mercredi 7 février 2018

Herman Dooyeweerd: Humanistic Philosophy after Kant: Hegel, Nietzsche, Darwin, Marx, Hitler.

Hegel (le Jakob Schlesinger 1831)                  Nietzsche (foto le F. Hartmann 1875) 
Hegel, Nietzsche, Darwin, Marx, Hitler. 

by Herman Dooyeweerd 
(New Critique of Theoretical Thought
Vol I/ Part 2/ Chapt 1 /§4 pp 207-215)

     German freedom-idealism in the Restoration period no longer recognized the line of demarcation KANT had drawn between nature and freedom, between the ideal of science and that of personality. The attempt was now made to synthesize both antithetical motives in a dialectical mode of thought, and it was thought that the hidden traces of freedom could be found in nature itself.

     The freedom-motive and the ideal of personality, rooted therein, in this phase receive a new irrationalist and universalistic (1) form. The philosophy of the Enlightenment, and even KANT, had conceived them in a rationalist and individualistic sense.
(1) The term "universalistic" is meant here in contrast to "individualistic".

The origination of a new historical science-ideal out of an irrationalistic and universalistic turn in the freedom-motive.

     In our further exposition of the dialectical development of Humanistic philosophical thought we shall see how there arose out of this new conception of the freedom-motive a new scientific mode of thought, namely, the historical. And we shall see how the latter, in opposition to the natural scientific and rationalistic method of the Enlightenment, was elevated to the rank of a new ideal of science and a new universal thought-model. This led to an historicistic vision of reality which also permeated the view of nature. In the long run this historicism proved to be much a more dangerous opponent to the Humanistic freedom-motive than the science-ideal based upon classic physics.

     As soon as it began to follow its own inner tendencies it undermined the religious foundations both of the classical Humanistic science-ideal and of the ideal of personality. This led to the final phase in the development of the dialectical ground-motive of nature and freedom in philosophic thought: that of a spiritual uprooting.

     In the first (Dutch) edition of this work my transcendental critique of Humanistic thought did not include any sketch of this further development of the religious dialectic in the transcendental ground-Idea of Humanistic philosophy since the historicizing of the science-ideal. I now feel the need of briefly sketching this final phase. For since the appearance of the Dutch edition it has become evident that the phenomena of spiritual uprooting in Humanistic thought were not merely of a passing nature, but reflect a crisis in the very spiritual foundations of western culture.

     For, since the time of the Enlightenment, Humanism has been the leading power in this culture.

     As soon as historicism permeated the view of nature in the dialectical method of freedom-idealism, "natural history" was conceived of as the basis of human cultural history.

     In SCHELLING'S speculative nature-philosophy the process of development moves in a series of lower and higher potentialities from the pole of mechanical necessity (inert matter) to the pole of creative freedom (the living organism).

     But, according to him, there is also to be found in the history of culture a dialectical union of necessity and freedom.

     Necessity is implied here in the individual nature of a nation, in its individual spirit ("Volksgeist") and tradition, which rule man to a great extent unconsciously. Freedom discloses itself in the awakening of historical consciousness. And in the work of art the polar tension between necessity and freedom should find its ultimate reconciliation.

The polar tension between the historicistic ideal of science and the idealistic dialectic of HEGEL'S freedom-idealism.

     Now the historicistic ideal of science could not reveal its radical relativistic consequences so long as it was inspired and held in check by post-Kantian freedom-idealism. In this phase it remained bound to the irrationalistic and universalistic mode of thought in the Restoration-period. HEGEL'S dialectical logicizing of the historical process as a dialectical unfolding of the Absolute Idea in the objective spirit ("objectiven Geist") signified at the very least a return to the rationalistic and individualistic view of history of the Enlightenment.

     Indeed it must contribute considerably to bringing the inner tension to light between the true historical science-ideal and the dialectical-metaphysical logic, inspired in the last analysis by the religious dialectic of necessity and freedom. For, it was impossible to conceive in a satisfactory manner historical development in its unpredictable course in the apriori dialectical thought-forms of the Hegelian system.

     This idealistic dialectic must become unbearable to those who had welcomed the historical mode of thought as a new turn in the science-ideal. It bound empirical investigation to an apriori schematicism in which the "creative freedom" of man in the historical process was reduced to the role of a puppet of the World-Reason.

     Even the fact that HEGEL had a deep historical insight and could fill up his dialectical-idealistic schematicism with a rich historical material, could not save this schematicism itself.

The rise of positivistic sociology and the transformation of the historical method of thought into a natural scientific one.

     Even in the first half of the 19th century freedom-idealism was confronted with a dangerous competitor in the positivistic sociology of de ST SIMON and AUGUST COMTE. These thinkers sought to unite the historical manner of thought of the Restoration with the natural scientific view of the Enlightenment. They tried to transform into a rationalistic Idea of progress, the irrationalistic idea of development, as it was conceived of in the Romantic and Historical school.

     It is in this very period that the new historical mode of thought in the rising sociology began to relativize the Ideas which de ST SIMON and COMTE — doubtless still under the influence of freedom-idealism — considered to be leading in the historical dynamic of society.

     In his famous "law of the three stages" (in passing formulated even by TURGOT) COMTE tried to conceive the historical development of Western society in terms of a necessary causal process. Historicist relativism, however, was not yet carried out here up to its ultimate consequences. Therefore, this first attempt at a historical relativizing of the leading Ideas of Western culture was still an inconsistent one. It is true that the Ideas of the first two stages, viz. the theological and the metaphysical, were completely abandoned to historical relativity. 

The Ideas of the third stadium, however, as the embodiment of the classic science-ideal and its domination-motive in a positivistic form, are elevated to the rank of final goal of the entire historical process, and to the standard by which the latter is to be judged. This was nothing but the old faith in the freeing power of science, as we encountered it in the Enlightenment. This positivistic historicism is still firmly rooted in the religious basic motive of Humanism. Later on it proclaimed itself to be a new religion, "un nouveau christianisme".

The transformation of historicism into naturalistic evolutionism.

     At about the middle of the 19th century historicism took a new turn in evolutionism. The dogma of evolution spread from biology to all the branches of science. Thus there began a new triumphal march of the classic deterministic science-ideal in its historical transformation. Since ROUSSEAU and KANT religious primacy had been ascribed to the motive of freedom. But now the religious dialectic again led Humanistic thought to the acceptance of the primacy of the nature-motive. Freedom-idealism began to collapse. Marxist sociology transformed the idealistic dialectic of HEGEL into a historical-materialism. The latter explained the ideological super-structure of society in terms of a reflection of the economic mode of production. Marxism and Darwinism united, but they, too, did not carry historicism to its extreme relativistic conclusions. Both still believed in a final goal of development which is itself outside of the historical relativity. The religious ground-motive of Humanism dominates the trust of both in objective science and in its freeing activity for humanity.

The first expression of the spiritual disintegrating process in Historicism. NIETZSCHE'S religion of power.

     However, in the latter half of the 19th century the process of spiritual uprooting began to reveal itself in historicism in an almost pathological form. NIETZSCHE'S gospel of the super-man is the first manifestation of this process.

     In his first period NIETZSCHE was under the influence of German Romanticism and idealism from which he fell under the domination of Darwinian evolutionism. In the third and final phase of his thought, however, he developed a religion of power which completely broke away from the Humanistic motive of nature and freedom in its original religious sense.

     The view of NIETZSCHE is based upon the Darwinian basic tenets and upon a radical historistic vision of reality. Proceeding on this foundation he views man only as an "animal", which is not yet "fixed", and whose sole superiority to other species of animals consequently consists in the fact that man is not bound to static instincts and to a statically circumscribed "Umwelt".

     In the historical development of culture man has his destiny in his own hands, and thereby displays an absolutely dynamic nature. NIETZSCHE wishes to build his anthropology exclusively upon the positive data of "nature and history". He fulminates against the fact that man overestimates his own importance, views the whole cosmos as related to himself, and imagines himself to be a free rational personality, radically elevated above the animals.

     Man is a "phantastic animal" that from time to time has the need of reflecting upon the goal of his existence and thus posits ideologies concerning God and morality. However, science has progressed so far that man has killed his gods, and now only retains his own historical future. But history — in spite of all Christian and Humanistic ideologies — is nothing but a struggle for power
(2) In our analysis of the modal structure of the historical aspect in Vol. II, we shall see that domination or power is indeed the nuclear moment of this aspect.

     Thus the "Wille zur Macht" is the only existential escape for man from the nihilism to which historicism leads.

     The kingdom of the "super-man", of the "blond beast", in which this will to power will assume super-human forms, can only be established through an "Umwertung aller Werte" (transvaluation of all values) on the ruins of Christian and Humanistic ideologies.

     The ideal of science and the ideal of personality of Humanism are both rejected. NIETZSCHE considers science only as a biological aid in the struggle for existence. It only has a pragmatic value. Consistent historicism can no longer have faith in scientific truth. Nor can it believe any longer in the Idea of humanity which was rooted in the religious motive of freedom. Thus NIETZSCHE introduced into Humanistic philosophy the great process of religious decay. And this would soon enough lead to a radical spiritual crisis in the culture of the West, accelerated by the two world-wars.

The rôle of neo-Kantianism and neo-Hegelianism in the crisis of historicism.

     This inner decay even revealed itself in the philosophic movements which in the first decades of the 20th century sought to revive Kantian or Hegelian philosophy.

     The neo-Kantians (the Marburg school and that of RICKERT, WINDELBAND and LASK) and the neo-Hegelians both tried to check the absolutism of naturalistic positivism, and to arrest the nihilistic consequences of historicism.

     Under the influence of RICKERT and his follower, MAX WEBER, historicism began to turn away from naturalistic evolutionism. In its apriori construction of the development of human society the latter could not keep its ground against an accurate cultural-historical investigation of the ethnological facts. The hypnosis of the "dogma of evolution", wherein the XIXth century was dying away, again began to make room for the epistemological reflection upon the methodological difference between natural science and cultural science. For a time it seemed as though Humanistic thought would return to the great figures of German idealism. But the religious root of this idealism was too strongly undermined in Neo-Kantianism and Neo-Hegelianism by the all conquering historical relativism.

     Consequently, they could not check the spiritual crisis. The rôle of Neo-Kantianism in Germany was in fact at an end with the rise of national socialism. And German neo-Hegelianism interpreted HEGEL'S dialectical freedom-idealism preponderately in a relativistic sense, so that it was soon a docile instrument of the Hitler-regime.

The classic ideal of science and the development of 20th century physics. The neo-positivism of the Vienna school.

     On the other hand, a return to the old deterministic science-ideal was no longer possible. The development of micro-physics in the 20th century revealed that the deterministic conception of the laws of nature could not be maintained. Quantum-mechanics dethroned the classical concept of causality. Neo-positivism, proceeding from MACH, acquired its centre in the Vienna school. At the very least, it expected from modern natural science a more adequate approach to reality.

     It viewed the formulas and concepts of physics as mere conventional symbols, which only had value for the economy of thought, but could never lay claim to truth.

HUSSERL'S eidetic logic and phenomenology.

     The "eidetic" logic which EDMUND HUSSERL established, sought to rejuvenate the Idea of mathesis universalis. But faith had been lost in the creative power of autonomous mathematical thought. So HUSSERL'S introduction of an "eidetic method" in his pure logic is to be understood only from the general decay of former certainties; it was an attempt at founding logical thought-itself on a direct intuition of the essences ("Wesensschau") which would not need a criterion of truth. The phenomenology which he developed later on was, to be sure, formally connected with the cogito of DESCARTES in its broad sense of reflecting self-consciousness. However, it was developed into a transcendental idealism in which both DESCARTES' mathematical ideal of science and KANT'S faith in the practical reality of the Idea of freedom fell under the phenomenological epochè (ἐποχή) (3).
3) See Die Pariser Vorträge, Works, Vol. I edited and introduced by Prof. Dr S. STRASSER (publ. M. Nijhoff, The Hague, 1950), P. 9.

     With this development the so-called transcendental Ego-logy was placed in a religious vacuum.

     Radical historicism had denatured the central ground-motive of Humanism to a historical phenomenon. HUSSERL reduced it to a "phenomenon" that is constituted by the transcendental ego itself. The transcendental-phenomenological consciousness becomes an "uninterested observer"; the phenomenologist believes, that in the theoretical epochè (ἐποχή) he can give an adequate essential description of the entire act-life of man in its intentional relation to the world. In this way phenomenology, as a universal philosophical science of the "essences" (Wesenswissenschaft), should have to found all empirical sciences (4).
(4) Cf. Cartesianische Meditationen II § 15. Works, Vol. 1, 1950, p. 72 and following.

 But behind the absolutized transcendental theoretical consciousness yawns the abyss of nothingness, and this in spite of the fact that a degenerate religious motive of autonomous freedom still operates in this very absolutizing. For, in fact, there is no religious neutrality in the seemingly purely theoretical attitude of this "Ego-logy".

     The second main trend in phenomenology which directly arose out of historicism and was established by WILHELM DILTHEY in his last period, was of an irrationalistic origin. It was assimilated by HEIDEGGER in his philosophy of existence, after SÖREN KIERKEGAARD had laid the foundations of existential thought in strong opposition to the Hegelian idealism.

     Besides, since NIETZSCHE, a strongly variegated philosophy of life was born out of historicism. It agreed with existentialism in its deep depreciation of the science-ideal and of the Humanistic freedom-idealism.

     A general devalution of Reason here made its entrance. The "cogito" was replaced by the "vivo", the Absolute Idea by the mythos and the "stream of life". In the latter the Humanistic freedom-motive sought its refuge after the decay of its religious ideal of personality. This ideal seemed to receive the deathblow from the side of depth-psychology. In the analytical way of the mechanicist science-ideal FREUD had laid bare the dark depths of the unconscious.

     Human consciousness seemed to be dethroned and with it the autonomous standards of Humanistic ethics and religion.

The attitude of decline in SPENGLER'S philosophy of history and in Humanistic existentialism.

     Since the first world-war the spiritual crisis of Western culture is expressed in Humanistic philosophy in an attitude of decline. SPENGLER'S Der Untergang des Abendlandes, HEIDEGGER'S Sein and Zeit and SARTRE'S L'Être et le Néant, are in this respect three extremely representative works. Modern man has gone through two world wars. Historicism only permits him to retain the insight into  the meaninglessness of his existential freedom in the face of nature in which he is "thrown". Western culture is doomed to decline (SPENGLER) and the freedom of human existence is a "freedom towards death" (HEIDEGGER), a nothingness (SARTRE) .

     Since Roman Catholicism and the Reformation had been pushed away from their dominating position, Humanism had played the leading role in Western culture for two centuries. But now because of this intrinsic process of decay it has lost its monopolistic position of power. Anti-Humanistic spiritual movements (national socialism, fascism and bolshevism) have arisen out of the pathological degeneration of its religious freedom-motive caused by the radical consequences of historicism. Humanism was thus placed on the defensive.

     A chaotic struggle for leadership in the future development of the West has now broken out. The older cultural forces, Roman Catholicism and Protestantism, have also re-awakened out of their philosophical and cultural lethargy, and with a new force now seek in philosophy to take part in the gigantic struggle for the future of our culture.

The actuality of our transcendental critique of theoretical thought.

     It is precisely in the light of this whole development of Humanistic philosophy that a radical transcendental critique of theoretical thought is highly necessary and actual. The foundations upon which our culture had sought to build have been shaken everywhere by the storms of a tremendous transitional period. Therefore, the autonomy of theoretical thought can no longer properly be posited as a philosophic axiom. It is understandable that this has been done in the period in which the Humanistic ground-motive was practically unchallenged in philosophy. However, in the present spiritual crisis anyone who thinks he can take refuge on this dogmatic standpoint, in order to block the way to a radical critical self-reflection in philosophy, thereby displays the fact that he has understood nothing of the deepest causes of this crisis.

     The following more detailed transcendental critique of Humanistic philosophy only wishes to show the development of the latter in the light of the dialectical tensions in its own transcendental ground-Idea. This is, in my opinion, the only way to do justice to the different movements within this philosophy.
(Herman Dooyeweerd, New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Vol I/ Part 2/ Chapt 1 /§4 pp 207-215)