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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

His relation to the cotemporaneous philosophy


While the subjective idealism of Fichte was carried out in the objective idealism of Schelling, and the absolute idealism of Hegel, there arose cotemporaneously with these systems a third offshoot of the Kantian criticism, viz., the philosophy of _Herbart_. It had its subjective origin in the Kantian philosophy, but its objective and historic connection with Kant is slight. It breaks up all historic continuity, and holds an isolated position in the history of philosophy. Its general basis is Kantian, in so far as it makes for its problem a critical investigation of the subjective experience. We place it between Fichte and Schelling.



Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi was born at Duesseldorf in 1743. His father destined him for a merchant. After he had studied in Geneva and become interested in philosophy, he entered his father's mercantile establishment, but afterwards abandoned this business, having been made chancellor of the exchequer and customs commissioner for Cleves and Berg, and also privy councillor at Duesseldorf. In this city, or at his neighboring estate of Pempelfort, he spent a great part of his life devoted to philosophy and his friends. In the year 1804 he was called to the newly-formed Academy of Sciences in Munich. In 1807 he was chosen president of this institution, a post which he filled till his death in

1819. Jacobi had a rich intellect and an amiable character. Besides being a philosopher, he was also a poet and citizen of the world; and hence we find in his philosophizing an absence of strict logical arrangement and precise expression of thought. His writings are no systematic whole, but are occasional treatises written "rhapsodically and in grasshopper gait," for the most part in the form of letters, dialogues, and romances. "It was never my purpose," he says himself, "to set up a system for the schools. My writings have sprung from my innermost life, and were the result of that which had taken place within me. In a certain sense I did not make them voluntarily, but they were drawn out of me by a higher power irresistible to myself." This want of an inner principle of classification and of a systematic arrangement, renders a development of Jacobi's philosophy not easy. It may best be represented under the following three points of view:--1. Jacobi's polemic against mediate knowledge. 2. His principle of immediate knowledge. 3. His relation to the cotemporaneous philosophy, especially to the Kantian criticism.

1. Spinoza was the negative starting point of Jacobi's philosophizing. In his work "_On the Doctrine of Spinoza, in letters to Moses Mendelssohn_" (1785), he directed public attention again to the almost wholly forgotten philosophy of Spinoza. The correspondence originated thus: Jacobi made the discovery that Lessing was a Spinozist, and announces this to Mendelssohn. The latter will not believe it, and thence grew the farther historical and philosophical examination. The positive philosophic views which Jacobi exhibits in this treatise can be reduced to the following three principles: (1) Spinozism is fatalism and atheism. (2) Every path of philosophic demonstration leads to fatalism and atheism. (3) In order that we may not fall into these, we must set a limit to demonstrating, and recognize faith as the element of all metaphysic knowledge.

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