. 5
( 12)


by a prior, pre-conceptual understanding of a “whole” of nature and
ourselves in order to assume our true human “vocation.”
The second great concern of the early Romantics had to do with their
intense sense of the need to develop and express their sense of individ-
uality. The overwhelming sense of conformity in German society at the
time “ based largely on its patchwork, “hometown” nature, its economy
of dependency, its ensuing provincialism “ suppressed individuality; yet,
as populations grew, and hopes went up, this same society could not
provide the employment opportunities for these young people in the
way that it was by its own lights supposed to provide. Their religion
and the notions of the importance of individual feeling and sentiment in
life (lessons both inherited from their religious faith and from the nov-
els and essays coming in from France and Britain) only intensi¬ed their
feeling of being suffocated by the overwhelming conformity of German
life, of having to suppress their feelings (particularly erotic and amorous)
in order to keep with the forms of the time, and of always being under
scrutiny as to whether one had violated some outdated, unjusti¬able so-
cial precept. Moreover, the sense of the crudeness of German culture,
both in its of¬cial courtly forms and in its popular forms, only underlined
their sense of alienation. This sense for individuality, which also drove
them into explorations of subjective interiority, led them to be dissatis-
¬ed with both the Kantian and Fichtean accounts of subjectivity, which
seemed to them too formal, too dry, to be insuf¬ciently engaged with
the messy, lived, existential character of human life. Much rhetoric that
is now familiar to us (and has become a bit of a clich´ itself) of “¬nding”
oneself and of exploring one™s feelings to get at what is truly oneself
was created by the early Romantics as a vocabulary to express what it
was that they were trying to accomplish and what they were rebelling
It would, though, be a mistake to write these things off as merely
psychological, youthful reactions to generalized parental authority
(although there are certainly elements of that in it). There was a deeper
philosophical agenda and seriousness of purpose at work, even if that
seriousness paradoxically expressed itself as irony and play. The desire
to carve out a vocabulary in which individuality had a role to play “ in
which the individual™s own good played just as much a role as did the
“common goods” or “inherited goods” of one™s surroundings “ led them
to rethink both key philosophical issues in Kantian and post-Kantian
philosophy and to fashion a theory of literature and society in which
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±·
their twin notions “ of imaginative creativity and responsiveness to the
world; and of the importance of valuing individuality both in one™s own
life and in collective social life “ could be articulated and actualized.µ
In particular, a kind of joint effort (that emerged from undocumented
discussion among the members of the early Romantic group) emerged to
give a better account of self-consciousness than either Kant or Fichte had
offered. (This point was ¬rst articulated, one might even say “discovered,”
by Dieter Henrich and, following him, Manfred Frank. ) This was
carried out by, among others, Schelling, Friedrich von Hardenberg
(Novalis), and Friedrich H¨ lderlin while they were at Jena attending
Fichte™s lectures. Among the early Romantic circle, there was both a
fascination with Fichte™s attempt to ground everything as normatively
counting for us only in terms of its being “posited” by the “I,” and a
dissatisfaction with what they saw as the overly abstract nature of such
an “I.” Their emerging interest in individuality as a worthy category
on its own led them to become more and more suspicious of the ex-
istential paucity of such an “I,” and the way in which it also failed to
capture the more basic experience of “responding” to the world (in par-
ticular, to nature) instead of “positing” norms for making judgments
about it or acting on it. (More existentially minded thinkers such as
Kierkegaard were later to take up this very point about the supposed
lack of ¬t of idealist accounts of life with our more basic experiences of
self and world.)
They seem to have been struck with the phenomenon of what philoso-
phers now tend to call “criterionless self-ascription.” In our awareness
of ourselves, we ascribe experiences to ourselves without invoking any
criteria for doing so, and this crucially distinguishes self-consciousness
µ Richard Eldridge, Charles Larmore, Azade Seyhan, and Manfred Frank have been among the
more forceful voices in stressing the early Romantics™ dual commitment to imaginative cre-
ativity and responsiveness to the world. See Richard Eldridge, On Moral Personhood: Philosophy,
Literature, Criticism, and Self-Understanding (University of Chicago Press, ±); Richard Eldridge,
Leading a Human Life: Wittgenstein, Intentionality, and Romanticism (University of Chicago Press, ±·);
Charles Larmore, The Romantic Legacy (New York: Columbia University Press, ±); Azade
Seyhan, Representation and its Discontents: The Critical Legacy of German Romanticism (Berkeley: Univer-
sity of California Press, ±); Manfred Frank, Unendliche Ann¨ herung; Manfred Frank, Einf¨ hrung
a u
in die fr¨ hromantische Asthetik (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ±).
 This has been done in a variety of places, but the key representative books that espouse this posi-
tion are: Dieter Henrich, Der Grund im Bewußtsein: Untersuchungen zu H¨lderlins Denken (±·“±·µ)
(Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, ±); Frank, Unendliche Ann¨ herung; and Selbstbewußtsein und Selbsterkenntnis
(Stuttgart: Reklam, ±±). Frank™s path-breaking book, Unendliche Ann¨ herung, brilliantly and care-
fully reconstructs just what those conversations must have been and who was in¬‚uencing whom
in that debate.
± Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
(at least in this sense) from our consciousness of other things. When we
become aware, for example, that the fellow standing on the corner was
the same fellow that was earlier in the bookstore, we use some type of
criteria to identify him as the same man (looks, dress, and so on); but
when I am aware that I have an experience (a pain, or a pleasure, and
so on), I am aware that I have that experience as my experience without
having to apply any such criteria at all. It is not as if one ¬rst notes that
one has a pain and then looks around to see whose pain it is; one im-
mediately, non-inferentially, without the use of any criteria, ascribes it to
oneself. Taking their cue from Kant, the early Romantics also concluded
that this form of self-consciousness was a condition for all consciousness,
and that I could not be conscious of objects as distinct from my experi-
ence of them without also being able to perform those acts of immediate
self-ascription. (In other words, I could not make the ordinary distinction
between “seems to be” and “really is” without being able to say of some
experience, “that™s my experience.”) Combining this with their other in-
terests in creativity and responsiveness to nature (along with their interest
in the expression and sustaining of true individuality), they concluded
that neither Kant nor Fichte on their own terms could adequately ac-
count for that kind of self-consciousness and that, even more importantly,
much more followed from the primacy of self-consciousness than either
Kant or Fichte had seen.
The model of “re¬‚ection” which they took to be at work in both Kant™s
and Fichte™s accounts “ of the “I™s” re¬‚ecting on itself in order to gain an
awareness of itself “ did not ¬t the way in which we are immediately aware
of ourselves. The “I” as the subject of re¬‚ection could not identify itself
with itself as the object of such re¬‚ection if it really were only a matter
of re¬‚ection, of applying criteria. We do not, even could not, “re¬‚ect” on
whether we were identical with ourselves in this most basic sense. For
me to be aware of myself, I must distance myself from myself, make
myself an “object” of my re¬‚ection; but in the sense that the same “I” is
both doing the re¬‚ecting and is that which is re¬‚ected on presupposes a
more direct acquaintance with the “I” that cannot itself be a matter of
re¬‚ection. The circle at Jena making this argument did not wish to deny
all re¬‚ective self-knowledge; they only wanted to claim that underlying
all such ordinary re¬‚ective self-knowledge must be some kind of non-
re¬‚ective, even pre-re¬‚ective self-knowledge, some way in which we are
directly acquainted with ourselves that cannot be a matter of identifying
via the application of some criteria our re¬‚ecting selves with the selves
being re¬‚ected upon.
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±

 °¬ ¦ ¬¦-®©µ®:   ¬¤¬©®
Interestingly, the most basic developments of this line of thought came
from two people whose later fame was not for philosophical but for po-
etic achievements: Friedrich H¨ lderlin and Friedrich von Hardenberg
(known by his literary name, Novalis).· Indeed, because of this fact and
the fact that the other members of the “early Romantic” circle were by
and large literary ¬gures, “early Romanticism” has often been charac-
terized, wrongly, as an exclusively literary movement in its inception.
In ±·µ, Friedrich H¨ lderlin “ born in ±··° and friends with both Hegel
and Schelling, with whom he shared a room together at the Protestant
Seminary in T¨ bingen “ wrote out a two-page draft of some of these
thoughts (at about the same time, Novalis was writing out a series of
“Fichte studies” in his notebooks). In his piece (undiscovered until ±±
and labeled by his editors, “Judgment and Being”), H¨ lderlin noted that
the sense of self involved in our acquaintance with ourselves should not
be confused with an identity statement. (Moreover, to get at the point
which H¨ lderlin and the other early Romantics were trying to express,
one must even try to avoid using such terms as “conscious of ” or “aware
of,” since they bring with them the divisions of subject and object that
the early Romantics took to presuppose already some more basic unity.)
Prior to our re¬‚ective awareness of ourselves and even prior to our aware-
ness of objects of experience (which always presupposes our making a
distinction between those objects and our experience of them), there is an

· Manfred Frank also quite emphatically includes Schelling in this category, along with the great
theologian, Schleiermacher, and the critic, Friedrich Schlegel. See Frank, Unendliche Ann¨ herung,a
and Eine Einf¨ hrung in Schellings Philosophie (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ±µ).
 Even the usually reliable Frederick Beiser, one of the most prominent intellectual historians of
this period, makes this error: “German romanticism began as a literary movement. In its early
period, its goals were primarily aesthetic, preoccupied with the need to determine the standards
of good taste and literature.” See his “introduction” to Frederick Beiser, The Early Political Writings
of the German Romantics (Cambridge University Press, ±), p. xii. The philosophical roots of the
movement have been most deeply explored by Manfred Frank, ¬rst in Einf¨ hrung in die fr¨ hromantische
u u
Asthetik and then later in Unendliche Ann¨ herung; the philosophical implications of the movement
have been explored perhaps most thoroughly by Richard Eldridge, On Moral Personhood, and Leading
a Human Life.
 “But how is self-consciousness possible? Only in that I oppose (entgegensetze) myself to myself,
separate myself from myself, while still cognizing (erkenne) myself as the same (I) notwithstanding
this separation. But to what extent as the same? I can, I must so ask; for from another point of
view, it is opposed to itself. Thus identity is no uni¬cation of subject and object that has purely
and simply taken place, thus identity is not = to absolute being,” Friedrich H¨ lderlin, “Sein
Urteil M¨ glichkeit,” in Friedrich H¨ lderlin, S¨ mtliche Werke (Frankfurter Ausgabe), vol. ±· (eds. D. E.
o o a
Sattler, Michael Franz, and Hans Gerhard Steimer) (Basel: Roter Stern, ±±), pp. ±·“±µ
(my translation).
±° Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
“intellectual intuition”of “being”as something that “is” even prior to any
statement of identity at all.±° Prior to all other acts of judging, the human
agent apprehends himself as existing as an individual, and this apprehen-
sion, as a criterionless self-ascription, is not just of his own individual exis-
tence but of “being” in general. This kind of “apprehension” thus cannot
in principle be given any kind of propositional articulation, since all such
articulation presupposes an act of judgment “ which H¨ lderlin, playing
on the German word for judgment, calls a “primordial division,” an
Ur-Teilung “ and even any statement of identity, such as “A = A,” sup-
poses some kind of propositional articulation. Self-consciousness thus dis-
closes something distinct from our consciousness of it and not reducible
to it “ one™s own existence “ that is nonetheless not a “thing” of any sort
(not even a Kantian “thing-in-itself ”) and is not to be explained causally.
One might partially explain one™s perception of a tree, for example, by
citing the way in which the various light beams strike the retina and
thereby “cause” (or causally contribute to) the perception of a tree; the
tree exists outside of one™s consciousness, and it (or, rather, the light beams
bouncing off it) “causes” the consciousness of itself. One™s own existence,
however, does not in any sense “cause” one™s consciousness of things; as
that which is disclosed in immediate self-ascription of experiences, it is
a condition of self-consciousness, which is itself a condition of all con-
sciousness of objects.
Since this apprehension, this mode of “intellectual intuition” cannot
itself be judgmentally or propositionally articulated, it can only be in-
directly hinted at through the careful use of metaphor to evoke this
apprehension without directly expressing it (or, to appropriate a familiar
metaphor from Wittgenstein: to “show” it without being able to “say”
it). This mode of indirectly indicating is, of course, the realm of art. The
artist “ and for H¨ lderlin and Novalis, particularly the poet “ evokes this
awareness of the “being” of the world and our own existence in the world
in terms of our own temporally drawn out modes of existence. All our
other judgmental activities take their orientation from this sense of the
“one and all” in which we immediately ¬nd ourselves placed (and do not
“place,” or “posit” ourselves). In this respect, the early Romantics were
responding in their own way to the ongoing and still heated debate over
Spinoza. In his days in T¨ bingen with Schelling and Hegel, H¨ lderlin
u o
±° Friedrich H¨ lderlin, “Sein Urteil M¨ glichkeit”: “Where subject and object are purely and simply
o o
(schlechthin) and not only in part united, united together so that no division can be carried out
without violating the essence of that which is separated, there and nowhere else can we speak of
Being purely and simply, as is the case with intellectual intuition.”
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±±
himself had obviously toyed with, if not fully identi¬ed with, some form of
Spinozism. The Greek phrase, “hen kai pan,” the “one and all” “ the very
phrase supposedly used by Lessing (according to Jacobi) to characterize
his own thought “ was shared among the three friends in T¨ bingen. By
±·µ, the “one and all,” though, was for him to be conceived not as an un-
derlying monistic substance but as “being” itself that “disclosed” itself to
us in myriad ways. We “respond” creatively to being, allowing ourselves
to be led by it in shaping our responses to it, but it is the imagination
that shapes those responses.
In one key sense, H¨ lderlin and the early Romantics accepted Kant™s
strictures on the limits of reason and his view that reason™s efforts to
go beyond the boundaries of possible experience were all illegitimate,
but they thought that this restriction had to do with the nature of self-
consciousness as a non-propositional intuition of the existing ground of
consciousness and not with the more logically oriented, transcenden-
tal conditions of experience for which Kant had argued. For Kant, we
must perceive things in space and time because that is the only way
our own minds can “receive” things-in-themselves; reason cannot show
that things must in themselves be spatial or temporal. In the Roman-
tics™ thought, Kant™s “things-in-themselves,” however, were transformed
into “being-in-itself.” They refused to draw Kant™s own conclusion that
we must therefore remain completely silent about those things of which
reason cannot speak. Instead, they took self-consciousness to be the “dis-
closure” of (using Kant™s words against him) that which is “neither nature
nor freedom and yet is linked with the basis of freedom, the supersen-
sible.” Such “disclosure” must be something more like Kant™s notion of
aesthetic experience, with the “indeterminate substrate” of nature and
freedom prompting us to take an interest in it, and, more importantly,
providing us with a sense of the “whole” in terms of which we could
orient our lives and about which we can speak only indirectly at best.
This, of course, led them to conceive of nature as not quite the mechan-
ical, Newtonian system that Kant (at least in the ¬rst Critique) had taken
it to be, but as an even more teleologically structured “organic” whole
than Kant would have countenanced, and it led them to a reconsid-
eration of what art, and particularly poetry, might accomplish. Kant™s
realism about the independent existence of things-in-themselves and his
insistence on the limits of reason were thus given a wholly new twist.
H¨ lderlin™s critique of Fichte in “Judgment and Being” amounted to
the charge that by trying to give an account of “objectivity” in terms of
an account of subjects “positing” things, Fichte had already stacked the
± Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
deck in favor of a subjective, even “psychological” idealism. Subjectivity
and objectivity emerge together; it would be only different forms of
dogmatism to assert that one constructs an account of one out of the
other. In Fichte™s own case, “subjectivity” came ¬rst, and he was then
stuck with the (impossible) task of showing how “objectivity” arose out of
it. In fact, we must always begin with a pre-re¬‚ective sense of ourselves as
“in” the world (as part of “being”), and that sense is more basic than any
articulation of ourselves as “subjects” and “objects.” Skeptical worries
about whether our subjective thoughts match up with objective facts is
completely derivative from this necessarily pre-supposed pre-re¬‚ective
sense of “being,” of our own existence in the world as part of it. Skepticism
about what really “counts” for us does indeed emerge, but always and
only against the backdrop of a sense of “being” that is more basic than
the notions of subjectivity and objectivity themselves.
H¨ lderlin used his poetry to work out a complex conception of the
way in which we imaginatively and creatively respond to the con¬‚icting
tendencies in our self-conscious lives that arise out of this elemental na-
ture of self-consciousness.±± Since all consciousness requires a judgmental
articulation of this pre-re¬‚ective unity of “being” “ again, a primordial
division of that which is originally undivided “ we are, as it were, intu-
itively aware of this unity of “being” in our consciousness of the world,
and it remains a presence in our conscious lives, holding out the promise
of a restored unity of the divisions that occur as necessary conditions of
our leading self-conscious lives at all. In apprehensions of beauty we get
an inkling of what that unity might be like as the “supersensible” ground
of both nature and freedom, and such apprehensions of beauty prompt
us to take an interest in those things that can matter to us in holding
our lives together, matters to which we might otherwise be blind. As
H¨ lderlin puts it in one of his most famous poems, “Bread and Wine”
(±°°), using the metaphor of gods appearing among men (in literal prose
translation): “This the heavenly tolerate as far as they can; but then they
appear in truth, in person, and men grow used to good fortune, to Day,
and to the sight of these now manifest, the countenances of those who,
long ago called the One and All, deeply had ¬lled the taciturn heart with
free self-content . . . Such is man; when the wealth is at hand, and a god
in person provides him with gifts, he neither knows nor sees it.”±

±± Dieter Henrich is the founder of this line of interpretation of H¨ lderlin™s mature poetic works.
See Henrich, Der Grund im Bewußtsein; and Dieter Henrich, The Course of Remembrance and Other
Essays on H¨lderlin (ed. Eckart F¨ rster) (Stanford University Press, ±·).
o o
± “M¨ glichst dulden die Himmlischen dies; dann aber in Wahrheit / Kommen sie selbst, und
gewohnt werden die Menschen der Gl¨ cks / Und des Tags und zu schaun die Offenbaren,
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±
For H¨ lderlin, the kind of accord with oneself that is hinted at in our
apprehension of the ground of consciousness in “being” is, however, to
be attained only in ¬ts and starts throughout life and in the balancing
of the kinds of inevitable con¬‚icts within life that come about because
of the irreconcilability of the fundamental directions in human life. One
seeks a balance in these things since we are pulled in so many different
directions, but no ultimate resolution of those discordances in one life
is possible. We seek to be at one with the world, to be “at home” in it,
yet we are also necessarily distanced from that world, never quite able
to fully identify with our place in it. Only two experiences provide the
insight necessary for us to come to terms with life and to achieve a unity
or harmony with oneself that is possible for the kind of divided agents we
are.± Love existentially solves the problem of how to unite spontaneity
and responsiveness in that in it there is awareness and recognition of
both unity and difference, a recognition of each other as uniquely ex-
isting individuals in a unity with each other; indeed, love can exist only
where there is a full responsiveness to the independent and full reality
of the other which is at the same time a liberation, a feeling of com-
plete autonomy. The apprehension of beauty, best mediated by the poet,
also unites what would otherwise be only fragmented pieces of nature or
our temporally extended lives. This awareness of the “one,” of “being,”
which is “disclosed” by self-consciousness, is our point of orientation as
we seek to maintain a balance and harmony throughout the con¬‚icting
tendencies of life, and this, so H¨ lderlin thought, is the basis for what
truth there is in the religious impulse.±
Like so many other compatriots, H¨ lderlin was himself originally quite
taken with the French Revolution, and he came to believe that moder-
nity, the new age, which he hoped would be a time of both spiritual and
political renewal, required a radically new sensibility to bring about the
kind of awareness of “unity in con¬‚ict” that he sought to express in his
das Antlitz / Derer, welche, schon l¨ ngst Eines und Alles genannt, / Tief die verschwiegene
Brust mit freier Gen¨ ge gef¨ llet, . . . / So ist der Mensch; wenn da ist das Gut, und es sorget mit
u u
Gaben / Selber ein Gott f¨ r ihn, kennet und sieht er es nicht.” From H¨lderlin (ed., trans., and
u o
introduced by Michael Hamburger) (Baltimore: Penguin Books, ±±), p. ±°.
± The love of which H¨ lderlin speaks was, of course, drawn from his own experience of his
passionate and doomed affair with Susette Gontard, for whose children H¨ lderlin had been
hired by her husband, Jacob Gontard, as a house-tutor, and, most likely, also his close attachment
to the friends of his youth, particularly Hegel and Schelling. See David Constantine, H¨lderlino
(Oxford: Clarendon Press, ±) for a general account of his life and works.
± Dieter Henrich speaks of H¨ lderlin™s characterization of “con¬‚icting tendencies” in life, and,
in his interpretation, H¨ lderlin distinguishes three such “tendencies”: the striving for unity and
perfection in life; the apprehension of beauty as that which prompts you to various forms of
awareness or action; and the apprehension of the common ground of being. See Henrich, Der
Grund im Bewußtsein, and The Course of Remembrance and Other Essays on H¨lderlin.
± Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
poems; to that end, he crafted a highly original set of metaphors, combin-
ing Greek and Christian religious imagery and inventing an imaginary
landscape in which Northern Europe, Greece, and the Middle East all
merged. The purpose of such startling imagery was to prompt re¬‚ection
and awareness of the possible, hinted unity of life within the con¬‚icts of
individuality; and, as he put it in the ¬nal line of his ±° poem, Andenken
(Remembrance): “But what is lasting the poets provide.”±µ

 °¬ ¦ ¬¦-®©µ®: ®¬©
Perhaps not surprisingly, the other thinker besides H¨ lderlin who
developed this line of thought about self-consciousness and “being” also
ceased to be a philosopher and found his calling as a poet: Friedrich
von Hardenberg, known by his adopted pen-name, Novalis. (Both of
them were also working on poetry simultaneously with their philosoph-
ical studies.) Both left the scene quite early: Novalis (±··“±°±) died
young, and H¨ lderlin (±··°“±) succumbed to schizophrenia, which
effectively ended his literary career by around ±°“±°. (It is only
fruitless speculation to wonder whether either would have returned to
philosophical writing had his literary career not been cut short.)
Novalis was a polymath by temperament, studied law and philosophy
at the university (he even apparently dabbled in alchemy), and then went
to the Freiberg mining academy to study mining technology, chemistry,
and mathematics. In ±·, he began a career as a director of the salt
mines (in which he earlier worked as an assistant) in his native Saxony.
(Indeed, Novalis, ever the autodidact, dabbled in just about everything.)
In ±·µ, while deep into his studies of Fichte, he met and became
secretly engaged to the twelve-year-old Sophie von K¨ hn, who was to
die only two years later. Novalis was devastated by Sophie™s death and
composed one of his most famous and haunting set of poems having to
do with his visits to her grave and his meditations on her life and death,
Hymns to the Night, published in the Athen¨ um in ±°°, in which he lyrically
evoked the early Romantic themes of the way love unites without at the
same time swallowing individuals, and he used the image of daylight
to evoke the differences between consciousness (of different objects in
the light), and of the apprehension of the “being” that underlies self-
consciousness (in the image of the night in which the differences among
±µ “Was bleibt aber, stiften die Dichter.” From H¨lderlin (ed., trans., and introduced by Michael
Hamburger), p. ±±.
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±µ
visible things are obliterated, giving us a glimpse of the “one and all”).
The “night” also evoked death and the necessity of recognizing in it the
¬nitude of temporal human life and the ways such ¬nitude makes us
into the ¬nite, self-conscious agents we are. Like H¨ lderlin, he merged
Greek and Christian symbolism into the poems, but, unlike H¨ lderlin,
he imagined in them something like a Christian overcoming of death, a
¬nal calling to our divine home.
Kant had said that “reason” necessarily seeks the “unconditioned”
and also necessarily fails to ¬nd it. Playing on this, Novalis quipped:
“Everywhere we seek the unconditioned (das Unbedingte), and we ¬nd
only things (Dinge),” punning on the German words for “condition” and
“thing.”± Like H¨ lderlin, he thought that self-consciousness discloses
the “unconditioned” “ our own individual existence as itself a disclosure
of “being” in general “ and poetry paradigmatically provides the only
kind of indirect way of expressing and communicating that disclosure.
Novalis took this, however, in a quite different direction from H¨ lderlin
in his own poetry and philosophical speculations; like H¨ lderlin™s own
effort, Novalis™s own attempts at working out the philosophy of self-
consciousness (contained mostly in his notebooks for his studies on Fichte
in ±·µ) remain only fragmentary studies. Like H¨ lderlin, he understood
there to be a fundamental form of self-apprehension that was not re-
lational, which, in turn, gave rise to a form of self-consciousness that
was explicitly relational: “The I must be divided in order for the I to
be “ only the impulse to be the I uni¬es it “ the unconditioned ideal of
the pure I is thus characteristic of the I in general.”±· However, unlike
H¨ lderlin, who thought of self-conscious life as necessarily embodying
within itself competing directions and claims, which could only be deli-
cately held in balance by love and the apprehension of beauty, Novalis
came to think that the kind of existence, or “being,” that is disclosed in
self-consciousness remains, as it were, forever out of our reach because of
the kind of temporal creatures we are.± Our apprehension of the “being”
that our own existence discloses always remains something in the past
not now fully accessible; as something to be achieved in the future and
thus also not now fully accessible; and in the present, our sense of our
own existence remains problematic precisely because of our temporality,
± Friedrich von Hardenberg, Werke, Tageb¨ cher und Briefe (hereafter WTB ) (eds. Hans-Joachim M¨ hl
u a
and Richard Samuel) (Munich: Carl Hanser, ±·), vol. , Novalis: Das philosophisch-theoretische Werk,
p. ·; part of Bl¨ tenstaub ±··/ (“Pollen ±··/”). Quite literally: “Everywhere we seek the
un-thing-ifed (unconditioned), and we ¬nd only things.”
±· Hardenberg, WTB, ©©©, p. ±·. Cited in Frank, Unendliche Ann¨ herung, p. .
± See the very subtle and insightful discussion of this theme in Frank, Unendliche Ann¨ herung.
± Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
the way in which our consciousness is always stretched out between past,
present, and future. Being the contingent, temporal creatures we are,
we search (necessarily, so Novalis seemed to think) as Fichte did for an
absolute foundation for our lives “ for our empirical, religious, moral,
and aesthetic judgments “ only always to ¬nd such a ground continually
receding from us.
Like some of the other early Romantics, Novalis preferred the apho-
rism and the collection of fragmentary observations to the more scholarly,
“scienti¬c” presentations of Fichte or Schelling.± This was also in keep-
ing with his own views about the necessary incompleteness of human
existence as it is lived out: since the ground that we necessarily seek is
always receding, always out of reach (even though we always have an
intimation of it), we are constantly seeking to “pin down” that contin-
gent, open-ended existence “ what he calls a “striving for rest “ but just
for all that, an in¬nite striving as long as the subject does not become
the pure I “ which does not happen as long as the I remains I.”° The
philosophical urges for system and for “foundations” are thus rooted in
the nature of contingent, human temporal agency itself. Faced with the
groundless contingency of our lives, we ¬nd in the intellectual intuition
of the “being” that is the “ground” of our existence an image of a kind
of resting place within our own lives, a kind of “home” in which the
choices about our existence are already made for us and do not need to
¬nd their foundation in our own choices and resoluteness about things.
Novalis thereby came to conceive of the central issue in our temporal
existence as that of authenticity, of how to be true to ourselves as the kind of
open-ended temporally existing creatures we are, and of how to be true
to the fact that the choices we make about who we are to be are themselves
choices based on fully contingent matters, that are not only themselves
not objects of choice but whose very nature is necessarily obscured from
our view. For the most part, we live only in “everyday life,” as he calls
it, which “consists of nothing but life-sustaining tasks which recur again
and again. The inauthentic life is lived by the “philistines” who “live only
an everyday life. The principal means seems their only purpose . . . They
± For strong contrasts in the reading of Novalis, compare Frank™s account in Unendliche Ann¨ herung
(which is philosophically interesting on its own independently of whether its claims are true of
Novalis) and that of Jean-Louis Viellard-Baron, Hegel et L™Id´alisme Allemand (Paris: Vrin, ±).
Viellard-Baron reads Novalis as vindicating the claims of the “image” against the Hegelian
“concept,” seeing Novalis as a kind of mystical, enchanted thinker intent on noting how the
microcosm of human experience mirrors within itself the macrocosm of the universe. He notes:
“To become the microcosm for man is to become Christ, or, more precisely, the cosmic Christ;
to become Christ is to ¬nd in the cosmos his own image re¬‚ected as in a mirror,” p. ±.
° Hardenberg, WTB, ©©©, p. µ°.
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±·
mix poetry with it only in case of necessity, simply because they are used to
a certain interruption of their daily habits.”± The opposite of being such
a “philistine,” sustaining a mechanical repetition of everyday habits, is
to be an authentic person, someone living outside of the “commonplace”
or someone who has subjectively transformed the “commonplace” into
something magical. (As he put it: “Do we perhaps need so much energy
and effort for ordinary and common things because for an authentic hu-
man being nothing is more out of the ordinary “ nothing more common
than wretched ordinariness?” )
Novalis interpreted the philosophical search for system and for a “¬nal
grounding,” a “¬rst principle” as only a symptom of this quest for a
“home,” for something that would pin down our existence and give us a
direction without our having actively to orient ourselves by it. This desire
for “system” in philosophy is thus itself a form of pathology, a “logical
illness” as Novalis calls it: “Philosophy is actually homesickness “ the
urge to be everywhere at home.” Such a search to be “everywhere
at home” can only be another form of inauthenticity, another way of
seeking some ¬xed point in oneself or the world that would supposedly
anchor the inherent unrest of human existence.
There were only two cures for this “logical illness,” so Novalis thought:
one was imaginative poetry, Poesie; the other was simply the refusal to sys-
tematize everything by philosophizing through the use of the fragment
and the epigram, and, quite importantly, by philosophizing in conver-
sation with others, as “symphilosophy” (sympathetic communal philos-
ophizing). (The term was coined by Friedrich Schlegel.) Fragmentary
“symphilosophy” and poetry together work against such inauthenticity
in that they both seek to “romanticize” the world, which Novalis charac-
terized in the following manner: “Romanticizing is nothing other than
a qualitative raising to a higher power. The lower self is identi¬ed with
a better self in this operation. This operation is as yet quite unknown.
By giving a higher meaning to the ordinary, a mysterious appearance
± Novalis: Philosophical Writings (ed. and trans. Margaret Mahony Stoljar) (Albany: State University
of New York Press, ±·), no. ·, p. ·; WTB, ©©, p. .
 Ibid., no. ±, p. ; WTB, ©©, p. °.
 Ibid., no. µ, p. ±µ. Compare also no. , p. ±±: “ °  © ¬    °  ©   ¬ °     ¬  §  . An absolute
drive toward perfection and completeness is an illness, as soon as it shows itself to be destructive
and averse toward the imperfect, the incomplete.” Novalis also says of those who wish to ¬x the
contingency of subjectivity either in the subject or the object: “Both are logical illnesses “ kinds
of delusion “ in which nonetheless the ideal is revealed or re¬‚ected in two ways” pp. ±±“±.
Nietzsche later remarked of the philosophical quest for a non-perspectival point of view that it
is part of the “ascetic ideal,” which in essence is the “incarnate wish for being otherwise, being
elsewhere . . . ” Friedrich Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality (ed. Keith Ansell-Pearson, trans.
Carol Diethe) (Cambridge University Press, ±), p. .
± Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
to the ordinary, the dignity of the unacquainted to that of which we
are acquainted, the mere appearance of in¬nity to ¬nite, I romanticize
them.” For Novalis, romanticizing thus involves poetically redescrib-
ing the world so that our own existence “ fragmentary, incomplete, and
unable to be fully articulated “ is better disclosed to us for what it is, and
we are thereby able to live out our lives as more meaningful and more
self-directed, all the while remaining responsive to the world in itself, all
of which is accomplished by attending to the beautiful in nature and art.
Novalis thus embodied the twin commitments of early Romantic theory
in an intense, although highly aestheticized, manner: we have to be re-
sponsive to the world (or “being,” as he would say), but our responses
must be creative, even be works of art themselves; as he put it, “life must
not be a novel that is given to us, but one that is made by us.”µ
Novalis became engaged again in ±· and in ±· began his ca-
reer as a supervisor in the salt-mining industry. However, like so many
of the Romantic generation in Germany and England, Novalis died
young, succumbing in ±°± to tuberculosis, and the wedding never took
place. Hegel, who knew him in Jena, scornfully characterized him in his
Phenomenology as the quintessential “beautiful soul,” whose “light dies
away within it, and it vanishes like a shapeless vapor that dissolves into
thin air.” The members of the Jena circle, however, continued to cham-
pion Novalis™s literary work long after his death, even long after the circle
itself had broken up, although his posthumous fame rested almost solely
on his poetic works. His philosophical works have only recently come to
be appreciated both as original pieces and as shards of evidence for the
argument about self-consciousness that was emerging in Jena at the time
but which was never expressed fully in published form.

¬©: ®© ¬©§©® ®¤
 ©¤µ©©¬© ¦ ©®¤©©¤µ¬©
Besides Schelling, the greatest of the Romantic thinkers in the Berlin/
Jena circles was clearly Friedrich Daniel Schleiermacher, whose own
renown has always been as a theologian. However, his ±· book, On
Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers, proved to be epochal for the
 Hardenberg, WTB, ©©, no. ±°µ, p.  (“qualitative raising to a higher power” renders “qualitative
µ Novalis: Philosophical Writings, no. , p. .
 Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit (trans. A. V. Miller) (Oxford University Press, ±··), para. µ,
p. °°; Ph¨ nomenologie des Geistes (eds. Hans Friedrich Wessels and Heinrich Clairmont) (Hamburg:
Felix Meiner, ±), pp. “.
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±
development of Romantic thought and provided one of the most elo-
quent and consistent expressions of its twin themes of the irreducibility
of individuality and the necessity of holding together in one thought the
idea of our own creativity in the use of language and our responsiveness
to a reality independent of us, all mixed together with an emphasis on
the “aesthetic” dimension of human experience as disclosing something
existentially and philosophically profound to us.·
Although he shared virtually all of the views that led people like
Novalis and Friedrich Schlegel to prefer the “fragment” to the system-
atic treatise, Schleiermacher was not nearly as disinclined to system-
atic treatises as they were. Nonetheless, his signi¬cant early works were
written as “speeches” or “monologues” or “con¬dential letters” rather
than as drawn-out, scholarly works, and, perhaps even more intensely
than Novalis™s or Schlegel™s works, Schleiermacher™s early works express
the gnawing sense of alienation and the generational rupture experi-
enced by that group born around ±··°. Running throughout all the early
Romantics™ writings “ and in Schleiermacher™s writings all the more so “
is an intense dissatisfaction with German Protestant Christianity as be-
ing little more than a fragmented, lifeless ecclesiastical bureaucracy far
more interested in enforcing small details about doctrine than in pursu-
ing any kind of truth. Inspired as it had been by Rousseau™s and Jacobi™s
articulations of the importance of the emotions in individual life, that gen-
eration focused more and more on its own gnawing doubts about whether
Christianity at its heart really is a living religion, whether it even could
be reformed into a living religion, or whether it is doomed forever to
be only a “positive” (as the popular term of the day had it) religion of
orthodoxy and bureaucracy. (For example, completely independently of
the early Romantic circle and in another place, Hegel, in the late ±·°s,
was busily churning out unpublished treatises on the “positivity” versus
the “spirit” of Christianity and the need for a “subjective religion.”)
Schleiermacher himself was raised in the famous pietist Christian
community of the Herrnhut in Moravia. The Pietists were profoundly
suspicious of the intellectual articulations of Christianity dominant in
the seminaries; what was at stake in Christian religion, for them, was the
pure feeling of God™s presence in the hearts of the believers. This openness

· F. D. A. Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers (ed. and trans. Richard Crouter)
(Cambridge University Press, ±; Uber die Religion: Reden an die Gebildeten unter ihren Ver¨ chtern
¨ a
(Hamburg: Felix Meiner, ±µ). There are numerous scholarly disputes about the relation be-
tween this book and Schleiermacher™s later work on Christian faith as professor of theology at
Berlin, which I shall simply sidestep here.
±µ° Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
to God in one™s hearts, in turn, produces a transformative effect on the
faithful, and that, in turn, leads to an outward orientation to reforming
society by bringing it more in line with Christian ideals. (Pietists in fact
founded orphanages, hospitals, and did other such “good works.”) Faith
and feeling and commitment to reform the world, not dry orthodoxy and
overly intellectualized theology, were thus the hallmarks of Pietism. As
a young man, however, Schleiermacher went through a crisis of faith “
as with many young intellectuals of this period, his crisis was instigated
by a reading of Kant™s works “ and he rejected all the pietist claims and
arguments in favor of reason, only to regain his faith later in his twenties
and pursue his theological studies. Like almost all of his contemporaries,
he at ¬rst could not ¬nd suitable employment and had to content himself
with being a house-tutor for a well-to-do family from ±·° to ±·, only
managing to get a preacher™s job somewhat later. In ±·, while serving
as a chaplain at the Charit´ hospital in Berlin, he became acquainted
with Friedrich Schlegel and the Romantic circle by attending some of the
famous salons of Berlin at that time that were run by Berlin™s prominent
Jewish families.
On Religion was the outcome of his conversations and engagement
with the Jena/Berlin circles. In some ways, Schleiermacher™s thought,
like that of so many of the early Romantics, took as its jumping-off
points both Kant™s claim in the Critique of Judgment that aesthetic judg-
ments are oriented by the Idea of the “supersensible substrate” of nature
and freedom, and Jacobi™s idea that only in “feeling” are we in contact
with the “unconditioned” that Kant said reason only vainly sought.
Whereas Kant, in his own words, wanted to “deny knowledge, in order to
make room for faith,” Schleiermacher and his fellow Romantics (under
the in¬‚uence of Jacobi) seemed to want to deny (or limit) knowledge in
order to make room for mystery, for a re-enchanted view of the world.
Religion, Schleiermacher said, was based neither on morals (as Kant
and Fichte would have had it) nor on metaphysics (as the defenders of
orthodoxy would have it) but “breathes there where freedom itself has
once more become nature.” It “breathes,” that is, where Spinozism
¬‚ourishes, where the “one and all” (Schleiermacher™s term), the “in¬nite
nature of totality” is taken up by human agents in “quiet submissiveness,”
that is, in some kind of reception of and responsiveness to the “one and
all,” to what Novalis and H¨ lderlin had simply called “being.”°

  On Religion, p. ; Uber die Religion, p. .
See Critique of Pure Reason, xxx. ¨
° On Religion, p. ; Uber
¨ die Religion, p. . (“Submissiveness” renders “Ergebenheit.”) After ±,
Schleiermacher was to characterize this feeling of submissiveness as the feeling of “pure
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±µ±
Religion thus begins in the kind of self-apprehension of which
H¨ lderlin and Novalis had spoken. Its mode of apprehension of this
“one and all” is that of “intuition”; religion for Schleiermacher is thus
a matter of the way the individual fundamentally sees the world, of the
“picture” he has of it, how he, as Schleiermacher himself puts it, “intuits”
it. Since this “intuition” is a “view,” a “picture” of where one does and
even must stand in the greater scheme of things, it determines one™s
ultimate standards of evaluation for belief, action, or appreciation. One
cannot thereby be argued either into or out of such a view, since the nature
of that fundamental view is ultimately a practical, even existential matter
of the kind of person one is and must be, not of the kinds of arguments
one can muster for certain conclusions.±
One™s basic “intuition” of the “one and all” must therefore be highly
individual, even unique, in its contours, since it is the manner by which
one grasps the sense of one™s own existence as having its possibility only
in terms of the larger sense of “being” that forms the horizon against
which it is disclosed. It is the way in which a contingent, historically
situated individual apprehends his basic stance to the universe, his place
in the larger scheme of things. As such a contingent individual, one has
an “intuition” of the “in¬nite,” of the “one and all” (of that which is
inherently self-contained and unbounded), and one™s own intuition in-
troduces necessarily a kind of boundedness and delimitation into some-
thing that cannot be fully identi¬ed with that very individual way of
grasping it and shaping one™s response to it in one™s imagination. Since,
as Schleiermacher notes, it is a matter of logic that one must distinguish
the ways in which concepts are subsumed under other, more general
concepts “ such as the way in which the concepts of “dog” and “cat”
are subsumed under the concept, “animal” “ and the way in which in-
dividuals instantiate certain concepts “ the way in which we say of the
individual, Schleiermacher, that he was a theologian “ Schleiermacher
concludes that we must admit that being an individual cannot therefore be
fully exhausted by an enumeration of the various concepts that describe
or “subsume” the individual.

dependence” (schlechthinnige Abh¨ ngigkeit). Hegel was later and infamously to use this to claim
that Schleiermacher™s conception of faith as dependence could not distinguish the feeling of
faith from a dog™s happiness at getting a bone from its master. See Frank, Unendliche Ann¨ herung,
pp. µff.
± See On Religion, p. ; Uber die Religion, p. : “Religion apprehends man . . . from the vantage
point where he must be what he is, whether he likes it or not.”
 On Religion, p. ±°; Uber die Religion, p. ±. Schleiermacher draws on the distinction between
class inclusion and class membership to make this point. As he puts it in his text: “If we divide
a concept as much as we want and continue ad in¬nitum, we still never arrive at individuals
±µ Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
Orthodoxy, on the other hand, wishes to impose a doctrinal standard
on these intuitions, to group them under pre-determined categories and
to exclude those that cannot be so grouped. The ultimately individual
nature of such “intuitions,” however, makes them impossible to be so
ordered. Orthodoxy, therefore, cannot really claim to be religion “ it may
be socially ef¬cacious, but it is not religion. For that reason, Schleierma-
cher argues, church and state (which requires uniformity of law) must
be kept separate for the sake of religion. In fact, all forms of sectarian-
ism, religious or otherwise, work against true “religion” in this sense. In
that light, even all systematic philosophical views are “sectarian”: they
proceed ultimately from different principles and different “intuitions”
of the world. To impose a philosophical system on a people or to use
any one philosophical system to provide the “foundations” for religion
(whether the system be Kantian, utilitarian, rationalist, or empiricist)
must therefore be misguided and can only falsify the inherent ambiguity
and uniqueness of the religious experience itself.
This fundamental, core “intuition” of the universe forms the basic
background against which one fashions the most central set of words
and expressions of authoritative norms that one uses to evaluate oneself
and others. This is not, however, a purely intellectual process; one™s basic
“intuition” (or “view”) of one™s place in the greater scheme of things is
as much conveyed by one™s emotional orientation to this whole as it is by
any thoughts one might have of it, and (as Reinhold had argued) such
basic orientations rest on certain basic building blocks. “Every intuition,”
Schleiermacher insisted, “is, by its very nature, connected with a feeling,”
and “if a determinate religion is not supposed to begin with a fact, it
cannot begin at all; for there must be a basis, and it can only be a
subjective one for why something is brought forth and placed in the
center.” This “fact,” however, is a subjective “sense,” more or less, that
“this is how I must stand with regard to the greater scheme of things” and
that the rest of one™s orientation to life emerges out of one™s responsiveness
to that basic “fact.”
Since there is no getting behind these core intuitions, and since they
form the unique way in which an individual sees how he must stand
toward the world, there must also be a plurality of such intuitions and
therefore necessarily also a plurality of religions. The crucial, fundamental
mistake in thinking about religion, Schleiermacher argues, is to fail to
by this means but only at less universal concepts that are contained under earlier concepts as
divisions and subdivisions.”
 On Religion, p. , p. ±±°; Uber die Religion, pp. ·, ±µ (“Fact” renders “Faktum”).
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±µ
realize the necessity of this plurality and to attempt to impose some uni-
formity on religion. Although one can draw various logical conclusions
from such basic intuitions, one cannot logically move from one basic
intuition (or basic evaluative language) to another; there simply are no
inferential links between any one such basic intuition and another, nor
can there be any way of comparing any one such basic “intuition” to
another, since the terms of comparison themselves are rooted in a unique
basic intuition, and there are no terms that span all of them, no neutral
framework in which one can impartially frame the other™s basic concerns
and norms. (These days we would say that such “intuitions” are therefore
To ¬nd appealing another™s “intuition” (or his articulation of it) is only
to discover that it expresses better than some alternative one™s own ap-
prehension of where one must be in the grander scheme of things; or,
in Schleiermacher™s own preferred terminology, “there is no determi-
nate inner connection between the various intuitions and feelings of the
universe . . . each individual intuition and feeling exists for itself and can
lead to every other one through a thousand accidental connections.”
Because of the sheer contingency of such intuitions, the only appropriate
exhibition of the real essence of religion must therefore be fragmentary,
and any systematic theoretical presentation (either theological or philo-
sophical) can only distort what is really at stake in religious experience.
The appropriate literary mode of expression for this therefore had to
be something like the frank exchange of “letters” to a “friend” or even
“monologues” (Schleiermacher tried both of these forms), something
that expressed an individual™s deeply felt “take” on things as communi-
cated to somebody who already shared enough of that “take” to be able
to understand it or at least to be open to it. Neither the Kantian nor the
Fichtean critical treatise could suf¬ce.
Like Kant™s “ethical commonwealth” in which people can only en-
ter freely (unlike the societal commonwealth into which people can be
coerced), Schleiermacher™s “true church” is simply a “religious com-
munity” of free agents, who “rejoice in their community, in their pure
fellowship in which they would exhibit and communicate only their in-
nermost existence, actually have nothing in common whose possession
would have to be protected for them by a worldly power.”µ Such a com-
munity of believers formed the only possible “home” for the alienated
 On Religion, p. ±°±; Uber die Religion, p. ±°.
µ On Religion, p. ; Uber die Religion, pp. ±°“±± (“Fellowship” translates “Geselligkeit” and
“existence” translates “Dasein”).
±µ Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
actors of the modern world, and it was crucial to preserve this “home”
from the natural desire to extend it and impose it on others “ as
Schleiermacher put the matter: “the zeal about the extension of reli-
gion is only the pious longing of the stranger for home, the endeavor
to carry one™s fatherland with one and everywhere to intuit its laws and
customs.” For Schleiermacher (as for the other early Romantics), the
desire to be “at home” should not be construed as sanctioning the im-
position of some kind of orthodoxy of belief on those who cannot share
one™s ideals; the true “home” is in the free religious community and the
acknowledgement of the necessary plurality of religions. (Schleierma-
cher would have fully agreed with Wordsworth™s formulation in his ±°µ
Prelude, “Our destiny, our nature, and our home / Is with in¬nitude, and
only there “ .”· )
This, of course, raised the question for Schleiermacher (as it did for
all the early Romantics) about the status of Christianity. All of the early
Romantics, Schleiermacher included, were ambivalent about Christian
religion (at least in their youth). Like the good Pietists many of them had
been, they wanted a new reformation of the Christian Church accompa-
nied by a social and political reformation of the world around them; but
they distrusted the existing churches, and they toyed with the idea of im-
porting Eastern religions or even founding a new, more spiritual religion
to replace Christianity. Schleiermacher™s own rather relativistic conclu-
sions about religion “ that because of the uniqueness of each individual,
there must necessarily be a plurality of religions, which, in turn, it would
be wrong to suppress “ seemed to invite the obvious conclusion that
Christianity was just one religion among many, one way of viewing how
people had to stand to the “in¬nite” that they so vaguely sensed. Schleier-
macher himself even went so far as to claim that the whole idea of having
an authorized “Bible” was itself contradictory to the spirit of true religion.
Nonetheless, Schleiermacher balked at the idea that Christianity was
only one religion among many on the in¬nite menu of religious experi-
ence. Instead, borrowing a term from Schelling, he argued that Chris-
tianity was a higher “power” (Potenz) of religion, a kind of meta-religion,
as it were, a religion of religion. The central “intuition” of Christianity,
he claimed, was the view that, since the claims of religion in general must
always be embodied in the actions and decisions of ¬‚esh-and-blood peo-
ple, religion is always in the process of degenerating and recomposing
 On Religion, p. ·; Uber die Religion, p. ±°.
· William Wordsworth, The Prelude (ed. Jonathan Wordsworth) (London: Penguin Books, ±µ),
p. ° (: µ“µ).
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±µµ
itself. Contingent, historically limited people will always be tempted to
interpret their own view of the greater scheme of things as the only pos-
sible view, to persecute those who have differing “intuitions” as heretics,
and to abuse the of¬ces of whatever church then gets established. Thus,
the fundamental religious experience for Christians is that of “holy sad-
ness [which] accompanies every joy and every pain” that is attendant on
both the religious experience and the realization that whatever its sta-
tus, it too must fall prey to corruption, to the realization that we are all
“sinners.” (Schleiermacher™s conception of sin obviously draws from
and romanticizes Kant™s notion of radical evil.) Thus, Christianity can
claim a higher status than other religions, particularly in comparison with
Judaism, which Schleiermacher claimed (in keeping with the widespread
belief among Christians of his time) had long since become a dead re-
ligion, a faith that consisted only of orthodoxy and the dead hand of
tradition. (Schleiermacher later became a proponent of Jewish civil and
political emancipation and called for a new form of reformed Judaism;
in ±·, though, he was still relatively hostile to Judaism, even when he
faintly praised it for its “beautiful, childlike character.” Like Kant, he
also thought at the time that there was no deep connection between
Judaism and Christianity, and that Judaism had actually ceased to be a
religion at all, having degenerated into a set of legalistic formalities and
ethnic ties.)
These views eventually drove Schleiermacher into pressing even
deeper into issues of interpretation and meaning. Clearly, if the vari-
ous “intuitions” were incommensurable “ especially if understanding a
religious intuition meant sharing the same form of life as others who
had that intuition “ then it became very unclear just how we were to
understand what people actually meant when they claimed that they had
this or that religious sense. This led Schleiermacher in his later years to
generalize the religious discipline of hermeneutics “ the theory of how
to interpret the Bible “ into a more inclusive theory of interpretation
(nowadays known simply as “hermeneutics” and lacking all its religious
connotations). The key formula of Schleiermacher™s later hermeneu-
tics expressed what has since come to be known as the “hermeneutic
circle”: to understand an individual utterance, I must understand the
whole in which it is embedded (such as the language and the culture of
the speaker), and, to understand that whole, I must understand its parts
(the individual utterances). The interplay of whole and part is absolutely

 
On Religion, p. ±±; Uber die Religion, p. ±·. On Religion, p. ±±; Uber die Religion, p. ±µ.
¨ ¨
±µ Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
necessary for any act of understanding to take place: we cannot build
up our understanding of the whole by adding up the parts “ that is, we
cannot understand the speaker™s language by simply conjoining all the
individual utterances he makes, since we could not understand those ut-
terances unless we already understood the language in some respect; and
we cannot understand the language except by grasping the individual
utterances that make it up. (A “language” for Schleiermacher should not
be hypostatized as a kind of ideal entity that exists independently of its use
by speakers; Schleiermacher™s own emphasis on the irreducibility of indi-
viduality led him to rule out postulating anything like such a “language” “
as a kind of ideal determinate entity that univocally ¬xes the meaning of
the utterances “ that is shared among speakers.) Schleiermacher drew
the conclusion that such “understanding” of the meaning of another™s ut-
terance therefore cannot itself be codi¬ed into a set of rules, even though
any language itself must partly consist of rules (such as those of syntax).
If understanding were a function of applying rules, then we would need
rules for the application of those rules, more rules for the application of
those latter rules, and so forth, ad in¬nitum; and, since we cannot be
required to grasp an in¬nite number of rules, there must some other,
non-rule-governed way of grasping the meaning of utterances.
Understanding the meaning of a sentence must therefore rest on some-
thing that is not itself a rule nor itself simply another interpretation of
the rule. On Schleiermacher™s view, in understanding another, I bring
to bear all my practical and intellectual skills to grasp what he might
have meant in this particular context; I begin with a general background
knowledge (a kind of “technical” knowledge) of the rules of grammar
(both syntactical and semantical), and I take what he has said, form a
hunch as to what he meant, and revise my grasp of his meaning until I
manage to reach some kind of stable understanding. What he and I share,
therefore, cannot be an ideal determinate language that ¬xes in advance
what the meaning of our utterances will be; we must instead each share
a kind of intuitive, non-discursive grasp of the whole context in terms of
which we are encountering each other, and we can only work out our
understandings of each other in light of that shared understanding.
The guiding presupposition of all this is that there is a “unity” that
holds all the utterances together that we cannot fully grasp at ¬rst but
whose grasp must be achieved, not discovered, in the act of coming to
understand the other. Or, in Schleiermacher™s own terms: “But we can
only gradually arrive at the knowledge of the inner unity via the under-
standing of individual utterances, [and] therefore the art of explication
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±µ·
is also presupposed if the inner unity is to be found . . . One can only
be sure that one has found the inner unity if one can collect the totality
of all manners of use. But this is never completed; the task is there-
fore strictly in¬nite and can only be accomplished by approximation.”°
Schleiermacher himself gave competing descriptions of what this inner
unity might be: sometimes he described it as a set of private, mental
episodes, even images, which our words only express; sometimes, how-
ever, he spoke of thought as modeled on outward speech, as a kind of
“inner speaking.”± The general thrust of his arguments in his mature
writings on hermeneutics and dialectics, however, points to a denial that
one can make a sharp “inner/outer” distinction in acts of understand-
ing: to understand the speaker, we must attribute certain beliefs to him,
and we attribute these beliefs to him in light of our understanding of
what he is saying. Getting at the “unity” that is presupposed in such acts
of understanding involves the same interplay of creativity and respon-
siveness that he earlier argued characterizes the religious “intuition” of
the universe. We must take up what the speaker is saying in light of our
own background cognitive skills (which may or may not include one-
self as a speaker of the language in which he is speaking), and we must
then interpret his own individual utterances in light of that kind of only
partially articulated background assumptions and skills, modifying both
those background assumptions and our understanding of the utterance
as we go along. It is crucial, Schleiermacher insisted, to acknowledge that
“every utterer has an individuality of style which appears everywhere.”
There are only two general ways to go about this. The “compara-
tive method” is methodical and utilizes canons of interpretation: one
brings to bear certain established rules of interpretation on the utter-
ances or writings of somebody, and one arrives at the individual aspects
of what is meant “ of the “individuality of style” “ by comparing it with
other similar types of utterance. For example, one might argue that one
should understand a particular line from a fourteenth-century author in
such-and-such a way by showing that other authors in the same period
typically meant such-and-such by it; and one can show that the individual
author meant something slightly different from what was “typically” said
by members of his historical generation by focusing on the ways in which

° Friedrich Schleiermacher, Hermeneutics and Criticism and Other Writings (ed. and trans. Andrew
Bowie) (Cambridge University Press, ±), p. µ. Bowie™s introduction to the volume is es-
pecially helpful in locating the importance of Schleiermacher™s hermeneutics to contemporary
discussions of the issues.
±  Ibid., p. µ.
Ibid., p. .
±µ Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
he and his writings differed from the others. Schleiermacher describes the
other method as that of “divination”: “The divinatory method is the one
in which one, so to speak, transforms oneself into the other person and
tries to understand the individual element directly.” One puts oneself
in the other™s shoes and tries to see the world from that person™s particu-
lar point of view; in distinction from the comparative method, there can
be no rules for such a procedure. Indeed, without presupposing such a
cognitive ability to see things from other perspectives, Schleiermacher
argued, we could not even arrive at the “comparative” method in the
¬rst place. A shared or intersubjective understanding of what it is like to
have another point of view distinct from one™s own is thus a presupposi-
tion of all acts of understanding; and that more general grasp of what it
is like to have another point of view can itself be sharpened and re¬ned
(if one possesses the right capacities for empathy) into an understanding
(always only more or less) of what it would be like to be that other person.
This, however, is more of an emotional skill than it is a matter of more
austerely cognitive matters; or, to put it another way, one cannot sharply
separate cognitive from emotional skills in acts of understanding. (Not
unsurprisingly, Schleiermacher, like many of his contemporaries, char-
acterizes the divinatory method as “the female strength in knowledge of
people,” whereas the comparative method is male; men follow the rules,
and women are more direct, emotional, and empathic. )

¦©¤© ¬§¬:  ©® ¦  ¦§®¤ ¬©¦
Friedrich Schlegel was in some ways the intellectual spark of the Jena
circle, even though his own contributions to it did not outstrip those of
the others. His own life had more than its share of drama. Born in ±·· to
a moderately prosperous family in Hannover, he was originally pushed
by his family to train for a career in banking, but, ¬nding that line of
work odious, he managed even without having ¬nished Gymnasium to
be admitted to university studies in G¨ ttingen, where he studied clas-
sical philology along with law, and he continued his studies in law in
Dresden. In ±·, under the in¬‚uence of Caroline B¨ hmer (later to
marry his brother, August, then to divorce him shortly thereafter and
marry Schelling), he decided to try to make a career as an indepen-
dent man of letters, a career path that in Germany at that time had
had little real success. Plagued with the money problems attendant on
 
Ibid., p. . Ibid., p. .
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±µ
such a career choice, he followed his brother, August Schlegel (a literary
critic and, among other things, an excellent translator of Shakespeare)
to Jena in ±·, from where, still short of money, he moved to Berlin in
±·· where he became friends with Schleiermacher and Ludwig Tieck
(a major early Romantic writer); they formed among themselves one of
the ¬rst circles of early Romantic intellectuals.
During his stay in Berlin, he also made the acquaintance of Dorothea
Mendelssohn Veit in the salons of Berlin. Born in ±· (and therefore
almost ten years older than Schlegel), she was the oldest daughter of the
philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn, and had been raised in a household
that strictly observed Jewish law and custom; at an early age (in ±··), she
had been married off to a Berlin banker, Simon Veit. Caught in a love-
less marriage (with two sons), she and Friedrich Schlegel fell in love and
began a passionate and publicly scandalous affair that led to her divorce
in ±·. (Her close friend, Henriette Herz and their common friend,
Schleiermacher, stood by both of them during this period.) In ±·,
Schlegel moved back to Jena, where in ±· he and August had founded
and co-edited the journal, Athen¨ um, in which they were to publish and
publicize the views of the early Romantics. (Athen¨ um ceased publication
in ±°°.) Almost immediately Dorothea joined him in Jena and became
a force on her own in the Romantic circle. In ±·, Schlegel published
a novel, Lucinde, an only barely disguised ¬ctional account of his and
Dorothea™s ongoing non-marital affair. Its link of sexual passion and
spiritual ful¬llment between the two lovers in the novel and its open
celebration of love unencumbered by the social conventions of marriage
(and in which sexual ful¬llment was thereby only more intensi¬ed) made
the book both a scandal and a bestseller, and it made its author fa-
mous. The kind of “symphilosophy” advocated by the circle (the term
was Schlegel™s own coinage, as was the term, “romanticism” itself ) made
Jena into the center of avant-garde intellectual life in Germany, perhaps
in Europe at the time. Friedrich Schlegel famously described the uni-
versity as a “symphony of professors.” Dorothea wrote to her friends in
Berlin, still scandalized by her behavior, that “such an eternal concert of
wit, poetry, art, and science as surrounds me here can easily make one
forget the rest of the world.”µ The mercurial temperaments of the circle,

µ The citation from Schlegel comes from Theodore Ziolkowski, German Romanticism and Its Institutions
(Princeton University Press, ±°), p. ±; Dorothea Schlegel™s remark is to be found in J. M.
Raich (ed.), Dorothea von Schlegel geb. Mendelssohn und deren S¨hne Johannes und Philip Veit, Briefwechsel
(Mainz: Franz Kirchheim, ±±), ©, p. ±. Quoted in Hans Eichner, Friedrich Schlegel (New York:
Twayne Publishers, ±·°), p. ±.
±° Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
however, doomed it from the start, and with the death of Novalis in ±°±,
it ¬nally broke up. Schlegel™s own rebellious tendencies began themselves
to become more conventional, and in ±°, he and Dorothea were ¬nally
married after both had moved to Paris and she had been baptized into
the Protestant faith; in ±°, they both converted to Catholicism while
in Cologne. Friedrich and Dorothea moved to Austria in ±°, where
he became a propagandist for Metternich™s nationalist campaign against
Napoleonic in¬‚uence and control in Germany. While on a speaking tour,
he died in Dresden in ±.
Schlegel shared many, and probably even most, of the philosophical
presuppositions of Schleiermacher and Novalis, and like both of them
(and especially like Novalis), he was thoroughly anti-systematic in tem-
perament, holding that the only appropriate literary form for thinking
about self-consciousness was the “fragment,” which he turned into a liter-
ary form in itself (published mostly in Athen¨ um). Only the “fragment” “ an
aphorism or a short meditation on some topic “ could capture the sense
in which what cannot be “represented” in consciousness can be nonethe-
less “hinted at” in art. The work of art points beyond itself to something
that can be “shown” but not “said,” about which we can thus only
speak indirectly. Echoing Novalis, Schlegel declared that: “Philosophy
is a mutual search for omniscience,” something that he thought a good
acquaintance with literature and poetry would cure.·
Schlegel™s own major conceptual contribution to the early Roman-
tic line of thought was the notion of irony. In recognizing that we can
never be fully at home in the world because of the kind of contingent,
self-interpreting, temporal beings we are, while also recognizing that,
as the kind of creatures we are, we simply cannot escape re¬‚ecting on
our basic commitments, we ¬nd ourselves faced with the most basic of
contradictions in our own lives, which he expressed in various ways,
but most succinctly as the “most authentic contradiction” in human
self-consciousness, the “feeling that we are at the same time ¬nite and
in¬nite.” That is, we “feel” that we are or can be in touch with some-
thing that would justify our lives and actions and enable us to say that we
were indeed “getting it right” in our judgments and actions; yet, at the
same time, recognizing our own contingency and temporality, our own

 In Hegel: A Biography (Cambridge University Press, °°°), I erroneously remarked that Dorothea
was Friedrich Schlegel™s wife while they were in Jena.
· Friedrich Schlegel, Philosophical Fragments (trans. Peter Firchow) (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, ±±), no. , p. ·°.
 Schlegel, Werke, ©©, p. ; cited in Frank, Einf¨ hrung in die fr¨ hromantische Asthetik, p. °.
u u
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±±
¬nitude, we realize that all our attitudes are contingent, time-bound,
and subject to all the ¬‚aws of human character and our capacities for
self-deception. The only appropriate response is that of irony, of real-
izing that, as re¬‚ective people, we can never fully identify with all of
our commitments since we can never give them the kind of justi¬cation
that we always nonetheless have a hunch “could” be given to them “if
only” we could fully articulate that sense of “being” of which Novalis
and Schleiermacher spoke. Or, to put it another way: we always have a
sense of having to orient ourselves within some sense of our place in the
greater scheme of things “ such is a condition of self-consciousness “ but,
as re¬‚ective beings, we realize that our own “take” on this is never more
than a contingent, even contradictory expression of our particular mode
of understanding things. Irony expresses both our unavoidable commit-
ments to certain projects and our own inevitable, re¬‚ective detachment
from these same things. Irony is thus the appropriate stance to feeling
both inescapably committed and inescapably detached at the same time.
Schlegel developed his theory of irony by creatively misinterpreting
and radicalizing Fichte™s notion of the self-positing “I.” For Fichte, the “I”
both licenses all its inferences and authorizes itself to issue such licenses.
Adopting that to the conception of self-consciousness being worked out
in common by the Romantic Jena crowd, Schlegel took Fichte™s notion
of self-authorization to imply that, however submerged the agent always
is in his projects, as “self-positing,” he is nonetheless always capable of
backing away from them and even stepping out of them, of being both
absorbed in them while never being fully identi¬ed with them. The two
appropriate genres for an ironist are therefore allegory (which always
points to a meaning beyond itself that it cannot discursively articulate)
or the joke, which punctures in a “¬‚ash” (a Blitz) the pretensions to self-
enclosure that almost always accompany conscious human life. (It might
even be said that Schlegel™s notion of allegory was already metaphorical
itself, since it was clearly being used in a slightly different sense than
the more usual sense of “allegory.”) To see this was “Romantic,” and, in
Schlegel™s account, Shakespeare thereby counts as the greatest of all the
Romantic artists since his own subjectivity and commitments could never
be exhausted by what was to be found in his plays; “Shakespeare” was
always more than the author of his plays, a playful presence behind all
the different appearances to be found in the various texts he left behind.
In one of his most famous aphorisms for Athen¨ um, Schlegel proclaimed
that Romantic poetry “recognizes as its ¬rst commandment that the free
choice (Willk¨ r) of the poet can tolerate no law above itself ” “ Schlegel™s
± Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
own radicalization of the themes of spontaneity and autonomy begun
in Kant and continued in Fichte. Truly self-legislating agents must be
capable of setting all the rules for themselves, even the rules for setting
the rules, and the rules for setting those, even while they are also being
responsive to the world around them. If, therefore, everything really is up
for grabs, then, as opposed to what Kant and Fichte thought, there can
be no rules that are necessary to being a rational agent in general, since
whatever criteria one would have to employ to justify such a conclusion
would themselves be up for grabs; however, like all the early Romantics,
Schlegel asserted that view about there being no rules while also hold-
ing equally strongly that there were indeed constraints on our willing
that came not from our own self-legislation (or from “reason”) but from
“being” itself. Like the other early Romantics, he therefore concluded
that art, not philosophy, was to play the crucial role in articulating this
fundamental tension in experience.
The net effect of Schlegel™s “ indeed, all of the early Romantics™ “
re¬‚ections was to make aesthetics into one of the central disciplines of
philosophy, a role that aesthetics had lost in Anglophone philosophy since
the various empiricist and Humean attacks on the Earl of Shaftesbury™s
own aestheticism in the early eighteenth century. In this, they were only
following Kant in marking out the aesthetic realm as a distinct, even
autonomous realm of its own, whose norms were not reducible to those
of morality, politics, entertainment, or economic production. However,
they at least tried to resist the temptation to make art into a purely
autonomous realm, a realm of “art for art™s sake.” For Schlegel and the
other early Romantics, art was to be judged in terms of whether it gave
us the truth about human life, and Schlegel, famously and combatively,
argued that only a speci¬cally Romantic art could accomplish that task,
since only such an approach to art could possibly capture the sense of
human ¬nitude coupled with the intuition that there really is a way of
“getting it right” about nature and consciousness. Schlegel also rejected
the ideas that there might be some way to de¬nitively set a foundation
for our beliefs (as the Romantics took Reinhold to have attempted) or to
¬nd a foundation in our own spontaneous acts of self-positing (as they
took Fichte to have done).µ° In an Athen¨ um fragment, Schlegel declared:
“Romantic poetry is a progressive, universal poetry . . . And it can also “
more than any other form “ hover at the midpoint between the portrayed
 Schlegel, Philosophical Fragments, no. ±±, p. .
µ° Charles Larmore in The Romantic Legacy is especially good on stressing this point.
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±
and the portrayer, free of all real and ideal self-interest . . . The romantic
kind of poetry is still in the state of becoming; that, in fact, is its real
essence: that it should forever be becoming and never be perfected. It
can be exhausted by no theory and only a divinatory criticism would dare
try to characterize its ideal.”µ± It is also not by accident that the early
Romantics took the crucial step toward the modern reevaluation of music
as the most subjective, maybe the deepest, of all the arts, as that which
expresses most purely the kind of inwardness and link with “being” that
conceptual thought can at best only vaguely and incompletely intimate.
Music, which prior to the nineteenth century was understood as the
lowest of the arts, as having genuine importance only as background to
some sacred text or as a form of entertainment, under the in¬‚uence of
the early Romantics became reevaluated as the “deepest” because most
“subjective” of all the arts.
Nonetheless, despite Schlegel™s playful and witty insistence on the frag-
mented nature of experience and of human life in general, and his view
(shared with the other early Romantics) of “feeling” as our connection
with the kind of existence that is disclosed in our most primordial form
of self-consciousness, there is a kind of abstractness about Schlegel™s
theory of agency or at least a fundamental tension in it. Schlegel™s crit-
ical writings point the way to a kind of “social status” conception of
agency, whereas Lucinde (and some of his many other, although not al-
ways consistent, remarks) stresses the element of ¬‚esh-and-blood human
beings working out the inevitable tensions within human experience.
For Schlegel the critic, the “self ” becomes conceived along the lines of
something like an of¬ce-holder, and any “self ” can hold simultaneously
multiply different of¬ces (critic, lover, revolutionary, and so forth). The
only thing that engenders the contradiction between the different “of-
¬ces” that the individual “self ” can hold is the implicit drive for unity
among the various of¬ces (or “selves”), and the only appropriate re-
sponse to the contradictions engendered by such a demand for unity is
that of irony. The self that stands above and is detached from its various
of¬ces is the ironic, self-legislating self; it is not the passionate, sensual
self of Lucinde. The turn to “inwardness” in Schlegel™s writings thus had
a kind of double edge to it; it both embodied the early Romantic ideal
of the irreducibility of individuality, and, at the same time, also showed
how such a conception, if taken in another way, could drain the notion
of subjectivity of any real commitment that could matter to it. In that
µ± Schlegel, Philosophical Fragments, no. ±±, pp. ±“.
± Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
way, Schlegel pre¬gured both later Romanticism and the much later,
late twentieth-century notions of post-modernism.

 ©§µ©© ¦ °µ¬©®©
Probably no other political idea seized control of the imagination of
the eighteenth century more than that of republicanism. In both the
Americas and Europe, enlightened men and women spoke glowingly
of the virtues of republicanism, sometimes as opposed to monarchy,
sometimes in alliance with it. What bound all these discussions and
approbation of republican ideals together was the widespread agreement
that republics were free and its citizens were virtuous. Beyond that, however,
there was little agreement about what republicanism actually was.
The early Romantics were no exception. Like many in their gener-
ation, they at ¬rst welcomed the French Revolution, and interpreted it
through the lens of German history, particularly, that of the Reforma-
tion. They tended to see it (perhaps wishfully) as the harbinger of a new
moral and spiritual renewal of what they deeply felt was an ossi¬ed, stul-
tifying German social order. As the Revolution progressed into its more
violent phases, like many other Germans, they followed the path of dis-
appointment followed by rejection, and, after the Napoleonic incursions
into Germany, the ongoing wars on German soil, and the wholesale
reorganization of German life, they tended to become more and more
The longest standing misinterpretation of this period of German life
(and of the early Romantics) came from Madame de Sta¨ l (±·“±±·)
in her book, De l™Allemagne (±±°), in which she launched the idea that
Germany was a land of poets and philosophers, not doers, and that
this was because there was no political life available to Germans, which
required those who would otherwise be its movers and doers to retreat
from the political world into an ethereal world of thoughts. (She was well
acquainted with the circle of early Romantics, having made a famous
trip throughout Germany between December, ±° and April, ±°; she
counted August Schlegel, who was also the tutor to her son, as her friend.)
With her book, though, was born the myth of the non-political or even
the a-political German, supposedly a creature who was passive in politics
and inclined to wandering dreamily off into realms of thought.
In fact, the Germans (intellectuals and non-intellectuals alike) were
hardly passive during this period. There were social disturbances all over
Germany during this period, and there was also an eruption of political
The ±·°s: H¨lderlin, Novalis, Schleiermacher, Schlegel ±µ
theory at work in Germany. It would be hard to write off Kant™s, Fichte™s,
and later Hegel™s work as “a-political,” and almost all the characters in-
volved in the story of post-Kantian thought had something to say about
political matters. The early Romantics were just as taken with political
matters as was anybody else, and they have been unfairly character-
ized, almost unanimously, in the literature that followed as either utter
reactionaries or as befuddled dreamers. In fact, these Romantics were
grappling with the political realities of their day, and the dif¬culties with
their formulations stemmed from their rather vague, monarchist notions
of republicanism rather than with any kind of political passivity or ten-
dency to reaction on their part. (Although some members of the circle,
like Friedrich Schlegel, became much more reactionary as they got older,
even he cannot be characterized as a conservative during the period of
his early career.) Their political thought was moreover in¬‚uenced by
Friedrich Schiller™s well-known criticism of Kantian moral philosophy
for its alleged “rigorism,” its demand that duty and duty alone provide
the motive of action; this seemed to the early Romantics, however much
they took into account Kant™s own attempts to disarm that objection, to
keep out the contingent, emotional parts of life, to demand that we ef-
fectively discard those aspects of life that make such things as duty matter
to us in the ¬rst place.
The most remarkable of these Romantic political theorists was Novalis,
if for nothing else than for the sheer audacity of his ideas. In some ways,
Novalis liked to pose both as a reactionary and a revolutionary; whereas
the rest of the Jena circle liked to shock the solid B¨ rger of German
life, Novalis liked shocking both the B¨ rger and the Jena circle itself. His
most famous work, Christianity or Europe, although curiously enough not
even published in his lifetime, was read to the Jena circle in November,
±·, and it completely succeeded in its goal of exasperating his friends.
Super¬cially interpreted, the piece reads as if Novalis were arguing that
the medieval period was a time of uninterrupted beauty and harmony,
that this was solely due to the wisely executed hegemony of the Catholic
Church, and that the only solution to the revolutionary upheavals of the
time was to reinstate one Catholic Church, the old hierarchical society,
completely hand over rule to a reconstituted Jesuit order, and forget
about modernity. Novalis, however, was up to something very different,
and his odd little tract exposes some of the key dif¬culties in the early
Romantic view of political life in general.
Novalis™s essay is a diatribe against the low state into which Germany
had sunk, seen especially from the standpoint of a member of the minor
± Part II The revolution continued: post-Kantians
Saxon nobility. One of the major problems with “Germany” at the
time “ keeping in mind that there was no “Germany” at this time, only a
series of principalities varying in size from the ridiculously small to the
fairly large “ was that it had no transnational institutions of any impor-
tance. After the Treaty of Westphalia in ±, it had been divided into
its patchwork system of principalities, and after the Peace of Augsburg
of ±µµµ, which established the right of the prince to determine the estab-
lished religion of his territory, even the Protestant Church ceased to be a
transnational German institution. There had remained the ¬ction of the
Holy Roman Empire with its associated courts to which people could in
theory but never in practice appeal, but by ±· it, too, had begun man-
ifestly to reveal itself for the powerless ¬ction it had long since become.
Quite signi¬cantly, it could simply mount no real resistance at all to the
French Revolution or to the incursions of the seemingly invincible French
army into German territories. The fabled German alliance that was to
crush the brief French experiment had been routed by French troops
at Valmy in ±·, and the French had pursued the ¬‚eeing, vanquished
German armies deep into German territory. Since then, the French had
basically been able to do what they wished with German resistance to
The result was to make intensely clear what had long since been clear
enough. The Holy Roman Empire was powerless, and the Protestant
Church in Germany had become just as hidebound by orthodoxy as the
most fanatic slanderers of the Catholic Church had ever imagined the
Catholic Church to be. Even worse, the Protestant Church was strictly
local; every Protestant church in all the different L¨ nder of Germany
was subservient to its prince, who picked its ministers through his own
Consistory and whose universities trained those ministers in the proper
orthodoxy. The Protestant Church was thus little more than another
outcropping of (local) princely authority.
Moreover, the economy in Germany, which in the Middle Ages had
been a lively center of artisans and traders only to be thoroughly dec-
imated by the Thirty Years War, had never again achieved its former
buoyancy. Since the German princes of the eighteenth century needed
funds to ¬nance both the armies and the kind of opulent court life (with
its battery of courtiers and regular, lavish festivals) that the French kings
had made virtually de rigueur for all aspiring princes in Europe, they
increasingly needed to delve more deeply into the economic lives of their
subjects than earlier princes had been required to do, and, to accomplish


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