Fichte and German Idealism lll


 

Out of the three philosophers mentioned (Schelling, Hegel and Hölderlin), also adding to them Fichte, Hölderlin’s personal destiny was the most tragic, and this besides the fact that he suffered from schizophrenia at still a young age. We saw that he postulated the ‘Tragic “I”’ in substitution of the ‘Absolute “I”’ of Fichte. The poet, the hero, has to be not only autonomous, but also be placed at the centre of everything, the Universe itself,  given that it was thirst for the Absolute what moved all these Idealist philosophers (how genuine it was, is another question). A solution had to be found for the suffering and pain attendant to a view of life as a finite reality, and, as we pointed out, Kantian philosophy was not up to the task, though something of that solution was already present in the ‘Critique of Practical Reason’ of that philosopher (he himself considered it more important than the first Critique, something that not many people recognize). These two, a way out from finite existence and a conscious awareness of a far reaching freedom for the creative individual (artist as well as hero, given the mediocrity of their environment), were the twin motors of Idealist philosophy. After the completion of Hölderlin’s two main works, ‘Hyperion’ and ‘Empedokles’, he was becoming more and more pessimistic as to the possibility of reaching any one of the two goals envisioned ; “thought returns defeated from its audacious journey to the incommensurable and only imagination is able to apprehend the eternal and bind it to its forms”*.

The way out, for Hölderlin, was a return to Beauty and Nature, rather, to the mythology of Nature, not quite in the same way that it was for Rousseau; Nature now contemplated as a divinity. Only for Hölderlin, out of the rest of the Idealist philosophers, mythified Nature was the last refuge, and it was much more passional and engagé for him than it was for the English poet Wordsworth. Hólderlin only (the last Romantic hero?) was driven to the ultimate end of the tragic spirit in its desperate, tormented search for Infinitude: is this not auto-annihilation? But, the thing is, in what way?

    *El Héroe y el Único, Rafael Argullol

 

About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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