Philosophical Idealism, the Irrational and the Personal

Part of the American University Publications in Philosophy book series (MNPL, volume 29)


The potentiality and power of human rationality is the hallmark of Greek philosophy, whether Platonic or Aristotelian. Renaissance and Enlightenment philosophers developed the logos of rationality as a central feature of modern culture, either in the form of mathematical rationalism or experiential reasoning, with appropriate debate between these diverse modes. A self-consciousness culmination of the logos of reason was the elaboration of German Idealism complimented by Anglo-Saxon representatives, which idealism came under severe attack in the twentieth century from both postivistic or analytic philosophers as well as from phenomenological and existential thinkers. Within this latter community and specifically in the arena of philosophy of religion, a most serious attack was launched upon European Idealism and classical rationalism, which attack is the focus of this essay.


European Idealism German Idealism Moral Idea Philosophical Idealism Positive Philosophy 
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  1. 2a.
    Lewis White beck anticipated this development when in 1968 he wrote, “There is, indeed, some intimations now that the history of philosophy may be recapitulated in the future course of interest in that history; if so, we may anticipate a markedly increased attention to post-Kantian speculative philosophy.” L. W. Beck, Kant Studies Today (La Salle: Open Court, 1969).Google Scholar
  2. 2b.
    The evidence of this Neo-Hegelianism is overwhelming and too vast to list. As but a sample of the evidence see Bernstein, R. J. “Why Hegel Now?” Review of Metaphysics, 31 (1977) 29–60;Google Scholar
  3. 2c.
    W. Marx, Reason And World (The Hague: M. Nijhoff, 1971);CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 2d.
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    R. C. S. Walker, Kant (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1979). A most interesting discussion will inevitably develop in the attempted adjustment of recent analytic interests to neo-idealism. A comparable dialogue is inevitable between Neo-Hegelianism and phenomenology including existential phenomenology, in which context this essay is but an initial contribution. For the attempt to reconcile idealism with Chrstian thought see the work of J. N. Findlay, and especially his unpublished paper presented to the 1978 meeting of the International Society For Neoplatonic Studies, “Why Christians Should Be Platonists.”Google Scholar
  9. 3.
    For an excellent analysis of one version of this attempt see P. Tillich, The Construction Of The History Of Religion In Schelling’s Positive Philosophy (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1974);Google Scholar
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    It may not have been as dead as was thought, even in recent philosophy of science. See T. W. Adorno, The Positivist Dispute In German Sociology (New York: Harper and Row, 1946), where it is suggested that the debate between positivism as a philosophy of science and more dialectical philosophy of science is a continuation of the debate between positivism and idealism.Google Scholar
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    E. Brunner, The Philosophy Of Religion (New York: Scribner’s, 1937) p. 58.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 55.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 37.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 38.Google Scholar
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    E. Brunner, God And Man (London: Student Christian Movement Press, 1936) pp. 50–51.Google Scholar
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    Brunner interprets Schelling as having played a unique role in this concern with the personal, with implications for twentieth century philosophy of religion. The case is different with Schelling at a later date: his gnosis took its stand actually on Christian knowledge, but remained remarkably obscure as to its own origin. In his Positive Philosophy, Schelling meant to write entirely as a philosopher, and not at all as a theologian. Of course, he perceived it was impossible to reach the conception of a “living God” by way of philosophical reflection. He gave the name of “negative philosophy” to attempts of this kind which included all previous speculation in the realm of philosophy of religion. Schelling asserted, but failed to prove, that it was possible to set out from the conception of the “living God” without passing from the region of philosophy to that of faith and theology. But the working out of his system of gnosis goes on to prove, on the contrary, that he himself needed the positive faith of Christianty for a basis if he were to be successful in passing from thence to his gnostic speculations (it must be granted that the later do not lack significance for us today). A like uncertainty is perceptible also in Tllich’s gnosis, which follows the lines of Schelling’s. Here the ambiguous application of the conception of symbol makes it impossible for us to be clear whether revelation means a universal, an entity semper et ubique identical at bottom with itself, or, on the other hand, some definite, unique, and therefore decisive event. (E. Brunner, Philosophy of Religion, p. 42.).Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 63.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 64.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 65.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 69.Google Scholar
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    E. Brunner, The Word And The World (New York: Scribner’s, 1931) p. 26.Google Scholar
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    E. Brunner, Philosophy Of Religion, p. 72.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 71.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 76.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 77.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 79.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 80.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 84.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 86.Google Scholar
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    Ibid., p. 96.Google Scholar
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    See. W. Pannenberg, Revelation As History (Sheed & Ward, 1969).Google Scholar
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    See the as yet unpublished paper by D. Christensen, “Can Hegel’s Concept Of Self-Evidence Be Salvaged,” read to the 1978 meeting of the Hegel Society Of America.Google Scholar
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    E. Brunner, God And Man, p. 64.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The American UniversityUSA

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