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A History of Philosophy in Epitome by Schwegler

Was attempted by Johann Friedrich Herbart


The

result of his advanced philosophizing, Fichte has briefly and clearly comprehended in the following lines, which we extract from two posthumous sonnets:

The Eternal One Lives in my life and sees in my beholding. Nought is but God, and God is nought but life. Clearly the vail of things rises before thee; It is thyself, what though the mortal die And hence there lives but God in thine endeavors, If thou wilt look through that which lives beyond this death, The vail of things shall seem to thee as vail, And unveiled thou shalt look upon the life divine.

SECTION XLII.

HERBART.

A peculiar, and in many respects noticeable, carrying out of the Kantian philosophy, was attempted by _Johann Friedrich Herbart_, who was born at Oldenburg in 1776, chosen professor of philosophy in Goettingen in 1805; made Kant's successor at Koenigsberg in 1808, and recalled to Goettingen in 1833, where he died in 1841. His philosophy, instead of making, like most other systems, for its principle, an idea of the reason, followed the direction of Kant, and expended itself mainly in a critical examination of the subjective experience. It is essentially a criticism, but with results which are peculiar, and which differ wholly from those of Kant. Its fundamental position in the history of

philosophy is an isolated one; instead of regarding antecedent systems as elements of a true philosophy, it looks upon almost all of them as failures. It is especially hostile to the post-Kantian German philosophy, and most of all to Schelling's philosophy of nature, in which it could only behold a phantom and a delusion; sooner than come in contact with this, it would join Hegelianism, of which it is the opposite pole. We will give a brief exposition of its prominent thoughts.

1. THE BASIS AND STARTING-POINT OF PHILOSOPHY is, according to Herbart, the common view of things, or a knowledge which shall accord with experience. A philosophical system is in reality nothing but an attempt by which a thinker strives to solve certain questions which present themselves before him. Every question brought up in philosophy should refer itself singly and solely to that which is given, and must arise from this source alone, because there is no other original field of certainty, for men, than experience alone. Every philosophy should begin with it. The thinking should yield itself to experience, which should lead it, and not be led by it. Experience, therefore, is the only object and basis of philosophy; that which is not given cannot be an object of thought, and it is impossible to establish any knowledge which transcends the limits of experience.

2. THE FIRST ACT OF PHILOSOPHY.--Though the material furnished by experience is the basis of philosophy, yet, since it is furnished, it stands outside of philosophy. The question arises, what is the first act or beginning of philosophy? The thinking should first separate itself from experience, that it may clearly see the difficulties of its undertaking. _The beginning of philosophy_, where the thinking rises above that which is given, is accordingly doubt or _scepticism_. Scepticism is twofold, a lower and a higher. The lower scepticism simply doubts that things are so constituted as they appear to us to be; the higher scepticism passes beyond the form of the phenomenon, and inquires whether in reality any thing there exists. It doubts _e. g._ the succession in time; it asks in reference to the forms of the objects of nature which exhibit design, whether the design is perceived, or only attached to them in the thought, &c. Thus the problems which form the content of metaphysics, are gradually brought out. The result of scepticism is therefore not negative, but positive. Doubt is nothing but the thinking upon those conceptions of experience which are the material of philosophy. Through this reflection, scepticism leads us to the knowledge that these conceptions of experience, though they refer to something given, yet contain no conceivable content free from logical incongruities.


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