Open main menu
This page needs to be proofread.
333
SCHLEIERMACHER


Schleiermacher reintroduced and assigned pre-eminent importance to the doctrine of the summum bonum, or highest good. It represents in his system the ideal and aim of the entire life of man, supplying the ethical view of the conduct of individuals in relation to society and the universe, and therewith constituting a philosophy of history at the same time. Starting with the idea of the highest good and of its constituent elements (Glter), or the chief forms of the union of mind and nature, Schleiermacher's system divides itself into the doctrine of moral ends, the doctrine of virtue and the doctrine of duties; in other words, as a development of the idea of the sub'ection of nature to. reason it becomes a description of the actual florms of the triumphs of reason, of the moral power manifested therein and of the specific methods employed. Every moral good or product has a fourfold character: it is individual and universal; it is an organ and symbol of the reason, that is, it is the product of the individual with relation to the community, and represents or manifests as well as classifies and rules nature. The first two characteristics provide for the functions and rights of the individual as well as those of the community or race. Though a moral action may have these four characteristics at various degrees of strength, it ceases to be moral if one of them is quite absent. All moral products may be classified according to the predominance of one or the other of these characteristics. Universal organizing action produces the forms of intercourse, and universal symbolizing action produces the various forms of science; individual organizing action yields the forms of property and individual .symbolizing action the various representations of feeling, all these constituting the relations, the productive spheres, or the social conditions of moral action. Moral functions cannot be performed by the individual in isolation but only in his relation to the family, the state, the school, the church, and society-all forms of human life which ethical science finds to its hand and leaves to the science of natural history to account for. The moral process is accomplished by the various sections of humanity in their individual spheres, and the doctrine of virtue deals with the reason as the moral power in each individual by which the totality of moral products is obtained. Schleiermacher classifies the virtues under the two forms of Gesinnung and Fertigkeit, the first consisting of the pure ideal element in action and the second the form it assumes in relation to circumstances, each of the two classes falling respectively into the two divisions of wisdom and love and of intelligence and application. In his system the doctrine of duty is the description of the method of the attainment of ethical ends, the conception of duty as an imperative, or obligation, being excluded, as we have seen. No action fulfils the conditions of duty except as it combines the three following antitheses: reference to the moral idea in its whole extent and likewise to a definite moral sphere; connexion with existing conditions and at the same time absolute personal prod-uction; the fulfilment of the entire moral vocation every moment though it can only be done in a definite sphere. Duties are divided with reference to the principle that every man make his own the entire moral problem and act at the same time in an existing moral society. This condition gives four general classes of duty: duties of general association or duties with reference to the community (Rechtspjiicht), and duties of vocation (Berufspflicht)—both with a universal reference, duties of the conscience (in which the individual is sole judge), and duties of love or of personal association. It was only the first of the three sections of the science of ethics-the doctrine of moral ends-that Schleiermacher handled with approximate completeness; the other two sections were treated very summarily. In his Christian Ethics he dealt with the subject from the basis of the Christian consciousness instead of from that of reason generally; the ethical phenomena dealt with are the same in both systems, and they throw light on each other, while the Christian system treats more at length and less aphoristically the principal ethical realities church, state, family, art, science and society. Rothe, amongst other moral philosophers, bases his system substantially, with important departures, on Schleiermacher's. In Beneke's moral system his fundamental idea was worked out in its psychological relations.

Religious System.-From Leibnitz, Lessing, Fichte, Iacobi and the Romantic school he had imbibed a profound and mystical view of the inner depths of the human personality. The ego, the person, is an individualization of universal reason; and the primary act of self-consciousness is the first conjunction of universal and individual life, the immediate union or marriage of the universe with incarnated reason. Thus every person becomes a specific and original representation of the universe and a compendium of humanity, a micro cosmos in which the world is immediately reflected. While therefore we cannot, as we have seen, attain the idea of the supreme unity of thought and being by either cognition or volition, we can find it in our own personality, in immediate self-consciousness or (which is the same in Schleiermacher's terminology) feeling. Feeling in this higher sense (as distinguished from “ organic " sensibility, Empfindung), which is the minimum of distinct antithetic consciousness, the cessation of the antithesis of subject and object, constitutes likewise the unity of our being, in which the opposite functions of Cognition and volition have their fundamental and permanent background of personality and their transitional link. Having its seat in this central point of our being, or indeed consisting in the essential fact of self-consciousness, religion lies at the basis of all thought and action. At various periods of his life Schleiermacher used different terms to represent the character and relation of religious feeling. In his earlier days he called it a feeling or intuition of the universe, consciousness of the unity of reason and nature, of the infinite and the eternal within the finite and the temporal. In later life he described it as the feeling of absolute dependence, or, as meaning the same thing, the consciousness of being in relation to God. In our consciousness of the world the feelings of relative dependence and relative independence are found; we are acted upon, but we also react. In our religious consciousness the latter element is excluded, and everything within and without us is referred to its absolute cause, that is, God. But, when we call this absolute cause God, the name stands solely as indicating the unknown source of our rece five and active existence; on the one hand it means that the worldp upon which we can react is not the source of the feeling, on the other, that the Absolute is -not an object of thought or knowledge. This feeling of absolute dependence mn arise only in combination with other forms of consciousness. We derive the idea of a totality by means of its parts, and the transcendental basis of being comes to us through the agency of individual phenomena. As in every affection of our being by individual phenomena we are brought into contact with the'whole universe, we are brought into contact with God at the same time as its transcendental cause. This religious feeling is not knowledge in the strict sense, as it is purely subjective or immediate; but it lies at the basis of all knowledge. As immediate knowledge, however, it is no more than the consciousness of the unity of the world, a unity which can never be reached by human inquiry. Religious truths, such as the determination of all things by God, are simply the implications of the feeling of absolute dependence. While that feeling is the characteristic of religion generally, this assumes various forms as the religions of the world. The so-called natural as distinguished from positive religion, or the religion of reason, is a mere abstraction. All religions are positive, or their characteristics and value are mainly determined by the manner in which the world is conceived and imagined. But these varying conceptions with their religious meaning become religiously productive only in the souls of religious heroes, who are the authors of new religions, mediators of the religious life, founders of religious communities. For religion is essentially social. It everywhere forms churches, which are the necessary instruments and organs of its highest life. The specific feature of Christianity is its mediatorial element, its profound feeling of the striving of the finite individual to reach the unity of the infinite whole, and its conception of the way in which Deity deals with this effort by mediatorial a encies, which are both divine and human. It is the religion of mediatorial salvation, and, as Schleiermacher em haticall taught in his riper works, of salvation through the mediation of/ Christ; that is, its possessors are conscious of having been delivered by Jesus of Nazareth rom a condition in which their religious consciousness was overridden by the sense-consciousness of the world and put into one in which it dominates, and everything is subordinated to it. The consciousness of being saved in this sense is now transmitted and mediated by the Christian church, but in the case of Jesus, its originator, it was an entirely new and original factor in the process of religious development, and in so far, like every new and higher stage of being, a supernatural revelation. It was at the same time a natural attainment, in as far as man's nature and the universe were so constituted as to involve its production. The appearance of the Saviour in human history is therefore as a divine revelation neither absolutely supernatural nor absolutely beyond reason, and the controversy of the 18th century between the rationalists and super naturalists rests on false grounds, leads to wrong issues, and each party is right and wrong (see RATIONALISM>. As re ards Christian theology. it is not its business to formulate and establish a system of objective truth, but simply to present in a clear and connected form a given body of Christian faith as the contents of the Christian consciousness, Dogmatic theology is a connected and accurate account of the doctrine held at a particular time in a given section of the Christian church, But such doctrines as constitute no integral part of the Christian consciousness-e.g. the doctrine of the Trinity-must be excluded from the theological system of the evangelical theologian. As regards the relation of theology and philosophy. it is not one of dependence or of opposition on either side, but of complete independence, equal authority, distinct functions and perfect harmony. Feeling is not a mental function subordinate to cognition or volition, but of equal rank and authority; yet feeling, cognition and volition alike conduct to faith in the unknown Absolute, though by different paths and processes.

The marked feature of Schleiermacher's thought in every department is the effort to combine and reconcile in- the unity of a system the antithetic conceptions of other thinkers. He is realistic and idealistic, individualistic and universalis tic, monistic and dualistic, sensationalist and intellectualise, naturalist and super naturalist, rationalist and mystic, gnostic and agnostic. He is the prince of the Vermiltler in philosophy, ethics, religion and theology. But he does not seek to reconcile the antitheses of thought and-being by weakening and hiding the points of difference; on the contrary,

he brings them out in their sharpest outlines. His method is 'to