Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Wilhelm Dilthey on the origins of Hegel's "objective idealism"

Spanish edition of Wilhelm Dilthey's Works.

This blog summarizes Wilhelm Dilthey's account of the origins of the "objective idealist" or "mystical pantheist" views that he attributes to Hegel from around 1796. It includes discussion of the concept of "life" as the context of ratiocination. This sheds light on Hegel's early move from a reductive view of religion to the more empathetic account of Christian life in his published works.

Introduction (Stephen Cowley)

There follows a further summary from Wilhelm Dilthey's celebrated Die Jugendgeschichte Hegels [History of Hegel's Youth] (1905) on the origin of the "objective idealist" or "mystical pantheist" movement in German thought that Hegel participated in. This was a significant interpretation of Hegel historically. Georg Lukács for example wrote:
"Dilthey's celebrated book has provided the model for the entire literature on Hegel in the Age of Imperialism." (The Young Hegel (London, 1975), 111)
By "Age of Imperialism" Lukács means the period in Germany after 1870, including the Hegel-renaissance after the turn of the century. He notes that this influence later extended to both the neo-Hegelians and his fellow Marxists (Ibid. xviii-xix, xxi). We saw in a previous post that Alexandre Koyré and others shared his high opinion of the book's influence.

The Structure of the Book

About a quarter of Dilthey's book is direct citations from Hegel’s manuscripts (mostly since made available in Hegel's Early Theological Writings (Ed. T M Knox. OUP, 1948)). The section summarized below however, is an ambitious interpretative essay. The structure of the book is determined by Dilthey’s division of Hegel’s early writings into three categories:
  • an early rationalist trilogy based on the standpoint of Kant’s moral philosophy; 
  • the later work The Spirit of Christianity and its Fate, and the associated Grundfragment, which are based on what he calls objective idealism, or mystical pantheism; and 
  • the political writings (On Wurtemburg elections and the German Constitution).
There is little of interest in the first of these, as they are written from a Kantian rather than a Hegelian standpoint. The second is the key to Dilthey’s interpretation of Hegel. The religious writings as a whole are related to the political through the development of the concept of “positivity” (i.e. presumed authority not grounded in reason) and through the difficulties Hegel sees in realizing the ideal of the religion of life and love that he sees in the early Christianity of the New Testament in public life and the relations of private property. Lukács criticizes Dilthey's underestimation of the political writings. The structure of Dilthey's book can then be distinguished into six main parts:
  • Hegel's childhood and education 
  • The early rationalist trilogy 
  • The move to “objective idealism” 
  • Analysis of The Spirit of Christianity and its Fate
  • The Political Writings (On Wurtemberg Elections and The German Constitution) 
  • Conclusion (covering objective idealism, history of religion and political ideals) 
Some of the detail in Dilthey’s detailed analysis of Spirit of Christianity is significant for evaluating Hegel’s attitude to Christianity in the Frankfurt period, which Dilthey claims carried over into Chapters 4 and 7 of the Phenomenology of Spirit (1807). However, I have already given a summary of the untranslated Grundfragment that Dilthey uses as a key to it.

The following section from Dilthey on the origins of “objective idealism” is from the critical third part above. It is introductory in nature and focuses on Germany as the context. Dilthey covers the beginnings of what is distinctive in Hegel’s philosophy as opposed to Kant and Fichte. This was taken up again in the next classic of Hegel scholarship, Richard Kroner's Von Kant bis Hegel [From Kant to Hegel] (1921-24).  My own view is that Hegel is breaking with the epistemological tradition from Descartes and Locke to Kant in favor of a broader Aristotelian standpoint capable of incorporating the results of Spinoza and Fichte. The more local religious and philosophical moves that Dilthey identifies might be seen against that wider philosophical background. We have already noted the insistence on the German context in the writings of Dilthey's friend Rudolf Haym.

Some criticisms

Dilthey's term “mystical pantheism” is controversial as Hegel later distinguished his own (and Spinoza’s) views from pantheism proper. In addition, he rejected "mysticism" in favor of rational exposition as a matter of settled philosophical temperament. Lukács complained that Dilthey had provided "an irrationalist, mystical interpretation" (Ibid. xviii) of the young Hegel. Lukács wrote:
The great popularity enjoyed by Dilthey's contribution to the revival of Hegel can be traced back to the fact that here Hegel's dialectics are distorted so as to harmonize with the emergence of philosophical irrationalism. In this sense, Dilthey's monograph of 1906 betokens a turning point in the history of Hegel-studies. The crux of the matter is that Dilthey meets the imperialist and reactionary revival of Romanticism half-way when - by ignoring or distorting the most vital historical facts - he brings Hegel within the orbit of philosophical Romanticism." (Ibid. xviii) 
In my view, the "irrationalism" Lukács criticizes was present in syndicalist thinkers like Georges Sorel as well as in Romantic revivalists on the political right. He is also too quick to identify the cause of reason with Soviet Marxism-Leninism and he is needlessly dismissive of religious consciousness. Nonetheless, it is true that Dilthey's treatment of the relations between Hegel's early religious project and his political experience is dubious. It is merely sketched in the concluding section of Dilthey's book ("The Ideal"). Lukács elsewhere concedes that Dilthey's recognition of Hegel's "attempt to grasp every phenomenon not merely in abstract concepts but from the totality of concrete historical life, "unceasing" life, is of vital importance." (Reviews and Articles. London, 1983, 55)


Those unfamiliar with Kant should note that Kant’s "first critique" is Critique of Pure Reason (1781), the "second critique" is Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and the "third critique" is Critique of Judgment (1790).  The following consists of my close summary of Dilthey’s argument, with translation of some telling passages and material by Hegel. Comments or additions by myself are in square brackets. The German edition is available here. The section I am examining is on pages 43-59. Page references below are to the French translation, save that "GS" refers to Dilthey's Gesammelte Schriften. The photograph of the vineyard in Tschugg is from my visit there in Summer 2017.

The Foundations of Hegel’s Mystical Pantheism and his new Conception of History in the Context of German Thought

Hegel passed at this time [from around 1795 – SC] from Kantian criticism to a new metaphysical conception and from theological writing to an overall historical conception. In this process: “the two sides of his work, the historical side and the metaphysical side, mutually and continuously influenced each other.” (156) Schelling had made progress in life that Hegel had not. There is no correspondence [from this time] with Hölderlin, even after the latter had moved to Homburg. Hegel moved from a Kantian orbit to that of Fichte and Schelling. He followed the development from Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre [Dilthey says Programmschrift – SC] (1794) to Schelling’s Philosophy of Nature (1797) and System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), but not these alone. At no time was he Fichtean or Schellingian. Dilthey says: “Even in what concerns the development of his own ideas, their historical unfolding refutes the linear and logical method of construction that Hegel applied to this period, before the historians of philosophy of his time applied it to him.” (156) For example, he only studied Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre in the summer of 1795 when he already knew the monism of Schelling’s early writing on the Self. From the summer of 1796, Hegel’s monism is of a different character than that of Schelling at the same time. Dilthey comments:
“But the presuppositions under which this development of Hegel’s was completed are situated in the context of the philosophical thought that leads from Kant to Schelling. It is in this development that the reasons are found for which he could pass from the viewpoint of the critical theory of knowledge, which he had closely examined, to a labor on the new metaphysics. Moreover, the conceptual materials with which he conducted this new metaphysics were, in their great majority, borrowed from thinkers who go from Kant to Schelling. This account must thus dwell on this viewpoint and seek to grasp the inner connection of German thought, in the measure to which Hegel had determined it.” (156-57)
[However, Hegel was also responding to and seeking to shape broader currents in European (and world) thought, which thought itself was implicated in contemporary social movements. – SC] We turn next to Kant.


Kant's Kritik der reinen Vernuft (1781).
Since Plato, no-one had brought more to the self-justification of thought than Kant. This self-justification, says Dilthey, was “the first task of the new German philosophy”. (157) Kant had related knowledge back to its universal conditions in the faculty of synthesis that relates diverse data into a systematic unity. He had thus related knowledge (of universal validity) to “the inner conditions of the thinking subject that make the knowledge possible” (157) Dilthey says:
“He [Kant] had shown in an indisputable manner that experience and empirical science were only realized by the synthetic power of thought and that, on the other hand, this thought only arrived at valuable cognitions in the field of that of which one could have experience.” (157) 
[This is a good summary of Kant’s 1st Critique that covers two leading interpretations thereof, i.e. those with natural science and naive experience respectively as its primary field of application. – SC] Kant also gave an account of the cognitive value of hypotheses contained in empirical knowledge that are universal in scope. He won concepts for the theory of knowledge, such as: 
  • form of intuition 
  • intellectual intuition 
  • amphiboly of the concepts of reflection 
  • ideas of reason 
  • antinomies of the unconditioned 
  • regulative principles 
  • postulates.
Amongst the methods to establish the conditions of possible knowledge, the first was the starting point that what makes experience possible may only be conceived as a product of experience. [This seems dubious. – SC] To the contributions of other methods in inquiry there are considerable objections, e.g. to the doctrines of space and time as forms of intuition, or to the theories of the functions, categories and axioms of understanding. The use of formal logic to deduce the functions of the understanding a priori is debatable, but much reliance is placed on it. The analysis is thus not directed at lived experience and other data from outside. The logical operations of comparing, relating, separating, can be considered as conditioned by the data as much as by the conditions of objective understanding of them. Dilthey concludes:
“But the real categories, and particularly substance and causality, reveal the problems that have to make placing their origin in the functions of the understanding problematic. Thus, in undertaking to enumerate and order the forms of intuition and thought that make experience possible through application to the material side of the given, in doing so while separating them from this material, Kant crosses the limits of what can be proved by strict demonstration.” (158)
The concept of the thing-in-itself was also dubious, being conceived as a condition of outer experience independent of the subject. It is not really separable from the ideas of substance and cause, which however are said to be relative to the understanding. His fundamental hypothesis (of relating everything to the individual conscious subject) is not sustainable. 

The 1st Critique conceived the possibility of experience and empirical science. The 2nd Critique conceived “the certainty of ethical action in the moral law” (158) independently of the matter of different ends, by means of its universal condition. The 3rd Critique unites the conclusions of the 2nd with the idea of an end of nature internal to the knowledge of nature. This was an influential concatenation of ideas, containing “the first sketch of a history of the human spirit based on the relational whole [Zusammenhang] necessarily present in this same spirit." (158) In crossing the limits of possible experience, we pass into the sphere of the unconditioned and its contradictions (i.e. the metaphysics of God, the soul and the world). We keep our feet here only when practical reason is in play. Dilthey comments:
“The relation between the conditions required by the moral law for its realization and the final principle required for the interpretation of the organic world makes possible at last a vision of the world that possesses an internal continuity.” (158)
[Whilst Kant’s 1st Critique is exhausting, it is worth bearing in mind that its predominantly sceptical character gives way to the practical faith of the 2nd Critique and the harmonious vision of beauty and final causes of the 3rd Critique. This is then recast into the “pure practical faith” of his book on religion. – SC] It is this whole vision on which Schiller and Wilhelm von Humboldt built. Kant’s other teachings, on e.g.
  • the origin of the universe 
  • astronomy 
  • physical geography 
  • anthropology 
  • philosophy of history
also stimulated others to think on the meaning of history. Other disciplines, i.e. the empirical sciences, art, religion, ethical life and its realization in legal forms, were taken to be part of human self-realization, related internally to each other.

Kant felt shortcomings in his own thought and these were a spur to intellectual progress for him. The unconditional validity of the moral law is a profound truth, separate from the wish to realize an ideal of perfection, or the satisfactions of benevolence. However, it was ill-founded and introduced rigid separations into the life of the mind. These were justified at the level of method, but hardened into separations internal to the life of the mind itself.

These facts about Kant’s work affected his influence on the next generation. “He revolutionized all German thought.” (GS IV 46, 159) The major philosophical minds both knew his thought and sought to surpass it – i.e. the defective foundations and the mutual incompatibility of its results. A dialectic emerged within the theory of knowledge, without however really refuting the scepticism of [Salomon] Maimon [author of Essay on Transcendental Philosophy], Beck or Schulze [author of Aenesidemus]. Discussions were inconclusive and seemed unlikely to yield positive results. 

Kant had entered into a new world, which moved from the theory of knowledge towards objective apprehension in his three major works. The psychology of the Enlightenment had led the mind to dwell on itself; the poetry related to it had seen new depths and properties of this inner world. Dilthey comments:
“Kant and his school [...] returned from the psychic life [Seelenleben] of the individual to the conditions that make possible a world common to all individuals in universally valid cognitions and in a universal and necessary order of life. It was the first step towards the apprehension of a spiritual unity that weaves together all of humanity, as well as towards that of its development, since the latter was necessarily conditioned by the whole that relates its functions to each other. (160)
Later, in constructing, above the categories of understanding that master the empirical world, the form of apprehension of a totality, in which an immanent end is realized (i.e. in the Critique of Judgment), “Kant provided a decisive moment for objective idealism.” (160) Thought began to head upstream through the particular events of the history of spirit, progressing towards a metaphysics of a new character. [The imagery here reminds me here of the old Scots Gaelic myth of the Salmon of Wisdom swimming upstream again to its source, grasping the hazelnuts of knowledge its mouth. – SC]  


Fichte's Wissenschaftslehre (1794).
Fichte was the first to intervene [in the further development of Kant’s ideas]. Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre [Doctrine of Science, intended as a term for philosophy] (1794) has the same task as Kant’s three Critiques. He excluded Kant’s idea of the thing-in-itself from theoretical knowledge and extended the creative ability of the Self into the field of what for Kant was given to the Self. He deduced a relational whole contained in the creative Self, in contrast to Kant’s analytical method. He completed Kant’s deduction by “intellectual intuition”. 

On a basis of lived experience, he constructed a closed system of actions of the Self. This differs from individual, empirical selves, but shows itself in them. [In a letter to Hegel of 26 January 1795, Hölderlin equated Fichte’s absolute Self to Spinoza’s substance. – SC] It produces an order of phenomena that are the same for each individual. These form a progression from phenomenal perception to self-realization. Dilthey says: 
“Fichte, the most convinced and most energetic representative of the idealism of freedom, cleared the path for a new generation of a new pantheism which, in leaving the pure Self for the absolute Self, finds the principle by which it explains the world in the system of necessary and universally valid actions of spirit.” (160-61) 
At this time, Hegel designated his principle as spirit. Dilthey says: “Now Fichte equally created the dialectical method with which Schelling and Hegel had to present the development of spirit.” (161) The task of this dialectic was at first determined by Kant’s first Critique. In it, we take the universally valid determinations of consciousness and add in thought the whole of their conditions. It goes backwards from principles that appear necessary in experience to what makes these principles possible. 

We go from thesis to synthesis via antithesis. This Fichtean dialectic gives contradiction another significance than it later had for Hegel. Kant went from the given to its conditions. Fichte goes from a principle that can be immediately demonstrated in consciousness to something else without which the principle is not possible, then to a third thing. 

Dilthey illustrates Fichte’s idea of contradiction by the fact that the positing of the non-Self is like that of the Self, a positing within the Self, but that, insofar as the non-Self is posited, the Self is not posited. But this is not a real contradiction to be resolved by synthesis. It is not the actions of the Self, but the principles they imperfectly express that have to be completed.

In the theoretical and practical parts of the Wissenschaftslehre, Fichte shows how the Self, as determined by the non-Self, enlarges the sphere of its autonomy. Here we see the development of spirit and a dialectic really at work in this development. He shows his principles at work in our behavior as theoreticians. In the second theoretical part, Fichte himself underlines the differences of procedure from the preceding one. It is a matter of raising an object to consciousness on the basis of previous results to show realities whose principle is the absolute productive faculty of the Self and which make up the system of our theoretical behavior. In the practical part, we are led back to a still higher principle. Fichte wrote: 
“The Doctrine of Science must be a pragmatic history of the human spirit. Up to now, we have labored to have access to this history, to be able to illustrate an indubitable fact. This fact, we now have. From now on, our perception can follow tranquilly the march of events, in being certainly not blind, but experimental." (162) 
This, says Dilthey, is the starting point of Hegel’s method.


Schelling's Vom Ich als Prinzip der Philosophie (1795).
Thus in Kant’s critical idealism there were moments that could lead to a new metaphysics. It contained the elements of an objective idealism that the generation of Schleiermacher, Schelling, Hegel and Schopenhauer were to create. It was not a question of logical consequences. If the methods of analysis of Lambert, Kant and Maimon had been pursued (and applied to Kant’s logic), the result would have been quite different.

Instead, Fichte sought to summarise Kant’s work in a system, using for this purpose such problematic concepts as “positing of the self” and “opposition of the not-self”. These were neither well-developed by Fichte nor founded in experience. The conditions that made possible the co-operation of individuals through knowledge held in common became the principle of the “pure I”. Dilthey says; “Let us now place ourselves in the generation that followed Fichte and to which Hegel belonged, to grasp the historical necessities in virtue of which this brought forth the new pantheism.” (166)

Schelling wrote Vom Ich als Prinzip der Philosophie [Of the I as Principle of Philosophy] (1795), subtitled “or of the unconditioned in human knowledge”, in which he began from this point of view. Schelling wrote: 
“We know at least something at which we did not arrive in its turn by another [piece of] knowledge, and which itself contains the real reason of all our knowledge.” (162-63) 
In this unconditioned, the principle of being must coincide with the principle of thought. [For Descartes, this was the cogito, the "I think". – SC] These Spinozistic formulae find a real support in the system of necessary determination of the pure self that transcendental philosophy brings to light.

[From here, Dilthey’s exposition becomes a series of unsupported assertions which to me lack any air of self-evidence. Basically, it seems to be Spinozism expressed as transcendental epistemology, but without an internal logical structure. I have already cited Hölderlin’s equation of Fichte’s absolute Self to Spinoza’s substance. – SC] Dogmatism begins from a non-self. The “new system” begins from the “absolute self”, which has an “unconditioned independence” and “contains all reality”. It is “the unique substance, in which is all that is, and it is the absolute power.” Theology and mechanism coincide in it. He wishes to found a system of the world – a system of objective idealism – on this principle. [This seems to amount to saying that God created the world in his sovereignty, but omitting any proof. – SC] The physical world is a manifestation of something spiritual. The productions of spirit are a whole and this is a key to understanding both the physical and historical world. [This offers analogies, but nothing more, between transcendental psychology and physics or history. – SC] Dilthey says:
“Thus was the first step on a fatal road taken. From the facts of life and of science there results only some kind of relation between thought and nature, a relation according to which nature is represented in the human mind in such a way that our orientation in the world becomes possible. A glance towards nature suffices to remind us that we have to leave space for very diverse relations between this same nature and thinking beings. Now, this relation between mind and nature is replaced by the identity of the two, which has for a consequence the anthropomorphic character of Hegelian metaphysics.” (163)
This essay of Schelling’s began a new phase of objective idealism. Dilthey says: “The constructivist metaphysics of the 17th and 18th centuries had placed definitions and axioms at the base of knowledge of reality [...] The classic example of this constructivist procedure was the system of Spinoza.” (163)  However, for transcendental philosophy, concepts like substance, mode and cause were presented as detached from the living whole of mental functions in which they had their reality.

This new objective idealism saw the divine force present in every part of nature and history, relating the parts together. It acts in light of the nature of the whole, hence with necessity. It itself stays the same. [This theory however, has the character of hypothesis, not knowledge, when it materializes into something specific. SC]

It is not relevant here whether the new pantheism has a One that is conscious or not. It is distinguished rather by its difference from the concept of creation (creation being a kind of free action distinct from necessity) and from its difference from a system in which the force that determines the world cannot be characterised as a divinity (as with Schopenhauer).

Schleiermacher and the new Pantheism

Schleiermacher's Über die Religion (1799).
The new pantheism is distinguished by consciously using a method of interpretation of data influenced by the idea of a spiritual whole drawn from Kant and Fichte’s theory of knowledge and their transcendental concept of the mind as a related whole. It is different from Stoic and neo-platonic ideas in having this basis, for example. It also considers divine action developmentally. A theory of “immanent teleology” is replaced by a more general theory of development determined by the nature of mind.

We may think of this new pantheism as beginning with Shaftesbury and Hemsterhuis and including Herder, Goethe and the Letters of Julius to Raffael [This last is a reference to Schiller’s Philosophical Letters (1786). Shaftesbury was a friend of John Locke who spoke from a more holistic sense of human nature than Locke’s “way of ideas” and was an influence on the moral sense (later common sense) school in Scotland, which made its way to Germany via the translations of Christian Garve.  – SC]. The new pantheism was supported by poets, writers and researchers in natural science.

Three factors helped it expand. Firstly, there was attached to it the universal human need to increase human strength. Dilthey writes:
“One had to free the conception of the relation between man and God from the old religious schema of domination and submission. Man had to go through life with his head held high, respectful of the divine strengths, but with the feeling of his kinship with them. The piety that expresses itself in Greek tragedy became the model of this state of mind. The young people of Jena, Berlin and Tübingen who passed from Kant to Fichte and now joined the pantheist movement all brought with them the same belief in the next ascension of humanity, which at this time received its metaphysical foundation from the doctrine of the development of the universe.” (165)
Secondly, there was at work a dissatisfaction about the categories of the understanding under which the Enlightenment sought to think nature and history. Scientific progress in the mathematical sciences of nature seemed to chase poetry and pious feeling from the world. This religious feeling was characterized by presentiments and wove itself in mystery. Goethe expressed well the opposition of poetry to a science that was reductive to life and light. The protest of religious spirits was embodied in Hamann, Lavater and Herder against the concepts of the European Enlightenment. Hölderlin expressed his pantheism, based on artistic enthusiasm, first in 1794 in the fragment of [the novel] Hyperion included in the journal Thalia. This was before Schelling’s essay Vom Ich appeared in 1795. Only the artistic enthusiasm for beauty can grasp the infinite, he says. Dilthey adds:
“According to Hölderlin, the intellect and reason are incapable of conceiving the infinite. Only the enthusiasm of the artist who experiences beauty can understand it, for beauty is the appearance of unity in diversity. The philosophical experience of this experience of beauty is thus the pantheist formula of the immanence of divine unity in the manifold of phenomena. The enthusiasm [Begeisterung] of the poet is the starting point of true philosophy, which only expresses in abstract concepts what artistic enthusiasm has found, by analyzing, relating and testing.” (165)
[The theory of beauty as unity in diversity is that of Francis Hutcheson, though Hutcheson applies it to natural beauty, e.g. the unity that sunlight gives to a sunset. The following citation echoes William Hamilton’s Essay on the Unconditioned (1829). – SC] Hölderlin held out for this point of view in a critique of Fichte and of the monism that resulted from him. Dilthey says: “The regression from the facts of consciousness to an Absolute Self suppresses consciousness itself, and thereby all possible content of this Self, for such a content can only exist for a consciousness.” (165) He continues:
“Schleiermacher derived a justification of it [the new pantheist metaphysics] starting from the experience of the religious genius in his Speeches on Religion [to its Cultured Despisers (1799)]. He too rejects the step that goes from the facts of consciousness to pantheist metaphysics via the pure self. It is the religious experience that crosses the limits of the facts of consciousness and opens a works of intuitions and concepts inaccessible to the simple understanding.” (165-66)
Thirdly, there was intuition [Anschauung] or observation affirming its rights against abstract concepts. This goes back to Goethe. It is found too in Berger’s Letters on Nature and in the natural philosophies of Steffens, Ritter and Oken, which are devoted to development in organic nature. Dilthey says: 
“with this tendency of the age, a violent aspiration of the philosophical spirit is struggling to break with the abstractions of the Kantian theory of knowledge through to objective conceptions. Reality as a whole was separated by the critical work of Kant into an a priori metaphysics of nature, a teleological interpretation of the organic world, an empirical psychology, a philosophy of history, in which an incomplete collection of facts was associated with an inadequate teleological hypothesis, and an a priori morality separated from this last. Moreover, Kant’s scientific prudence had raised barriers to the pathways between inorganic and organic nature on the one hand, and between these and the human mind on the other, which seemed to make the realization of the idea of development impossible. Such restrictions and limitations gave rise to a dangerous passion that wished to achieve a natural and homogenous relation of thought to reality and to make this reality comprehensible as a uniform organic whole, thanks to thought.” (166)
Schelling, Schleiermacher and Hegel shared this mixture of respect for and aversion to Kant. Schelling’s philosophy of nature and Hegel’s philosophy were born of this wish to attend to the concrete. The first proved ephemeral whilst the second led to real progress in our knowledge of mind and history, thanks to Kant and Fichte’s theory of the self contributing a systematic character to the inquiry.


Vineyard by the Steiger-Haus in Tschugg, Switzerland, where Hegel stayed 1793-96.
Hegel’s "mystical pantheism" was born of this movement of ideas that led to an objective idealism in the years 1795-1800. Literary Germany was being transformed by ever closer relations between poetry, philosophy and the study of antiquity. It was a productive period for poetry, philosophy, history and criticism. In Berlin, Jena and Dresden, Hölderlin, Friedrich Schlegel, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Hülsen and Berger were fellow travellers with Schelling and Hegel along a common road. The details of who influenced Hegel, – even in the case of Schelling – are a matter only of uncertain inferences. Dilthey comments: “What must concern us here is above all the oft-discussed question of how far Schelling determined Hegel’s pantheist vision of the world, such as it is presented to us in the manuscripts of this period.” (167) The movement by which pantheism came into esteem was “strong, irresistible and universal”. (167) It was a path from Kant and Fichte towards a new metaphysics. The same steps had to be made by all.

One perhaps insurmountable problem is that the dating of manuscripts is uncertain, so one cannot make a chronological comparison of them with Schelling’s writings. Dilthey thinks it certain only that Schelling’s influence was at work when Hegel passed from the “pure Self” of Fichte to the “absolute Self” of Schelling and thus to the construction of the universe out of the transcendental system operating with universal validity in the subject and thus relating all thinking beings. If we are to go beyond this, we must start with Hegel as we know him at this time to avoid a literary method external to the subject matter. Dilthey comments:
“Every metaphysical genius expresses in concepts a side of reality that has not yet been noticed and that reveals itself to him in the metaphysical experience. From the biographical point of view, this latter consists of a progressive series of lived experiences, but which amount to a philosophical experience (Erlebnis) when one apprehends in them a universal relation of facts. It is the energy of lived experience, associated with this ownmost capacity to perceive in lived experience the universal relation of fact, by adopting an impersonal attitude, that constitutes the genius of the metaphysician.” (167)
The object of the metaphysical experience is “something that one can experience, but that is entirely different from the object of the positive sciences.” Dilthey concludes: “It was thus equally so in Hegel, one of the greatest metaphysicians of all times.” (167) He was independent minded and saw the independence of spirit. 

Hegel rejected the form of domination and obedience amongst forces of the soul and of domination and submission between persons and God. He replaced this by the ideas of love, harmony and unity between God, man and nature. [This, I think, is not well put. Hegel retained a sense of hierarchy amongst the mental powers, albeit that they worked together. The theological remark deserves to be treated separately. Here, Hegel’s views are typical of a broader move in Christian theology away from the imagery of God as judge and Lord. This later resulted in John McLeod Campbell’s The Nature of the Atonement (1853), based on the experience of his ministry in the 1820s. However, it was noted at the time by James Mylne and others that the idea of divine justice needs to accompany that of divine benevolence in Christian theology. – SC] Hegel envisages feeling himself part of a co-operative society characterized by mutual affinity and as a harmonious part of a divine wholeness. Dilthey writes:
“It is precisely in his opposition to the juridical delimitation of rigid and indissoluble unities, to outward relations of domination, that is expressed in him the Germanic juridical and political consciousness; and he reinterprets the Greek polis [city state] in this sense.” (168)
Each of these tendencies is found also in Hölderlin. Some he has in common with Schelling. These themes reappear with variations throughout this new generation. Dilthey comments: “The writers of this generation assuredly influenced each other in numerous ways, but their kinship by way of lived experience is due above all to the fact that their experience came from the same historical movement.” (168) To this is also related the common opposition that they bore witness to regarding the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment opposed the here and the beyond, God and the world, and this took the form of a contrast of intellect with imagination and the heart, of an antagonism of reason and positive characteristics. This occurred first in poetry, and philosophical thought struggled to rise to its height.

The personal experience, the literary environment and the historical situation of a philosophical genius are related, though it is difficult to express quite how, and these elements all contributed to form Hegel’s mind. He was receptive to small experiences and could make much of them. Hegel preserved the habits and maxims of his native Swabia and his father’s house. He worked diligently and patiently. There is continuity and a prosaic spirit in his activity. The circle of his influence slowly enlarged as a result. He kept his personal life separate from the literary maelstrom that engulfed the lives of many of his contemporaries. He saw the universal in particular experiences, as only Kant had done before him. There was a depth that came from the remembered and revivified past being still active in present lived experiences, but equally experience was transformed by the universalizing metaphysical judgments it occasioned. 

Hegel’s interest in the life of the mind was wide-ranging. Dilthey comments: “As a genuine Swabian, he was endowed with a solid political sense.” (169) [The public life of a protestant people surrounded by the powerful catholic states of France and Austria may be relevant to this judgement, though Dilthey mentions only Swabian maxims of life and household customs. – SC] This breadth of interest echoes the universality of the philosophers of previous eras. There is a similarity also to Kant, and Hegel’s interest in the forms of thought owes something to his persevering with the study of Kant. Dilthey says:
“Above all though, the genius of the historian was combined in him with metaphysical genius. It is in this way that his manner of working was distinguished from the outset from that of his colleagues who shared his aspirations, for even if the historical knowledge of Friedrich Schlegel was greater and more methodical than his own, it nevertheless lacked clarity, strength and consistency in its grasp of the universal relations of facts through concepts.” (169)
Here too, Hegel aimed at an “impersonal, objective and universal” conception of things. He introduced the depth of his lived experience into each event, but in a quite concrete way. He understood the broad historical forms of consciousness and summarized in himself the richness of the historical world that these forms represent. Dilthey says:
“The means of carrying out this summary was for him the necessary and universal system of consciousness, such as transcendental philosophy presents it. He had found in himself, following Schelling, the key for understanding the universe and applied it also to conceive the realm of history. The same relations of concepts through which he was developing the system [Zusammenhang] of mind, he found again in the system of the universe and in that of history. The identity of these three systems became for Hegel the basis of his thinking from this period on. And already in history he was learning to conceive this system as a development. Thus was given the direction of his system. Where he sees a development, he will have to deduce from the relations between concepts that it is the same in each of the three regions of his experience. Thus there opens for him the possibility of finding an objective criterion for the increase in value that takes place in the regions of subjective mind, the universe and history. What is realized at the preceding level is conserved at the subsequent level and at the same time built into a structure that contains something more. The problem thus transforms itself for him into that of a new and higher logic.” (GS IV 58; 169-70)  
This had to happen in Hegel’s mind when he read Schelling’s 1795 essay that led him to the pantheism of the absolute self. Here Schelling had cleared the way. [Schelling’s essay Vom Ich fits this description. The objection I see to this move is that whilst there is a first step that equates to the ontological argument for God’s existence, there is a progressive replacement of science by analogical thinking in what follows. – SC]    

One might expect that Schelling’s subsequent writings would also be an influence. These are: Studies for Clarification of the Wissenschaftslehre (1797) – this opposed Kant’s subjective turn and asserts that nature is visible spirit. It follows that an epistemology [Erkenntnistheorie] is not required, as the problem of a separate subject and object is deemed to have been solved; and Von der Weltseele [On the World Soul] (1798) – this contains the same system and the concept of life is prominent in it, as it is in Hegel’s writings up to 1800. Schelling says:
“Life is common to all living individuals, and what distinguishes them from each other is only the kind [Art] of life.” “The universal principle of life individualizes itself in each living individual being.” “What is essential in all things (all things that are not simply appearances, but approach individuality by an infinite gradation) is life.” (170)
Such phrases of Schelling are taken up, often almost word for word, in Hegel’s manuscripts. Schelling determines the idea of universal life as being that of organism which, like Kant, he defines by means of the relation of whole and parts. Hegel does the same, with the difference that he thinks more of the totality of the world in logical opposition to relations thought by the intellect.

There may be an echo of this when, in his writing on St John’s Gospel, he replaces the concept of life with that of pure self-consciousness, atemporal and limitless. On the other hand the first volume of [Hölderlin’s novel] Hyperion is also shot through with the concepts of life, the All, a One that divides itself in natural organisms. Many of these ideas (unity, opposition, diversity, union and reflection in self) are implicit in the passage from Fichte to pantheism.

We have at any rate indicated the common ground between Schelling and Hegel at this period. On the other hand, we do not find in Hegel’s manuscripts Schelling’s idea of the evolution of the universe. This follows from combining his principles with the geology and palaeontology of Buffon, Daubenton, Kant and Herder. This marked a change from Descartes’ idea of Evolution [in German] to the more general idea of Entwicklung [development]. Neither is Schelling’s idea of an evolution from objective to subjective found in Hegel’s manuscripts at this time. It does appear later, with some qualifications. At this time though, it is confined to the field of history and is not expressed with clarity even there. Dilthey writes:
“To understand this period of Hegel’s work, one would have to set out beforehand his historical system. His work though, remained still theological and the powers that had driven him since his university years remained still active in him. It is only that the new movement in which he participated modified them.” (171)
We ought then, before considering Hegel’s manuscripts themselves, to review the particular conditions under which he developed his theological intuitions and the forms they had taken at this time. [Dilthey goes on to explain how Hegel in his reading of Scripture addressed Kant's Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone (1793) and the theologian Semler as "representatives of a general turn of thought" (172) from his new standpoint. As a result, says Dilthey:
"For the first time, scripture as a whole is re-interpreted starting from the spirit that runs through this whole. This direction of exegesis that consists of understanding scripture as an organic whole and as the fruit of a unitary substance is of equal value to the philological treatment of the individual scriptures." (173)
Hegel continues to employ a contrast with the form of natural piety he attributes to ancient Greece. In the history of theology since Hegel's time, it has been found necessary to correct his method by a renewed sense of the majesty and authority of Scripture, as found in the writings of Karl Barth and Thomas Torrance. - SC]