by the fixed laws of a psycho-physical mechanism. These doctrines of Lotze—though pronounced with the distinct and reiterated reserve that they did not contain a solution of the philosophical question regarding the nature, origin, or deeper meaning of this all-pervading mechanism, neither an explanation how the action of external things on each other takes place nor yet of the relation of mind and body, that they were merely a preliminary formula of practical scientific value, itself requiring a deeper interpretation—these doctrines were nevertheless by many considered to be the last word of the philosopher who, denouncing the reveries of Schelling or the idealistic theories of Hegel, established the science of life and mind on the same basis as that of material things. Published as they were during the years when the modern school of German materialism was at its height, these works of Lotze were counted among the opposition literature which destroyed the phantom of Hegelian wisdom and vindicated the independent and self-sufficing position of empirical philosophy. Even philosophers of the eminence of I. H. Fichte (the younger) did not escape this misinterpretation of Lotze’s true meaning, though they had his Metaphysik and Logik to refer to, though he promised in his Allgemeine Physiologie (1851) to enter in a subsequent work upon the “bounding province between aesthetics and physiology,” and though in his Medizinische Psychologie he had distinctly stated that his position was neither the idealism of Hegel nor the realism of Herbart, nor materialism, but that it was the conviction that the essence of everything is the part it plays in the realization of some idea which is in itself valuable, that the sense of an all-pervading mechanism is to be sought in this, that it denotes the ways and means by which the highest idea, which we may call the idea of the good, has voluntarily chosen to realize itself.
The misinterpretations which he had suffered induced Lotze to publish a small pamphlet of a polemical character (Streitschriften, Leipzig, 1857), in which he corrected two mistakes. The opposition which he had made to Hegel’s formalism had induced some to associate him with the materialistic school, others to count him among the followers of Herbart. Lotze publicly and formally denied that he belonged to the school of Herbart, though he admitted that historically the same doctrine which might be considered the forerunner of Herbart’s teachings might lead to his own views, viz. the monadology of Leibnitz.
When Lotze wrote these explanations, he had already given to the world the first volume of his great work, Mikrokosmus (vol. i. 1856, vol. ii. 1858, vol. iii. 1864; 3rd ed., 1876–1880). In many passages of his works on pathology, physiology, and psychology Lotze had distinctly stated that the method of research which he advocated there did not give an explanation of the phenomena of life and mind, but only the means of observing and connecting them together; that the meaning of all phenomena, and the reason of their peculiar connexions, was a philosophical problem which required to be attacked from a different point of view; and that the significance especially which lay in the phenomena of life and mind would only unfold itself if by an exhaustive survey of the entire life of man, individually, socially, and historically, we gain the necessary data for deciding what meaning attaches to the existence of this microcosm, or small world of human life, in the macrocosm of the universe. This review, which extends, in three volumes, over the wide field of anthropology, beginning with the human frame, the soul, and their union in life, advancing to man, his mind, and the course of the world, and concluding with history, progress, and the connexion of things, ends with the same idea which was expressed in Lotze’s earliest work, his Metaphysik. The view peculiar to him is reached in the end as the crowning conception towards which all separate channels of thought have tended, and in the light of which the life of man in nature and mind, in the individual and in society, had been surveyed. This view can be briefly stated as follows: Everywhere in the wide realm of observation we find three distinct regions,—the region of facts, the region of laws and the region of standards of value. These three regions are separate only in our thoughts, not in reality. To comprehend the real position we are forced to the conviction that the world of facts is the field in which, and that laws are the means by which, those higher standards of moral and aesthetical value are being realized; and such a union can again only become intelligible through the idea of a personal Deity, who in the creation and preservation of a world has voluntarily chosen certain forms and laws, through the natural operation of which the ends of His work are gained.
Whilst Lotze had thus in his published works closed the circle of his thought, beginning with a conception metaphysically gained, proceeding to an exhaustive contemplation of things in the light it afforded, and ending with the stronger conviction of its truth which observation, experience, and life could afford, he had all the time been lecturing on the various branches of philosophy according to the scheme of academical instruction transmitted from his predecessors. Nor can it be considered anything but a gain that he was thus induced to expound his views with regard to those topics, and in connexion with those problems, which were the traditional forms of philosophical utterance. His lectures ranged over a wide field: he delivered annually lectures on psychology and on logic (the latter including a survey of the entirety of philosophical research under the title Encyclopädie der Philosophie), then at longer intervals lectures on metaphysics, philosophy of nature, philosophy of art, philosophy of religion, rarely on history of philosophy and ethics. In these lectures he expounded his peculiar views in a stricter form, and during the last decade of his life he embodied the substance of those courses in his System der Philosophie, of which only two volumes have appeared (vol. i. Logik, 1st ed., Leipzig, 1874, 2nd ed., 1880; vol. ii. Metaphysik, 1879). The third and concluding volume, which was to treat in a more condensed form the principal problems of practical philosophy, of philosophy of art and religion, never appeared. A small pamphlet on psychology, containing the last form in which he had begun to treat the subject in his lectures (abruptly terminated through his death on the 1st of July 1881) during the summer session of 1881, has been published by his son. Appended to this volume is a complete list of Lotze’s writings, compiled by Professor Rehnisch of Göttingen.
To understand this series of Lotze’s writings, it is necessary to begin with his definition of philosophy. This is given after his exposition of logic has established two points, viz. the existence in our mind of certain laws and forms according to which we connect the material supplied to us by our senses, and, secondly, the fact that logical thought cannot be usefully employed without the assumption of a further set of connexions, not logically necessary, but assumed to exist between the data of experience and observation. These connexions of a real not formal character are handed to us by the separate sciences and by the usage and culture of everyday life. Language has crystallized them into certain definite notions and expressions, without which we cannot proceed a single step, but which we have accepted without knowing their exact meaning, much less their origin. In consequence the special sciences and the wisdom of common life entangle themselves easily and frequently in contradictions. A problem of a purely formal character thus presents itself, viz. this—to try to bring unity and harmony into the scattered thoughts of our general culture, to trace them to their primary assumptions and follow them into their ultimate consequences, to connect them all together, to remodel, curtail or amplify them, so as to remove their apparent contradictions, and to combine them in the unity of an harmonious view of things, and especially to investigate those conceptions which form the initial assumptions of the several sciences, and to fix the limits of their applicability. This is the formal definition of philosophy. Whether an harmonious conception thus gained will represent more than an agreement among our thoughts, whether it will represent the real connexion of things and thus possess objective not merely subjective value, cannot be decided at the outset. It is also unwarranted to start with the expectation that everything in the world should be explained by one principle, and it is a needless restriction of our means to expect unity of method. Nor are we able to start our philosophical investigations by an inquiry into the nature of human thought and its capacity to attain an objective knowledge, as in this case we would be actually using that instrument the usefulness of which we were trying to determine. The main proof of the objective value of the view we may gain will rather lie in the degree in which it succeeds in assigningto every element of culture its due position, or in which it is able to
- See Vogt, Physiologische Briefe (1845–1847); Moleschott, Der Kreislauf des Lebens (1852); Büchner, Kraft und Stoff (1855).