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Truth and Knowledge
GA 3


The object of the following discussion is to analyze the act of cognition and reduce it to its fundamental elements, in order to enable us to formulate the problem of knowledge correctly and to indicate a way to its solution. The discussion shows, through critical analysis, that no theory of knowledge based on Kant's line of thought can lead to a solution of the problems involved. However, it must be acknowledged that Volkelt's work,71See Johannes Volkelt's Erfahrung und Denken. Kritische Grundlegung der Erkenntnistheorie, Experience and Thinking. Critical Foundation for a Theory of Cognition. Hamburg and Leipzig, 1886. (Johannes Volkelt 1848–1930, philosopher, professor at Leipzig.) See also note 29, above. with its thorough examination of the concept of “experience” provided a foundation without which my attempt to define precisely the concept of the “given” would have been very much more difficult. It is hoped in this essay to lay a foundation for overcoming the subjectivism inherent in all theories of knowledge based on Kant's philosophy. Indeed, I believe I have achieved this by showing that the subjective form in which the picture of the world presents itself to us in the act of cognition, prior to any scientific explanation of it, is merely a necessary transitional stage which is overcome in the very process of knowledge. In fact the experience which positivism and neo-Kantianism advance as the one and only certainty is just the most subjective one of all. By showing this, the foundation is also laid for objective idealism, which is a necessary consequence of a properly understood theory of knowledge. This objective idealism differs from Hegel's metaphysical, absolute idealism, in that it seeks the reason for the division of reality into given existence and concept in the cognizing subject itself; and holds that this division is resolved, not in an objective world-dialectic but in the subjective process of cognition. I have already advanced this viewpoint in An Outline of a Theory of Knowledge, 1885,72Grundlinien einer Erkenntnistheorie der Goetheschen Weltanschauung, mit besonderer Rücksicht auf Schiller, publ. in English translation by Olin D. Wannamaker, New York, 1950, under the title, “The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception—Fundamental Outlines with Special Reference to Schiller.” The first German edition published Berlin and Stuttgart, 1886, revised ed., Stuttgart, 1924, with new Foreword by the author. Other editions: Dornach, 1924; Dresden, 1936; Freiburg i. Br., 1949; Dornach, 1960. but my method of inquiry was a different one, nor did I analyze the basic elements in the act of cognition as will be done here.

A list of the more recent literary works which are relevant is given below. It includes not only those works which have a direct bearing on this essay, but also all those which deal with related problems. No specific reference is made to the works of the earlier classical philosophers.

The following are concerned with the theory of cognition in general:

  1. R. Avenarius, Philosophie als Denken der Welt gemass dem Prinzip des kleinsten Kraftsmasses, usw., (Philosophy as World-Thinking According to the Principle of the Smallest Energy-Mass, etc.) Leipzig, 1876.
  2. Kritik, der reinen Erfahrung (Criticism of Pure Experience), Vol. I, Leipzig, 1888.
  3. J. F. A. Bahnsen, Der Widerspruch im Wissen und Wesen der Welt, (The Contradictions in Knowledge and Essense of the World) Vol. I, Leipzig, 1882.
  4. J. Baumann, Philosophie als Orientierung uber die Welt (Philosophy as Orientation about the World) Leipzig, 1872.
  5. J. S. Beck, Einzig moglicher Standpunkt, aus welchem die kritische Philosophie beurteilt werden muss (The Only Correct Point of View from which Critical Philosophy Should be Judged) Riga, 1796.
  6. Friedrich Ed. Benecke, System der Metaphysik und Religionsphilosophie, usw., (System of Metaphysics and Philosophy of Religion) Berlin, 1839.
  7. Julius Bergmann, Sein und Erkennen, usw., (Existence and Cognition, etc.) Berlin, 1880.
  8. A. E. Biedermann, Christliche Dogmatik (Christian Dogmatics), 2nd Edition, Berlin, 1884-5, Vol. I, pp. 51-173.
  9. H. Cohen, Kants Theorie der Erfahrung (Kant's Theory of Experience) Berlin, 1871.
  10. P. Deussen, Die Elemente der Metaphysik (The Elements of Metaphysics), 2nd Edition, Leipzig, 1890.
  11. W. Dilthey, Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften, usw., (Introduction to the Spiritual Sciences, etc.) Leipzig, 1883.—Especially the introductory chapters dealing with the interrelation of the theory of cognition and the other sciences.—Further references in works by the same author:
  12. Beitrage zur Losung der Frage von Ursprung unseres Glaubens an die Realitat der Aussenwelt und seinem Recht; Sitzungsberichte der Kgl. Preuss. Akademic der Wissenschaften zu Berlin (Contributions to the Solution of Our Belief in the Reality of the Outer World and its Justification. Reports of Meetings of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin), Berlin, 1890, p. 977.
  13. A. Dorner, Das menschliche Erkennen usw., (Human Cognition) Berlin, 1887.
  14. E. Dreher, Ueber Wahrnehmung und Denken (On Perception and Thinking), Berlin, 1878.
  15. G. Engel, Sein und Denken, (Existence and Thinking) Berlin, 1889.
  16. W. Enoch, Der Begriff der Wahrnehmung (The Concept of Perception), Hamburg, 1890.
  17. B. Erdmann, Kants Kriticismus in der esten und zweiten Auflage seiner Kritik der reinen Vernunft, (Kant's Criticism in the First and Second Editions of his Critique of Pure Reason) Leipzig, 1878.
  18. F. v. Feldegg, Das Gefuhl als Fundament der Weltordnung (Feeling as Fundament of Universal Order), Vienna, 1890.
  19. E. L. Fischer, Die Grundfragen der Erkenntnistheorie (The Basic Questions of the Theory of Cognition), Mainz, 1887
  20. K. Fischer, System der Logik und Metaphysik oder Wissenschaftslehre (System of Logic and Metaphysics, or Scientific Theory), 2nd Edition, Heidelberg, 1865.
  21. Geschichte der neueren Philosophie (History of More Recent Philosophy), Mannheim, 1860, especially the parts concerning Kant.
  22. A. Ganser, Die Wahrheit, (Truth), Graz, 1890.
  23. C. Goring, System der kritischen Philosophie, (System of Critical Philosophy), Leipzig, 1874.
  24. Ueber den Begriff der Erfahrung (On the Concept of Experience), In Verteiljahrsschrift fur wissenschaftliche Philosophie (Quarterly for Scientific Philosophy), Leipzig, 1st Year, 1877, p. 384.
  25. E. Grimm, Zur Geschichte des Erkenntnisproblems, usw., (Contribution to the History of the Theory of Cognition). Leipzig, 1890.
  26. F. Grung, Das Problem der Gewissheit, (The Problem of Certainty), Heidelberg, 1886.
  27. R. Hamerling, Die Atomistik des Willens, (The Atomic Theory of Will), Hamburg, 1891.
  28. F. Harms, Die Philosophie seit Kant (Philosophy through Kant), Berlin, 1876.
  29. E. v. Hartmann, Kritische Grundlegung des transzendentalen Realismus (Critical Establishment of transcendental Realism), 2nd Edition Berlin, 1875.
  30. J. H. v. Kirchmanns erkenntnistheoretischer Realismus, (J. H. v. Kirchmann's Cognitional-Theoretical Realism), Berlin, 1875.
  31. Das Grundproblem der Erkenntnistheorie, usw., (The Fundamental Problem of a Theory of Cognition), Leipzig, 889.
  32. Kritische Wanderungen durch die Philosophie der Gegenwart, (Critical Survey of Contemporary Philosophy), Leipzig, 1889.
  33. H. L. F. v. Helmholtz, Die Tatsachen in der Wahrnehmung. (The Facts of Perception), Berlin, 1879.
  34. G. Heymans, Die Gesetze und Elemente des wissenschaftlichen Denkens (The Laws and Elements of Scientific Thinking), Leyden, 1890.
  35. A. Holder, Darstellung der Kantischen Erkenntnistheorie (A Presentation of Kant's Theory of Cognition), Tubingen, 1874.
  36. A. Horwicz, Analyse des Denkens, usw., (Analysis of Thinking), Halle, 1875.
  37. F. H. Jacobi, David Hume uber den Glauben oder Idealismus und Realismus, (David Hume on Faith, or Idealism and Realism), Breslau, 1787.
  38. M. Kappes, Der “Common Sense” als Prinzip der Gewissheit in der Philosophie des Schotten Thomas Reid (“Common Sense” as Principle of Certainty in the Philosophy of the Scotsman, Thomas Reid), Munich, 1890.
  39. M. Kauffmann, Fundamente der Erkenntnistheorie und Wissenschaftslehre (Foundations of a Theory of Cognition and Scientific Theory), Leipzig, 1890.
  40. B. Kerry, System einer Theorie der Grenzgebiete (System of a Theory of Border-Areas), Vienna, 1890.
  41. J. H. v. Kirchmann, Die Lehre vom Wissen als Einleitung in das Studium philosophischer Werke (The Theory of Knowledge as Introduction to the Study of Philosophical Works), Berlin, 1868.
  42. E. Laas, Die Kausalitat des Ich (The Causality of the I), Vierteljahrsschrift fur wissenschaftliche Philosophie (Quarterly for Scientific Philosophy), Leipzig, 4th Year, 1880, p. ff., 185ff.,311ff.
  43. Idealismus und Positivismus (Idealism and Positivism), Berlin, 1879.
  44. F. A. Lange, Geschichte des Materialismus (History of Materialism), Iserlohn, 1873-75.
  45. A. v. Leclair, Beitrage zu einer monistischen Erkenntnistheorie (Studies for a Monistic Theory of Cognition), Breslau, 1882.
  46. Das kategorische Geprage des Denkens (The Categorical Mark of Thinking) Vierteljahrsschrift fur wissenschaftliche Philosophie (Quarterly for Scientific Philosophy), Leipzig, 7th Year, 1883, p. 257 ff.
  47. O. Liebmann, Kant und die Epigonen, (Kant and the Epigones) Stuttgart, 1865.
  48. Zur Analysis der Wirklichkeit (Contribution to the Analysis of Reality), Strassburg, 1880.
  49. Gedanken und Tatsachen (Thoughts and Facts), Strassburg, 1882.
  50. Die Klimax der Theorien (The Climax of the Theories), Strassburg, 1884.
  51. Th. Lipps, Grundtatsachen des Seelenlebens, (The Fundamental Facts of Soul Life) Bonn, 1883.
  52. H. R. Lotze, System der Philosophie, I Teil: Logik (System of Philosophy, Part I: Logic), Leipzig, 1874.
  53. J. V. Mayer, Vom Erkennen (Concerning Cognition), Freiburg i. Br., 1885.
  54. A. Meinong, Hume-Studien (Essays on Hume), Vienna, 1877.
  55. J. St. Mill, System der induktiven und deduktiven Logik (System of Inductive and Deductive Logic), 1843; German translation, Braunschweig, 1849.
  56. W Muntz, Die Grundlagen der Kantschen Erkenntnistheorie (Foundation of Kant's Theory of Knowledge), 2nd Edition, Breslau, 1885.
  57. G. Neudecker, Das Grundproblem der Erkenntnistheorie (Fundamental Problem of the Theory of Cognition), Nordlingen, 1881.
  58. F. Paulsen, Versuch einer Entwicklungsgeschichte der Kantschen Erkenntnistheorie (Study on the History of the Development of the Kantian Theory of Cognition), Leipzig, 1875.
  59. J. Rehmke, Die Welt als Wahrnehmung und Begriff, usw., (The World as Percept and Concept, etc.), Berlin, 1880.
  60. Th. Reid, Untersuchungen uber den menschlichen Geist nach Prinzipien des gesunden Menschenverstandes (Inquiry into the Human Mind for the Principles of Common Sense), 1764; German translation, Leipzig, 1782.
  61. A. Riehl, Der philosophische Kritizismus und seine Bedeutung fur die positive Wissenschaft (Philosophical Criticism and its Importance for Positive Science), Leipzig, 1887.
  62. J. Rulf, Wissenschaft des Weltgedankens und der Gedankenwelt, System einer neuen Metaphysik (Science of World-Thought and Thought-World, A System of a New Metaphysics), Leipzig, 1888.
  63. R. v. Schubert-Soldern, Gund lagen einer Erkenntnistheorie (Fundamentals of a Theory of Cognition), Leipzig, 1884.
  64. G. E. Schulze, Aenesidemus, Helmstadt, 1792.
  65. W. Schuppe, Zur voraussetzungslosen Erkenntnistheorie (Contribution to a Theory of Cognition Free of Presuppositions), Philosophische Monatschefte (Philosophical Monthly), Berlin, Leipzig, Heidelberg, 1882, Vol. XVIII, Nos. 6 and 7.
  66. Rud. Seydel, Logik oder Wissenschaft vom Wissen (Logic, or the Science of Knowledge), Leipzig, 1866.
  67. Christoph v. Sigwart, Logik (Logic), Freiburg i. Br., 1878.
  68. A. Stadler, Die Grundsatze der reinen Erkenntnistheorie in der Kantischen Philosophie (The Principles of the Pure Theory of Cognition in the Philosophy of Kant), Leipzig, 1876.
  69. H. Taine, De l'lntelligence, 5th Edition, Paris, 1888.
  70. A. Trendelenburg, Logische Untersuchungen (Logical Researches), Leipzig, 1862.
  71. F. Ueberweg, System der Logik (System of Logic), 3rd Edition, Bonn, 1882.
  72. H. Vaihinger, Hartmann, Duhring, Lange, Iserlohn, 1876.
  73. Th. Varnbuhler, Widerlegung der Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Refutation of the Critique of Pure Reason), Leipzig, 1890.
  74. J. Volkelt, Immanuel Kants Erkenntnistheorie, usw., (Immanuel Kant's Theory of Cognition, etc.), Hamburg, 1879.—Erfahrung und Denken (Experience and Thinking), Hamburg, 1886.
  75. Richard Wahle, Gehirn und Bewusstsein (Brain and Consciousness), Vienna, 1884.
  76. W. Windelband, Praluden (Preludes), Freiburg i. Br., 1884. Die verschiedenen Phasen der Kantschen Lehre vom “Ding an sich” (The Various Phases of Kant's Theory of the “Thing-in-Itself” Vierteljahrsschrift fur wissenschaftliche Philosophie (Quarterly for Scientific Philosophy), Leipzig, Ist Year (1877), p. 229 ff.
  77. J. H. Witte, Beitrage zur Verstandnis Kants (Contirbutions to the Understanding of Kant), Berlin, 1874. Vorstudien zur Erkenntnis des unerfahrbaren Seins (Preliminary Studies for the Cognition of Non-Experienceable Existence), Bonn, 1876.
  78. H. Wolff, Ueber den Zusammenhang unserer Vorstellungen mit Dingen ausser uns (On the Correlation of our Perceptions with Things Outside Ourselves), Leipzig, 1874.
  79. Joh. Wolff, Das Bewusstsein und sein Objekt (Consciousness and its Object), Berlin, 1889.
  80. W. Wundt, Logik (Logic), Vol. I: Erkenntnislehre (Theory of Cognition), Stuttgart, 1880.
  81. The following titles related to Fichte:
  82. F. C. Biedermann, De Genetica philosophandi ratione et methodo, praesertim Fichtii, Schellingii, Hegelii, Dissertationis particula prima, syntheticam Fichtii methodum exhibens, etc., Lipsiae, 1835.
  83. F. Frederichs, Der Freiheitsbegriff Kants und Fichtes (The Concept of Freedom of Kant and Fichte), Berlin, 1886.
  84. O. Guhloff, Der transcendentale Idealismus (Transcendental Idealism), Halle, 1888.
  85. P. Hensel, Ueber die Beizehung des reinen Ich bei Fichte zur Einheit der Apperception bei Kant (On the Relation between the Pure I in the Works of Fichte and the Unity of Perception in those of Kant), Freiburg i. Br., 1885.
  86. G. Schwabe, Fichtes und Schopenhauers Lehre vom Willen mit ihren Consequenzen fur Weltbegreifung und Lebensfuhrung (The Theory of Will of Fichte and Schopenhauer and its Consequences for Understanding the World and the Conduct of Life), Jena, 1887.
  87. The numerous works published on the occasion of Fichte's Anniversary in 1862 are of course not included here. However, I would, above all, mention the Address of Trendelenburg (A. Trendelenburg, Zur Erinnerung an J. G. Fichte—To the Memory of J. G. Fichte—Berlin, 1862), which contains important theoretical viewpoints.
  88. See Johannes Volkelt's Erfarung und Denken. Kritische Grundlegung der Erkenntnistheorie, Experience and Thinking. Critical Foundation for a Theory of Cognition. Hamburg and Leipzig, 1886. (Johannes Volkelt 1848-1930, philosopher, professor at Leipzig.)
  89. Grundlinien einer Erkenntnistheorie der Goetheschen Weltanschauung, mit besonderer Rucksicht auf Schiller, publ. in English translation by Olin D. Wannamaker, New York, 1950, under the title, “The Theory of Knowledge Implicit in Goethe's World Conception—Fundamental Outlines with Special Reference to Schiller.” The first German edition published Berlin and Stuttgart, 1886, revised ed., Stuttgart, 1924, with new Foreword by the author. Other editions: Dornach, 1924; Dresden, 1936; Freiburg i. Br., 1949; Dornach, 1960.