This post outlines Herbart's account of being, which is characterized by the credence given to metaphysical analysis in a Leibnizian vein and the critique of Fichte’s idea of the “self creation of man”. We draw for our account on Marcel Mauxion's La Métaphysique de Herbart (1894). Above is an extract from the manuscript of Leibniz's Monadology.
The Theory of Being, or Ontology
The determinate (or Existence) is in a framework of other existences.das Dasein liegt in einer Reihe mit manchem Anderen. (58).
Accidental Points of View
Inherence, substance, cause
Experience is unintelligible without metaphysics; butMetaphysics is vain and sterile unless it starts from experience.
The real phenomenon
According to Herbart’s reasoning, real phenomena arise when simple immutable beings enter into relation with each other in such as way that one becomes substance and the others causes and properties. How is this to be conceived? Firstly, the simple beings are not material atoms. Of two simple beings, A and B, several relations may arise. For example:
A may be a + b + g
B may be m + n – g.
The Problem of the Self
The idea of the Self, of the mind as substance, is central to Herbart, as to his first teacher Fichte from whom he diverges. We have seen him acknowledge this in earlier posts. He conceives the Self as a crossroads, a central square, for representations. The subject-object self (c.f. Hegel’s Logic, Doctrine of the Concept) too is given in experience, or rather obtained from it by abstraction. Particular representations are like legs supporting a table – any one can be removed, but not all at once. By Self, we commonly mean our determinate Self with its passions and history. Thus far, the Self is similar to other objects of experience.
Herbart establishes to his own satisfaction by abstract arguments that empirical things with multiple changing properties and the Self are not realities, but expressions of reality resulting from psychic mechanisms which we have yet to study. Hidden behind them are simple, invariable beings capable of being brought into relation, but not of being conceived spatially, though they are comparable perhaps to mathematical points. The mind perceives its own acts of self-preservation, which correspond to transitions amongst simple beings.