Imagens da página

begun the "enlightenment” which, as Kant expresses it, marks “the evolution of men from the mental infancy for which they themselves were to blame.” The tendencies of the enlightenment reached Germany more promptly than did those of the Renaissance, but they came to us in a broad stream from Scotland and France only to lose their depth and to become choked on German soil. In France we find the glorious names of Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, D'Alembert, Montesquieu; at home we have only men of the rank of Engel, Garve and Mendelssohn. Where the movement had an extensive influence on German minds, as in the case of Frederick the Great, we see all the more clearly how truly we were indebted to it.

The principle of rationalism, which helped Descartes, the foremost founder of the whole modern philosophy, to formulate the consciousness of thought—this rationalism which became extreme in the time of the “enlightenment,” and the resulting impossibility of accepting the irrational, are fundamentally strange to the German mind. Even today when we have taught ourselves to regard the German Aufklärung as the epoch of common human understanding, we do not think of it as the high point in development which it undoubtedly was beyond the Rhine and the Channel. According to Fichte it seemed to us a foreign affectation, for small minds a danger, for great minds merely a transitionstage.

These are the two periods to which Latin civilization has given its stamp in the broadest sense. Men of the Renaissance and men of the Aufklärung are still ideal types to the nations that form the Latin group.

Let us examine the characteristics of both ages more closely.

The Renaissance is the exact antithesis of the Middle Ages. The goal of all medieval effort was the establishment upon earth of God's Kingdom, which hampers mankind with severe rules and laws and fetters, and which undeniably binds all individuals. The ideal of the Renaissance was just the opposite: the exaltation of human greatness, the education of the individual, the freedom of genius, the uni

[ocr errors]

versality of human strength, the belief in man's omnipotence, and the development of the will to rule until it became a gigantic, heaven-defying power. The great men of force take the place of the saintly martyrs. The whole structure of the Renaissance type was built upon the individual will. Now for the man of the Aufklärung! We can most easily

! picture him if we think of the most famous representatives of Greek sophistry. Natural, uncontrolled, "healthy,'

· “ human understanding is the only necessary part of the mind of man: whatever is obvious to him is true, whatever is repugnant to him is false. If there is ever a disagreement between the head and the heart it simply means that the process of the thought is not yet clear; if there is a sign of anything metempirical, it is caused by a mental aberration. So the "enlightenment" made its appearance as a practical power against all traditions which could not be proved by the understanding. In the course of its development it subjected all culture to its rule; the state became a contract, right a convention, morality was measured by its usefulness, religion by its reasonableness. The whole structure of the Aufklärung was built upon the individual brain.

Does the synthesis of these two types, the man of the Renaissance, and the man of the "enlightenment," the man of absolute will, and the man of exclusive mind, give a reality? For the second time, let us turn to Fichte for the

In a lecture at the University of Berlin in the summer of 1813, he described the characteristics of the man whom he hated more than anything upon earth, but in whom he never ceased to admire two things: his firm will and his clear mind. He speaks thus of Napoleon, who in his eyes represents all that is foreign to the German type: “With these signs of human greatness, a quiet clarity of thought vested in a firm will, he would have been the benefactor and the saviour of mankind if only a slight conception of the proper destination of the human race had ever entered his mind. But such an idea had no place in his view of life, and so he became for all time an example of the result of combining these two elements without adding to them the quality of spiritual intuition. He evolved the theory that mankind was a blind force, either entirely stagnant, or else disorderly, confused and in constant strife; that this stagnation should not exist, but that there should be wellgoverned progress directed towards a definite end; that a few minds separated by the lapse of centuries were destined to guide this mass (great minds of whom Charlemagne was one, and he himself the next); that the inspirations of these minds were divine and holy and were the basic laws of world evolution, and that all considerations of safety and of expediency should be sacrificed to them and all forces utilized by them; that the individual life belonged to the state, and that it was treachery to the highest laws of the universe to oppose such theories. He believed that the universal law was embodied in him in the new order of civilization which he wished to develop under his own rule and, that for this object the prosperity of Europe must be sacrificed and her life's blood shed, -it existed solely for that purpose. People suspected that in his mind this movement had a different significance from that which it assumed in the eyes of former or contemporary rulers, and this was true. Those rulers regarded themselves as the defenders of life and property; as the means to an end which could not be sacrificed; but Napoleon set himself up as the advocate of an absolute will, an end in itself, a law of the universe, as he thought, but in fact nothing more than an exalted individual will. He would not enter into the binding contracts which were proposed to him; he was not content to be the peaceful ruler of France when the position was offered to him, for he wished to become either the undisturbed emperor of all the world or nothing. Those who think that he and his dynasty, as he conceived it, would tolerate on other terms anything more enduring than a truce, have no true picture of him. Honor and loyalty? He voluntarily stated at the time of the incorporation of Holland, that a ruler must act as the moment dictates; he should keep faith only as long as it is profitable to him, but not when it does him harm. And so in all his later state documents the word 'justice' does not appear; it vanishes even from his speech, and instead there is continual reference to the welfare of the nation, the fame of the armies, and the booty which he captured in all countries."


Fichte regarded this point of view as the embodiment of the craze for power for its own sake and of the mind that admits no conceptions but its own. I could easily show that, in the course of the 19th century, power was the supreme political motive and that the value of reasonableness was the main subject of theoretical speculation among the members of the Latin group; but this is not the task in hand; I have undertaken, rather, to describe the typical characteristics of the German spirit.

On the one hand there are the Renaissance and the Aufklärung. To which epochs of history has the German people given its distinctive stamp? The Russian writer Dostoievsky, who claimed special understanding of the German character, and who conceived German culture as the exact opposite of Latin civilization, attempts to construct an image of the German mind from three periods: the time of Arnim, that of Luther, and that of the FrancoGerman wars in the 19th century. This attempt is a clear indication of the close bond between Dostoievsky's own culture and that of the Latin peoples. For the three periods which he has chosen would necessarily give him a negative picture of Germany; a picture only of that Germany which was a protest against Latin civilization. Arnim protested against the world-empire of Rome, Luther against the Roman church, and the Germany of the 19th century against the Napoleons. And we see still more clearly how impossible it was for this Russian to gain a positive conception of the German spirit when we find that he does not even take into consideration those periods which were, in the narrow sense of the word, our epochs, our Renaissance.

Kant and Herder, Goethe and Schiller, Fichte and Humboldt were the fathers of our rebirth, which differed from the Latin Renaissance in that it belonged, not to a whole racial group, but without exception to a single nation; and that it was not a revival of the Roman idea of worldempire, but of the ideas which were the products of the greatest minds of antiquity within the narrow confines of Attica. I do not mean to say that these great Germans founded the study of Greek antiquity; for who would deny France her Scaliger, or England her Bentley? But have we not also a humanism which the world knows as German humanism. We will not mention Winkelmann, for we are not dealing with scholarly research, but with a world viewpoint, which precise investigation serves, but can not bring to life. I do not mean that it was only after these great men had lived that we can speak of the German mind as a definite form of consciousness; for its existence was evident enough in the Reformation, in German mysticism, in the creations of Leibnitz, and in the structure of the Prussian state. But I do mean to say that up to the present time, the German spirit has found its consummation in these great members of our race, and that this consummation consisted in the rebirth and further development of classical Hellenism.

Kant did not rediscover Plato's writings, but rather his spirit. What people had previously read into his works, Kant calls a meaning contrary to reason. If Plato is known as the discoverer of ideas in the universal, eternally binding sense, that without them neither our being nor our essence is clear, and that in them alone, being and essence are identical, this is the metaphysics for which Kant's teaching laid the foundation. He studied both philosophical starting-points, mathematics and ethics; both problems, intellectual truth, and will limited by expediency; both conceptions of the universe; and the attempt, on the one hand by theoretical, on the other by ethical means, to discover philosophic reality. It is “ideas” that Herder seeks to extract from the history of mankind,--those ideas which make him the inventor of the principle of the natural and necessary development of human civilization in history, and which lead to the ideal end of all human progress, that is humanity in its highest form. The conception of Greek entelechy

« AnteriorContinuar »