Faith & Knowledge


In their totality, the philosophies we have considered have in this way recast the dogmatism of being into the dogmatism of thinking, the metaphysic of objectivity into the metaphysic of subjectivity. Thus, through this whole philosophical revolution the old dogmatism and the metaphysic of reflection have at first glance merely taken on the hue of inwardness, of the latest cultural fashion. The soul as thing is transformed into the Ego, the soul as practical Reason into the absoluteness of the personality and singularity of the subject. The world as thing is transformed into the system of phenomena or of affections of the subject, and actualities believed in, whereas the Absolute as [proper] matter and absolute object of Reason is transformed into something that is absolutely beyond rational cognition. This metaphysic of subjectivity has run through the complete cycle of its forms in the philosophies of Kant, Jacobi, and Fichte – other forms that this metaphysic has assumed do not count, even in this subjective sphere. The metaphysic of subjectivity has, therefore, completely set forth [the intrinsic stages of] the formative process of culture; for this formative process consists in establishing as absolute each of the [two] single dimensions [of being and thought, object and subject, etc.] of the totality and elaborating each of them into a system. The metaphysic of subjectivity has brought this cultural process to its end. Therewith the external possibility directly arises that the true philosophy should emerge out of this [completed] culture, nullify the absoluteness of its finitudes and present itself all at once as perfected appearance, with all its riches subjected to the totality. For just as the perfection of the fine arts is conditioned by the perfection of mechanical skills, so the appearance of philosophy in all richness is conditioned by the completeness of the formative process of culture, and this completeness has now been achieved.

There is a direct connection (Zusammenhang) between these distinct philosophical formations and [the one true] philosophy – though the linkage is most defective in the case of Jacobi. They have their positive, genuine though subordinate, position within true philosophy.

This is clear from the results of [our discussion of] infinity in these philosophies. They make infinity into an absolute principle, so that it becomes infected by its opposition to finitude. For they recognize that thinking is infinity, the negative side of the Absolute. Infinity is the pure nullification of the antithesis or of finitude; but it is at the same time also the spring of eternal movement, the spring of that finitude which is infinite, because it eternally nullifies itself. Out of this nothing and pure night of infinity, as out of the secret abyss that is its birthplace, the truth lifts itself upward.

In [truly philosophical] cognition, infinity as this negative significance of the Absolute is conditioned by the positive Idea that being is strictly nothing outside of the infinite, or apart from the Ego and thought. Both being and thought are one. But, on the one hand, these philosophies of reflection cannot be prevented from fixating infinity, the Ego, and turning it into subjectivity instead of letting it directly somersault into the positivity of the absolute Idea. By this route infinity fell once more into the old antithesis, and into the whole finitude of reflection which it had itself previously nullified. But on the other hand, the philosophy of infinity is closer to the philosophy of the Absolute than the philosophy of the finite is; for although infinity or thought is rigidly conceived as Ego and subject, and must, in this perspective, share the same rank as the object or the finite which it holds over against itself, still there is the other perspective in which infinity is closer to the Absolute than the finite is, because the inner character of infinity is negation, or indifference.

But the pure concept or infinity as the abyss of nothingness in which all being is engulfed, must signify the infinite grief [of the finite] purely as a moment of the supreme Idea, and no more than a moment. Formerly, the infinite grief only existed historically in the formative process of culture. It existed as the feeling that “God Himself is dead,” upon which the religion of more recent times rests; the same feeling that Pascal expressed in so to speak sheerly empirical form: “la nature est telle qu’elle marque partout un Dieu perdu et dans l’homme et hors de l’homme.” [Nature is such that it signifies everywhere a lost God both within and outside man.] By marking this feeling as a moment of the supreme Idea, the pure concept must give philosophical existence to what used to be either the moral precept that we must sacrifice the empirical being (Wesen), or the concept of formal abstraction [e.g., the categorical imperative].

Thereby it must re-establish for philosophy the Idea of absolute freedom and along with it the absolute Passion, the speculative Good Friday in place of the historic Good Friday. Good Friday must be speculatively re-established in the whole truth and harshness of its God-forsakenness. Since the [more] serene, less well grounded, and more individual style of the dogmatic philosophies and of the natural religions must vanish, the highest totality can and must achieve its resurrection solely from this harsh consciousness of loss, encompassing everything, and ascending in all its earnestness and out of its deepest ground to the most serene freedom of its shape.

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