An Outline of the History of Christian Thought Since Kant eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 317 pages of information about An Outline of the History of Christian Thought Since Kant.
the thing as it is in itself, we can never perfectly know.  What we have in our minds is not the object.  It is a notion of that object, although we may be assured that we could have no such notion were there no object.  Equally, the notion is what it is because the subject is what it is.  We can never get outside the processes of our own thought.  We cannot know the thing as it is, the Ding-an-sich, in Kant’s phrase.  We know only that there must be a ‘thing in itself.’


Fichte asked, Why?  Why must there be a Ding-an-sich?  Why is not that also the result of the activity of the ego?  Why is not the ego, the thinking subject, all that is, the creator of the world, according to the laws of thought?  If so much is reduced to idea, why not all?  This was Fichte’s rather forced resolution of the old dualism of thought and thing.  It is not the denial of the reality of things, but the assertion that their ideal element, that part of them which is not mere ‘thing,’ the action and subject of the action, is their underlying reality.  According to Kant things exist in a world beyond us.  Man has no faculty by which he can penetrate into that world.  Still, the farther we follow Kant in his analysis the more does the contribution to knowledge from the side of the mind tend to increase, and the more does the factor in our impressions from the side of things tend to fade away.  This basis of impression being wholly unknowable is as good as non-existent for us.  Yet it never actually disappears.  There would seem to be inevitable a sort of kernel of matter or prick of sense about which all our thoughts are generated.  Yet this residue is a vanishing quantity.  This seemed to Fichte to be a self-contradiction and a half-way measure.  Only two positions appeared to him thorough-going and consequent.  Either one posits as fundamental the thing itself, matter, independent of any consciousness of it.  So Spinoza had taught.  Or else one takes consciousness, the conscious subject, independent of any matter or thing as fundamental.  This last Fichte claimed to be the real issue of Kant’s thought.  He asserts that from the point of view of the thing in itself we can never explain knowledge.  We may be as skilful as possible in placing one thing behind another in the relation of cause to effect.  It is, however, an unending series.  It is like the cosmogony of the Eastern people which fabled that the earth rests upon the back of an elephant.  The elephant stands upon a tortoise.  The question is, upon what does the tortoise stand?  So here, we may say, in the conclusive manner in which men have always said, that God made the world.  Yet sooner or later we come to the child’s question:  Who made God?  Fichte rightly replied:  ’If God is for us only an object of knowledge, the Ding-an-sich at the end of the series, there is no escape from the answer that man, the thinker, in thinking God made him.’  All the world, including man, is but the reflexion, the revelation in forms of the finite, of an unceasing action of thought of which the ego is the object.  Nothing more paradoxical than this conclusion can be imagined.  It seems to make the human subject, the man myself, the creator of the universe, and the universe only that which I happen to think it to be.

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An Outline of the History of Christian Thought Since Kant from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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