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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

A science of the supersensible


From what has been already said, the position of Jacobi with his principle of faith, in relation to the Kantian philosophy, can, partly at least, be seen. Jacobi had separated himself from this philosophy, partly in the above-named dialogue "David Hume," (especially in an appendix to this, in which he discussed the transcendental Idealism), and partly in his essay "_On the attempt of criticism to bring the reason to the understanding_" (1801). His relation to it may be reduced to the following three general points:

(1.) Jacobi does not agree with Kant's theory of sensuous knowledge. In opposition to this theory he defends the standpoint of empiricism, affirms the truthfulness of the sense-perception, and denies the apriority of space and time, for which Kant contends in order to prove that objects as well as their relations are simply determinations of our own self, and do not at all exist externally to us. For, however much it may be affirmed that there is something corresponding to our notions as their cause, yet does it remain concealed what this something is. According to Kant, the laws of our beholding and thinking are without objective validity, our knowledge has no objective significance. But it is wrong to claim that in the phenomena there is nothing revealed of the hidden truth which lies behind them. With such a claim, it were far better to give up completely the unknown thing-in-itself, and carry out to its results the consequent idealism.

"Logically, Kant is at fault, when he presupposes objects which make impressions on our soul. He is bound to teach the strictest idealism."

(2.) Yet Jacobi essentially agrees with Kant's critick of the understanding. Jacobi affirmed, as Kant had done, that the understanding is insufficient to know the supersensible, and that the highest ideas of the reason could be apprehended only in faith. Jacobi places Kant's great merit in having cleared away the ideas, which were simply the products of reflection and logical phantasms. "It is very easy for the understanding, when producing one notion from another, and thus gradually mounting up to ideas, to imagine that, by virtue of these, which, though they carry it beyond the intuitions of the sense, are nothing but logical phantasms, it has not only the faculty but the most decided determination to fly truly above the world of sense, and to gain by its flight a higher science independent of the intuition, a science of the supersensible. Kant discovers and destroys this error and self-deception. Thus there is gained, at least, a clear place for a _genuine_ rationalism. This is Kant's truly great deed, his immortal merit. But the sound sense of our sage did not allow him to hide from himself that this clear place must disappear in a gulf, which would swallow up in itself all knowledge of the true, unless a God should interpose to hinder it. Here Kant's doctrine and mine meet."

(3.) But Jacobi does not fully agree with Kant, in wholly denying to the theoretical reason the faculty of objective knowledge. He blames Kant for complaining that the human reason cannot theoretically prove the reality of its ideas. He affirms that Kant is thus still entangled in the delusion, that the only reason why these ideas cannot be proved, is found in the nature of the ideas themselves, and not in the deficient nature of our knowledge. Kant therefore attempts to seek, in a practical way, a kind of scientific proof; a roundabout way, which, to every profound seeker, must seem folly, since every proof is as impossible as it is unnecessary.

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