January 15, 2006

Spiritual evolution

The nineteenth century German philosophers inherited Kant’s overwhelmingly influential ontological framework, which had distinguished between things-as-they-appear (or phenomena) from things-as-they-truly-are (noumena). To this was added ideas about evolutionism which were beginning to be prevalent in different realms like science (Jean-Baptiste Lamarck) and literature (Goethe).

  • Fichte, the most Kantian of the Idealists, conceived the cosmos as a mere series of representations that appear to the absolute, transcendental Ego or self.
  • Hegel considered world history to be identical to the development of the rational consciousness of Spirit (Geist), which resulted in full self-consciousness of Spirit either (depending on your interpretation) in the present moment, or in the blossoming of Hegel’s philosophy.
  • Schelling conceived of the cosmos as a more existential development, in which the fullness of existence itself was the cosmic telos.
  • Schopenhauer struck a more vitalistic note; on his view, it was the irrational and metaphysically basic will to live that animated the development of the cosmos.
  • Goethe's portrait of the restless, endlessly striving Faust—the personification of Western Civilization—could also be seen as a work of German Idealism.
Almost every subsequent philosopher has either assented to or reacted against the influence of German Idealism.
  • Karl Marx envisioned a materialistic, economic dialectic instead of Hegel's rational one.
  • Emerson returned to a more static, Plotinian view of the individual's relation to Nature.
  • Kierkegaard, while raging against the popularity of Hegelianism, conceived of the religious development of the individual as passing through dialectical stages.
  • Nietzsche changed Schopenhauer's unitary "Will to Live" into a more individualized "Will to Power."
  • Sri Aurobindo combined Hegel's ideas about the development of Spirit with Vedantic cosmology. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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