The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Hartmann, Karl Robert Edouard von

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Hartmann, Karl Robert Edouard von
Edition of 1920. See also Karl Robert Eduard von Hartmann on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

HARTMANN, härt'mân, Karl Robert Edouard von: b. Berlin, 23 Feb. 1842; d. 6 June 1906. He was educated for the army, but an injury to his knee compelled him to leave the service in 1865. He then began the study of philosophy, and for many years lived the retired life of a student. His most important publications are ‘The Philosophy of the Unconscious’ (1869); ‘The Phenomenology of the Moral Consciousness’ (1879); ‘The Religious Consciousness of Mankind in the Stages of Its Development’ (1881); and ‘The Religion of the Spirit’ (1882). Among his other works are ‘Critical Grounds of Transcendental Realism’; ‘The Crisis of Christianity in Modern Theology’ (1880); ‘Judaism in the Present and the Future’ (1885); ‘Lotze's Philosophy’ (1888); ‘The Ghost Theory in Spiritism’ (1891); ‘The Fundamental Social Questions’ (1894); and many other works on society, religion, etc.

Von Hartmann's philosophy is called by its author a transcendental realism, because in it he professes to reach by means of induction from the broadest possible basis of experience a knowledge of that which lies beyond experience. A certain portion of consciousness, namely, sense-perception, begins, changes and ends without our consent and often in direct opposition to our desires. Sense-perception, then, cannot be adequately explained from the ego alone, and the existence of things outside experience must be posited. Moreover, since they act upon consciousness and do so in different ways at different times, they must have those qualities assigned to them which would make such action possible. Casuality is thus made the link that connects the subjective world of ideas with the objective world of things. An examination of the rest of experience, especially such phenomena as instinct, voluntary motion, sexual love, artistic production and the like, makes it evident that will and idea, unconscious but teleological, are everywhere operative, and that the underlying force is one and not many. This thing-in-itself may be called the Unconscious. It has two equally original attributes, namely, will and idea. Hegel and Schopenhauer (qq.v.) were both wrong in making one of these subordinate to the other; on the contrary, neither can act alone, and neither is the result of the other. The will is illogical and causes the existence the Das of the world; the idea, though not conscious, is logical, and determines the essence, the Was. The endless and vain striving of the will necessitates the great preponderance of suffering in the universe, which could not well be more wretched than it is. Nevertheless, it must be characterized as the best possible world, for both nature and history are constantly developing in the manner best adapted to the world-end; and by means of increasing consciousness the idea, instead of prolonging suffering to eternity, provides a refuge from the evils of existence in non-existence.

The original state of the Unconscious is one of potentiality, in which by pure chance the will begins to strive. In the transition state, called that of the empty will, there is no definite end; and to avoid the unhappiness of aimless desire the will realizes the ideas already potentially present and the Unconscious becomes actual. The existence of the universe is the result, then, of the illogical will, but its characteristics and laws are all due to the idea and are, therefore, logical. The history of the world is that given by natural science, and particular emphasis is laid upon the Darwinian theory of evolution (q.v.). Man is developed from the animal, and with the appearance of the first human being the deliverance of the world is in sight, for only in man does consciousness reach such height and complexity as to act independently of the will. As consciousness develops, there is a constantly growing recognition of the fact that deliverance must lie in a return to the original state of non-willing, which means the non-existence of all individuals and the potentiality of the Unconscious.

The one foundation for ethics is pessimism, for no other view of life recognizes that evil necessarily belongs to existence and can cease only with existence itself. The essential feature of the morality built upon this basis is the realization that all is one and that, while every attempt to gain happiness is illusory, yet before deliverance is possible, all forms of the illusion must appear and be tried to the utmost. Even he who recognizes the vanity of life best serves the highest aims by giving himself up to the illusion, and living as eagerly as if he thought life good. It is only through the constant attempt to gain happiness that men can learn the desirability of nothingness; and when this knowledge has become universal, or at least general, deliverance will come and the world will cease. No better proof of the rational nature of the universe is needed than that afforded by the different ways in which men have hoped to find happiness and so have been led unconsciously to work for the final goal. The first of these is the hope of good in the present, the confidence in the pleasures of this world, such as was felt by the Greeks. This is followed by the Christian transference of happiness to another and better life, to which in turn succeeds the illusion that looks for happiness in progress, and dreams of a future made worth while by the achievements of science. All alike are empty promises, and known as such in the final stage, which sees all human desires as equally vain and the only good in the peace of Nirvana.

The relation between philosophy and religion lies in their common recognition of an underlying unity, which transcends ali the apparent differences and divisions due to individual phenomena. Many changes must take place in the existing religions before they will be suited to modern conditions, and the resulting religion of the future will be a concrete monism.

The Philosophy of the Unconscious has been the subject of many different estimates, but is regarded as having less intrinsic than historical value. Its influence upon other thinkers was especially marked durmg the years following its first appearance, but at present that influence has much decreased.

Bibliography. — Drews, ‘Eduard von Hartmann's Pnilosophie und der Materialismus in der Modern Kultur’ (Leipzig, 1890); id., ‘E. von Hartmann's Philosophisches System’ (1902); Schneidewin, ‘Lichtstrahlen aus Edouard von Hartmanns sänuntlichen Werken’; Koeber, ‘Das philosophische System Eduard von Hartmanns’; Plumacher, ‘Der Kampf ums Unbewusste’ (2d ed., Leipzig 1890); Sully, ‘Pessimism’ (London 1891). Consult also Erdmann, ‘History of Philosophy,’ and Falckenberg, ‘History of Modern Philosophy.’

Grace Neal Dolson,
Professor of Philosophy, Wells College.