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Title: The Philosophy of Spiritual Activity - A Modern Philosophy of Life Develop by Scientific Methods
Author: Steiner, Rudolf
Language: English
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                           THE PHILOSOPHY OF
                           SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY
                      A Modern Philosophy of Life
                    Developed by Scientific Methods

                           By RUDOLF STEINER
                             Ph.D. (Vienna)

                Being an Enlarged and Revised Edition of
                      "The Philosophy of Freedom,"
                  together with the Original Thesis on
                          "Truth and Science"

                       AUTHORIZED TRANSLATION BY
                 Professor & Mrs. R. F. ALFRED HOERNLÉ

                          G. P. Putnam's Sons
                           London & New York


The following pages are a translation of Dr. Steiner's Philosophie der
Freiheit, which was published in Germany some twenty years ago. The
edition was soon exhausted, and has never been reprinted; copies are
much sought after but very difficult to obtain.

The popularity of Dr. Steiner's later works upon ethics, mysticism,
and kindred subjects has caused people to forget his earlier work upon
philosophy in spite of the fact that he makes frequent references
to this book and it contains the germs of which many of his present
views are the logical outcome. For the above reasons, and with the
author's sanction, I have decided to publish a translation.

I have had the good fortune to have been able to secure as joint
translators Mrs. Hoernlé, who, after graduating in the University of
the Cape of Good Hope, continued her studies in the Universities of
Cambridge, Leipzig, Paris, and Bonn, and her husband, Mr. R. F. Alfred
Hoernlé, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University,
U.S.A., formerly Jenkyns Exhibitioner, Balliol College, Oxford,
their thorough knowledge of philosophy and their complete command
of the German and English languages enabling them to overcome the
difficulty of finding adequate English equivalents for the terms of
German Philosophy.

I am glad to seize this opportunity of acknowledging my indebtedness
to these two, without whom this publication could not have been


March 1916.


In 1918 Dr. Steiner published a revised edition of the Philosophie
der Freiheit. For the translation of the new passages added to, and
of the incidental changes made in, this revised edition I am indebted
to Mr. Hoernlé, now Professor of Philosophy in the Armstrong College
(Newcastle-upon-Tyne), University of Durham.

At the author's request I have changed the title to Philosophy of
Spiritual Activity, and throughout the entire work "freedom" should
be taken to mean "spiritual activity."

Dr. Steiner's Ph. D. Thesis on "Truth and Science," originally
published as a prelude to The Philosophy of Freedom, has, with his
consent, been translated for this edition and been added at the end
of this volume.

H. C.

March 1921.


    CHAP.                                                       PAGE

PREFACE TO THE REVISED EDITION (1918)                             XI


    I     CONSCIOUS HUMAN ACTION                                   1
    IV    THE WORLD AS PERCEPT                                    48
    V     OUR KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD                              73
    VI    HUMAN INDIVIDUALITY                                    101
    VII   ARE THERE LIMITS TO KNOWLEDGE?                         109


    VIII  THE FACTORS OF LIFE                                    137
    IX    THE IDEA OF FREEDOM                                    146
    XIV   THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE GENUS                           250


    XV    THE CONSEQUENCES OF MONISM                             259


    I     PRELIMINARY OBSERVATIONS                               277
    III   THEORY OF KNOWLEDGE SINCE KANT                         291
    V     KNOWLEDGE AND REALITY                                  319
          FICHTE'S THEORY OF SCIENCE                             329
    VIII  CONCLUDING REMARKS: PRACTICAL                          351


          FREEDOM" 1918                                          357
          SCIENCE"                                               381


There are two fundamental problems in the life of the human mind,
to one or other of which everything belongs that is to be discussed
in this book. One of these problems concerns the possibility of
attaining to such a view of the essential nature of man as will
serve as a support for whatever else comes into his life by way
of experience or of science, and yet is subject to the suspicion of
having no support in itself and of being liable to be driven, by doubt
and criticism, into the limbo of uncertainties. The other problem is
this: Is man, as voluntary agent, entitled to attribute freedom to
himself, or is freedom a mere illusion begotten of his inability to
recognise the threads of necessity on which his volition, like any
natural event, depends? It is no artificial tissue of theories which
provokes this question. In a certain mood it presents itself quite
naturally to the human mind. And it is easy to feel that a mind lacks
something of its full stature which has never once confronted with
the utmost seriousness of inquiry the two possibilities--freedom
or necessity. This book is intended to show that the spiritual
experiences which the second problem causes man to undergo, depend
upon the position he is able to take up towards the first problem. An
attempt will be made to prove that there is a view concerning the
essential nature of man which can support the rest of knowledge; and,
further, an attempt to point out how with this view we gain a complete
justification for the idea of free will, provided only that we have
first discovered that region of the mind in which free volition can
unfold itself.

The view to which we here refer is one which, once gained, is
capable of becoming part and parcel of the very life of the mind
itself. The answer given to the two problems will not be of the
purely theoretical sort which, once mastered, may be carried about
as a mere piece of memory-knowledge. Such an answer would, for the
whole manner of thinking adopted in this book, be no real answer at
all. The book will not give a finished and complete answer of this
sort, but point to a field of spiritual experience in which man's
own inward spiritual activity supplies a living answer to these
questions, as often as he needs one. Whoever has once discovered the
region of the mind where these questions arise, will find precisely
in his actual acquaintance with this region all that he needs for the
solution of his two problems. With the knowledge thus acquired he may
then, as desire or fate dictate, adventure further into the breadths
and depths of this unfathomable life of ours. Thus it would appear
that there is a kind of knowledge which proves its justification and
validity by its own inner life as well as by the kinship of its own
life with the whole life of the human mind.

This is how I conceived the contents of this book when I first wrote
it twenty-five years ago. To-day, once again, I have to set down
similar sentences if I am to characterise the leading thoughts of
my book. At the original writing I contented myself with saying no
more than was in the strictest sense connected with the fundamental
problems which I have outlined. If anyone should be astonished at
not finding in this book as yet any reference to that region of the
world of spiritual experience of which I have given an account in my
later writings, I would ask him to bear in mind that it was not my
purpose at that time to set down the results of spiritual research,
but first to lay the foundations on which such results can rest. The
Philosophy of Spiritual Activity contains no special results of
this spiritual sort, as little as it contains special results of
the natural sciences. But what it does contain is, in my judgment,
indispensable for anyone who desires a secure foundation for such
knowledge. What I have said in this book may be acceptable even to
some who, for reasons of their own, refuse to have anything to do with
the results of my researches into the Spiritual Realm. But anyone who
finds something to attract him in my inquiries into the Spiritual
Realm may well appreciate the importance of what I was here trying
to do. It is this: to show that open-minded consideration simply of
the two problems which I have indicated and which are fundamental
for all knowledge, leads to the view that man lives in the midst of
a genuine Spiritual World. The aim of this book is to demonstrate,
prior to our entry upon spiritual experience, that knowledge of the
Spiritual World is a fact. This demonstration is so conducted that it
is never necessary, in order to accept the present arguments, to cast
furtive glances at the experiences on which I have dwelt in my later
writings. All that is necessary is that the reader should be willing
and able to adapt himself to the manner of the present discussions.

Thus it seems to me that in one sense this book occupies a
position completely independent of my writings on strictly spiritual
matters. Yet in another sense it seems to be most intimately connected
with them. These considerations have moved me now, after a lapse of
twenty-five years, to re-publish the contents of this book in the
main without essential alterations. I have only made additions of some
length to a number of chapters. The misunderstandings of my argument
with which I have met seemed to make these more detailed elaborations
necessary. Actual changes of text have been made by me only where
it seemed to me now that I had said clumsily what I meant to say a
quarter of a century ago. (Only malice could find in these changes
occasion to suggest that I have changed my fundamental conviction.)

For many years my book has been out of print. In spite of the fact,
which is apparent from what I have just said, that my utterances
of twenty-five years ago about these problems still seem to me just
as relevant today, I hesitated a long time about the completion of
this revised edition. Again and again I have asked myself whether I
ought not, at this point or that, to define my position towards the
numerous philosophical theories which have been put forward since the
publication of the first edition. Yet my preoccupation in recent years
with researches into the purely Spiritual Realm prevented my doing as I
could have wished. However, a survey, as thorough as I could make it,
of the philosophical literature of the present day has convinced me
that such a critical discussion, alluring though it would be in itself,
would be out of place in the context of what my book has to say. All
that, from the point of view of the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity,
it seemed to me necessary to say about recent philosophical tendencies
may be found in the second volume of my Riddles of Philosophy.


April 1918.




Is man free in action and thought, or is he bound by an iron
necessity? There are few questions on which so much ingenuity has
been expended. The idea of freedom has found enthusiastic supporters
and stubborn opponents in plenty. There are those who, in their
moral fervour, label anyone a man of limited intelligence who can
deny so patent a fact as freedom. Opposed to them are others who
regard it as the acme of unscientific thinking for anyone to believe
that the uniformity of natural law is broken in the sphere of human
action and thought. One and the same thing is thus proclaimed, now
as the most precious possession of humanity, now as its most fatal
illusion. Infinite subtlety has been employed to explain how human
freedom can be consistent with determinism in nature of which man,
after all, is a part. Others have been at no less pains to explain
how such a delusion as this could have arisen. That we are dealing
here with one of the most important questions for life, religion,
conduct, science, must be clear to every one whose most prominent
trait of character is not the reverse of thoroughness. It is one
of the sad signs of the superficiality of present-day thought, that
a book which attempts to develop a new faith out of the results of
recent scientific research (David Friedrich Strauss, Der alte und
neue Glaube), has nothing more to say on this question than these
words: "With the question of the freedom of the human will we are
not concerned. The alleged freedom of indifferent choice has been
recognised as an empty illusion by every philosophy worthy of the
name. The determination of the moral value of human conduct and
character remains untouched by this problem." It is not because I
consider that the book in which it occurs has any special importance
that I quote this passage, but because it seems to me to express the
only view to which the thought of the majority of our contemporaries
is able to rise in this matter. Every one who has grown beyond the
kindergarten-stage of science appears to know nowadays that freedom
cannot consist in choosing, at one's pleasure, one or other of
two possible courses of action. There is always, so we are told,
a perfectly definite reason why, out of several possible actions,
we carry out just one and no other.

This seems quite obvious. Nevertheless, down to the present day, the
main attacks of the opponents of freedom are directed only against
freedom of choice. Even Herbert Spencer, in fact, whose doctrines are
gaining ground daily, says, "That every one is at liberty to desire or
not to desire, which is the real proposition involved in the dogma of
free will, is negatived as much by the analysis of consciousness, as by
the contents of the preceding chapters" (The Principles of Psychology,
Part IV, chap. ix, par. 219). Others, too, start from the same point
of view in combating the concept of free will. The germs of all the
relevant arguments are to be found as early as Spinoza. All that
he brought forward in clear and simple language against the idea of
freedom has since been repeated times without number, but as a rule
enveloped in the most sophisticated arguments, so that it is difficult
to recognise the straightforward train of thought which is alone in
question. Spinoza writes in a letter of October or November, 1674,
"I call a thing free which exists and acts from the pure necessity of
its nature, and I call that unfree, of which the being and action are
precisely and fixedly determined by something else. Thus, e.g., God,
though necessary, is free because he exists only through the necessity
of his own nature. Similarly, God knows himself and all else as free,
because it follows solely from the necessity of his nature that he
knows all. You see, therefore, that for me freedom consists not in
free decision, but in free necessity.

"But let us come down to created things which are all determined
by external causes to exist and to act in a fixed and definite
manner. To perceive this more clearly, let us imagine a perfectly
simple case. A stone, for example, receives from an external cause
acting upon it a certain quantity of motion, by reason of which it
necessarily continues to move, after the impact of the external cause
has ceased. The continued motion of the stone is due to compulsion, not
to the necessity of its own nature, because it requires to be defined
by the impact of an external cause. What is true here for the stone
is true also for every other particular thing, however complicated and
many-sided it may be, namely, that everything is necessarily determined
by external causes to exist and to act in a fixed and definite manner.

"Now, pray, assume that this stone during its motion thinks and
knows that it is striving to the best of its power to continue in
motion. This stone which is conscious only of its striving and is
by no means indifferent, will believe that it is absolutely free,
and that it continues in motion for no other reason than its own
will to continue. Now this is that human freedom which everybody
claims to possess and which consists in nothing but this, that men
are conscious of their desires, but ignorant of the causes by which
they are determined. Thus the child believes that he desires milk of
his own free will, the angry boy regards his desire for vengeance as
free, and the coward his desire for flight. Again, the drunken man
believes that he says of his own free will what, sober again, he would
fain have left unsaid, and as this prejudice is innate in all men,
it is difficult to free oneself from it. For, although experience
teaches us often enough that man least of all can temper his desires,
and that, moved by conflicting passions, he perceives the better and
pursues the worse, yet he considers himself free because there are
some things which he desires less strongly, and some desires which he
can easily inhibit through the recollection of something else which
it is often possible to recall."

It is easy to detect the fundamental error of this view, because it
is so clearly and definitely expressed. The same necessity by which
a stone makes a definite movement as the result of an impact, is
said to compel a man to carry out an action when impelled thereto by
any cause. It is only because man is conscious of his action, that he
thinks himself to be its originator. In doing so, he overlooks the fact
that he is driven by a cause which he must obey unconditionally. The
error in this train of thought is easily brought to light. Spinoza,
and all who think like him, overlook the fact that man not only is
conscious of his action, but also may become conscious of the cause
which guides him. Anyone can see that a child is not free when he
desires milk, nor the drunken man when he says things which he later
regrets. Neither knows anything of the causes, working deep within
their organisms, which exercise irresistible control over them. But
is it justifiable to lump together actions of this kind with those
in which a man is conscious not only of his actions but also of their
causes? Are the actions of men really all of one kind? Should the act
of a soldier on the field of battle, of the scientific researcher in
his laboratory, of the statesman in the most complicated diplomatic
negotiations, be placed on the same level with that of the child
when he desires milk? It is, no doubt, true that it is best to seek
the solution of a problem where the conditions are simplest. But
lack of ability to see distinctions has before now caused endless
confusion. There is, after all, a profound difference between
knowing the motive of my action and not knowing it. At first sight
this seems a self-evident truth. And yet the opponents of freedom
never ask themselves whether a motive of action which I recognise
and understand, is to be regarded as compulsory for me in the same
sense as the organic process which causes the child to cry for milk.

Eduard von Hartmann, in his Phänomenologie des Sittlichen Bewusstseins
(p. 451), asserts that the human will depends on two chief factors,
the motives and the character. If one regards men as all alike, or at
any rate the differences between them as negligible, then their will
appears as determined from without, viz., by the circumstances with
which they come in contact. But if one bears in mind that men adopt an
idea as the motive of their conduct, only if their character is such
that this idea arouses a desire in them, then men appear as determined
from within and not from without. Now, because an idea, given to us
from without, must first in accordance with our characters be adopted
as a motive, men believe that they are free, i.e., independent of
external influences. The truth, however, according to Eduard von
Hartmann, is that "even though we must first adopt an idea as a
motive, we do so not arbitrarily, but according to the disposition
of our characters, that is, we are anything but free." Here again
the difference between motives, which I allow to influence me only
after I have consciously made them my own, and those which I follow
without any clear knowledge of them, is absolutely ignored.

This leads us straight to the standpoint from which the subject will
be treated here. Have we any right to consider the question of the
freedom of the will by itself at all? And if not, with what other
question must it necessarily be connected?

If there is a difference between conscious and unconscious motives of
action, then the action in which the former issue should be judged
differently from the action which springs from blind impulse. Hence
our first question will concern this difference, and on the result
of this inquiry will depend what attitude we ought to take up towards
the question of freedom proper.

What does it mean to have knowledge of the motives of one's
actions? Too little attention has been paid to this question, because,
unfortunately, man who is an indivisible whole has always been torn
asunder by us. The agent has been divorced from the knower, whilst he
who matters more than everything else, viz., the man who acts because
he knows, has been utterly overlooked.

It is said that man is free when he is controlled only by his reason,
and not by his animal passions. Or, again, that to be free means to
be able to determine one's life and action by purposes and deliberate

Nothing is gained by assertions of this sort. For the question is just
whether reason, purposes, and decisions exercise the same kind of
compulsion over a man as his animal passions. If, without my doing,
a rational decision occurs in me with the same necessity with which
hunger and thirst happen to me, then I must needs obey it, and my
freedom is an illusion.

Another form of expression runs: to be free means, not that we can will
what we will, but that we can do what we will. This thought has been
expressed with great clearness by the poet-philosopher Robert Hamerling
in his Atomistik des Willens. "Man can, it is true, do what he wills,
but he cannot will what he wills, because his will is determined by
motives! He cannot will what he wills? Let us consider these phrases
more closely. Have they any intelligible meaning? Does freedom of will,
then, mean being able to will without ground, without motive? What
does willing mean if not to have grounds for doing, or striving to do,
this rather than that? To will anything without ground or motive would
mean to will something without willing it. The concept of motive is
indissolubly bound up with that of will. Without the determining
motive the will is an empty faculty; it is the motive which makes
it active and real. It is, therefore, quite true that the human will
is not 'free,' inasmuch as its direction is always determined by the
strongest motive. But, on the other hand, it must be admitted that it
is absurd to speak, in contrast with this 'unfreedom,' of a conceivable
'freedom' of the will, which would consist in being able to will what
one does not will" (Atomistik des Willens, p. 213 ff.).

Here, again, only motives in general are mentioned, without taking into
account the difference between unconscious and conscious motives. If
a motive affects me, and I am compelled to act on it because it proves
to be the "strongest" of its kind, then the idea of freedom ceases to
have any meaning. How should it matter to me whether I can do a thing
or not, if I am forced by the motive to do it? The primary question
is, not whether I can do a thing or not when impelled by a motive,
but whether the only motives are such as impel me with absolute
necessity. If I must will something, then I may well be absolutely
indifferent as to whether I can also do it. And if, through my
character, or through circumstances prevailing in my environment,
a motive is forced on me which to my thinking is unreasonable, then
I should even have to be glad if I could not do what I will.

The question is, not whether I can carry out a decision once made,
but how I come to make the decision.

What distinguishes man from all other organic beings is his rational
thought. Activity is common to him with other organisms. Nothing is
gained by seeking analogies in the animal world to clear up the concept
of freedom as applied to the actions of human beings. Modern science
loves these analogies. When scientists have succeeded in finding among
animals something similar to human behaviour, they believe they have
touched on the most important question of the science of man. To what
misunderstandings this view leads is seen, for example, in the book
Die Illusion der Willensfreiheit, by P. Ree, 1885, where, on Page 5,
the following remark on freedom appears: "It is easy to explain why
the movement of a stone seems to us necessary, while the volition
of a donkey does not. The causes which set the stone in motion are
external and visible, while the causes which determine the donkey's
volition are internal and invisible. Between us and the place of their
activity there is the skull cap of the ass.... The causal nexus is
not visible and is therefore thought to be non-existent. The volition,
it is explained, is, indeed, the cause of the donkey's turning round,
but is itself unconditioned; it is an absolute beginning." Here again
human actions in which there is a consciousness of the motives are
simply ignored, for Ree declares, "that between us and the sphere of
their activity there is the skull cap of the ass." As these words
show, it has not so much as dawned on Ree that there are actions,
not indeed of the ass, but of human beings, in which the motive,
become conscious, lies between us and the action. Ree demonstrates
his blindness once again a few pages further on, when he says,
"We do not perceive the causes by which our will is determined,
hence we think it is not causally determined at all."

But enough of examples which prove that many argue against freedom
without knowing in the least what freedom is.

That an action of which the agent does not know why he performs
it, cannot be free goes without saying. But what of the freedom
of an action about the motives of which we reflect? This leads us
to the question of the origin and meaning of thought. For without
the recognition of the activity of mind which is called thought,
it is impossible to understand what is meant either by knowledge of
something or by action. When we know what thought in general means,
it will be easier to see clearly the role which thought plays in human
action. As Hegel rightly says, "It is thought which turns the soul,
common to us and animals, into spirit." Hence it is thought which we
may expect to give to human action its characteristic stamp.

I do not mean to imply that all our actions spring only from the sober
deliberations of our reason. I am very far from calling only those
actions "human" in the highest sense, which proceed from abstract
judgments. But as soon as our conduct rises above the sphere of the
satisfaction of purely animal desires, our motives are always shaped by
thoughts. Love, pity, and patriotism are motives of action which cannot
be analysed away into cold concepts of the understanding. It is said
that here the heart, the soul, hold sway. This is no doubt true. But
the heart and the soul create no motives. They presuppose them. Pity
enters my heart when the thought of a person who arouses pity had
appeared in my consciousness. The way to the heart is through the
head. Love is no exception. Whenever it is not merely the expression
of bare sexual instinct, it depends on the thoughts we form of the
loved one. And the more we idealise the loved one in our thoughts,
the more blessed is our love. Here, too, thought is the father of
feeling. It is said that love makes us blind to the failings of the
loved one. But the opposite view can be taken, namely that it is
precisely for the good points that love opens the eyes. Many pass
by these good points without notice. One, however, perceives them,
and just because he does, love awakens in his soul. What else has he
done except perceive what hundreds have failed to see? Love is not
theirs, because they lack the perception.

From whatever point we regard the subject, it becomes more and more
clear that the question of the nature of human action presupposes
that of the origin of thought. I shall, therefore, turn next to
this question.



                            Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust,
                            Die eine will sich von der andern trennen;
                            Die eine hält, in derber Liebeslust,
                            Sich an die Welt mit klammernden Organen;
                            Die andre hebt gewaltsam sich vom Dust
                            Zu den Gefilden hoher Ahnen. [1]

                                                     Faust I, 1112-1117.

In these words Goethe expresses a trait which is deeply ingrained
in human nature. Man is not a self-contained unity. He demands ever
more than the world, of itself, offers him. Nature has endowed
us with needs; among them are some the satisfaction of which she
leaves to our own activity. However abundant the gifts which we
have received, still more abundant are our desires. We seem born
to dissatisfaction. And our desire for knowledge is but a special
instance of this unsatisfied striving. Suppose we look twice at a
tree. The first time we see its branches at rest, the second time
in motion. We are not satisfied with this observation. Why, we ask,
does the tree appear to us now at rest, then in motion? Every glance
at nature evokes in us a multitude of questions. Every phenomenon
we meet presents a new problem to be solved. Every experience is to
us a riddle. We observe that from the egg there emerges a creature
like the mother animal, and we ask for the reason of the likeness. We
observe a living being grow and develop to a determinate degree of
perfection, and we seek the conditions of this experience. Nowhere
are we satisfied with the facts which nature spreads out before our
senses. Everywhere we seek what we call the explanation of these facts.

The something more which we seek in things, over and above what is
immediately given to us in them, splits our whole being into two
parts. We become conscious of our opposition to the world. We oppose
ourselves to the world as independent beings. The universe has for
us two opposite poles: Self and World.

We erect this barrier between ourselves and the world as soon as
consciousness is first kindled in us. But we never cease to feel that,
in spite of all, we belong to the world, that there is a connecting
link between it and us, and that we are beings within, and not without,
the universe.

This feeling makes us strive to bridge over this opposition,
and ultimately the whole spiritual striving of mankind is nothing
but the bridging of this opposition. The history of our spiritual
life is a continuous seeking after union between ourselves and the
world. Religion, Art, and Science follow, one and all, this goal. The
religious man seeks in the revelation, which God grants him, the
solution of the world problem, which his Self, dissatisfied with
the world of mere phenomena, sets him as a task. The artist seeks to
embody in his material the ideas which are his Self, that he may thus
reconcile the spirit which lives within him and the outer world. He,
too, feels dissatisfied with the world of mere appearances, and
seeks to mould into it that something more which his Self supplies
and which transcends appearances. The thinker searches for the laws
of phenomena. He strives to master by thought what he experiences
by observation. Only when we have transformed the world-content
into our thought-content do we recapture the connection which we
had ourselves broken off. We shall see later that this goal can be
reached only if we penetrate much more deeply than is often done into
the nature of the scientist's problem. The whole situation, as I have
here stated it, meets us, on the stage of history, in the conflict
between the one-world theory, or Monism, and the two-world theory,
or Dualism. Dualism pays attention only to the separation between
the Self and the World, which the consciousness of man has brought
about. All its efforts consist in a vain struggle to reconcile these
opposites, which it calls now Mind and Matter, now Subject and Object,
now Thought and Appearance. The Dualist feels that there must be
a bridge between the two worlds, but is not able to find it. In so
far as man is aware of himself as "I," he cannot but put down this
"I" in thought on the side of Spirit; and in opposing to this "I"
the world, he is bound to reckon on the world's side the realm of
percepts given to the senses, i.e., the Material World. In doing so,
man assigns a position to himself within this very antithesis of
Spirit and Matter. He is the more compelled to do so because his own
body belongs to the Material World. Thus the "I," or Ego, belongs as a
part to the realm of Spirit; the material objects and processes which
are perceived by the senses belong to the "World." All the riddles
which belong to Spirit and Matter, man must inevitably rediscover in
the fundamental riddle of his own nature. Monism pays attention only
to the unity and tries either to deny or to slur over the opposites,
present though they are. Neither of these two points of view can
satisfy us, for they do not do justice to the facts. The Dualist
sees in Mind (Self) and Matter (World) two essentially different
entities, and cannot therefore understand how they can interact with
one another. How should Mind be aware of what goes on in Matter,
seeing that the essential nature of Matter is quite alien to Mind? Or
how in these circumstances should Mind act upon Matter, so as to
translate its intentions into actions? The most absurd hypotheses
have been propounded to answer these questions. However, up to the
present the Monists are not in a much better position. They have tried
three different ways of meeting the difficulty. Either they deny Mind
and become Materialists; or they deny Matter in order to seek their
salvation as Spiritualists; or they assert that, even in the simplest
entities in the world, Mind and Matter are indissolubly bound together,
so that there is no need to marvel at the appearance in man of these
two modes of existence, seeing that they are never found apart.

Materialism can never offer a satisfactory explanation of the
world. For every attempt at an explanation must begin with the
formation of thoughts about the phenomena of the world. Materialism,
thus, begins with the thought of Matter or material processes. But,
in doing so, it is ipso facto confronted by two different sets
of facts, viz., the material world and the thoughts about it. The
Materialist seeks to make these latter intelligible by regarding them
as purely material processes. He believes that thinking takes place
in the brain, much in the same way that digestion takes place in the
animal organs. Just as he ascribes mechanical, chemical, and organic
processes to Nature, so he credits her in certain circumstances
with the capacity to think. He overlooks that, in doing so, he is
merely shifting the problem from one place to another. Instead of
to himself he ascribes the power of thought to Matter. And thus he
is back again at his starting-point. How does Matter come to think
of its own nature? Why is it not simply satisfied with itself and
content to accept its own existence? The Materialist has turned his
attention away from the definite subject, his own self, and occupies
himself with an indefinite shadowy somewhat. And here the old problem
meets him again. The materialistic theory cannot solve the problem;
it can only shift it to another place.

What of the Spiritualistic theory? The pure Spiritualist denies to
Matter all independent existence and regards it merely as a product
of Spirit. But when he tries to apply this theory to the solution
of the riddle of his own human nature, he finds himself caught in a
tight place. Over against the "I," or Ego, which can be ranged on the
side of Spirit, there stands directly the world of the senses. No
spiritual approach to it seems open. It has to be perceived and
experienced by the Ego with the help of material processes. Such
material processes the Ego does not discover in itself, so long as
it regards its own nature as exclusively spiritual. From all that
it achieves by its own spiritual effort, the sensible world is ever
excluded. It seems as if the Ego had to concede that the world would
be a closed book to it, unless it could establish a non-spiritual
relation to the world. Similarly, when it comes to acting, we have
to translate our purposes into realities with the help of material
things and forces. We are, therefore, dependent on the outer world. The
most extreme Spiritualist, or, if you prefer it, Idealist, is Johann
Gottlieb Fichte. He attempts to deduce the whole edifice of the world
from the "Ego." What he has actually accomplished is a magnificent
thought-picture of the world, without any empirical content. As little
as it is possible for the Materialist to argue the Mina away, just
as little is it possible for the Idealist to do without the outer
world of Matter.

When man directs his theoretical reflection upon the Ego, he perceives,
in the first instance, only the work of the Ego in the conceptual
elaboration of the world of ideas. Hence a philosophy the direction
of which is spiritualistic, may feel tempted, in view of man's own
essential nature, to acknowledge nothing of spirit except this world
of ideas. In this way Spiritualism becomes one-sided Idealism. Instead
of going on to penetrate through the world of ideas to the spiritual
world, idealism identifies the spiritual world with the world of
ideas itself. As a result, it is compelled to remain fixed with its
world-view in the circle of the activity of the Ego, as if it were

A curious variant of Idealism is to be found in the theory
which F. A. Lange has put forward in his widely read History of
Materialism. He holds that the Materialists are quite right in
declaring all phenomena, including our thoughts, to be the product
of purely material processes, but, in turn, Matter and its processes
are for him themselves the product of our thinking. "The senses give
us only the effects of things, not true copies, much less the things
themselves. But among these mere effects we must include the senses
themselves together with the brain and the molecular vibrations which
we assume to go on there." That is, our thinking is produced by the
material processes, and these by our thinking. Lange's philosophy
is thus nothing more than the philosophical analogon of the story
of honest Baron Münchhausen, who holds himself up in the air by his
own pigtail.

The third form of Monism is that which finds even in the simplest real
(the atom) the union of both Matter and Mind. But nothing is gained by
this either, except that the question, the origin of which is really
in our consciousness, is shifted to another place. How comes it that
the simple real manifests itself in a two-fold manner, if it is an
indivisible unity?

Against all these theories we must urge the fact that we meet with the
basal and fundamental opposition first in our own consciousness. It
is we ourselves who break away from the bosom of Nature and contrast
ourselves as Self with the World. Goethe has given classic expression
to this in his essay Nature. "Living in the midst of her (Nature)
we are strangers to her. Ceaselessly she speaks to us, yet betrays
none of her secrets." But Goethe knows the reverse side too: "Mankind
is all in her, and she in all mankind."

However true it may be that we have estranged ourselves from Nature,
it is none the less true that we feel we are in her and belong to
her. It can be only her own life which pulses also in us.

We must find the way back to her again. A simple reflection may
point this way out to us. We have, it is true, torn ourselves away
from Nature, but we must none the less have carried away something of
her in our own selves. This quality of Nature in us we must seek out,
and then we shall discover our connection with her once more. Dualism
neglects to do this. It considers the human mind as a spiritual
entity utterly alien to Nature and attempts somehow to hitch it on to
Nature. No wonder that it cannot find the coupling link. We can find
Nature outside of us only if we have first learnt to know her within
us. The Natural within us must be our guide to her. This marks out
our path of inquiry. We shall attempt no speculations concerning the
interaction of Mind and Matter. We shall rather probe into the depths
of our own being, to find there those elements which we saved in our
flight from Nature.

The examination of our own being must bring the solution of the
problem. We must reach a point where we can say, "This is no longer
merely 'I,' this is something which is more than 'I.'"

I am well aware that many who have read thus far will not consider
my discussion in keeping with "the present state of science." To such
criticism I can reply only that I have so far not been concerned with
any scientific results, but simply with the description of what every
one of us experiences in his own consciousness. That a few phrases
have slipped in about attempts to reconcile Mind and the World has
been due solely to the desire to elucidate the actual facts. I have
therefore made no attempt to give to the expressions "Self," "Mind,"
"World," "Nature," the precise meaning which they usually bear in
Psychology and Philosophy. The ordinary consciousness ignores the sharp
distinctions of the sciences, and so far my purpose has been solely
to record the facts of everyday experience. I am concerned, not with
the way in which science, so far, has interpreted consciousness, but
with the way in which we experience it in every moment of our lives.



When I observe how a billiard ball, when struck, communicates its
motion to another, I remain entirely without influence on the process
before me. The direction and velocity of the motion of the second ball
is determined by the direction and velocity of the first. As long as
I remain a mere spectator, I can say nothing about the motion of the
second ball until after it has happened. It is quite different when
I begin to reflect on the content of my observations. The purpose of
my reflection is to construct concepts of the process. I connect the
concept of an elastic ball with certain other concepts of mechanics,
and consider the special circumstances which obtain in the instance
in question. I try, in other words, to add to the process which takes
place without my interference, a second process which takes place in
the conceptual sphere. This latter process is dependent on me. This
is shown by the fact that I can rest content with the observation,
and renounce all search for concepts if I have no need of them. If,
therefore, this need is present, then I am not content until I
have established a definite connection among the concepts, ball,
elasticity, motion, impact, velocity, etc., so that they apply to the
observed process in a definite way. As surely as the occurrence of
the observed process is independent of me, so surely is the occurrence
of the conceptual process dependent on me.

We shall have to consider later whether this activity of mine
really proceeds from my own independent being, or whether those
modern physiologists are right who say that we cannot think
as we will, but that we must think exactly as the thoughts and
thought-connections determine, which happen to be in our minds at any
given moment. (Cp. Ziehen, Leitfaden der Physiologischen Psychologie,
Jena, 1893, p. 171.) For the present we wish merely to establish
the fact that we constantly feel obliged to seek for concepts and
connections of concepts, which stand in definite relation to the
objects and processes which are given independently of us. Whether
this activity is really ours, or whether we are determined to it by
an unalterable necessity, is a question which we need not decide at
present. What is unquestionable is that the activity appears, in the
first instance, to be ours. We know for certain that concepts are not
given together with the objects to which they correspond. My being
the agent in the conceptual process may be an illusion; but there
is no doubt that to immediate observation I appear to be active. Our
present question is, what do we gain by supplementing a process with
a conceptual counterpart?

There is a far-reaching difference between the ways in which, for
me, the parts of a process are related to one another before, and
after, the discovery of the corresponding concepts. Mere observation
can trace the parts of a given process as they occur, but their
connection remains obscure without the help of concepts. I observe the
first billiard ball move towards the second in a certain direction
and with a certain velocity. What will happen after the impact I
cannot tell in advance. I can once more only watch it happen with
my eyes. Suppose someone obstructs my view of the field where the
process is happening, at the moment when the impact occurs, then,
as mere spectator, I remain ignorant of what goes on. The situation
is very different, if prior to the obstructing of my view I have
discovered the concepts corresponding to the nexus of events. In
that case I can say what occurs, even when I am no longer able to
observe. There is nothing in a merely observed process or object
to show its relation to other processes or objects. This relation
becomes manifest only when observation is combined with thought.

Observation and thought are the two points of departure for all
the spiritual striving of man, in so far as he is conscious of such
striving. The workings of common sense, as well as the most complicated
scientific researches, rest on these two fundamental pillars of our
minds. Philosophers have started from various ultimate antitheses, Idea
and Reality, Subject and Object, Appearance and Thing-in-itself, Ego
and Non-Ego, Idea and Will, Concept and Matter, Force and Substance,
the Conscious and the Unconscious. It is, however, easy to show that
all these antitheses are subsequent to that between Observation and
Thought, this being for man the most important.

Whatever principle we choose to lay down, we must either prove that
somewhere we have observed it, or we must enunciate it in the form of
a clear concept which can be re-thought by any other thinker. Every
philosopher who sets out to discuss his fundamental principles, must
express them in conceptual form and thus use thought. He therefore
indirectly admits that his activity presupposes thought. We leave
open here the question whether thought or something else is the
chief factor in the development of the world. But it is at any rate
clear that the philosopher can gain no knowledge of this development
without thought. In the occurrence of phenomena thought may play a
secondary part, but it is quite certain that it plays a chief part
in the construction of a theory about them.

As regards observation, our need of it is due to our organisation. Our
thought about a horse and the object "horse" are two things which for
us have separate existences. The object is accessible to us only by
means of observation. As little as we can construct a concept of a
horse by mere staring at the animal, just as little are we able by
mere thought to produce the corresponding object.

In time observation actually precedes thought. For we become familiar
with thought itself in the first instance by observation. It was
essentially a description of an observation when, at the beginning
of this chapter, we gave an account of how thought is kindled by an
objective process and transcends the merely given. Whatever enters
the circle of our experiences becomes an object of apprehension
to us first through observation. All contents of sensations, all
perceptions, intuitions, feelings, acts of will, dreams and fancies,
images, concepts, ideas, all illusions and hallucinations, are given
to us through observation.

But thought as an object of observation differs essentially from all
other objects. The observation of a table, or a tree, occurs in me
as soon as those objects appear within the horizon of my field of
consciousness. Yet I do not, at the same time, observe my thought
about these things. I observe the table, but I carry on a process of
thought about the table without at the same moment observing this
thought-process. I must first take up a standpoint outside of my
own activity, if I want to observe my thought about the table, as
well as the table. Whereas the observation of things and processes,
and the thinking about them, are everyday occurrences making up the
continuous current of my life, the observation of the thought-process
itself is an exceptional attitude to adopt. This fact must be taken
into account, when we come to determine the relations of thought
as an object of observation to all other objects. We must be quite
clear about the fact that, in observing the thought-processes, we are
applying to them a method which is our normal attitude in the study
of all other objects in the world, but which in the ordinary course
of that study is usually not applied to thought itself.

Someone might object that what I have said about thinking applies
equally to feeling and to all other mental activities. Thus it is said
that when, e.g., I have a feeling of pleasure, the feeling is kindled
by the object, but it is this object I observe, not the feeling of
pleasure. This objection, however, is based on an error. Pleasure does
not stand at all in the same relation to its object as the concept
constructed by thought. I am conscious, in the most positive way, that
the concept of a thing is formed through my activity; whereas a feeling
of pleasure is produced in me by an object in a way similar to that in
which, e.g., a change is caused in an object by a stone which falls on
it. For observation, a pleasure is given in exactly the same way as the
event which causes it. The same is not true of concepts. I can ask why
an event arouses in me a feeling of pleasure. But I certainly cannot
ask why an occurrence causes in me a certain number of concepts. The
question would be simply meaningless. In thinking about an occurrence,
I am not concerned with it as an effect on me. I learn nothing about
myself from knowing the concepts which correspond to the observed
change caused in a pane of glass by a stone thrown against it. But I do
learn something about myself when I know the feeling which a certain
occurrence arouses in me. When I say of an object which I perceive,
"this is a rose," I say absolutely nothing about myself; but when I
say of the same thing that "it causes a feeling of pleasure in me,"
I characterise not only the rose, but also myself in my relation to
the rose.

There can, therefore, be no question of putting thought and feeling on
a level as objects of observation. And the same could easily be shown
of other activities of the human mind. Unlike thought, they must be
classed with any other observed objects or events. The peculiar nature
of thought lies just in this, that it is an activity which is directed
solely on the observed object and not on the thinking subject. This
is apparent even from the way in which we express our thoughts about
an object, as distinct from our feelings or acts of will. When I
see an object and recognise it as a table, I do not as a rule say,
"I am thinking of a table," but, "this is a table." On the other
hand, I do say, "I am pleased with the table." In the former case,
I am not at all interested in stating that I have entered into a
relation with the table; whereas, in the second case, it is just
this relation which matters. In saying, "I am thinking of a table,"
I adopt the exceptional point of view characterised above, in which
something is made the object of observation which is always present in
our mental activity, without being itself normally an observed object.

The peculiar nature of thought consists just in this, that the thinker
forgets his thinking while actually engaged in it. It is not thinking
which occupies his attention, but rather the object of thought which
he observes.

The first point, then, to notice about thought is that it is the
unobserved element in our ordinary mental life.

The reason why we do not notice the thinking which goes on in our
ordinary mental life is no other than this, that it is our own
activity. Whatever I do not myself produce appears in my field of
consciousness as an object; I contrast it with myself as something the
existence of which is independent of me. It forces itself upon me. I
must accept it as the presupposition of my thinking. As long as I think
about the object, I am absorbed in it, my attention is turned on it. To
be thus absorbed in the object is just to contemplate it by thought. I
attend, not to my activity, but to its object. In other words, whilst
I am thinking I pay no heed to my thinking which is of my own making,
but only to the object of my thinking which is not of my making.

I am, moreover, in exactly the same position when I adopt the
exceptional point of view and think of my own thought-processes. I can
never observe my present thought, I can only make my past experiences
of thought-processes subsequently the objects of fresh thoughts. If
I wanted to watch my present thought, I should have to split myself
into two persons, one to think, the other to observe this thinking. But
this is impossible. I can only accomplish it in two separate acts. The
observed thought-processes are never those in which I am actually
engaged but others. Whether, for this purpose, I make observations
on my own former thoughts, or follow the thought-processes of another
person, or finally, as in the example of the motions of the billiard
balls, assume an imaginary thought-process, is immaterial.

There are two things which are incompatible with one another:
productive activity and the theoretical contemplation of that
activity. This is recognised even in the First Book of Moses. It
represents God as creating the world in the first six days, and only
after its completion is any contemplation of the world possible:
"And God saw everything that he had made and, behold, it was very
good." The same applies to our thinking. It must be there first,
if we would observe it.

The reason why it is impossible to observe the thought-process
in its actual occurrence at any given moment, is the same as that
which makes it possible for us to know it more immediately and more
intimately than any other process in the world. Just because it is
our own creation do we know the characteristic features of its course,
the manner in which the process, in detail, takes place. What in the
other spheres of observation we can discover only indirectly, viz.,
the relevant objective nexus and the relations of the individual
objects, that is known to us immediately in the case of thought. I
do not know off-hand why, for perception, thunder follows lightning,
but I know immediately, from the content of the two concepts, why my
thought connects the concept of thunder with that of lightning. It
does not matter for my argument whether my concepts of thunder and
lightning are correct. The connection between the concepts I have is
clear to me, and that through the very concepts themselves.

This transparent clearness in the observation of our thought-processes
is quite independent of our knowledge of the physiological basis of
thought. I am speaking here of thought in the sense in which it is the
object of our observation of our own mental activity. For this purpose
it is quite irrelevant how one material process in my brain causes or
influences another, whilst I am carrying on a process of thought. What
I observe, in studying a thought-process, is, not what process in
my brain connects the concept of thunder with that of lightning,
but what is my reason for bringing these two concepts into a definite
relation. Introspection shows that, in linking thought with thought,
I am guided by their content, not by the material processes in the
brain. This remark would be quite superfluous in a less materialistic
age than ours. To-day, however, when there are people who believe that,
when we know what matter is, we shall know also how it thinks, it is
necessary to affirm the possibility of speaking of thought without
trespassing on the domain of brain physiology. Many people to-day find
it difficult to grasp the concept of thought in its purity. Anyone who
challenges the account of thought which I have given here, by quoting
Cabanis' statement that "the brain secretes thoughts as the liver does
gall or the spittle-glands spittle, etc." simply does not know of what
I am talking. He attempts to discover thought by the same method of
mere observation which we apply to the other objects that make up the
world. But he cannot find it in this way, because, as I have shown,
it eludes just this ordinary observation. Whoever cannot transcend
Materialism lacks the ability to throw himself into the exceptional
attitude I have described, in which he becomes conscious of what in
all other mental activity remains unconscious. It is as useless to
discuss thought with one who is not willing to adopt this attitude, as
it would be to discuss colour with a blind man. Let him not imagine,
however, that we regard physiological processes as thought. He fails
to explain thought, because he is not even aware that it is there.

For every one, however, who has the ability to observe thought, and
with good will every normal man has this ability, this observation
is the most important he can make. For he observes something which
he himself produces. He is not confronted by what is to begin with
a strange object, but by his own activity. He knows how that which
he observes has come to be. He perceives clearly its connections and
relations. He gains a firm point from which he can, with well-founded
hopes, seek an explanation of the other phenomena of the world.

The feeling that he had found such a firm foundation, induced the
father of modern philosophy, Descartes, to base the whole of human
knowledge on the principle, "I think, therefore I am." All other
things, all other processes, are independent of me. Whether they be
truth, or illusion, or dream, I know not. There is only one thing
of which I am absolutely certain, for I myself am the author of its
indubitable existence; and that is my thought. Whatever other origin
it may have in addition, whether it come from God or from elsewhere,
of one thing I am sure, that it exists in the sense that I myself
produce it. Descartes had, to begin with, no justification for reading
any other meaning into his principle. All he had a right to assert
was that, in apprehending myself as thinking, I apprehend myself,
within the world-system, in that activity which is most uniquely
characteristic of me. What the added words "therefore I am" are
intended to mean has been much debated. They can have a meaning on
one condition only. The simplest assertion I can make of a thing is,
that it is, that it exists. What kind of existence, in detail, it has,
can in no case be determined on the spot, as soon as the thing enters
within the horizon of my experience. Each object must be studied in
its relations to others, before we can determine the sense in which we
can speak of its existence. An experienced process may be a complex
of percepts, or it may be a dream, an hallucination, etc. In short,
I cannot say in what sense it exists. I can never read off the kind of
existence from the process itself, for I can discover it only when I
consider the process in its relation to other things. But this, again,
yields me no knowledge beyond just its relation to other things. My
inquiry touches firm ground only when I find an object, the reason
of the existence of which I can gather from itself. Such an object
I am myself in so far as I think, for I qualify my existence by the
determinate and self-contained content of my thought-activity. From
here I can go on to ask whether other things exist in the same or in
some other sense.

When thought is made an object of observation, something which
usually escapes our attention is added to the other observed
contents of the world. But the usual manner of observation, such as
is employed also for other objects, is in no way altered. We add
to the number of objects of observation, but not to the number of
methods. When we are observing other things, there enters among the
world-processes--among which I now include observation--one process
which is overlooked. There is present something different from every
other kind of process, something which is not taken into account. But
when I make an object of my own thinking, there is no such neglected
element present. For what lurks now in the background is just thought
itself over again. The object of observation is qualitatively identical
with the activity directed upon it. This is another characteristic
feature of thought-processes. When we make them objects of observation,
we are not compelled to do so with the help of something qualitatively
different, but can remain within the realm of thought.

When I weave a tissue of thoughts round an independently given object,
I transcend my observation, and the question then arises, What right
have I to do this? Why do I not passively let the object impress itself
on me? How is it possible for my thought to be relevantly related to
the object? These are questions which every one must put to himself
who reflects on his own thought-processes. But all these questions
lapse when we think about thought itself. We then add nothing to our
thought that is foreign to it, and therefore have no need to justify
any such addition.

Schelling says: "To know Nature means to create Nature." If we take
these words of the daring philosopher of Nature literally, we shall
have to renounce for ever all hope of gaining knowledge of Nature. For
Nature after all exists, and if we have to create it over again, we
must know the principles according to which it has originated in the
first instance. We should have to borrow from Nature as it exists
the conditions of existence for the Nature which we are about to
create. But this borrowing, which would have to precede the creating,
would be a knowing of Nature, and would be this even if after the
borrowing no creation at all were attempted. The only kind of Nature
which it would be possible to create without previous knowledge,
would be a Nature different from the existing one.

What is impossible with Nature, viz., creation prior to knowledge, that
we accomplish in the act of thought. Were we to refrain from thinking
until we had first gained knowledge of it, we should never think at
all. We must resolutely think straight ahead, and then afterwards by
introspective analysis gain knowledge of our own processes. Thus we
ourselves create the thought-processes which we then make objects of
observation. The existence of all other objects is provided for us
without any activity on our part.

My contention that we must think before we can make thought an
object of knowledge, might easily be countered by the apparently
equally valid contention that we cannot wait with digesting until we
have first observed the process of digestion. This objection would
be similar to that brought by Pascal against Descartes, when he
asserted we might also say "I walk, therefore I am." Certainly I must
digest resolutely and not wait until I have studied the physiological
process of digestion. But I could only compare this with the analysis
of thought if, after digestion, I set myself not to analyse it by
thought, but to eat and digest it. It is not without reason that,
while digestion cannot become the object of digestion, thought can
very well become the object of thought.

This then is indisputable, that in thinking we have got hold of one
bit of the world-process which requires our presence if anything is
to happen. And that is the very point that matters. The very reason
why things seem so puzzling is just that I play no part in their
production. They are simply given to me, whereas I know how thought
is produced. Hence there can be no more fundamental starting-point
than thought from which to regard all world-processes.

I should like still to mention a widely current error which prevails
with regard to thought. It is often said that thought, in its real
nature, is never experienced. The thought-processes which connect
our perceptions with one another, and weave about them a network
of concepts, are not at all the same as those which our analysis
afterwards extracts from the objects of perception, in order to make
them the object of study. What we have unconsciously woven into things
is, so we are told, something widely different from what subsequent
analysis recovers out of them.

Those who hold this view do not see that it is impossible to escape
from thought. I cannot get outside thought when I want to observe
it. We should never forget that the distinction between thought which
goes on unconsciously and thought which is consciously analysed, is a
purely external one and irrelevant to our discussion. I do not in any
way alter a thing by making it an object of thought. I can well imagine
that a being with quite different sense-organs, and with a differently
constructed intelligence, would have a very different idea of a horse
from mine, but I cannot think that my own thought becomes different
because I make it an object of knowledge. I myself observe my own
processes. We are not talking here of how my thought-processes appear
to an intelligence different from mine, but how they appear to me. In
any case, the idea which another mind forms of my thought cannot be
truer than the one which I form myself. Only if the thought-processes
were not my own, but the activity of a being quite different from me,
could I maintain that, notwithstanding my forming a definite idea of
these thought-processes, their real nature was beyond my comprehension.

So far, there is not the slightest reason why I should regard my
thought from any other point of view than my own. I contemplate the
rest of the world by means of thought. How should I make of my thought
an exception?

I think I have given sufficient reasons for making thought the
starting-point for my theory of the world. When Archimedes had
discovered the lever, he thought he could lift the whole cosmos
out of its hinges, if only he could find a point of support for his
instrument. He needed a point which was self-supporting. In thought
we have a principle which is self-subsisting. Let us try, therefore,
to understand the world starting with thought as our basis. Thought
can be grasped by thought. The question is whether by thought we can
also grasp something other than thought.

I have so far spoken of thought without taking any account of its
vehicle, the human consciousness. Most present-day philosophers
would object that, before there can be thought, there must be
consciousness. Hence we ought to start, not from thought, but from
consciousness. There is no thought, they say without consciousness. In
reply I would urge that, in order to clear up the relation between
thought and consciousness, I must think about it. Hence I presuppose
thought. One might, it is true, retort that, though a philosopher who
wishes to understand consciousness, naturally makes use of thought,
and so far presupposes it, in the ordinary course of life thought
arises within consciousness and therefore presupposes that. Were this
answer given to the world-creator, when he was about to create thought,
it would, without doubt, be to the point. Thought cannot, of course,
come into being before consciousness. The philosopher, however, is not
concerned with the creation of the world, but with the understanding
of it. Hence he is in search of the starting-point, not for creation,
but for the understanding of the world. It seems to me very strange
that philosophers are reproached for troubling themselves, above all,
about the correctness of their principles, instead of turning straight
to the objects which they seek to understand. The world-creator had
above all to know how to find a vehicle for thought; the philosopher
must seek a firm basis for the understanding of what is given. What
does it help us to start with consciousness and make it an object of
thought, if we have not first inquired how far it is possible at all
to gain any knowledge of things by thought?

We must first consider thought quite impartially without relation to a
thinking subject or to an object of thought. For subject and object are
both concepts constructed by thought. There is no denying that thought
must be understood before anything else can be understood. Whoever
denies this, fails to realise that man is not the first link in the
chain of creation but the last. Hence, in order to explain the world
by means of concepts, we cannot start from the elements of existence
which came first in time, but we must begin with those which are
nearest and most intimately connected with us. We cannot, with a leap,
transport ourselves to the beginning of the world, in order to begin
our analysis there, but we must start from the present and see whether
we cannot advance from the later to the earlier. As long as Geology
fabled fantastic revolutions to account for the present state of the
earth, it groped in darkness. It was only when it began to study the
processes at present at work on the earth, and from these to argue back
to the past, that it gained a firm foundation. As long as Philosophy
assumes all sorts of principles, such as atom, motion, matter, will,
the unconscious, it will hang in the air. The philosopher can reach
his goal only if he adopts that which is last in time as first in
his theory. This absolutely last in the world-process is thought.

There are people who say it is impossible to ascertain with certainty
whether thought is right or wrong, and that, so far, our starting-point
is a doubtful one. It would be just as intelligent to raise doubts as
to whether a tree is in itself right or wrong. Thought is a fact, and
it is meaningless to speak of the truth or falsity of a fact. I can,
at most, be in doubt as to whether thought is rightly employed, just as
I can doubt whether a certain tree supplies wood adapted to the making
of this or that useful object. It is just the purpose of this book
to show how far the application of thought to the world is right or
wrong. I can understand anyone doubting whether, by means of thought,
we can gain any knowledge of the world, but it is unintelligible to
me how anyone can doubt that thought in itself is right.


In the preceding discussion I have pointed out the importance of the
difference between thinking and all other activities of mind. This
difference is a fact which is patent to genuinely unprejudiced
observation. An observer who does not try to see the facts without
preconception will be tempted to bring against my argumentation such
objections as these: When I think about a rose, there is involved
nothing more than a relation of my "I" to the rose, just as when I
feel the beauty of the rose. There subsists a relation between "I"
and object in thinking precisely as there does, e.g., in feeling
or perceiving. Those who urge this objection fail to bear in mind
that it is only in the activity of thinking that the "I," or Ego,
knows itself to be identical, right into all the ramifications of the
activity, with that which does the thinking. Of no other activity of
mind can we say the same. For example, in a feeling of pleasure it is
easy for a really careful observer to discriminate between the extent
to which the Ego knows itself to be identical with what is active in
the feeling, and the extent to which there is something passive in
the Ego, so that the pleasure is merely something which happens to
the Ego. The same applies to the other mental activities. The main
thing is not to confuse the "having of images" with the elaboration
of ideas by thinking. Images may appear in the mind dream-wise,
like vague intimations. But this is not thinking. True, someone
might now urge: If this is what you mean by "thinking," then your
thinking contains willing, and you have to do, not with mere thinking,
but with the will to think. However, this would justify us only in
saying: Genuine thinking must always be willed thinking. But this
is quite irrelevant to the characterisation of thinking as this has
been given in the preceding discussion. Let it be granted that the
nature of thinking necessarily implies its being willed, the point
which matters is that nothing is willed which, in being carried out,
fails to appear to the Ego as an activity completely its own and
under its own supervision. Indeed, we must say that thinking appears
to the observer as through and through willed, precisely because of
its nature as above defined. If we genuinely try to master all the
facts which are relevant to a judgment about the nature of thinking,
we cannot fail to observe that, as a mental activity, thinking has
the unique character which is here in question.

A reader of whose powers the author of this book has a very high
opinion, has objected that it is impossible to speak about thinking
as we are here doing, because the supposed observation of active
thinking is nothing but an illusion. In reality, what is observed is
only the results of an unconscious activity which lies at the basis
of thinking. It is only because, and just because, this unconscious
activity escapes observation, that the deceptive appearance of
the self-existence of the observed thinking arises, just as when
an illumination by means of a rapid succession of electric sparks
makes us believe that we see a movement. This objection, likewise,
rests solely on an inaccurate view of the facts. The objection ignores
that it is the Ego itself which, identical with the thinking, observes
from within its own activity. The Ego would have to stand outside the
thinking in order to suffer the sort of deception which is caused
by an illumination with a rapid succession of electric sparks. One
might say rather that to indulge in such an analogy is to deceive
oneself wilfully, just as if someone, seeing a moving light, were
obstinately to affirm that it is being freshly lit by an unknown
hand at every point where it appears. No, whoever is bent on seeing
in thought anything else than an activity produced--and observable
by--the Ego has first to shut his eyes to the plain facts that are
there for the looking, in order then to invent a hypothetical activity
as the basis of thinking. If he does not wilfully blind himself, he
must recognise that all these "hypothetical additions" to thinking
take him away from its real nature. Unprejudiced observation shows
that nothing is to be counted as belonging to the nature of thinking
except what is found in thinking itself. It is impossible to discover
the cause of thinking by going outside the realm of thought.



The products of thinking are concepts and ideas. What a concept is
cannot be expressed in words. Words can do no more than draw our
attention to the fact that we have concepts. When someone perceives
a tree, the perception acts as a stimulus for thought. Thus an ideal
element is added to the perceived object, and the perceiver regards
the object and its ideal complement as belonging together. When
the object disappears from the field of his perception, the
ideal counterpart alone remains. This latter is the concept of
the object. The wider the range of our experience, the larger
becomes the number of our concepts. Moreover, concepts are not by
any means found in isolation one from the other. They combine to
form an ordered and systematic whole. The concept "organism," e.g.,
combines with those of "development according to law," "growth," and
others. Other concepts based on particular objects fuse completely
with one another. All concepts formed from particular lions fuse in
the universal concept "lion." In this way, all the separate concepts
combine to form a closed, conceptual system within which each has its
special place. Ideas do not differ qualitatively from concepts. They
are but fuller, more saturated, more comprehensive concepts. I attach
special importance to the necessity of bearing in mind, here, that I
make thought my starting-point, and not concepts and ideas which are
first gained by means of thought. These latter presuppose thought. My
remarks regarding the self-dependent, self-sufficient character of
thought cannot, therefore, be simply transferred to concepts. (I make
special mention of this, because it is here that I differ from Hegel,
who regards the concept as something primary and ultimate.)

Concepts cannot be derived from perception. This is apparent from the
fact that, as man grows up, he slowly and gradually builds up the
concepts corresponding to the objects which surround him. Concepts
are added to perception.

A philosopher, widely read at the present day (Herbert Spencer),
describes the mental process which we perform upon perception as
follows: "If, when walking through the fields some day in September,
you hear a rustle a few yards in advance, and on observing the
ditch-side where it occurs, see the herbage agitated, you will
probably turn towards the spot to learn by what this sound and
motion are produced. As you approach there flutters into the ditch a
partridge; on seeing which your curiosity is satisfied--you have what
you call an explanation of the appearances. The explanation, mark,
amounts to this--that whereas throughout life you have had countless
experiences of disturbance among small stationary bodies, accompanying
the movement of other bodies among them, and have generalised the
relation between such disturbances and such movements, you consider
this particular disturbance explained on finding it to present an
instance of the like relation" (First Principles, Part I, par. 23). A
closer analysis leads to a very different description from that here
given. When I hear a noise, my first demand is for the concept which
fits this percept. Without this concept, the noise is to me a mere
noise. Whoever does not reflect further, hears just the noise and
is satisfied with that. But my thought makes it clear to me that the
noise is to be regarded as an effect. Thus it is only when I combine
the concept of effect with the percept of a noise that I am led to go
beyond the particular percept and seek for its cause. The concept of
"effect" calls up that of "cause," and my next step is to look for
the agent, which I find, say, in a partridge. But these concepts,
cause and effect, can never be gained through mere perception, however
many instances we bring under review. Perception evokes thought, and
it is this which shows me how to link separate experiences together.

If one demands of a "strictly objective science" that it should take
its data from perception alone, one must demand also that it abandon
all thought. For thought, by its very nature, transcends the objects
of perception.

It is time now to pass from thought to the thinker. For it is
through the thinker that thought and perception are combined. The
human mind is the stage on which concept and percept meet and are
linked to one another. In saying this, we already characterise this
(human) consciousness. It mediates between thought and perception. In
perception the object appears as given, in thought the mind seems to
itself to be active. It regards the thing as object and itself as the
thinking subject. When thought is directed upon the perceptual world
we have consciousness of objects; when it is directed upon itself we
have self-consciousness. Human consciousness must, of necessity, be
at the same time self-consciousness, because it is a consciousness
which thinks. For, when thought contemplates its own activity it
makes an object for study of its own essential nature, it makes an
object of itself as subject.

It is important to note here that it is only by means of thinking
that I am able to determine myself as subject and contrast myself
with objects. Therefore thinking must never be regarded as a merely
subjective activity. Thinking transcends the distinction of subject
and object. It produces these two concepts just as it produces all
others. When, therefore, I, as thinking subject, refer a concept to
an object, we must not regard this reference as something purely
subjective. It is not the subject, but thought, which makes the
reference. The subject does not think because it is a subject,
rather it conceives itself to be a subject because it can think. The
activity of consciousness, in so far as it thinks, is thus not
merely subjective. Rather it is neither subjective nor objective;
it transcends both these concepts. I ought never to say that I, as
an individual subject, think, but rather that I, as subject, exist
myself by the grace of thought. Thought thus takes me out of myself
and relates me to objects. At the same time it separates me from them,
inasmuch as I, as subject, am set over against the objects.

It is just this which constitutes the double nature of man. His
thought embraces himself and the rest of the world. But by this
same act of thought he determines himself also as an individual,
in contrast with the objective world.

We must next ask ourselves how the other element, which we have so far
simply called the perceptual object and which comes, in consciousness,
into contact with thought, enters into thought at all?

In order to answer this question, we must eliminate from the field
of consciousness everything which has been imported by thought. For,
at any moment, the content of consciousness is always shot through
with concepts in the most various ways.

Let us assume that a being with fully developed human intelligence
originated out of nothing and confronted the world. All that it
there perceived before its thought began to act would be the pure
content of perception. The world so far would appear to this being as
a mere chaotic aggregate of sense-data, colours, sounds, sensations
of pressure, of warmth, of taste, of smell, and, lastly, feelings of
pleasure and pain. This mass constitutes the world of pure unthinking
perception. Over against it stands thought, ready to begin its activity
as soon as it can find a point of attack. Experience shows that the
opportunity is not long in coming. Thought is able to draw threads
from one sense-datum to another. It brings definite concepts to bear
on these data and thus establishes a relation between them. We have
seen above how a noise which we hear is connected with another content
by our identifying the first as the effect of the second.

If now we recollect that the activity of thought is on no account to
be considered as merely subjective, then we shall not be tempted to
believe that the relations thus established by thought have merely
subjective validity.

Our next task is to discover by means of thought what relation the
above-mentioned immediate sense-data have to the conscious subject.

The ambiguity of current speech makes it advisable for me to come
to an agreement with my readers concerning the meaning of a word
which I shall have to employ in what follows. I shall apply the name
"percepts" to the immediate sense-data enumerated above, in so far
as the subject consciously apprehends them. It is, then, not the
process of perception, but the object of this process which I call the

I reject the term "sensation," because this has a definite meaning
in Physiology which is narrower than that of my term "percept." I
can speak of feeling as a percept, but not as a sensation in the
physiological sense of the term. Before I can have cognisance of my
feeling it must become a percept for me. The manner in which, through
observation, we gain knowledge of our thought-processes is such that
when we first begin to notice thought, it too may be called a percept.

The unreflective man regards his percepts, such as they appear to
his immediate apprehension, as things having a wholly independent
existence. When he sees a tree he believes that it stands in the form
which he sees, with the colours of all its parts, etc., there on the
spot towards which his gaze is directed. When the same man sees the
sun in the morning appear as a disc on the horizon, and follows the
course of this disc, he believes that the phenomenon exists and occurs
(by itself) exactly as he perceives it. To this belief he clings until
he meets with further percepts which contradict his former ones. The
child who has as yet had no experience of distance grasps at the moon,
and does not correct its first impression as to the real distance
until a second percept contradicts the first. Every extension of the
circle of my percepts compels me to correct my picture of the world. We
see this in everyday life, as well as in the mental development of
mankind. The picture which the ancients made for themselves of the
relation of the earth to the sun and other heavenly bodies, had to
be replaced by another when Copernicus found that it contradicted
percepts which in those early days were unknown. A man who had been
born blind said, when operated on by Dr. Franz, that the idea of
the size of objects which he had formed before his operation by his
sense of touch was a very different one. He had to correct his tactual
percepts by his visual percepts.

How is it that we are compelled to make these continual corrections
in our observations?

A single reflection supplies the answer to this question. When I stand
at one end of an avenue, the trees at the other end, away from me,
seem smaller and nearer together than those where I stand. But the
scene which I perceive changes when I change the place from which
I am looking. The exact form in which it presents itself to me is,
therefore, dependent on a condition which inheres, not in the object,
but in me, the percipient. It is all the same to the avenue where I
stand. But the picture of it which I receive depends essentially on
my standpoint. In the same way, it makes no difference to the sun and
the planetary system that human beings happen to perceive them from
the earth; but the picture of the heavens which human beings have is
determined by the fact that they inhabit the earth. This dependence
of our percepts on our points of observation is the easiest kind of
dependence to understand. The matter becomes more difficult when we
realise further that our perceptual world is dependent on our bodily
and mental organisation. The physicist teaches us that within the
space in which we hear a sound there are vibrations of the air, and
that there are vibrations also in the particles of the body which we
regard as the cause of the sound. These vibrations are perceived as
sounds only if we have normally constructed ears. Without them the
whole world would be for us for ever silent. Again, the physiologist
teaches us that there are men who perceive nothing of the wonderful
display of colours which surrounds us. In their world there are only
degrees of light and dark. Others are blind only to one colour,
e.g., red. Their world lacks this colour tone, and hence it is
actually a different one from that of the average man. I should
like to call the dependence of my perceptual world on my point of
observation "mathematical," and its dependence on my organisation
"qualitative." The former determines proportions of size and mutual
distances of my percepts, the latter their quality. The fact that I
see a red surface as red--this qualitative determination--depends on
the structure of my eye.

My percepts, then, are in the first instance subjective. The
recognition of the subjective character of our percepts may easily lead
us to doubt whether there is any objective basis for them at all. When
we know that a percept, e.g., that of a red colour or of a certain
tone, is not possible without a specific structure of our organism,
we may easily be led to believe that it has no being at all apart from
our subjective organisation, that it has no kind of existence apart
from the act of perceiving of which it is the object. The classical
representative of this theory is George Berkeley, who held that from
the moment we realise the importance of a subject for perception,
we are no longer able to believe in the existence of a world apart
from a conscious mind. "Some truths there are so near and obvious to
the mind that man need only open his eyes to see them. Such I take
this important one to be, viz., that all the choir of heaven and the
furniture of the earth--in a word, all those bodies which compose the
mighty frame of the world--have not any subsistence without a mind;
that their being is to be perceived or known; that consequently, so
long as they are not actually perceived by me, or do not exist in my
mind or that of any other created spirit, they must either have no
existence at all or else subsist in the mind of some Eternal Spirit"
(Berkeley, Of the Principles of Human Knowledge, Part I, Section 6).

On this view, when we take away the act of perceiving, nothing remains
of the percept. There is no colour when none is seen, no sound when
none is heard. Extension, form, and motion exist as little as colour
and sound apart from the act of perception. We never perceive bare
extension or shape. These are always joined with colour or some
other quality, which are undoubtedly dependent on the subject. If
these latter disappear when we cease to perceive, the former, being
connected with them, must disappear likewise.

If it is urged that, even though figure, colour, sound, etc.,
have no existence except in the act of perception, yet there must
be things which exist apart from perception and which are similar
to the percepts in our minds, then the view we have mentioned would
answer, that a colour can be similar only to a colour, a figure to
a figure. Our percepts can be similar only to our percepts and to
nothing else. Even what we call a thing is nothing but a collection
of percepts which are connected in a definite way. If I strip a table
of its shape, extension, colour, etc.--in short, of all that is merely
my percepts--then nothing remains over. If we follow this view to its
logical conclusion, we are led to the assertion that the objects of
my perceptions exist only through me, and only in as far as, and as
long as, I perceive them. They disappear with my perceiving and have
no meaning apart from it. Apart from my percepts I know of no objects
and cannot know of any.

No objection can be made to this assertion as long as we take into
account merely the general fact that the percept is determined in part
by the organisation of the subject. The matter would be far otherwise
if we were in a position to say what part exactly is played by our
perceiving in the occurrence of a percept. We should know then what
happens to a percept whilst it is being perceived, and we should also
be able to determine what character it must possess before it comes
to be perceived.

This leads us to turn our attention from the object of a perception
to the subject of it. I am aware not only of other things but
also of myself. The content of my perception of myself consists,
in the first instance, in that I am something stable in contrast
with the ever coming and going flux of percepts. The awareness of
myself accompanies in my consciousness the awareness of all other
percepts. When I am absorbed in the perception of a given object I am,
for the time being, aware only of this object. Next I become aware
also of myself. I am then conscious, not only of the object, but also
of my Self as opposed to and observing the object. I do not merely
see a tree, I know also that it is I who see it. I know, moreover,
that some process takes place in me when I observe a tree. When the
tree disappears from my field of vision, an after-effect of this
process remains, viz., an image of the tree. This image has become
associated with my Self during my perception. My Self has become
enriched; to its content a new element has been added. This element
I call my idea of the tree. I should never have occasion to talk of
ideas, were I not aware of my own Self. Percepts would come and go; I
should let them slip by. It is only because I am aware of my Self, and
observe that with each perception the content of the Self is changed,
that I am compelled to connect the perception of the object with the
changes in the content of my Self, and to speak of having an idea.

That I have ideas is in the same sense matter of observation to me
as that other objects have colour, sound, etc. I am now also able to
distinguish these other objects, which stand over against me, by the
name of the outer world, whereas the contents of my perception of my
Self form my inner world. The failure to recognise the true relation
between idea and object has led to the greatest misunderstandings
in modern philosophy. The fact that I perceive a change in myself,
that my Self undergoes a modification, has been thrust into the
foreground, whilst the object which causes these modifications is
altogether ignored. In consequence it has been said that we perceive,
not objects, but only our ideas. I know, so it is said, nothing of
the table in itself, which is the object of my perception, but only
of the changes which occur within me when I perceive a table. This
theory should not be confused with the Berkeleyan theory mentioned
above. Berkeley maintains the subjective nature of my perceptual
contents, but he does not say that I can know only my own ideas. He
limits my knowledge to my ideas because, on his view, there are
no objects other than ideas. What I perceive as a table no longer
exists, according to Berkeley, when I cease to look at it. This is
why Berkeley holds that our percepts are created directly by the
omnipotence of God. I see a table because God causes this percept in
me. For Berkeley, therefore, nothing is real except God and human
spirits. What we call the "world" exists only in spirits. What the
naïve man calls the outer world, or material nature, is for Berkeley
non-existent. This theory is confronted by the now predominant Kantian
view which limits our knowledge of the world to our ideas, not because
of any conviction that nothing beyond these ideas exists, but because
it holds that we are so organised that we can have knowledge only of
the changes within our own selves, not of the things-in-themselves
which are the causes of these changes. This view concludes from the
fact that I know only my own ideas, not that there is no reality
independent of them, but only that the subject cannot have direct
knowledge of such reality. The mind can merely "through the medium of
its subjective thoughts imagine it, conceive it, know it, or perhaps
also fail to know it" (O. Liebmann, Zur Analysis der Wirklichkeit,
p. 28). Kantians believe that their principles are absolutely certain,
indeed immediately evident, without any proof. "The most fundamental
principle which the philosopher must begin by grasping clearly,
consists in the recognition that our knowledge, in the first instance,
does not extend beyond our ideas. Our ideas are all that we immediately
have and experience, and just because we have immediate experience of
them the most radical doubt cannot rob us of this knowledge. On the
other hand, the knowledge which transcends my ideas--taking ideas
here in the widest possible sense, so as to include all psychical
processes--is not proof against doubt. Hence, at the very beginning
of all philosophy we must explicitly set down all knowledge which
transcends ideas as open to doubt." These are the opening sentences
of Volkelt's book on Kant's Theory of Knowledge. What is here put
forward as an immediate and self-evident truth is, in reality,
the conclusion of a piece of argument which runs as follows. Naïve
common sense believes that things, just as we perceive them, exist
also outside our minds. Physics, Physiology, and Psychology, however,
teach us that our percepts are dependent on our organisation, and that
therefore we cannot know anything about external objects except what
our organisation transmits to us. The objects which we perceive are
thus modifications of our organisation, not things-in-themselves. This
line of thought has, in fact, been characterised by Ed. von Hartmann
as the one which leads necessarily to the conviction that we can
have direct knowledge only of our own ideas (cp. his Grundproblem
der Erkenntnistheorie, pp. 16-40). Because outside our organisms we
find vibrations of particles and of air, which are perceived by us
as sounds, it is concluded that what we call sound is nothing more
than a subjective reaction of our organisms to these motions in the
external world. Similarly, colour and heat are inferred to be merely
modifications of our organisms. And, further, these two kinds of
percepts are held to be the effects of processes in the external
world which are utterly different from what we experience as heat
or as colour. When these processes stimulate the nerves in the skin
of my body, I perceive heat; when they stimulate the optical nerve
I perceive light and colour. Light, colour, and heat, then, are the
reactions of my sensory nerves to external stimuli. Similarly, the
sense of touch reveals to me, not the objects of the outer world,
but only states of my own body. The physicist holds that bodies are
composed of infinitely small particles called molecules, and that
these molecules are not in direct contact with one another, but have
definite intervals between them. Between them, therefore, is empty
space. Across this space they act on one another by attraction and
repulsion. If I put my hand on a body, the molecules of my hand by no
means touch those of the body directly, but there remains a certain
distance between body and hand, and what I experience as the body's
resistance is nothing but the effect of the force of repulsion which
its molecules exert on my hand. I am absolutely external to the body
and experience only its effects on my organism.

The theory of the so-called Specific Nervous Energy, which has been
advanced by J. Müller, supplements these speculations. It asserts
that each sense has the peculiarity that it reacts to all external
stimuli in only one definite way. If the optic nerve is stimulated,
light sensations result, irrespective of whether the stimulation is
due to what we call light, or to mechanical pressure, or an electrical
current. On the other hand, the same external stimulus applied to
different senses gives rise to different sensations. The conclusion
from these facts seems to be, that our sense-organs can give us
knowledge only of what occurs in themselves, but not of the external
world. They determine our percepts, each according to its own nature.

Physiology shows, further, that there can be no direct knowledge even
of the effects which objects produce on our sense-organs. Through his
study of the processes which occur in our own bodies, the physiologist
finds that, even in the sense-organs, the effects of the external
process are modified in the most diverse ways. We can see this most
clearly in the case of eye and ear. Both are very complicated organs
which modify the external stimulus considerably, before they conduct
it to the corresponding nerve. From the peripheral end of the nerve
the modified stimulus is then conducted to the brain. Here the central
organs must in turn be stimulated. The conclusion is, therefore, drawn
that the external process undergoes a series of transformations before
it reaches consciousness. The brain processes are connected by so many
intermediate links with the external stimuli, that any similarity
between them is out of the question. What the brain ultimately
transmits to the soul is neither external processes, nor processes in
the sense-organs, but only such as occur in the brain. But even these
are not apprehended immediately by the soul. What we finally have
in consciousness are not brain processes at all, but sensations. My
sensation of red has absolutely no similarity with the process which
occurs in the brain when I sense red. The sensation, again, occurs as
an effect in the mind, and the brain process is only its cause. This is
why Hartmann (Grundproblem der Erkenntnistheorie, p. 37) says, "What
the subject experiences is therefore only modifications of his own
psychical states and nothing else." However, when I have sensations,
they are very far as yet from being grouped in those complexes which
I perceive as "things." Only single sensations can be transmitted
to me by the brain. The sensations of hardness and softness are
transmitted to me by the organ of touch, those of colour and light by
the organ of sight. Yet all these are found united in one object. This
unification must, therefore, be brought about by the soul itself;
that is, the soul constructs things out of the separate sensations
which the brain conveys to it. My brain conveys to me singly, and by
widely different paths, the visual, tactual, and auditory sensations
which the soul then combines into the idea of a trumpet. Thus, what
is really the result of a process (i.e., the idea of a trumpet),
is for my consciousness the primary datum. In this result nothing
can any longer be found of what exists outside of me and originally
stimulated my sense-organs. The external object is lost entirely on
the way to the brain and through the brain to the soul.

It would be hard to find in the history of human speculation another
edifice of thought which has been built up with greater ingenuity,
and which yet, on closer analysis, collapses into nothing. Let us
look a little closer at the way it has been constructed. The theory
starts with what is given in naïve consciousness, i.e., with things as
perceived. It proceeds to show that none of the qualities which we find
in these things would exist for us, had we no sense-organs. No eye--no
colour. Therefore, the colour is not, as yet, present in the stimulus
which affects the eye. It arises first through the interaction of the
eye and the object. The latter is, therefore, colourless. But neither
is the colour in the eye, for in the eye there is only a chemical,
or physical, process which is first conducted by the optic nerve to
the brain, and there initiates another process. Even this is not yet
the colour. That is only produced in the soul by means of the brain
process. Even then it does not yet appear in consciousness, but is
first referred by the soul to a body in the external world. There
I finally perceive it, as a quality of this body. We have travelled
in a complete circle. We are conscious of a coloured object. That is
the starting-point. Here thought begins its construction. If I had no
eye, the object would be, for me, colourless. I cannot, therefore,
attribute the colour to the object. I must look for it elsewhere. I
look for it, first, in the eye--in vain; in the nerve--in vain; in
the brain--in vain once more; in the soul--here I find it indeed,
but not attached to the object. I recover the coloured body only on
returning to my starting-point. The circle is completed. The theory
leads me to identify what the naïve man regards as existing outside
of him, as really a product of my mind.

As long as one stops here everything seems to fit beautifully. But
we must go over the argument once more from the beginning. Hitherto I
have used, as my starting-point, the object, i.e., the external percept
of which up to now, from my naïve standpoint, I had a totally wrong
conception. I thought that the percept, just as I perceive it, had
objective existence. But now I observe that it disappears with my act
of perception, that it is only a modification of my mental state. Have
I, then, any right at all to start from it in my arguments? Can I
say of it that it acts on my soul? I must henceforth treat the table
of which formerly I believed that it acted on me, and produced an
idea of itself in me, as itself an idea. But from this it follows
logically that my sense-organs, and the processes in them are also
merely subjective. I have no right to talk of a real eye but only
of my idea of an eye. Exactly the same is true of the nerve paths,
and the brain processes, and even of the process in the soul itself,
through which things are supposed to be constructed out of the chaos
of diverse sensations. If assuming the truth of the first circle of
argumentation, I run through the steps of my cognitive activity once
more, the latter reveals itself as a tissue of ideas which, as such,
cannot act on one another. I cannot say that my idea of the object
acts on my idea of the eye, and that from this interaction results
my idea of colour. But it is necessary that I should say this. For
as soon as I see clearly that my sense-organs and their activity,
my nerve- and soul-processes, can also be known to me only through
perception, the argument which I have outlined reveals itself in
its full absurdity. It is quite true that I can have no percept
without the corresponding sense-organ. But just as little can I
be aware of a sense-organ without perception. From the percept of
a table I can pass to the eye which sees it, or the nerves in the
skin which touches it, but what takes place in these I can, in turn,
learn only from perception. And then I soon perceive that there is no
trace of similarity between the process which takes place in the eye
and the colour which I see. I cannot get rid of colour sensations
by pointing to the process which takes place in the eye whilst I
perceive a colour. No more can I re-discover the colour in the nerve-
or brain-processes. I only add a new percept, localised within the
organism, to the first percept which the naïve man localises outside
of his organism. I only pass from one percept to another.

Moreover, there is a break in the whole argument. I can follow
the processes in my organism up to those in my brain, even though
my assumptions become more and more hypothetical as I approach the
central processes of the brain. The method of external observation
ceases with the process in my brain, more particularly with the
process which I should observe, if I could treat the brain with
the instruments and methods of Physics and Chemistry. The method of
internal observation, or introspection, begins with the sensations,
and includes the construction of things out of the material of
sense-data. At the point of transition from brain process to sensation,
there is a break in the sequence of observation.

The theory which I have here described, and which calls itself Critical
Idealism, in contrast to the standpoint of naïve common sense which it
calls Naïve Realism, makes the mistake of characterising one group of
percepts as ideas, whilst taking another group in the very same sense
as the Naïve Realism which it apparently refutes. It establishes the
ideal character of percepts by accepting naïvely, as objectively valid
facts, the percepts connected with one's own body; and, in addition,
it fails to see that it confuses two spheres of observation, between
which it can find no connecting link.

Critical Idealism can refute Naïve Realism only by itself assuming,
in naïve-realistic fashion, that one's own organism has objective
existence. As soon as the Idealist realises that the percepts connected
with his own organism stand on exactly the same footing as those which
Naïve Realism assumes to have objective existence, he can no longer
use the former as a safe foundation for his theory. He would, to be
consistent, have to regard his own organism also as a mere complex
of ideas. But this removes the possibility of regarding the content
of the perceptual world as a product of the mind's organisation. One
would have to assume that the idea "colour" was only a modification
of the idea "eye." So-called Critical Idealism can be established
only by borrowing the assumptions of Naïve Realism. The apparent
refutation of the latter is achieved only by uncritically accepting
its own assumptions as valid in another sphere.

This much, then, is certain: Analysis within the world of percepts
cannot establish Critical Idealism, and, consequently, cannot strip
percepts of their objective character.

Still less is it legitimate to represent the principle that
"the perceptual world is my idea" as self-evident and needing no
proof. Schopenhauer begins his chief work, The World as Will and Idea,
with the words: "The world is my idea--this is a truth which holds
good for everything that lives and knows, though man alone can bring
it into reflective and abstract consciousness. If he really does this,
he has attained to philosophical wisdom. It then becomes clear and
certain to him that what he knows is not a sun and an earth, but only
an eye that sees a sun, a hand that feels an earth; that the world
which surrounds him is there only in idea, i.e., only in relation
to something else, the consciousness which is himself. If any truth
can be asserted a priori, it is this: for it is the expression of
the most general form of all possible and thinkable experience,
a form which is more general than time, or space, or causality,
for they all presuppose it ..." (The World as Will and Idea, Book I,
par. 1). This whole theory is wrecked by the fact, already mentioned
above, that the eyes and the hand are just as much percepts as the
sun and the earth. Using Schopenhauer's vocabulary in his own sense,
I might maintain against him that my eye which sees the sun, and my
hand which feels the earth, are my ideas just like the sun and the
earth themselves. That, put in this way, the whole theory cancels
itself, is clear without further argument. For only my real eye and
my real hand, but not my ideas "eye" and "hand," could own the ideas
"sun" and "earth" as modifications. Yet it is only in terms of these
ideas that Critical Idealism has the right to speak.

Critical Idealism is totally unable to gain an insight unto the
relation of percept to idea. It cannot make the separation, mentioned
on p. 58, between what happens to the percept in the process of
perception and what must be inherent in it prior to perception. We
must therefore attempt this problem in another way.



From the foregoing considerations it follows that it is impossible
to prove, by analysis of the content of our perceptions, that our
percepts are ideas. This is supposed to be proved by showing that, if
the process of perceiving takes place in the way in which we conceive
it in accordance with the naïve-realistic assumptions concerning the
psychological and physiological constitution of human individuals,
then we have to do, not with things themselves, but merely with our
ideas of things. Now, if Naïve Realism, when consistently thought
out, leads to results which directly contradict its presuppositions,
then these presuppositions must be discarded as unsuitable for the
foundation of a theory of the world. In any case, it is inadmissible
to reject the presuppositions and yet accept the consequences, as the
Critical Idealist does who bases his assertion that the world is my
idea on the line of argument indicated above. (Eduard von Hartmann
gives in his work Das Grundproblem der Erkenntnistheorie a full
account of this line of argument.)

The truth of Critical Idealism is one thing, the persuasiveness
of its proofs another. How it stands with the former, will appear
later in the course of our argument, but the persuasiveness of its
proofs is nil. If one builds a house, and the ground floor collapses
whilst the first floor is being built, then the first floor collapses
too. Naïve Realism and Critical Idealism are related to one another
like the ground floor to the first floor in this simile.

For one who holds that the whole perceptual world is only an ideal
world, and, moreover, the effect of things unknown to him acting
on his soul, the real problem of knowledge is naturally concerned,
not with the ideas present only in the soul, but with the things
which lie outside his consciousness, and which are independent of
him. He asks, How much can we learn about them indirectly, seeing
that we cannot observe them directly? From this point of view, he
is concerned, not with the connection of his conscious percepts with
one another, but with their causes which transcend his consciousness
and exist independently of him, whereas the percepts, on his view,
disappear as soon as he turns his sense-organs away from the things
themselves. Our consciousness, on this view, works like a mirror
from which the pictures of definite things disappear the very moment
its reflecting surface is not turned towards them. If, now, we do
not see the things themselves, but only their reflections, we must
obtain knowledge of the nature of the former indirectly by drawing
conclusions from the character of the latter. The whole of modern
science adopts this point of view, when it uses percepts only as
a means of obtaining information about the motions of matter which
lie behind them, and which alone really "are." If the philosopher,
as Critical Idealist, admits real existence at all, then his sole
aim is to gain knowledge of this real existence indirectly by means
of his ideas. His interest ignores the subjective world of ideas,
and pursues instead the causes of these ideas.

The Critical Idealist can, however, go even further and say, I
am confined to the world of my own ideas and cannot escape from
it. If I conceive a thing beyond my ideas, this concept, once more,
is nothing but my idea. An Idealist of this type will either deny
the thing-in-itself entirely or, at any rate, assert that it has no
significance for human minds, i.e., that it is as good as non-existent
since we can know nothing of it.

To this kind of Critical Idealist the whole world seems a chaotic
dream, in the face of which all striving for knowledge is simply
meaningless. For him there can be only two sorts of men: (1) victims
of the illusion that the dreams they have woven themselves are real
things, and (2) wise men who see through the nothingness of this
dream world, and who gradually lose all desire to trouble themselves
further about it. From this point of view, even one's own personality
may become a mere dream phantom. Just as during sleep there appears
among my dream-images an image of myself, so in waking consciousness
the idea of my own Self is added to the idea of the outer world. I have
then given to me in consciousness, not my real Self, but only my idea
of my Self. Whoever denies that things exist, or, at least, that we
can know anything of them, must also deny the existence, respectively
the knowledge, of one's own personality. This is how the Critical
Idealist comes to maintain that "All reality transforms itself into
a wonderful dream, without a life which is the object of the dream,
and without a mind which has the dream; into a dream which is nothing
but a dream of itself." (Cp. Fichte, Die Bestimmung des Menschen.)

Whether he who believes that he recognises immediate experience to
be a dream, postulates nothing behind this dream, or whether he
relates his ideas to actual things, is immaterial. In both cases
life itself must lose all scientific interest for him. However,
whereas for those who believe that the whole of accessible reality
is exhausted in dreams, all science is an absurdity, for those who
feel compelled to argue from ideas to things, science consists in
studying these things-in-themselves. The first of these theories of
the world may be called Absolute Illusionism, the second is called
Transcendental Realism [2] by its most rigorously logical exponent,
Eduard von Hartmann.

These two points of view have this in common with Naïve Realism, that
they seek to gain a footing in the world by means of an analysis of
percepts. Within this sphere, however, they are unable to find any
stable point.

One of the most important questions for an adherent of Transcendental
Realism would have to be, how the Ego constructs the world of ideas
out of itself. A world of ideas which was given to us, and which
disappeared as soon as we shut our senses to the external world, might
provoke an earnest desire for knowledge, in so far as it was a means
for investigating indirectly the world of the self-existing Self. If
the things of our experience were "ideas," then our everyday life would
be like a dream, and the discovery of the true facts like waking. Even
our dream-images interest us as long as we dream and, consequently,
do not detect their dream character. But as soon as we wake, we no
longer look for the connections of our dream-images among themselves,
but rather for the physical, physiological, and psychological processes
which underlie them. In the same way, a philosopher who holds the world
to be his idea, cannot be interested in the reciprocal relations of the
details within the world. If he admits the existence of a real Ego at
all, then his question will be, not how one of his ideas is associated
with another, but what takes place in the Soul which is independent
of these ideas, while a certain train of ideas passes through his
consciousness. If I dream that I am drinking wine which makes my
throat burn, and then wake up with a fit of coughing (cp. Weygandt,
Entstehung der Träume, 1893) I cease, the moment I wake, to be
interested in the dream-experience for its own sake. My attention is
now concerned only with the physiological and psychological processes
by means of which the irritation which causes me to cough, comes to be
symbolically expressed in the dream. Similarly, once the philosopher
is convinced that the given world consists of nothing but ideas, his
interest is bound to switch from them at once to the soul which is
the reality lying behind them. The matter is more serious, however,
for the Illusionist who denies the existence of an Ego behind the
"ideas," or at least holds this Ego to be unknowable. We might very
easily be led to such a view by the reflection that, in contrast to
dreaming, there is the waking state in which we have the opportunity
to detect our dreams, and to realise the real relations of things,
but that there is no state of the self which is related similarly to
our waking conscious life. Every adherent of this view fails entirely
to see that there is, in fact, something which is to mere perception
what our waking experience to our dreams. This something is thought.

The naïve man cannot be charged with failure to perceive this. He
accepts life as it is, and regards things as real just as they
present themselves to him in experience. The first step, however,
which we take beyond this standpoint can be only this, that we ask
how thought is related to perception. It makes no difference whether
or no the percept, as given to me, has a continuous existence before
and after I perceive it. If I want to assert anything whatever about
it, I can do so only with the help of thought. When I assert that the
world is my idea, I have enunciated the result of an act of thought,
and if my thought is not applicable to the world, then my result is
false. Between a percept and every kind of judgment about it there
intervenes thought.

The reason why, in our discussion about things, we generally
overlook the part played by thought, has already been given above
(p. 31). It lies in the fact that our attention is concentrated only
on the object about which we think, but not at the same time on the
thinking itself. The naïve mind, therefore, treats thought as something
which has nothing to do with things, but stands altogether aloof from
them and makes its theories about them. The theory which the thinker
constructs concerning the phenomena of the world is regarded, not as
part of the real things, but as existing only in men's heads. The
world is complete in itself even without this theory. It is all
ready-made and finished with all its substances and forces, and of
this ready-made world man makes himself a picture. Whoever thinks
thus need only be asked one question. What right have you to declare
the world to be complete without thought? Does not the world cause
thoughts in the minds of men with the same necessity as it causes
the blossoms on plants? Plant a seed in the earth. It puts forth
roots and stem, it unfolds into leaves and blossoms. Set the plant
before yourselves. It connects itself, in your minds, with a definite
concept. Why should this concept belong any less to the whole plant
than leaf and blossom? You say the leaves and blossoms exist quite
apart from an experiencing subject. The concept appears only when a
human being makes an object of the plant. Quite so. But leaves and
blossoms also appear on the plant only if there is soil in which
the seed can be planted, and light and air in which the blossoms
and leaves can unfold. Just so the concept of a plant arises when a
thinking being comes into contact with the plant.

It is quite arbitrary to regard the sum of what we experience of a
thing through bare perception as a totality, a whole, while that which
thought reveals in it is regarded as a mere accretion which has nothing
to do with the thing itself. If I am given a rosebud to-day, the
percept that offers itself to me is complete only for the moment. If
I put the bud into water, I shall to-morrow get a very different
picture of my object. If I watch the rosebud without interruption,
I shall see to-day's state gradually change into to-morrow's through
an infinite number of intermediate stages. The picture which presents
itself to me at any one moment is only a chance section out of the
continuous process of growth in which the object is engaged. If I do
not put the bud into water, a whole series of states, the possibility
of which lay in the bud, will not be realised. Similarly, I may be
prevented to-morrow from watching the blossom further, and thus carry
away an incomplete picture of it.

It would be a quite unscientific and arbitrary judgment which declared
of any haphazard appearance of a thing, this is the thing.

To regard the sum of perceptual appearances as the thing is no more
legitimate. It might be quite possible for a mind to receive the
concept at the same time as, and together with, the percept. To
such a mind it would never occur that the concept did not belong
to the thing. It would have to ascribe to the concept an existence
indivisibly bound up with the thing.

Let me make myself clearer by another example. If I throw a
stone horizontally through the air, I perceive it in different
places at different times. I connect these places so as to form a
line. Mathematics teaches me to distinguish various kinds of lines,
one of which is the parabola. I know a parabola to be a line which is
produced by a point moving according to a certain well-defined law. If
I analyse the conditions under which the stone thrown by me moves,
I find that the line of its flight is identical with the line I know
as a parabola. That the stone moves exactly in a parabola is a result
of the given conditions and follows necessarily from them. The form
of the parabola belongs to the whole phenomenon as much as any other
feature of it. The hypothetical mind described above which has no
need of the roundabout way of thought, would find itself presented,
not only with a sequence of visual percepts at different points, but,
as part and parcel of these phenomena, also with the parabolic form
of the line of flight, which we can add to the phenomenon only by an
act of thought.

It is not due to the real objects that they appear to us at first
without their conceptual sides, but to our mental organisation. Our
whole organisation functions in such a way that in the apprehension
of every real thing the relevant elements come to us from two sources,
viz., from perception and from thought.

The nature of things is indifferent to the way I am organised for
apprehending them. The breach between perception and thought exists
only from the moment that I confront objects as spectator. But which
elements do, and which do not, belong to the objects, cannot depend
on the manner in which I obtain my knowledge of them.

Man is a being with many limitations. First of all, he is a thing among
other things. His existence is in space and time. Hence but a limited
portion of the total universe can ever be given to him. This limited
portion, however, is linked up with other parts on every side both
in time and in space. If our existence were so linked with things
that every process in the object world were also a process in us,
there would be no difference between us and things. Neither would
there be any individual objects for us. All processes and events
would then pass continuously one into the other. The cosmos would be
a unity and a whole complete in itself. The stream of events would
nowhere be interrupted. But owing to our limitations we perceive as
an individual object what, in truth, is not an individual object at
all. Nowhere, e.g., is the particular quality "red" to be found by
itself in abstraction. It is surrounded on all sides by other qualities
to which it belongs, and without which it could not subsist. For
us, however, it is necessary to isolate certain sections of the
world and to consider them by themselves. Our eye can seize only
single colours one after another out of a manifold colour-complex,
our understanding only single concepts out of a connected conceptual
system. This isolation is a subjective act, which is due to the fact
that we are not identical with the world-process, but are only things
among other things.

It is of the greatest importance for us to determine the relation
of ourselves, as things, to all other things. The determining of
this relation must be distinguished from merely becoming conscious
of ourselves. For this self-awareness we depend on perception just
as we do for our awareness of any other thing. The perception of
myself reveals to me a number of qualities which I combine into an
apprehension of my personality as a whole, just as I combine the
qualities, yellow, metallic, hard, etc., in the unity "gold." This
kind of self-consciousness does not take me beyond the sphere of what
belongs to me. Hence it must be distinguished from the determination
of myself by thought. Just as I determine by thought the place of any
single percept of the external world in the whole cosmic system, so I
fit by an act of thought what I perceive in myself into the order of
the world-process. My self-observation restricts me within definite
limits, but my thought has nothing to do with these limits. In this
sense I am a two-sided being. I am contained within the sphere which
I apprehend as that of my personality, but I am also the possessor
of an activity which, from a higher standpoint, determines my finite
existence. Thought is not individual like sensation and feeling;
it is universal. It receives an individual stamp in each separate
human being only because it comes to be related to his individual
feelings and sensations. By means of these particular colourings
of the universal thought, individual men are distinguished from
one another. There is only one single concept of "triangle." It is
quite immaterial for the content of this concept whether it is in A's
consciousness or in B's. It will, however, be grasped by each of the
two minds in its own individual way.

This thought conflicts with a common prejudice which is very hard to
overcome. The victims of this prejudice are unable to see that the
concept of a triangle which my mind grasps is the same as the concept
which my neighbour's mind grasps. The naïve man believes himself to
be the creator of his concepts. Hence he believes that each person has
his private concepts. One of the first things which philosophic thought
requires of us is to overcome this prejudice. The one single concept of
"triangle" does not split up into many concepts because it is thought
by many minds. For the thought of the many is itself a unity.

In thought we have the element which welds each man's special
individuality into one whole with the cosmos. In so far as we sense
and feel (perceive), we are isolated individuals; in so far as
we think, we are the All-One Being which pervades everything. This
is the deeper meaning of our two-sided nature. We are conscious of
an absolute principle revealing itself in us, a principle which is
universal. But we experience it, not as it issues from the centre of
the world, but rather at a point on the periphery. Were the former
the case, we should know, as soon as ever we became conscious, the
solution of the whole world problem. But since we stand at a point
on the periphery, and find that our own being is confined within
definite limits, we must explore the region which lies beyond our
own being with the help of thought, which is the universal cosmic
principle manifesting itself in our minds.

The fact that thought, in us, reaches out beyond our separate existence
and relates itself to the universal world-order, gives rise to the
desire for knowledge in us. Beings without thought do not experience
this desire. When they come in contact with other things no questions
arise for them. These other things remain external to such beings. But
in thinking beings the concept confronts the external thing. It is
that part of the thing which we receive not from without, but from
within. To assimilate, to unite, the two elements, the inner and the
outer, that is the function of knowledge.

The percept, thus, is not something finished and self-contained, but
one side only of the total reality. The other side is the concept. The
act of cognition is the synthesis of percept and concept. And it is
only the union of percept and concept which constitutes the whole

The preceding discussion shows clearly that it is futile to seek for
any other common element in the separate things of the world than the
ideal content which thinking supplies. All attempts to discover any
other principle of unity in the world than this internally coherent
ideal content, which we gain for ourselves by the conceptual
analysis of our percepts, are bound to fail. Neither a personal
God, nor force, nor matter, nor the blind will (of Schopenhauer and
Hartmann), can be accepted by us as the universal principle of unity
in the world. These principles all belong only to a limited sphere
of our experience. Personality we experience only in ourselves,
force and matter only in external things. The will, again, can
be regarded only as the expression of the activity of our finite
personalities. Schopenhauer wants to avoid making "abstract" thought
the principle of unity in the world, and seeks instead something which
presents itself to him immediately as real. This philosopher holds that
we can never solve the riddle of the world so long as we regard it as
an "external" world. "In fact, the meaning for which we seek of that
world which is present to us only as our idea, or the transition from
the world as mere idea of the knowing subject to whatever it may be
besides this, would never be found if the investigator himself were
nothing more than the pure knowing subject (a winged cherub without
a body). But he himself is rooted in that world: he finds himself
in it as an individual, that is to say, his knowledge, which is the
necessary supporter of the whole world as idea, is yet always given
through the medium of a body, whose affections are, as we have shown,
the starting-point for the understanding in the perception of that
world. His body is, for the pure knowing subject, an idea like every
other idea, an object among objects. Its movements and actions are so
far known to him in precisely the same way as the changes of all other
perceived objects, and would be just as strange and incomprehensible
to him if their meaning were not explained for him in an entirely
different way.... The body is given in two entirely different ways to
the subject of knowledge, who becomes an individual only through his
identity with it. It is given as an idea in intelligent perception,
as an object among objects and subject to the laws of objects. And it
is also given in quite a different way as that which is immediately
known to every one, and is signified by the word 'will.' Every true
act of his will is also at once and without exception a movement of
his body. The act of will and the movement of the body are not two
different things objectively known, which the bond of causality unites;
they do not stand in the relation of cause and effect; they are one and
the same, but they are given in entirely different ways--immediately,
and again in perception for the understanding." (The World as Will
and Idea, Book 2, § 18.) Schopenhauer considers himself entitled by
these arguments to hold that the will becomes objectified in the
human body. He believes that in the activities of the body he has
an immediate experience of reality, of the thing-in-itself in the
concrete. Against these arguments we must urge that the activities of
our body become known to us only through self-observation, and that,
as such, they are in no way superior to other percepts. If we want
to know their real nature, we can do so only by means of thought,
i.e., by fitting them into the ideal system of our concepts and ideas.

One of the most deeply rooted prejudices of the naïve mind is
the opinion that thinking is abstract and empty of any concrete
content. At best, we are told, it supplies but an "ideal" counterpart
of the unity of the world, but never that unity itself. Whoever holds
this view has never made clear to himself what a percept apart from
concepts really is. Let us see what this world of bare percepts is. A
mere juxtaposition in space, a mere succession in time, a chaos of
disconnected particulars--that is what it is. None of these things
which come and go on the stage of perception has any connection with
any other. The world is a multiplicity of objects without distinctions
of value. None plays any greater part in the nexus of the world than
any other. In order to realise that this or that fact has a greater
importance than another we must go to thought. As long as we do not
think, the rudimentary organ of an animal which has no significance
in its life, appears equal in value to its more important limbs. The
particular facts reveal their meaning, in themselves and in their
relations with other parts of the world, only when thought spins its
threads from thing to thing. This activity of thinking has always
a content. For it is only through a perfectly definite concrete
content that I can know why the snail belongs to a lower type of
organisation than the lion. The mere appearance, the percept, gives
me no content which could inform me as to the degree of perfection
of the organisation.

Thought contributes this content to the percept from the world of
concepts and ideas. In contrast with the content of perception which
is given to us from without, the content of thought appears within
our minds. The form in which thought first appears in consciousness
we will call "intuition." Intuition is to thoughts what observation
is to percepts. Intuition and observation are the sources of our
knowledge. An external object which we observe remains unintelligible
to us, until the corresponding intuition arises within us which adds
to the reality those sides of it which are lacking in the percept. To
anyone who is incapable of supplying the relevant intuitions,
the full nature of the real remains a sealed book. Just as the
colour-blind person sees only differences of brightness without
any colour qualities, so the mind which lacks intuition sees only
disconnected fragments of percepts.

To explain a thing, to make it intelligible, means nothing else than to
place it in the context from which it has been torn by the peculiar
organisation of our minds, described above. Nothing can possibly
exist cut off from the universe. Hence all isolation of objects has
only subjective validity for minds organised like ours. For us the
universe is split up into above and below, before and after, cause
and effect, object and idea, matter and force, object and subject,
etc. The objects which, in observation, appear to us as separate,
become combined, bit by bit, through the coherent, unified system
of our intuitions. By thought we fuse again into one whole all that
perception has separated.

An object presents riddles to our understanding so long as it exists
in isolation. But this is an abstraction of our own making and can
be unmade again in the world of concepts.

Except through thought and perception nothing is given to us
directly. The question now arises as to the interpretation of percepts
on our theory. We have learnt that the proof which Critical Idealism
offers for the subjective nature of percepts collapses. But the
exhibition of the falsity of the proof is not, by itself, sufficient
to show that the doctrine itself is an error. Critical Idealism does
not base its proof on the absolute nature of thought, but relies on the
argument that Naïve Realism, when followed to its logical conclusion,
contradicts itself. How does the matter appear when we recognise the
absoluteness of thought?

Let us assume that a certain percept, e.g., red, appears in
consciousness. To continued observation, the percept shows itself to
be connected with other percepts, e.g., a certain figure, temperature,
and touch-qualities. This complex of percepts I call an object in
the world of sense. I can now ask myself: Over and above the percepts
just mentioned, what else is there in the section of space in which
they are? I shall then find mechanical, chemical, and other processes
in that section of space. I next go further and study the processes
which take place between the object and my sense-organs. I shall
find oscillations in an elastic medium, the character of which has
not the least in common with the percepts from which I started. I
get the same result if I trace further the connection between
sense-organs and brain. In each of these inquiries I gather new
percepts, but the connecting thread which binds all these spatially
and temporally separated percepts into one whole, is thought. The air
vibrations which carry sound are given to me as percepts just like
the sound. Thought alone links all these percepts one to the other
and exhibits them in their reciprocal relations. We have no right
to say that over and above our immediate percepts there is anything
except the ideal nexus of precepts (which thought has to reveal). The
relation of the object perceived to the perceiving subject, which
relation transcends the bare percept, is therefore purely ideal,
i.e., capable of being expressed only through concepts. Only if it
were possible to perceive how the object of perception affects the
perceiving subject, or, alternatively, only if I could watch the
construction of the perceptual complex through the subject, could we
speak as modern Physiology, and the Critical Idealism which is based
on it, speak. Their theory confuses an ideal relation (that of the
object to the subject) with a process of which we could speak only if
it were possible to perceive it. The proposition, "No colour without
a colour-sensing eye," cannot be taken to mean that the eye produces
the colour, but only that an ideal relation, recognisable by thought,
subsists between the percept "colour" and the percept "eye."

To empirical science belongs the task of ascertaining how the
properties of the eye and those of the colours are related to one
another; by means of what structures the organ of sight makes possible
the perception of colours, etc. I can trace how one percept succeeds
another and how one is related to others in space, and I can formulate
these relations in conceptual terms, but I can never perceive how a
percept originates out of the non-perceptible. All attempts to seek
any relations between percepts other than conceptual relations must
of necessity fail.

What then is a percept? This question, asked in this general way,
is absurd. A percept appears always as a perfectly determinate,
concrete content. This content is immediately given and is completely
contained in the given. The only question one can ask concerning
the given content is, what it is apart from perception, that is,
what it is for thought. The question concerning the "what" of a
percept can, therefore, only refer to the conceptual intuition which
corresponds to the percept. From this point of view, the problem of the
subjectivity of percepts, in the sense in which the Critical Idealists
debate it, cannot be raised at all. Only that which is experienced
as belonging to the subject can be termed "subjective." To form a
link between subject and object is impossible for any real process,
in the naïve sense of the word "real," in which it means a process
which can be perceived. That is possible only for thought. For us,
then, "objective" means that which, for perception, presents itself
as external to the perceiving subject. As subject of perception I
remain perceptible to myself after the table which now stands before
me has disappeared from my field of observation. The perception of the
table has produced a modification in me which persists like myself. I
preserve an image of the table which now forms part of my Self. Modern
Psychology terms this image a "memory-idea." Now this is the only
thing which has any right to be called the idea of the table. For it
is the perceptible modification of my own mental state through the
presence of the table in my visual field. Moreover, it does not mean
a modification in some "Ego-in-itself" behind the perceiving subject,
but the modification of the perceiving subject itself. The idea is,
therefore, a subjective percept, in contrast with the objective percept
which occurs when the object is present in the perceptual field. The
false identification of the subjective with this objective percept
leads to the misunderstanding of Idealism: The world is my idea.

Our next task must be to define the concept of "idea" more nearly. What
we have said about it so far does not give us the concept, but only
shows us where in the perceptual field ideas are to be found. The
exact concept of "idea" will also make it possible for us to obtain
a satisfactory understanding of the relation of idea and object. This
will then lead us over the border-line, where the relation of subject
to object is brought down from the purely conceptual field of knowledge
into concrete individual life. Once we know how we are to conceive
the world, it will be an easy task to adapt ourselves to it. Only
when we know to what object we are to devote our activity can we put
our whole energy into our actions.


The view which I have here outlined may be regarded as one to which
man is led as it were spontaneously, as soon as he begins to reflect
about his relation to the world. He then finds himself caught in a
system of thoughts which dissolves for him as fast as he frames it. The
thoughts which form this system are such that the purely theoretical
refutation of them does not exhaust our task. We have to live through
them, in order to understand the confusion into which they lead us,
and to find the way out. They must figure in any discussion of the
relation of man to the world, not for the sake of refuting others
whom one believes to be holding mistaken views about this relation,
but because it is necessary to understand the confusion in which
all first efforts at reflection about such a relation are apt to
issue. One needs to learn by experience how to refute oneself with
respect to these first reflections. This is the point of view from
which the arguments of the preceding chapter are to be understood.

Whoever tries to work out for himself a theory of the relation of man
to the world, becomes aware of the fact that he creates this relation,
at least in part, by forming ideas about the things and events in the
world. In consequence, his attention is deflected from what exists
outside in the world and directed towards his inner world, the realm
of his ideas. He begins to say to himself, It is impossible for me
to stand in relation to any thing or event, unless an idea appears
in me. From this fact, once noticed, it is but a step to the theory:
all that I experience is only my ideas; of the existence of a world
outside I know only in so far as it is an idea in me. With this theory,
man abandons the standpoint of Naïve Realism which he occupies prior
to all reflection about his relation to the world. So long as he
stands there, he believes that he is dealing with real things, but
reflection about himself drives him away from this position. Reflection
does not reveal to his gaze a real world such as naïve consciousness
claims to have before it. Reflection reveals to him only his ideas;
they interpose themselves between his own nature and a supposedly
real world, such as the naïve point of view confidently affirms. The
interposition of the world of ideas prevents man from perceiving any
longer such a real world. He must suppose that he is blind to such
a reality. Thus arises the concept of a "thing-in-itself" which is
inaccessible to knowledge. So long as we consider only the relation
to the world into which man appears to enter through the stream of his
ideas, we can hardly avoid framing this type of theory. Yet we cannot
remain at the point of view of Naïve Realism except at the price
of closing our minds artificially to the desire for knowledge. The
existence of this desire for knowledge about the relation of man to
the world proves that the naïve point of view must be abandoned. If
the naïve point of view yielded anything which we could acknowledge
as truth, we could not experience this desire. But mere abandonment
of the naïve point of view does not lead to any other view which
we could regard as true, so long as we retain, without noticing
it, the type of theory which the naïve point of view imposes on
us. This is the mistake made by the man who says, I experience only
my ideas, and though I think that I am dealing with real things, I am
actually conscious of nothing but my ideas of real things. I must,
therefore, suppose that genuine realities, "things-in-themselves,"
exist only outside the boundary of my consciousness; that they are
inaccessible to my immediate knowledge; but that they somehow come
into contact with me and influence me so as to make a world of ideas
arise in me. Whoever thinks thus, duplicates in thought the world
before him by adding another. But, strictly he ought to begin his
whole theorising over again with regard to this second world. For
the unknown "thing-in-itself," in its relation to man's own nature,
is conceived in exactly the same way as is the known thing of the
naïvely realistic point of view. There is only one way of escaping
from the confusion into which one falls, by critical reflection on
this naïve point of view. This is to observe that, at the very heart
of everything we can experience, be it within the mind or outside
in the world of perception, there is something which does not share
the fate of an idea interposing itself between the real event and the
contemplating mind. This something is thinking. With regard to thinking
we can maintain the point of view of Naïve Realism. If we mistakenly
abandon it, it is only because we have learnt that we must abandon
it for other mental activities, but overlook that what we have found
to be true for other activities, does not apply to thinking. When we
realise this, we gain access to the further insight that, in thinking
and through thinking, man necessarily comes to know the very thing to
which he appears to blind himself by interposing between the world and
himself the stream of his ideas. A critic highly esteemed by the author
of this book has objected that this discussion of thinking stops at
a naïvely realistic theory of thinking, as shown by the fact that the
real world and the world of ideas are held to be identical. However,
the author believes himself to have shown in this very discussion
that the validity of "Naïve Realism," as applied to thinking, results
inevitably from an unprejudiced study of thinking; and that Naïve
Realism, in so far as it is invalid for other mental activities,
is overcome through the recognition of the true nature of thinking.



Philosophers have found the chief difficulty in the explanation of
ideas in the fact that we are not identical with the external objects,
and yet our ideas must have a form corresponding to their objects. But
on closer inspection it turns out that this difficulty does not really
exist. We certainly are not identical with the external things, but
we belong together with them to one and the same world. The stream
of the universal cosmic process passes through that segment of the
world which, to my perception, is myself as subject. So far as my
perception goes, I am, in the first instance, confined within the
limits bounded by my skin. But all that is contained within the skin
belongs to the cosmos as a whole. Hence, for a relation to subsist
between my organism and an object external to me, it is by no means
necessary that something of the object should slip into me, or make
an impression on my mind, like a signet-ring on wax. The question,
How do I gain knowledge of that tree ten feet away from me, is utterly
misleading. It springs from the view that the boundaries of my body
are absolute barriers, through which information about external
things filters into me. The forces which are active within my body
are the same as those which exist outside. I am, therefore, really
identical with the objects; not, however, I in so far as I am subject
of perception, but I in so far as I am a part within the universal
cosmic process. The percept of the tree belongs to the same whole as
my Self. The universal cosmic process produces alike, here the percept
of the tree, and there the percept of my Self. Were I a world-creator
instead of a world-knower, subject and object (percept and self) would
originate in one act. For they condition one another reciprocally. As
world-knower I can discover the common element in both, so far as
they are complementary aspects of the world, only through thought
which by means of concepts relates the one to the other.

The most difficult to drive from the field are the so-called
physiological proofs of the subjectivity of our percepts. When I
exert pressure on the skin of my body, I experience it as a pressure
sensation. This same pressure can be sensed as light by the eye,
as sound by the ear. I experience an electrical shock by the eye
as light, by the ear as sound, by the nerves of the skin as touch,
and by the nose as a smell of phosphorus. What follows from these
facts? Only this: I experience an electrical shock, or, as the case
may be, a pressure followed by a light, or a sound, or, it may be,
a certain smell, etc. If there were no eye present, then no light
quality would accompany the perception of the mechanical vibrations in
my environment; without the presence of the ear, no sound, etc. But
what right have we to say that in the absence of sense-organs the
whole process would not exist at all? All those who, from the fact
that an electrical process causes a sensation of light in the eye,
conclude that what we sense as light is only a mechanical process of
motion, forget that they are only arguing from one percept to another,
and not at all to something altogether transcending percepts. Just as
we can say that the eye perceives a mechanical process of motion in
its surroundings as light, so we can affirm that every change in an
object, determined by natural law, is perceived by us as a process of
motion. If I draw twelve pictures of a horse on the circumference of
a rotating disc, reproducing exactly the positions which the horse's
body successively assumes in movement, I can, by rotating the disc,
produce the illusion of movement. I need only look through an opening
in such a way that, at regular intervals, I perceive the successive
positions of the horse. I perceive, not separate pictures of twelve
horses, but one picture of a single galloping horse.

The above-mentioned physiological facts cannot, therefore, throw
any light on the relation of percept to idea. Hence, we must seek a
relation some other way.

The moment a percept appears in my field of consciousness, thought,
too, becomes active in me. A member of my thought-system, a definite
intuition, a concept, connects itself with the percept. When, next,
the percept disappears from my field of vision, what remains? The
intuition, with the reference to the particular percept which it
acquired in the moment of perception. The degree of vividness with
which I can subsequently recall this reference depends on the manner in
which my mental and bodily organism is working. An idea is nothing but
an intuition related to a particular percept; it is a concept which
was once connected with a certain percept, and which retains this
reference to the percept. My concept of a lion is not constructed out
of my percepts of a lion; but my idea of a lion is formed under the
guidance of the percepts. I can teach someone to form the concept of
a lion without his ever having seen a lion, but I can never give him
a living idea of it without the help of his own perception.

An idea is therefore nothing but an individualised concept. And now
we can see how real objects can be represented to us by ideas. The
full reality of a thing is present to us in the moment of observation
through the combination of concept and percept. The concept acquires
by means of the percept an individualised form, a relation to this
particular percept. In this individualised form which carries with it,
as an essential feature, the reference to the percept, it continues to
exist in us and constitutes the idea of the thing in question. If we
come across a second thing with which the same concept connects itself,
we recognise the second as being of the same kind as the first; if we
come across the same thing twice, we find in our conceptual system,
not merely a corresponding concept, but the individualised concept
with its characteristic relation to this same object, and thus we
recognise the object again.

The idea, then, stands between the percept and the concept. It is
the determinate concept which points to the percept.

The sum of my ideas may be called my experience. The man who has the
greater number of individualised concepts will be the man of richer
experience. A man who lacks all power of intuition is not capable of
acquiring experience. The objects simply disappear again from the
field of his consciousness, because he lacks the concepts which he
ought to bring into relation with them. On the other hand, a man whose
faculty of thought is well developed, but whose perception functions
badly owing to his clumsy sense-organs, will be no better able to
gain experience. He can, it is true, by one means and another acquire
concepts; but the living reference to particular objects is lacking
to his intuitions. The unthinking traveller and the student absorbed
in abstract conceptual systems are alike incapable of acquiring a
rich experience.

Reality presents itself to us as the union of percept and concept;
and the subjective representation of this reality presents itself to
us as idea.

If our personality expressed itself only in cognition, the totality of
all that is objective would be contained in percept, concept and idea.

However, we are not satisfied merely to refer percepts, by means
of thinking, to concepts, but we relate them also to our private
subjectivity, our individual Ego. The expression of this relation to us
as individuals is feeling, which manifests itself as pleasure and pain.

Thinking and feeling correspond to the two-fold nature of our being
to which reference has already been made. By means of thought we take
an active part in the universal cosmic process. By means of feeling
we withdraw ourselves into the narrow precincts of our own being.

Thought links us to the world; feeling leads us back into ourselves
and thus makes us individuals. Were we merely thinking and
perceiving beings, our whole life would flow along in monotonous
indifference. Could we only know ourselves as Selves, we should
be totally indifferent to ourselves. It is only because with
self-knowledge we experience self-feeling, and with the perception of
objects pleasure and pain, that we live as individuals whose existence
is not exhausted by the conceptual relations in which they stand to
the rest of the world, but who have a special value in themselves.

One might be tempted to regard the life of feeling as something more
richly saturated with reality than the apprehension of the world by
thought. But the reply to this is that the life of feeling, after all,
has this richer meaning only for my individual self. For the universe
as a whole my feelings can be of value only if, as percepts of myself,
they enter into connection with a concept and in this roundabout way
become links in the cosmos.

Our life is a continual oscillation between our share in the universal
world-process and our own individual existence. The farther we ascend
into the universal nature of thought where the individual, at last,
interests us only as an example, an instance, of the concept, the
more the character of something individual, of the quite determinate,
unique personality, becomes lost in us. The farther we descend into the
depths of our own private life and allow the vibrations of our feelings
to accompany all our experiences of the outer world, the more we cut
ourselves off from the universal life. True individuality belongs
to him whose feelings reach up to the farthest possible extent into
the region of the ideal. There are men in whom even the most general
ideas still bear that peculiar personal tinge which shows unmistakably
their connection with their author. There are others whose concepts
come before us as devoid of any trace of individual colouring as if
they had not been produced by a being of flesh and blood at all.

Even ideas give to our conceptual life an individual stamp. Each
one of us has his special standpoint from which he looks out on the
world. His concepts link themselves to his percepts. He has his own
special way of forming general concepts. This special character
results for each of us from his special standpoint in the world,
from the way in which the range of his percepts is dependent on the
place in the whole where he exists. The conditions of individuality
here indicated, we call the milieu.

This special character of our experience must be distinguished from
another which depends on our peculiar organisation. Each of us, as we
know, is organised as a unique, fully determined individual. Each of
us combines special feelings, and these in the most varying degrees
of intensity, with his percepts. This is just the individual element
in the personality of each of us. It is what remains over when we
have allowed fully for all the determining factors in our milieu.

A life of feeling, wholly devoid of thought, would gradually lose
all connection with the world. But man is meant to be a whole, and
knowledge of objects will go hand-in-hand for him with the development
and education of the feeling-side of his nature.

Feeling is the means whereby, in the first instance, concepts gain
concrete life.



We have established that the elements for the explanation of reality
are to be taken from the two spheres of perception and thought. It
is due, as we have seen, to our organisation that the full totality
of reality, including our own selves as subjects, appears at first
as a duality. Knowledge transcends this duality by fusing the two
elements of reality, the percept and the concept, into the complete
thing. Let us call the manner in which the world presents itself to
us, before by means of knowledge it has taken on its true nature,
"the world of appearance," in distinction from the unified whole
composed of percept and concept. We can then say, The world is given
to us as a duality (Dualism), and knowledge transforms it into a unity
(Monism). A philosophy which starts from this basal principle may
be called a Monistic philosophy, or Monism. Opposed to this is the
theory of two worlds, or Dualism. The latter does not, by any means,
assume merely that there are two sides of a single reality, which
are kept apart by our organisation, but that there are two worlds
totally distinct from one another. It then tries to find in one of
these two worlds the principle of explanation for the other.

Dualism rests on a false conception of what we call knowledge. It
divides the whole of reality into two spheres, each of which has its
own laws, and it leaves these two worlds standing outside one another.

It is from a Dualism such as this that there arises the distinction
between the object of perception and the thing-in-itself, which
Kant introduced into philosophy, and which, to the present day, we
have not succeeded in expelling. According to our interpretation,
it is due to the nature of our organisation that a particular
object can be given to us only as a percept. Thought transcends this
particularity by assigning to each percept its proper place in the
world as a whole. As long as we determine the separate parts of the
cosmos as percepts, we are simply following, in this sorting out,
a law of our subjective constitution. If, however, we regard all
percepts, taken together, merely as one part, and contrast with this
a second part, viz., the things-in-themselves, then our philosophy
is building castles-in-the-air. We are then engaged in mere playing
with concepts. We construct an artificial opposition, but we can find
no content for the second of these opposites, seeing that no content
for a particular thing can be found except in perception.

Every kind of reality which is assumed to exist outside the sphere of
perception and conception must be relegated to the limbo of unverified
hypotheses. To this category belongs the "thing-in-itself." It
is, of course, quite natural that a Dualistic thinker should be
unable to find the connection between the world-principle which he
hypothetically assumes and the facts that are given in experience. For
the hypothetical world-principle itself a content can be found only
by borrowing it from experience and shutting one's eyes to the fact of
the borrowing. Otherwise it remains an empty and meaningless concept,
a mere form without content. In this case the Dualistic thinker
generally asserts that the content of this concept is inaccessible to
our knowledge. We can know only that such a content exists, but not
what it is. In either case it is impossible to transcend Dualism. Even
though one were to import a few abstract elements from the world of
experience into the content of the thing-in-itself, it would still
remain impossible to reduce the rich concrete life of experience
to those few elements, which are, after all, themselves taken from
experience. Du Bois-Reymond lays it down that the imperceptible
atoms of matter produce sensation and feeling by means of their
position and motion, and then infers from this premise that we
can never find a satisfactory explanation of how matter and motion
produce sensation and feeling, for "it is absolutely and for ever
unintelligible that it should be other than indifferent to a number
of atoms of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen, etc., how they lie and
move, how they lay or moved, or how they will lie and will move. It
is in no way intelligible how consciousness can come into existence
through their interaction." This conclusion is characteristic of the
whole tendency of this school of thought. Position and motion are
abstracted from the rich world of percepts. They are then transferred
to the fictitious world of atoms. And then we are astonished that we
fail to evolve concrete life out of this principle of our own making,
which we have borrowed from the world of percepts.

That the Dualist, working as he does with a completely empty concept
of the thing-in-itself, can reach no explanation of the world, follows
from the very definition of his principle which has been given above.

In any case, the Dualist finds it necessary to set impassable barriers
to our faculty of knowledge. A follower of the Monistic theory of
the world knows that all he needs to explain any given phenomenon in
the world is to be found within this world itself. What prevents him
from finding it can be only chance limitations in space and time,
or defects of his organisation, i.e., not of human organisation in
general, but only of his own.

It follows from the concept of knowledge, as defined by us, that
there can be no talk of any limits of knowledge. Knowledge is
not a concern of the universe in general, but one which men must
settle for themselves. External things demand no explanation. They
exist and act on one another according to laws which thought can
discover. They exist in indivisible unity with these laws. But we,
in our self-hood, confront them, grasping at first only what we
have called percepts. However, within ourselves we find the power
to discover also the other part of reality. Only when the Self has
combined for itself the two elements of reality which are indivisibly
bound up with one another in the world, is our thirst for knowledge
stilled. The Self is then again in contact with reality.

The presuppositions for the development of knowledge thus exist through
and for the Self. It is the Self which sets itself the problems of
knowledge. It takes them from thought, an element which in itself is
absolutely clear and transparent. If we set ourselves questions which
we cannot answer, it must be because the content of the questions
is not in all respects clear and distinct. It is not the world which
sets questions to us, but we who set them to ourselves.

I can imagine that it would be quite impossible for me to answer a
question which I happened to find written down somewhere, without
knowing the universe of discourse from which the content of the
question is taken.

In knowledge we are concerned with questions which arise for us
through the fact that a world of percepts, conditioned by time,
space, and our subjective organisation, stands over against a
world of concepts expressing the totality of the universe. Our task
consists in the assimilation to one another of these two spheres,
with both of which we are familiar. There is no room here for talking
about limits of knowledge. It may be that, at a particular moment,
this or that remains unexplained because, through chance obstacles,
we are prevented from perceiving the things involved. What is not
found to-day, however, may easily be found to-morrow. The limits
due to these causes are only contingent, and must be overcome by the
progress of perception and thought.

Dualism makes the mistake of transferring the opposition of subject
and object, which has meaning only within the perceptual world,
to pure conceptual entities outside this world. Now the distinct
and separate things in the perceptual world remain separated only so
long as the perceiver refrains from thinking. For thought cancels all
separation and reveals it as due to purely subjective conditions. The
Dualist, therefore, transfers to entities transcending the perceptual
world abstract determinations which, even in the perceptual world,
have no absolute, but only relative, validity. He thus divides
the two factors concerned in the process of knowledge, viz.,
percept and concept, into four: (1) the object in itself; (2) the
percept which the subject has of the object; (3) the subject; (4)
the concept which relates the percept to the object in itself. The
relation between subject and object is "real"; the subject is really
(dynamically) influenced by the object. This real process does not
appear in consciousness. But it evokes in the subject a response
to the stimulation from the object. The result of this response is
the percept. This, at length, appears in consciousness. The object
has an objective (independent of the subject) reality, the percept
a subjective reality. This subjective reality is referred by the
subject to the object. This reference is an ideal one. Dualism thus
divides the process of knowledge into two parts. The one part, viz.,
the production of the perceptual object by the thing-in-itself, he
conceives of as taking place outside consciousness, whereas the other,
the combination of percept with concept and the latter's reference to
the thing-in-itself, takes place, according to him, in consciousness.

With such presuppositions, it is clear why the Dualist regards his
concepts merely as subjective representations of what is really
external to his consciousness. The objectively real process in the
subject by means of which the percept is produced, and still more
the objective relations between things-in-themselves, remain for the
Dualist inaccessible to direct knowledge. According to him, man can
get only conceptual representations of the objectively real. The bond
of unity which connects things-in-themselves with one another, and
also objectively with the individual minds (as things-in-themselves)
of each of us, exists beyond our consciousness in a Divine Being of
whom, once more, we have merely a conceptual representation.

The Dualist believes that the whole world would be dissolved into
a mere abstract scheme of concepts, did he not posit the existence
of real connections beside the conceptual ones. In other words, the
ideal principles which thinking discovers are too airy for the Dualist,
and he seeks, in addition, real principles with which to support them.

Let us examine these real principles a little more closely. The
naïve man (Naïve Realist) regards the objects of sense-experience as
realities. The fact that his hands can grasp, and his eyes see, these
objects is for him sufficient guarantee of their reality. "Nothing
exists that cannot be perceived" is, in fact, the first axiom of
the naïve man; and it is held to be equally valid in its converse:
"Everything which is perceived exists." The best proof for this
assertion is the naïve man's belief in immortality and in ghosts. He
thinks of the soul as a fine kind of matter perceptible by the senses
which, in special circumstances, may actually become visible to the
ordinary man (belief in ghosts).

In contrast with this, his real, world, the Naïve Realist regards
everything else, especially the world of ideas, as unreal, or "merely
ideal." What we add to objects by thinking is merely thoughts about
the objects. Thought adds nothing real to the percept.

But it is not only with reference to the existence of things that the
naïve man regards perception as the sole guarantee of reality, but
also with reference to the existence of processes. A thing, according
to him, can act on another only when a force actually present to
perception issues from the one and acts upon the other. The older
physicists thought that very fine kinds of substances emanate from
the objects and penetrate through the sense-organs into the soul. The
actual perception of these substances is impossible only because
of the coarseness of our sense-organs relatively to the fineness of
these substances. In principle, the reason for attributing reality
to these substances was the same as that for attributing it to the
objects of the sensible world, viz., their kind of existence, which
was conceived to be analogous to that of perceptual reality.

The self-contained being of ideas is not thought of by the naïve
mind as real in the same sense. An object conceived "merely in idea"
is regarded as a chimera until sense-perception can furnish proof
of its reality. In short, the naïve man demands, in addition to the
ideal evidence of his thinking, the real evidence of his senses. In
this need of the naïve man lies the ground for the origin of the
belief in revelation. The God whom we apprehend by thought remains
always merely our idea of God. The naïve consciousness demands that
God should manifest Himself in ways accessible to the senses. God
must appear in the flesh, and must attest his Godhead to our senses
by the changing of water into wine.

Even knowledge itself is conceived by the naïve mind as a process
analogous to sense-perception. Things, it is thought, make an
impression on the mind, or send out copies of themselves which enter
through our senses, etc.

What the naïve man can perceive with his senses he regards as real,
and what he cannot perceive (God, soul, knowledge, etc.) he regards
as analogous to what he can perceive.

On the basis of Naïve Realism, science can consist only in an exact
description of the content of perception. Concepts are only means to
this end. They exist to provide ideal counterparts of percepts. With
the things themselves they have nothing to do. For the Naïve Realist
only the individual tulips, which we can see, are real. The universal
idea of tulip is to him an abstraction, the unreal thought-picture
which the mind constructs for itself out of the characteristics common
to all tulips.

Naïve Realism, with its fundamental principle of the reality of all
percepts, contradicts experience, which teaches us that the content of
percepts is of a transitory nature. The tulip I see is real to-day;
in a year it will have vanished into nothingness. What persists is
the species "tulip." This species is, however, for the Naïve Realist
merely an idea, not a reality. Thus this theory of the world finds
itself in the paradoxical position of seeing its realities arise and
perish, while that which, by contrast with its realities, it regards
as unreal endures. Hence Naïve Realism is compelled to acknowledge the
existence of something ideal by the side of percepts. It must include
within itself entities which cannot be perceived by the senses. In
admitting them, it escapes contradicting itself by conceiving their
existence as analogous to that of objects of sense. Such hypothetical
realities are the invisible forces by means of which the objects of
sense-perception act on one another. Another such reality is heredity,
the effects of which survive the individual, and which is the reason
why from the individual a new being develops which is similar to
it, and by means of which the species is maintained. The soul, the
life-principle permeating the organic body, is another such reality
which the naïve mind is always found conceiving in analogy to realities
of sense-perception. And, lastly, the Divine Being, as conceived by the
naïve mind, is such a hypothetical entity. The Deity is thought of as
acting in a manner exactly corresponding to that which we can perceive
in man himself, i.e., the Deity is conceived anthropomorphically.

Modern Physics traces sensations back to the movements of the
smallest particles of bodies and of an infinitely fine substance,
called ether. What we experience, e.g., as warmth is a movement of
the parts of a body which causes the warmth in the space occupied by
that body. Here again something imperceptible is conceived on the
analogy of what is perceptible. Thus, in terms of perception, the
analogon to the concept "body" is, say, the interior of a room, shut
in on all sides, in which elastic balls are moving in all directions,
impinging one on another, bouncing on and off the walls, etc.

Without such assumptions the world of the Naïve Realist would collapse
into a disconnected chaos of percepts, without mutual relations,
and having no unity within itself. It is clear, however, that Naïve
Realism can make these assumptions only by contradicting itself. If
it would remain true to its fundamental principle, that only what
is perceived is real, then it ought not to assume a reality where
it perceives nothing. The imperceptible forces of which perceptible
things are the bearers are, in fact, illegitimate hypotheses from
the standpoint of Naïve Realism. But because Naïve Realism knows no
other realities, it invests its hypothetical forces with perceptual
content. It thus transfers a form of existence (the existence of
percepts) to a sphere where the only means of making any assertion
concerning such existence, viz., sense-perception, is lacking.

This self-contradictory theory leads to Metaphysical Realism. The
latter constructs, beside the perceptible reality, an imperceptible
one which it conceives on the analogy of the former. Metaphysical
Realism is, therefore, of necessity Dualistic.

Wherever the Metaphysical Realist observes a relation between
perceptible things (mutual approach through movement, the
entrance of an object into consciousness, etc.), there he posits a
reality. However, the relation of which he becomes aware cannot be
perceived but only expressed by means of thought. The ideal relation
is thereupon arbitrarily assimilated to something perceptible. Thus,
according to this theory, the world is composed of the objects of
perception which are in ceaseless flux, arising and disappearing,
and of imperceptible forces by which the perceptible objects are
produced, and which are permanent.

Metaphysical Realism is a self-contradictory mixture of Naïve Realism
and Idealism. Its forces are imperceptible entities endowed with the
qualities proper to percepts. The Metaphysical Realist has made up
his mind to acknowledge in addition to the sphere for the existence
of which he has an instrument of knowledge in sense-perception,
the existence of another sphere for which this instrument fails, and
which can be known only by means of thought. But he cannot make up
his mind at the same time to acknowledge that the mode of existence
which thought reveals, viz., the concept (or idea), has equal rights
with percepts. If we are to avoid the contradiction of imperceptible
percepts, we must admit that, for us, the relations which thought
traces between percepts can have no other mode of existence than that
of concepts. If one rejects the untenable part of Metaphysical Realism,
there remains the concept of the world as the aggregate of percepts
and their conceptual (ideal) relations. Metaphysical Realism, then,
merges itself in a view of the world according to which the principle
of perceptibility holds for percepts, and that of conceivability
for the relations between the percepts. This view of the world
has no room, in addition to the perceptual and conceptual worlds,
for a third sphere in which both principles, the so-called "real"
principle and the "ideal" principle, are simultaneously valid.

When the Metaphysical Realist asserts that, beside the ideal relation
between the perceived object and the perceiving subject, there
must be a real relation between the percept as "thing-in-itself"
and the subject as "thing-in-itself" (the so-called individual
mind), he is basing his assertion on the false assumption of a real
process, imperceptible but analogous to the processes in the world
of percepts. Further, when the Metaphysical Realist asserts that we
stand in a conscious ideal relation to our world of percepts, but
that to the real world we can have only a dynamic (force) relation,
he repeats the mistake we have already criticised. We can talk of a
dynamic relation only within the world of percepts (in the sphere of
the sense of touch), but not outside that world.

Let us call the view which we have just characterised, and into
which Metaphysical Realism merges when it discards its contradictory
elements, Monism, because it combines one-sided Realism and Idealism
into a higher unity.

For Naïve Realism, the real world is an aggregate of percepts; for
Metaphysical Realism, reality belongs not only to percepts but also to
imperceptible forces; Monism replaces forces by ideal relations which
are supplied by thought. These relations are the laws of nature. A law
of nature is nothing but the conceptual expression for the connection
of certain percepts.

Monism is never called upon to ask whether there are any principles of
explanation for reality other than percepts and concepts. The Monist
knows that in the whole realm of the real there is no occasion for
this question. In the perceptual world, as immediately apprehended, he
sees one-half of reality; in the union of this world with the world of
concepts he finds full reality. The Metaphysical Realist might object
that, relatively to our organisation, our knowledge may be complete in
itself, that no part may be lacking, but that we do not know how the
world appears to a mind organised differently from our own. To this
the Monist will reply, Maybe there are intelligences other than human;
and maybe also that their percepts are different from ours, if they
have perception at all. But this is irrelevant to me for the following
reasons. Through my perceptions, i.e., through this specifically human
mode of perception, I, as subject, am confronted with the object. The
nexus of things is thereby broken. The subject reconstructs the nexus
by means of thought. In doing so it re-inserts itself into the context
of the world as a whole. As it is only through the Self, as subject,
that the whole appears rent in two between percept and concept, the
reunion of those two factors will give us complete knowledge. For
beings with a different perceptual world (e.g., if they had twice
our number of sense-organs) the nexus would appear broken in another
place, and the reconstruction would accordingly have to take a form
specifically adapted to such beings. The question concerning the
limits of knowledge troubles only Naïve and Metaphysical Realism,
both of which see in the contents of mind only ideal representations
of the real world. For, to these theories, whatever falls outside
the subject is something absolute, a self-contained whole, and
the subject's mental content is a copy which is wholly external to
this absolute. The completeness of knowledge depends on the greater
or lesser degree of resemblance between the representation and the
absolute object. A being with fewer senses than man will perceive less
of the world, one with more senses will perceive more. The former's
knowledge will, therefore, be less complete than the latter's.

For Monism, the situation is different. The point where the unity of
the world appears to be rent asunder into subject and object depends
on the organisation of the percipient. The object is not absolute
but merely relative to the nature of the subject. The bridging of the
gap, therefore, can take place only in the quite specific way which
is characteristic of the human subject. As soon as the Self, which in
perception is set over against the world, is again re-inserted into the
world-nexus by constructive thought, all further questioning ceases,
having been but a result of the separation.

A differently constituted being would have a differently constituted
knowledge. Our own knowledge suffices to answer the questions which
result from our own mental constitution.

Metaphysical Realism must ask, What is it that gives us our
percepts? What is it that stimulates the subject?

Monism holds that percepts are determined by the subject. But
in thought the subject has, at the same time, the instrument for
transcending this determination of which it is itself the author.

The Metaphysical Realist is faced by a further difficulty when he
seeks to explain the similarity of the world-views of different human
individuals. He has to ask himself, How is it that my theory of the
world, built up out of subjectively determined percepts and out of
concepts, turns out to be the same as that which another individual
is also building up out of these same two subjective factors? How, in
any case, is it possible for me to argue from my own subjective view
of the world to that of another human being? The Metaphysical Realist
thinks he can infer the similarity of the subjective world-views of
different human beings from their ability to get on with one another
in practical life. From this similarity of world-views he infers
further the likeness to one another of individual minds, meaning by
"individual mind" the "I-in-itself" underlying each subject.

We have here an inference from a number of effects to the character
of the underlying causes. We believe that after we have observed
a sufficiently large number of instances, we know the connection
sufficiently to know how the inferred causes will act in other
instances. Such an inference is called an inductive inference. We
shall be obliged to modify its results, if further observation yields
some unexpected fact, because the character of our conclusion is,
after all, determined only by the particular details of our actual
observations. The Metaphysical Realist asserts that this knowledge
of causes, though restricted by these conditions, is quite sufficient
for practical life.

Inductive inference is the fundamental method of modern Metaphysical
Realism. At one time it was thought that out of concepts we could
evolve something that would no longer be a concept. It was thought that
the metaphysical reals, which Metaphysical Realism after all requires,
could be known by means of concepts. This method of philosophising
is now out of date. Instead it is thought that from a sufficiently
large number of perceptual facts we can infer the character of the
thing-in-itself which lies behind these facts. Formerly it was from
concepts, now it is from percepts, that the Realist seeks to evolve
the metaphysically real. Because concepts are before the mind in
transparent clearness, it was thought that we might deduce from them
the metaphysically real with absolute certainty. Percepts are not
given with the same transparent clearness. Each fresh one is a little
different from others of the same kind which preceded it. In principle,
therefore, anything inferred from past experience is somewhat modified
by each subsequent experience. The character of the metaphysically real
thus obtained can therefore be only relatively true, for it is open
to correction by further instances. The character of Von Hartmann's
Metaphysics depends on this methodological principle. The motto on
the title-page of his first important book is, "Speculative results
gained by the inductive method of Science."

The form which the Metaphysical Realist at the present day gives to his
things-in-themselves is obtained by inductive inferences. Consideration
of the process of knowledge has convinced him of the existence of an
objectively-real world-nexus, over and above the subjective world which
we know by means of percepts and concepts. The nature of this reality
he thinks he can determine by inductive inferences from his percepts.


The unprejudiced study of experience, in perceiving and conceiving,
such as we have attempted to describe it in the preceding chapters,
is liable to be interfered with again and again by certain ideas which
spring from the soil of natural science. Thus, taking our stand on
science, we say that the eye perceives in the spectrum colours from
red to violet. But beyond violet there lie rays within the compass
of the spectrum to which corresponds, not a colour perceived by the
eye, but a chemical effect. Similarly, beyond the rays which make
us perceive red, there are rays which have only heat effects. These
and similar phenomena lead, on reflection, to the view that the range
of man's perceptual world is defined by the range of his senses, and
that he would perceive a very different world if he had additional, or
altogether different, senses. Those who like to indulge in far-roaming
fancies in this direction, for which the brilliant discoveries
of recent scientific research provide a highly tempting occasion,
may well be led to confess that nothing enters the field of man's
observation except what can affect his senses, as these have been
determined by his whole organisation. Man has no right to regard
his percepts, limited as these are by his organisation, as in any
way a standard to which reality must conform. Every new sense would
confront him with a different picture of reality. Within its proper
limits, this is a wholly justified view. But if anyone lets himself
be confused by this view in the unprejudiced study of the relation
of percept and concept, as set forth in these chapters, he blocks
the path for himself to a knowledge of man and the world which is
rooted in reality. The experience of the essential nature of thought,
i.e., the active construction of the world of concepts, is something
wholly different from the experience of a perceptible object through
the senses. Whatever additional senses man might have, not one would
give him reality, if his thinking did not organise with its concepts
whatever he perceived by means of such a sense. Every sense, whatever
its kind, provided only it is organised by thought, enables man to
live right in the real. The fancy-picture of other perceptual worlds,
made possible by other senses, has nothing to do with the problem of
how it is that man stands in the midst of reality. We must clearly
understand that every perceptual picture of the world owes its form
to the physical organisation of the percipient, but that only the
percepts which have been organised by the living labour of thought
lead us into reality. Fanciful speculations concerning the way
the world would appear to other than human souls, can give us no
occasion to want to understand man's relation to the world. Such a
desire comes only with the recognition that every percept presents
only a part of the reality it contains, and that, consequently,
it leads us away from its own proper reality. This recognition is
supplemented by the further one that thinking leads us into the part
of reality which the percept conceals in itself. Another difficulty
in the way of the unprejudiced study of the relation we have here
described, between percept and concept as elaborated by thought, may
be met with occasionally, when in the field of physics the necessity
arises of speaking, not of immediately perceptible elements, but
of non-perceptible magnitudes, such as, e.g., lines of electric or
magnetic force. It may seem as if the elements of reality of which
physicists speak, had no connection either with what is perceptible,
or with the concepts which active thinking has elaborated. Yet such
a view would depend on self-deception. The main point is that all
the results of physical research, except illegitimate hypotheses
which ought to be excluded, have been gained through perceiving and
conceiving. Entities which are seemingly non-perceptible, are referred
by the physicists' sound instinct for knowledge to the field in which
actual percepts lie, and they are dealt with in thought by means of the
concepts which are commonly applied in this field. The magnitudes in
a field of electric or magnetic force are reached, in their essence,
by no other cognitive process than the one which connects percept and
concept.--An increase or a modification of human senses would yield
a different perceptual picture, an enrichment or a modification of
human experience. But genuine knowledge could be gained out of this
new experience only through the mutual co-operation of concept and
percept. The deepening of knowledge depends on the powers of intuition
which express themselves in thinking (see page 90). Intuition may,
in those experiences in which thinking expresses itself, dive
either into deeper or shallower levels of reality. An expansion of
the perceptual picture may supply stimuli for, and thus indirectly
promote, this diving of intuition. But this diving into the depth,
through which we attain reality, ought never to be confused with the
contrast between a wider and a narrower perceptual picture, which
always contains only half of reality, as that is conditioned by the
structure of the knower's organism. Those who do not lose themselves
in abstractions will understand how for a knowledge of human nature
the fact is relevant, that physics must infer the existence, in the
field of percepts, of elements to which no sense is adapted as it is to
colour or sound. Human nature, taken concretely, is determined not only
by what, in virtue of his physical organisation, man opposes to himself
as immediate percept, but also by all else which he excludes from
this immediate percept. Just as life needs unconscious sleep alongside
of conscious waking experience, so man's experience of himself needs
over and above the sphere of his sense-perception another sphere--and
a much bigger one--of non-perceptible elements belonging to the same
field from which the percepts of the senses come. Implicitly all this
was already laid down in the original argument of this book. The
author adds the present amplification of the argument, because he
has found by experience that some readers have not read attentively
enough. It is to be remembered, too, that the idea of perception,
developed in this book, is not to be confused with the idea of external
sense-perception which is but a special case of the former. The reader
will gather from what has preceded, but even more from what will be
expounded later, that everything is here taken as "percept" which
sensuously or spiritually enters into man's experience, so long as it
has not yet been seized upon by the actively constructed concept. No
"senses," as we ordinarily understand the term, are necessary in
order to have percepts of a psychical or spiritual kind. It may be
urged that this extension of ordinary usage is illegitimate. But the
extension is absolutely indispensable, unless we are to be prevented
by the current sense of a word from enlarging our knowledge of certain
realms of facts. If we use "percept" only as meaning "sense-percept,"
we shall never advance beyond sense-percepts to a concept fit for the
purposes of knowledge. It is sometimes necessary to enlarge a concept
in order that it may get its appropriate meaning within a narrower
field. Again, it is at times necessary to add to the original content
of a concept, in order that the original thought may be justified
or, perhaps, readjusted. Thus we find it said here in this book:
"An idea is nothing but an individualised concept." It has been
objected that this is a solecism. But this terminology is necessary
if we are to find out what an idea really is. How can we expect any
progress in knowledge, if every one who finds himself compelled to
readjust concepts, is to be met by the objection: "This is a solecism"?




Let us recapitulate the results gained in the previous chapters. The
world appears to man as a multiplicity, as an aggregate of separate
entities. He himself is one of these entities, a thing among
things. Of this structure of the world we say simply that it is
given, and inasmuch as we do not construct it by conscious activity,
but simply find it, we say that it consists of percepts. Within this
world of percepts we perceive ourselves. This percept of Self would
remain merely one among many other percepts, did it not give rise to
something which proves capable of connecting all percepts one with
another and, therefore, the aggregate of all other percepts with the
percept of Self. This something which emerges is no longer a mere
percept; neither is it, like percepts, simply given. It is produced
by our activity. It appears, in the first instance, bound up with
what each of us perceives as his Self. In its inner significance,
however, it transcends the Self. It adds to the separate percepts
ideal determinations, which, however, are related to one another,
and which are grounded in a whole. What self-perception yields
is ideally determined by this something in the same way as all
other percepts, and placed as subject, or "I," over against the
objects. This something is thought, and the ideal determinations
are the concepts and ideas. Thought, therefore, first manifests
itself in connection with the percept of self. But it is not merely
subjective, for the Self characterises itself as subject only with
the help of thought. This relation of the Self to itself by means
of thought is one of the fundamental determinations of our personal
lives. Through it we lead a purely ideal existence. By means of it
we are aware of ourselves as thinking beings. This determination of
our lives would remain a purely conceptual (logical) one, if it were
not supplemented by other determinations of our Selves. Our lives
would then exhaust themselves in establishing ideal connections
between percepts themselves, and between them and ourselves. If we
call this establishment of an ideal relation an "act of cognition,"
and the resulting condition of ourselves "knowledge," then, assuming
the above supposition to be true, we should have to consider ourselves
as beings who merely apprehend or know.

The supposition is, however, untrue. We relate percepts to ourselves
not merely ideally, through concepts, but also, as we have already
seen, through feeling. In short, the content of our lives is not merely
conceptual. The Naïve Realist holds that the personality actually
lives more genuinely in the life of feeling than in the purely ideal
activity of knowledge. From his point of view he is quite right in
interpreting the matter in this way. Feeling plays on the subjective
side exactly the part which percepts play on the objective side. From
the principle of Naïve Realism, that everything is real which can be
perceived, it follows that feeling is the guarantee of the reality of
one's own personality. Monism, however, must bestow on feeling the
same supplementation which it considers necessary for percepts, if
these are to stand to us for reality in its full nature. For Monism,
feeling is an incomplete reality, which, in the form in which it
first appears to us, lacks as yet its second factor, the concept or
idea. This is why, in actual life, feelings, like percepts, appear
prior to knowledge. At first, we have merely a feeling of existence;
and it is only in the course of our gradual development, that we
attain to the point at which the concept of Self emerges from within
the blind mass of feelings which fills our existence. However, what
for us does not appear until later, is from the first indissolubly
bound up with our feelings. This is how the naïve man comes to believe
that in feeling he grasps existence immediately, in knowledge only
mediately. The development of the affective life, therefore, appears
to him more important than anything else. Not until he has grasped
the unity of the world through feeling will he believe that he has
comprehended it. He attempts to make feeling rather than thought
the instrument of knowledge. Now a feeling is entirely individual,
something equivalent to a percept. Hence a philosophy of feeling
makes a cosmic principle out of something which has significance only
within my own personality. Anyone who holds this view attempts to
infuse his own self into the whole world. What the Monist strives to
grasp by means of concepts the philosopher of feeling tries to attain
through feeling, and he looks on his own felt union with objects as
more immediate than knowledge.

The tendency just described, the philosophy of feeling, is
Mysticism. The error in this view is that it seeks to possess by
immediate experience what must be known, that it seeks to develop
feeling, which is individual, into a universal principle.

A feeling is a purely individual activity. It is the relation of
the external world to the subject, in so far as this relation finds
expression in a purely subjective experience.

There is yet another expression of human personality. The Self, through
thought, takes part in the universal world-life. Through thought it
establishes purely ideal (conceptual) relations between percepts and
itself, and between itself and percepts. In feeling, it has immediate
experience of the relation of objects to itself as subject. In will,
the opposite is the case. In volition, we are concerned once more with
a percept, viz., that of the individual relation of the self to what
is objective. Whatever in the act of will is not an ideal factor,
is just as much mere object of perception as is any object in the
external world.

Nevertheless, the Naïve Realist believes here again that he has
before him something far more real than can ever be attained by
thought. He sees in the will an element in which he is immediately
aware of an activity, a causation, in contrast with thought which
afterwards grasps this activity in conceptual form. On this view, the
realisation by the Self of its will is a process which is experienced
immediately. The adherent of this philosophy believes that in the will
he has really got hold of one end of reality. Whereas he can follow
other occurrences only from the outside by means of perception,
he is confident that in his will he experiences a real process
quite immediately. The mode of existence presented to him by the
will within himself becomes for him the fundamental reality of the
universe. His own will appears to him as a special case of the general
world-process; hence the latter is conceived as a universal will. The
will becomes the principle of reality just as, in Mysticism, feeling
becomes the principle of knowledge. This kind of theory is called
Voluntarism (Thelism). It makes something which can be experienced
only individually the dominant factor of the world.

Voluntarism can as little be called scientific as can Mysticism. For
both assert that the conceptual interpretation of the world is
inadequate. Both demand, in addition to a principle of being which is
ideal, also a principle which is real. But as perception is our only
means of apprehending these so-called real principles, the assertion
of Mysticism and Voluntarism coincides with the view that we have
two sources of knowledge, viz., thought and perception, the latter
finding individual expression as will and feeling. Since the immediate
experiences which flow from the one source cannot be directly absorbed
into the thoughts which flow from the other, perception (immediate
experience) and thought remain side by side, without any higher
form of experience to mediate between them. Beside the conceptual
principle to which we attain by means of knowledge, there is also
a real principle which must be immediately experienced. In other
words, Mysticism and Voluntarism are both forms of Naïve Realism,
because they subscribe to the doctrine that the immediately perceived
(experienced) is real. Compared with Naïve Realism in its primitive
form, they are guilty of the yet further inconsistency of accepting
one definite form of perception (feeling, respectively will) as the
exclusive means of knowing reality. Yet they can do this only so
long as they cling to the general principle that everything that is
perceived is real. They ought, therefore, to attach an equal value
to external perception for purposes of knowledge.

Voluntarism turns into Metaphysical Realism, when it asserts the
existence of will also in those spheres of reality in which will can no
longer, as in the individual subject, be immediately experienced. It
assumes hypothetically that a principle holds outside subjective
experience, for the existence of which, nevertheless, subjective
experience is the sole criterion. As a form of Metaphysical Realism,
Voluntarism is open to the criticism developed in the preceding
chapter, a criticism which makes it necessary to overcome the
contradictory element in every form of Metaphysical Realism, and to
recognise that the will is a universal world-process only in so far
as it is ideally related to the rest of the world.


The difficulty of seizing the essential nature of thinking by
observation lies in this, that it has generally eluded the
introspecting mind all too easily by the time that the mind
tries to bring it into the focus of attention. Nothing but the
lifeless abstract, the corpse of living thought, then remains for
inspection. When we consider only this abstract, we find it hard, by
contrast, to resist yielding to the mysticism of feeling, or, again,
to the metaphysics of will, both of which are "full of life." We
are tempted to regard it as odd that anyone should want to seize
the essence of reality in "mere thoughts." But if we once succeed
in really holding fast the living essence of thinking, we learn to
understand that the self-abandonment to feelings, or the intuiting
of the will, cannot even be compared with the inward wealth of this
life of thinking, which we experience as within itself ever at rest,
yet at the same time ever in movement. Still less is it possible
to rank will and feeling above thinking. It is owing precisely to
this wealth, to this inward abundance of experience, that the image
of thinking which presents itself to our ordinary attitude of mind,
should appear lifeless and abstract. No other activity of the human
mind is so easily misapprehended as thinking. Will and feeling still
fill the mind with warmth even when we live through them again in
memory. Thinking all too readily leaves us cold in recollection; it is
as if the life of the mind had dried out. But this is really nothing
but the strongly marked shadow thrown by its luminous, warm nature
penetrating deeply into the phenomena of the world. This penetration
is effected by the activity of thinking with a spontaneous outpouring
of power--a power of spiritual love. There is no room here for the
objection that thus to perceive love in the activity of thinking
is to endow thinking with a feeling and a love which are not part
of it. This objection is, in truth, a confirmation of the view here
advocated. If we turn towards the essential nature of thinking, we find
in it both feeling and will, and both these in their most profoundly
real forms. If we turn away from thinking and towards "mere" feeling
and will, these lose for us their genuine reality. If we are willing
to make of thinking an intuitive experience, we can do justice, also,
to experiences of the type of feeling and will. But the mysticism of
feeling and the metaphysics of will do not know how to do justice
to the penetration of reality which partakes at once of intuition
and of thought. They conclude but too readily that they themselves
are rooted in reality, but that the intuitive thinker, untouched by
feeling, blind to reality, forms out of "abstract thoughts" a shadowy,
chilly picture of the world.



The concept "tree" is conditioned for our knowledge by the percept
"tree." There is only one determinate concept which I can select from
the general system of concepts and apply to a given percept. The
connection of concept and percept is mediately and objectively
determined by thought in conformity with the percept. The connection
between a percept and its concept is recognised after the act of
perception, but the relevance of the one to the other is determined
by the character of each.

Very different is the result when we consider knowledge, and,
more particularly, the relation of man to the world which occurs
in knowledge. In the preceding chapters the attempt has been made
to show that an unprejudiced examination of this relation is able to
throw light on its nature. A correct understanding of this examination
leads to the conclusion that thinking may be intuitively apprehended
in its unique, self-contained nature. Those who find it necessary,
for the explanation of thinking as such, to invoke something else,
e.g., physical brain-processes, or unconscious spiritual processes
lying behind the conscious thinking which they observe, fail to
grasp the facts which an unprejudiced examination yields. When we
observe our thinking, we live during the observation immediately
within the essence of a spiritual, self-sustaining activity. Indeed,
we may even affirm that if we want to grasp the essential nature of
Spirit in the form in which it immediately presents itself to man,
we need but look at our own self-sustaining thinking.

For the study of thinking two things coincide which elsewhere must
always appear apart, viz., concept and percept. If we fail to see this,
we shall be unable to regard the concepts which we have elaborated in
response to percepts as anything but shadowy copies of these percepts,
and we shall take the percepts as presenting to us reality as it really
is. We shall, further, build up for ourselves a metaphysical world
after the pattern of the world of percepts. We shall, each according
to his habitual ideas, call this world a world of atoms, or of will,
or of unconscious spirit, and so on. And we shall fail to notice that
all the time we have been doing nothing but erecting hypothetically a
metaphysical world modeled on the world we perceive. But if we clearly
apprehend what thinking consists in, we shall recognise that percepts
present to us only a portion of reality, and that the complementary
portion which alone imparts to reality its full character as real,
is experienced by us in the organisation of percepts by thought. We
shall regard all thought, not as a shadowy copy of reality, but as a
self-sustaining spiritual essence. We shall be able to say of it, that
it is revealed to us in consciousness through intuition. Intuition
is the purely spiritual conscious experience of a purely spiritual
content. It is only through intuition that we can grasp the essence
of thinking.

To win through, by means of unprejudiced observation, to the
recognition of this truth of the intuitive essence of thinking requires
an effort. But without this effort we shall not succeed in clearing
the way for a theory of the psycho-physical organisation of man. We
recognise that this organisation can produce no effect whatever on
the essential nature of thinking. At first sight this seems to be
contradicted by patent and obvious facts. For ordinary experience,
human thinking occurs only in connection with, and by means of, such
an organisation. This dependence on psycho-physical organisation is
so prominent that its true bearing can be appreciated by us only if we
recognise, that in the essential nature of thinking this organisation
plays no part whatever. Once we appreciate this, we can no longer
fail to notice how peculiar is the relation of human organisation to
thought. For this organisation contributes nothing to the essential
nature of thought, but recedes whenever thought becomes active. It
suspends its own activity, it yields ground. And the ground thus set
free is occupied by thought. The essence which is active in thought has
a two-fold function: first it restricts the human organisation in its
own activity; next, it steps into the place of that organisation. Yes,
even the former, the restriction of human organisation, is an effect
of the activity of thought, and more particularly of that part of
it which prepares the manifestation of thinking. This explains the
sense in which thinking has its counterpart in the organisation of
the body. Once we perceive this, we can no longer misapprehend the
significance for thinking of this physical counterpart. When we walk
over soft ground our feet leave deep tracks in the soil. We shall
not be tempted to say that the forces of the ground, from below,
have formed these tracks. We shall not attribute to these forces any
share in the production of the tracks. Just so, if with open minds
we observe the essential nature of thinking, we shall not attribute
any share in that nature to the traces in the physical organism which
thinking produces in preparing its manifestation through the body. [3]

An important question, however, confronts us here. If human
organisation has no part in the essential nature of thinking, what
is its function within the whole nature of man? Well, the effects
of thinking upon this organisation have no bearing upon the essence
of thinking, but they have a bearing upon the origin of the "I," or
Ego-consciousness, through thinking. Thinking, in its unique character,
constitutes the real Ego, but it does not constitute, as such, the
Ego-consciousness. To see this we have but to study thinking with an
open mind. The Ego is to be found in thinking. The Ego-consciousness
arises through the traces which, in the sense above explained, the
activity of thinking impresses upon our general consciousness. The
Ego-consciousness thus arises through the physical organisation. This
view must not, however, be taken to imply that the Ego-consciousness,
once it has arisen, remains dependent on the physical organisation. On
the contrary, once it exists it is taken up into thought and shares
henceforth thought's spiritual self-subsistence.

The Ego-consciousness is built upon human organisation. The latter
is the source of all acts of will. Following out the direction of
the preceding exposition, we can gain insight into the connection of
thought, conscious Ego, and act of will, only by studying first how
an act of will issues from human organisation. [4]

In a particular act of will we must distinguish two factors: the
motive and the spring of action. The motive is a factor of the nature
of concept or idea; the spring of action is the factor in will which
is directly determined in the human organisation. The conceptual
factor, or motive, is the momentary determining cause of an act
of will; the spring of action is the permanent determining factor
in the individual. The motive of an act of will can be only a pure
concept, or else a concept with a definite relation to perception,
i.e., an idea. Universal and individual concepts (ideas) become
motives of will by influencing the human individual and determining
him to action in a particular direction. One and the same concept,
however, or one and the same idea, influence different individuals
differently. They determine different men to different actions. An
act of will is, therefore, not merely the outcome of a concept or
an idea, but also of the individual make-up of human beings. This
individual make-up we will call, following Eduard von Hartmann, the
"characterological disposition." The manner in which concept and idea
act on the characterological disposition of a man gives to his life
a definite moral or ethical stamp.

The characterological disposition consists of the more or less
permanent content of the individual's life, that is, of his habitual
ideas and feelings. Whether an idea which enters my mind at this
moment stimulates me to an act of will or not, depends on its
relation to my other ideal contents, and also to my peculiar modes of
feeling. My ideal content, in turn, is conditioned by the sum total
of those concepts which have, in the course of my individual life,
come in contact with percepts, that is, have become ideas. This,
again, depends on my greater or lesser capacity for intuition,
and on the range of my perception, that is, on the subjective and
objective factors of my experiences, on the structure of my mind and
on my environment. My affective life more especially determines my
characterological disposition. Whether I shall make a certain idea
or concept the motive for action will depend on whether it gives me
pleasure or pain.

These are the factors which we have to consider in an act of will. The
immediately present idea or concept, which becomes the motive,
determines the end or the purpose of my will; my characterological
disposition determines me to direct my activity towards this end. The
idea of taking a walk in the next half-hour determines the end of
my action. But this idea is raised to the level of a motive only if
it meets with a suitable characterological disposition, that is, if
during my past life I have formed the ideas of the wholesomeness of
walking and the value of health; and, further, if the idea of walking
is accompanied by a feeling of pleasure.

We must, therefore, distinguish (1) the possible subjective
dispositions which are likely to turn given ideas and concepts into
motives, and (2) the possible ideas and concepts which are capable
of so influencing my characterological disposition that an act of
will results. The former are for morality the springs of action,
the latter its ends.

The springs of action in the moral life can be discovered by analysing
the elements of which individual life is composed.

The first level of individual life is that of perception, more
particularly sense-perception. This is the stage of our individual
lives in which a percept translates itself into will immediately,
without the intervention of either a feeling or a concept. The spring
of action here involved may be called simply instinct. Our lower,
purely animal, needs (hunger, sexual intercourse, etc.) find their
satisfaction in this way. The main characteristic of instinctive
life is the immediacy with which the percept starts off the act
of will. This kind of determination of the will, which belongs
originally only to the life of the lower senses, may, however,
become extended also to the percepts of the higher senses. We may
react to the percept of a certain event in the external world without
reflecting on what we do, and without any special feeling connecting
itself with the percept. We have examples of this especially in
our ordinary conventional intercourse with men. The spring of this
kind of action is called tact or moral good taste. The more often
such immediate reactions to a percept occur, the more the agent will
prove himself able to act purely under the guidance of tact; that is,
tact becomes his characterological disposition.

The second level of human life is feeling. Definite feelings accompany
the percepts of the external world. These feelings may become springs
of action. When I see a hungry man, my pity for him may become the
spring of my action. Such feelings, for example, are modesty, pride,
sense of honour, humility, remorse, pity, revenge, gratitude, piety,
loyalty, love, and duty. [5]

The third and last level of life is to have thoughts and ideas. An
idea or a concept may become the motive of an action through mere
reflection. Ideas become motives because, in the course of my life,
I regularly connect certain aims of my will with percepts which recur
again and again in a more or less modified form. Hence it is that, with
men who are not wholly without experience, the occurrence of certain
percepts is always accompanied also by the consciousness of ideas of
actions, which they have themselves carried out in similar cases or
which they have seen others carry out. These ideas float before their
minds as determining models in all subsequent decisions; they become
parts of their characterological disposition. We may give the name of
practical experience to the spring of action just described. Practical
experience merges gradually into purely tactful behaviour. That
happens, when definite typical pictures of actions have become so
closely connected in our minds with ideas of certain situations in
life, that, in any given instance, we omit all deliberation based on
experience and pass immediately from the percept to the action.

The highest level of individual life is that of conceptual thought
without reference to any definite perceptual content. We determine
the content of a concept through pure intuition on the basis of an
ideal system. Such a concept contains, at first, no reference to any
definite percepts. When an act of will comes about under the influence
of a concept which refers to a percept, i.e., under the influence of
an idea, then it is the percept which determines our action indirectly
by way of the concept. But when we act under the influence of pure
intuitions, the spring of our action is pure thought. As it is the
custom in philosophy to call pure thought "reason," we may perhaps
be justified in giving the name of practical reason to the spring of
action characteristic of this level of life. The clearest account of
this spring of action has been given by Kreyenbühl (Philosophische
Monatshefte, vol. xviii, No. 3). In my opinion his article on this
subject is one of the most important contributions to present-day
philosophy, more especially to Ethics. Kreyenbühl calls the spring
of action, of which we are treating, the practical a priori i.e.,
a spring of action issuing immediately from my intuition.

It is clear that such a spring of action can no longer be counted in
the strictest sense as part of the characterological disposition. For
what is here effective in me as a spring of action is no longer
something purely individual, but the ideal, and hence universal,
content of my intuition. As soon as I regard this content as the
valid basis and starting-point of an action, I pass over into willing,
irrespective of whether the concept was already in my mind beforehand,
or whether it only occurs to me immediately before the action, that is,
irrespective of whether it was present in the form of a disposition
in me or not.

A real act of will results only when a present impulse to action,
in the form of a concept or idea, acts on the characterological
disposition. Such an impulse thereupon becomes the motive of the will.

The motives of moral conduct are ideas and concepts. There are
Moralists who see in feeling also a motive of morality; they assert,
e.g., that the end of moral conduct is to secure the greatest possible
quantity of pleasure for the agent. Pleasure itself, however, can
never be a motive; at best only the idea of pleasure can act as
motive. The idea of a future pleasure, but not the feeling itself,
can act on my characterological disposition. For the feeling does not
yet exist in the moment of action; on the contrary, it has first to
be produced by the action.

The idea of one's own or another's well-being is, however, rightly
regarded as a motive of the will. The principle of producing the
greatest quantity of pleasure for oneself through one's action, that
is, to attain individual happiness, is called Egoism. The attainment
of this individual happiness is sought either by thinking ruthlessly
only of one's own good, and striving to attain it even at the cost
of the happiness of other individuals (Pure Egoism), or by promoting
the good of others, either because one anticipates indirectly a
favourable influence on one's own happiness through the happiness
of others, or because one fears to endanger one's own interest by
injuring others (Morality of Prudence). The special content of the
egoistical principle of morality will depend on the ideas which we form
of what constitutes our own, or others', good. A man will determine
the content of his egoistical striving in accordance with what he
regards as one of life's good things (luxury, hope of happiness,
deliverance from different evils, etc.).

Further, the purely conceptual content of an action is to be regarded
as yet another kind of motive. This content has no reference, like the
idea of one's own pleasure, solely to the particular action, but to
the deduction of an action from a system of moral principles. These
moral principles, in the form of abstract concepts, may guide the
individual's moral life without his worrying himself about the origin
of his concepts. In that case, we feel merely the moral necessity of
submitting to a moral concept which, in the form of law, controls
our actions. The justification of this necessity we leave to those
who demand from us moral subjection, that is, to those whose moral
authority over us we acknowledge (the head of the family, the state,
social custom, the authority of the church, divine revelation). We
meet with a special kind of these moral principles when the law is
not proclaimed to us by an external authority, but comes from our own
selves (moral autonomy). In this case we believe that we hear the
voice, to which we have to submit ourselves, in our own souls. The
name for this voice is conscience.

It is a great moral advance when a man no longer takes as the motive
of his action the commands of an external or internal authority, but
tries to understand the reason why a given maxim of action ought to be
effective as a motive in him. This is the advance from morality based
on authority to action from moral insight. At this level of morality,
a man will try to discover the demands of the moral life, and will
let his action be determined by this knowledge. Such demands are (1)
the greatest possible happiness of humanity as a whole purely for its
own sake, (2) the progress of civilisation, or the moral development
of mankind towards ever greater perfection, (3) the realisation of
individual moral ends conceived by an act of pure intuition.

The greatest possible happiness of humanity as a whole will naturally
be differently conceived by different people. The above-mentioned maxim
does not imply any definite idea of this happiness, but rather means
that every one who acknowledges this principle strives to do all that,
in his opinion, most promotes the good of the whole of humanity.

The progress of civilisation is seen to be a special application of
the moral principle just mentioned, at any rate for those to whom the
goods which civilisation produces bring feelings of pleasure. However,
they will have to pay the price of progress in the destruction and
annihilation of many things which also contribute to the happiness
of humanity. It is, however, also possible that some men look upon
the progress of civilisation as a moral necessity, quite apart from
the feelings of pleasure which it brings. If so, the progress of
civilisation will be a new moral principle for them, different from
the previous one.

Both the principle of the public good, and that of the progress of
civilisation, alike depend on the way in which we apply the content
of our moral ideas to particular experiences (percepts). The highest
principle of morality which we can conceive, however, is that which
contains, to start with, no such reference to particular experiences,
but which springs from the source of pure intuition and does not
seek until later any connection with percepts, i.e., with life. The
determination of what ought to be willed issues here from a point of
view very different from that of the previous two principles. Whoever
accepts the principle of the public good will in all his actions ask
first what his ideals contribute to this public good. The upholder of
the progress of civilisation as the principle of morality will act
similarly. There is, however, a still higher mode of conduct which,
in a given case, does not start from any single limited moral ideal,
but which sees a certain value in all moral principles, always asking
whether this or that principle is more important in a particular
case. It may happen that a man considers in certain circumstances
the promotion of the public good, in others that of the progress of
civilisation, and in yet others the furthering of his own private good,
to be the right course, and makes that the motive of his action. But
when all other grounds of determination take second place, then we
rely, in the first place, on conceptual intuition itself. All other
motives now drop out of sight, and the ideal content of an action
alone becomes its motive.

Among the levels of characterological disposition, we have singled
out as the highest that which manifests itself as pure thought,
or practical reason. Among the motives, we have just singled out
conceptual intuition as the highest. On nearer consideration, we now
perceive that at this level of morality the spring of action and the
motive coincide, i.e., that neither a predetermined characterological
disposition, nor an external moral principle accepted on authority,
influence our conduct. The action, therefore, is neither a merely
stereotyped one which follows the rules of a moral code, nor is it
automatically performed in response to an external impulse. Rather
it is determined solely through its ideal content.

For such an action to be possible, we must first be capable of moral
intuitions. Whoever lacks the capacity to think out for himself the
moral principles that apply in each particular case, will never rise
to the level of genuine individual willing.

Kant's principle of morality: Act so that the principle of your action
may be valid for all men--is the exact opposite of ours. His principle
would mean death to all individual action. The norm for me can never
be what all men would do, but rather what it is right for me to do
in each special case.

A superficial criticism might urge against these arguments: How can
an action be individually adapted to the special case and the special
situation, and yet at the same time be ideally determined by pure
intuition? This objection rests on a confusion of the moral motive
with the perceptual content of an action. The latter, indeed, may
be a motive, and is actually a motive when we act for the progress
of culture, or from pure egoism, etc., but in action based on pure
moral intuition it never is a motive. Of course, my Self takes
notice of these perceptual contents, but it does not allow itself
to be determined by them. The content is used only to construct a
theoretical concept, but the corresponding moral concept is not derived
from the object. The theoretical concept of a given situation which
faces me, is a moral concept also only if I adopt the standpoint
of a particular moral principle. If I base all my conduct on the
principle of the progress of civilisation, then my way through life
is tied down to a fixed route. From every occurrence which comes to
my notice and attracts my interest there springs a moral duty, viz.,
to do my tiny share towards using this occurrence in the service
of the progress of civilisation. In addition to the concept which
reveals to me the connections of events or objects according to the
laws of nature, there is also a moral label attached to them which
contains for me, as a moral agent, ethical directions as to how I have
to conduct myself. At a higher level these moral labels disappear,
and my action is determined in each particular instance by my idea;
and more particularly by the idea which is suggested to me by the
concrete instance.

Men vary greatly in their capacity for intuition. In some, ideas bubble
up like a spring, others acquire them with much labour. The situations
in which men live, and which are the scenes of their actions, are no
less widely different. The conduct of a man will depend, therefore,
on the manner in which his faculty of intuition reacts to a given
situation. The aggregate of the ideas which are effective in us,
the concrete content of our intuitions, constitute that which is
individual in each of us, notwithstanding the universal character
of our ideas. In so far as this intuitive content has reference to
action, it constitutes the moral substance of the individual. To let
this substance express itself in his life is the moral principle of
the man who regards all other moral principles as subordinate. We
may call this point of view Ethical Individualism.

The determining factor of an action, in any concrete instance, is the
discovery of the corresponding purely individual intuition. At this
level of morality, there can be no question of general moral concepts
(norms, laws). General norms always presuppose concrete facts from
which they can be deduced. But facts have first to be created by
human action.

When we look for the regulating principles (the conceptual principles
guiding the actions of individuals, peoples, epochs), we obtain a
system of Ethics which is not a science of moral norms, but rather
a science of morality as a natural fact. Only the laws discovered in
this way are related to human action as the laws of nature are related
to particular phenomena. These laws, however, are very far from being
identical with the impulses on which we base our actions. If we want
to understand how man's moral will gives rise to an action, we must
first study the relation of this will to the action. For this purpose
we must single out for study those actions in which this relation
is the determining factor. When I, or another, subsequently review
my action we may discover what moral principles come into play in
it. But so long as I am acting, I am influenced, not by these moral
principles, but by my love for the object which I want to realise
through my action. I ask no man and no moral code, whether I shall
perform this action or not. On the contrary, I carry it out as soon
as I have formed the idea of it. This alone makes it my action. If a
man acts because he accepts certain moral norms, his action is the
outcome of the principles which compose his moral code. He merely
carries out orders. He is a superior kind of automaton. Inject some
stimulus to action into his mind, and at once the clock-work of his
moral principles will begin to work and run its prescribed course, so
as to issue in an action which is Christian, or humane, or unselfish,
or calculated to promote the progress of culture. It is only when
I follow solely my love for the object, that it is I, myself, who
act. At this level of morality, I acknowledge no lord over me, neither
an external authority, nor the so-called voice of my conscience. I
acknowledge no external principle of my action, because I have found
in myself the ground for my action, viz., my love of the action. I
do not ask whether my action is good or bad; I perform it, because I
am in love with it. My action is "good" when, with loving intuition,
I insert myself in the right way into the world-nexus as I experience
it intuitively; it is "bad" when this is not the case. Neither do I
ask myself how another man would act in my position. On the contrary,
I act as I, this unique individuality, will to act. No general usage,
no common custom, no general maxim current among men, no moral norm
guides me, but my love for the action. I feel no compulsion, neither
the compulsion of nature which dominates me through my instincts,
nor the compulsion of the moral commandments. My will is simply to
realise what in me lies.

Those who hold to general moral norms will reply to these arguments
that, if every one has the right to live himself out and to do what he
pleases, there can be no distinction between a good and a bad action;
every fraudulent impulse in me has the same right to issue in action
as the intention to serve the general good. It is not the mere fact
of my having conceived the idea of an action which ought to determine
me as a moral agent, but the further examination of whether it is a
good or an evil action. Only if it is good ought I to carry it out.

This objection is easily intelligible, and yet it had its root in
what is but a misapprehension of my meaning. My reply to it is this:
If we want to get at the essence of human volition, we must distinguish
between the path along which volition attains to a certain degree of
development, and the unique character which it assumes as it approaches
its goal. It is on the path towards the goal that the norms play a
legitimate part. The goal consists in the realisation of moral aims
which are apprehended by pure intuition. Man attains such aims in
proportion as he is able to rise at all to the level at which intuition
grasps the ideal content of the world. In any particular volition,
other elements will, as a rule, be mixed up, as motives or springs
of action, with such moral aims. But, for all that, intuition may be,
wholly or in part, the determining factor in human volition. What we
ought to do, that we do. We supply the stage upon which duty becomes
deed. It is our own action which, as such, issues from us. The impulse,
then, can only be wholly individual. And, in fact, only a volition
which issues out of intuition can be individual. It is only in an age
in which immature men regard the blind instincts as part of a man's
individuality, that the act of a criminal can be described as living
out one's individuality in the same sense, in which the embodiment
in action of a pure intuition can be so described.

The animal instinct which drives a man to a criminal act does not
spring from intuition, and does not belong to what is individual in
him, but rather to that which is most general in him, to that which
is equally present in all individuals. The individual element in me
is not my organism with its instincts and feelings, but rather the
unified world of ideas which reveals itself through this organism. My
instincts, cravings, passions, justify no further assertion about
me than that I belong to the general species man. The fact that
something ideal expresses itself in its own unique way through these
instincts, passions, and feelings, constitutes my individuality. My
instincts and cravings make me the sort of man of whom there are
twelve to the dozen. The unique character of the idea, by means of
which I distinguish myself within the dozen as "I," makes of me an
individual. Only a being other than myself could distinguish me from
others by the difference in my animal nature. By thought, i.e., by the
active grasping of the ideal element working itself out through my
organism, I distinguish myself from others. Hence it is impossible
to say of the action of a criminal that it issues from the idea
within him. Indeed, the characteristic feature of criminal actions
is precisely that they spring from the non-ideal elements in man.

An act the grounds for which lie in the ideal part of my individual
nature is free. Every other act, whether done under the compulsion
of nature or under the obligation imposed by a moral norm, is unfree.

That man alone is free who in every moment of his life is able to obey
only himself. A moral act is my act only when it can be called free
in this sense. So far we are concerned here with the presuppositions
under which an act of will is felt to be free; the sequel will show
how this purely ethical concept of freedom is realised in the essential
nature of man.

Action on the basis of freedom does not exclude, but include, the
moral laws. It only shows that it stands on a higher level than
actions which are dictated by these laws. Why should my act serve
the general good less well when I do it from pure love of it, than
when I perform it because it is a duty to serve the general good? The
concept of duty excludes freedom, because it will not acknowledge the
right of individuality, but demands the subjection of individuality
to a general norm. Freedom of action is conceivable only from the
standpoint of Ethical Individualism.

But how about the possibility of social life for men, if each aims
only at asserting his own individuality? This question expresses yet
another objection on the part of Moralism wrongly understood. The
Moralist believes that a social community is possible only if all
men are held together by a common moral order. This shows that the
Moralist does not understand the community of the world of ideas. He
does not realise that the world of ideas which inspires me is no other
than that which inspires my fellow-men. This identity is, indeed,
but a conclusion from our experience of the world. However, it cannot
be anything else. For if we could recognise it in any other way than
by observation, it would follow that universal norms, not individual
experience, were dominant in its sphere. Individuality is possible only
if every individual knows others only through individual observation. I
differ from my neighbour, not at all because we are living in two
entirely different mental worlds, but because from our common world
of ideas we receive different intuitions. He desires to live out his
intuitions, I mine. If we both draw our intuitions really from the
world of ideas, and do not obey mere external impulses (physical or
moral), then we cannot but meet one another in striving for the same
aims, in having the same intentions. A moral misunderstanding, a clash
of aims, is impossible between men who are free. Only the morally
unfree who blindly follow their natural instincts or the commands of
duty, turn their backs on their neighbours, if these do not obey the
same instincts and the same laws as themselves. To live in love of
action and to let live in understanding of the other's volition, this
is the fundamental maxim of the free man. He knows no other "ought"
than that with which his will intuitively puts itself in harmony. How
he shall will in any given case, that will be determined for him by
the range of his ideas.

If sociability were not deeply rooted in human nature, no external
laws would be able to inoculate us with it. It is only because human
individuals are akin in spirit that they can live out their lives
side by side. The free man lives out his life in the full confidence
that all other free men belong to one spiritual world with himself,
and that their intentions will coincide with his. The free man does
not demand agreement from his fellow-men, but he expects it none the
less, believing that it is inherent in human nature. I am not referring
here to the necessity for this or that external institution. I refer
to the disposition, to the state of mind, through which a man, aware
of himself as one of a group of fellow-men for whom he cares, comes
nearest to living up to the ideal of human dignity.

There are many who will say that the concept of the free man which
I have here developed, is a chimera nowhere to be found realised,
and that we have got to deal with actual human beings, from whom we
can expect morality only if they obey some moral law, i.e., if they
regard their moral task as a duty and do not simply follow their
inclinations and loves. I do not deny this. Only a blind man could
do that. But, if so, away with all this hypocrisy of morality! Let us
say simply that human nature must be compelled to act as long as it is
not free. Whether the compulsion of man's unfree nature is effected by
physical force or through moral laws, whether man is unfree because he
indulges his unmeasured sexual desire, or because he is bound tight
in the bonds of conventional morality, is quite immaterial. Only let
us not assert that such a man can rightly call his actions his own,
seeing that he is driven to them by an external force. But in the midst
of all this network of compulsion, there arise free spirits who, in
all the welter of customs, legal codes, religious observances, etc.,
learn to be true to themselves. They are free in so far as they obey
only themselves; unfree in so far as they submit to control. Which of
us can say that he is really free in all his actions? Yet in each of us
there dwells something deeper in which the free man finds expression.

Our life is made up of free and unfree actions. We cannot, however,
form a final and adequate concept of human nature without coming upon
the free spirit as its purest expression. After all, we are men in
the fullest sense only in so far as we are free.

This is an ideal, many will say. Doubtless; but it is an ideal which
is a real element in us working up to the surface of our nature. It is
no ideal born of mere imagination or dream, but one which has life,
and which manifests itself clearly even in the least developed form
of its existence. If men were nothing but natural objects, the search
for ideals, that is, for ideas which as yet are not actual but the
realisation of which we demand, would be an impossibility. In dealing
with external objects the idea is determined by the percept. We
have done our share when we have recognised the connection between
idea and percept. But with a human being the case is different. The
content of his existence is not determined without him. His concept
of his true self as a moral being (free spirit) is not a priori united
objectively with the perceptual content "man," so that knowledge need
only register the fact subsequently. Man must by his own act unite
his concept with the percept "man." Concept and percept coincide
with one another in this instance, only in so far as the individual
himself makes them coincide. This he can do only if he has found the
concept of the free spirit, that is, if he has found the concept of
his own Self. In the objective world, a boundary-line is drawn by our
organisation between percept and concept. Knowledge breaks down this
barrier. In our subjective nature this barrier is no less present. The
individual overcomes it in the course of his development, by embodying
his concept of himself in his outward existence. Hence man's moral life
and his intellectual life lead him both alike to his two-fold nature,
perception (immediate experience) and thought. The intellectual life
overcomes his two-fold nature by means of knowledge, the moral life
succeeds through the actual realisation of the free spirit. Every
being has its inborn concept (the laws of its being and action),
but in external objects this concept is indissolubly bound up with
the percept, and separated from it only in the organisation of human
minds. In human beings concept and percept are, at first, actually
separated, to be just as actually reunited by them. Someone might
object that to our percept of a man there corresponds at every moment
of his life a definite concept, just as with external objects. I can
construct for myself the concept of an average man, and I may also
have given to me a percept to fit this pattern. Suppose now I add to
this the concept of a free spirit, then I have two concepts for the
same object.

Such an objection is one-sided. As object of perception I am subject
to perpetual change. As a child I was one thing, another as a youth,
yet another as a man. Moreover, at every moment I am different, as
percept, from what I was the moment before. These changes may take
place in such a way that either it is always only the same (average)
man who exhibits himself in them, or that they represent the expression
of a free spirit. Such are the changes which my actions, as objects
of perception, undergo.

In the perceptual object "man" there is given the possibility of
transformation, just as in the plant-seed there lies the possibility
of growth into a fully developed plant. The plant transforms itself
in growth, because of the objective law of nature which is inherent
in it. The human being remains in his undeveloped state, unless he
takes hold of the material for transformation within him and develops
himself through his own energy. Nature makes of man merely a natural
being; Society makes of him a being who acts in obedience to law; only
he himself can make a free man of himself. At a definite stage in his
development Nature releases man from her fetters; Society carries his
development a step further; he alone can give himself the final polish.

The theory of free morality, then, does not assert that the free spirit
is the only form in which man can exist. It looks upon the freedom of
the spirit only as the last stage in man's evolution. This is not to
deny that conduct in obedience to norms has its legitimate place as a
stage in development. The point is that we cannot acknowledge it to be
the absolute standpoint in morality. For the free spirit transcends
norms, in the sense that he is insensible to them as commands, but
regulates his conduct in accordance with his impulses (intuitions).

When Kant apostrophises duty: "Duty! Thou sublime and mighty name,
that dost embrace nothing charming or insinuating, but requirest
submission," thou that "holdest forth a law ... before which all
inclinations are dumb, even though they secretly counterwork it," [6]
then the free spirit replies: "Freedom! thou kindly and humane name,
which dost embrace within thyself all that is morally most charming,
all that insinuates itself most into my humanity, and which makest
me the servant of nobody, which holdest forth no law, but waitest
what my inclination itself will proclaim as law, because it resists
every law that is forced upon it."

This is the contrast of morality according to law and according
to freedom.

The philistine who looks upon the State as embodied morality is sure
to look upon the free spirit as a danger to the State. But that is
only because his view is narrowly focused on a limited period of
time. If he were able to look beyond, he would soon find that it is
but on rare occasions that the free spirit needs to go beyond the
laws of his state, and that it never needs to confront them with any
real contradiction. For the laws of the state, one and all, have had
their origin in the intuitions of free spirits, just like all other
objective laws of morality. There is no traditional law enforced by
the authority of a family, which was not, once upon a time, intuitively
conceived and laid down by an ancestor. Similarly the conventional laws
of morality are first of all established by particular men, and the
laws of the state are always born in the brain of a statesman. These
free spirits have set up laws over the rest of mankind, and only he is
unfree who forgets this origin and makes them either divine commands,
or objective moral duties, or--falsely mystical--the authoritative
voice of his own conscience.

He, on the other hand, who does not forget the origin of laws, but
looks for it in man, will respect them as belonging to the same world
of ideas which is the source also of his own moral intuitions. If he
thinks his intuitions better than the existing laws, he will try to
put them into the place of the latter. If he thinks the laws justified,
he will act in accordance with them as if they were his own intuitions.

Man does not exist in order to found a moral order of the world. Anyone
who maintains that he does, stands in his theory of man still at
that same point, at which natural science stood when it believed
that a bull has horns in order that it may butt. Scientists, happily,
have cast the concept of objective purposes in nature into the limbo
of dead theories. For Ethics, it is more difficult to achieve the
same emancipation. But just as horns do not exist for the sake of
butting, but butting because of horns, so man does not exist for the
sake of morality, but morality exists through man. The free man acts
morally because he has a moral idea, he does not act in order to be
moral. Human individuals are the presupposition of a moral world order.

The human individual is the fountain of all morality and the centre of
all life. State and society exist only because they have necessarily
grown out of the life of individuals. That state and society, in turn,
should react upon the lives of individuals, is no more difficult to
comprehend, than that the butting which is the result of the existence
of horns, reacts in turn upon the further development of the horns,
which would become atrophied by prolonged disuse. Similarly, the
individual must degenerate if he leads an isolated existence beyond
the pale of human society. That is just the reason why the social
order arises, viz., that it may react favourably upon the individual.



The naïve man who acknowledges nothing as real except what he can see
with his eyes and grasp with his hands, demands for his moral life,
too, grounds of action which are perceptible to his senses. He wants
some one who will impart to him these grounds of action in a manner
that his senses can apprehend. He is ready to allow these grounds of
action to be dictated to him as commands by anyone whom he considers
wiser or more powerful than himself, or whom he acknowledges, for
whatever reason, to be a power superior to himself. This accounts
for the moral principles enumerated above, viz., the principles which
rest on the authority of family, state, society, church, and God. The
most narrow-minded man still submits to the authority of some single
fellow-man. He who is a little more progressive allows his moral
conduct to be dictated by a majority (state, society). In every
case he relies on some power which is present to his senses. When,
at last, the conviction dawns on someone that his authorities are,
at bottom, human beings just as weak as himself, then he seeks refuge
with a higher power, with a Divine Being, whom, in turn, he endows
with qualities perceptible to the senses. He conceives this Being as
communicating to him the ideal content of his moral life by way of
his senses--believing, for example, that God appears in the flaming
bush, or that He moves about among men in manifest human shape, and
that their ears can hear His voice telling them what they are to do
and what not to do.

The highest stage of development which Naïve Realism attains in the
sphere of morality is that at which the moral law (the moral idea)
is conceived as having no connection with any external being,
but, hypothetically, as being an absolute power in one's own
consciousness. What man first listened to as the voice of God, to
that he now listens as an independent power in his own mind which he
calls conscience. This conception, however, takes us already beyond
the level of the naïve consciousness into the sphere where moral
laws are treated as independent norms. They are there no longer
made dependent on a human mind, but are turned into self-existent
metaphysical entities. They are analogous to the visible-invisible
forces of Metaphysical Realism. Hence also they appear always as
a corollary of Metaphysical Realism, which seeks reality, not in
the part which human nature, through its thinking, plays in making
reality what it is, but which hypothetically posits reality over
and above the facts of experience. Hence these extra-human moral
norms always appear as corollaries of Metaphysical Realism. For this
theory is bound to look for the origin of morality likewise in the
sphere of extra-human reality. There are different possible views of
its origin. If the thing-in-itself is unthinking and acts according
to purely mechanical laws, as modern Materialism conceives that it
does, then it must also produce out of itself, by purely mechanical
necessity, the human individual and all that belongs to him. On
that view the consciousness of freedom can be nothing more than
an illusion. For whilst I consider myself the author of my action,
it is the matter of which I am composed and the movements which are
going on in it that determine me. I imagine myself free, but actually
all my actions are nothing but the effects of the metabolism which is
the basis of my physical and mental organisation. It is only because
we do not know the motives which compel us that we have the feeling
of freedom. "We must emphasise that the feeling of freedom depends
on the absence of external compelling motives." "Our actions are as
much subject to necessity as our thoughts" (Ziehen, Leitfaden der
Physiologischen Psychologie, pp. 207, ff.). [7]

Another possibility is that some one will find in a spiritual being
the Absolute lying behind all phenomena. If so, he will look for the
spring of action in some kind of spiritual power. He will regard the
moral principles which his reason contains as the manifestation of this
spiritual being, which pursues in men its own special purposes. Moral
laws appear to the Dualist, who holds this view, as dictated by the
Absolute, and man's only task is to discover, by means of his reason,
the decisions of the Absolute and to carry them out. For the Dualist,
the moral order of the world is the visible symbol of the higher order
that lies behind it. Our human morality is a revelation of the divine
world-order. It is not man who matters in this moral order but reality
in itself, that is, God. Man ought to do what God wills. Eduard von
Hartmann, who identifies reality, as such, with God, and who treats
God's existence as a life of suffering, believes that the Divine
Being has created the world in order to gain, by means of the world,
release from his infinite suffering. Hence this philosopher regards the
moral evolution of humanity as a process, the function of which is the
redemption of God. "Only through the building up of a moral world-order
on the part of rational, self-conscious individuals is it possible for
the world-process to approximate to its goal." "Real existence is the
incarnation of God. The world-process is the passion of God who has
become flesh, and at the same time the way of redemption for Him who
was crucified in the flesh; and morality is our co-operation in the
shortening of this process of suffering and redemption" (Hartmann,
Phänomenologie des sittlichen Bewusstseins, § 871). On this view,
man does not act because he wills, but he must act because it is
God's will to be redeemed. Whereas the Materialistic Dualist turns
man into an automaton, the action of which is nothing but the effect
of causality according to purely mechanical laws, the Spiritualistic
Dualist (i.e., he who treats the Absolute, the thing-in-itself, as
a spiritual something in which man with his conscious experience has
no share), makes man the slave of the will of the Absolute. Neither
Materialism, nor Spiritualism, nor in general Metaphysical Realism
which infers, as true reality, an extra-human something which it does
not experience, have any room for freedom.

Naïve and Metaphysical Realism, if they are to be consistent, have to
deny freedom for one and the same reason, viz., because, for them,
man does nothing but carry out, or execute, principles necessarily
imposed upon him. Naïve Realism destroys freedom by subjecting man
to authority, whether it be that of a perceptible being, or that of
a being conceived on the analogy of perceptible beings, or, lastly,
that of the abstract voice of conscience. The Metaphysician, content
merely to infer an extra-human reality, is unable to acknowledge
freedom because, for him, man is determined, mechanically or morally,
by a "thing-in-itself."

Monism will have to admit the partial justification of Naïve Realism,
with which it agrees in admitting the part played by the world
of percepts. He who is incapable of producing moral ideas through
intuition must receive them from others. In so far as a man receives
his moral principles from without he is actually unfree. But Monism
ascribes to the idea the same importance as to the percept. The
idea can manifest itself only in human individuals. In so far
as man obeys the impulses coming from this side he is free. But
Monism denies all justification to Metaphysics, and consequently
also to the impulses of action which are derived from so-called
"things-in-themselves." According to the Monistic view, man's action
is unfree when he obeys some perceptible external compulsion; it
is free when he obeys none but himself. There is no room in Monism
for any kind of unconscious compulsion hidden behind percept and
concept. If anybody maintains of the action of a fellow-man that it
has not been freely done, he is bound to produce within the visible
world the thing or the person or the institution which has caused the
agent to act. And if he supports his contention by an appeal to causes
of action lying outside the real world of our percepts and thoughts,
then Monism must decline to take account of such an assertion.

According to the Monistic theory, then, man's action is partly free,
partly unfree. He is conscious of himself as unfree in the world of
percepts, and he realises in himself the spirit which is free.

The moral laws which his inferences compel the Metaphysician to regard
as issuing from a higher power have, according to the upholder of
Monism, been conceived by men themselves. To him the moral order is
neither a mere image of a purely mechanical order of nature nor of
the divine government of the world, but through and through the free
creation of men. It is not man's business to realise God's will in the
world, but his own. He carries out his own decisions and intentions,
not those of another being. Monism does not find behind human agents a
ruler of the world, determining them to act according to his will. Men
pursue only their own human ends. Moreover, each individual pursues
his own private ends. For the world of ideas realises itself, not in a
community, but only in individual men. What appears as the common goal
of a community is nothing but the result of the separate volitions
of its individual members, and most commonly of a few outstanding
men whom the rest follow as their leaders. Each one of us has it in
him to be a free spirit, just as every rosebud is potentially a rose.

Monism, then, is in the sphere of genuinely moral action the true
philosophy of freedom. Being also a philosophy of reality, it
rejects the metaphysical (unreal) restriction of the free spirit as
emphatically as it acknowledges the physical and historical (naïvely
real) restrictions of the naïve man. Inasmuch as it does not look
upon man as a finished product, exhibiting in every moment of his
life his full nature, it considers idle the dispute whether man,
as such, is free or not. It looks upon man as a developing being,
and asks whether, in the course of this development, he can reach
the stage of the free spirit.

Monism knows that Nature does not send forth man ready-made as a free
spirit, but that she leads him up to a certain stage, from which he
continues to develop still as an unfree being, until he reaches the
point where he finds his own self.

Monism perceives clearly that a being acting under physical or moral
compulsion cannot be truly moral. It regards the stages of automatic
action (in accordance with natural impulses and instincts), and of
obedient action (in accordance with moral norms), as a necessary
propædeutic for morality, but it understands that it is possible for
the free spirit to transcend both these transitory stages. Monism
emancipates man in general from all the self-imposed fetters of the
maxims of naïve morality, and from all the externally imposed maxims of
speculative Metaphysicians. The former Monism can as little eliminate
from the world as it can eliminate percepts. The latter it rejects,
because it looks for all principles of explanation of the phenomena
of the world within that world and not outside it. Just as Monism
refuses even to entertain the thought of cognitive principles other
than those applicable to men (p. 125), so it rejects also the concept
of moral maxims other than those originated by men. Human morality,
like human knowledge, is conditioned by human nature, and just as
beings of a higher order would probably mean by knowledge something
very different from what we mean by it, so we may assume that other
beings would have a very different morality. For Monists, morality
is a specifically human quality, and freedom the human way being moral.


In forming a judgment about the argument of the two preceding chapters,
a difficulty may arise from what may appear to be a contradiction. On
the one side, we have spoken of the experience of thinking as one
the significance of which is universal and equally valid for every
human consciousness. On the other side, we have pointed out that the
ideas which we realise in moral action and which are homogeneous
with those that thinking elaborates, manifest themselves in every
human consciousness in a uniquely individual way. If we cannot get
beyond regarding this antithesis as a "contradiction," and if we
do not recognise that in the living intuition of this actually
existing antithesis a piece of man's essential nature reveals
itself, we shall not be able to apprehend in the true light either
what knowledge is or what freedom is. Those who think of concepts
as nothing more than abstractions from the world of percepts,
and who do not acknowledge the part which intuition plays, cannot
but regard as a "pure contradiction" the thought for which we have
here claimed reality. But if we understand how ideas are experienced
intuitively in their self-sustaining essence, we see clearly that,
in knowledge, man lives and enters into the world of ideas as
into something which is identical for all men. On the other hand,
when man derives from that world the intuitions for his voluntary
actions, he individualises a member of the world of ideas by that
same activity which he practises as a universally human one in the
spiritual and ideal process of cognition. The apparent contradiction
between the universal character of cognitive ideas and the individual
character of moral ideas becomes, when intuited in its reality,
a living concept. It is a criterion of the essential nature of man
that what we intuitively apprehend of his nature oscillates, like a
living pendulum, between knowledge which is universally valid, and
individualised experience of this universal content. Those who fail
to perceive the one oscillation in its real character, will regard
thinking as a merely subjective human activity. For those who are
unable to grasp the other oscillation, man's activity in thinking
will seem to lose all individual life. Knowledge is to the former,
the moral life to the latter, an unintelligible fact. Both will fall
back on all sorts of ideas for the explanation of the one or of the
other, because both either do not understand at all how thinking can
be intuitively experienced, or, else, misunderstand it as an activity
which merely abstracts.


On page 180 I have spoken of Materialism. I am well aware that there
are thinkers, like the above-mentioned Th. Ziehen, who do not call
themselves Materialists at all, but yet who must be called so from
the point of view adopted in this book. It does not matter whether
a thinker says that for him the world is not restricted to merely
material being, and that, therefore, he is not a Materialist. No,
what matters is whether he develops concepts which are applicable only
to material being. Anyone who says, "our action, like our thought,
is necessarily determined," lays down a concept which is applicable
only to material processes, but not applicable either to what we do or
to what we are. And if he were to think out what his concept implies,
he would end by thinking materialistically. He saves himself from this
fate only by the same inconsistency which so often results from not
thinking one's thoughts out to the end. It is often said nowadays that
the Materialism of the nineteenth century is scientifically dead. But
in truth it is not so. It is only that nowadays we frequently fail
to notice that we have no other ideas than those which apply only to
the material world. Thus recent Materialism is disguised, whereas
in the second half of the nineteenth century it openly flaunted
itself. Towards a theory which apprehends the world spiritually the
camouflaged Materialism of the present is no less intolerant than
the self-confessed Materialism of the last century. But it deceives
many who think they have a right to reject a theory of the world in
terms of Spirit, on the ground that the scientific world-view "has
long ago abandoned Materialism."




Among the manifold currents in the spiritual life of humanity
there is one which we must now trace, and which we may call the
elimination of the concept of purpose from spheres to which it does
not belong. Adaptation to purpose is a special kind of sequence of
phenomena. Such adaptation is genuinely real only when, in contrast
to the relation of cause and effect in which the antecedent event
determines the subsequent, the subsequent event determines the
antecedent. This is possible only in the sphere of human actions. Man
performs actions which he first presents to himself in idea, and he
allows himself to be determined to action by this idea. The consequent,
i.e., the action, influences by means of the idea the antecedent,
i.e., the human agent. If the sequence is to have purposive character,
it is absolutely necessary to have this circuitous process through
human ideas.

In the process which we can analyse into cause and effect, we must
distinguish percept from concept. The percept of the cause precedes
the percept of the effect. Cause and effect would simply stand side by
side in our consciousness, if we were not able to connect them with
one another through the corresponding concepts. The percept of the
effect must always be consequent upon the percept of the cause. If
the effect is to have a real influence upon the cause, it can do so
only by means of the conceptual factor. For the perceptual factor
of the effect simply does not exist prior to the perceptual factor
of the cause. Whoever maintains that the flower is the purpose of
the root, i.e., that the former determines the latter, can make good
this assertion only concerning that factor in the flower which his
thought reveals in it. The perceptual factor of the flower is not
yet in existence at the time when the root originates.

In order to have a purposive connection, it is not only necessary to
have an ideal connection of consequent and antecedent according to
law, but the concept (law) of the effect must really, i.e., by means
of a perceptible process, influence the cause. Such a perceptible
influence of a concept upon something else is to be observed only in
human actions. Hence this is the only sphere in which the concept of
purpose is applicable. The naïve consciousness, which regards as real
only what is perceptible, attempts, as we have repeatedly pointed out,
to introduce perceptible factors even where only ideal factors can
actually be found. In sequences of perceptible events it looks for
perceptible connections, or, failing to find them, it imports them
by imagination. The concept of purpose, valid for subjective actions,
is very convenient for inventing such imaginary connections. The naïve
mind knows how it produces events itself, and consequently concludes
that Nature proceeds likewise. In the connections of Nature which are
purely ideal it finds, not only invisible forces, but also invisible
real purposes. Man makes his tools to suit his purposes. On the same
principle, so the Naïve Realist imagines, the Creator constructs all
organisms. It is but slowly that this mistaken concept of purpose is
being driven out of the sciences. In philosophy, even at the present
day, it still does a good deal of mischief. Philosophers still ask such
questions as, What is the purpose of the world? What is the function
(and consequently the purpose) of man? etc.

Monism rejects the concept of purpose in every sphere, with the sole
exception of human action. It looks for laws of Nature, but not for
purposes of Nature. Purposes of Nature, no less than invisible forces
(p. 118), are arbitrary assumptions. But even life-purposes which
man does not set up for himself, are, from the standpoint of Monism,
illegitimate assumptions. Nothing is purposive except what man
has made so, for only the realisation of ideas originates anything
purposive. But an idea becomes effective, in the realistic sense,
only in human actions. Hence life has no other purpose or function
than the one which man gives to it. If the question be asked, What is
man's purpose in life? Monism has but one answer: The purpose which
he gives to himself. I have no predestined mission in the world;
my mission, at any one moment, is that which I choose for myself. I
do not enter upon life's voyage with a fixed route mapped out for me.

Ideas are realised only by human agents. Consequently, it is
illegitimate to speak of the embodiment of ideas by history. All such
statements as "history is the evolution of man towards freedom," or
"the realisation of the moral world-order," etc., are, from a Monistic
point of view, untenable.

The supporters of the concept of purpose believe that, in surrendering
it, they are forced to surrender also all unity and order in the
world. Listen, for example, to Robert Hamerling (Atomistik des Willens,
vol. ii, p. 201): "As long as there are instincts in Nature, so long
is it foolish to deny purposes in Nature. Just as the structure of a
limb of the human body is not determined and conditioned by an idea
of this limb, floating somewhere in mid-air, but by its connection
with the more inclusive whole, the body, to which the limb belongs,
so the structure of every natural object, be it plant, animal, or man,
is not determined and conditioned by an idea of it floating in mid-air,
but by the formative principle of the more inclusive whole of Nature
which unfolds and organises itself in a purposive manner." And on
page 191 of the same volume we read: "Teleology maintains only that,
in spite of the thousand misfits and miseries of this natural life,
there is a high degree of adaptation to purpose and plan unmistakable
in the formations and developments of Nature--an adaptation, however,
which is realised only within the limits of natural laws, and which
does not tend to the production of some imaginary fairy-land, in which
life would not be confronted by death, growth by decay, with all the
more or less unpleasant, but quite unavoidable, intermediary stages
between them. When the critics of Teleology oppose a laboriously
collected rubbish-heap of partial or complete, imaginary or real,
maladaptations to a world full of wonders of purposive adaptation,
such as Nature exhibits in all her domains, then I consider this just
as amusing----"

What is here meant by purposive adaptation? Nothing but the consonance
of percepts within a whole. But, since all percepts are based upon
laws (ideas), which we discover by means of thinking, it follows that
the orderly coherence of the members of a perceptual whole is nothing
more than the ideal (logical) coherence of the members of the ideal
whole which is contained in this perceptual whole. To say that an
animal or a man is not determined by an idea floating in mid-air is a
misleading way of putting it, and the view which the critic attacks
loses its apparent absurdity as soon as the phrase is put right. An
animal certainly is not determined by an idea floating in mid-air,
but it is determined by an idea inborn in it and constituting the
law of its nature. It is just because the idea is not external to
the natural object, but is operative in it as its very essence, that
we cannot speak here of adaptation to purpose. Those who deny that
natural objects are determined from without (and it does not matter,
in this context, whether it be by an idea floating in mid-air or
existing in the mind of a creator of the world), are the very men who
ought to admit that such an object is not determined by purpose and
plan from without, but by cause and law from within. A machine is
produced in accordance with a purpose, if I establish a connection
between its parts which is not given in Nature. The purposive
character of the combinations which I effect consists just in this,
that I embody my idea of the working of the machine in the machine
itself. In this way the machine comes into existence as an object of
perception embodying a corresponding idea. Natural objects have a very
similar character. Whoever calls a thing purposive because its form
is in accordance with plan or law may, if he so please, call natural
objects also purposive, provided only that he does not confuse this
kind of purposiveness with that which belongs to a subjective human
action. In order to have a purpose, it is absolutely necessary that
the efficient cause should be a concept, more precisely a concept of
the effect. But in Nature we can nowhere point to concepts operating
as causes. A concept is never anything but the ideal nexus of cause
and effect. Causes occur in Nature only in the form of percepts.

Dualism may talk of cosmic and natural purposes. Wherever for our
perception there is a nexus of cause and effect according to law,
there the Dualist is free to assume that we have but the image of a
nexus in which the Absolute has realised its purposes. For Monism,
on the other hand, the rejection of an Absolute Reality implies also
the rejection of the assumption of purposes in World and Nature.


No one who, with an open mind, has followed the preceding argument,
will come to the conclusion that the author, in rejecting the
concept of purpose for extra-human facts, intended to side with those
thinkers who reject this concept in order to be able to regard, first,
everything outside human action and, next, human action itself, as
a purely natural process. Against such misunderstanding the author
should be protected by the fact that the process of thinking is in
this book represented as a purely spiritual process. The reason for
rejecting the concept of purpose even for the spiritual world, so
far as it lies outside human action, is that in this world there is
revealed something higher than a purpose, such as is realised in human
life. And when we characterise as erroneous the attempt to conceive
the destiny of the human race as purposive according to the pattern
of human purposiveness, we mean that the individual adopts purposes,
and that the result of the total activity of humanity is composed of
these individual purposes. This result is something higher than its
component parts, the purposes of individual men.




A free spirit acts according to his impulses, i.e., intuitions, which
his thought has selected out of the whole world of his ideas. For an
unfree spirit, the reason why he singles out a particular intuition
from his world of ideas, in order to make it the basis of an action,
lies in the perceptual world which is given to him, i.e., in his
past experiences. He recalls, before making a decision, what some
one else has done, or recommended as proper in an analogous case,
or what God has commanded to be done in such a case, etc., and he
acts on these recollections. A free spirit dispenses with these
preliminaries. His decision is absolutely original. He cares as
little what others have done in such a case as what commands they have
laid down. He has purely ideal (logical) reasons which determine him
to select a particular concept out of the sum of his concepts, and
to realise it in action. But his action will belong to perceptible
reality. Consequently, what he achieves will coincide with a definite
content of perception. His concept will have to be realised in a
concrete particular event. As a concept it will not contain this
event as particular. It will refer to the event only in its generic
character, just as, in general, a concept is related to a percept,
e.g., the concept lion to a particular lion. The link between concept
and percept is the idea (cp. pp. 104 ff). To the unfree spirit this
intermediate link is given from the outset. Motives exist in his
consciousness from the first in the form of ideas. Whenever he intends
to do anything he acts as he has seen others act, or he obeys the
instructions he receives in each separate case. Hence authority is most
effective in the form of examples, i.e., in the form of traditional
patterns of particular actions handed down for the guidance of the
unfree spirit. A Christian models his conduct less on the teaching than
on the pattern of the Saviour. Rules have less value for telling men
positively what to do than for telling them what to leave undone. Laws
take on the form of universal concepts only when they forbid actions,
not when they prescribe actions. Laws concerning what we ought to
do must be given to the unfree spirit in wholly concrete form. Clean
the street in front of your door! Pay your taxes to such and such an
amount to the tax-collector! etc. Conceptual form belongs to laws
which inhibit actions. Thou shalt not steal! Thou shalt not commit
adultery! But these laws, too, influence the unfree spirit only by
means of a concrete idea, e.g., the idea of the punishments attached
by human authority, or of the pangs of conscience, or of eternal
damnation, etc.

Even when the motive to an action exists in universal conceptual form
(e.g., Thou shalt do good to thy fellow-men! Thou shalt live so that
thou promotest best thy welfare!), there still remains to be found,
in the particular case, the concrete idea of the action (the relation
of the concept to a content of perception). For a free spirit who
is not guided by any model nor by fear of punishment, etc., this
translation of the concept into an idea is always necessary.

Concrete ideas are formed by us on the basis of our concepts by
means of the imagination. Hence what the free spirit needs in order to
realise his concepts, in order to assert himself in the world, is moral
imagination. This is the source of the free spirit's action. Only those
men, therefore, who are endowed with moral imagination are, properly
speaking, morally productive. Those who merely preach morality,
i.e., those who merely excogitate moral rules without being able to
condense them into concrete ideas, are morally unproductive. They are
like those critics who can explain very competently how a work of art
ought to be made, but who are themselves incapable of the smallest
artistic production.

Moral imagination, in order to realise its ideas, must enter into
a determinate sphere of percepts. Human action does not create
percepts, but transforms already existing percepts and gives them a
new character. In order to be able to transform a definite object of
perception, or a sum of such objects, in accordance with a moral idea,
it is necessary to understand the object's law (its mode of action
which one intends to transform, or to which one wants to give a new
direction). Further, it is necessary to discover the procedure by which
it is possible to change the given law into the new one. This part of
effective moral activity depends on knowledge of the particular world
of phenomena with which one has got to deal. We shall, therefore,
find it in some branch of scientific knowledge. Moral action, then,
presupposes, in addition to the faculty of moral concepts [8] and of
moral imagination, the ability to alter the world of percepts without
violating the natural laws by which they are connected. This ability
is moral technique. It may be learnt in the same sense in which science
in general may be learnt. For, in general, men are better able to find
concepts for the world as it is, than productively to originate out
of their imaginations future, and as yet non-existing, actions. Hence,
it is very well possible for men without moral imagination to receive
moral ideas from others, and to embody these skilfully in the actual
world. Vice versa, it may happen that men with moral imagination lack
technical skill, and are dependent on the service of other men for
the realisation of their ideas.

In so far as we require for moral action knowledge of the objects upon
which we are about to act, our action depends upon such knowledge. What
we need to know here are the laws of nature. These belong to the
Natural Sciences, not to Ethics.

Moral imagination and the faculty of moral concepts can become
objects of theory only after they have first been employed by the
individual. But, thus regarded, they no longer regulate life, but have
already regulated it. They must now be treated as efficient causes,
like all other causes (they are purposes only for the subject). The
study of them is, as it were, the Natural Science of moral ideas.

Ethics as a Normative Science, over and above this science, is

Some would maintain the normative character of moral laws at least
in the sense that Ethics is to be taken as a kind of dietetic which,
from the conditions of the organism's life, deduces general rules, on
the basis of which it hopes to give detailed directions to the body
(Paulsen, System der Ethik). This comparison is mistaken, because
our moral life cannot be compared with the life of the organism. The
behaviour of the organism occurs without any volition on our part. Its
laws are fixed data in our world; hence we can discover them and
apply them when discovered. Moral laws, on the other hand, do not
exist until we create them. We cannot apply them until we have created
them. The error is due to the fact that moral laws are not at every
moment new creations, but are handed down by tradition. Those which
we take over from our ancestors appear to be given like the natural
laws of the organism. But it does not follow that a later generation
has the right to apply them in the same way as dietetic rules. For
they apply to individuals, and not, like natural laws, to specimens
of a genus. Considered as an organism, I am such a generic specimen,
and I shall live in accordance with nature if I apply the laws of my
genus to my particular case. As a moral agent I am an individual and
have my own private laws. [9]

The view here upheld appears to contradict that fundamental doctrine of
modern Natural Science which is known as the Theory of Evolution. But
it only appears to do so. By evolution we mean the real development of
the later out of the earlier in accordance with natural law. In the
organic world, evolution means that the later (more perfect) organic
forms are real descendants of the earlier (imperfect) forms, and have
grown out of them in accordance with natural laws. The upholders
of the theory of organic evolution believe that there was once a
time on our earth, when we could have observed with our own eyes
the gradual evolution of reptiles out of Proto-Amniotes, supposing
that we could have been present as men, and had been endowed with
a sufficiently long span of life. Similarly, Evolutionists suppose
that man could have watched the development of the solar system
out of the primordial nebula of the Kant-Laplace hypothesis, if he
could have occupied a suitable spot in the world-ether during that
infinitely long period. But no Evolutionist will dream of maintaining
that he could from his concept of the primordial Amnion deduce that
of the reptile with all its qualities, even if he had never seen
a reptile. Just as little would it be possible to derive the solar
system from the concept of the Kant-Laplace nebula, if this concept
of an original nebula had been formed only from the percept of the
nebula. In other words, if the Evolutionist is to think consistently,
he is bound to maintain that out of earlier phases of evolution later
ones really develop; that once the concept of the imperfect and that
of the perfect have been given, we can understand the connection. But
in no case will he admit that the concept formed from the earlier
phases is, in itself, sufficient for deducing from it the later
phases. From this it follows for Ethics that, whilst we can understand
the connection of later moral concepts with earlier ones, it is not
possible to deduce a single new moral idea from earlier ones. The
individual, as a moral being, produces his own content. This content,
thus produced, is for Ethics a datum, as much as reptiles are a datum
for Natural Science. Reptiles have evolved out of the Proto-Amniotes,
but the scientist cannot manufacture the concept of reptiles out
of the concept of the Proto-Amniotes. Later moral ideas evolve out
of the earlier ones, but Ethics cannot manufacture out of the moral
principles of an earlier age those of a later one. The confusion is due
to the fact that, as scientists, we start with the facts before us,
and then make a theory about them, whereas in moral action we first
produce the facts ourselves, and then theorise about them. In the
evolution of the moral world-order we accomplish what, at a lower
level, Nature accomplishes: we alter some part of the perceptual
world. Hence the ethical norm cannot straightway be made an object of
knowledge, like a law of nature, for it must first be created. Only
when that has been done can the norm become an object of knowledge.

But is it not possible to make the old a measure for the new? Is
not every man compelled to measure the deliverances of his moral
imagination by the standard of traditional moral principles? If he
would be truly productive in morality, such measuring is as much an
absurdity as it would be an absurdity if one were to measure a new
species in nature by an old one and say that reptiles, because they
do not agree with the Proto-Amniotes, are an illegitimate (degenerate)

Ethical Individualism, then, so far from being in opposition to
the theory of evolution, is a direct consequence of it. Haeckel's
genealogical tree, from protozoa up to man as an organic being, ought
to be capable of being worked out without a breach of natural law,
and without a gap in its uniform evolution, up to the individual
as a being with a determinate moral nature. But, whilst it is quite
true that the moral ideas of the individual have perceptibly grown
out of those of his ancestors, it is also true that the individual
is morally barren, unless he has moral ideas of his own.

The same Ethical Individualism which I have developed on the basis
of the preceding principles, might be equally well developed on the
basis of the theory of evolution. The final result would be the same;
only the path by which it was reached would be different.

That absolutely new moral ideas should be developed by the moral
imagination is for the theory of evolution no more inexplicable than
the development of one animal species out of another, provided only
that this theory, as a Monistic world-view, rejects, in morality as
in science, every transcendent (metaphysical) influence. In doing
so, it follows the same principle by which it is guided in seeking
the causes of new organic forms in forms already existing, but not
in the interference of an extra-mundane God, who produces every new
species in accordance with a new creative idea through supernatural
interference. Just as Monism has no use for supernatural creative ideas
in explaining living organisms, so it is equally impossible for it
to derive the moral world-order from causes which do not lie within
the world. It cannot admit any continuous supernatural influence
upon moral life (divine government of the world from the outside),
nor an influence either through a particular act of revelation at
a particular moment in history (giving of the ten commandments), or
through God's appearance on the earth (Divinity of Christ [10]). Moral
processes are, for Monism, natural products like everything else that
exists, and their causes must be looked for in nature, i.e., in man,
because man is the bearer of morality.

Ethical Individualism, then, is the crown of the edifice that Darwin
and Haeckel have erected for Natural Science. It is the theory of
evolution applied to the moral life.

Anyone who restricts the concept of the natural from the outset to an
artificially limited and narrowed sphere, is easily tempted not to
allow any room within it for free individual action. The consistent
Evolutionist does not easily fall a prey to such a narrow-minded
view. He cannot let the process of evolution terminate with the ape,
and acknowledge for man a supernatural origin. Again, he cannot
stop short at the organic reactions of man and regard only these as
natural. He has to treat also the life of moral self-determination
as the continuation of organic life. The Evolutionist, then,
in accordance with his fundamental principles, can maintain only
that moral action evolves out of the less perfect forms of natural
processes. He must leave the characterisation of action, i.e.,
its determination as free action, to the immediate observation of
each agent. All that he maintains is only that men have developed
out of non-human ancestors. What the nature of men actually is must
be determined by observation of men themselves. The results of this
observation cannot possibly contradict the history of evolution. Only
the assertion that the results are such as to exclude their being due
to a natural world-order would contradict recent developments in the
Natural Sciences. [11]

Ethical Individualism, then, has nothing to fear from a Natural
Science which understands itself. Observation yields freedom as the
characteristic quality of the perfect form of human action. Freedom
must be attributed to the human will, in so far as the will realises
purely ideal intuitions. For these are not the effects of a necessity
acting upon them from without, but are grounded in themselves. When
we find that an action embodies such an ideal intuition, we feel it
to be free. Freedom consists in this character of an action.

What, then, from the standpoint of nature are we to say of the
distinction, already mentioned above (p. 8), between the two
statements, "To be free means to be able to do what you will,"
and "To be able, as you please, to strive or not to strive is the
real meaning of the dogma of free will"? Hamerling bases his theory
of free will precisely on this distinction, by declaring the first
statement to be correct but the second to be an absurd tautology. He
says, "I can do what I will, but to say I can will what I will is an
empty tautology." Whether I am able to do, i.e., to make real, what
I will, i.e., what I have set before myself as my idea of action,
that depends on external circumstances and on my technical skill
(cp. p. 200). To be free means to be able to determine by moral
imagination out of oneself those ideas (motives) which lie at the
basis of action. Freedom is impossible if anything other than I myself
(whether a mechanical process or God) determines my moral ideas. In
other words, I am free only when I myself produce these ideas, but
not when I am merely able to realise the ideas which another being
has implanted in me. A free being is one who can will what he regards
as right. Whoever does anything other than what he wills must be
impelled to it by motives which do not lie in himself. Such a man is
unfree in his action. Accordingly, to be able to will, as you please,
what you consider right or wrong means to be free or unfree as you
please. This is, of course, just as absurd as to identify freedom with
the faculty of doing what one is compelled to will. But this is just
what Hamerling maintains when he says, "It is perfectly true that the
will is always determined by motives, but it is absurd to say that on
this ground it is unfree; for a greater freedom can neither be desired
nor conceived than the freedom to realise oneself in proportion to
one's own power and strength of will." On the contrary, it is well
possible to desire a greater freedom and that a true freedom, viz.,
the freedom to determine for oneself the motives of one's volitions.

Under certain conditions a man may be induced to abandon the execution
of his will; but to allow others to prescribe to him what he shall
do--in other words, to will what another and not what he himself
regards as right--to this a man will submit only when he does not
feel free.

External powers may prevent me from doing what I will, but that is
only to condemn me to do nothing or to be unfree. Not until they
enslave my spirit, drive my motives out of my head, and put their
own motives in the place of mine, do they really aim at making
me unfree. That is the reason why the church attacks not only the
mere doing, but especially the impure thoughts, i.e., motives of my
action. And for the church all those motives are impure which she
has not herself authorised. A church does not produce genuine slaves
until her priests turn themselves into advisers of consciences, i.e.,
until the faithful depend upon the church, i.e., upon the confessional,
for the motives of their actions.


In these chapters I have given an account of how every one may
experience in his actions something which makes him aware that his
will is free. It is especially important to recognise that we derive
the right to call an act of will free from the experience of an ideal
intuition realising itself in the act. This can be nothing but a datum
of observation, in the sense that we observe the development of human
volition in the direction towards the goal of attaining the possibility
of just such volition sustained by purely ideal intuition. This
attainment is possible because the ideal intuition is effective through
nothing but its own self-dependent essence. Where such an intuition is
present in the mind, it has not developed itself out of the processes
in the organism (cp. pp. 146 ff.), but the organic processes have
retired to make room for the ideal processes. Observation of an act
of will which embodies an intuition shows that out of it, likewise,
all organically necessary activity has retired. The act of will is
free. No one can observe this freedom of will who is unable to see
how free will consists in this, that, first, the intuitive factor
lames and represses the necessary activity of the human organism,
and then puts in its place the spiritual activity of a will guided by
ideas. Only those who are unable to observe these two factors in the
free act of will believe that every act of will is unfree. Those who
are able to observe them win through to the recognition that man is
unfree in so far as he fails to repress organic activity completely,
but that this unfreedom is tending towards freedom, and that this
freedom, so far from being an abstract ideal, is a directive force
inherent in human nature. Man is free in proportion as he succeeds
in realising in his acts of will the same disposition of mind, which
possesses him when he is conscious in himself of the formation of
purely ideal (spiritual) intuitions.




A counterpart of the question concerning the purpose and function
of life (cp. pp. 190 ff.) is the question concerning its value. We
meet here with two mutually opposed views, and between them with all
conceivable attempts at compromise. One view says that this world is
the best conceivable which could exist at all, and that to live and act
in it is a good of inestimable value. Everything that exists displays
harmonious and purposive co-operation and is worthy of admiration. Even
what is apparently bad and evil may, from a higher point of view,
be seen to be a good, for it represents an agreeable contrast with
the good. We are the more able to appreciate the good when it is
clearly contrasted with evil. Moreover, evil is not genuinely real;
it is only that we perceive as evil a lesser degree of good. Evil is
the absence of good, it has no positive import of its own.

The other view maintains that life is full of misery and
agony. Everywhere pain outweighs pleasure, sorrow outweighs
joy. Existence is a burden, and non-existence would, from every point
of view, be preferable to existence.

The chief representatives of the former view, i.e., Optimism, are
Shaftesbury and Leibnitz; the chief representatives of the second,
i.e., Pessimism, are Schopenhauer and Eduard von Hartmann.

Leibnitz says the world is the best of all possible worlds. A better
one is impossible. For God is good and wise. A good God wills to
create the best possible world, a wise God knows which is the best
possible. He is able to distinguish the best from all other and worse
possibilities. Only an evil or an unwise God would be able to create
a world worse than the best possible.

Whoever starts from this point of view will find it easy to lay down
the direction which human action must follow, in order to make its
contribution to the greatest good of the universe. All that man need do
will be to find out the counsels of God and to act in accordance with
them. If he knows what God's purposes are concerning the world and the
human race, he will be able, for his part, to do what is right. And
he will be happy in the feeling that he is adding his share to all
the other good in the world. From this optimistic standpoint, then,
life is worth living. It is such as to stimulate us to co-operate with,
and enter into, it.

Quite different is the picture Schopenhauer paints. He thinks of
ultimate reality not as an all-wise and all-beneficent being, but
as blind striving or will. Eternal striving, ceaseless craving for
satisfaction which yet is ever beyond reach, these are the fundamental
characteristics of all will. For as soon as we have attained what we
want, a fresh need springs up, and so on. Satisfaction, when it occurs,
endures always only for an infinitesimal time. The whole rest of our
lives is unsatisfied craving, i.e., discontent and suffering. When at
last blind craving is dulled, every definite content is gone from our
lives. Existence is filled with nothing but an endless ennui. Hence
the best we can do is to throttle all desires and needs within us
and exterminate the will. Schopenhauer's Pessimism leads to complete
inactivity; its moral aim is universal idleness.

By a very different argument Von Hartmann attempts to establish
Pessimism and to make use of it for Ethics. He attempts, in keeping
with the fashion of our age, to base his world-view on experience. By
observation of life he hopes to discover whether there is more pain or
more pleasure in the world. He passes in review before the tribunal of
reason whatever men consider to be happiness and a good, in order to
show that all apparent satisfaction turns out, on closer inspection,
to be nothing but illusion. It is illusion when we believe that in
health, youth, freedom, sufficient income, love (sexual satisfaction),
pity, friendship and family life, honour, reputation, glory, power,
religious edification, pursuit of science and of art, hope of a life
after death, participation in the advancement of civilisation--that
in all these we have sources of happiness and satisfaction. Soberly
considered, every enjoyment brings much more evil and misery than
pleasure into the world. The disagreeableness of "the morning after"
is always greater than the agreeableness of intoxication. Pain far
outweighs pleasure in the world. No man, even though relatively the
happiest, would, if asked, wish to live through this miserable life
a second time. Now, since Hartmann does not deny the presence of an
ideal factor (wisdom) in the world, but, on the contrary, grants to it
equal rights with blind striving (will), he can attribute the creation
of the world to his Absolute Being only on condition that He makes
the pain in the world subserve a world-purpose that is wise. But the
pain of created beings is nothing but God's pain itself, for the life
of Nature as a whole is identical with the life of God. An All-wise
Being can aim only at release from pain, and since all existence is
pain, at release from existence. Hence the purpose of the creation
of the world is to transform existence into the non-existence which
is so much better. The world-process is nothing but a continuous
battle against God's pain, a battle which ends with the annihilation
of all existence. The moral life for men, therefore, will consist in
taking part in the annihilation of existence. The reason why God has
created the world is that through the world he may free himself from
his infinite pain. The world must be regarded, "as it were, as an
itching eruption on the Absolute," by means of which the unconscious
healing power of the Absolute rids itself of an inward disease; or
it may be regarded "as a painful drawing-plaster which the All-One
applies to itself in order first to divert the inner pain outwards,
and then to get rid of it altogether." Human beings are members of the
world. In their sufferings God suffers. He has created them in order
to split up in them his infinite pain. The pain which each one of us
suffers is but a drop in the infinite ocean of God's pain (Hartmann,
Phänomenologie des Sittlichen Bewusstseins, pp. 866 ff.).

It is man's duty to permeate his whole being with the recognition
that the pursuit of individual satisfaction (Egoism) is a folly, and
that he ought to be guided solely by the task of assisting in the
redemption of God by unselfish service of the world-process. Thus,
in contrast with the Pessimism of Schopenhauer, that of Von Hartmann
leads us to devoted activity in a sublime cause.

But what of the claim that this view is based on experience?

To strive after satisfaction means that our activity reaches out beyond
the actual content of our lives. A creature is hungry, i.e., it desires
satiety, when its organic functions demand for their continuation the
supply of fresh life-materials in the form of nourishment. The pursuit
of honour consists in that a man does not regard what he personally
does or leaves undone as valuable unless it is endorsed by the approval
of others from without. The striving for knowledge arises when a man
is not content with the world which he sees, hears, etc., so long
as he has not understood it. The fulfilment of the striving causes
pleasure in the individual who strives, failure causes pain. It is
important here to observe that pleasure and pain are attached only to
the fulfilment or non-fulfilment of my striving. The striving itself
is by no means to be regarded as a pain. Hence, if we find that,
in the very moment in which a striving is fulfilled, at once a new
striving arises, this is no ground for saying that pleasure has given
birth to pain, because enjoyment in every case gives rise to a desire
for its repetition, or for a fresh pleasure. I can speak of pain only
when desire runs up against the impossibility of fulfilment. Even
when an enjoyment that I have had causes in me the desire for the
experience of a greater, more subtle, and more exotic pleasure, I
have no right to speak of this desire as a pain caused by the previous
pleasure until the means fail me to gain the greater and more subtle
pleasure. I have no right to regard pleasure as the cause of pain
unless pain follows on pleasure as its consequence by natural law,
e.g., when a woman's sexual pleasure is followed by the suffering of
child-birth and the cares of nursing. If striving caused pain, then the
removal of striving ought to be accompanied by pleasure. But the very
reverse is true. To have no striving in one's life causes boredom,
and boredom is always accompanied by displeasure. Now, since it may
be a long time before a striving meets with fulfilment, and since,
in the interval, it is content with the hope of fulfilment, we must
acknowledge that there is no connection in principle between pain
and striving, but that pain depends solely on the non-fulfilment of
the striving. Schopenhauer, then, is wrong, in any case, in regarding
desire or striving (will) as being in principle the source of pain.

In truth, the very reverse of this is correct. Striving (desire) is in
itself pleasurable. Who does not know the pleasure which is caused by
the hope of a remote but intensely desired enjoyment? This pleasure
is the companion of all labour, the results of which will be enjoyed
by us only in the future. It is a pleasure which is wholly independent
of the attainment of the end. For when the aim has been attained, the
pleasure of satisfaction is added as a fresh thrill to the pleasure
of striving. If anyone were to argue that the pain caused by the
non-attainment of an aim is increased by the pain of disappointed
hope, and that thus, in the end, the pain of non-fulfilment will
still always outweigh the utmost possible pleasure of fulfilment, we
shall have to reply that the reverse may be the case, and that the
recollection of past pleasure at a time of unsatisfied desire will
as often mitigate the displeasure of non-satisfaction. Whoever at the
moment when his hopes suffer shipwreck exclaims, "I have done my part,"
proves thereby my assertion. The blessed feeling of having willed the
best within one's powers is ignored by all who make every unsatisfied
desire an occasion for asserting that, not only has the pleasure of
fulfilment been lost, but that the enjoyment of the striving itself
has been destroyed.

The satisfaction of a desire causes pleasure and its non-satisfaction
causes pain. But we have no right to infer from this fact that pleasure
is nothing but the satisfaction of a desire, and pain nothing but
its non-satisfaction. Both pleasure and pain may be experienced
without being the consequence of desire. All illness is pain not
preceded by any desire. If anyone were to maintain that illness is
unsatisfied desire for health, he would commit the error of regarding
the inevitable and unconscious wish not to fall ill as a positive
desire. When some one receives a legacy from a rich relative of whose
existence he had not the faintest idea, he experiences a pleasure
without having felt any preceding desire.

Hence, if we set out to inquire whether the balance is on the side
of pleasure or of pain, we must allow in our calculation for the
pleasure of striving, the pleasure of the satisfaction of striving,
and the pleasure which comes to us without any striving whatever. On
the debit side we shall have to enter the displeasure of boredom,
the displeasure of unfulfilled striving, and, lastly, the displeasure
which comes to us without any striving on our part. Under this last
heading we shall have to put also the displeasure caused by work that
has been forced upon us, not chosen by ourselves.

This leads us to the question, What is the right method for striking
the balance between the credit and the debit columns? Eduard von
Hartmann asserts that reason holds the scales. It is true that he
says (Philosophie des Unbewussten, 7th edition, vol. ii. p. 290):
"Pain and pleasure exist only in so far as they are actually being
felt." It follows that there can be no standard for pleasure other than
the subjective standard of feeling. I must feel whether the sum of my
disagreeable feelings, contrasted with my agreeable feelings, results
in me in a balance of pleasure or of pain. But, notwithstanding this,
Von Hartmann maintains that "though the value of the life of every
being can be set down only according to its own subjective measure,
yet it follows by no means that every being is able to compute the
correct algebraic sum of all the feelings of its life--or, in other
words, that its total estimate of its own life, with regard to its
subjective feelings, should be correct." But this means that rational
estimation of feelings is reinstated as the standard of value. [12]

It is because Von Hartmann holds this view that he thinks it necessary,
in order to arrive at a correct valuation of life, to clear out of
the way those factors which falsify our judgment about the balance
of pleasure and of pain. He tries to do this in two ways: first,
by showing that our desire (instinct, will) operates as a disturbing
factor in the sober estimation of feeling-values; e.g., whereas we
ought to judge that sexual enjoyment is a source of evil, we are
beguiled by the fact that the sexual instinct is very strong in us,
into pretending to experience a pleasure which does not occur in
the alleged intensity at all. We are bent on indulging ourselves,
hence we do not acknowledge to ourselves that the indulgence makes
us suffer. Secondly, Von Hartmann subjects feelings to a criticism
designed to show, that the objects to which our feelings attach
themselves reveal themselves as illusions when examined by reason,
and that our feelings are destroyed from the moment that our constantly
growing insight sees through the illusions.

Von Hartmann, then, conceives the matter as follows. Suppose an
ambitious man wants to determine clearly whether, up to the moment of
his inquiry, there has been a surplus of pleasure or of pain in his
life. He has to eliminate two sources of error that may affect his
judgment. Being ambitious, this fundamental feature of his character
will make him see all the pleasures of the public recognition of
his achievements larger than they are, and all the insults suffered
through rebuffs smaller than they are. At the time when he suffered
the rebuffs he felt the insults just because he is ambitious, but
in recollection they appear to him in a milder light, whereas the
pleasures of recognition to which he is so much more susceptible
leave a far deeper impression. Undeniably, it is a real benefit to an
ambitious man that it should be so, for the deception diminishes his
pain in the moment of self-analysis. But, none the less, it falsifies
his judgments. The sufferings which he now reviews as through a veil
were actually experienced by him in all their intensity. Hence he
enters them at a wrong valuation on the debit side of his account. In
order to arrive at a correct estimate, an ambitious man would have to
lay aside his ambition for the time of his inquiry. He would have to
review his past life without any distorting glasses before his mind's
eye, else he will resemble a merchant who, in making up his books,
enters among the items on the credit side his own zeal in business.

But Von Hartmann goes even further. He says the ambitious man must
make clear to himself that the public recognition which he craves
is not worth having. By himself, or with the guidance of others,
he must attain the insight that rational beings cannot attach any
value to recognition by others, seeing that "in all matters which are
not vital questions of development, or which have not been definitely
settled by science," it is always as certain as anything can be "that
the majority is wrong and the minority right." "Whoever makes ambition
the lode-star of his life puts the happiness of his life at the mercy
of so fallible a judgment" (Philosophie des Unbewussten, vol. ii,
p. 332). If the ambitious man acknowledges all this to himself, he
is bound to regard all the achievements of his ambition as illusions,
including even the feelings which attach themselves to the satisfaction
of his ambitious desires. This is the reason why Von Hartmann says
that we must also strike out of the balance-sheet of our life-values
whatever is seen to be illusory in our feelings of pleasure. What
remains after that represents the sum-total of pleasure in life,
and this sum is so small compared with the sum-total of pain that
life is no enjoyment and non-existence preferable to existence.

But whilst it is immediately evident that the interference of the
instinct of ambition produces self-deception in striking the balance
of pleasures and thus leads to a false result, we must none the less
challenge what Von Hartmann says concerning the illusory character of
the objects to which pleasure is attached. For the elimination, from
the credit-side of life, of all pleasurable feelings which accompany
actual or supposed illusions would positively falsify the balance
of pleasure and of pain. An ambitious man has genuinely enjoyed the
acclamations of the multitude, irrespective of whether subsequently
he himself, or some other person, recognises that this acclamation is
an illusion. The pleasure, once enjoyed, is not one whit diminished by
such recognition. Consequently the elimination of all these "illusory"
feelings from life's balance, so far from making our judgment about
our feelings more correct, actually cancels out of life feelings
which were genuinely there.

And why are these feelings to be eliminated? He who has them derives
pleasure from them; he who has overcome them, gains through the
experience of self-conquest (not through the vain emotion: What a
noble fellow I am! but through the objective sources of pleasure which
lie in the self-conquest) a pleasure which is, indeed, spiritualised,
but none the less valuable for that. If we strike feelings from the
credit side of pleasure in our account, on the ground that they
are attached to objects which turn out to have been illusory, we
make the value of life dependent, not on the quantity, but on the
quality of pleasure, and this, in turn, on the value of the objects
which cause the pleasure. But if I am to determine the value of life
only by the quantity of pleasure or pain which it brings, I have no
right to presuppose something else by which first to determine the
positive or negative value of pleasure. If I say I want to compare
quantity of pleasure and quantity of pain, in order to see which is
greater, I am bound to bring into my account all pleasures and pains
in their actual intensities, regardless of whether they are based on
illusions or not. If I credit a pleasure which rests on an illusion
with a lesser value for life than one which can justify itself before
the tribunal of reason, I make the value of life dependent on factors
other than mere quantity of pleasure.

Whoever, like Eduard von Hartmann, puts down pleasure as less valuable
when it is attached to a worthless object, is like a merchant who
enters the considerable profits of a toy-factory at only one-quarter
of their real value on the ground that the factory produces nothing
but playthings for children.

If the point is simply to weigh quantity of pleasure against quantity
of pain, we ought to leave the illusory character of the objects of
some pleasures entirely out of account.

The method, then, which Von Hartmann recommends, viz., rational
criticism of the quantities of pleasure and pain produced by life,
has taught us so far how we are to get the data for our calculation,
i.e., what we are to put down on the one side of our account and what
on the other. But how are we to make the actual calculation? Is reason
able also to strike the balance?

A merchant makes a miscalculation when the gain calculated by him does
not balance with the profits which he has demonstrably enjoyed from his
business or is still expecting to enjoy. Similarly, the philosopher
will undoubtedly have made a mistake in his estimate, if he cannot
demonstrate in actual feeling the surplus of pleasure or, as the case
may be, of pain which his manipulation of the account may have yielded.

For the present I shall not criticise the calculations of those
Pessimists who support their estimate of the value of the world by
an appeal to reason. But if we are to decide whether to carry on the
business of life or not, we shall demand first to be shown where the
alleged balance of pain is to be found.

Here we touch the point where reason is not in a position by itself
to determine the surplus of pleasure or of pain, but where it must
exhibit this surplus in life as something actually felt. For man
reaches reality not through concepts by themselves, but through the
interpenetration of concepts and percepts (and feelings are percepts)
which thinking brings about (cp. pp. 82 ff.). A merchant will give
up his business only when the loss of goods, as calculated by his
accountant, is actually confirmed by the facts. If the facts do not
bear out the calculation, he asks his accountant to check the account
once more. That is exactly what a man will do in the business of
life. If a philosopher wants to prove to him that the pain is far
greater than the pleasure, but that he does not feel it so, then he
will reply: "You have made a mistake in your theorisings; repeat
your analysis once more." But if there comes a time in a business
when the losses are really so great that the firm's credit no longer
suffices to satisfy the creditors, bankruptcy results, even though
the merchant may avoid keeping himself informed by careful accounts
about the state of his affairs. Similarly, supposing the quantity
of pain in a man's life became at any time so great that no hope
(credit) of future pleasure could help him to get over the pain,
the bankruptcy of life's business would inevitably follow.

Now the number of those who commit suicide is relatively small compared
with the number of those who live bravely on. Only very few men give up
the business of life because of the pain involved. What follows? Either
that it is untrue to say that the quantity of pain is greater than
the quantity of pleasure, or that we do not make the continuation of
life dependent on the quantity of felt pleasure or pain.

In a very curious way, Eduard von Hartmann's Pessimism, having
concluded that life is valueless because it contains a surplus of pain,
yet affirms the necessity of going on with life. This necessity lies
in the fact that the world-purpose mentioned above (p. 216) can be
achieved only by the ceaseless, devoted labour of human beings. But
so long as men still pursue their egoistical appetites they are unfit
for this devoted labour. It is not until experience and reason have
convinced them that the pleasures which Egoism pursues are incapable
of attainment, that they give themselves up to their proper task. In
this way the pessimistic conviction is offered as the fountain of
unselfishness. An education based on Pessimism is to exterminate
Egoism by convincing it of the hopelessness of achieving its aims.

According to this view, then, the striving for pleasure is
fundamentally inherent in human nature. It is only through the insight
into the impossibility of satisfaction that this striving abdicates
in favour of the higher tasks of humanity.

It is, however, impossible to say of this ethical theory, which
expects from the establishment of Pessimism a devotion to unselfish
ends in life, that it really overcomes Egoism in the proper sense of
the word. The moral ideas are said not to be strong enough to dominate
the will until man has learnt that the selfish striving after pleasure
cannot lead to any satisfaction. Man, whose selfishness desires the
grapes of pleasure, finds them sour because he cannot attain them,
and so he turns his back on them and devotes himself to an unselfish
life. Moral ideals, then, according to the opinion of Pessimists,
are too weak to overcome Egoism, but they establish their kingdom
on the territory which previous recognition of the hopelessness of
Egoism has cleared for them.

If men by nature strive after pleasure but are unable to attain it,
it follows that annihilation of existence and salvation through
non-existence are the only rational ends. And if we accept the view
that the real bearer of the pain of the world is God, it follows that
the task of men consists in helping to bring about the salvation of
God. To commit suicide does not advance, but hinders, the realisation
of this aim. God must rationally be conceived as having created men
for the sole purpose of bringing about his salvation through their
action, else would creation be purposeless. Every one of us has to
perform his own definite task in the general work of salvation. If he
withdraws from the task by suicide, another has to do the work which
was intended for him. Somebody else must bear in his stead the agony
of existence. And since in every being it is, at bottom, God who is
the ultimate bearer of all pain, it follows that to commit suicide
does not in the least diminish the quantity of God's pain, but rather
imposes upon God the additional difficulty of providing a substitute.

This whole theory presupposes that pleasure is the standard of value
for life. Now life manifests itself through a number of instincts
(needs). If the value of life depended on its producing more pleasure
than pain, an instinct would have to be called valueless which brought
to its owner a balance of pain. Let us, if you please, inspect instinct
and pleasure, in order to see whether the former can be measured by
the latter. And lest we give rise to the suspicion that life does not
begin for us below the sphere of the "aristocrats of the intellect," we
shall begin our examination with a "purely animal" need, viz., hunger.

Hunger arises when our organs are unable to continue functioning
without a fresh supply of food. What a hungry man desires, in the
first instance, is to have his hunger stilled. As soon as the supply
of nourishment has reached the point where hunger ceases, everything
has been attained that the food-instinct craves. The pleasure which is
connected with satiety consists, to begin with, in the removal of the
pain which is caused by hunger. But to the mere food-instinct there
is added a further need. For man does not merely desire to restore,
by the consumption of food, the disturbance in the functioning of his
organs, or to get rid of the pain of hunger, but he seeks to effect
this to the accompaniment of pleasurable sensations of taste. When
he feels hungry, and is within half an hour of a meal to which he
looks forward with pleasure, he avoids spoiling his enjoyment of the
better food by taking inferior food which might satisfy his hunger
sooner. He needs hunger in order to get the full enjoyment out of
his meal. Thus hunger becomes for him at the same time a cause of
pleasure. Supposing all the hunger in the world could be satisfied,
we should get the total quantity of pleasure which we owe to the
existence of the desire for nourishment. But we should still have to
add the additional pleasure which gourmets gain by cultivating the
sensibility of their taste-nerves beyond the common measure.

The greatest conceivable value of this quantity of pleasure would be
reached, if no need remained unsatisfied which was in any way connected
with this kind of pleasure, and if with the smooth of pleasure we
had not at the same time to take a certain amount of the rough of pain.

Modern Science holds the view that Nature produces more life than it
can maintain, i.e., that Nature also produces more hunger than it is
able to satisfy. The surplus of life thus produced is condemned to a
painful death in the struggle for existence. Granted that the needs
of life are, at every moment of the world-process, greater than the
available means of satisfaction, and that the enjoyment of life is
correspondingly diminished, yet such enjoyment as actually occurs is
not one whit reduced thereby. Wherever a desire is satisfied, there
the corresponding quantity of pleasure exists, even though in the
creature itself which desires, or in its fellow-creatures, there are
a large number of unsatisfied instincts. What is diminished is, not
the quantity, but the "value" of the enjoyment of life. If only a part
of the needs of a living creature find satisfaction, it experiences
still a corresponding pleasure. This pleasure is inferior in value in
proportion as it is inadequate to the total demand of life within a
given group of desires. We might represent this value as a fraction,
the numerator of which is the actually experienced pleasure, whilst the
denominator is the sum-total of needs. This fraction has the value 1
when the numerator and the denominator are equal, i.e., when all needs
are also satisfied. The fraction becomes greater than 1 when a creature
experiences more pleasure than its desires demand. It becomes smaller
than 1 when the quantity of pleasure falls short of the sum-total
of desires. But the fraction can never have the value 0 so long as
the numerator has any value at all, however small. If a man were to
make up the account before his death and to distribute in imagination
over the whole of life the quantity belonging to a particular instinct
(e.g., hunger), as well as the demands of this instinct, then the total
pleasure which he has experienced might have only a very small value,
but this value would never become altogether nil. If the quantity of
pleasure remains constant, then with every increase in the needs of
the creature the value of the pleasure diminishes. The same is true for
the totality of life in Nature. The greater the number of creatures in
proportion to those which are able fully to satisfy their instincts,
the smaller is the average pleasure-value of life. The cheques on
life's pleasure which are drawn in our favour in the form of our
instincts, become increasingly less valuable in proportion as we
cannot expect to cash them at their full face value. Suppose I get
enough to eat on three days and am then compelled to go hungry for
another three days, the actual pleasure on the three days of eating is
not thereby diminished. But I have now to think of it as distributed
over six days, and this reduces its "value" for my food-instinct by
half. The same applies to the quantity of pleasure as measured by the
degree of my need. Suppose I have hunger enough for two sandwiches
and can only get one, the pleasure which this one gives me has only
half the value it would have had if the eating of it had stilled my
hunger. This is the way in which we determine the value of a pleasure
in life. We determine it by the needs of life. Our desires supply the
measure; pleasure is what is measured. The pleasure of stilling hunger
has value only because hunger exists, and it has determinate value
through the proportion which it bears to the intensity of the hunger.

Unfulfilled demands of our life throw their shadow even upon fulfilled
desires, and thus detract from the value of pleasurable hours. But we
may speak also of the present value of a feeling of pleasure. This
value is the smaller, the more insignificant the pleasure is in
proportion to the duration and intensity of our desire.

A quantity of pleasure has its full value for us when its duration and
degree exactly coincide with our desire. A quantity of pleasure which
is smaller than our desire diminishes the value of the pleasure. A
quantity which is greater produces a surplus which has not been
demanded and which is felt as pleasure only so long as, whilst
enjoying the pleasure, we can correspondingly increase the intensity
of our desire. If we are not able to keep pace in the increase of
our desire with the increase in pleasure, then pleasure turns into
displeasure. The object which would otherwise satisfy us, when it
assails us unbidden makes us suffer. This proves that pleasure has
value for us only so long as we have desires by which to measure
it. An excess of pleasurable feeling turns into pain. This may be
observed especially in those men whose desire for a given kind of
pleasure is very small. In people whose desire for food is dulled,
eating easily produces nausea. This again shows that desire is the
measure of value for pleasure.

Now Pessimism might reply that an unsatisfied desire for food produces,
not only the pain of a lost enjoyment, but also positive ills, agony,
and misery in the world. It appeals for confirmation to the untold
misery of all who are harassed by anxieties about food, and to the
vast amount of pain which for these unfortunates results indirectly
from their lack of food. And if it wants to extend its assertion also
to non-human nature, it can point to the agonies of animals which,
in certain seasons, die from lack of food. Concerning all these evils
the Pessimist maintains that they far outweigh the quantity of pleasure
which the food-instinct brings into the world.

There is no doubt that it is possible to compare pleasure and pain
one with another, and determine the surplus of the one or the other
as we determine commercial gain or loss. But if Pessimists think that
a surplus on the side of pain is a ground for inferring that life is
valueless, they fall into the mistake of making a calculation which
in actual life is never made.

Our desire, in any given case, is directed to a particular object. The
value of the pleasure of satisfaction, as we have seen, will be the
greater in proportion as the quantity of the pleasure is greater
relatively to the intensity of our desire. [13] It depends, further,
on this intensity how large a quantity of pain we are willing to
bear in order to gain the pleasure. We compare the quantity of pain,
not with the quantity of pleasure, but with the intensity of our
desire. He who finds great pleasure in eating will, by reason of his
pleasure in better times, be more easily able to bear a period of
hunger than one who does not derive pleasure from the satisfaction
of the instinct for food. A woman who wants a child compares the
pleasures resulting from the possession of a child, not with the
quantities of pain due to pregnancy, birth, nursing, etc., but with
her desire for the possession of the child.

We never aim at a certain quantity of pleasure in the abstract,
but at concrete satisfaction of a perfectly determinate kind. When
we are aiming at a definite object or a definite sensation, it
will not satisfy us to be offered some other object or some other
sensation, even though they give the same amount of pleasure. If we
desire satisfaction of hunger, we cannot substitute for the pleasure
which this satisfaction would bring a pleasure equally great but
produced by a walk. Only if our desire were, quite generally, for
a certain quantity of pleasure, would it have to die away at once
if this pleasure were unattainable except at the price of an even
greater quantity of pain. But because we desire a determinate kind of
satisfaction, we experience the pleasure of realisation even when,
along with it, we have to bear an even greater pain. The instincts
of living beings tend in a determinate direction and aim at concrete
objects, and it is just for this reason that it is impossible, in our
calculations, to set down as an equivalent factor the quantities of
pain which we have to bear in the pursuit of our object. Provided the
desire is sufficiently intense to be still to some degree in existence
even after having overcome the pain--however great that pain, taken
in the abstract, may be--the pleasure of satisfaction may still be
enjoyed to its full extent. The desire, therefore, does not measure
the pain directly against the pleasure which we attain, but indirectly
by measuring the pain (proportionately) against its own intensity. The
question is not whether the pleasure to be gained is greater than the
pain, but whether the desire for the object at which we aim is greater
than the inhibitory effect of the pain which we have to face. If
the inhibition is greater than the desire, the latter yields to the
inevitable, slackens, and ceases to strive. But inasmuch as we strive
after a determinate kind of satisfaction, the pleasure we gain thereby
acquires an importance which makes it possible, once satisfaction has
been attained, to allow in our calculation for the inevitable pain
only in so far as it has diminished the intensity of our desire. If
I am passionately fond of beautiful views, I never calculate the
amount of pleasure which the view from the mountain-top gives me as
compared directly with the pain of the toilsome ascent and descent;
but I reflect whether, after having overcome all difficulties, my
desire for the view will still be sufficiently intense. Thus pleasure
and pain can be made commensurate only mediately through the intensity
of the desire. Hence the question is not at all whether there is a
surplus of pleasure or of pain, but whether the desire for pleasure
is sufficiently intense to overcome the pain.

A proof for the accuracy of this view is to be found in the fact,
that we put a higher value on pleasure when it has to be purchased
at the price of great pain than when it simply falls into our lap
like a gift from heaven. When sufferings and agonies have toned down
our desire and yet after all our aim is attained, then the pleasure
is all the greater in proportion to the intensity of the desire that
has survived. Now it is just this proportion which, as I have shown
(p. 233), represents the value of the pleasure. A further proof is to
be found in the fact that all living creatures (including men) develop
their instincts as long as they are able to bear the opposition of
pains and agonies. The struggle for existence is but a consequence
of this fact. All living creatures strive to expand, and only those
abandon the struggle whose desires are throttled by the overwhelming
magnitude of the difficulties with which they meet. Every living
creature seeks food until sheer lack of food destroys its life. Man,
too, does not turn his hand against himself until, rightly or wrongly,
he believes that he cannot attain those aims in life which alone
seem to him worth striving for. So long as he still believes in
the possibility of attaining what he thinks worth striving for, he
will battle against all pains and miseries. Philosophy would have to
convince man that striving is rational only when pleasure outweighs
pain, for it is his nature to strive for the attainment of the objects
which he desires, so long as he can bear the inevitable incidental
pain, however great that may be. Such a philosophy, however, would be
mistaken, because it would make the human will dependent on a factor
(the surplus of pleasure over pain) which, at first, is wholly foreign
to man's point of view. The original measure of his will is his desire,
and desire asserts itself as long as it can. If I am compelled,
in purchasing a certain quantity of apples, to take twice as many
rotten ones as sound ones--because the seller wishes to clear out his
stock--I shall not hesitate a moment to take the bad apples as well,
if I put so high a value on the smaller quantity of good apples that
I am prepared, in addition to the purchase price, to bear also the
expense for the transportation of the rotten goods. This example
illustrates the relation between the quantities of pleasure and of
pain which are caused by a given instinct. I determine the value of
the good apples, not by subtracting the sum of the good from that of
the bad ones, but by the fact that, in spite of the presence of the
bad ones, I still attach a value to the good ones.

Just as I leave out of account the bad apples in the enjoyment of
the good ones, so I surrender myself to the satisfaction of a desire
after having shaken off the inevitable pains.

Supposing even Pessimism were in the right with its assertion that the
world contains more pain than pleasure, it would nevertheless have no
influence upon the will, for living beings would still strive after
such pleasure as remains. The empirical proof that pain overbalances
pleasure is indeed effective for showing up the futility of that
school of philosophy, which looks for the value of life in a surplus
of pleasure (Eudæmonism), but not for exhibiting the will, as such, as
irrational. For the will is not set upon a surplus of pleasure, but on
whatever quantity of pleasure remains after subtracting the pain. This
remaining pleasure still appears always as an object worth pursuing.

An attempt has been made to refute Pessimism by asserting that it is
impossible to determine by calculation the surplus of pleasure or
of pain in the world. The possibility of every calculation depends
on our being able to compare the things to be calculated in respect
of their quantity. Every pain and every pleasure has a definite
quantity (intensity and duration). Further, we can compare pleasurable
feelings of different kinds one with another, at least approximately,
with regard to their intensity. We know whether we derive more
pleasure from a good cigar or from a good joke. No objection can be
raised against the comparability of different pleasures and pains
in respect of their intensity. The thinker who sets himself the
task of determining the surplus of pleasure or pain in the world,
starts from presuppositions which are undeniably legitimate. It is
possible to maintain that the Pessimistic results are false, but
it is not possible to doubt that quantities of pleasure and pain
can be scientifically estimated, and that the surplus of the one
or the other can thereby be determined. It is incorrect, however,
to assert that from this calculation any conclusions can be drawn
for the human will. The cases in which we really make the value of
our activity dependent on whether pleasure or pain shows a surplus,
are those in which the objects towards which our activity is directed
are indifferent to us. If it is a question whether, after the day's
work, I am to amuse myself by a game or by light conversation, and
if I am totally indifferent what I do so long as it amuses me, then I
simply ask myself: What gives me the greatest surplus of pleasure? And
I abandon the activity altogether if the scales incline towards the
side of displeasure. If we are buying a toy for a child we consider,
in selecting, what will give him the greatest pleasure, but in all
other cases we are not determined exclusively by considerations of
the balance of pleasure.

Hence, if Pessimistic thinkers believe that they are preparing
the ground for an unselfish devotion to the work of civilisation,
by demonstrating that there is a greater quantity of pain than of
pleasure in life, they forget altogether that the human will is so
constituted that it cannot be influenced by this knowledge. The whole
striving of men is directed towards the greatest possible satisfaction
that is attainable after overcoming all difficulties. The hope of this
satisfaction is the basis of all human activity. The work of every
single individual and the whole achievement of civilisation have
their roots in this hope. The Pessimistic theory of Ethics thinks
it necessary to represent the pursuit of pleasure as impossible,
in order that man may devote himself to his proper moral tasks. But
these moral tasks are nothing but the concrete natural and spiritual
instincts; and he strives to satisfy these notwithstanding all
incidental pain. The pursuit of pleasure, then, which the Pessimist
sets himself to eradicate is nowhere to be found. But the tasks which
man has to fulfil are fulfilled by him because from his very nature
he wills to fulfil them. The Pessimistic system of Ethics maintains
that a man cannot devote himself to what he recognises as his task
in life until he has first given up the desire for pleasure. But no
system of Ethics can ever invent other tasks than the realisation of
those satisfactions which human desires demand, and the fulfilment of
man's moral ideas. No Ethical theory can deprive him of the pleasure
which he experiences in the realisation of what he desires. When
the Pessimist says, "Do not strive after pleasure, for pleasure is
unattainable; strive instead after what you recognise to be your task,"
we must reply that it is human nature to strive to do one's tasks,
and that philosophy has gone astray in inventing the principle that man
strives for nothing but pleasure. He aims at the satisfaction of what
his nature demands, and the attainment of this satisfaction is to him
a pleasure. Pessimistic Ethics, in demanding that we should strive,
not after pleasure, but after the realisation of what we recognise as
our task, lays its finger on the very thing which man wills in virtue
of his own nature. There is no need for man to be turned inside out by
philosophy, there is no need for him to discard his nature, in order
to be moral. Morality means striving for an end so long as the pain
connected with this striving does not inhibit the desire for the end
altogether; and this is the essence of all genuine will. Ethics is not
founded on the eradication of all desire for pleasure, in order that,
in its place, bloodless moral ideas may set up their rule where no
strong desire for pleasure stands in their way, but it is based on
the strong will, sustained by ideal intuitions, which attains its
end even when the path to it is full of thorns.

Moral ideals have their root in the moral imagination of man. Their
realisation depends on the desire for them being sufficiently intense
to overcome pains and agonies. They are man's own intuitions. In them
his spirit braces itself to action. They are what he wills, because
their realisation is his highest pleasure. He needs no Ethical theory
first to forbid him to strive for pleasure and then to prescribe
to him what he shall strive for. He will, of himself, strive for
moral ideals provided his moral imagination is sufficiently active
to inspire him with the intuitions, which give strength to his will
to overcome all resistance.

If a man strives towards sublimely great ideals, it is because they are
the content of his will, and because their realisation will bring him
an enjoyment compared with which the pleasure which inferior spirits
draw from the satisfaction of their commonplace needs is a mere
nothing. Idealists delight in translating their ideals into reality.

Anyone who wants to eradicate the pleasure which the fulfilment of
human desires brings, will have first to degrade man to the position
of a slave who does not act because he wills, but because he must. For
the attainment of the object of will gives pleasure. What we call the
good is not what a man must do, but what he wills to do when he unfolds
the fulness of his nature. Anyone who does not acknowledge this must
deprive man of all the objects of his will, and then prescribe to
him from without what he is to make the content of his will.

Man values the satisfaction of a desire because the desire springs
from his own nature. What he attains is valuable because it is the
object of his will. If we deny any value to the ends which men do
will, then we shall have to look for the ends that are valuable among
objects which men do not will.

A system of Ethics, then, which is built up on Pessimism has its root
in the contempt for man's moral imagination. Only he who does not
consider the individual human mind capable of determining for itself
the content of its striving, can look for the sum and substance of
will in the craving for pleasure. A man without imagination does not
create moral ideas; they must be imparted to him. Physical nature
sees to it that he seeks the satisfaction of his lower desires; but
for the development of the whole man the desires which have their
origin in the spirit are fully as necessary. Only those who believe
that man has no such spiritual desires at all can maintain that they
must be imparted to him from without. On that view it will also be
correct to say that it is man's duty to do what he does not will to
do. Every Ethical system which demands of man that he should suppress
his will in order to fulfil tasks which he does not will, works, not
with the whole man, but with a stunted being who lacks the faculty
of spiritual desires. For a man who has been harmoniously developed,
the so-called ideas of the Good lie, not without, but within the
range of his will. Moral action consists, not in the extirpation
of one's individual will, but in the fullest development of human
nature. To regard moral ideals as attainable only on condition that
man destroys his individual will, is to ignore the fact that these
ideals are as much rooted in man's will as the satisfaction of the
so-called animal instincts.

It cannot be denied that the views here outlined may easily be
misunderstood. Immature youths without any moral imagination like to
look upon the instincts of their half-developed natures as the full
substance of humanity, and reject all moral ideas which they have
not themselves originated, in order that they may "live themselves
out" without restriction. But it goes without saying that a theory
which holds for a fully developed man does not hold for half-developed
boys. Anyone who still requires to be brought by education to the point
where his moral nature breaks through the shell of his lower passions,
cannot expect to be measured by the same standard as a mature man. But
it was not my intention to set down what a half-fledged youth requires
to be taught, but the essential nature of a mature man. My intention
was to demonstrate the possibility of freedom, which becomes manifest,
not in actions physically or psychically determined, but in actions
sustained; by spiritual intuitions.

Every mature man is the maker of his own value. He does not aim at
pleasure, which comes to him as a gift of grace on the part of Nature
or of the Creator; nor does he live for the sake of what he recognises
as duty, after he has put away from him the desire for pleasure. He
acts as he wills, that is, in accordance with his moral intuitions;
and he finds in the attainment of what he wills the true enjoyment of
life. He determines the value of his life by measuring his attainments
against his aims. An Ethical system which puts "ought" in the place of
"will," duty in the place of inclination, is consistent in determining
the value of man by the ratio between the demands of duty and his
actual achievements. It applies to man a measure that is external to
his own nature. The view which I have here developed points man back
to himself. It recognises as the true value of life nothing except
what each individual regards as such by the measure of his own will. A
value of life which the individual does not recognise is as little
acknowledged by my views as a purpose of life which does not spring
from the value thus recognised. My view looks upon the individual as
his own master and the assessor of his own value.


The argument of this chapter is open to misapprehension by those who
obstinately insist on the apparent objection, that the will, as such,
is the irrational factor in man, and that its irrationality should
be exhibited in order to make man see, that the goal of his moral
endeavour ought to be his ultimate emancipation from will. Precisely
such an illusory objection has been brought against me by a competent
critic who urged that it is the business of the philosopher to
make good what animals and most men thoughtlessly forget, viz., to
strike a genuine balance of life's account. But the objection ignores
precisely the main point. If freedom is to be realised, the will in
human nature must be sustained by intuitive thinking. At the same
time we find that the will may also be determined by factors other
than intuition, and that morality and its work can have no other root
than the free realisation of intuition issuing from man's essential
nature. Ethical Individualism is well fitted to exhibit morality in
its full dignity. It does not regard true morality as the outward
conformity of the will to a norm. Morality, for it, consists in the
actions which issue from the unfolding of man's moral will as an
integral part of his whole nature, so that immorality appears to man
as a stunting and crippling of his nature.



The view that man is a wholly self-contained, free individuality stands
in apparent conflict with the facts, that he appears as a member of
a natural whole (race, tribe, nation, family, male or female sex),
and that he acts within a whole (state, church, etc.). He exhibits
the general characteristics of the community to which he belongs,
and gives to his actions a content which is defined by the place
which he occupies within a social whole.

This being so, is any individuality left at all? Can we regard man
as a whole in himself, in view of the fact that he grows out of a
whole and fits as a member into a whole?

The character and function of a member of a whole are defined by
the whole. A tribe is a whole, and all members of the tribe exhibit
the peculiar characteristics which are conditioned by the nature of
the tribe. The character and activity of the individual member are
determined by the character of the tribe. Hence the physiognomy and
the conduct of the individual have something generic about them. When
we ask why this or that in a man is so or so, we are referred from
the individual to the genus. The genus explains why something in the
individual appears in the form observed by us.

But man emancipates himself from these generic characteristics. He
develops qualities and activities the reason for which we can seek
only in himself. The generic factors serve him only as a means to
develop his own individual nature. He uses the peculiarities with
which nature has endowed him as material, and gives them a form which
expresses his own individuality. We seek in vain for the reason
of such an expression of a man's individuality in the laws of the
genus. We are dealing here with an individual who can be explained
only through himself. If a man has reached the point of emancipation
from what is generic in him, and we still attempt to explain all his
qualities by reference to the character of the genus, then we lack
the organ for apprehending what is individual.

It is impossible to understand a human being completely if one makes
the concept of the genus the basis of one's judgment. The tendency
to judge according to the genus is most persistent where differences
of sex are involved. Man sees in woman, woman in man, almost always
too much of the generic characteristics of the other's sex, and too
little of what is individual in the other. In practical life this does
less harm to men than to women. The social position of women is, in
most instances, so low because it is not determined by the individual
characteristics of each woman herself, but by the general ideas which
are current concerning the natural function and needs of woman. A
man's activity in life is determined by his individual capacity and
inclination, whereas a woman's activity is supposed to be determined
solely by the fact that she is just a woman. Woman is to be the slave
of the generic, of the general idea of womanhood. So long as men
debate whether woman, from her "natural disposition," is fitted for
this, that, or the other profession, the so-called Woman's Question
will never advance beyond the most elementary stage. What it lies in
woman's nature to strive for had better be left to woman herself to
decide. If it is true that women are fitted only for that profession
which is theirs at present, then they will hardly have it in them to
attain any other. But they must be allowed to decide for themselves
what is conformable to their nature. To all who fear an upheaval of
our social structure, should women be treated as individuals and not
as specimens of their sex, we need only reply that a social structure
in which the status of one-half of humanity is unworthy of a human
being stands itself in great need of improvement. [14]

Anyone who judges human beings according to their generic character
stops short at the very point beyond which they begin to be individuals
whose activity rests on free self-determination. Whatever lies short of
this point may naturally become matter for scientific study. Thus the
characteristics of race, tribe, nation, and sex are the subject-matter
of special sciences. Only men who are simply specimens of the genus
could possibly fit the generic picture which the methods of these
sciences produce. But all these sciences are unable to get as far
as the unique character of the single individual. Where the sphere
of freedom (thinking and acting) begins, there the possibility
of determining the individual according to the laws of his genus
ceases. The conceptual content which man, by an act of thought,
has to connect with percepts, in order to possess himself fully of
reality (cp. pp. 83 ff.), cannot be fixed by anyone once and for all,
and handed down to humanity ready-made. The individual must gain
his concepts through his own intuition. It is impossible to deduce
from any concept of the genus how the individual ought to think;
that depends singly and solely on the individual himself. So, again,
it is just as impossible to determine, on the basis of the universal
characteristics of human nature, what concrete ends the individual
will set before himself. Anyone who wants to understand the single
individual must penetrate to the innermost core of his being, and
not stop short at those qualities which he shares with others. In
this sense every single human being is a problem. And every science
which deals only with abstract thoughts and generic concepts is but
a preparation for the kind of knowledge which we gain when a human
individual communicates to us his way of viewing the world, and for
that other kind of knowledge which each of us gains from the content
of his own will. Wherever we feel that here we are dealing with a
man who has emancipated his thinking from all that is generic, and
his will from the grooves typical of his kind, there we must cease
to call in any concepts of our own making if we would understand
his nature. Knowledge consists in the combination by thought of a
concept and a percept. With all other objects the observer has to
gain his concepts through his intuition. But if the problem is to
understand a free individuality, we need only to take over into our
own minds those concepts by which the individual determines himself,
in their pure form (without admixture). Those who always mix their
own ideas into their judgment on another person can never attain to
the understanding of an individuality. Just as the free individual
emancipates himself from the characteristics of the genus, so our
knowledge of the individual must emancipate itself from the methods
by which we understand what is generic.

A man counts as a free spirit in a human community only to the degree
in which he has emancipated himself, in the way we have indicated, from
all that is generic. No man is all genus, none is all individuality;
but every man gradually emancipates a greater or lesser sphere of
his being, both from the generic characteristics of animal life,
and from the laws of human authorities which rule him despotically.

In respect of that part of his nature for which man is not able to
win this freedom for himself, he forms a member within the organism
of nature and of spirit. He lives, in this respect, by the imitation
of others, or in obedience to their command. But ethical value belongs
only to that part of his conduct which springs from his intuitions. And
whatever moral instincts man possesses through the inheritance of
social instincts, acquire ethical value through being taken up into
his intuitions. In such ethical intuitions all moral activity of men
has its root. To put this differently: the moral life of humanity is
the sum-total of the products of the moral imagination of free human
individuals. This is Monism's confession of faith.




An explanation of Nature on a single principle, or, in other
words, Monism, derives from human experience all the material
which it requires for the explanation of the world. In the
same way, it looks for the springs of action also within the
world of observation, i.e., in that human part of Nature which
is accessible to our self-observation, and more particularly in
the moral imagination. Monism declines to seek outside that world
the ultimate grounds of the world which we perceive and think. For
Monism, the unity which reflective observation adds to the manifold
multiplicity of percepts, is identical with the unity which the human
desire for knowledge demands, and through which this desire seeks
entrance into the physical and spiritual realms. Whoever looks for
another unity behind this one, only shows that he fails to perceive
the coincidence of the results of thinking with the demands of
the instinct for knowledge. A particular human individual is not
something cut off from the universe. He is a part of the universe,
and his connection with the cosmic whole is broken, not in reality,
but only for our perception. At first we apprehend the human part
of the universe as a self-existing thing, because we are unable to
perceive the cords and ropes by which the fundamental forces of the
cosmos keep turning the wheel of our life.

All who remain at this perceptual standpoint see the part of the
whole as if it were a truly independent, self-existing thing,
a monad which gains all its knowledge of the rest of the world in
some mysterious manner from without. But Monism has shown that we can
believe in this independence only so long as thought does not gather
our percepts into the network of the conceptual world. As soon as this
happens, all partial existence in the universe, all isolated being,
reveals itself as a mere appearance due to perception. Existence as
a self-contained totality can be predicated only of the universe as a
whole. Thought destroys the appearances due to perception and assigns
to our individual existence a place in the life of the cosmos. The
unity of the conceptual world which contains all objective percepts,
has room also within itself for the content of our subjective
personality. Thought gives us the true structure of reality as a
self-contained unity, whereas the multiplicity of percepts is but
an appearance conditioned by our organisation (cp. pp. 178 ff.). The
recognition of the true unity of reality, as against the appearance
of multiplicity, is at all times the goal of human thought. Science
strives to apprehend our apparently disconnected percepts as a unity by
tracing their inter-relations according to natural law. But, owing to
the prejudice that an inter-relation discovered by human thought has
only a subjective validity, thinkers have sought the true ground of
unity in some object transcending the world of our experience (God,
will, absolute spirit, etc.). Further, basing themselves on this
prejudice, men have tried to gain, in addition to their knowledge
of inter-relations within experience, a second kind of knowledge
transcending experience, which should reveal the connection between
empirical inter-relations and those realities which lie beyond
the limits of experience (Metaphysics). The reason why, by logical
thinking, we understand the nexus of the world, was thought to be that
an original creator has built up the world according to logical laws,
and, similarly, the ground of our actions was thought to lie in the
will of this original being. It was overlooked that thinking embraces
in one grasp the subjective and the objective, and that it communicates
to us the whole of reality in the union which it effects between
percept and concept. Only so long as we contemplate the laws which
pervade and determine all percepts, in the abstract form of concepts,
do we indeed deal only with something purely subjective. But this
subjectivity does not belong to the content of the concept which, by
means of thought, is added to the percept. This content is taken, not
from the subject, but from reality. It is that part of reality which
is inaccessible to perception. It is experience, but not the kind of
experience which comes from perception. Those who cannot understand
that the concept is something real, have in mind only the abstract
form, in which we fix and isolate the concept. But in this isolation,
the concept is as much dependent solely on our organisation as is
the percept. The tree which I perceive, taken in isolation by itself,
has no existence; it exists only as a member in the immense mechanism
of Nature, and is possible only in real connection with Nature. An
abstract concept, taken by itself, has as little reality as a percept
taken by itself. The percept is that part of reality which is given
objectively, the concept that part which is given subjectively (by
intuition; cp. pp. 90 ff.). Our mental organisation breaks up reality
into these two factors. The one factor is apprehended by perception,
the other by intuition. Only the union of the two, which consists of
the percept fitted according to law into its place in the universe, is
reality in its full character. If we take mere percepts by themselves,
we have no reality but only a disconnected chaos. If we take the laws
which determine percepts by themselves, we have nothing but abstract
concepts. Reality is not to be found in the abstract concept. It is
revealed to the contemplative act of thought which regards neither
the concept by itself nor the percept by itself, but the union of both.

Even the most orthodox Idealist will not deny that we live in the
real world (that, as real beings, we are rooted in it); but he will
deny that our knowledge, by means of its ideas, is able to grasp
reality as we live it. As against this view, Monism shows that
thought is neither subjective nor objective, but a principle which
holds together both these sides of reality. The contemplative act of
thought is a cognitive process which belongs itself to the sequence of
real events. By thought we overcome, within the limits of experience
itself, the one-sidedness of mere perception. We are not able by means
of abstract conceptual hypotheses (purely conceptual speculation)
to puzzle out the nature of the real, but in so far as we find for
our percepts the right concepts we live in the real. Monism does not
seek to supplement experience by something unknowable (transcending
experience), but finds reality in concept and percept. It does not
manufacture a metaphysical system out of pure concepts, because it
looks upon concepts as only one side of reality, viz., the side which
remains hidden from perception, but is meaningless except in union
with percepts. But Monism gives man the conviction that he lives in
the world of reality, and has no need to seek beyond the world for a
higher reality. It refuses to look for Absolute Reality anywhere but
in experience, because it recognises reality in the very content of
experience. Monism is satisfied with this reality, because it knows
that our thought points to no other. What Dualism seeks beyond the
world of experience, that Monism finds in this world itself. Monism
shows that our knowledge grasps reality in its true nature, not in a
purely subjective image. It holds the conceptual content of the world
to be identical for all human individuals (cp. pp. 84 ff.). According
to Monistic principles, every human individual regards every other
as akin to himself, because it is the same world-content which
expresses itself in all. In the single conceptual world there are
not as many concepts of "lion" as there are individuals who form the
thought of "lion," but only one. And the concept which A adds to the
percept of "lion" is identical with B's concept except so far as,
in each case, it is apprehended by a different perceiving subject
(cp. p. 85). Thought leads all perceiving subjects back to the ideal
unity in all multiplicity, which is common to them all. There is but
one ideal world, but it realises itself in human subjects as in a
multiplicity of individuals. So long as man apprehends himself merely
by self-observation, he looks upon himself as this particular being,
but so soon as he becomes conscious of the ideal world which shines
forth within him, and which embraces all particulars within itself,
he perceives that the Absolute Reality lives within him. Dualism fixes
upon the Divine Being as that which permeates all men and lives in them
all. Monism finds this universal Divine Life in Reality itself. The
ideal content of another subject is also my content, and I regard it
as a different content only so long as I perceive, but no longer when I
think. Every man embraces in his thought only a part of the total world
of ideas, and so far, individuals are distinguished one from another
also by the actual contents of their thought. But all these contents
belong to a self-contained whole, which comprises within itself the
thought-contents of all men. Hence every man, in so far as he thinks,
lays hold of the universal Reality which pervades all men. To fill
one's life with such thought-content is to live in Reality, and at
the same time to live in God. The thought of a Beyond owes its origin
to the misconception of those who believe that this world cannot have
the ground of its existence in itself. They do not understand that,
by thinking, they discover just what they demand for the explanation
of the perceptual world. This is the reason why no speculation has
ever produced any content which has not been borrowed from reality
as it is given to us. A personal God is nothing but a human being
transplanted into the Beyond. Schopenhauer's Will is the human will
made absolute. Hartmann's Unconscious, made up of idea and will,
is but a compound of two abstractions drawn from experience. Exactly
the same is true of all other transcendent principles.

The truth is that the human mind never transcends the reality in which
it lives. Indeed, it has no need to transcend it, seeing that this
world contains everything that is required for its own explanation. If
philosophers declare themselves finally content when they have deduced
the world from principles which they borrow from experience and then
transplant into an hypothetical Beyond, the same satisfaction ought
to be possible, if these same principles are allowed to remain in this
world to which they belong anyhow. All attempts to transcend the world
are purely illusory, and the principles transplanted into the Beyond do
not explain the world any better than the principles which are immanent
in it. When thought understands itself, it does not demand any such
transcendence at all, for there is no thought-content which does not
find within the world a perceptual content, in union with which it can
form a real object. The objects of imagination, too, are contents which
have no validity, until they have been transformed into ideas that
refer to a perceptual content. Through this perceptual content they
have their place in reality. A concept the content of which is supposed
to lie beyond the world which is given to us, is an abstraction to
which no reality corresponds. Thought can discover only the concepts of
reality; in order to find reality itself, we need also perception. An
Absolute Being for which we invent a content, is a hypothesis which
no thought can entertain that understands itself. Monism does not
deny ideal factors; indeed, it refuses to recognise as fully real
a perceptual content which has no ideal counterpart, but it finds
nothing within the whole range of thought that is not immanent within
this world of ours. A science which restricts itself to a description
of percepts, without advancing to their ideal complements, is, for
Monism, but a fragment. But Monism regards as equally fragmentary
all abstract concepts which do not find their complement in percepts,
and which fit nowhere into the conceptual net that embraces the whole
perceptual world. Hence it knows no ideas referring to objects lying
beyond our experience and supposed to form the content of purely
hypothetical Metaphysics. Whatever mankind has produced in the way
of such ideas Monism regards as abstractions from experience, whose
origin in experience has been overlooked by their authors.

Just as little, according to Monistic principles, are the ends of our
actions capable of being derived from the Beyond. So far as we can
think them, they must have their origin in human intuition. Man does
not adopt the purposes of an objective (transcendent) being as his
own individual purposes, but he pursues the ends which his own moral
imagination sets before him. The idea which realises itself in an
action is selected by the agent from the single ideal world and made
the basis of his will. Consequently his action is not a realisation
of commands which have been thrust into this world from the Beyond,
but of human intuitions which belong to this world. For Monism there
is no ruler of the world standing outside of us and determining the
aim and direction of our actions. There is for man no transcendent
ground of existence, the counsels of which he might discover, in order
thence to learn the ends to which he ought to direct his action. Man
must rest wholly upon himself. He must himself give a content to his
action. It is in vain that he seeks outside the world in which he lives
for motives of his will. If he is to go at all beyond the satisfaction
of the natural instincts for which Mother Nature has provided, he must
look for motives in his own moral imagination, unless he finds it more
convenient to let them be determined for him by the moral imagination
of others. In other words, he must either cease acting altogether,
or else act from motives which he selects for himself from the world
of his ideas, or which others select for him from that same world. If
he develops at all beyond a life absorbed in sensuous instincts and
in the execution of the commands of others, then there is nothing
that can determine him except himself. He has to act from a motive
which he gives to himself and which nothing else can determine for
him except himself. It is true that this motive is ideally determined
in the single world of ideas; but in actual fact it must be selected
by the agent from that world and translated into reality. Monism can
find the ground for the actual realisation of an idea through human
action only in the human being himself. That an idea should pass
into action must be willed by man before it can happen. Such a will
consequently has its ground only in man himself. Man, on this view,
is the ultimate determinant of his action. He is free.


In the second part of this book the attempt has been made to justify
the conviction that freedom is to be found in human conduct as it
really is. For this purpose it was necessary to sort out, from the
whole sphere of human conduct, those actions with respect to which
unprejudiced self-observation may appropriately speak of freedom. These
are the actions which appear as realisations of ideal intuitions. No
other actions will be called free by an unprejudiced observer. However,
open-minded self-observation compels man to regard himself as endowed
with the capacity for progress on the road towards ethical intuitions
and their realisation. Yet this open-minded observation of the ethical
nature of man is, by itself, insufficient to constitute the final court
of appeal for the question of freedom. For, suppose intuitive thinking
had itself sprung from some other essence; suppose its essence were
not grounded in itself, then the consciousness of freedom, which issues
from moral conduct, would prove to be a mere illusion. But the second
part of this book finds its natural support in the first part, which
presents intuitive thinking as an inward spiritual activity which man
experiences as such. To appreciate through experience this essence
of thinking is equivalent to recognising the freedom of intuitive
thinking. And once we know that this thinking is free, we know also
the sphere within which will may be called free. We shall regard man
as a free agent, if on the basis of inner experience we may attribute
to the life of intuitive thinking a self-sustaining essence. Whoever
cannot do this will be unable to discover any wholly unassailable
road to the belief in freedom. The experience to which we here refer
reveals in consciousness intuitive thinking, the reality of which
does not depend merely on our being conscious of it. Freedom, too,
is thereby revealed as the characteristic of all actions which issue
from the intuitions of consciousness.


The argumentation of this book is built up on the fact of intuitive
thinking, which may be experienced in a purely spiritual way, and which
every perception inserts into reality so that reality comes thereby to
be known. All that this book aimed at presenting was the result of a
survey from the basis of our experience of intuitive thinking. However,
the intention also was to emphasise the systematic interpretation which
this thinking, as experienced by us, demands. It demands that we shall
not deny its presence in cognition as a self-sustaining experience. It
demands that we acknowledge its capacity for experiencing reality in
co-operation with perception, and that we do not make it seek reality
in a world outside experience and accessible only to inference, in
the face of which human thinking would be only a subjective activity.

This view characterises thinking as that factor in man through which
he inserts himself spiritually into reality. (And, strictly, no one
should confuse this kind of world-view, which is based on thinking as
directly experienced, with mere Rationalism.) But, on the other hand,
the whole tenor of the preceding argumentation shows that perception
yields a determination of reality for human knowledge only when it
is taken hold of in thinking. Outside of thinking there is nothing to
characterise reality for what it is. Hence we have no right to imagine
that sense-perception is the only witness to reality. Whatever comes
to us by way of perception on our journey through life, we cannot
but expect. The only point open to question would be whether, from
the exclusive point of view of thinking as we intuitively experience
it, we have a right to expect that over and above sensuous perception
there is also spiritual perception. This expectation is justified. For,
though intuitive thinking is, on the one hand, an active process taking
place in the human mind, it is, on the other hand, also a spiritual
perception mediated by no sense-organ. It is a perception in which the
percipient is himself active, and a self-activity which is at the same
time perceived. In intuitive thinking man enters a spiritual world
also as a percipient. Whatever within this world presents itself to
him as percept in the same way in which the spiritual world of his own
thinking so presents itself, that is recognised by him as constituting
a world of spiritual perception. This world of spiritual perception we
may suppose to be standing in the same relation to thinking as does,
on the sensuous side, the world of sense-perception. Man does not
experience the world of spiritual perception as an alien something,
because he is already familiar in his intuitive thinking with an
experience of purely spiritual character. With such a world of
spiritual perception a number of the writings are concerned which
I have published since this present book appeared. The Philosophy
of Spiritual Activity lays the philosophical foundation for these
later writings. For it attempts to show that in the very experience
of thinking, rightly understood, we experience Spirit. This is the
reason why it appears to the author that no one will stop short of
entering the world of spiritual perception who has been able to adopt,
in all seriousness, the point of view of the Philosophy of Spiritual
Activity. True, logical deduction--by syllogisms--will not extract
out of the contents of this book the contents of the author's later
books. But a living understanding of what is meant in this book by
"intuitive thinking" will naturally prepare the way for living entry
into the world of spiritual perception.




Theory of Knowledge aims at being a scientific investigation of
the very fact which all other sciences take for granted without
examination, viz., knowing or knowledge-getting itself. To say this
is to attribute to it, from the very start, the character of being the
fundamental philosophical discipline. For, it is only this discipline
which can tell us what value and significance belong to the insight
gained by the other sciences. In this respect it is the foundation for
all scientific endeavour. But, it is clear that the Theory of Knowledge
can fulfil its task only if it works without any presuppositions of
its own, so far as that is possible in view of the nature of human
knowledge. This is probably conceded on all sides. And yet, a more
detailed examination of the better-known epistemological systems
reveals that, at the very starting-point of the inquiry, there is
made a whole series of assumptions which detract considerably from
the plausibility of the rest of the argument. In particular, it is
noticeable how frequently certain hidden assumptions are made in the
very formulation of the fundamental problems of epistemology. But,
if a science begins by misstating its problems, we must despair
from the start of finding the right solution. The history of the
sciences teaches us that countless errors, from which whole epochs have
suffered, are to be traced wholly and solely to the fact that certain
problems were wrongly formulated. For illustrations there is no need
to go back to Aristotle or to the Ars Magna Lulliana. There are plenty
of examples in more recent times. The numerous questions concerning
the purposes of the rudimentary organs of certain organisms could
be correctly formulated only after the discovery of the fundamental
law of biogenesis had created the necessary conditions. As long as
Biology was under the influence of teleological concepts, it was
impossible to put these problems in a form permitting a satisfactory
answer. What fantastic ideas, for example, were current concerning the
purpose of the so-called pineal gland, so long as it was fashionable
to frame biological questions in terms of "purpose." An answer was
not achieved until the solution of the problem was sought by the
method of Comparative Anatomy, and scientists asked whether this
organ might not be merely a residual survival in man from a lower
evolutionary level. Or, to mention yet another example, consider the
modifications in certain physical problems after the discovery of the
laws of the mechanical equivalents of heat and of the conservation
of energy! In short, the success of scientific investigations depends
essentially upon the investigator's ability to formulate his problems
correctly. Even though the Theory of Knowledge, as the presupposition
of all other sciences, occupies a position very different from
theirs, we may yet expect that for it, too, successful progress in
its investigations will become possible only when the fundamental
questions have been put in the correct form.

The following discussions aim, in the first place, at such a
formulation of the problem of knowledge as will do justice to the
character of the Theory of Knowledge as a discipline which is without
any presuppositions whatever. Their secondary aim is to throw light on
the relation of J. G. Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre to such a fundamental
philosophical discipline. The reason why precisely Fichte's attempt
to provide an absolutely certain basis for the sciences will be
brought into closer relation with our own philosophical programme,
will become clear of itself in the course of our investigation.



It is usual to designate Kant as the founder of the Theory of
Knowledge in the modern sense. Against this view it might plausibly
be argued that the history of philosophy records prior to Kant
numerous investigations which deserve to be regarded as something
more than mere beginnings of such a science. Thus Volkelt, in his
fundamental work on the Theory of Knowledge, [16] remarks that the
critical treatment of this discipline took its origin already with
Locke. But in the writings of even older philosophers, yes, even in
the philosophy of Ancient Greece, discussions are to be found which
at the present day are usually undertaken under the heading of Theory
of Knowledge. However, Kant has revolutionised all problems under this
head from their very depths up, and, following him, numerous thinkers
have worked them through so thoroughly that all the older attempts at
solutions may be found over again either in Kant himself or else in
his successors. Hence, for the purposes of a purely systematic, as
distinct from a historical, study of the Theory of Knowledge, there
is not much danger of omitting any important phenomenon by taking
account only of the period since Kant burst upon the world with his
Critique of Pure Reason. All previous epistemological achievements
are recapitulated during this period.

The fundamental question of Kant's Theory of Knowledge is, How are
synthetic judgments a priori possible? Let us consider this question
for a moment in respect of its freedom from presuppositions. Kant
asks the question precisely because he believes that we can attain
unconditionally certain knowledge only if we are able to prove
the validity of synthetic judgments a priori. He says: "Should this
question be answered in a satisfactory way, we shall at the same time
learn what part reason plays in the foundation and completion of those
sciences which contain a theoretical a priori knowledge of objects;"
[17] and, further, "Metaphysics stands and falls with the solution of
this problem, on which, therefore, the very existence of Metaphysics
absolutely depends." [18]

Are there any presuppositions in this question, as formulated by
Kant? Yes, there are. For the possibility of a system of absolutely
certain knowledge is made dependent on its being built up exclusively
out of judgments which are synthetic and acquired independently of
all experience. "Synthetic" is Kant's term for judgments in which
the concept of the predicate adds to the concept of the subject
something which lies wholly outside the subject, "although it stands
in some connection with the subject," [19] whereas in "analytic"
judgments the predicate affirms only what is already (implicitly)
contained in the subject. This is not the place for considering the
acute objections which Johannes Rehmke [20] brings forward against
this classification of judgments. For our present purpose, it is
enough to understand that we can attain to genuine knowledge only
through judgments which add to one concept another the content of
which was not, for us at least, contained in that of the former. If
we choose to call this class of judgments, with Kant, "synthetic," we
may agree that knowledge in judgment form is obtainable only where the
connection of predicate and subject is of this synthetic sort. But,
the case is very different with the second half of Kant's question,
which demands that these judgments are to be formed a priori, i.e.,
independently of all experience. For one thing, it is altogether
possible [21] that such judgments do not occur at all. At the start
of the Theory of Knowledge we must hold entirely open the question,
whether we arrive at any judgments otherwise than by experience, or
only by experience. Indeed, to unprejudiced reflection the alleged
independence of experience seems from the first to be impossible. For,
let the object of our knowledge be what it may--it must, surely, always
present itself to us at some time in an immediate and unique way; in
short, it must become for us an experience. Mathematical judgments,
too, are known by us in no other way than by our experiencing them
in particular concrete cases. Even if, with Otto Liebmann, [22] for
example, we treat them as founded upon a certain organisation of our
consciousness, this empirical character is none the less manifest. We
shall then say that this or that proposition is necessarily valid,
because the denial of its truth would imply the denial of our
consciousness, but the content of a proposition can enter our knowledge
only by its becoming an experience for us in exactly the same way in
which a process in the outer world of nature does so. Let the content
of such a proposition include factors which guarantee its absolute
validity, or let its validity be based on other grounds--in either
case, I can possess myself of it only in one way and in no other:
it must be presented to me in experience. This is the first objection
to Kant's view.

The other objection lies in this, that we have no right, at the outset
of our epistemological investigations, to affirm that no absolutely
certain knowledge can have its source in experience. Without doubt,
it is easily conceivable that experience itself might contain a
criterion guaranteeing the certainty of all knowledge which has an
empirical source.

Thus, Kant's formulation of the problem implies two
presuppositions. The first is that we need, over and above experience,
another source of cognitions. The second is that all knowledge from
experience has only conditional validity. Kant entirely fails to
realise that these two propositions are open to doubt, that they stand
in need of critical examination. He takes them over as unquestioned
assumptions from the dogmatic philosophy of his predecessors and makes
them the basis of his own critical inquiries. The dogmatic thinkers
assume the validity of these two propositions and simply apply them in
order to get from each the kind of knowledge which it guarantees. Kant
assumed their validity and only asks, What are the conditions of
their validity? But, what if they are not valid at all? In that case,
the edifice of Kantian doctrine lacks all foundation whatever.

The whole argumentation of the five sections which precede Kant's
formulation of the problem, amounts to an attempt to prove that the
propositions of Mathematics are synthetic. [23] But, precisely the
two presuppositions which we have pointed out are retained as mere
assumptions in his discussions. In the Introduction to the Second
Edition of the Critique of Pure Reason we read, "experience can tell us
that a thing is so and so, but not that it cannot be otherwise," and,
"experience never bestows on its judgments true or strict universality,
but only the assumed and relative universality of induction." [24]
In Prologomena, [25] we find it said, "First, as regards the sources
of metaphysics, the very concept of Metaphysics implies that they
cannot be empirical. The principles of Metaphysics (where the term
'principles' includes, not merely its fundamental propositions, but
also its fundamental concepts), can never be gained from experience,
for the knowledge of the metaphysician has precisely to be, not
physical, but 'metaphysical,' i.e., lying beyond the reach of
experience." Lastly Kant says in the Critique of Pure Reason: "The
first thing to notice is, that no truly mathematical judgments are
empirical, but always a priori. They carry necessity on their very
face, and therefore cannot be derived from experience. Should anyone
demur to this, I am willing to limit my assertion to the propositions
of Pure Mathematics, which, as everybody will admit, are not empirical
judgments, but perfectly pure a priori knowledge." [26]

We may open the Critique of Pure Reason wherever we please, we shall
always find that in all its discussions these two dogmatic propositions
are taken for granted. Cohen [27] and Stadler [28] attempt to prove
that Kant has established the a priori character of the propositions
of Mathematics and Pure Natural Science. But all that Kant tries to do
in the Critique may be summed up as follows. The fact that Mathematics
and Pure Natural Science are a priori sciences implies that the "form"
of all experience has its ground in the subject. Hence, all that is
given by experience is the "matter" of sensations. This matter is
synthesised by the forms, inherent in the mind, into the system of
empirical science. It is only as principles of order for the matter
of sense that the formal principles of the a priori theories have
function and significance. They make empirical science possible, but
they cannot transcend it. These formal principles are nothing but the
synthetic judgments a priori, which therefore extend, as conditions
of all possible empirical knowledge, as far as that knowledge but no
further. Thus, the Critique of Pure Reason, so far from proving the
a priori character of Mathematics and Pure Natural Science, does but
delimit the sphere of their applicability on the assumption that their
principles must become known independently of experience. Indeed,
Kant is so far from attempting a proof of the a priori character of
these principles, that he simply excludes that part of Mathematics
(see the quotation above) in which, even according to his view, that
character might be called in question, and confines himself to the part
in which he thinks he can infer the a priori character from the bare
concepts involved. Johannes Volkelt, too, comes to the conclusion that
"Kant starts from the explicit presupposition" that "there actually
does exist knowledge which is universal and necessary." He goes
on to remark, "This presupposition which Kant has never explicitly
questioned, is so profoundly contradictory to the character of a truly
critical Theory of Knowledge, that the question must be seriously put
whether the Critique is to be accepted as critical Theory of Knowledge
at all." Volkelt does, indeed, decide that there are good grounds for
answering this question in the affirmative, but still, as he says,
"this dogmatic assumption does disturb the critical attitude of
Kant's epistemology in the most far-reaching way." [29] In short,
Volkelt, too, finds that the Critique of Pure Reason is not a Theory
of Knowledge free from all assumptions.

In substantial agreement with our view are also the views of
O. Liebmann, [30] Holder, [31] Windelband, [32] Ueberweg, [33] Eduard
von Hartmann, [34] and Kuno Fischer, [35] all of whom acknowledge
that Kant makes the a priori character of Pure Mathematics and Physics
the basis of his whole argumentation.

The propositions that we really have knowledge which is independent
of all experience, and that experience can furnish knowledge of
only relative universality, could be accepted by us as valid only
if they were conclusions deduced from other propositions. It would
be absolutely necessary for these propositions to be preceded by an
inquiry into the essential nature of experience, as well as by another
inquiry into the essential nature of knowing. The former might justify
the first, the latter the second, of the above two propositions.

It would be possible to reply to the objections which we have urged
against the Critique of Pure Reason, as follows. It might be said
that every Theory of Knowledge must first lead the reader to the
place where the starting-point, free from all presuppositions, is to
be found. For, the knowledge which we have at any given moment of our
lives is far removed from this starting-point, so that we must first
be artificially led back to it. Now, it is true that some such mutual
understanding between author and reader concerning the starting-point
of the science is necessary in all Theory of Knowledge. But such an
understanding ought on no account to go beyond showing how far the
alleged starting-point of knowing is truly such. It ought to consist of
purely self-evident, analytic propositions. It ought not to lay down
any positive, substantial affirmations which influence, as in Kant,
the content of the subsequent argumentation. Moreover, it is the duty
of the epistemologist to show that the starting-point which he alleges
is really free from all presuppositions. But all this has nothing to
do with the essential nature of that starting-point. It lies wholly
outside the starting-point and makes no affirmations about it. At the
beginning of mathematical instruction, too, the teacher must exert
himself to convince the pupil of the axiomatic character of certain
principles. But no one will maintain that the content of the axioms is
in any way made dependent on these prior discussions of their axiomatic
character. [36] In exactly the same way, the epistemologist, in his
introductory remarks, ought to show the method by which we can reach
a starting-point free from all presuppositions. But the real content
of the starting-point ought to be independent of the reflections by
which it is discovered. There is, most certainly, a wide difference
between such an introduction to the Theory of Knowledge and Kant's way
of beginning with affirmations of quite definite, dogmatic character.



Kant's mistaken formulation of the problem has had a greater or lesser
influence on all subsequent students of the Theory of Knowledge. For
Kant, the view that all objects which are given to us in experience
are ideas in our minds is a consequence of his theory of the a
priori. For nearly all his successors, it has become the first
principle and starting-point of their epistemological systems. It is
said that the first and most immediate truth is, simply and solely,
the proposition that we know our own ideas. This has come to be
a well-nigh universal conviction among philosophers. G. E. Schulze
maintains in his Ænesidemus, as early as 1792, that all our cognitions
are mere ideas and that we can never transcend our ideas. Schopenhauer
puts forward, with all the philosophical pathos which distinguishes
him, the view that the permanent achievement of Kant's philosophy
is the thesis that "the world is my idea." To Eduard von Hartmann
this thesis is so incontestable, that he addresses his treatise,
Kritische Grundlegung des Transcendentalen Realismus, exclusively
to readers who have achieved critical emancipation from the naïve
identification of the world of perception with the thing-in-itself. He
demands of them that they shall have made clear to themselves the
absolute heterogeneity of the object of perception which through the
act of representation has been given as a subjective and ideal content
of consciousness, and of the thing-in-itself which is independent of
the act of representation and of the form of consciousness and which
exists in its own right. His readers are required to be thoroughly
convinced that the whole of what is immediately given to us consists
of ideas. [37] In his latest work on Theory of Knowledge, Hartmann
does, indeed, attempt to give reasons for this view. What value should
be attached to these reasons by an unprejudiced Theory of Knowledge
will appear in the further course of our discussions. Otto Liebmann
posits as the sacrosanct first principle of the Theory of Knowledge
the proposition, "Consciousness cannot transcend itself." [38] Volkelt
has called the proposition that the first and most immediate truth is
the limitation of all our knowledge, in the first instance, to our own
ideas exclusively, the positivistic principle of knowledge. He regards
only those theories of knowledge as "in the fullest sense critical"
which "place this principle, as the only fixed starting-point of
philosophy, at the head of their discussions and then consistently
think out its consequences." [39] Other philosophers place other
propositions at the head of the Theory of Knowledge, e.g., the
proposition that its real problem concerns the relation between
Thought and Being, and the possibility of a mediation between them;
[40] or that it concerns the way in which Being becomes an object
of Consciousness; [41] and many others. Kirchmann starts from two
epistemological axioms, "Whatever is perceived is," and, "Whatever
is self-contradictory, is not." [42] According to E. L. Fischer,
knowledge is the science of something actual, something real, [43]
and he criticises this dogma as little as does Goering who asserts
similarly, "To know means always to know something which is. This is a
fact which cannot be denied either by scepticism or by Kant's critical
philosophy." [44] These two latter thinkers simply lay down the law:
This is what knowledge is. They do not trouble to ask themselves with
what right they do it.

But, even if these various propositions were correct, or led to correct
formulations of the problem, it would still be impossible to discuss
them at the outset of the Theory of Knowledge. For, they all belong, as
positive and definite cognitions, within the realm of knowledge. To say
that my knowledge extends, in the first instance, only to my ideas,
is to express in a perfectly definite judgment something which I
know. In this judgment I qualify the world which is given to me by
the predicate "existing in the form of idea." But how am I to know,
prior to all knowledge, that the objects given to me are ideas?

The best way to convince ourselves of the truth of the assertion
that this proposition has no right to be put at the head of the
Theory of Knowledge, is to retrace the way which the human mind must
follow in order to reach this proposition, which has become almost
an integral part of the whole modern scientific consciousness. The
considerations which have led to it are systematically summarised,
with approximate exhaustiveness, in Part I of Eduard von Hartmann's
treatise, Das Grundproblem der Erkenntnistheorie. His statement, there,
may serve as a sort of guiding-thread for us in our task of reviewing
the reasons which may lead to the acceptance of this proposition.

These reasons are physical, psycho-physical, physiological, and
properly philosophical.

The Physicist is led by observation of the phenomena which occur
in our environment when, e.g., we experience a sensation of sound,
to the view that there is nothing in these phenomena which in the
very least resembles what we perceive immediately as sound. Outside,
in the space which surrounds us, nothing is to be found except
longitudinal oscillations of bodies and of the air. Thence it is
inferred that what in ordinary life we call "sound" or "tone" is
nothing but the subjective reaction of our organism to these wave-like
oscillations. Similarly, it is inferred that light and colour and
heat are purely subjective. The phenomena of colour-dispersion, of
refraction, of interference, of polarisation, teach us that to the
just-mentioned sensations there correspond in the outer space certain
transverse oscillations which we feel compelled to ascribe, in part
to the bodies, in part to an immeasurably fine, elastic fluid, the
"ether." Further, the Physicist is driven by certain phenomena in the
world of bodies to abandon the belief in the continuity of objects in
space, and to analyse them into systems of exceedingly minute particles
(molecules, atoms), the size of which, relatively to the distances
between them, is immeasurably small. Thence it is inferred that all
action of bodies on each other is across the empty intervening space,
and is thus a genuine actio in distans. The Physicist believes himself
justified in holding that the action of bodies on our senses of touch
and temperature does not take place through direct contact, because
there must always remain a definite, if small, distance between the
body and the spot on the skin which it is said to "touch." Thence it
is said to follow that what we sense as hardness or heat in bodies
is nothing but the reactions of the end-organs of our touch- and
temperature-nerves to the molecular forces of bodies which act upon
them across empty space.

These considerations from the sphere of Physics are supplemented
by the Psycho-physicists with their doctrine of specific
sense-energies. J. Müller has shown that every sense can be affected
only in its own characteristic way as determined by its organisation,
and that its reaction is always of the same kind whatever may be the
external stimulus. If the optical nerve is stimulated, light-sensations
are experienced by us regardless of whether the stimulus was pressure,
or an electric current, or light. On the other hand, the same external
phenomena produce quite different sensations according as they are
perceived by different senses. From these facts the inference has
been drawn that there occurs only one sort of phenomenon in the
external world, viz., motions, and that the variety of qualities of
the world we perceive is essentially a reaction of our senses to these
motions. According to this view, we do not perceive the external world
as such, but only the subjective sensations which it evokes in us.

Physiology adds its quota to the physical arguments. Physics deals
with the phenomena which occur outside our organisms and which
correspond to our percepts. Physiology seeks to investigate the
processes which go on in man's own body when a certain sensation is
evoked in him. It teaches us that the epidermis is wholly insensitive
to the stimuli in the external world. Thus, e.g., if external stimuli
are to affect the end-organs of our touch-nerves on the surface of
our bodies, the oscillations which occur outside our bodies have to
be transmitted through the epidermis. In the case of the senses of
hearing and of sight, the external motions have, in addition, to be
modified by a number of structures in the sense-organs, before they
reach the nerves. The nerves have to conduct the effects produced in
the end-organs up to the central organ, and only then can take place
the process by means of which purely mechanical changes in the brain
produce sensations. It is clear that the stimulus which acts upon
the sense-organs is so completely changed by the transformations
which it undergoes, that every trace of resemblance between the
initial impression on the sense-organs and the final sensation in
consciousness must be obliterated. Hartmann sums up the outcome of
these considerations in these words: "This content of consciousness
consists, originally, of sensations which are the reflex responses
of the soul to the molecular motions in the highest cortical centres,
but which have not the faintest resemblance to the molecular motions
by which they are elicited."

If we think this line of argument through to the end, we must agree
that, assuming it to be correct, there survives in the content
of our consciousness not the least element of what may be called
"external existence."

To the physical and physiological objections against so-called "Naïve
Realism" Hartmann adds some further objections which he describes
as philosophical in the strict sense. A logical examination of the
physical and physiological objections reveals that, after all,
the desired conclusion can be reached only if we start from the
existence and nexus of external objects, just as these are assumed by
the ordinary naïve consciousness, and then inquire how this external
world can enter the consciousness of beings with organisms such as
ours. We have seen that every trace of such an external world is lost
on the way from the impression on the sense-organ to the appearance
of the sensation in our consciousness, and that in the latter nothing
survives except our ideas. Hence, we have to assume that the picture
of the external world which we actually have, has been built up by
the soul on the basis of the sensations given to it. First, the soul
constructs out of the data of the senses of touch and sight a picture
of the world in space, and then the sensations of the other senses
are fitted into this space-system. When we are compelled to think of
a certain complex of sensations as belonging together, we are led
to the concept of substance and regard substance as the bearer of
sense-qualities. When we observe that some sense-qualities disappear
from a substance and that others appear in their place, we ascribe
this event in the world of phenomena to a change regulated by the law
of causality. Thus, according to this view, our whole world-picture
is composed of subjective sensations which are ordered by the activity
of our own souls. Hartmann says, "What the subject perceives is always
only modifications of its own psychic states and nothing else." [45]

Now let us ask ourselves, How do we come by such a view? The
bare skeleton of the line of thought which leads to it is as
follows. Supposing an external world exists, we do not perceive
it as such but transform it through our organisation into a world
of ideas. This is a supposition which, when consistently thought
out, destroys itself. But is this reflection capable of supporting
any positive alternative? Are we justified in regarding the world,
which is given to us, as the subjective content of ideas because the
assumptions of the naïve consciousness, logically followed out, lead to
this conclusion? Our purpose is, rather, to exhibit these assumptions
themselves as untenable. Yet, so far we should have found only that
it is possible for a premise to be false and yet for the conclusion
drawn from it to be true. Granted that this may happen, yet we can
never regard the conclusion as proved by means of that premise.

It is usual to apply the title of "Naïve Realism" to the theory
which accepts as self-evident and indubitable the reality of the
world-picture which is immediately given to us. The opposite theory,
which regards this world as merely the content of our consciousness, is
called "Transcendental Idealism." Hence, we may sum up the outcome of
the above discussion by saying, "Transcendental Idealism demonstrates
its own truth, by employing the premises of the Naïve Realism which it
seeks to refute." Transcendental Idealism is true, if Naïve Realism is
false. But the falsity of the latter is shown only by assuming it to be
true. Once we clearly realise this situation, we have no choice but to
abandon this line of argument and to try another. But are we to trust
to good luck, and experiment about until we hit by accident upon the
right line? This is Eduard von Hartmann's view when he believes himself
to have shown the validity of his own epistemological standpoint, on
the ground that his theory explains the phenomena whereas its rivals
do not. According to his view, the several philosophical systems are
engaged in a sort of struggle for existence in which the fittest is
ultimately accepted as victor. But this method appears to us to be
unsuitable, if only for the reason that there may well be several
hypotheses which explain the phenomena equally satisfactorily. Hence,
we had better keep to the above line of thought for the refutation
of Naïve Realism, and see where precisely its deficiency lies. For,
after all, Naïve Realism is the view from which we all start out. For
this reason alone it is advisable to begin by setting it right. When
we have once understood why it must be defective, we shall be led
upon the right path with far greater certainty than if we proceed
simply at haphazard.

The subjectivism which we have sketched above is the result of the
elaboration of certain facts by thought. Thus, it takes for granted
that, from given facts as starting-point, we can by consistent
thinking, i.e., by logical combination of certain observations, gain
correct conclusions. But our right thus to employ our thinking remains
unexamined. There, precisely, lies the weakness of this method. Whereas
Naïve Realism starts from the unexamined assumption that the contents
of our perceptual experience have objective reality, the Idealism
just described starts from the no less unexamined conviction that by
the use of thought we can reach conclusions which are scientifically
valid. In contrast to Naïve Realism, we may call this point of view
"Naïve Rationalism." In order to justify this term, it may be well to
insert here a brief comment on the concept of the "Naïve." A. Döring,
in his essay Über den Begriff des Naiven Realismus, [46] attempts a
more precise determination of this concept. He says, "The concept
of the Naïve marks as it were the zero-point on the scale of our
reflection upon our own activity. In content the Naïve may well
coincide with the True, for, although the Naïve is unreflecting and,
therefore, uncritical or a-critical, yet this lack of reflection and
criticism excludes only the objective assurance of truth. It implies
the possibility and the danger of error, but it does not imply the
necessity of error. There are naïve modes of feeling and willing as
there are naïve modes of apprehending and thinking, in the widest sense
of the latter term. Further, there are naïve modes of expressing these
inward states in contrast with their repression or modification through
consideration for others and through reflection. Naïve activity is
not influenced, at least not consciously, by tradition, education, or
imposed rule. It is in all spheres (as its root nativus, brings out),
unconscious, impulsive, instinctive, dæmonic activity." Starting from
this account, we will try to determine the concept of the Naïve still
more precisely. In every activity we may consider two aspects--the
activity itself and our consciousness of its conformity to a law. We
may be wholly absorbed in the former, without caring at all for
the latter. The artist is in this position, who does not know in
reflective form the laws of his creative activity but yet practises
these laws by feeling and sense. We call him "naïve." But there is
a kind of self-observation which inquires into the laws of one's
own activity and which replaces the naïve attitude, just described,
by the consciousness of knowing exactly the scope and justification
of all one does. This we will call "critical." This account seems to
us best to hit off the meaning of this concept which, more or less
clearly understood, has since Kant acquired citizen-rights in the
world of philosophy. Critical reflection is, thus, the opposite of
naïve consciousness. We call an attitude "critical" which makes itself
master of the laws of its own activity in order to know how far it
can rely on them and what are their limits. Theory of Knowledge can
be nothing if not a critical science. Its object is precisely the most
subjective activity of man--knowing. What it aims at exhibiting is the
laws to which knowing conforms. Hence, the naïve attitude is wholly
excluded from this science. Its claim to strength lies precisely
in that it achieves what many minds, interested in practice rather
than in theory, pride themselves on never having attempted, viz.,
"thinking about thought."



At the beginning of an epistemological inquiry we must, in accordance
with the conclusions we have reached, put aside everything which we
have come to know. For, knowledge is something which man has produced,
something which he has originated by his activity. If the Theory of
Knowledge is really to extend the light of its explanation over the
whole field of what we know, it must set out from a point which has
remained wholly untouched by cognitive activity--indeed which rather
furnishes the first impulse for this activity. The point at which
we must start lies outside of what we know. It cannot as yet itself
be an item of knowledge. But we must look for it immediately prior
to the act of cognition, so that the very next step which man takes
shall be a cognitive act. The method for determining this absolutely
first starting-point must be such that nothing enters into it which
is already the result of cognitive activity.

There is nothing but the immediately-given world-picture with which
we can make a start of this sort. This means the picture of the world
which is presented to man before he has in any way transformed it by
cognitive activity, i.e., before he has made the very least judgment
about it or submitted it to the very smallest determination by
thinking. What thus passes initially through our minds and what
our minds pass through--this incoherent picture which is not yet
differentiated into particular elements, in which nothing seems
distinguished from, nothing related to, nothing determined by, anything
else, this is the Immediately-Given. On this level of existence--if the
phrase is permissible--no object, no event, is as yet more important or
more significant than any other. The rudimentary organ of an animal,
which, in the light of the knowledge belonging to a higher level of
existence, is perhaps seen to be without any importance whatever for
the development and life of the animal, comes before us with the same
claim to our attention as the noblest and most necessary part of the
organism. Prior to all cognitive activity nothing in our picture of
the world appears as substance, nothing as quality, nothing as cause
or as effect. The contrasts of matter and spirit, of body and soul,
have not yet arisen. Every other predicate, too, must be kept away
from the world-picture presented at this level. We may think of it
neither as reality nor as appearance, neither as subjective nor as
objective, neither as necessary nor as contingent. We cannot decide
at this stage whether it is "thing-in-itself" or mere "idea." For, we
have seen already that the conclusions of Physics and Physiology, which
lead us to subsume the Given under one or other of the above heads,
must not be made the basis on which to build the Theory of Knowledge.

Suppose a being with fully-developed human intelligence were to
be suddenly created out of Nothing and confronted with the world,
the first impression made by the world on his senses and his thought
would be pretty much what we have here called the immediately-given
world-picture. Of course, no actual man at any moment of his life has
nothing but this original world-picture before him. In his mental
development there is nowhere a sharp line between pure, passive
reception of the Given from without and the cognitive apprehension of
it by Thought. This fact might suggest critical doubts concerning
our method of determining the starting-point of the Theory of
Knowledge. Thus, e.g., Eduard von Hartmann remarks: "We do not ask
what is the content of consciousness of a child just awakening to
conscious life, nor of an animal on the lowest rung of the ladder of
organisms. For, of these things philosophising man has no experience,
and, if he tries to reconstruct the content of consciousness of beings
on primitive biogenetic or ontogenetic levels, he cannot but base his
conclusions on his own personal experience. Hence, our first task is to
determine what is the content of consciousness which philosophising man
discovers in himself when he begins his philosophical reflection." [47]
But, the objection to this view is that the picture of the world
with which we begin philosophical reflection, is already qualified by
predicates which are the results solely of knowledge. We have no right
to accept these predicates without question. On the contrary, we must
carefully extract them from out of the world-picture, in order that
it may appear in its purity without any admixture due to the process
of cognition. In general, the dividing line between what is given
and what is added by cognition cannot be identified with any single
moment of human development, but must be drawn artificially. But this
can be done at every level of development, provided only we divide
correctly what is presented to us prior to cognition, without any
determination by thinking, from what is made of it by cognition.

Now, it may be objected that we have already piled up a whole
host of thought-determinations in the very process of extracting
the alleged primitive world-picture out of the complete picture
into which man's cognitive elaboration has transformed it. But, in
defence we must urge that all our conceptual apparatus was employed,
not for the characterisation of the primitive world-picture, nor
for the determination of its qualities, but solely for the guidance
of our analysis, in order to lead it to the point where knowledge
recognises that it began. Hence, there can be no question of the
truth or error, correctness or incorrectness, of the reflections
which, according to our view, precede the moment which brings us
to the starting-point of the Theory of Knowledge. Their purpose is
solely to guide us conveniently to that point. Nobody who is about to
occupy himself with epistemological problems, stands at the same time
at what we have rightly called the starting-point of knowledge, for
his knowledge is already, up to a certain degree, developed. Nothing
but analysis with the help of concepts enables us to eliminate from
our developed knowledge all the gains of cognitive activity and to
determine the starting-point which precedes all such activity. But
the concepts thus employed have no cognitive value. They have the
purely negative task to eliminate out of our field of vision whatever
is the result of cognitive activity and to lead us to the point where
this activity first begins. The present discussions point the way to
those primitive beginnings upon which the cognitive activity sets to
work, but they form no part of such activity. Thus, whatever Theory of
Knowledge has to say in the process of determining the starting-point,
must be judged, not as true or false, but only as fit or unfit for this
purpose. Error is excluded, too, from that starting-point itself. For,
error can begin only with the activity of cognition; prior to this,
it cannot occur.

This last proposition is compatible only with the kind of Theory of
Knowledge which sets out from our line of thought. For, a theory which
sets out from some object (or subject) with a definite conceptual
determination is liable to error from the very start, viz., in this
very determination. Whether this determination is justified or not,
depends on the laws which the cognitive act establishes. This is
a question to which only the course of the epistemological inquiry
itself can supply the answer. All error is excluded only when I can
say that I have eliminated all conceptual determinations which are
the results of my cognitive activity, and that I retain nothing but
what enters the circle of my experience without any activity on my
part. Where, on principle, I abstain from every positive affirmation,
there I cannot fall into error.

From the epistemological point of view, error can occur only within
the sphere of cognitive activity. An illusion of the senses is no
error. The fact that the rising moon appears to us bigger than the
moon overhead is not an error, but a phenomenon fully explained by the
laws of nature. An error would result only, if thought, in ordering
the data of perception, were to put a false interpretation on the
"bigger" or "smaller" size of the moon. But such an interpretation
would lie within the sphere of cognitive activity.

If knowledge is really to be understood in its essential nature,
we must, without doubt, begin our study of it at the point where
it originates, where it starts. Moreover, it is clear that whatever
precedes its starting-point has no legitimate place in any explanatory
Theory of Knowledge, but must simply be taken for granted. It is
the task of science, in its several branches, to study the essential
nature of all that we are here taking for granted. Our aim, here, is
not to acquire specific knowledge of this or that, but to investigate
knowledge as such. We must first understand the act of cognition,
before we can judge what significance to attach to the affirmations
about the content of the world which come to be made in the process
of getting to know that content.

For this reason, we abstain from every attempt to determine what is
immediately-given, so long as we are ignorant of the relation of our
determinations to what is determined by them. Not even the concept of
the "immediately-given" affirms any positive determination of what
precedes cognition. Its only purpose is to point towards the Given,
to direct our attention upon it. Here, at the starting-point of the
Theory of Knowledge, the term merely expresses, in conceptual form, the
initial relation of the cognitive activity to the world-content. The
choice of this term allows even for the case that the whole
world-content should turn out to be nothing but a figment of our own
"Ego," i.e., that the most extreme subjectivism should be right. For,
of course, subjectivism does not express a fact which is given. It can,
at best, be only the result of theoretical considerations. Its truth,
in other words, needs to be established by the Theory of Knowledge. It
cannot serve as the presupposition of that theory.

This immediately-given world-content includes everything which can
appear within the horizon of our experience, in the widest sense of
this term, viz., sensations, percepts, intuitions, feelings, volitions,
dreams, fancies, representations, concepts, ideas.

Illusions, too, and hallucinations stand at this level exactly on
a par with other elements of the world-content. Only theoretical
considerations can teach us in what relations illusions, etc., stand
to other percepts.

A Theory of Knowledge which starts from the assumption that all the
experiences just enumerated are contents of our consciousness,
finds itself confronted at once by the question: How do we
transcend our consciousness so as to apprehend reality? Where is
the jumping-board which will launch us from the subjective into the
trans-subjective? For us, the situation is quite different. For us,
consciousness and the idea of the "Ego" are, primarily, only items
in the Immediately-Given, and the relation of the latter to the two
former has first to be discovered by knowledge. We do not start from
consciousness in order to determine the nature of knowledge, but, vice
versa, we start from knowledge in order to determine consciousness
and the relation of subject to object. Seeing that, at the outset,
we attach no predicates whatever to the Given, we are bound to ask:
How is it that we are able to determine it at all? How is it possible
to start knowledge anywhere at all? How do we come to designate one
item of the world-content, as, e.g., percept, another as concept,
a third as reality, others as appearance, as cause, as effect? How
do we come to differentiate ourselves from what is "objective,"
and to contrast "Ego" and "Non-Ego?"

We must discover the bridge which leads from the picture of the
world as given to the picture of it which our cognitive activity
unfolds. But the following difficulty confronts us. So long as we do
nothing but passively gaze at the Given, we can nowhere find a point
which knowledge can take hold of and from which it can develop its
interpretations. Somewhere in the Given we must discover the spot
where we can get to work, where something homogeneous to cognition
meets us. If everything were merely given, we should never get beyond
the bare gazing outwards into the external world and a no less bare
gazing inwards into the privacy of our inner world. We should, at most,
be able to describe, but never to understand, the objects outside of
us. Our concepts would stand in a purely external, not in an internal,
relation to that to which they apply. If there is to be knowledge,
everything depends on there being, somewhere within the Given, a field
in which our cognitive activity does not merely presuppose the Given,
but is at work in the very heart of the Given itself. In other words,
the very strictness with which we hold fast the Given, as merely
given, must reveal that not everything is given. Our demand for the
Given turns out to have been one which, in being strictly maintained,
partially cancels itself. We have insisted on the demand, lest we
should arbitrarily fix upon some point as the starting-point of the
Theory of Knowledge, instead of making a genuine effort to discover
it. In our sense of the word "given," everything may be given, even
what in its own innermost nature is not given. That is to say, the
latter presents itself, in that case, to us purely formally as given,
but reveals itself, on closer inspection, for what it really is.

The whole difficulty in understanding knowledge lies in that we do
not create the world-content out of ourselves. If we did so create
it, there would be no knowledge at all. Only objects which are given
can occasion questions for me. Objects which I create receive their
determinations by my act. Hence, I do not need to ask whether these
determinations are true or false.

This, then, is the second point in our Theory of Knowledge. It
consists in the postulate that there must, within the sphere of the
Given, be a point at which our activity does not float in a vacuum,
at which the world-content itself enters into our activity.

We have already determined the starting-point of the Theory of
Knowledge by assigning it a place wholly antecedent to all cognitive
activity, lest we should distort that activity by some prejudice
borrowed from among its own results. Now we determine the first step
in the development of our knowledge in such a way that, once more,
there can be no question of error or incorrectness. For, we affirm no
judgment about anything whatsoever, but merely state the condition
which must be fulfilled if knowledge is to be acquired at all. It
is all-important that we should, with the most complete critical
self-consciousness, keep before our minds the fact that we are
postulating the very character which that part of the world-content
must possess on which our cognitive activity can begin to operate.

Nothing else is, in fact, possible. As given, the world-content is
wholly without determinations. No part of it can by itself furnish
the impulse for order to begin to be introduced into the chaos. Hence,
cognitive activity must issue its edict and declare what the character
of that part is to be. Such an edict in no way infringes the character
of the Given as such. It introduces no arbitrary affirmation into
science. For, in truth, it affirms nothing. It merely declares that,
if the possibility of knowledge is to be explicable at all, we need
to look for a field like the one above described. If there is such a
field, knowledge can be explained; if not, not. We began our Theory
of Knowledge with the "Given" as a whole; now we limit our requirement
to the singling out of a particular field within the Given.

Let us come to closer grips with this requirement. Where within
the world-picture do we find something which is not merely given,
but is given only in so far as it is at the same time created by the
cognitive activity?

We need to be absolutely clear that this creative activity must, in
its turn, be given to us in all its immediacy. No inferences must be
required in order to know that it occurs. Thence it follows, at once,
that sense-data do not meet our requirement. For, the fact that they
do not occur without our activity is known to us, not immediately,
but as an inference from physical and physiological arguments. On the
other hand, we do know immediately that it is only in and through the
cognitive act that concepts and ideas enter into the sphere of the
Immediately-Given. Hence, no one is deceived concerning the character
of concepts and ideas. It is possible to mistake a hallucination for an
object given from without, but no one is ever likely to believe that
his concepts are given without the activity of his own thinking. A
lunatic will regard as real, though they are in fact unreal, only
things and relations which have attached to them the predicate of
"actuality," but he will never say of his concepts and ideas that they
have come into the world without his activity. Everything else in our
world-picture is such that it must be given, if it is to be experienced
by us. Only of our concepts and ideas is the opposite true: they must
be produced by us, if they are to be experienced. They, and only they,
are given in a way which might be called intellectual intuition. Kant
and the modern philosophers who follow him deny altogether that man
possesses this kind of intuition, on the ground that all our thinking
refers solely to objects and is absolutely impotent to produce anything
out of itself, whereas in intellectual intuition form and matter must
be given together. But, is not precisely this actually the case with
pure concepts and ideas? [48] To see this, we must consider them purely
in the form in which, as yet, they are quite free from all empirical
content. In order, e.g., to comprehend the pure concept of causality,
we must go, not to a particular instance of causality nor to the sum
of all instances, but to the pure concept itself. Particular causes
and effects must be discovered by investigation in the world, but
causality as a Form of Thought must be created by ourselves before we
can discover causes in the world. If we hold fast to Kant's thesis
that concepts without percepts are empty, it becomes unintelligible
how the determination of the Given by concepts is to be possible. For,
suppose there are given two items of the world-content, a and b. In
order to find a relation between them, I must be guided in my search
by a rule of determinate content. Such a rule I can only create in the
act of cognition itself. I cannot derive it from the object, because
it is only with the help of the rule that the object is to receive
its determinations. Such a rule, therefore, for the determination of
the real has its being wholly in purely conceptual form.

Before passing on, we must meet a possible objection. It might seem as
if in our argument we had unconsciously assigned a prominent part to
the idea of the "Ego," or the "personal subject," and as if we employed
this idea in the development of our line of thought, without having
established our right to do so. For example, we have said that "we
produce concepts," or that "we make this or that demand." But these
are mere forms of speech which play no part in our argument. That
the cognitive act is the act of, and originates in, an "Ego," can,
as we have already pointed out, be affirmed only as an inference in
the process of knowledge itself. Strictly, we ought at the outset
to speak only of cognitive activity without so much as mentioning a
cognitive agent. For, all that has been established so far amounts
to no more than this, (1) that something is "given," and (2) that
at a certain point within the "given" there originates the postulate
set forth above; also, that concepts and ideas are the entities which
answer to that postulate. This is not to deny that the point at which
the postulate originates is the "Ego." But, in the first instance,
we are content to establish these two steps in the Theory of Knowledge
in their abstract purity.



Concepts and ideas, then, though themselves part of the Given, yet at
the same time take us beyond the Given. Thus, they make it possible
to determine also the nature of the other modes of cognitive activity.

By means of a postulate, we have selected a special part out of the
given world-picture, because it is the very essence of knowledge to
proceed from a part with just this character. Thus, we have made the
selection solely in order to be able to understand knowledge. But,
we must clearly confess to ourselves that by this selection we have
artificially torn in two the unity of the given world-picture. We
must bear in mind that the part which we have divorced from the Given
still continues, quite apart from our postulate and independently of
it, to stand in a necessary connection with the world as given. This
fact determines the next step forward in the Theory of Knowledge. It
will consist in restoring the unity which we have destroyed in order
to show how knowledge is possible. This restoration will consist
in thinking about the world as given. The act of thinking about the
world actually effects the synthesis of the two parts of the given
world-content--of the Given which we survey up to the horizon of
our experience, and of the part which, in order to be also given,
must be produced by us in the activity of cognition. The cognitive
act is the synthesis of these two factors. In every single cognitive
act the one factor appears as something produced in the act itself
and as added to the other factor which is the pure datum. It is only
at the very start of the Theory of Knowledge that the factor which
otherwise appears as always produced, appears also as given.

To think about the world is to transmute the given world by means
of concepts and ideas. Thinking, thus, is in very truth the act
which brings about knowledge. Knowledge can arise only if thinking,
out of itself, introduces order into the content of the world as
given. Thinking is itself an activity which produces a content of
its own in the moment of cognition. Hence, the content cognised, in
so far as it has its origin solely in thinking, offers no difficulty
to cognition. We need only observe it, for in its essential nature
it is immediately given to us. The description of thinking is
also the science of thinking. In fact, Logic was never anything
but a description of the forms of thinking, never a demonstrative
science. For, demonstration occurs only when there is a synthesis
of the products of thinking with a content otherwise given. Hence,
Gideon Spicker is quite right when he says in his book, Lessing's
Weltanschauung (p. 5): "We have no means of knowing, either empirically
or logically, whether the results of thinking, as such, are true." We
may add that, since demonstration already presupposes thinking,
thinking itself cannot be demonstrated. We can demonstrate a particular
fact, but we cannot demonstrate the process of demonstrating itself. We
can only describe what a demonstration is. All logical theory is wholly
empirical. Logic is a science which consists only of observation. But
if we want to get to know anything over and above our thinking, we can
do so only with the help of thinking. That is to say, our thinking
must apply itself to something given and transform its chaotic into
a systematic connection with the world-picture. Thinking, then, in
its application to the world as given, is a formative principle. The
process is as follows. First, thinking selects certain details out
of the totality of the Given. For, in the Given, there are strictly
no individual details, but only an undifferentiated continuum. Next,
thinking relates the selected details to each other according to
the forms which it has itself produced. And, lastly, it determines
what follows from this relation. The act of relating two distinct
items of the world-content to each other does not imply that thinking
arbitrarily determines something about them. Thinking waits and sees
what is the spontaneous consequence of the relation established. With
this consequence we have at last some degree of knowledge of the
two selected items of the world-content. Suppose the world-content
reveals nothing of its nature in response to the establishment of
such a relation, then the effort of thinking must miscarry, and a
fresh effort must take its place. All cognitions consist in this,
that two or more items of the Given are brought into relation with
each other by us and that we apprehend what follows from this relation.

Without doubt, many of our efforts of thinking miscarry, not only
in the sciences, as is amply proved by their history, but also in
ordinary life. But in the simple cases of mistake which are, after all,
the commonest, the correct thought so rapidly replaces the incorrect,
that the latter is never, or rarely, noticed.

Kant, in his theory of the "synthetic unity of apperception," had an
inkling of this activity of thought in the systematic organisation of
the world-content, as we have here developed it. But his failure to
appreciate clearly the real function of thinking is revealed by the
fact, that he believes himself able to deduce the a priori laws of
Pure Natural Science from the rules according to which this synthetic
activity proceeds. Kant has overlooked that the synthetic activity of
thinking is merely the preparation for the discovery of natural laws
properly so-called. Suppose we select two items, a and b, from the
Given. For knowledge to arise of a nexus according to law between a
and b, the first requirement is that thinking should so relate a and
b, that the relation may appear to us as given. Thus, the content
proper of the law of nature is derived from what is given, and the
sole function of thinking is to establish such relations between the
items of the world-picture that the laws to which they are subject
become manifest. The pure synthetic activity of thinking is not the
source of any objective laws whatever.

We must inquire what part thinking plays in the formation of our
scientific world-picture as distinct from the merely given one. It
follows from our account that thinking supplies the formal principle
of the conformity of phenomena to law. Suppose, in our example above,
that a is the cause, b the effect. Unless thinking were able to produce
the concept of causality, we should never be able to know that a and b
were causally connected. But, in order that we may know, in the given
case, that a is the cause and b the effect, it is necessary for a and b
to possess the characteristics which we mean when we speak of cause and
effect. A similar analysis applies to the other categories of thought.

It will be appropriate to notice here in a few words Hume's discussion
of causality. According to Hume, the concepts of cause and effect
have their origin solely in custom. We observe repeatedly that one
event follows another and become accustomed to think of them as
causally connected, so that we expect the second to occur as soon
as we have observed the first. This theory, however, springs from a
totally mistaken view of the causal relation. Suppose for several
days running I observe the same person whenever I step out of the
door of my house, I shall gradually form the habit of expecting the
temporal sequence of the two events. But, it will never occur to me to
think that there is any causal connection between my own appearance
and that of the other person at the same spot. I shall call in aid
essentially other items of the world-content in order to explain the
coincidence of these events. In short, we determine the causal nexus
of two events, not according to their temporal sequence, but according
to the essential character of the items of the world-content which
we call, respectively, cause and effect.

From this purely formal activity of our thinking in the construction
of the scientific picture of the world, it follows that the content of
every cognition cannot be fixed a priori in advance of observation
(in which thinking comes to grips with the Given), but must be
derived completely and exhaustively from observation. In this sense,
all our cognitions are empirical. Nor is it possible to see how it
could be otherwise. For, Kant's judgments a priori are at bottom,
not cognitions, but postulates. On Kant's principles, all we can
ever say is only this, that if a thing is to become the object
of possible experience, it must conform to these laws. They are,
therefore, rules which the subject prescribes to all objects. But,
we should rather expect cognitions of the Given to have their source,
not in the constitution of the subject, but in that of the object.

Thinking makes no a priori affirmations about the Given. But it creates
the forms, on the basis of which the conformity of phenomena to law
becomes manifest a posteriori.

From our point of view, it is impossible to determine anything a priori
about the degree of certainty belonging to a judgment which embodies
knowledge thus gained. For, certainty, too, derives from nothing
other than the Given. Perhaps it will be objected that observation
never establishes anything except that a certain nexus of phenomena
actually occurs, but not that it must occur, and will always occur,
in like conditions. But, this suggestion, too, is in error. For any
nexus which I apprehend between elements in the world-picture is,
on our principles, nothing but what is grounded in these elements
themselves. It is not imported into these elements by thinking, but
belongs to them essentially, and must, therefore, necessarily exist
whenever they themselves exist.

Only a view which regards all scientific research as nothing but the
endeavour to correlate the facts of experience by means of principles
which are subjective and external to the facts, can hold that the
nexus of a and b may to-day obey one law and to-morrow another
(J. S. Mill). On the other hand, if we see clearly that the laws of
nature have their source in the Given, and that, therefore, the nexus
of phenomena essentially depends upon, and is determined by, them,
we shall never think of talking of a "merely relative universality"
of the laws which are derived from observation. This is, of course,
not to assert that any given law which we have once accepted as
correct, must be absolutely valid. But when, later, a negative
instance overthrows a law, the reason is, not that the law from the
first could be inferred only with relative universality, but that it
had not at first been inferred correctly. A genuine law of nature is
nothing but the formulation of a nexus in the given world-picture,
and it exists as little without the facts which it determines, as
these exist without it.

Above, we have laid down that it is the essence of the cognitive
activity to transmute, by thinking, the given world-picture by
means of concepts and ideas. What follows from this fact? If the
Immediately-Given were a totality complete in itself, the work
which thinking does upon it in cognition would be both impossible
and unnecessary. We should simply accept the Given, as it is, and be
satisfied with it as such. Cognitive activity is possible only because
in the Given something lies hidden which does not yet reveal itself
so long as we gaze at the Given in its immediacy, but which becomes
manifest with the aid of the order which thinking introduces. Prior
to the work of thinking, the Given does not possess the fulness of
its own complete nature.

This point becomes still more obvious by considering in greater
detail the two factors involved in the act of cognition. The first
factor is the Given. "Being given" is not a quality of the Given,
but merely a term expressing its relation to the second factor in the
act of cognition. This second factor, viz., the conceptual content
of the Given, is found by our thought in the act of cognition to
be necessarily connected with the Given. Two questions arise: (1)
Where are the Given and the Concept differentiated? (2) Where are they
united? The answer to these two questions is to be found, beyond any
doubt, in the preceding discussions. They are differentiated solely in
the act of cognition. They are united in the Given. Thence it follows
necessarily that the conceptual content is but a part of the Given,
and that the act of cognition consists in re-uniting with each other
the two parts of the world-picture which are, at first, given to it in
separation. The given world-picture thus attains its completion only
through that mediate kind of givenness which thinking brings about. In
its original immediacy the world-picture is altogether incomplete.

If the conceptual content were from the first united with the Given
in our world-picture, there would be no cognition. For, no need could
ever arise of transcending the Given. So, again, if by thinking and
in thinking we could create the whole world-content, once more there
would be no cognition. For, what we create ourselves we do not need to
cognise. Hence, cognition exists because the world-content is given to
us originally in a form which is incomplete, which does not contain it
as a whole, but which, over and above what it presents immediately,
owns another, no less essential, aspect. This second aspect of
the world-content--an aspect not originally given--is revealed by
cognition. Pure thinking presents in the abstract, not empty forms,
but a sum of determinations (categories) which serve as forms for the
rest of the world-content. The world-content can be called REALITY
only in the form which it acquires through cognition and in which
both aspects of it are united.



So far, we have determined the idea of knowledge. This idea is
given immediately in the human consciousness whenever it functions
cognitively. To the "Ego," as the centre [49] of consciousness, are
given immediately external and internal perceptions, as well as its
own existence. The Ego feels impelled to find more in the Given than
it immediately contains. Over against the given world, a second world,
the world of thinking, unfolds itself for the Ego and the Ego unites
these two by realising, of its own free will, the idea of knowledge
which we have determined. This accounts for the fundamental difference
between the way in which in the objects of human consciousness itself
the concept and the Immediately-Given unite to form Reality in its
wholeness, and the way in which their union obtains in the rest of
the world-content. For every other part of the world-content we must
assume that the union of the two factors is original and necessary from
the first, and that it is only for cognition, when cognition begins,
that an artificial separation has supervened, but that cognition
in the end undoes the separation in keeping with the original and
essential unity of the object-world. For consciousness the case is
quite otherwise. Here the union exists only when it is achieved by
the living activity of consciousness itself. With every other kind
of object, the separation of the two factors is significant, not for
the object, but only for knowledge. Their union is here original,
their separation derivative. Cognition effects a separation only
because it must first separate before it can achieve union by its
own methods. But, for consciousness, the Concept and the Given
are originally separate. Union is here derivative, and that is why
cognition has the character which we have described. Just because in
consciousness Idea and Given appear in separation, does the whole of
reality split itself for consciousness into these two factors. And,
again, just because consciousness can bring about the union of the two
factors only by its own activity, can it reach full reality only by
performing the act of cognition. The remaining categories (ideas) would
be necessarily united with the corresponding lands of the Given, even
if they were not taken up into cognition. But the idea of cognition
can be united with the Given which corresponds to it, only by the
activity of consciousness. Real consciousness exists only in realising
itself. With these remarks we believe ourselves to be sufficiently
equipped for laying bare the root-error of Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre
and, at the same time, for supplying the key to the understanding
of it. Fichte is among all Kant's successors the one who has felt
most vividly that nothing but a theory of consciousness can supply
the foundation for all the sciences. But he never clearly understood
why this is so. He felt that the act which we have called the second
step in the Theory of Knowledge and which we have formulated as a
postulate, must really be performed by the "Ego." This may be seen,
e.g., from the following passage. "The Theory of Science, then, arises,
as itself a systematic discipline, just as do all possible sciences
in so far as they are systematic, through a certain act of freedom,
the determinate function of which is, more particularly, to make us
conscious of the characteristic activity of intelligence as such. The
result of this free act is that the necessary activity of intelligence,
which in itself already is form, is further taken up as matter into a
fresh form of cognition or consciousness." [50] What does Fichte here
mean by the activity of the "intelligence," when we translate what he
has obscurely felt into clear concepts? Nothing but the realisation
of the idea of knowledge, taking place in consciousness. Had this been
perfectly clear to Fichte, he ought to have expressed his view simply
by saying, "It is the task of the Theory of Science to bring cognition,
in so far as it is still an unreflective activity of the 'Ego,' into
reflective consciousness; it has to show that the realisation of the
idea of cognition in actual fact is a necessary activity of the 'Ego.'"

Fichte tries to determine the activity of the "Ego." He declares
"that the being, the essence of which consists solely in this that
it posits itself as existing, is the Ego as absolute subject." [51]
This positing of the Ego is for Fichte the original, unconditioned
act "which lies at the basis of all the rest of consciousness." [52]
It follows that the Ego, in Fichte's sense, can likewise begin
all its activity only through an absolute fiat of the will. But,
it is impossible for Fichte to supply any sort of content for this
activity which his "Ego" absolutely posits. For, Fichte can name
nothing upon which this activity might direct itself, or by which it
might be determined. His Ego is supposed to perform an act. Yes, but
what is it to do? Fichte failed to define the concept of cognition
which the Ego is to realise, and, in consequence, he struggled
in vain to find any way of advancing from his absolute act to the
detailed determinations of the Ego. Nay, in the end he declares that
the inquiry into the manner of this advance lies outside the scope
of his theory. In his deduction of the idea of cognition he starts
neither from an absolute act of the Ego, nor from one of the Non-Ego,
but from a state of being determined which is, at the same time, an act
of determining. His reason for this is that nothing else either is,
or can be, immediately contained in consciousness. His theory leaves
it wholly vague what determines, in turn, this determination. And it
is this vagueness which drives us on beyond Fichte's theory into the
practical part of the Wissenschaftslehre. [53] But, by this turn Fichte
destroys all knowledge whatsoever. For, the practical activity of the
Ego belongs to quite a different sphere. The postulate which we have
put forward above can, indeed, be realised--so much is clear--only by
a free act of the Ego. But, if this act is to be a cognitive act, the
all-important point is that its voluntary decision should be to realise
the idea of cognition. It is, no doubt, true that the Ego by its own
free will can do many other things as well. But, what matters for the
epistemological foundation of the sciences is not a definition of what
it is for the Ego to be free, but of what it is to know. Fichte has
allowed himself to be too much influenced by his subjective tendency to
present the freedom of human personality in the brightest light. Harms,
in his address on The Philosophy of Fichte (p. 15), rightly remarks,
"His world-view is predominantly and exclusively ethical, and the
same character is exhibited by his Theory of Knowledge." Knowledge
would have absolutely nothing to do, if all spheres of reality were
given in their totality. But, seeing that the Ego, so long as it has
not been, by thinking, inserted into its place in the systematic
whole of the world-picture, exists merely as an immediately-given
something, it is not enough merely to point out what it does. Fichte,
however, believes that all we need to do concerning the Ego is to seek
and find it. "We have to seek and find the absolutely first, wholly
unconditioned principle of all human knowledge. Being absolutely first,
this principle admits neither of proof nor of determination." [54]
We have seen that proof and determination are out of place solely as
applied to the content of Pure Logic. But the Ego is a part of reality,
and this makes it necessary to establish that this or that category is
actually to be found in the Given. Fichte has failed to do this. And
this is the reason why he has given such a mistaken form to his Theory
of Science. Zeller remarks [55] that the logical formulæ by means of
which Fichte seeks to reach the concept of the Ego, do but ill disguise
his predetermined purpose at any price to reach this starting-point for
his theory. This comment applies to the first form (1794) which Fichte
gave to his Wissenschaftslehre. Taking it, then, as established that
Fichte, in keeping with the whole trend of his philosophical thinking,
could not, in fact, rest content with any other starting-point for
knowledge than an absolute and arbitrary act, we have the choice
between only two ways of making this start intelligible. The one
way was to seize upon some one among the empirical activities of
consciousness and to strip off, one by one, all the characteristics
of it which do not follow originally from its essential nature, until
the pure concept of the Ego had been crystallised out. The other way
was to begin, straightway, with the original activity of the Ego,
and to exhibit its nature by introspection and reflection. Fichte
followed the first way at the outset of his philosophical thinking,
but in the course of it he gradually switched over to the other.

Basing himself upon Kant's "synthesis of transcendental apperception,"
Fichte concluded that the whole activity of the Ego in the synthesis
of the matter of experience proceeds according to the forms of the
judgment. To judge is to connect a predicate with a subject--an act of
which the purely formal expression is a = a. This proposition would be
impossible if the x which connects predicate and subject, did not rest
upon a power to affirm unconditionally. For, the proposition does not
mean, "a exists"; it means, "if a exists, then there exists a." Thus,
a is most certainly not affirmed absolutely. Hence, if there is to be
an absolute, unconditionally valid affirmation, there is no alternative
but to declare the act of affirming itself to be absolute. Whereas a
is conditioned, the affirming of a is unconditioned. This affirming
is the act of the Ego which, thus, possesses the power to affirm
absolutely and without conditions. In the proposition, a = a, the one a
is affirmed only on condition of the other being presupposed. Moreover,
the affirming is an act of the Ego. "If a is affirmed in the Ego, it
is affirmed." [56] This connection is possible only on condition that
there is in the Ego something always self-identical, which effects
the transition from the one a to the other. The above-mentioned x
is this self-identical aspect of the Ego. The Ego which affirms the
one a is the same Ego as that which affirms the other a. This is to
say Ego = Ego. But this proposition, expressed in judgment-form, "If
the Ego is, it is," is meaningless. For, the Ego is not affirmed on
condition of another Ego having been presupposed, but it presupposes
itself. In short, the Ego is absolute and unconditioned. The
hypothetical judgment-form which is the form of all judgments,
so long as the absolute Ego is not presupposed, changes for the
Ego into the form of the categorical affirmation of existence, "I
am unconditionally." Fichte has another way of putting this: "the
Ego originally affirms its own existence." [57] Clearly, this whole
deduction is nothing but a sort of elementary school-drill by means of
which Fichte tries to lead his readers to the point at which they will
perceive for themselves the unconditioned activity of the Ego. His aim
is to put clearly before their eyes that fundamental activity of the
Ego in the absence of which there is no such thing as an Ego at all.

Let us now look back, once more, over Fichte's line of thought. On
closer inspection, it becomes obvious that it contains a leap--a leap,
moreover, which throws grave doubts upon the correctness of his theory
of the original act of the Ego. What precisely is it that is absolute
in the affirmation of the Ego? Take the judgment, "If a exists,
then there exists a." The a is affirmed by the Ego. So far there is
no room for doubt. But, though the act is unconditioned, yet the Ego
must affirm something in particular. It cannot affirm an "activity in
general and as such"; it can affirm only a particular, determinate
activity. In short, the affirmation must have a content. But,
it cannot derive this content from itself, for else we should get
nothing but affirmations of acts of affirmation in infinitum. Hence,
there must be something which is realised by this affirming, by
this absolute activity of the Ego. If the Ego does not seize upon
something given in order to affirm it, it can do nothing at all, and,
consequently, it cannot affirm either. This is proved, too, by Fichte's
proposition, "the Ego affirms its own existence." "Existence," here,
is a category. Thus, we are back at our own position: the activity of
the Ego consists in that it affirms, of its own free will, the concepts
and ideas inherent in the Given. If Fichte had not unconsciously
been determined to exhibit the Ego as "existing," he would have
got nowhere at all. If, instead, he had built up the concept of
cognition, he would have reached the true starting-point of the Theory
of Knowledge, viz., "The Ego affirms the act of cognition." Because
Fichte failed to make clear to himself what determines the activity
of the Ego, he fixed simply upon the affirmation of its own existence
as the character of that activity. But, this is at once to restrict
the absolute activity of the Ego. For, if nothing is unconditioned
except the Ego's affirmation of its own existence, then every other
activity of the Ego is conditioned. Moreover, the way is cut off
for passing from the unconditioned to the conditioned. If the Ego is
unconditioned only in the affirmation of its own existence, then at
once there is cut off all possibility of affirming by an original act
anything other than its own existence. Hence, the necessity arises to
assign a ground for all the other activities of the Ego. But Fichte,
as we have seen above, sought for such a ground in vain.

This is the reason why he shifted to the second of the two ways,
indicated above, for the deduction of the Ego. Already in 1797,
in his Erste Einleitung in die Wissenschaftslehre, he recommends
self-observation as the right method for studying the Ego in its
true, original character. "Observe and watch thyself, turn thy
eye away from all that surrounds thee and look into thyself--this
is the first demand which philosophy makes upon its disciple. The
topic of our discourse, is, not anything outside thyself, but thyself
alone." [58] This introduction to the Theory of Science is, in truth,
in one way much superior to the other. For, self-observation does
not make us acquainted with the activity of the Ego one-sidedly in a
fixed direction. It exhibits that activity, not merely as affirming
its own existence, but as striving, in its many-sided development, to
comprehend by thinking the world-content which is immediately-given. To
self-observation, the Ego reveals itself as engaged in building up
its world-picture by the synthesis of the Given with concepts. But,
anyone who has not accompanied us in our line of thought above, and
who, consequently, does not know that the Ego can grasp the whole
content of reality only on condition of applying its Thought-Forms to
the Given, is liable to regard cognition as a mere process of spinning
the world out of the Ego itself. Hence, for Fichte the world-picture
tends increasingly to become a construction of the Ego. He emphasises
more and more that the main point in the Wissenschaftslehre is to
awaken the sense which is able to watch the Ego in this constructing
of its world. He who is able thus to watch stands, for Fichte, on a
higher level of knowledge than he who has eyes only for the finished
construct, the ready-made world. If we fix our eyes only on the world
of objects, we fail to perceive that, but for the creative activity
of the Ego, that world would not exist. If, on the other hand,
we watch the Ego in its constructive activity, we understand the
ground of the finished world-picture. We know how it has come to be
what it is. We understand it as the conclusion for which we have the
premises. The ordinary consciousness sees only what has been affirmed,
what has been determined thus or thus. It lacks the insight into the
premises, into the grounds why an affirmation is just as it is and not
otherwise. To mediate the knowledge of these premises is, according
to Fichte, the task of a wholly new sense. This is expressed most
clearly in the Einleitungsvorlesungen in die Wissenschaftslehre. [59]
"My theory presupposes a wholly novel inward sense-organ, by means
of which a new world is given which does not exist for the ordinary
man at all." Or, again, "The world of this novel sense, and thereby
this sense itself, are hereby for the present clearly determined: it
is the world in which we see the premises on which is grounded the
judgment, 'Something exists'; it is the ground of existence which,
just because it is the ground of existence, cannot, in its turn,
be said to be or to be an existence." [60]

But, here, too, Fichte lacks clear insight into the activity of
the Ego. He has never worked his way through to it. That is why his
Wissenschaftslehre could not become what else, from its whole design,
it ought to have become, viz., a Theory of Knowledge as the fundamental
discipline of philosophy. For, after it had once been recognised that
the activity of the Ego must be affirmed by the Ego itself, it was very
easy to think that the activity receives its determination also from
the Ego. But how else can this happen except we assign a content to
the purely formal activity of the Ego? If the Ego is really to import
a content into its activity which, else, is wholly undetermined, then
the nature of that content must also be determined. For, failing this,
it could at best be realised only by some "thing-in-itself" in the Ego,
of which the Ego would be the instrument, but not by the Ego itself. If
Fichte had attempted to furnish this determination, he would have
been led to the concept of cognition which it is the task of the Ego
to realise. Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre proves that even the acutest
thinker fails to make fruitful contributions to any philosophical
discussion, unless he lays hold of the correct Thought-Form (category,
idea) which, supplemented by the Given, yields reality. Such a thinker
is like a man who fails to hear the most glorious melodies which are
being played for him, because he has no ear for tunes. If we are to
determine the nature of consciousness, as given, we must be able to
rise to, and make our own, the "idea of consciousness."

At one point Fichte is actually quite close to the true view. He
declares, in the Einleitungen zur Wissenschaftslehre (1797), that
there are two theoretical systems, viz., Dogmatism, for which the Ego
is determined by the objects, and Idealism, for which the objects
are determined by the Ego. Both are, according to him, established
as possible theories of the world; both can be developed into
self-consistent systems. But, if we throw in our lot with Dogmatism,
we must abandon the independence of the Ego and make it dependent on
the "thing-in-itself." If we do not want to do this, we must adopt
Idealism. The philosopher's choice between these two systems is left
by Fichte wholly to the preference of the Ego. But he adds that if
the Ego desires to preserve its independence, it will give up the
belief in external things and surrender itself to Idealism.

But, what Fichte forgot was the consideration that the Ego cannot make
any genuine, well-grounded decision or choice, unless something is
presupposed which helps the Ego to choose. All the Ego's attempts at
determination remain empty and without content, if the Ego does not
find something wholly determinate and full of content, which enables
it to determine the Given, and thereby also to choose between Idealism
and Dogmatism. This "something wholly determinate and full of content"
is, precisely, the world of Thought. And the determination of the
Given by thinking is, precisely, what we call cognition. We may take
Fichte where we please--everywhere we find that his line of thought
at once gets meaning and substance, as soon as we conceive his grey,
empty activity of the Ego to be filled and regulated by what we have
called "the process of cognition."

The fact that the Ego is free to enter into activity out of itself,
makes it possible for it, by free self-determination, to realise the
category of cognition, whereas in the rest of the world all categories
are connected by objective necessity with the Given which corresponds
to them. The investigation of the nature of free self-determination
will be the task of Ethics and Metaphysics, based on our Theory of
Knowledge. These disciplines, too, will have to debate the question
whether the Ego is able to realise other ideas, besides the idea of
cognition. But, that the realisation of the idea of cognition issues
from a free act has been made sufficiently clear in the course of
our discussions above. For, the synthesis, effected by the Ego,
of the Immediately-Given and of the Form of Thought appropriate to
it, which two factors of reality remain otherwise always divorced
from each other in consciousness, can be brought about only by
an act of freedom. Moreover, our arguments throw, in another way,
quite a fresh light on Critical Idealism. To any close student of
Fichte's system it will appear as if Fichte cared for nothing so
much as for the defence of the proposition, that nothing can enter
the Ego from without, that nothing can appear in the Ego which was
not the Ego's own original creation. Now, it is beyond all dispute
that no type of Idealism will ever be able to derive from within
the Ego that form of the world-content which we have called "the
Immediately-Given." For, this form can only be given; it can never
be constructed by thinking. In proof of this, it is enough to reflect
that, even if the whole series of colours were given to us except one,
we should not be able to fill in that one out of the bare Ego. We
can form an image of the most remote countries, though we have never
seen them, provided we have once personally experienced, as given,
the details which go to form the image. We then build up the total
picture, according to the instructions supplied to us, out of the
particular facts which we have ourselves experienced. But we shall
strive in vain to invent out of ourselves even a single perceptual
element which has never appeared within the sphere of what has been
given to us. It is one thing to be merely acquainted with the world;
it is another to have knowledge of its essential nature. This nature,
for all that it is closely identified with the world-content, does
not become clear to us unless we build up reality ourselves out of
the Given and the Forms of Thought. The real "what" of the Given
comes to be affirmed for the Ego only through the Ego itself. The Ego
would have no occasion to affirm the nature of the Given for itself,
if it did not find itself confronted at the outset by the Given in
wholly indeterminate form. Thus, the essential nature of the world
is affirmed, not apart from, but through, the Ego.

The true form of reality is not the first form in which it presents
itself to the Ego, but the last form which it receives through
the activity of the Ego. That first form is, in fact, without any
importance for the objective world and counts only as the basis for
the process of cognition. Hence, it is not the form given to the world
by theory which is subjective, but rather the form in which the world
is originally given to the Ego. If, following Volkelt and others,
we call the given world "experience," our view amounts to saying:
The world-picture presents itself, owing to the constitution of our
consciousness, in subjective form as experience, but science completes
it and makes its true nature manifest.

Our Theory of Knowledge supplies the basis for an Idealism which,
in the true sense of the word, understands itself. It supplies
good grounds for the conviction that thinking brings home to us the
essential nature of the world. Nothing but thinking can exhibit the
relations of the parts of the world-content, be it the relation of
the heat of the sun to the stone which it warms, or the relation of
the Ego to the external world. Thinking alone has the function of
determining all things in their relations to each other.

The objection might still be urged by the followers of Kant, that the
determination, above-described, of the Given holds, after all, only
for the Ego. Our reply must be, consistently with our principles,
that the distinction between Ego and Outer World, too, holds only
within the Given, and that, therefore, it is irrelevant to insist on
the phrase, "for the Ego," in the face of the activity of thinking
which unites all opposites. The Ego, as divorced from the outer world,
disappears completely in the process of thinking out the nature of the
world. Hence it becomes meaningless still to talk of determinations
which hold only for the Ego.



We have laid the foundations of the Theory of Knowledge as the
science of the significance of all human knowledge. It alone clears
up for us the relation of the contents of the separate sciences to
the world. It enables us, with the help of the sciences, to attain
to a philosophical world-view. Positive knowledge is acquired by us
through particular cognitions; what the value of our knowledge is,
considered as knowledge of reality, we learn through the Theory
of Knowledge. By holding fast strictly to this principle, and by
employing no particular cognitions in our argumentation, we have
transcended all one-sided world-views. One-sidedness, as a rule,
results from the fact that the inquiry, instead of concentrating on
the process of cognition itself, busies itself about some object of
that process. If our arguments are sound, Dogmatism must abandon its
"thing-in-itself" as fundamental principle, and Subjective Idealism its
"Ego," for both these owe their determinate natures in their relation
to each other first to thinking. Scepticism must give up its doubts
whether the world can be known, for there is no room for doubt with
reference to the "Given," because it is as yet untouched by any of
the predicates which cognition confers on it. On the other hand, if
Scepticism were to assert that thinking can never apprehend things as
they are, its assertion, being itself possible only through thinking,
would be self-contradictory. For, to justify doubt by thinking is to
admit by implication that thinking can produce grounds sufficient to
establish certainty. Lastly, our theory of knowledge transcends both
one-sided Empiricism and one-sided Rationalism in uniting both at a
higher level. Thus it does justice to both. It justifies Empiricism
by showing that all positive knowledge about the Given is obtainable
only through direct contact with the Given. And Rationalism, too,
receives its due in our argument, seeing that we hold thinking to be
the necessary and exclusive instrument of knowledge.

The world-view which has the closest affinity to ours, as we
have here built it up on epistemological foundations, is that of
A. E. Biedermann. [61] But Biedermann requires for the justification
of his point of view dogmatic theses which are quite out of place
in Theory of Knowledge. Thus, e.g., he works with the concepts of
Being, Substance, Space, Time, etc., without having first analysed the
cognitive process by itself. Instead of establishing the fact that the
cognitive process consists, to begin with, only of the two elements,
the Given and Thought, he talks of the Kinds of Being of the real. For
example, in Section 15, he says: "Every content of consciousness
includes within itself two fundamental facts--it presents to us, as
given, two kinds of Being which we contrast with each other as sensuous
and spiritual, thing-like and idea-like, Being." And in Section 19:
"Whatever has a spatio-temporal existence, exists materially; that
which is the ground of all existence and the subject of life has an
idea-like existence, is real as having an ideal Being." This sort of
argument belongs, not to the Theory of Knowledge, but to Metaphysics,
which latter presupposes Theory of Knowledge as its foundation. We
must admit that Biedermann's doctrine has many points of similarity
with ours; but our method has not a single point of contact with
his. Hence, we have had no occasion to compare our position directly
with his. Biedermann's aim is to gain an epistemological standpoint
with the help of a few metaphysical axioms. Our aim is to reach,
through an analysis of the process of cognition, a theory of reality.

And we believe that we have succeeded in showing, that all the disputes
between philosophical systems result from the fact that their authors
have sought to attain knowledge about some object or other (Thing,
Self, Consciousness, etc.), without having first given close study
to that which alone can throw light on whatever else we know, viz.,
the nature of knowledge itself.



The aim of the preceding discussions has been to throw light on the
relation of our personality, as knower, to the objective world. What
does it signify for us to possess knowledge and science? This was
the question to which we sought the answer.

We have seen that it is just in our knowing that the innermost kernel
of the world manifestly reveals itself. The harmony, subject to law,
which reigns throughout the whole world, reveals itself precisely in
human cognition.

It is, therefore, part of the destiny of man to elevate the fundamental
laws of the world, which do indeed regulate the whole of existence
but which would never become existent in themselves, into the realm
of realities which appear. This precisely is the essential nature
of knowledge that in it the world-ground is made manifest which in
the object-world can never be discovered. Knowing is--metaphorically
speaking--a continual merging of one's life into the world-ground.

Such a view is bound to throw light also on our practical attitude
towards life.

Our conduct is, in its whole character, determined by our moral
ideals. These are the ideas we have of our tasks in life, or, in other
words, of the ends which we set ourselves to achieve by our action.

Our conduct is a part of the total world-process. Consequently, it,
too, is subject to the universal laws which regulate this process.

Now, every event in the universe has two sides which must be
distinguished: its external sequence in time and space, and its
internal conformity to law.

The apprehension of this conformity of human conduct to law is but
a special case of knowledge. Hence, the conclusions at which we have
arrived concerning the nature of knowledge must apply to this sort of
knowledge, too. To apprehend oneself as a person who acts is to possess
the relevant laws of conduct, i.e., the moral concepts and ideals, in
the form of knowledge. It is this knowledge of the conformity of our
conduct to law which makes our conduct truly ours. For, in that case,
the conformity is given, not as external to the object in which the
action appears, but as the very substance of the object engaged in
living activity. The "object," here, is our own Ego. If the Ego has
with its knowledge really penetrated the essential nature of conduct,
then it feels that it is thereby master of its conduct. Short of this,
the laws of conduct confront us as something external. They master
us. What we achieve, we achieve under the compulsion which they wield
over us. But this compulsion ceases, as soon as their alien character
has been transformed into the Ego's very own activity. Thereafter, the
law no longer rules over us, but rules in us over the actions which
issue from our Ego. To perform an act in obedience to a law which is
external to the agent is to be unfree. To perform it in obedience to
the agent's own law is to be free. To gain knowledge of the laws of
one's own conduct is to become conscious of one's freedom. The process
of cognition is, thus, according to our arguments, the process of
the development of freedom.

Not all human conduct has this character. There are many cases in
which we do not know the laws of our conduct. This part of our conduct
is the unfree part of our activity. Over against it stands the part
the laws of which we make completely our own. This is the realm of
freedom. It is only in so far as our life falls into this realm that
it can be called moral. To transform the actions which are unfree
into actions which are free--this is the task of self-development for
every individual, this is likewise the task of the whole human race.

Thus, the most important problem for all human thinking is to conceive
man as a personality grounded upon itself and free.




Various criticisms on the part of philosophers with which this book
met immediately upon its publication, induce me to add to this Revised
Edition the following brief statement.

I can well understand that there are readers who are interested
in the rest of the book, but who will look upon what follows as a
tissue of abstract concepts which to them is irrelevant and makes
no appeal. They may, if they choose, leave this brief statement
unread. But in philosophy problems present themselves which have their
origin rather in certain prejudices on the thinker's part than in
the natural progression of normal human thinking. With the main body
of this book it seems to me to be the duty of every one to concern
himself, who is striving for clearness about the essential nature of
man and his relation to the world. What follows is rather a problem
the discussion of which certain philosophers demand as necessary to a
treatment of the topics of this book, because these philosophers, by
their whole way of thinking, have created certain difficulties which
do not otherwise occur. If I were to pass by these problems entirely,
certain people would be quick to accuse me of dilettantism, etc. The
impression would thus be created that the author of the views set
down in this book has not thought out his position with regard to
these problems because he has not discussed them in his book.

The problem to which I refer is this: there are thinkers who find a
particular difficulty in understanding how another mind can act on
one's own. They say: the world of my consciousness is a closed circle
within me; so is the world of another's consciousness within him. I
cannot look into the world of another's mind. How, then, do I know
that he and I are in a common world? The theory according to which
we can from the conscious world infer an unconscious world which
never can enter consciousness, attempts to solve this difficulty as
follows. The world, it says, which I have in my consciousness is the
representation in me of a real world to which my consciousness has no
access. In this transcendent world exist the unknown agents which cause
the world in my consciousness. In it, too, exists my own real self,
of which likewise I have only a representation in my consciousness. In
it, lastly, exists the essential self of the fellow-man who confronts
me. Whatever passes in the consciousness of my fellow-man corresponds
to a reality in his transcendent essence which is independent of
his consciousness. His essential nature acts in that realm which,
on this theory, is equally beyond consciousness. Thus an impression
is made in my consciousness which represents there what is present
in another's consciousness and wholly beyond the reach of my direct
awareness. Clearly the point of this theory is to add to the world
accessible to my consciousness an hypothetical world which is to my
immediate experience inaccessible. This is done to avoid the supposed
alternative of having to say that the external world, which I regard
as existing before me, is nothing but the world of my consciousness,
with the absurd--solipsistic--corollary that other persons likewise
exist only within my consciousness.

Several epistemological tendencies in recent speculation have joined
in creating this problem. But it is possible to attain to clearness
about it by surveying the situation from the point of view of spiritual
perception which underlies the exposition of this book. What is it
that, in the first instance, I have before me when I confront another
person? To begin with, there is the sensuous appearance of the other's
body, as given in perception. To this we might add the auditory
perception of what he is saying, and so forth. All this I apprehend,
not with a passive stare, but by the activity of my thinking which
is set in motion. Through the thinking with which I now confront the
other person, the percept of him becomes, as it were, psychically
transparent. As my thinking apprehends the percept, I am compelled to
judge that what I perceive is really quite other than it appears to the
outer senses. The sensuous appearance, in being what it immediately is,
reveals something else which it is mediately. In presenting itself to
me as a distinct object, it, at the same time, extinguishes itself
as a mere sensuous appearance. But in thus extinguishing itself it
reveals a character which, so long as it affects me, compels me as a
thinking being to extinguish my own thinking and to put its thinking
in the place of mine. Its thinking is then apprehended by my thinking
as an experience like my own. Thus I have really perceived another's
thinking. For the immediate percept, in extinguishing itself as
sensuous appearance, is apprehended by my thinking. It is a profess
which passes wholly in my consciousness and consists in this, that the
other's thinking takes the place of my thinking. The self-extinction
of the sensuous appearance actually abolishes the separation between
the spheres of the two consciousnesses. In my own consciousness this
fusion manifests itself in that, so long as I experience the contents
of the other's consciousness, I am aware of my own consciousness
as little as I am aware of it in dreamless sleep. Just as my waking
consciousness is eliminated from the latter, so are the contents of
my own consciousness eliminated from my perception of the contents
of another's consciousness. Two things tend to deceive us about
the true facts. The first is that, in perceiving another person, the
extinction of the contents of one's own consciousness is replaced not,
as in sleep, by unconsciousness, but by the contents of the other's
consciousness. The other is that my consciousness of my own self
oscillates so rapidly between extinction and recurrence, that these
alternations usually escape observation. The whole problem is to be
solved, not through artificial construction of concepts, involving an
inference from what is in consciousness to what always must transcend
consciousness, but through genuine experience of the connection between
thinking and perceiving. The same remark applies to many other problems
which appear in philosophical literature. Philosophers should seek
the road to unprejudiced spiritual observation, instead of hiding
reality behind an artificial frontage of concepts.

In a monograph by Eduard von Hartmann on "The Ultimate Problems of
Epistemology and Metaphysics" (in the Zeitschrift für Philosophie und
philosophische Kritik, Vol. 108, p. 55), my Philosophy of Spiritual
Activity has been classed with the philosophical tendency which seeks
to build upon an "epistemological Monism." Eduard von Hartmann rejects
this position as untenable, for the following reasons. According to
the point of view maintained in his monograph, there are only three
possible positions in the theory of knowledge. The first consists in
remaining true to the naïve point of view, which regards objects of
sense-perception as real things existing outside the human mind. This,
urges Von Hartmann, implies a lack of critical reflection. I fail
to realise that with all my contents of consciousness I remain
imprisoned in my own consciousness. I fail to perceive that I am
dealing, not with a "table-in-itself," but only with a phenomenon
in my own consciousness. If I stop at this point of view, or if
for whatever reasons I return to it, I am a Naïve Realist. But this
whole position is untenable, for it ignores that consciousness has no
other objects than its own contents. The second position consists in
appreciating this situation and confessing it to oneself. As a result,
I become a Transcendental Idealist. As such, says Von Hartmann, I am
obliged to deny that a "thing-in-itself" can ever appear in any way
within the human mind. But, if developed with unflinching consistency,
this view ends in Absolute Illusionism. For the world which confronts
me is now transformed into a mere sum of contents of consciousness,
and, moreover, of contents of my private consciousness. The objects
of other human minds, too, I am then compelled to conceive--absurdly
enough--as present solely in my own consciousness. Hence, the only
tenable position, according to Von Hartmann, is the third, viz.,
Transcendental Realism. On this view, there are "things-in-themselves,"
but consciousness can have no dealings with them by way of immediate
experience. Existing beyond the sphere of human consciousness, they
cause, in a way of which we remain unconscious, the appearance of
objects in consciousness. These "things-in-themselves" are known only
by inference from the contents of consciousness, which are immediately
experienced but for that very reason, purely ideal. Eduard von
Hartmann maintains in the monograph cited above, that "epistemological
Monism"--for such he takes my point of view to be--is bound to declare
itself identical with one or other of the above three positions;
and that its failure to do so is due only to its inconsistency in not
drawing the actual consequences of its presuppositions. The monograph
goes on to say: "If we want to find out which epistemological position
a so-called Epistemological Monist occupies, all we have to do is
to put to him certain questions and compel him to answer them. For,
out of his own initiative, no Monist will condescend to state his
views on these points, and likewise he will seek to dodge in every
way giving a straight answer to our questions, because every answer he
may give will betray that Epistemological Monism does not differ from
one or other of the three positions. Our questions are the following:
(1) Are things continuous or intermittent in their existence? If the
answer is 'continuous,' we have before us some one of the forms of
Naïve Realism. If the answer is 'intermittent,' we have Transcendental
Idealism. But if the answer is: 'They are, on the one hand, continuous,
viz., as contents of the Absolute Mind, or as unconscious ideas,
or as permanent possibilities of perception, but, on the other hand,
intermittent, viz., as contents of finite consciousness,' we recognise
Transcendental Realism. (2) When three persons are sitting at a table,
how many distinct tables are there? The Naïve Realist answers 'one';
the Transcendental Idealist answers 'three'; but the Transcendental
Realist answers 'four.' This last answer does, indeed, presuppose
that it is legitimate to group together in the single question,
'How many tables?' things so unlike each other as the one table
which is the 'thing-in-itself' and the three tables which are the
objects of perception in the three perceivers' minds. If this seems
too great a licence to anyone, he will have to answer 'one and three,'
instead of 'four.' (3) When two persons are alone together in a room,
how many distinct persons are there? If you answer 'two'--you are a
Naïve Realist. If you answer 'four,' viz., in each of the two minds
one 'I' and one 'Other,' you are a Transcendental Idealist. If you
answer 'six,' viz., two persons as 'things-in-themselves' and four
persons as ideal objects in the two minds, you are a Transcendental
Realist. In order to show that Epistemological Monism is not one of
these three positions, we should have to give other answers than the
above to each of these three questions. But I cannot imagine what
answers these could be." The answers of the Philosophy of Spiritual
Activity would have to be: (1) Whoever apprehends only what he
perceives of a thing and mistakes these percepts for the reality of
the thing, is a Naïve Realist. He does not realise that, strictly,
he ought to regard these perceptual contents as existing only so long
as he is looking at the objects, so that he ought to conceive the
objects before him as intermittent. As soon, however, as it becomes
clear to him that reality is to be met with only in the percepts
which are organised by thinking, he attains to the insight that the
percepts which appear as intermittent events, reveal themselves as
continuously in existence as soon as they are interpreted by the
constructions of thought. Hence continuity of existence must be
predicated of the contents of perception which living thought has
organised. Only that part which is only perceived, not thought, would
have to be regarded as intermittent if--which is not the case--there
were such a part. (2) When three persons are sitting at a table,
how many distinct tables are there? There is only one table. But
so long as the three persons stop short at their perceptual images,
they ought to say: "These percepts are not the reality at all." As
soon as they pass on to the table as apprehended by thinking, there
is revealed to them the one real table. They are then united with
their three contents of consciousness in this one reality. (3) When
two persons are alone together in a room, how many distinct persons
are there? Most assuredly there are not six--not even in the sense
of the Transcendental Realist's theory--but only two. Only, at first,
each person has nothing but the unreal percept of himself and of the
other person. There are four such percepts, the presence of which in
the minds of the two persons is the stimulus for the apprehension of
reality by their thinking. In this activity of thinking each of the
two persons transcends the sphere of his own consciousness. A living
awareness of the consciousness of the other person as well as of his
own arises in each. In these moments of living awareness the persons
are as little imprisoned within their consciousness as they are in
sleep. But at other moments consciousness of this identification
with the other returns, so that each person, in the experience of
thinking, apprehends consciously both himself and the other person. I
know that a Transcendental Realist describes this view as a relapse
into Naïve Realism. But, then, I have already pointed out in this
book that Naïve Realism retains its justification for our thinking
as we actually experience it. The Transcendental Realist ignores
the true situation in the process of cognition completely. He cuts
himself off from the facts by a tissue of concepts and entangles
himself in it. Moreover, the Monism which appears in the Philosophy
of Spiritual Activity ought not to be labelled "epistemological,"
but, if an epithet is wanted, then a "Monism of Thought." All this
has been misunderstood by Eduard von Hartmann. Ignoring all that
is specific in the argumentation of the Philosophy of Spiritual
Activity, he has charged me with having attempted to combine Hegel's
Universalistic Panlogism with Hume's Individualistic Phenomenalism
(Zeitschrift für Philosophie, vol. 108, p. 71, note). But, in truth,
the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity has nothing whatever to do with
the two positions which it is accused of trying to combine. (This,
too, is the reason why I could feel no interest in polemics against,
e.g., the Epistemological Monism of Johannes Rehmke. The point of view
of the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity is simply quite different from
what Eduard von Hartmann and others call "Epistemological Monism.")



The following chapter reproduces, in all essentials, the pages
which stood as a sort of "Introduction" in the first edition of this
book. Inasmuch as it rather reflects the mood out of which I composed
this book twenty-five years ago, than has any direct bearing on its
contents, I print it here as an "Appendix." I do not want to omit it
altogether, because the suggestion keeps cropping up that I want to
suppress some of my earlier writings on account of my later works on
spiritual matters.

Our age is one which is unwilling to seek truth anywhere but in the
depths of human nature. [62] Of the following two well-known paths
described by Schiller, it is the second which will to-day be found
most useful:

    Wahrheit suchen wir beide, du aussen im Leben, ich innen
    In dem Herzen, und so findet sie jeder gewiss.
    Ist das Auge gesund, so begegnet es aussen dem Schöpfer
    Ist es das Herz, dann gewiss spiegelt es innen die Welt. [63]

A truth which comes to us from without bears ever the stamp of
uncertainty. Conviction attaches only to what appears as truth to
each of us in our own hearts.

Truth alone can give us confidence in developing our powers. He who
is tortured by doubts finds his powers lamed. In a world the riddle
of which baffles him, he can find no aim for his activity.

We no longer want to believe; we want to know. Belief demands the
acceptance of truths which we do not wholly comprehend. But the
individuality which seeks to experience everything in the depths of
its own being, is repelled by what it cannot understand. Only that
knowledge will satisfy us which springs from the inner life of the
personality, and submits itself to no external norm.

Again, we do not want any knowledge which has encased itself once and
for all in hide-bound formulas, and which is preserved in Encyclopædias
valid for all time. Each of us claims the right to start from the
facts that lie nearest to hand, from his own immediate experiences,
and thence to ascend to a knowledge of the whole universe. We strive
after certainty in knowledge, but each in his own way.

Our scientific theories, too, are no longer to be formulated as if we
were unconditionally compelled to accept them. None of us would wish to
give a scientific work a title like Fichte's A Pellucid Account for the
General Public concerning the Real Nature of the Newest Philosophy. An
Attempt to Compel the Readers to Understand. Nowadays there is no
attempt to compel anyone to understand. We claim no agreement from
anyone whom a distinct individual need does not drive to a certain
view. We do not seek nowadays to cram facts of knowledge even into
the immature human being, the child. We seek rather to develop his
faculties in such a way that his understanding may depend no longer on
our compulsion, but on his will. I am under no illusion concerning the
characteristics of the present age. I know how many flaunt a manner
of life which lacks all individuality and follows only the prevailing
fashion. But I know also that many of my contemporaries strive to order
their lives in the direction of the principles I have indicated. To
them I would dedicate this book. It does not pretend to offer the
"only possible" way to Truth, it only describes the path chosen by
one whose heart is set upon Truth.

The reader will be led at first into somewhat abstract regions,
where thought must draw sharp outlines, if it is to reach secure
conclusions. But he will also be led out of these arid concepts into
concrete life. I am fully convinced that one cannot do without soaring
into the ethereal realm of abstraction, if one's experience is to
penetrate life in all directions. He who is limited to the pleasures
of the senses misses the sweetest enjoyments of life. The Oriental
sages make their disciples live for years a life of resignation and
asceticism before they impart to them their own wisdom. The Western
world no longer demands pious exercises and ascetic practices as a
preparation for science, but it does require a sincere willingness
to withdraw oneself awhile from the immediate impressions of life,
and to betake oneself into the realm of pure thought.

The spheres of life are many and for each there develops a special
science. But life itself is one, and the more the sciences strive to
penetrate deeply into their separate spheres, the more they withdraw
themselves from the vision of the world as a living whole. There
must be one supreme science which seeks in the separate sciences the
elements for leading men back once more to the fullness of life. The
scientific specialist seeks in his studies to gain a knowledge of the
world and its workings. This book has a philosophical aim: science
itself is here infused with the life of an organic whole. The special
sciences are stages on the way to this all-inclusive science. A similar
relation is found in the arts. The composer in his work employs the
rules of the theory of composition. This latter is an accumulation
of principles, knowledge of which is a necessary presupposition for
composing. In the act of composing, the rules of theory become the
servants of life, of reality. In exactly the same way philosophy is
an art. All genuine philosophers have been artists in concepts. Human
ideas have been the medium of their art, and scientific method their
artistic technique. Abstract thinking thus gains concrete individual
life. Ideas turn into life-forces. We have no longer merely a knowledge
about things, but we have now made knowledge a real, self-determining
organism. Our consciousness, alive and active, has risen beyond a
mere passive reception of truths.

How philosophy, as an art, is related to freedom; what freedom is;
and whether we do, or can, participate in it--these are the principal
problems of my book. All other scientific discussions are put in only
because they ultimately throw light on these questions which are,
in my opinion, the most intimate that concern mankind. These pages
offer a "Philosophy of Freedom."

All science would be nothing but the satisfaction of idle curiosity
did it not strive to enhance the existential value of human
personality. The true value of the sciences is seen only when we
are shown the importance of their results for humanity. The final
aim of an individuality can never be the cultivation of any single
faculty, but only the development of all capacities which slumber
within us. Knowledge has value only in so far as it contributes to
the all-round unfolding of the whole nature of man.

This book, therefore, does not conceive the relation between science
and life in such a way that man must bow down before the world of
ideas and devote his powers to its service. On the contrary, it shows
that he takes possession of the world of ideas in order to use them
for his human aims, which transcend those of mere science.

Man must confront ideas as master, lest he become their slave.



Contemporary philosophy suffers from a morbid belief in Kant. To
help towards our emancipation from this belief is the aim of the
present essay. It would indeed be criminal to try and minimise the
debt which the development of German philosophy owes to Kant's
immortal work. But it is high time to acknowledge that the only
way of laying the foundations for a truly satisfying view of the
world and of human life is to put ourselves in decisive opposition
to the spirit of Kant. What is it that Kant has achieved? He has
shown that the transcendent ground of the world which lies beyond
the data of our senses and the categories of our reason, and which
his predecessors sought to determine by means of empty concepts,
is inaccessible to our knowledge. From this he concluded that all our
scientific thinking must keep within the limits of possible experience,
and is incapable of attaining to knowledge of the transcendent and
ultimate ground of the world, i.e., of the "thing-in-itself." But
what if this "thing-in-itself," this whole transcendent ground of
the world, should be nothing but a fiction? It is easy to see that
this is precisely what it is. An instinct inseparable from human
nature impels us to search for the innermost essence of things,
for their ultimate principles. It is the basis of all scientific
enquiry. But, there is not the least reason to look for this ultimate
ground outside the world of our senses and of our spirit, unless a
thorough and comprehensive examination of this world should reveal
within it elements which point unmistakably to an external cause.

The present essay attempts to prove that all the principles which we
need in order to explain our world and make it intelligible, are within
reach of our thought. Thus, the assumption of explanatory principles
lying outside our world turns out to be the prejudice of an extinct
philosophy which lived on vain dogmatic fancies. This ought to have
been Kant's conclusion, too, if he had really enquired into the powers
of human thought. Instead, he demonstrated in the most complicated way
that the constitution of our cognitive faculties does not permit us
to reach the ultimate principles which lie beyond our experience. But
we have no reason whatever for positing these principles in any such
Beyond. Thus Kant has indeed refuted "dogmatic" philosophy, but he has
put nothing in its place. Hence, all German philosophy which succeeded
Kant has evolved everywhere in opposition to him. Fichte, Schelling,
Hegel simply ignored the limits fixed by Kant for our knowledge and
sought the ultimate principles, not beyond, but within, the world
accessible to human reason. Even Schopenhauer, though he does declare
the conclusions of Kant's Critique of Pure Reason to be eternal and
irrefutable truths, cannot avoid seeking knowledge of the ultimate
grounds of the world along paths widely divergent from those of his
master. But the fatal mistake of all these thinkers was that they
sought knowledge of ultimate truths, without having laid the foundation
for such an enterprise in a preliminary investigation of the nature
of knowledge itself. Hence, the proud intellectual edifices erected by
Fichte, Schelling and Hegel have no foundation to rest on. The lack of
such foundations reacts most unfavourably upon the arguments of these
thinkers. Ignorant of the importance of the world of pure ideas and
of its relation to the realm of sense-perception, they built error
upon error, one-sidedness upon one-sidedness. No wonder that their
over-bold systems proved unable to withstand the storms of an age
which recked nothing of philosophy. No wonder that many good things
in these systems were pitilessly swept away along with the errors.

To remedy the defect which has just been indicated is the purpose of
the following investigations. They will not imitate Kant by explaining
what our minds can not know: their aim is to show what our minds
can know.

The outcome of these investigations is that truth is not, as
the current view has it, an ideal reproduction of a some real
object, but a free product of the human spirit, which would not
exist anywhere at all unless we ourselves produced it. It is not
the task of knowledge to reproduce in conceptual form something
already existing independently. Its task is to create a wholly new
realm which, united with the world of sense-data, ends by yielding
us reality in the full sense. In this way, man's supreme activity,
the creative productivity of his spirit, finds its organic place
in the universal world-process. Without this activity it would be
impossible to conceive the world-process as a totality complete in
itself. Man does not confront the world-process as a passive spectator
who merely copies in his mind the events which occur, without his
participation, in the cosmos without. He is an active co-creator in
the world-process, and his knowledge is the most perfect member of
the organism of the universe.

This view carries with it an important consequence for our conduct,
for our moral ideals. These, too, must be regarded, not as copies of
an external standard, but as rooted within us. Similarly, we refuse
to look upon our moral laws as the behests of any power outside
us. We know no "categorical imperative" which, like a voice from the
Beyond, prescribes to us what to do or to leave undone. Our moral
ideals are our own free creations. All we have to do is to carry out
what we prescribe to ourselves as the norm of our conduct. Thus, the
concept of truth as a free act leads to a theory of morals based on
the concept of a perfectly free personality.

These theses, of course, are valid only for that part of our
conduct the laws of which our thinking penetrates with complete
comprehension. So long as the laws of our conduct are merely natural
motives or remain obscure to our conceptual thinking, it may be
possible from a higher spiritual level to perceive how far they are
founded in our individuality, but we ourselves experience them as
influencing us from without, as compelling us to action. Every time
that we succeed in penetrating such a motive with clear understanding,
we make a fresh conquest in the realm of freedom.

The relation of these views to the theory of Eduard von Hartmann,
who is the most significant figure in contemporary philosophy, will
be made clear to the reader in detail in the course of this essay,
especially as regards the problem of knowledge.

A prelude to a Philosophy of Spiritual Activity--this is what the
present essay offers. That philosophy itself, completely worked out,
will shortly follow.

The ultimate aim of all science is to increase the value of existence
for human personality. Whoever does not devote himself to science
with this aim in view is merely modelling himself in his own work upon
some master. If he "researches," it is merely because that happens to
be what he has been taught to do. But not for him is the title of a
"free thinker."

The sciences are seen in their true value only when philosophy explains
the human significance of their results. To make a contribution to such
an explanation was my aim. But, perhaps, our present-day science scorns
all philosophical vindication! If so, two things are certain. One
is that this essay of mine is superfluous. The other is that modern
thinkers are lost in the wood and do not know what they want.

In concluding this Preface, I cannot omit a personal observation. Up
to now I have expounded all my philosophical views on the basis of
Goethe's world-view, into which I was first introduced by my dear
and revered teacher, Karl Julius Schröer, who to me stands in the
very forefront of Goethe-students, because his gaze is ever focussed
beyond the particular upon the universal Ideas.

But, with this essay I hope to have shown that the edifice of my
thought is a whole which has its foundations in itself and which
does not need to be derived from Goethe's world-view. My theories,
as they are here set forth and as they will presently be amplified
in the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity, have grown up in the course
of many years. Nothing but a deep sense of gratitude leads me to
add that the affectionate sympathy of the Specht family in Vienna,
during the period when I was the tutor of its children, provided me
with an environment, than which I could not have wished a better, for
the development of my ideas. In the same spirit, I would add, further,
that I owe to the stimulating conversations with my very dear friend,
Miss Rosa Mayreder, of Vienna, the mood which I needed for putting into
final form many of the thoughts which I have sketched provisionally as
germs of my Philosophy of Spiritual Activity. Her own literary efforts,
which express the sensitive and high-minded nature of a true artist,
are likely before long to be presented to the public.

Vienna, December, 1891.



The aim of the following discussions is to reduce the act of cognition,
by analysis, to its ultimate elements and thus to discover a correct
formulation of the problem of knowledge and a way to its solution. They
criticise all theories of knowledge which are based on Kant's line
of thought, in order to show that along this road no solution of
the problem of knowledge can ever be found. It is, however, due to
the fundamental spade-work which Volkelt has done in his thorough
examination of the concept of experience, [64] to acknowledge that
without his preliminary labours the precise determination, which
I have here attempted of the concept of the Given would have been
very much more difficult. However, we are cherishing the hope that we
have laid the foundations for our emancipation from the Subjectivism
which attaches to all theories of knowledge that start from Kant. We
believe ourselves to have achieved this emancipation through showing
that the subjective form, in which the picture of the world presents
itself to the act of cognition, prior to its elaboration by science,
is nothing but a necessary stage of transition which is overcome in
the very process of knowledge itself. For us, experience, so-called,
which Positivism and Neo-Kantianism would like to represent as the
only thing which is certain, is precisely the most subjective of
all. In demonstrating this, we also show that Objective Idealism is
the inevitable conclusion of a theory of knowledge which understands
itself. It differs from the metaphysical and absolute Idealism of Hegel
in this, that it seeks in the subject of knowledge the ground for the
diremption of reality into given existence and concept, and that it
looks for the reconciliation of this divorce, not in an objective
world-dialectic, but in the subjective process of cognition. The
present writer has already once before advocated this point of view
in print, viz., in the Outlines of a Theory of Knowledge (Berlin and
Stuttgart, 1885). However, that book differs essentially in method
from the present essay, and it also lacks the analytic reduction of
knowledge to its ultimate elements.


[1] Two souls, alas! reside within my breast,
    And each withdraws from, and repels, its brother.
    One with tenacious organs holds in love
    And clinging lust the world in its embraces;
    The other strongly sweeps, this dust above,
    Into the high ancestral spaces.

                                    Faust, Part I, Scene 2.

    (Bayard Taylor's translation.)

[2] Knowledge is transcendental when it is aware that nothing can
be asserted directly about the thing-in-itself but makes indirect
inferences from the subjective which is known to the unknown which
lies beyond the subjective (transcendental). The thing-in-itself is,
according to this view, beyond the sphere of the world of immediate
experience; in other words, it is transcendent. Our world can, however,
be transcendentally related to the transcendent. Hartmann's theory is
called Realism because it proceeds from the subjective, the mental,
to the transcendent, the real.

[3] The way in which the above view has influenced psychology,
physiology, etc., in various directions has been set forth by the
author in works published after this book. Here he is concerned only
with characterising the results of an open-minded study of thinking

[4] The passage from page 146 down to this point has been added,
or rewritten, for the present Revised Edition. (1918).

[5] A complete catalogue of the principles of morality (from the
point of view of Metaphysical Realism) may be found in Eduard von
Hartmann's Phänomenologie des sittlichen Bewusstseins.

[6] Translation by Abbott, Kant's Theory of Ethics, p. 180; Critique
of Pure Practical Reason, chap. iii.

[7] For the manner in which I have here spoken of "Materialism,"
and for the justification of so speaking of it, see the Addition at
the end of this chapter.

[8] Only a superficial critic will find in the use of the word
"faculty," in this and other passages, a relapse into the old-fashioned
doctrine of faculties of the soul.

[9] When Paulsen, p. 15 of the book mentioned above, says: "Different
natural endowments and different conditions of life demand both a
different bodily and also a different mental and moral diet," he
is very close to the correct view, but yet he misses the decisive
point. In so far as I am an individual, I need no diet. Dietetic
means the art of bringing a particular specimen into harmony with the
universal laws of the genus. But as an individual I am not a specimen
of a genus.

[10] The Editor would call the reader's attention to the fact that
this book was written in 1894. For many years Dr. Steiner's efforts
have been chiefly concentrated in upholding the Divinity of Christ
consistently with the broader lines of the Christian Churches.

[11] We are entitled to speak of thoughts (ethical ideas) as objects
of observation. For, although the products of thinking do not enter
the field of observation, so long as the thinking goes on, they may
well become objects of observation subsequently. In this way we have
gained our characterisation of action.

[12] Those who want to settle by calculation whether the sum total of
pleasure or that of pain is bigger, ignore that they are subjecting
to calculation something which is nowhere experienced. Feeling does
not calculate, and what matters for the real valuing of life is what
we really experience, not what results from an imaginary calculation.

[13] We disregard here the case where excessive increase of pleasure
turns pleasure into pain.

[14] Immediately upon the publication of this book (1894), critics
objected to the above arguments that, even now, within the generic
character of her sex, a woman is able to shape her life individually,
just as she pleases, and far more freely than a man who is already
de-individualised, first by the school, and later by war and
profession. I am aware that this objection will be urged to-day, even
more strongly. None the less, I feel bound to let my sentences stand,
in the hope that there are readers who appreciate how violently such
an objection runs counter to the concept of freedom advocated in this
book, and who will interpret my sentences above by another standard
than that of man's loss of individuality through school and profession.

[15] The Preface and Introduction to the original edition of "Truth
and Science" are printed as Appendix III and Appendix IV at the end
of this volume.

[16] l.c., p. 20.

[17] cf. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, Intr. to 2nd edit., Section vi.

[18] Prolegomena, Section v.

[19] Critique of Pure Reason, Intr., Section iv.

[20] cf. his Analyse der Wirklichkeit, Gedanken und Tatsachen.

[21] "Possible" here means merely conceivable.

[22] cf. Die Welt als Wahrnehmung und Begriff, pp. 161 ff.

[23] This attempt, by the way, is one which the objections of Robert
Zimmermann (Über Kant's mathematisches Vorurteil und dessen Folgen)
show to be, if not wholly mistaken, at least highly questionable.

[24] Critique of Pure Reason, Intr. to 2nd edit., Section ii.

[25] cf. Kant's Theorie der Erfahrung, pp. 90 ff.

[26] l.c., Section v.

[27] cf. Kant's Theorie der Erfahrung, pp. 90 ff.

[28] cf. Die Grundsätze der reinen Erkenntnistheorie in der Kantischen
Philosophie, p. 76.

[29] l.c., p. 21.

[30] Zur Analyse der Wirklichkeit, pp. 211 ff.

[31] Darstellung der Kantischen Erkenntnistheorie, p. 14.

[32] Vierteljahrsschrift für Wissenschaftliche Philosophie, 1877,
p. 239.

[33] System der Logik, 3rd edit., pp. 380 ff.

[34] Kritische Grundlagen des Transcendentalen Realismus, pp. 142-172.

[35] Geschichte der Neueren Philosophie, Vol. v., p. 60. Volkelt
is mistaken about Fischer when he says (Kant's Erkenntnistheorie,
p. 198, n.) that "it is not clear from Fischer's account whether,
in his opinion, Kant takes for granted only the psychological fact of
the occurrence of universal and necessary judgments, but also their
objective validity and truth." For, in the passage referred to above,
Fischer says that the chief difficulty of the Critique of Pure Reason
is to be found in the fact that "its fundamental positions rest on
certain presuppositions" which "have to be granted if the rest is to
be valid." These presuppositions consist for Fischer, too, in this,
that "first the fact of knowledge is affirmed," and then analysis
reveals the cognitive faculties "by means of which that fact itself
is explained."

[36] How far our own epistemological discussions conform to this
method, will be shown in Section iv, "The Starting-points of the
Theory of Knowledge."

[37] l.c., Preface, p. x.

[38] Zur Analyse der Wirklichkeit (Strassburg, 1876), p. 28.

[39] Kant's Erkenntnistheorie, Section i.

[40] A. Dorner, Das menschliche Erkennen (Berlin, 1887).

[41] Rehmke, l.c.

[42] Die Lehre vom Wissen (Berlin, 1868).

[43] Die Grundfragen der Erkenntnistheorie (Mainz, 1887) p. 385.

[44] System der kritischen Philosophie, I. Teil, p. 257.

[45] Das Grundproblem der Erkenntnistheorie, p. 37.

[46] Philosophische Monatshefte, Vol. xxvi (1890), p. 390.

[47] Das Grundproblem der Erkenntnistheorie, p. 1.

[48] By "concept" I mean a rule for the synthesis of the disconnected
data of perception into a unity. Causality, e.g., is a "concept." By
"idea" I mean nothing but a concept of richer connotation. "Organism,"
taken quite generally, is an example of an "idea."

[49] It ought not to be necessary to say that the term "centre,"
here, is not intended to affirm a theory concerning the nature of
consciousness, but is used merely as a shorthand expression for the
total physiognomy of consciousness.

[50] Fichte's Sämtliche Werke, Vol. I, p. 71.

[51] l.c., Vol. I, p. 97.

[52] l.c., Vol. I, p. 91.

[53] l.c., Vol. I, p. 178.

[54] l.c., Vol. I, p. 91.

[55] Geschichte der Philosophie, p. 605.

[56] Fichte, Sämtliche Werke, Vol. I, p. 94.

[57] l.c., Vol. I, p. 98.

[58] l.c., Vol. I, p. 422.

[59] Delivered in the autumn of 1813 at the University of Berlin. See
Nachgelassene Werke, Vol. I, p. 4.

[60] l.c., Vol. I, p. 16.

[61] cf. his Christliche Dogmatik, 2nd edit., 1884-5. The
epistemological arguments are in Vol. I. An exhaustive discussion
of his point of view has been furnished by E. von Hartmann. See his
Kritische Wanderungen durch die Philosophie der Gegenwart, pp. 200 ff.

[62] Only the very first opening sentences (in the first edition) of
this argument have been altogether omitted here, because they seem
to me to-day wholly irrelevant. But the rest of the chapter seems
to me even to day relevant and necessary, in spite, nay, because,
of the scientific bias of contemporary thought.

[63] Truth seek we both--Thou in the life without thee and around;
     I in the heart within. By both can Truth alike be found.
     The healthy eye can through the world the great Creator track;
     The healthy heart is but the glass which gives Creation back.


[64] Erfahrung und Denken, Kritische Grundlegung der Erkenntnistheorie,
von Johannes Volkelt (Hamburg und Leipzig, 1886).

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