Lucifer's Valet


Posted in Poeticks by lucifersvalet on 10 September 2011

Reading around in The Cambridge Companion to German Idealism:

More of Beiser on the young romantics:

The central strategy behind the philosophy of nature was to surmount the persistent dualisms of modern philosophy in reexamining the nature of matter itself. According to the romantics, the source of these dualisms arose from the Cartesian conception of matter as inert extension.

All of which could be true. But it would take some philosophical super-genius thinking to overcome the dualism. Short of that, you’re left w/some kind of philosophical fiat:

Rather than heterogeneous substances, they now become different degrees of organization and development of a single living force….As Schelling put it in some poetic lines: ‘ [M]ind is invisible nature, while nature is invisible mind.

The fiat sounds better if you set it in a neat figure of speech. Or it takes on something that could well be super- genius thinking if you work it into a several thousand page edifice, à la Hegel (for my taste, the genius of Hegel lies in those occasional jokes he throws out, like “the Spirit is a bone.”) & it’s not as if it took some later development to recognize the dodge here. It is a move, as Beiser points out, that “Kant and Fichte would have rejected as ‘dogmatism’ or ‘transcendental realism’.”

But I think there’s something more here than just philosophical naïveté. Jean Hyppolite, at the beginning of Genesis and Structure of Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit, takes the argument from the other end:

If knowledge is an instrument, then that implies that the subject and the object of knowledge are separate. The absolute would then be distinct from knowledge. The absolute could not be self-knowledge, nor could knowledge be knowledge of the absolute. The very existence of philosophic science, which actually knows, is a refutation of such presuppositions.

This reminds me of the bit where Kierkegaard asks why he should argue for the existence of God when he knows Christ has saved him. As far as poetry is concerned, and poetry is the thing I’m concerned about, or more to the immediate point, as far as the categories of Romanticism and Romantic Modernism are concerned, the issue seems to hinge on a distinction like that of  mythos vs logos, taking mythos as the construction of meanings, and logos as the deconstruction of them, by various philosophical means.

So the Young Romantics’ fiat, their short-cutting the Gordian knot, is the kind of ham-handedness concomitant with humanism and the re-enchantment of the world. It’s a symptom of the meaning-making project.


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