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Introduction—Goethe and Idealism: Points of Intersection

from Special Section on Goethe and Idealism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 February 2013

Daniel Purdy
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania
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Summary

Geister Ihrer Art wissen daher selten, wie weit sie gedrungen sind, und wie wenig Ursache sie haben, von der Philosophie zu borgen, die nur von Ihnen lernen kann. Diese kann bloß zergliedern, was ihr gegeben wird, aber das Geben selbst ist nicht die Sache des Analytikers sondern des Genies, welches unter dem dunklen aber sichern Einfluß reiner Vernunft nach objektiven Gesetzen verbindet.

(Schiller to Goethe, 23 August 1794)

WITH THESE WORDS TO GOETHE, Schiller suggests an important connection that the great poet of Weimar had to the spectacular philosophical developments unfolding at the turn of the nineteenth century. Alas, Schiller's insight did not find much resonance in the years that followed. For many of the last 200 years, philosophers have taken their lead from a narrative like Richard Kroner's Von Kant bis Hegel (1921). Hence the dominant narrative of the development of German Idealism has come from the great system builder, Hegel (1770–1831), and in this narrative, Hegel emerges as the hero of the story of post-Kantian philosophy. The story that unfolds according to this “von-Kant-bis-Hegel” narrative, is that Kant (1724–1804) cleared the ground of the earlier metaphysics and brute empiricism, but limited knowledge to the world of appearances and thereby bracketed out things in themselves; Fichte (1762–1814), then, following the spirit if not always the letter of Kant's philosophy, radicalized the consequences of Kant's critical philosophy by placing the self-positing I (Ich) firmly at the center or foundation of philosophy; and Schelling (1775–1854), first an enthusiastic follower of Fichte, responded to this subjectivist position with a turn to Nature as an equal (if not primary) partner in the constitution of the world and knowledge.

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Goethe Yearbook 18 , pp. 3 - 10
Publisher: Boydell & Brewer
Print publication year: 2011

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