11. Relationship of the Goethean Way of Thinking to Other Views
When one speaks of the influence of earlier or contemporary thinkers upon the development of Goethe's spirit, this cannot be done out of the assumption that he formed his views on the basis of their teachings. The way he had to think, the way he saw the world, were inherent in the whole predisposition of his nature. And it lay in his being, indeed, from his earliest youth. In this respect he then also remained the same his whole life long. It is principally two significant character traits that come into consideration here. The first is his pressing urge to find the sources, the depths of all existence. This is, ultimately, his belief in the idea. Goethe is always filled with an intimation of something higher, better. One would like to call this a deep religious impulse of his spirit. What so many people need to do — to strip things of everything holy and pull them down to their own level — is unknown to him. But he does have the other need: to sense something higher and to work his way up to it. He sought to gain from everything an aspect by which it becomes holy to us. K. J. Schröer has shown this in the most brilliant way with respect to Goethe's attitude toward love. Goethe divests love of everything frivolous, careless, and it becomes for him a devout state. This fundamental trait of his being is expressed most beautifully in his words:
Within our bosom's pureness swells a striving,
To give oneself, in thankful, free devotion,
To something higher, purer, as yet unknown.
We call it: being devout!
This side of his being, now, is inseparably connected with another one. He never seeks to approach this higher something directly; he always seeks to draw near to it through nature. “The true is like God; it does not appear directly; we must guess it from its manifestations” (Aphorisms in Prose). Besides his belief in the idea Goethe also has the other one: that we can gain the idea by contemplating reality; it does not occur to him to seek the divinity anywhere else than in the works of nature, but he seeks everywhere to gain from them their divine aspect. When, in his youth, he erects an altar to the great God who “stands in direct connection with nature” (Poetry and Truth), this ritual definitely springs already out of a belief that we gain the highest that we can attain by a faithful fostering of our interrelationship with nature. Thus, that way of looking at things which we have validated epistemologically is innate in Goethe. He approaches reality with the conviction that everything is only a manifestation of the idea, and that we can attain this idea only when we raise sense experience into a spiritual beholding. This conviction was inherent in him, and from his youth up, he looked at the world on the basis of this presupposition. No philosopher could give him this conviction. This is therefore not what Goethe sought from the philosophers. It was something else. Even though his way of looking at things lay deep in his nature, still he needed a language in which to express it. His nature worked in a philosophical way, i.e., in such a way that it can be expressed only in philosophical formulations and can be validated only by philosophical presuppositions. And he looked into the philosophers in order also to bring clearly to consciousness for himself what he was, in order also to know what lay in him as living activity. He sought in them an explanation and validation of his own being. That is his relationship to the philosophers. To this end, he studies Spinoza in his youth and entered later into scientific discourse with his philosophical contemporaries. In his early years, Spinoza and Giordano Bruno seemed to the poet to best express his own nature. It is remarkable that he first learned to know both thinkers from books hostile to them, and, in spite of this fact, recognized how their teachings relate to his nature. We see this substantiated especially in his relationship to Giordano Bruno's teachings. He becomes acquainted with him in Bayle's dictionary, where he is vehemently attacked. And Goethe receives such a deep impression from him that, in those parts of Faust which in their conception stem from the period around 1770 when he was reading Bayle, the language echoes sentences of Bruno. In his daily and yearly notebooks the poet relates that he again occupied himself with Giordano Bruno in 1812. This time also the impression is a powerful one, and in many of the poems written after this year we can recognize echoes of the philosopher of Nola. But all this should not be taken to mean that Goethe borrowed or learned anything from Bruno; he only found in him the formulations in which to express what had lain in his own nature for a long time. He found that he could most clearly present his own inner life if he did so in the words of that thinker. Bruno regarded universal reason as the creator and director of the universe. He calls it the inner artist that forms matter and shapes it from within outward. It is the cause of everything that exists, and there is no being in whose existence it does not take a loving interest. “However small and trifling a thing may be, it still has within it a portion of spiritual substance”, (Giordano Bruno, About the Cause, etc.). That was also Goethe's view, that we first know how to judge a thing when we see how it has been set in its place by universal reason, how it has come to be precisely that which confronts us. Perceiving with the senses does not suffice, for the senses do not tell us how a thing relates to the general world idea, what it means for the great whole. There we must look in such a way that our reason creates an ideal basis on which there can then appear to us what the senses convey to us; we must, as Goethe expresses it, look with the eyes of the spirit. Even for expressing this conviction he found a formulation in Bruno: “For, just as we do not recognize colours and sounds with one and the same sense, so also we do not recognize the substratum of the arts and that of nature with one and the same eye,” because we “see the first with the physical eye and the second with the eye of reason.” And with Spinoza it is no different. Spinoza's teachings are indeed based on the fact that the divinity has merged with the world. Human knowing can therefore aim only to penetrate into the world in order to know God. Any other way of arriving at God must seem impossible to anyone thinking consistently according to Spinoza's way of thinking. For God has given up all existence of His own; outside the world He exists nowhere. But we must seek Him where He is. Any actual knowing must therefore be of such a kind that, in every piece of world knowledge, it conveys to us a piece of divine knowledge. Knowing, at its highest level, is therefore a coming together with the divinity. There we call it knowing in beholding (anschauliches Wissen). We know things “sub specie æternitatis,” that is, as flowing from the divinity. The laws that our spirit recognizes in nature are therefore God in His very being; they are not only made by Him. What we recognize as logical necessity is so because the being of the divinity, i.e., the eternal lawfulness, dwells within it. That was a view which is in accordance with the Goethean spirit. His own firm belief that nature, in all its doings, reveals something divine to us lay before him in Spinoza's writings in the clearest statements. “I am holding firmly and ever more firmly to the atheist's (Spinoza) way of revering God,” he writes to Jacobi when the latter wanted to put the teachings of Spinoza in another light. Therein lies the relatedness of Goethe to Spinoza. And it indicates a superficial judgment of the matter when, with respect to this deep inner harmony between Goethe's nature and Spinoza's teachings, one ever and again emphasizes something purely external by saying that Goethe was drawn to Spinoza because he, like Spinoza, would not tolerate a final cause in explaining the world. The fact that Goethe, like Spinoza, rejected final causes was only one result of their views. But let us put the theory of final causes clearly before us. A thing is explained, in its existence and nature, by the fact that one demonstrates its necessity for something else. One shows that this thing is of such and such a nature because that other thing is like this or that. This presupposes that a world ground exists which stands over and above both beings and arranges them in such a way that they match each other. But if the world ground is inherent in every single thing, then this kind of explanation makes no sense. For then the nature of a thing must appear to us as the result of the principle at work within it. We will seek, within the nature of a thing, the reason why it is as it is and not different than it is. If we hold the belief that something divine is inherent in each thing, then it will not in fact occur to us to seek to explain its lawfulness by any outer principle. The relationship of Goethe to Spinoza should also not be grasped in any other way than that he found in Spinoza the formulations, the scientific language, for expressing the world lying within him.
When we now pass on to Goethe's connection to contemporary philosophers, we must speak above all about Kant. Kant is generally regarded as the founder of present-day philosophy. In his time he called forth such a powerful movement that every educated person needed to come to terms with it. It was also necessary for Goethe to do so. But this did not prove to be a fruitful undertaking for him. For there is a deep antithesis between what the Kantian philosophy teaches and what we have recognized as the Goethean way of thinking. In fact, one can even say that all German thinking runs it course in two parallel streams: one permeated by the Kantian way of thinking and another that is close to Goethean thinking. But as philosophy today draws ever closer to Kant, it is distancing itself from Goethe, and through this the possibility for our age of grasping and appreciating the Goethean world view is being lost more and more. Let us set before us the main postulates of Kant's teachings insofar as they are of interest with respect to Goethe's views. For Kant, the starting point for human thinking is experience, i.e., the world given to the senses (among which is included the inner sense that conveys to us such facts as the psychic, historical, and the like). This world is a manifoldness of things in space and of processes in time. The fact that precisely this thing confronts me or that I experience precisely that process is of no consequence; it could also be different. I can think away the whole manifoldness of things and processes altogether. What I cannot think away, however, are space and time. For me, there can be nothing that is not spatial or temporal. Even if there were some non-spatial or non-temporal thing, I can know nothing about it, for I can picture nothing to myself without space and time. I do not know whether the things themselves partake of space and time; I only know that the things must appear to me in these forms. Space and time are therefore the prerequisites of my sense perception. I know nothing of any thing-in-itself; I only know how it must appear to me if it is to be there for me. With these postulates Kant introduces a new problem. He appears in science with a new way of asking questions. Instead of asking, as earlier philosophers did: What is the nature of things?, he asks: How must things appear to us in such a way that they can become the object of our knowing? For Kant, philosophy is the science of the factors that determine the possibility of the world as a manifestation for human beings. We know nothing about the thing-in-itself. We have not yet fulfilled our task when we arrive at a sense perception of a manifoldness in time and space. We strive to draw this manifoldness together into a unity. This is a matter for the intellect. The intellect is to be understood as a sum of activities whose purpose is to draw the sense world together according to certain forms already sketched out in the intellect. It draws together two sense perceptions by, for example, designating one as the cause and the other as the effect, or the one as substance and the other as attribute, etc. Here also it is the task of the science of philosophy to show under which conditions the intellect succeeds in forming a system of the world. Thus the world, according to Kant, is actually a subjective phenomenon arising in the forms of the sense world and of the intellect. Only one thing is certain: that there is a thing-in-itself; how it appears to us depends upon our organization. It is also obvious now that it makes no sense to ascribe to that world which the intellect has formed in association with the senses any significance other than what it has for our ability to know. This becomes clearest of all where Kant speaks of the significance of the world of ideas. Ideas for him are nothing other than the higher points of view of reason from which the lower entities, which the intellect has created, are understood. The intellect brings soul phenomena, for example, into a relationship; reason, as the faculty for ideas, then grasps this relationship as though everything went forth from one soul. But this has no significance for the thing itself; it is only a means of orientation for our cognitive faculty. This is the content of Kant's theoretical philosophy insofar as it can be of interest to us here. One sees at once that it is the polar opposite of the Goethean philosophy. Given reality is determined, according to Kant, by us ourselves; it is as it is because we picture it that way. Kant skips over the real epistemological question. At the beginning of his Critique of Reason he takes two steps that he does not justify, and his whole edifice of philosophical teachings suffers from this mistake. He right away sets up a distinction between object and subject, without asking at all what significance it has then for the intellect to undertake the separation of two regions of reality (in this case the knowing subject and the object to be known). Then he seeks to establish conceptually the reciprocal relationship of these two regions, again without asking what it means to establish something like that. If his view of the main epistemological question had not been all askew, he would have seen that the holding apart of subject and object is only a transitional point in our knowing, that a deeper unity, which reason can grasp, underlies them both, and that what is attributed to a thing as a trait, when considered in connection with a knowing subject, by no means has only subjective validity. A thing is a unity for our reason and the separation into “thing-in-itself” and “thing-for-us” is a product of our intellect. It will not do, therefore, to say that what is attributed to a thing in one connection can be denied it in other connections. For, whether I look at the same thing one time from this point of view and another time from that: it is after all still a unified whole.
It is an error, running through Kant's entire edifice of teachings, for him to regard the sense-perceptible manifoldness as something fixed, and for him to believe that science consists in bringing this manifoldness into a system. He has no inkling at all that the manifoldness is not something ultimate, that one must overcome it if one wants to comprehend it; and therefore all theory becomes for him merely a supplement that the intellect and reason add onto experience. For him, the idea is not what appears to reason as the deeper ground of the given world when reason has overcome the manifoldness lying on the surface, but rather the idea is only a methodological principle by which reason orders the phenomena in order to have a better overview of them. According to the Kantian view, we would be going totally amiss if we were to regard things as traceable back to the idea; in his opinion, we can only order our experiences as though they stemmed from a unity. According to Kant, we have no inkling of the ground of things, of the “in-itself.” Our knowing of things is only there in connection with us; it is valid only for our individuality. Goethe could not gain much from this view of the world. The contemplation of things in their connection to us always remained for him a quite subordinate one, having to do with the effect of objects upon our feelings of pleasure and pain; he demands more of science than a mere statement as to how things are in their connection to us. In the essay The Experiment as Mediator between Subject and Object, he determines what the task of the researcher is: He should take his yardstick for knowledge, the data for his judgment, not from himself, but rather from the sphere of the things he observes. This one statement characterizes the deep antithesis between the Kantian and the Goethean way of thinking. Whereas with Kant, all judgments about things are only a product of subject and object, and only provide a knowing about how the subject beholds the object, with Goethe, the subject merges selflessly into the object and draws the data for his judgment from the sphere of the things. Goethe himself says therefore of Kant's adherents: “They certainly heard me but had no answer for me nor could be in any way helpful.” The poet believed that he gained more from Kant's critique of the power of judgment.
Philosophically, Goethe benefited far more from Schiller than from Kant. Through him, namely, Goethe was really brought one stage further in the recognition of his own way of viewing things. Up to the time of that first famous conversation with Schiller, Goethe had practiced a certain way of viewing the world. He had observed plants, found that an archetypal plant underlies them, and derived the individual forms from it. This archetypal plant (and also a corresponding archetypal animal) had taken shape in his spirit, was useful to him in explaining the relevant phenomena. But he had never reflected upon what this archetypal plant was in its essential nature. Schiller opened his eyes by saying to him: It is an idea. Only from then on is Goethe aware of his idealism. Up until that conversation, he calls the archetypal plant an experience for he believed he saw it with his eyes. But in the introduction that he later added to his essay on the metamorphosis of the plants he says: “So from now on, I undertook to find the archetypal animal, which means, ultimately, the concept, the idea of the animal.” But we must bear in mind here that Schiller did not provide Goethe with something foreign to him, but rather Schiller, by observing the Goethean spirit, struggled through for the first time to a knowledge of objective idealism. He only found the right term for the way of viewing things that he recognized and marveled at in Goethe.
Goethe experienced but little benefit from Fichte. Fichte moved in a sphere that was much too foreign to Goethean thinking to be of much possible benefit. Fichte founded the science of consciousness in the most brilliant way. In a unique and exemplary way, he traced the activity by which the “I” transforms the world that is given, into a world that is thought. But in doing so, he made the mistake of not merely regarding this activity of the “I” as one that brings the given content into a satisfactory form, that brings the unrelated given into the appropriate relationships; he saw this activity as a creating of everything which takes place within the “I.” Therefore his teachings appear as a one-sided idealism that takes its whole content from consciousness. Goethe, who always devoted himself wholly to what is objective, could find very little to attract him in Fichte's philosophy of consciousness. Goethe lacked understanding for the region where that philosophy is valid; but the lengths to which Fichte carried it (he saw it as the universal science) could only appear to the poet as an error.
Goethe had many more points of contact with the young Schelling. Schelling was a student of Fichte. He did not only carry further the analysis of the activity of the “I,” however, but also investigated this activity within the consciousness by which nature is grasped. What takes place in the “I” when it is knowing nature seemed to Schelling to be at the same time that which is objective about nature, the actual principle within it. External nature was for him only a form of our nature concepts that has become fixed. What lives in us as a view of nature appears to us again outside, only spread out, spatial-temporally. What confronts us from outside as nature is a finished product, is only something already determined, the form of a living principle that has become rigid. We cannot gain this principle through experience from outside. We must first create it within our inner being. “To philosophize about nature means to create nature,” our philosopher says therefore. “We call nature, as a mere product (natura naturata), ‘nature as object’ (all empiricism devotes itself to this alone). We call nature, as productivity (natura naturans), ‘nature as subject’ (all theory devotes itself to this alone).” (Introduction to Schelling's First Sketch of a System of Natural Philosophy) 63Erster Entwurf eines Systems der Naturphilosophie “The contrast between empiricism and science rests, indeed, on the fact that empiricism studies its object in existence as something finished and already brought about, whereas science, on the other hand, studies the object in its becoming and as something still to be brought about.” (Ibid.) Through these teachings, with which Goethe became acquainted partly from Schelling's writings and partly from personal encounters with the philosopher, the poet was again brought a stage higher. He now developed the view that his tendency was to proceed from what is finished, the product, to what is becoming, the productive. And, with a definite echo of Schelling, he writes in his essay The Power to Judge in Beholding that his striving was to make himself “worthy, through beholding an ever-creating nature, of participating spiritually in its productions.”
And through Hegel, finally, Goethe received his last help from the side of philosophy. Through him he gained clarity, namely, as to how what he called the archetypal phenomenon fitted into philosophy. Hegel understood the significance of the archetypal phenomenon more deeply than anyone else and characterized it aptly in a letter to Goethe on February 20, 1821 with the words: “The simple and abstract, what you quite aptly call the archetypal phenomenon, this you put first, and then show the concrete phenomena as arising through the participation of yet other influences and circumstances; and you direct the whole process in such a way that the sequence proceeds from the simple, determining factors to the composite ones, and, thus arranged, something complex appears in all its clarity through this decomposition. To seek out the archetypal phenomenon, to free it from other extraneous chance surroundings — to grasp it abstractly, as we call it — this I consider to be the task for a great spiritual sense for nature, just as I consider that procedure altogether to be what is truly scientific in gaining knowledge in this field.” ... “But may I now also speak to you about the particular interest which the archetypal phenomenon, lifted out in this way, has for us philosophers; namely, that we can put something prepared in this way precisely to philosophical use! If, in spite of everything, we have finally led our initially oysterlike, grey, or completely black absolute out toward the air and light, so that it desires them, then we need windows in order to lead it out fully into the light of day; our schemata would disperse into mist if we were to transfer them directly into the colourful, confused society of a resistant world. Here is where your archetypal phenomena now stand us in excellent stead; in this twilight — spiritual and comprehensible through its simplicity, visible or graspable through its sense-perceptibility — the two worlds greet each other: our abstruse existence and the manifest one.” In this way, through Hegel, the thought becomes clear to Goethe that the empirical researcher has to go as far as the archetypal phenomena and that the paths of the philosopher lead on from there. But from this it is also clear that the basic thought of Hegelian philosophy follows from the Goethean way of thinking. The overcoming of human nature, the entering deeply into it in order to ascend from the created to the creating, from the determined to the determining, is fundamental to Goethe, but also to Hegel. Hegel, indeed, wants to present nothing other in philosophy than the eternal process from which everything finite emerges. He wants to know the given as a result of that to which he can grant validity as something undetermined.
Thus for Goethe, acquainting himself with philosophers and with directions in philosophy means an ongoing clarification of what already lay in him. He gained nothing new for his views; he was only given the means of speaking about what he did, about what was going on in his soul.
Thus the Goethean world view offers many points of reference for philosophical elaboration. But these were initially taken up only by the pupils of Hegel. The rest of philosophy took a stand of dignified rejection toward the Goethean view. Only Schopenhauer bases himself in many respects upon the poet, whom he values highly. We will speak in a later chapter about his apologetic of the colour theory. Here it is a matter of describing the general relationship of Schopenhauer's teachings to Goethe. 64An essay suite worth reading is Dr. Adolf Harpf's Goethe and Schopenhauer (Philosophische Monatshefte, 1885). Harpf, who has also already written an excellent treatise on Goethe's Principle of Knowledge (Goethes Erkenntnisprinzip, Philos. Monatshefte, 1884), shows the agreement between the “immanent dogmatism” of Schopenhauer and the objective knowledge of Goethe. Harpf, who is himself a follower of Schopenhauer, did not discover the principle difference between Goethe and Schopenhauer that we characterized above. Nevertheless, his reflections are quite worthy of attention. In one point the Frankfurt philosopher comes close to Goethe. Schopenhauer rejects, namely, any deriving from outer causes of the phenomena given us and admits the validity only of an inner lawfulness, of a deriving of one phenomenon from another. This seems to be the same as the Goethean principle of taking the data for an explanation from the things themselves; but only seemingly. Schopenhauer wants to remain in the realm of phenomena because he believes we cannot attain in knowledge the “in-itself” lying outside this realm, since all the phenomena given us are only mental pictures 65Usually translated as “representations” in English versions of Schopenhauer's work — Ed. and our ability to make mental pictures never takes us outside our consciousness; Goethe, on the other hand, wants to remain within the phenomena, because he in fact seeks within the phenomena themselves the data needed for their explanation.
In conclusion, let us still compare the Goethean world view with the most significant scientific phenomenon of our time, with the views of Eduard von Hartmann. This thinker's Philosophy of the Unconscious 66Philosophie des Unbewussten is a work of the greatest historical significance. Taken together with the other writings of Hartmann (which elaborate in all directions what he there sketched out and in fact bring new points of view to that main work in many respects), this book mirrors the entire spiritual content of our age. Hartmann demonstrates a remarkable profundity and an amazing mastery of the material of the individual sciences. He stands today in the vanguard of culture. One does not need to be an adherent of his to have to acknowledge this unreservedly.
His view is not so far from Goethe's as one might believe at first glance. Someone who has access only to the Philosophy of the Unconscious will not, to be sure, be able to see this. For, one sees the definite points of contact between these two thinkers only when one goes into the consequences that Hartmann drew from his principles and which he set down in his later writings.
Hartmann's philosophy is idealism. He does not want to be a mere idealist, it is true. But where, for the purpose of explaining the world, he needs something positive, he does after all seek help from ideas. And the most important thing is that he thinks of the idea as the underlying principle everywhere. His assumption of an unconscious means nothing other, in fact, than that what is present in our consciousness as idea is not necessarily bound to this form of manifestation within our consciousness. The idea is not only present (active), where it becomes conscious, but also in another form. The idea is more than a merely subjective phenomenon; it has a significance founded within itself. It is not merely present within the subject; it is the objective world principle. Even though Hartmann includes will, in addition to the idea, among the principles constituting the world, it is nevertheless incomprehensible that there are still philosophers who regard him as an adherent of Schopenhauer. Schopenhauer carried to extremes the view that all conceptual content is only subjective, is only a phenomenon of consciousness. With him, it is absolutely out of the question for the idea to have participated as a real principle in the constitution of the world. For him, will is the exclusive world ground. Therefore Schopenhauer could never find a way, with any content, of handling the specialized branches of philosophy, whereas Hartmann followed up his principles into all the particular sciences. Whereas Schopenhauer can say nothing more about the extremely rich content of history than that it is a manifestation of will, Eduard von Hartmann knows how to find the ideal core of every single historical phenomenon, and how to incorporate each phenomenon into the total historical development of mankind. The individual entity, the individual phenomenon, cannot be of interest to Schopenhauer, for he knows only one essential thing to say about it: that it is a manifestation of the will. Hartmann takes up each particular entity and shows how the idea is everywhere perceptible. The basic character of Schopenhauer's world view is uniformity; that of von Hartmann is unity. Schopenhauer bases the world upon an empty uniform urge; Hartmann bases it upon the rich content of the idea. Schopenhauer sets an abstract unity as a basis; with Hartmann, we find the concrete idea as principle, whose unity — or rather unifiedness — is only one characteristic of the idea. Schopenhauer would never have been able, as Hartmann was, to create a philosophy of history or a science of religion. When Hartmann says that “reason is the logical form principle of the idea — of the idea that is inseparably united with the will — and as such altogether governs and determines the content of the world process” (Philosophical Questions of the Present Day 67Philosophische Fragen der Gegenwart (Leipzig, 1885)), then this presupposition makes it possible for him, in every phenomenon that confronts us in nature and in history, to seek out its logical core, which, although not graspable by the senses, is quite graspable by thinking, and in this way to explain the phenomenon. Whoever does not make this presupposition will never be able to justify his wanting to determine anything at all about the world by reflection in the medium of ideas.
In his objective idealism Eduard von Hartmann stands entirely upon the ground of the Goethean world view. When Goethe says that “everything of which we become aware and about which we are able to speak is only a manifestation of the idea” (Aphorisms in Prose), and when he states that the human being must develop within himself a capacity for knowledge of such a kind that the idea becomes just as observable to him as an outer perception is to his senses, then he stands upon that ground where the idea is not merely a phenomenon of consciousness but is an objective world principle; thinking is the flashing up in consciousness of that which objectively constitutes the world. The essential thing about the idea, therefore, is not what it is for us, for our consciousness, but rather what it is in itself. For, through its own particular being it underlies the world as principle. Therefore thinking is a becoming aware of what exists in and of itself. Therefore, although the idea would not come to manifestation at all if there were no consciousness, still the idea must be grasped in such a way that its characteristic feature consists not of its being conscious but rather of what it is in itself, of what lies within the idea itself; and this is not affected by its becoming conscious. Therefore, according to Eduard von Hartmann, we must base the world upon the idea — without regard to its becoming conscious — as something working and unconscious. That is what is essential for Hartmann: that we must seek the idea in everything unconscious.
But not much is accomplished by this distinguishing between what is conscious and what is unconscious. For that is, after all, only a distinction for my consciousness. But one must grapple with the idea in all its objectivity, in all its fullness of content; one must consider not only that the idea is at work unconsciously, but also what this working element is. If Hartmann had stopped at the fact that the idea is unconscious and if he had explained the world out of this unconscious element — that is, out of a one-sided characteristic of the idea — then he would have added a new uniform system to the many systems that derive the world from some abstract formal principle or other. And one cannot declare his first main work to be entirely free of this uniformity. But Eduard von Hartmann's spirit works too intensively, too comprehensively and penetratingly, for him not to have recognized that the idea cannot be grasped merely as something unconscious; rather, one must in fact go deeply into what one has to address as unconscious, must go beyond this characteristic to its concrete content and derive from it the world of individual phenomena. In this way, Hartmann transformed himself from the abstract monist, which he still is in his Philosophy of the Unconscious, into a concrete monist. And it is the concrete idea that Goethe addresses in the three forms: archetypal phenomenon, typus, and “idea in the narrower sense.”
What we find of Goethe's world view in Eduard von Hartmann's philosophy is the becoming aware of something objective within our world of ideas, and the devotion, arising from this becoming aware, to this objective element. Hartmann was led by his philosophy of the unconscious to this merging with the objective idea. Since he recognized that the being of the idea does not lie in its being conscious, he had to recognize the idea also as something existing in and of itself, as something objective. The fact that he also includes the will among the principles constituting the world does make him differ again from Goethe, to be sure. Nevertheless, where Hartmann is really fruitful, the will motif does not come into consideration at all. That he assumes this motif at all comes from the fact that he regards the ideas as something static which, in order to begin working, needs the impetus of will. According to Hartmann, the will alone can never achieve the creation of the world, for it is the empty, blind urge for existence. If the will is to bring forth something, then the idea must enter in, because only the idea gives the will a content for its working. But what are we to make of this will? It slips away from us when we want to grasp it; for we cannot after all grasp an empty urging that has no content. And so it turns out after all that everything which we actually grasp of the world principle is idea, because what is graspable must in fact have content. We can only grasp what is full of content, not what is empty of content. If therefore we are to grasp the concept will, it must after all arise in the content of the idea; it can appear only in and along with the idea, as the form in which it arises, never independently. What exists must have content; there can only be existence which is full; there cannot be an empty one. Therefore, Goethe pictures the idea as active, as something working, which needs no further impetus. For, something full of content may not and cannot first receive from something empty of content, the impetus to come into existence. The idea therefore, according to Goethe, is to be grasped as entelechy, i.e., as an already active existence; and one must first draw an abstraction from its form as an active existence if one then wants to bring it back again under the name will. The will motif also has no value at all for positive science. Hartmann also does not need it when he confronts the concrete phenomenon.
If we have recognized in Hartmann's view of nature an echo of Goethe's world view, we find an even more significant one in that philosopher's ethics. Eduard von Hartmann finds that all striving for happiness, all pursuing of egoism, is ethically worthless, because we can, after all, never achieve contentment on this path. Hartmann considers acting out of egoism, and trying to satisfy it, to be illusory. We should grasp the task we are set in the world, and act purely for the sake of this task itself, with self-renunciation. We should find our goal in our devotion to the object, without demanding that our subject profit from it in some way. But this forms the basic impulse of Goethe's ethics. Hartmann should not have suppressed the word that expresses the character of his teachings on morality: love. 68This does not mean to say that the concept of love receives no attention in Hartmann's ethics. He dealt with this concept both phenomenologically and metaphysically (see The Moral Consciousness, Das sittliche Bewusstsein). But he does not consider love to be the last word in ethics. Self-sacrificing, loving devotion to the world process does not seem to Hartmann as something ultimate but rather only as a means of deliverance from the unrest of existence and of regaining our lost, blissful peace. Where we claim nothing personally, where we act only because something objective moves us, where we find in the act itself the motive for our action, there we are acting morally. But there we are acting out of love. All self-will, everything personal, must disappear there. It is characteristic of the way Hartmann's powerful and healthy spirit works, that in spite of the fact that he first grasped the idea one-sidedly as unconscious, he still pressed forward to concrete idealism; and that in spite of the fact that he took his start in ethics from pessimism, he was still led by this mistaken standpoint to the ethical teaching of love. Hartmann's pessimism, in fact, does not mean what those people interpret it to mean who like to lament about the fruitlessness of our activity because they hope to find themselves justified by this in folding their hands in their laps and accomplishing nothing. Hartmann does not stop at such lamenting; he raises himself above any such impulse to a pure ethics. He shows the worthlessness of the pursuit of happiness by revealing its fruitlessness. He directs us thereby to our own activity. That he is a pessimist at all is his error. That is perhaps still a remnant from earlier stages of his thinking. From where he stands now, he would have to realize that the empirical demonstration that in the world of reality what is unsatisfying outweighs what is satisfying cannot establish pessimism. For the higher human being cannot wish for anything else at all than that he must achieve his happiness for himself. He does not want it as a gift from outside. He wants his happiness to consist only in his action. Hartmann's pessimism dissolves before (Hartmann's own) higher thinking. Because the world leaves us dissatisfied, we create for ourselves the most beautiful happiness in our own activity.
Thus Hartmann's philosophy is yet another proof of how people starting from different points of departure arrive at the same goal; Hartmann takes his start from different presuppositions than Goethe does, but in his development of them, the Goethean train of thought confronts us at every turn. We have presented this here because we wanted to show the deep inner soundness of the Goethean world view. It lies so deeply founded in the being of the world that we must meet its basic features wherever energetic thinking penetrates to the sources of knowledge. Within Goethe everything was so very original, so totally free from the incidental, fashionable views of the time, that even his opponent must think in his sense. The eternal riddle of the world expresses itself, in fact, in single individuals; in Goethe most significantly of all in recent time; therefore one can even say that the level of a person's view can be measured today by the relationship in which it stands to the Goethean view.