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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

Jacobi was not constant in his terminology


These

principles which Jacobi brought out in his letters concerning Spinoza, did not fail to arouse a universal opposition in the German philosophical world. It was charged upon him that he was an enemy of reason, a preacher of blind faith, a despiser of science and of philosophy, a fanatic and a papist. To rebut these attacks, and to justify his standpoint, he wrote in 1787, a year and a half after the first appearance of the work already named, his dialogue entitled "_David Hume_, or _Faith, Idealism, and Realism_," in which he developes more extensively and definitely his principle of faith or immediate knowledge.

2. Jacobi distinguished his faith at the outset from a blind credence in authority. A blind faith is that which supports itself on a foreign view, instead of on the grounds of reason. But this is not the case with his faith, which rather rests upon the innermost necessity of the subject itself. Still farther: his faith is not an arbitrary imagination: we can imagine to ourselves every thing possible, but in order to regard a thing as actual, there must be an inexplicable necessity of our feeling, which we cannot otherwise name than faith. Jacobi was not constant in his terminology, and hence did not always express himself alike in respect of the relation in which faith stood to the different sides of the human faculty of knowledge. In his earlier terminology he placed faith (or as he also called it, the power of faith), on the side of

the sense or the receptivity, and let it stand opposed to the understanding and the reason, taking these two terms as equivalent expressions for the finite and immediate knowledge of previous philosophy; afterwards he followed Kant, and, distinguishing between the reason and the understanding, he called that reason which he had previously named sense and faith. According to him now, the faith or intuition of the reason is the organ for perceiving the supersensible. As such, it stands opposed to the understanding. There must be a higher faculty which can learn, in a way inconceivable to sense and the understanding, that which is true in and above the phenomena. Over against the explaining understanding stands the reason, or the natural faith of the reason, which does not explain, but positively reveals and unconditionally decides. As there is an intuition of the sense, so is there a rational intuition through the reason, and a demonstration has no more validity in respect of the latter than in respect of the former. Jacobi justifies his use of the term, intuition of the reason, from the want of any other suitable designation. Language has no other expression to indicate the way in which that, which is unattainable to the sense, becomes apprehended in the transcendental feeling. If any one affirms that he knows any thing, he may properly be required to state the origin of his knowledge, and in doing this, he must of necessity go back either to sensation or to feeling; the latter stands above the former as high as the human species above the brute. So I affirm, then, without hesitation, says Jacobi, that my philosophy starts from pure feeling, and declares the authority of this to be supreme. The faculty of feeling is the highest in man, and that alone which specifically distinguishes him from the brute. This faculty is one and the same with reason; or, reason may be said to find in it its single and only starting point.

Jacobi had the clearest consciousness of the opposition in which he stood, with this principle of immediate knowledge, to previous philosophy. In his introduction to his complete works, he says: "There had arisen since the time of Aristotle an increasing effort in philosophical schools, to subject the immediate knowledge to the mediate, to make that faculty of perception which originally establishes every thing, dependent on the faculty of reflection, which is conditioned through abstraction; to subordinate the archetype to the copy, the essence to the word, the reason to the understanding, and, in fact, to make the former wholly disappear in the latter. Nothing is allowed to be true which is not capable of a double demonstration, in the intuition and in the conception, in the thing and in its image or word; the thing itself, it is said, must truly lie and actually be known only in the word." But every philosophy which allows only the reflecting reason, must lose itself at length in an utter ignorance. Its end is nihilism.


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