G. K. Chesterton, Nietzsche, and the Reelection of Barack Obama

At the level of mysticism, I dealt with the G. K. Chesterton quote below here. But in presenting it again in this post, I want to talk about how curiously Nietzschean it is (though it comes from a Catholic thinker). I also want to talk about how Chesterton and Nietzsche can shed some light on why Barack Obama got reelected.

In a brilliant analogy, Chesterton (in the conclusion to his second chapter of Orthodoxy ) likens the Absolute—the ontological mystery, the Mystery of Being—to the sun. The sun is something that one feels and sees by, but when you attempt to look at the sun itself, you cannot really even discern its outline. It is a blur. Chesterton contrasts looking at the sun with looking at the moon, which is a dead, clearly outlined circle in the sky (akin to the tidy naturalist enterprise, which Chesterton likens to the psychological narrowness of the madman, to a “lunacy”):

The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything. Like the sun at noonday, mysticism explains everything else by the blaze of its own victorious invisibility. Detached intellectualism is (in the exact sense of a popular phrase) all moonshine; for it is light without heat, and it is secondary light, reflected from a dead world. But the Greeks were right when they made Apollo the god both of imagination and of sanity; for he was both the patron of poetry and the patron of healing. . . . [T]ranscendentalism . . . has . . . the position of the sun in the sky. We are conscious of it as of a kind of splendid confusion; it is something both shining and shapeless, at once a blaze and a blur. But the circle of the moon is as clear and unmistakable, as recurrent and inevitable, as the circle of Euclid on a blackboard. For the moon is utterly reasonable; and the moon is the mother of lunatics and has given to them all her name.

Now read the quote again with Nietzsche’s “will to power” troped (substituted) for “mysticism” and “transcendentalism”:

The one created thing which we cannot look at is the one thing in the light of which we look at everything. Like the sun at noonday, will to power explains everything else by the blaze of its own victorious invisibility. Detached intellectualism is (in the exact sense of a popular phrase) all moonshine; for it is light without heat, and it is secondary light, reflected from a dead world. But the Greeks were right when they made Apollo the god both of imagination and of sanity; for he was both the patron of poetry and the patron of healing. . . . Will to power . . . has . . . the position of the sun in the sky. We are conscious of it as of a kind of splendid confusion; it is something both shining and shapeless, at once a blaze and a blur. But the circle of the moon is as clear and unmistakable, as recurrent and inevitable, as the circle of Euclid on a blackboard. For the moon is utterly reasonable; and the moon is the mother of lunatics and has given to them all her name.

How curious that Nietzsche’s key idea–the will to power–slots into an Orthodox Catholic quote so well. It makes you wonder whether Nietzsche’s will to power is an inadvertent substitute in his writings for God.

Nietzsche, for example, thought the second law of thermodynamics–the idea that all things are running to disorder and dissipation–must somehow be, ultimately, an error. As substitute, Nietzsche proposed that the universe is finite in size but eternal, and so is never really winding down. Instead, it is always shifting its own relation to itself under pressure. This idea was key to his thinking about the will to power, and it made the universe infinitely creative.

Nietzsche’s idea almost seems to work with the contemporary proposal in theoretical physics that we live in an eternal multiverse. In such a case, our universe’s local winding down does not mean that there aren’t other universes, right now, winding up. Hence the cosmos is like an artist, making and unmaking as long as it lives, exactly as Nietzsche proposed.

Likewise, theists today insist that the entropy that is winding down in our universe must have had a winding up–a source of first power and order, and they call this first power God.

But if the universe is eternal, Nietzsche didn’t need God to start it; he just needed something underlying the system–something to account for its eternally shifting pressures. This is the will to power. In any configuration of atoms in void, there must be, at any given time, hierarchies of forces and drives; of masters and slaves; of alliances and combat; of a universal will to power; of disequilibrium.

Richard Schacht, in Nietzsche (Routledge 1983; 2001)–a book Richard Rorty calls “an honest and thorough job of sorting out Nietzsche’s thought”–writes the following about Nietzsche’s idea of the will to power (212):

[I]t is in terms of ‘will to power’ that the ‘ground and character of all change’ are to be understood (WP 685). In all events, he contends, this same fundamental tendency is at work. ‘And do you know what “the world” is to me?’ he asks; and after characterizing ‘this world’ as ‘a monster of energy, without beginning, without end,’ at once ‘eternally self-creating’ and ‘eternally self-destroying,’ he goes on to suggest that the ‘solution for all its riddles’ is this: ‘This world is the will to power–and nothing besides!’ (WP 1067).

I like Nietzsche’s phrase, “monster of energy.” Once you know that Nietzsche was not enamored of the idea of final entropy–that the universe is a necessarily dissipating system, running to cold–you’ve got Nietzsche’s substitute for God: the will to power. In other words, the universe is an eternal pressure cooker, and you’re in it. Will you marshal its current and diffuse pressures–as the energy of the sun is diffuse–and align them with your own projects and imagination, or will you let yourself be put into the service of other visions; of other exploiters of energy? Will you be energy’s master or slave?

This is why, when Chesterton speaks of the Greeks, it sounds so Nietzschean:

[T]he Greeks were right when they made Apollo the god both of imagination and of sanity; for he was both the patron of poetry and the patron of healing.

In other words, whether you think of this “monster of energy” that we’re in as the will of God or the will to power (the byproduct of the eternal atom-filled pressure cooker that just is), the challenge is the same: how to respond to it imaginatively, not rationally. Put another way, the monster of energy is not, first and foremost, rational; it is playful. It demands of us a poem, not a dissertation. In play, therefore, is therapy (emotional healing). This is where Chesterton the Catholic and Nietzsche the atheist intersect. Being in a very definite place in a pressure cooker of energy, there is only one truly healing way to work with our dilemma: we must cultivate the counterforce of imagination and creation. Focusing on objectivity and dispassion is a dodge from our true work: to be subjective, passionate, imaginative, creative. We are not to be like the person in the New Yorker cartoon who says to another person,

If the universe is filled with energy, why don’t I have any?

That’s the sign you’re living wrong; that you’re about to be plowed under by those who want to live more than you do. So when Chesterton takes his dig at naturalism, Nietzsche would have sympathized:

The circle of the moon is as clear and unmistakable, as recurrent and inevitable, as the circle of Euclid on a blackboard. For the moon is utterly reasonable; and the moon is the mother of lunatics and has given to them all her name.

There is no place to stand, objectively. There is no comforting tidiness for us free of complexity, irrationality, contending forces, contingency, and suffering. There is no place to just passively absorb energy and truth secondhand. The monster of energy lacks speech, but we do not. We’re embedded in a very definite place in an energetic system. It is lunacy, therefore, to focus down on just a few narrow facts; on finding a passive and comfortable place to hide; on just looking for meaning in corners of the universe where light is already processed and reflected for us (the moon; our television screens). Instead, we should aspire to be the first man–the exposed man, not the last man. The last man is a couch potato; a follower; belated. You, on the other hand, can get off your couch and make your own way–a way not already laid out for you. It is time, as Nietzsche put it, to be an overgoer; an overcomer; a superman. It is time to create something new.

In this sense, the recent election was a struggle of wills to power in the universal pressure cooker. Some had to win; others had to lose. There were alliances and conflicts, and in the presidential contest, one side fulfilled its vision while the other did not. The result is that, for the next four years, Republicans have been put, against their will, into the service of a Democratic president. They’ll have to look at him every day and deal with him.

And what was the vision that won on November 6, 2012? It was a very particular dream about America–a liberal American dream. And that dream had first to be imagined. There was nothing inevitable about it. Wallace Stevens lines from his poem, “The Plain Sense of Things,” seem apt here:

[T]he absence of the imagination had

Itself to be imagined. The great pond,

The plain sense of it, without reflections, leaves,

Mud, water like dirty glass, expressing silence

___

Of a sort, silence of a rat come out to see,

The great pond and its waste of the lilies, all this

Had to be imagined as an inevitable knowledge,

Required, as a necessity requires.

Nothing, suggests Stevens (who was influenced by Nietzsche), is ever really required. Things have to be dreamed; interpretations overlaid. Even absence and lack have to be dreamed. That’s how pervasive imagination is. Among liberal Americans this year, the dream was the resurrection of Bobby Kennedy. The first Bobby Kennedy’s promise was tragically and fatally forestalled. Republicans meant for the second Bobby Kennedy’s promise–the promise of Barack Obama–to also be interrupted and forestalled. Liberals meant it not to be. Liberals won.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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One Response to G. K. Chesterton, Nietzsche, and the Reelection of Barack Obama

  1. JJMOLINA says:

    Like all law, it is duty-contradict, a series of moral prohibitions
    In this pattern of moral reasoning one determines what one should do in a particular situation by reference to certain general principles or rules, which one takes as premises from which to deduce a particular conclusion by a kind of practical syllogism, as Aristotle called it. One takes general principles and applies them to individual situations. How natural this procedure is will be apparent to any reader of the Crito. In all fairness, however, we must observe at this point that some moral thinkers have a different view of the logic of moral deliberation. As we shall see in the act-deontologists and other proponents of “situation ethics” take particular judgments to be basic in morality, rather than general ones, which they regard as inductive generalizations from particular cases, if they recognize the existence of general rules at all.
    It happens that in the Crito Socrates thinks his three principles all lead to the same conclusion. But sometimes when two or more rules apply to the same case, this is not true. In fact, most moral problems arise in situations where there is a “conflict of duties.” that is, where one moral principle pulls one way and another pulls the other way. Socrates is represented in Plato’s Apology as saying that if the state spares his life on condition that he no longer teach as he has been doing, he will not obey, because (4) he has been assigned the duty of teaching by the god, Apollo, and (5) his teaching is necessary for the true good of the state. He would then be involved in a conflict of duties. His duty to obey the state applies, but so do two other duties, (4) and (5), and these he judges to take precedence over his duty to obey the commands of the state. Here, then, he resolves the problem, not just by appealing to rules, for this is not enough, but by determining which rules take precedence over which others. This is another typical pattern of reasoning in ethics.
    To return to the Crito, Socrates completes his reasoning by answering his friends’ arguments in favor of escaping by contending that he will not really be doing himself, his friends, or even his family any good by becoming an outlaw or going into exile, and that death is not an evil to an old man who has done his best, whether there is a hereafter or not. In other words, he maintains that there are no good moral grounds on the other side and no good prudential ones — which would count only it moral considerations were not decisive — either.
    All this is interesting, not just because it represents one of the classic discussions of the question of civil disobedience, but because it illustrates two kinds of moral problems and how one reflective and serious moral agent went about solving them. It also shows us much of Socrates’ working ethics: principles (1) to (5) plus the second-order principle that (4) and (5) take precedence over the duty to obey the state. This duty to obey the state, by the way, is for him a derivative rule which rests on (1), (2), and (3), which are more basic. One can find out one’s own working ethics by seeing how one would answer these two problems oneself, or others like them. This is a good exercise. Suppose that in doing this you disagree with Socrates’ answer to the Crito problem. You might then challenge his principles, which Crito did not do. You might ask Socrates to justify his regarding (1), (2), and (3) as valid, and Socrates would have to try to answer you, since he believes in reason and argument in ethics, and wants knowledge, not just true opinion.
    At this point Socrates might argue that (2), for example, is valid because it follows from a still more basic principle, say, (4) or (5). That is, he might maintain that we should keep promises because it is commanded by the gods or because it is necessary for the general welfare. But, of course, you might question his more basic principle, if you have any good reason for doing so (if you question without reason, you are not really entering into the dialogue). At some point you or he will almost inevitably raise the question of how ethical judgments and principles, especially the most basic ones, are to be justified anyway; and this is likely to lead to the further question of what is meant by saying that something is right, good, virtuous, just, and the like, a question which Socrates in fact often raises in other dialogues. (In the Euthyphro for example, he argues, in effect, that “right” does not mean “commanded by the gods.”)
    morality is based upon the conception of man as a free agent who, just because he is free, binds himself through his reason to unconditioned laws, it stands in need neither of the idea of another Being over him, for him to apprehend his duty, nor of an incentive other than the law itself, for him to do his duty. At least it is man’s own fault if he is subject to such a need; and if he is, this need can be relieved through nothing outside himself: for whatever does not originate in himself and his own freedom in no way compensates for the deficiency of his morality. Hence for its own sake morality does not need religion at all (whether objectively, as regards willing, or subjectively, as regards ability [to act]); by virtue of pure practical reason it is self-sufficient. For since its laws are binding, as the highest condition (itself unconditioned) of all ends, through the bare form of universal legality of the maxims, which must be chosen accordingly, morality requires absolutely no material determining ground of free choice,* that is, no end, in order either to know what duty is or to impel the performance of duty. On the contrary, when it is a question of duty, morality is perfectly able to ignore all ends, and it ought to do so. Thus, for example, in order to know whether I should (or indeed can) be truthful in my testimony before a court, or whether I should be faithful in accounting for another man’s property entrusted to me, it is not at all necessary for me to search for an end which I might perhaps propose to achieve with my declaration, since it matters not at all what sort of end this is; indeed, the man who finds it needful, when his avowal is lawfully demanded, to look about him for some kind of [ulterior] end, is, by this very fact, already contemptible.
    But although for its own sake morality needs no representation of an end which must precede the determining of the will, it is quite possible that it is necessarily related to such an end, taken not as the ground but as the [sum of] inevitable consequences of maxims adopted as conformable to that end. For in the absence of all reference to an end no determination of the will can take place in man, since such determination cannot be followed by no effect whatever; and the representation of the effect must be capable of being accepted, not, indeed, as the basis for the determination of the will and as an end antecedently aimed at, but yet as an end conceived of as the result ensuing from the will’s determination through the law (finis in consequentiam veniens). Without an end of this sort a will, envisaging to itself no definite goal for a contemplated act, either objective or subjective (which it has, or ought to have, in view), is indeed informed as to how it ought to act, but not whither, and so can achieve no satisfaction. It is true, therefore, that morality requires no end for right conduct; the law, which contains the formal condition of the use of freedom in general, suffices. Yet an end does arise out of morality; for how the question, What is to result from this right conduct of ours? is to be answered, and towards what, as an end – even granted it may not be wholly subject to our control – we might direct our actions and abstentions so as at least to be in harmony with that end: these cannot possibly be matters of indifference to reason. Hence the end is no more than an idea of an object which takes the formal condition of all such ends as we ought to have (duty) and combines it with whatever is conditioned, and in harmony with duty, in all the ends which we do have (happiness proportioned to obedience to duty) – that is to say, the idea of a highest good in the world for whose possibility we must postulate a higher, moral, most holy, and omnipotent Being which alone can unite the two elements of this highest good. Yet (viewed practically) this idea is not an empty one, for it does meet our natural need to conceive of some sort of final end for all our actions and abstentions, taken as a whole, an end which can be justified by reason and the absence of which would be a hindrance to moral decision. Most important of all, however, this idea arises out of morality and is not its basis; it is an end the adoption of which as one’s own presupposes basic ethical principles. Therefore it cannot be a matter of unconcern to morality as to whether or not it forms for itself the concept of a final end of all things (harmony with which, while not multiplying men’s duties, yet provides them with a special point of focus for the unification of all ends); for only thereby can objective, practical reality be given to the union of the purposiveness arising from freedom with the purposiveness of nature, a union with which we cannot possibly dispense. Take a man who, honoring the moral law, allows the thought to occur to him (he can scarcely avoid doing so) of what sort of world he would create, under the guidance of practical reason, were such a thing in his power, a world into which, moreover, he would place himself as a member. He would not merely make the very choice which is determined by that moral idea of the highest good, were he vouchsafed solely the right to choose; he would also will that [such] a world should by all means come into existence (because the moral law demands that the highest good possible through our agency should be realized) and he would so will even though, in accordance with this idea, he saw himself in danger of paying in his own person a heavy price in happiness – it being possible that he might not be adequate to the [moral] demands of the idea, demands which reason lays down as conditioning happiness. Accordingly he would feel compelled by reason to avow this judgment with complete impartiality, as though it were rendered by another and yet, at the same time, as his own; whereby man gives evidence of the need, morally effected in him, of also conceiving a final end for his duties, as their consequence.
    Morality thus leads ineluctably to religion, through which it extends itself* to the idea of a powerful moral Lawgiver, outside of mankind, for Whose will that is the final end (of creation) which at the same time can and ought to be man’s final end.
    If morality finds in the holiness of its law an object of the greatest respect, then at the level of religion it presents the ultimate cause, which consummates those laws, as an object of adoration and thus appears in its majesty. But anything, even the most sublime, dwindles under the hands of men when they turn the idea of it to their own use. What can truly be venerated only so far as respect for it is free must adapt itself to those forms which can be rendered authoritative only by means of coercive laws; and what of its own accord exposes itself to the public criticism of everyone must submit itself to a criticism which has power, i.e., a censorship.
    Meanwhile, since the command, Obey the authorities! is also moral, and since obedience to it, as to all injunctions of duty, can be drawn into religion, it is fitting that a treatise which is dedicated to the definite concept of religion should itself present an example of this obedience, which, however, can be evinced not through attention merely to law in the form of a single state regulation and blindness with respect to every other, but only through combined respect for all [regulations] taken together.
    Now the theologian who passes on books can be appointed either as one who is to care for the soul’s welfare alone or as one who is also to care for the welfare of the sciences; the first judge is appointed merely as a divine; the second, as a scholar also. It rests with the second, as a member of a public institution to which (under the name of a university) all the sciences are entrusted for cultivation and defense against interference, to limit the usurpations of the first by the stipulation that his censorship shall create no disturbance in the field of the sciences. And when both judges are Biblical theologians, the superior censorship will pertain to the second as a member of the university and as belonging to the faculty which has been charged with the treatment of this theology: for, as regards the first concern (the welfare of souls), both have a mandate alike; but, as regards the second (the welfare of the sciences), the theologian in his capacity as university scholar has, in addition, a special function to perform. If we depart from this rule things must finally come to the pass to which they came of yore (for example, at the time of Galileo), where the Biblical theologian, in order to humble the pride of the sciences and to spare himself labor in connection with them, might actually venture an invasion into astronomy, or some other science, as for example the ancient history of the earth, and – like those tribes who, finding that they do not have either the means or the resolution sufficient to defend themselves against threatened attacks, transform all about them into a wilderness – might arrest all the endeavors of human reason.
    Among the sciences, however, there is, over and against Biblical theology, a philosophical theology, which is an estate entrusted to another faculty. So long as this philosophical theology remains within the limits of reason alone, and for the confirmation and exposition of its propositions makes use of history, sayings, books of all peoples, even the Bible, but only for itself, without wishing to carry these propositions into Biblical theology or to change the latter’s public doctrines – a privilege of divines – it must have complete freedom to expand as far as its science reaches. And although the right of censorship of the theologian (regarded merely as a divine) cannot be impugned when it has been shown that the philosopher has really overstepped his limits and committed trespass upon theology, yet, the instant this is in doubt and a question arises whether, in writing or in some other public utterance of the philosopher, this trespass has indeed occurred, the superior censorship can belong only to the Biblical theologian, and to him as a member of his faculty; for he has been assigned to care for the second interest of the commonwealth, namely, the prosperity of the sciences, and has been appointed just as legally as has the other [the theologian regarded as a divine].
    And under such circumstances it is indeed to this faculty and not to the philosophical that the ultimate censorship belongs; for the former alone is privileged in respect of certain doctrines, while the latter investigates its doctrines freely and openly; hence only the former can enter a complaint that its exclusive rights have been violated. But despite the approximation of the two bodies of doctrine to one another and the anxiety lest the philosophical faculty overstep its limits, doubt relating to such trespass is easily prevented if it is borne in mind that the mischief occurs not through the philosopher’s borrowing something from Biblical theology, in order to use it for his purpose – even granting that the philosopher uses what he borrows from it in a meaning suited to naked reason but perhaps not pleasing to his theology – but only so far as he imports something into it and thereby seeks to direct it to ends other than those which its own economy sanctions. For Biblical theology will itself not want to deny that it contains a great deal in common with the teachings of unassisted reason and, in addition, much that belongs to historical and philological lore, and that it is subject to the censorship of these [disciplines].
    Thus, for example, we cannot say that the teacher of natural rights, who borrows many a classical expression and formula for his philosophical doctrine of rights from the codex of the Romans, thereby trespasses – even if, as often happens, he does not employ them in exactly the same sense in which, according to the expositors of Roman Law, they were to be taken – so long as he does not wish jurists proper, and even the courts of law, also to use them thus. For were that not within his competence, we could, conversely, accuse the Biblical theologian or the statutory jurist of trespassing countless times on the province of philosophy, because both must borrow from philosophy very often, though only to mutual advantage, since neither can dispense with reason, nor, where science is concerned, with philosophy. Were Biblical theology to determine, wherever possible, to have nothing to do with reason in things religious, we can easily foresee on which side would be the loss; for a religion which rashly declares war on reason will not be able to hold out in the long run against it.
    I will even venture to ask whether it would not be beneficial, upon completion of the academic instruction in Biblical theology, always to add, by way of conclusion, as necessary to the complete equipment of the candidate, a special course of lectures on the purely philosophical theory of religion (which avails itself of everything, including the Bible), with such a book as this, perhaps, as the text (or any other, if a better one of the same kind can be found). For the sciences derive pure benefit from separation, so far as each first constitutes a whole by itself; and not until they are so constituted should the attempt be made to survey them in combination. Let the Biblical theologian, then, be at one with the philosopher, or let him believe himself obliged to refute him, if only he hears him. Only thus can he be forearmed against all the difficulties which the philosopher might make for him. To conceal these, or indeed to decry them as ungodly, is a paltry device which does not stand the test; while to mix the two – the Biblical theologian, for his part, casting but an occasional fleeting glance at philosophy – is to lack thoroughness, with the result that in the end no one really knows how he stands towards the theory of religion as a whole.
    In order to make apparent the relation of religion to human nature (endowed in part with good, in part with evil predispositions), I represent, in the four following essays, the relationship of the good and evil principles as that of two self-subsistent active causes influencing men. The first essay has already been printed in the Berlinische Monatsschrift of April, 1792, but could not be omitted here, because of the close coherence of the subject- matter in this work, which contains, in the three essays now added, the complete development of the first.
    The reader is asked to forgive the orthography of the first sheets (which differs from mine) in view of the variety of hands which have worked on the copy and the shortness of time left me for revision.
    Preface to the Second Edition
    For this Edition nothing has been altered except misprints and a few expressions which have been improved. New supplementary material, indicated by a dagger (+), is placed at the foot of the text.
    Regarding the title of this work (for doubts have been expressed about the intention concealed thereunder) I note: that since, after all, revelation can certainly embrace the pure religion of reason, while, conversely, the second cannot include what is historical in the first, I shall be able [experimentally] to regard the first as the wider sphere of faith, which includes within itself the second, as a narrower one (not like two circles external to one another, but like concentric circles). The philosopher, as a teacher of pure reason (from unassisted principles a priori), must confine himself within the narrower circle, and, in so doing, must waive consideration of all experience. From this standpoint I can also make a second experiment, namely, to start from some alleged revelation or other and, leaving out of consideration the pure religion of reason (so far as it constitutes a self-sufficient system), to examine in a fragmentary manner this revelation, as an historical system, in the light of moral concepts; and then to see whether it does not lead back to the very same pure rational system of religion. The latter, though not from the theoretical point of view (and the technico-practical point of view of pedagogical method, as a technology, must also be reckoned under this head) may yet, from the morally practical standpoint, be self-sufficient and adequate for genuine religion, which, indeed, as a rational concept a priori (remaining over after everything empirical has been taken away), obtains only in this [morally practical] relation. If this experiment is successful we shall be able to say that reason can be found to be not only compatible with Scripture but also at one with it, so that he who follows one (under guidance of moral concepts) will not fail to conform to the other. Were this not so, we should have either two religions in one individual, which is absurd, or else one religion and one cult, in which case, since the second is not (like religion) an end in itself but only possesses value as a means, they would often have to be shaken up together that they might, for a short while, be united; though directly, like oil and water, they must needs separate from one another, and the purely moral (the religion of reason) be allowed to float on top.
    I noted in the first Preface that this unification, or the attempt at it, is a task to which the philosophical investigator of religion has every right, and is not a trespass upon the exclusive rights of the Biblical theologian. Since then I have found this assertion made in the Moral (Part I, pp. 5-11) of the late Michaelis, a man well versed in both departments, and applied throughout his entire work; and the higher faculty did not find therein anything prejudicial to their rights.
    In this Second Edition I have not been able, as I should have liked, to take cognizance of the judgments passed upon this book by worthy men, named and unnamed, since (as with all foreign literary intelligence) these arrive in our parts very late. This is particularly true of the Annotationes quaedam theologicae, etc. of the renowned Hr. D. Storrë in Tübingen, who has examined my book with his accustomed sagacity and with an industry and fairness deserving the greatest thanks. I have it in mind to answer him, but cannot venture to promise to do so because of the peculiar difficulties which age sets in the way of working with abstract ideas. But there is a review in Number 29 of the Neueste Kritische Nachrichten, of Greifswald, which I can despatch as briefly as the reviewer did the book itself. For the book, in his judgment, is nothing but an answer to the question which I myself posed: “How is the ecclesiastical system of dogmatics, in its concepts and doctrines, possible according to pure (theoretical and practical) reason?” This essay [he claims] does not concern those who have no knowledge and understanding of his (Kant’s) system and have no desire to be able to understand it – by them it may be looked upon as non-existent. I answer thus: To understand this book in its essential content, only common morality is needed, without meddling with the Critique of Practical Reason, still less with the theoretical Critique. When, for example, virtue as skill in actions conforming to duty (according to their legality) is called virtus phänomenon, and the same virtue as an enduring disposition towards such actions from duty (because of their morality) is called virtus noumenon, these expressions are used only because of the schools; while the matter itself is contained, though in other words, in the most popular children’s instruction and sermons, and is easily understood. Would that as much could be said for the mysteries concerning the divine nature which are numbered among religious teachings, mysteries introduced into the catechism as though they were wholly popular, but which, ultimately, must first be transformed into moral concepts if they are to become comprehensible to everyone!

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