a rejoicing, a ringing and singing, of the love, the pleasure and the power to live.

[28] These dots, my dear Sylli, signify a violent interruption, a pause that I must now allow to stand as an end to my song, for I am now out of tune and time. Just as I was in mind to tune up for my second part, up drove Allwill in a phaeton; and he would not leave me in peace but insisted that I let myself and Amalia be taken for a ride before dinner, and that he should be invited as guest to the midday meal in return. "He who does not yield": that's Allwill for you. And so it was done, just as he wanted. Now I am all distracted, and I cannot even think of trying to recapture the mood of early this morning. It is better that I should tell you about Allwill, about whom you have already enquired twice, if I am not mistaken. I will just sketch a few details about him for you. My wife, who has taken the young man—for he is not yet twenty-four years old—under her wing, in order to tame him and improve him, will make an exhaustive report of him to you. He has developed a lot since you last saw him; [29] but he is still an incomprehensible muddle of a man. Recently his father told the tale of him that, as a boy, he was never in one piece from his third year on, but had always a couple of bumps on his head, and sores all over. We never tired of hearing the good Major relate the strange pranks of the boy, and

Edward Allwill's Collection of Letters


how the Messrs tutors, and he too, did not hold out much hope for him; for in spite of all his liveliness, he was slow in his studies, and for all his good heart, he was extremely stubborn, unruly, and spiteful. He was taken to be somewhat weak of mind, for his peers constantly outwitted him, easily talked him into anything, and always left him with the bills to pay. A couple of incidents come to mind that can easily be related in brief. Close upon his sixth year, he got it into his head that his beloved rocking horse, [30] by the name of Chestnut, would come alive if he just fed him a living fly. He exerted himself tirelessly in preparations for his plan, which would not be so easy to pull off, since the rocking machine was not hollow. Once, as he jerked it into motion with great vehemence, in such a way that it kept on hitting the floor with its front extremities, he noticed to his surprise that it had slid forward. He now began to drive his animal forward with greater vehemence, and quite quickly he arrived at the opposite end of the chamber. His joy was boundless. Nobody could dissuade him from believing that his Chestnut had come to life, and nothing in the world could budge him from his horse's side. Noontime came, and Edward was not hungry. His father had him told that he must at least come down; but although in other matters he feared the Major a lot, this time he could not bring himself to obey. Everyone in the house, who in dieir mind's eye already saw their dear Edward whipped until the blood came, ran upstairs. [31] They beseeched and cajoled him; they made promises and threats; but all to no avail. The Major, who would be obeyed at all cost, commanded that the boy should be brought downstairs by force. So it was done. After being thoroughly rebuked, he was told to sit at the table. But no; he was not hungry. He was threatened, and forced. It was all in vain for he only saw his Chestnut, and the open heaven. Since his obstinacy must somehow be broken now, there was no choice left but to thrash him soundly, and to separate him from his horse—which was done, and so for a couple of hours he was locked up in a dark hole. Some time later, in the evening when it was dark, he had crawled up a scaffold, with the intention of attempting a great leap which now, after many successful tests, he believed he was in a position to attempt. Boldly he leapt, but he came down with so much force that there was fear his nose-bone had been split in two. [32] That was nothing! But how could he appear before his father the following day? The youngster could have endured anything in the world, rather than a rebuke. The Major was easily convinced this time to spare his Edward any punishment, and even


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

the obligation to sit at table. But after eating the boy would still have to appear before him, and that caused great misery. The diffident pigheaded boy simply did not want to go downstairs, until his older brother William, a cunning talker but basically a good boy, finally induced him to go, under the most sacred assurances that father would not allude to the crushed nose even by a gesture. It still took great effort, for William's ready tongue had got Edward into trouble many times before this already; but deep in his heart an invincible source of faith always submerged his memory very quickly; so much so that even now he has not grown much wiser on this score. Edward now walked up to the Major holding his brother's hand. [33] As promised the Major surveyed him with quite a mild look; but he did not fail to remark that he would indeed have to have a nose-sheath made for him. My Edward turned round swiftly, crying " You liarl" and he gave his brother such a mighty push that the boy went tumbling four steps backwards into a sand-box. The Major was alarmed, and sent the culprit out of his sight, as a most despicable monster. Things of this sort happened every day. But nothing dampened Edward's courage and good spirits in all this. Few men have suffered more blows; but never would he trade them for the willing acceptance of the smallest humiliation, or soften the displeasure of his superiors with tears or entreaties. He told me himself recently how he was once lashed near to death, because his tutor tried to lead him through Socratic questioning to the admission that the strap was a good thing, and he always kept him from the desired conclusion [34] by playing dumb. More than once he took the blame and the punishment of his playmates upon himself, not so much out of friendship, or from compassion, as because he felt unbearable disgust at the whining and crying during the administration of the punishment. In all this not a shadow of self-assertiveness; on the contrary, he was so diffident, so meek towards everyone (he took this to be a good thing) and at the same time so congenial, so thankful, so gentle and so good, that most people took him partly for an idiot, and partly for a flatterer. In the face of untruth, and even in the face of simple error. . . . Good thing that I have to look for a fresh sheet here, else it would have hardly occurred to me that the post leaves in a quarter of an hour. If you like, I will return to this subject next time,.and tell you about the contrasts in the little Edward—how in all his intractability he was not wild, but disposed more to silence, and to private living; how in his intense desires for sense-pleasures, in his recklessness of action, he was yet given [35] to

Edward All-will's Collection of Letters


brooding, and adhered to invisible objects; how in his fourteenth year he became a pietist, etc.—It is unspeakably fascinating to know all this about the child, and then to observe the youth: how it is always the same hand, perhaps only a couple of cards more or less, mixed and played in a different way.

P.S. It occurs to me to enclose a letter for you that Edward recently wrote to me from Kambeck. But I must have it back without fail, so that at some point I can confront the author with the first half of it. The forest incident will amuse you.


vi Enclosure to Clerdon's Letter

Edward to Clerdon It was not an apoplectic fit, my dear, that was being so horridly described to you; only an attack of intense dizziness, which had its good causes. I am better again now, and I am no longer forbidden, under penalty of eternal life or ... the mad-house, to read, write, or undertake anything otherwise human. The sun also shines again in the cheerful sky; the air is still; I and the whole of nature—we are in good humour. Word has it in our C** that Madam von Kambeck has me in her net; or would it be better, that I lie prostrate at her feet, that I should worship her? So be it! But you, dear Clerdon, [37] you ought to know better. Listen to my whole secret. Association with the other gender entices me infinitely; these pleasant creatures have the sort of thing in them, soft and ingratiating, that suits me. Near them the intensity in my mode of feeling (which is all too much) gradually tones down; they steal equanimity and tranquillity into my heart. Well now, add a closer relation to this, and I ride with my Juno up there above the clouds, while the poor dandies down below climb their mountains and pile up their boulders. . . . Oh, Clerdon! this sort of thing always drives the devil in me to


The Main Philosophical Writings and theNovelAll will

his wit's end; it's as good as being shipwrecked in a fountain of holy water . . . I have won the match. Yet in all this or rather, because of it, the thought of worshipping any of these goddesses whom I have just praised, of lying prostrate at their feet in earnestness, is to me unbearable. Years ago, yes—then the deeds of a Roland17 would have been my own style too. But I became aware quite quickly of just how my immortal ones were constituted at [38] bottom; and I have happily endeavoured to make the will of the all-powerful Fate into my own fate as well. Oh dear, I have nothing against there being Clarissas, Clementines, Juliettes,18 or, in general, holy virgins immaculately conceived.19 But let us have no great fuss about it I pray! For look you, these sublime works of the imagination are to blame that so many men think contemptuously of their wives whom God made—wives for this earth here, and not for the moon to which these gentlemen are seeking the way. They reproach their wives, and complain of the cruelties, infidelities, horrors, and shameful actions that they have suffered at their hands; and yet, more often than not, the good creatures don't even know what these bad deeds are. It is mad to behave so harshly towards them! Let us let them be as nature wished them, without trying to torture and tempt them into being angels; then they will gladly love us, and [39] with as much inwardness, firmness and magnanimity, as their pleasant little souls are capable of. I can't help making fun of myself, and getting angry, whenever I look back upon how I could never attach myself to a young woman without striving as hard as I could to reshape her according to a certain model that was in my mind. Think of the American savages who squeezed the head and forehead of their children between boards, and turned them into monsters with the praiseworthy intention of making them like their idols, the divine sun and the divine moon. I was doing exactly the same. And while I burdened myself with this foolishness, I endured frightful sufferings. My stars were in eclipse at every moment; and no matter what loud din I made to frighten away the ugly monster who lay in wait for the catch, [40] in the end I always had to watch him devour the poor wretches before my eyes. Wearied by so many unhappy experiences, I said to myself very wisely one day, in the early morning: "It is certainly true, that neither Aspasia, nor Dana, nor Phyllis, nor Melinda, nor so many other names that you know, are the names of stars in heaven. But tell me: Are we not often happier drinking by candle light, than feasting in the full light of the sun? So, enjoy the little festival, and leave the marvellous and monstrous splendours alone—since without Merlin's magic

Edward Allwill's Collection of Letters


wand, they are beyond reach anyway."—From that day on, whatever adventures may have come my way in the region of love, I have never again had visions of horns, fish-tails, or claws in my beauties; but . . . I have always had fun. It is not likely that I shall be able to get away from here at the beginning of the coming week. [41] Nor would I mind being detained, were it not for the young Count von Batuff, whom my guardian devil holds spell-bound here, and who has me involved in some disagreeableness with him at every turn. He put me in an ill humour the moment that I stepped into the castle. You know that my superintendent instructed me to ride a couple of hours down the road from here to inspect the watermechanisms in the mines at D***. I despatched the job as quickly as possible, and then rode back at an extended trot through the Kambeck forest. Somewhere about the middle of it I saw two unharnessed horses, an overthrown wagon carrying wood, and the driver standing by, leaning against a tree. The poor fellow had unloaded his cargo of wood, and had removed the one wheel; but he was still not able to lift up the sunken wagon. No matter how I took it, the incident came for me at an inconvenient time. I rode by. Apparently, however, my [42] right arm must have pulled back automatically, for my horse lapsed from its trot. At that moment I realized that I was not fleeing from anywhere, and regained my control of what was right. I dismounted, and offered my help to the poor man who needed it. A look at my golden mount, accompanied by a bitter smile, answered to me that the likes of him could expect no help from nobility, but only the cruellest mockery. That was a flash of lightning in my soul, Clerdon! I felt all the abuses and the thrashing that I would not have failed to give the man, if he had met me in similar circumstances, and had denied me his help. Without further ado, I attacked the wagon with such force, that in a single heave it came to rest on the opposite axle; I then hurried to the wheel and rolled it by; the wagon was pulled up, and the wheel put back in place. I also wanted to help the man reload the wood, but he absolutely would not allow it, no matter how sincere my [43] begging was. He did not feel what kind of good deed he had rendered to me.—Ah, how pleased the man was with me; how he thanked me, admired me, how he would never forget it, and would relate it to his children, the whole village! Great God! I wanted to disappear for shame, and I would certainly not have ridden to Kambeck this time, if I had only known where else to go. I arrived late. From the sad condition my clothes were in, it was concluded that I had fallen off the horse. I recounted my story. Count Batuff stood swaggering


The Main Philosophical Writings and the Novel Allwill

right by my nose, and listened with that special kind of smile, well known to you in some of his kind, a smile that betrays emptiness and arrogance at the first glance; this time, however, the Count's consciousness of his own superiority over any such weakness, as he could hear I had just been guilty of, gave it somewhat more expression and life. Hardly had I finished my story, than he sprang upon us a sudden idea that had long been lying ready in ambush. It's a good thing, he said, turning to Lady von Kambeck, that the farmer's horses had not run away from him, or that he was not lying there himself with some serious wound; for otherwise Allwill would have had to harness his English stallion, and cart his beloved neighbour home.—Count, I replied, you are perhaps too kind in your judgment of me; for I was so close to leaving my poor farmer without help, and then I would have been . . . a callous blackguard. Out of politeness, I uttered the word "blackguard" only lightly; but, as usual, it did not escape the notice of Lady von Kambeck. She changed colour, and one saw in the eyes of the Count . . . that he was feeling queasy. But I went on, talking my heart out, and did not rest until I had dumped upon this young gentleman (who only knew the word "Mensch" [45] in its most contemptible secondary meaning) * all of the abuses and the thrashing, the thought of which had frightened me in the morning. And that was enough—for the time being. Would you tell my superintendent that I shall be away a few days longer? Make sure he sees it in the proper light, my dear fellow; and let my father know about it too.



Amalia to Sylli Saturday, March 11, about six-thirty in the morning Edward came yesterday afternoon, with the Lord von Kambeck and an officer whom you don't know, and they abducted my Clerdon to Born, where a string of English horses are due this morning. The good Clerdon was not involved in the business at all, but you know how he lets * "Mensch" normally signifies in German a genuinely human being (man or woman), but it can also be used in a disparaging sense, as in "Du Mensch!"

Edward Allwill's Collection of Letters


himself be talked into things.—So I am now alone with my coffee, and in the sad situation of having to pour all the cream from the milk into my own cup. I began to read; but already by the second page all sorts of things began to go through my head that had to do with you; I couldn't get rid of the distractions, so I put the book aside. Dear Sylli! the sky is not cheerful, so it is to blame if my study is not as charming as it could be. I have opened [47] a window, and I stood by it for a little while to muse about my friends; and now I shall chat a bit with you, until my boys come. First let's speak our misery, our vexation, annoyance, anger (which of them it really ought to be, we don't yet know ourselves, alas!) because of the unusually long lack of letters from you. Clerdon is ready to bet all his cash (and how much do you reckon we offer to bet against him?) that by the next postilion we shall receive several letters all at once. This much is certain, that the postbag from U . . . r is already two post-days late. Apparently a flood that has breached the bridge at E** and caused immense damage is to blame. Already on Monday we thought that a le