The New International Encyclopædia/Hartmann, Karl Robert Eduard von
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Hartmann, Karl Robert Eduard von
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HARTMANN, Karl Robert Eduard von (1842—). A German philosopher. He was born in Berlin, February 23, 1842, educated at the school of artillery, and held a commission from 1860 to 1865, when he resigned it because a serious knee trouble, brought on by an accident, made it impossible for him to perform his duties. In 1867 he took his degree at Rostock and returned to Berlin, where he has lived ever since, devoted to literary pursuits, and doing most of his work in bed, while suffering great pain. This circumstance has, however, not diminished his literary activity. The titles of some of his works will show his versatility: Aphorismen über das Drama (1870); Shakespeares Romeo und Juliet (1875); Die Selbstzersetzung des Christenthums und die Religion der Zukunft (1874); Wahrheit und Irrthum im Darwinismus (1875); Zur Reform des höheren Schulwesens (1875); Beiträge zur Naturphilosophie (1876); Zur Geschichte und Begründung des Pessimismus (1880); Die Krisis des Christenthums in der modernen Theologie (1880); Der Spiritismus (1885); Aesthetik (1886-87); Zwei Jahrzehnte deutscher Politik und die gegenwärtige Weltlage (1888). But these are not his most important works. His first book, Philosophie des Unbewussten (1869; Eng. trans. by E. C. Coupland, under the title The Philosophy of the Unconscious, London, 1884), went through edition after edition, and gave rise to a very copious controversial literature. Höffding says that between the years 1870 and 1875 fifty-eight works appeared treating of Hartmann's philosophy. Its peculiar combination of optimism with pessimism is no doubt the cause of its popularity.
In opposition to Schopenhauer (q.v.), Hartmann maintains that idea is indispensable to will. “No one can in reality merely will, without willing this or that: a will which does not will something, is not: only through the definite content does the will obtain the possibility of existence, and this content is idea. Therefore no volition without mental object, as Aristotle said long ago.” Against Hegel, whom Hartmann mistakenly conceives as advocating a doctrine of non-willing idea, he maintains that it is necessary “to recognize will in the idea, whenever the latter displays an outward causality.” The world, as being a process, must therefore be the product of will; and as will implies idea, it must be the product of will realizing an idea. But, according to Hartmann, an idea need not be conscious. Indeed, consciousness “cannot at all lie in the idea as such, but must be an accident; which comes to the idea from elsewhere. The action of unconscious will is clearer in itself, and appears less paradoxical;” indeed, will must be unconscious if the idea is unconscious. The term ‘the Unconscious’ is used by Hartmann to “designate the united unconscious will and unconscious idea,” or the subject of which unconscious will and imconscious idea are the two attributes inseparably united. Will and idea “are not two drawers in the Unconscious, in one of which lies the irrational will, in the other the powerless idea, but they are two poles of a magnet with opposite qualities, on whose opposition the world rests.” They “contradict one another as little as say the redness and the perfume of the rose.” But though thus compatible, “the one is what the other is not (the will is not logical, and the idea not endowed with will).” ‘The Unconscious,’ thus defined, is an individvial, “an unconscious world-soul,” which is “simultaneously present and purposively efficient in all organisms and atoms, the bodily life and the human mind.” It is one in all space and in all time, space and time being its creations, not its conditions. It can properly be defined as “pure, unconscious (impersonal but indivisible, therefore individual) Spirit,” and in accordance with this definition Hartmann says that “our Monism may be more precisely characterized as spiritualistic Monism.” Consciousness arises out of the ‘unconscious’ by “the emancipation of the idea from the will.” “The essence of the consciousness of the idea is the extrication of the same from its native soil, the realizing will, and the opposition of the will to this extrication.” The conscious idea “is idea preëminently free from every effort at self-realization, but without prejudice to the possibility of afterwards becoming itself again content of will.” This emancipation of idea from will arises when organized matter suddenly breaks in upon this self-contained peace of the Unconscious and thrusts upon the astonished individual spirit an idea which falls upon it as from the skies, for it finds in itself no will to the idea. “The idea has been sent from the will, to confront it in future as independent power, in order to bring under subjection to itself its former lord.” The will endeavors to negate the idea but cannot, and this failure is the cause of pain, which is “the vexation of the unconscious individual mind at the interloping idea.” This break-up of the original unity of will and idea is itself the work of ‘the Unconscious,’ which “can never err — nay, not even doubt or hesitate;” it “occurs precisely at the most suitable moment, when the whole purpose frame of the world requires it.” Indeed, “the world is contrived and guided as wisely and as well as is possible.” “The existing world is the best of all possible ones,” and yet “it may still be thoroughly bad,” its non-existence may be preferable to its existence. An empirical examination of the facts proves this to be the case. The contrary belief is an illusion of which there are three stages. The childhood of the individual and the race is spent in the illusion that the individual can attain happiness now; the youth of the race (mediævalism) is spent in the belief that happiness is attained by the individual in a transcendent life after death; and the manhood of the race is spent in the illusion that happiness is attainable by others in this world in the remote future. The true view is that of “the final redemption from the misery of volition and existence into the painlessness of non-willing and non-being.” But this redemption can be won only by making “the ends of the Unconscious ends of our own consciousness.” And the end of the unconscious is the elimination of misery. Positive happiness is unattainable. But “only in complete devotion to life and its pains, not in cowardly renunciation and withdrawal, is anything to be achieved for the world-process. This devotion to life is necessary for the time being, since only by contributing to the advance of intelligence can we hope to bring about a state of affairs in which the inajor part of the actual volition or of the functioning Unconscious Spirit shall be under the control of intelligence. When this consummation is achieved, then volition will resolve upon its own non-continuance, seeing that continuance involves a surplus of misery. This resolve will be a simultaneous common resolve of individuals in whom the larger half of the active Spirit of the universe is manifest.” For a survey of the controversial literature on Hartmann's teaching, consult: Plumacher, Der Kampf ums Unbewusste (2d ed., Leipzig, 1890); also in general Kober, Das philosophische System Eduard von Hartmanns (Breslau, 1884); Drews, Eduard von Hartmanns Philosophie und der Materialismus in der modernen Kultur (Leipzig, 1890).