Notes from chapters 1-5 on Schickler’s “Metaphyics as Christology”

The following are my notes on Jonael Schickler’s Metaphysics as Christology: An Odyssey of the Self from Kant and Hegel to Steiner. I figured I’d post them to give inquiring minds a taste of the ideas he develops in the text. Chapters 6, 7 and the conclusion will follow soon.

Metaphysics as Christology: An Odyssey of the Self from Kant and Hegel to Steiner



-Steiner’s esoteric metaphysics can overcome the opposition between Kantian transcendentalism and Hegelian dialecticism (p. xix)

  -Hegel’s logical dimension is ontologically underdetermined because he does not adequately respond to Kant’s claim that we are unable to know the ground of our sensory intuitions

-Steiner’s 4-fold division of the human being a successor to Aristotle’s physical body, vegetative soul, sensitive soul, and intellectual soul.

  -Steiner fulfills the post-Kantian desire to conceive of nature and spirit, or self and cosmos, as a unity (p. 1)

-The history of philosophy since Kant and up to Heidegger can be read as the successive incarnation of the modern self

  -it is an incarnation because the self begins its odyssey in Descartes as a thinking substance separated from extended matter, but gradually becomes more closely associated with the body

   -Kant articulates how thought is intimately interwoven with the body, but nonetheless remains ontologically skeptical (p. 2)

   -Hegel advances the process of incarnation by:

    1) giving the self a historical and social self-understanding

    2) by considering its development and evolution

    3) by laying out a logic of reality as an immanent self-critique of thought’s most basic categories

      -but no complete account of the physical body is offered

  -Nietzsche arrives at a conception of the self as an unknown or transcendental body that creates both spirit and sense as instruments of its will (p. 3)

  -for Steiner, the physical body is the outer form of an inner reality

  -twentieth century philosophy saw the death of self, especially through the work of Wittgenstein and Heidegger…subjectivity has become fragmented and displaced, lacks spiritual direction

  -despite much modern nihilism, the self is beginning to awaken to spiritual realities (see Grof, Sheldrake, Prokoffief) (p. 4)

-preview of Kant, Hegel, and Steiner (p. 4-7)

  -Hegel’s death-resurrection logic of thought must be applied to the empirical world

  -Steiner’s account of the self-world relation is embedded in an evolutionary conception of the cosmos and of man, wherein man’s fourfold constitution is ontologized and shown to be the necessary preconditions for any embodied experience of reality

-Plato’s discussion of the river Lethe that makes us forget our past incarnations (p. 12)



Chapter 1: Kant’s Faculties and the ‘I think’

-he conceives of human experience as a richly structured unity between the intelligible and the sensible (p. 13)

-imagination is in some way both a sensible and conceptual faculty, since it’s function is to unify these

-the ‘I think’ gives formal unity to consciousness and accompanies all representations (p. 14)

-faculties of cognition:

  –sensibility: provides two forms of intuition, pure (space and time) and empirical (the matter given by the senses). Space and time are immediately given and not the result of the spontaneous activity of intelligence (a priori, but not as concepts added to experience by the understanding). The only thing we can know about sensation a priori is that it will be received according to some intensity. A posteriori, we come to know its extensive qualities as they exist in space and time. This is all Kant can offer as regards sensibility because for him only the transcendental, and not the empirical conditions of experience have philosophical validity; we cannot ask what causes sensibility (p. 15).

  –understanding: provides intelligible conditions of experience and is the spontaneity of cognition. Experience takes the form of judgment, which involves the application of categories (and is propositional). Concepts are pure concepts of synthesis that the understanding contains in itself a priori. The ground of the categories is the transcendental ego, or ‘I think,’ without which no concept of objectivity would be possible because no unity could be conferred upon the sensory manifold so as to constitute an object.

  –imagination: is the cause, in general, of synthesis, which is according the Kant ‘the action of putting different representations together and comprehending their manifoldness in one cognition.’ It provides several forms of synthesis, including that which preserves the past in our perception of the present (p. 16-17).

  –reason: “the faculty of the unity of the rules of understanding under principles” (p. 18). Reason is exercised not on experience, but on the understanding. Kant distinguishes ‘descending’ or ‘logical’ use of reason, where inferences are drawn via syllogisms, from ‘ascending’ or ‘pure’ reason, which aims at discovering the unconditioned ground of the conditional. The ideas of reason provide this unconditioned, absolute ground: the self (psychology), the cosmos (empirical world), and God (theology). Kant says ideas of reason are regulative, serving as subjective ideals, but not constitutive, inhering in the real, objective world. This is so because Kant cannot find any experiential correspondence to these ideas. Reason’s function is just to give unity to our knowledge. Only individuals and particulars exist in reality, but the regulative role of reason allows us to unify them into a system of categories. Reason creates its ideas by reflecting on concepts of the understanding. (see Deleuze’s book “Kant’s Critical Philosophy”).

-Kant artificially separates understanding from imagination (p. 19), as categories of understanding are abstractions derived from a pre-discursive imaginal unity whose structure is discovered only via dialectic. The imagination, therefore, can only be researched phenomenologically, not discursively.

  -imagination provides schemata for concepts, which provide ‘the sensible conditions under which alone pure concepts of the understanding can be employed.’ The schema is the third moment which unifies through mediation the category and the appearance to which it applies.

    -schemata of pure concepts (triangle) and empirical concepts (dog)

    -schemata of some pure concepts: substance (the persistence of the real in time)’ causality (the succession of the manifold in so far as it is subject to a rule), and necessity (the existence of an object at all times).

    -pure concepts of the understanding have their significance only in relation to experience, because schemata are necessary conditions for the realization of categories (p. 20).

    -Kant considers 4 main kinds of synthesis of imagination: apprehension, reproduction, recognition, and schematization. Each involves both sensibility and understanding. Imagination is therefore “a blind function of the soul,” since its synthesizing processes are superconscious. Imagination provides unity immediately, whereas the understanding unifies through reflection (p. 21).

-the imagination (or image-process) reconstitutes a unity that has been sundered only by the insertion of the human organization into the world as a whole (p. 22).

  -categories of understanding are not the ultimate constitutive elements of experience, but abstractions from a much richer, pre-discursive horizon of being. Phenomenology must discover this horizon, and it must be unified with dialectic and its results (i.e., with rationalism).

-the unity of apperception presupposes a manifold within which it is in relation. The ‘I’ is a pure consciousness that always accompanies concepts, and cannot itself be called a concept (p. 23). Self-consciousness is the condition of all unity, but is not itself conditioned. The self is not a substance, for Kant, but a form of representation.

  -Or is it that the unity of apperception cannot be derived from the manifold, but that the ‘I think’ must be spontaneous? (p. 25).

  -with the ‘I think,’ subject and predicate are one: I am I is unlike “the dog had a tail,” since the dog has its predicates outside of itself as subject.

  -a subject that immediately and necessarily has itself for its object Schelling and Hegel call absolute.

  -“If our conception of ourselves as subjects is given through the spontaneous act of a thinking subject, our more detailed conceptions of ourselves as distinct individuals with a body, feelings, and personality…are given through other faculties, in particular sensibility and the imagination which unites it with the understanding” (p. 26).

    -“To truly understand the ‘I think,’ we need to know its relation to sensibility, and this means to understand the relation between mind (considered as the horizon of inner sense), body (as an object of outer sense), and world (everything given as an object of experience within the horizon of an ‘I think’), since all are instrumental in giving us the experience that the subject of thought–absolute though it must be in its logical form–generates” (p. 27).

-Kant, in his less critical moods, argued for the existence of the soul before and after death. The voice of conscience is the incarnated spirit, whose normal state is in the supersensible world and whose exceptional state is embodied on earth. “when the oil is separated from the body, it will not see the world as it appears, but as it is” (p. 28).

  -Kant identifies life with the animal element in humans, not the vegetative, revealing that his conception of the levels mediating between pure thought and the physical world is limited. (see Kant on ether in ‘Opus Postumum’ and on p. 32-33).



Chapter 2: From Kant to Hegel

-Kant restricts our knowledge claims to the sphere of the understanding, and so, at the empirical level, the structural unity of living organisms cannot be known, nor, at the theoretical level, can reason discover the true ground of the ‘I think’ or of the world (p. 35)

  -but organisms must nonetheless be conceived as something with intrinsic, not extrinsic (mechanical), finality because of its “indescribably wise organization”

-in the Critique of Pure Reason, the unity of the ‘I think’ is considered an intrinsic feature of self-consciousness (as a priori), and therefore is not dependent upon the idea of an end unfolding in time. But in the Critique of Judgment, the unity or finality of a living organism or of an idea of the imagination is fulfilled only through time. Such unity is a posteriori, a unity within multiplicity (because an organism must remain itself through change).

-Hegel attempts to show the relation between the unity of pure thought and that of an organism conceived in its immanence. He desired an understanding of how thought and the empirical world were related, something Kant deemed impossible.

-Hegel shows in the Phenomenology of Spirit how a complete logic of philosophical categories presupposes an evolution of consciousness through varies forms or shapes (p. 36). The limits of one form are overcome by its successor. 

-“The overall aim of the Phenomenology is thus to reveal each of the main forms of consciousness through which the self passes as it transforms substance (the world) into subject (itself), until the point is reached where all of reality is found to lie within it as its own self-externalization and so all dualism is overcome” (p. 37).

  -But Hegel does not ask how the sensible and intelligible are united in the thinking process; he is only concerned with the different ways thinking consciousness categorizes sensory content. He seeks the only logically coherent way in which the world can be conceived, but does not explain how this logic can be realized in the world of the senses.

  -“Hegel treats the sensory world as an obedient handmaiden of reason which is formed and disciplined time and again by thought, and then eventually discarded once it has played its role in the awakening of the self to knowledge of its true, spiritual nature” (p. 39).


Chapter 3: Hegel’s Logic and the Self

-if the Phenomenology leads us to the alter of initiation, the Logic is our participation in the mysteries themselves (p. 43)

   -the Logic unfolds like a living being, maintaining a unity throughout its multiple moments. Unlike in the Phenomenology, where the growth and development of the ‘I’ from sense certainty to absolute knowledge is described, the Logic traces the organic structure of the Idea itself. Instead of the forms of consciousness, the categories of thought are developed dialectically.

  -the Logic presupposes the form of consciousness arrived at by the end of the Phenomenology, which is only possible to experience given that, through history, humanity has developed through them.

-a culture’s metaphysics is the highest expression of its spiritual potential, ‘an educated people without metaphysics is like an otherwise richly decorated temple without its inner sanctuary’ (p. 44).

  -the seeds of metaphysics are not planted by the philosopher, but lie buried in ordinary language and the social institutions in which language lives (p. 45).

    -the philosophers role is to conceive these seeds as a living unity

-Kant’s conception of logic: 1) transcendental logic considers the a priori conditions of conceiving and experiencing objects, including the categories of understanding concretely actualized by sensory intuitions, 2) general logic deals with forms of valid reasoning and is concerned with the relations between and formal structures of judgments referring to objects. The ultimate ground of general logic cannot be known, as this would require knowing the true relation between self, world, and God. No premise of general logic can therefore be claimed as true unconditionally.

  -Hegel attempts to unite logic and metaphysics by overcoming the difference between transcendental and general logic. He does this by showing how the judgment develops into the syllogism, which then develops into the concept of the object (p. 46).

    -the concept begins as a universal, becoming particular when a judgment adds a predicate to it (‘tree’ –> ‘has green leaves’), and becoming the mediated unity of these as an individualized concept, which for Hegel is the object.

    -for Hegel, the syllogism is the form in which the rational is articulated.

-the most important questions of logic concern the relation between the subject and predicate of a sentence (p. 47).

  -what is implied by the fact that everything within my world is a predicate of my subject? And how can the subject be identical (“is”) with its predicate, or the ‘I’ with its world?

  -Hegel claims that subject and predicate are unified in the Absolute Idea (self-thinking thought).

-ontology asks, ‘what is real…what, if anything, has existence for its essence, and what follows from this for all other existing things?’ (p. 48)

  -logic asks, ‘what is the rational/thought, and how is its internal structure embedded in the structure of language?

    -unless substance/being can be made to converge with subject/thought, knowledge of the True is not possible. Hegel says “the real is the rational,” but Schickler doubts whether Hegel actually succeeded in bridging the gap. He suggests that Hegel identifies with Aristotle’s second attribute of eudamonia, theoria (contemplation of forms), but neglects phronimos (practical moral insight).

-from Steiner’s perspective, the unity of subject and substance must be achieved not only in the domain of thinking, but feeling and willing as well. The passion, resurrection, and ascension of Christ here points the way, for here we encounter the possibility of an immanent synthesis of subject and object (or spirit, soul, and body).

-the Logic of Being: 1) the categories of being (quality, quantity, measure) have the surface character of immediacy and are interdependent, but this relationship is not immediately obvious, 2) Hegel begins his logic with being because it is the most immediate and indeterminate category that presupposes nothing (other than the initiation enacted in the Phenomenology), 3) measure is the synthesizing category, called by Hegel the ‘qualitative quantum.’ Every quality evident in the world is realized along side some specific quantity, and vice versa (p. 49, p. 61 note 15).

-the Logic of Essence: 1) the categories of essence (essence, appearance, actuality) are mediated by the categories of being, of which they are the underlying reflection, 2) these categories are dualistic, and so the understanding is at home in them (i.e., identity-difference, thing-property, form-matter as categories of essence; form-content, whole-part, force-expression as categories of appearance; inner-outer, necessity-possibility, cause-effect as categories of actuality), 3) the category of actuality is an attempt to conceive being as a unity of essence and appearance, as a substance which remains itself in its accidents, as an essence which shines forth in its appearance (p. 50).

-the Logic of the Concept: the categories of the Concept (concept, judgment, syllogism) are supposed to achieve a unity of immediacy (being) and mediacy (essence). Hegel’s aim is to show how a self-necessitating substance can and must be conceived as subject.

  -how is self-consciousness related to the concept? “The circular relation of the ‘I’ to itself is that in which the absolute nature of the self and the concept is revealed in immediate, empirical self-consciousness–revealed because self-consciousness is the existent, that is empirically perceptible pure concept, the absolute self-relation which in a distinguishing act of judgment makes itself into its object and alone consists in making itself into a circle” (p. 51).

  -“I = I” does not mean self-consciousness is a synthesis of two elements. It is the ground of all unity, not derivative of another unity, and so contains no differences within itself. The ‘I’ is the true thing-in-itself, an immediate circularity beginning where it ends and ending where it begins (p. 52).

    -the self is eternal and self-causing. “In the case of self-consciousness, we are dealing with an object perceived by a subject which is immediately identical with the object–thus with a sense of the empirical and empirical perception which transcends the subject-object opposition.”

-Subjective subject-object unity v. Objective subject-object unity

  -Hegel criticizes Fichte for only conceiving of the subjective unity of self-consciousness (‘I = I’), and failing to adequately account for the objective externality of the ‘not-I.’ Schickler says this requires conceiving of the unity of concept and percept (p. 54).

-the ‘I’ is beyond the subject-object opposition, and so:

1) the ‘not-I’ or empirical world encountered by the ‘I’ cannot be external to the ‘I’ (just as he finite cannot be external to the infinite).

2) the ‘I’ is immanent in the material world, which is itself self-conscious and infinite.

3) all subjects besides the ‘I’ must have a predicate distinct from themselves in order to possess content, but this separation can be overcome, as is already implied in the possibility of any judgment, where one thing is said to be another (“the rose is a flower”).

4) the difference between ‘I’ and ‘not-I’ is only apparent.

5) the ‘I’ is therefore the ground of all other identities and differences (spirit-matter, mind-body).

6) to know the real, the ‘I’ and ‘not-I’ must be reconciled. This reconciliation constitutes the Absolute.

7) the reconciliation of the self-world relation can be read as a philosophical interpretation of the notion of resurrection.

-in so far as the identity of ‘I’ and ‘not-I’ remains unactualized, the Absolute Self remains transcendent–an evolutionary goal or future possibility (p. 55)

  -this means that, in the current age, the self is still rather impotent in relation to the sensory world of nature.

  -Hegel prematurely absolutizes man, or humanizes the Absolute.

-a major shortcoming of Kant’s system is that he does not account for how the 12 categories of the concept of the object are to be derived from the ‘I think,’ he simply postulates them. Hegel, on the other hand, attempts to derive his categories developmentally from a single source. The key of this development is the trinity universal, particular, individual, which are expressed in several forms (p. 56):

1) through consideration of the moments of concept, judgment, and syllogism, where the universal is shown to contain both particularity and individuality within itself.

    -“In a syllogism, the mediating term is no longer simply the copula “is,” but the subject or predicate of a judgment. In a judgment both subject and predicate must be taken as given. In the syllogism they determine one another’s places within a larger system” (p. 57).

2) through consideration of how the categories apply to logic itself

3) through consideration of how the categories apply to the self

4) through consideration of how they apply to Hegel’s system as a whole, where the Logic plays the part of universality, the philosophy of nature the part of particularity, and the philosophy of spirit that of individuality.

-Moses and the revelation of the ‘I am’ (p. 58)

  -the contradictory state of ‘I am not-I’ is the ordinary human condition, containing the unresolved oppositions between good and evil, truth and falsehood, knowledge and ignorance, etc.

-the ‘I’ is the only identity that is not a syllogism, because it requires no mediation to know itself as itself. It is by grace of the absolute identity of the ‘I’ implicit in each term of the syllogism that it can function as a structure of thought mediating identities and differences. Syllogistic logic is not the ground of, but has its ground in the self.

-every concept, as a universal, is also a particular, since it is one concept among others, and dependent on these others for its meaning within a larger system (p. 56).

-(p. 63 note 45): “The spatial correlate of the ‘I’ is the point, which is absolute (omnipresent and indivisible) and zero-dimensional. How the extended world is logically and physically related to this point cannot be considered here.”

-for Hegel, the Absolute Idea sublates the categories of subjectivity and objectivity (p. 59).

-the act of immediate apprehension of the unity of subject and object cannot be attained by reason or demonstrated by reasoning; what reason can demonstrate, given the self’s absoluteness, is the need for a reconciliation of self and non-self (p. 63 note 46)


Chapter 4: Logic and Ontology in the Logic of the Concept

-Hegel distinguishes between a ‘thing’ and an ‘object,’ the latter being a much more advanced category. A thing is in opposition to its properties, while an object (or at least the concept of the object) is constituted by the self-mediating logic of the syllogism, wherein subject and predicate/universal and particular are unified in the individual.

  -But, says Schickler, this unity is only in itself, not yet in and for itself (p. 65).

-Mechanism recapitulates Being; Chemism recapitulates Essence; teleologism recapitulates the Idea. Schickler argues that Hegel should not jump to teleology so quickly, since it implies self-conscious thought, and that “life” represents the true mediation of mechanism and chemism.

categories of mechanism (p. 66):

1) formal mechanism: basic thesis of mechanical objects as self-contained and independent units of matter acting on one another in purely external fashion (pressure and impact).

2) mechanism with affinity: formal mechanism collapses as a category precisely because every mechanical unit exists in relationship to others, and so is in some sense passively determined by others. In so far as mechanical objects are determined by mutual interaction, they have affinity with one another (objects under the influence of gravity have their centers of gravity both in themselves and in another).

3) absolute mechanism: all machines are part of a larger unified mechanism governed by laws transcending the activity of individual units.

  -these categories represent the subject in its greatest level of self-alienation; materialism and analytical philosophy conceive of reality in these mechanical terms.

properties of chemism (p. 67): chemicals exist completely in relation to something else, and so are explicitly independent (whereas mechanisms are explicitly independent).

1) chemicals interact to produce new substances

2) the product of the interaction of two chemicals is an implicit unity

3) subject and object are not properly united in the chemical subject, and so it does not fully overcome the externality of mechanism

-every relationship we have to another person can be described in the language of chemism… “Each person offers me a unique way of being myself, since how I present myself is determined in every case by who I am presenting myself to” (p. 68).

-chemical processes are not teleological because, though they achieve ends, the initial conditions leading to these ends can only be determined after the ends have been reached.

-Sheldrake and the memory of chemical elements (p. 78 note 19).

principles of teleology (p. 70): one might expect the synthesis of mechanism and chemism to lead to life, but Hegel saves this category for the final part of the Logic on the Idea because for him, a living organism has inner teleology as a result of their assimilating the outer world to themselves from within.

  -Schickler argues that Hegel’s attempted synthesis between mechanism and chemism is incomplete because ontologically underdetermined. It leaps from the mineral realm to a kind of telos present only in human projects, missing the categories of plant and animal life). A satisfactory conception of teleology would show that such causes are active even in the material world, this being a necessary constitutive possibility for man.

teleology in living organisms (p. 71):

-plants maintain an ends-directed unity of its parts throughout its development, which culminates in reproduction. Three moments:

  1) subjective end: reproductive purpose latent in the seed

  2) means: the matter (minerals, matter, sunlight, air…etc.) assimilated and formed by the plant in the realization of its organic structure

  3) realized end: the reproductive process in which a new member of the species (or a slightly modified member) is constituted

  -plants work by both outer and inner design: it is a subject which determines its own objectivity

  -modern biology attempts to explain living phenomena without giving an explanatory role to purposes (p. 72)

   -saying plants produce flowers for specific reasons is just shorthand for saying that certain biochemical events happen under certain conditions… “why they happen is answered historically, by reference to natural selection (once upon a time, matter combined in such and such a way).”

    -such an explanation brings us no closer to understanding how an object can have unity or identity, of how its parts can be the parts of a whole (or in the language of the Logic, how an object such as a plant can also be a subject). “An object’s being a subject is a basic feature of ordinary language and so is present whether we are considering living organisms or atomic theory.”

teleology in the animal kingdom

-animals have appetites, which is a subjective end in that it contains an intentional component. As Hegel puts it, “appetite is, so to speak, the conviction that the subjective is only a half-truth, no more adequate than the objective.”

  -an organism is a unity of subject and object and is both cause and effect of itself

-Hegel’s threefold logic of teleology (subjective end, means, realized end) fails to account for appetite because when the food is consumed (realized end), it cancels the appetite and returns the subject to the state it existed prior to the subjective end; no distinction is maintained between means and ends in this circular process. The means is only preserved in the implicit end of maintaining the body or reproduction that the sensation of hunger represents.

teleology in human activity (p. 73)

-presupposes self-conscious subject who can identify differences or remain itself in the objective realization of an end

-purpose fulfills the demand of the Logic for a mediation between concept and object

  -however, such purposes must presuppose matter as a given (something not actively brought forth by the subject), and lead to a regress of ends-means, where every end is merely the means for a further end. Only the end of freedom provides for a convergence of means and ends.

-human thought is able to realize its ends in the sensory world by way of imagination (p. 74)

-p. 75: “The teleology manifested in the living organism is a presupposition of that realized by thought…Whether a living body is in general a presupposition of thought and perception is another question. The argument of this book is that it is not.”

-the living organism can only have a real inner design (i.e., not an illusion fostered by very complex chemistry) if “there is a level of being in nature intrinsic to life which is able to assimilate and order the matter of living beings.” The etheric!

-vital agent stands to matter as concepts stand to percepts (the former orders the latter)

-one absolute subject (the self of thought, I=I) underlies all derivative subjects. “Another way of putting this is to say that the living organism as an agent of the realization of teleological ends in nature is a subject-object unity in itself for us, but not yet–given that it is not self-conscious and that the vital agent belongs to the sphere of the not-I–properly for it.”

  -the objects of human ends manifest a teleological unity of subject and object for us but not in themselves (a house is not self-regulating).

  -for both Kant and Aristotle, teleology only inheres in nature if humans are its end. Sublunar species exist, in some sense, for the human.

-in short, Hegel’s Logic is underdetermined because it’s development skips ontological levels, leaving out the etheric and astral realms existing in between chemism and teleology proper (as it exists in self-conscious humans).


Chapter 5: The Idea and the Loss of the Absolute in Hegel’s Logic

-the Idea is the absolute unity of the concept and objectivity (p. 83); Hegel: “In the Idea we have nothing to do with the individual, nor with figurative conceptions, nor with external things. And yet, again, everything actual, in so far as it is true, is the Idea, and has its truth by and in virtue of the Idea alone.”

  -Schickler argues these conclusions are incompatible: separating the Idea from individual things and external reality reflects an undigested dualism in Hegel between thought and being

   -what is the relationship between being and the Absolute Idea in the Logic, if indeed the Logic is the mind of God before the creation (p. 83-85)?

    -Hegel says being is immediate unity, the path between being and the Absolute Idea is the self-differentiation of God, and the Absolute Idea is it’s reunification, now fully mediated.

Life: the concept of life is the Idea in its immediacy, because although it represents a unity of subjectivity and objectivity, it is only in itself and not yet for itself (p. 86)

-organisms are not self-conscious, so something other than thought must constitute their subjectivity. Hegel makes use of concepts like vital agent, omnipresent soul, soul, drive, end/purpose, power to account for the organism’s subjectivity. Schickler says it is unclear whether these are just logical categories, elaborate metaphors, or ontological categories.

-whatever the identity or higher unity that sublates life (subjectivity) and matter (objectivity), it must transcend the life-death opposition.

  -this identity must be more ontologically fundamental than matter (matter is implicit in life, and not vice versa), even though for we living beings, subjectivity fails to overcome objectivity (the individual living organism cannot overcome the progressive encroachment of objectivity represented by aging and death) (p. 87).

-three moments of life: individual, life process, species

  1) the living individual: an individual organism is not simply a whole made of parts, but a whole, each of whose parts has the whole within it (p. 88)

    -subcategories of the living individual: sensibility, irritability, reproduction (theirs characterize the organism in its universality, particularity, and individuality, respectively)

     –sensibility: ‘the pure trembling within oneself of the animate.’ Sensibility is the immediate self-relation of the sensing animal. Without consciousness, a sensing animal experiences its fear without mediation; it is its fear.

     –irritability: ‘just as much a capacity for being stimulated by an other and the reaction of self-maintenance against it, as it is also, conversely, an active maintenance of self, in which it is at the mercy of an other.’

     –reproduction: the overcoming of the unity of immediate self-relation (sensation) and the encounter with opposition (irritability). It is the assimilating of the other to oneself, or reproducing oneself in the other. Hegel associates it with digestion (sexual reproduction is considered under the category of species). Sensibility and irritability are abstract moments, whereas reproduction is concrete.

  2) the life process: the battle against objectivity by the organism in order to sustain itself (p. 89)

   -the organism is an absolute contradiction in that it is a subject which remains itself in its objectivity (also because, despite its life, the organism eventually dies).

   -pain is the division which causes an organism to encounter itself in its other as the negative of itself; it is necessary to stimulate the desire to overreach and assimilate objectivity

   -Hegel says it is the concept which allows the living subject to interact with and assimilate itself to the non-living, betraying his one sided idealism (according to Schickler).

  3) the species: because a living individual cannot indefinitely maintain its identity in its other (or unite universality and particularity in its individuality), it manifests the need to exist as a species and to reproduce (p. 90).

   -Hegel says the living individual is caught in a ‘bad infinity,’ since it is most actual and truly itself as an individual, despite the fact that this individual will die and so is subservient to the species (which is itself a relative abstraction). A proper infinity would require of the living individual that it overcome its other, that it sublate matter (Schickler suggests the notion of a resurrected body offers such an infinity) (p. 101 note 30).

   -Hegel calls the individual’s self-identity abstract because it persists only through the species, but the species is universal only in itself, not for itself. The universal only becomes in and for itself in the process of cognition.

-Life, for Hegel, is supposed to be the first category of the Idea, the concept in its immediacy or objectivity, whereas cognition represents the Idea in its subjectivity (mediated or as judgment). The Absolute Idea is supposed to unify these (p. 90).

-Schickler’s criticism of Hegel’s conception of life in the Logic:

1) Hegel’s conception of life is incoherent both logically and ontologically.

   -sensibility is introduced too early, since plants are not sentient in any ordinary sense.

   -Hegel fails to find a proper identity underlying the difference between subjectivity (life) and objectivity (mechanism and chemism). Is life just the higher actuality of chemicals themselves (p. 91)? No, according to Schickler: to overcome the life-death contradiction, we need to conceive of an ontology proper to life itself.

2) Hegel’s conception of life is irreconcilably contradictory.

   -the soul, or subjective element of life, does not persist beyond the death of the individual living organism, despite the fact that it is supposed to be distinct from the objective element that it masters.

   -Hegel’s system requires a more substantial conception of the Absolute than one which presupposes nature.

   -In short, Hegel over-determines the category of life logically and under-determines it ontologically (p. 92).

3) Hegel’s claim that the living individual represents an absolute contradiction is a result of an unresolved dualism in his thought.

   -if sensibility can truly be dialectically overcome, it must be shown to be logically and ontologically derivative of a more fundamental realm (i.e., that of thought, within which it must be contained). For Steiner, the soul world of sensibility descends from the spirit world of thought (devachan) (p. 102 note 40).

-Hegel’s relation to Kant:

-Kant thought the sphere of life was unknowable because, a) all knowledge of appearances presupposes but cannot explain sensibility, and b) our knowledge of nature is constrained by the understanding, which analyzes nature without grasping its phenomena as unfolding, structurally unified wholes (p. 92).

-Kant saw imagination as the link between sensibility and understanding, but Hegel speaks of it only superficially (p. 102 note 41).

Cognition (p. 93):

-Hegel claims that the transition from life to cognition is given by the sublation of the living individual by the species, which becomes both in itself and for itself as self-consciousness. This ‘I’ then encounters the world as something other and seeks to cognize it in the search for the true and the good. The sublation of the species in the form of self-consciousness signals the appearance of spirit.

  -Hegel wants to claim that the Absolute is thought, and so denies that sensibility is intermediate between life and cognition. He needs to find a reason to deny that the sensory world has any as yet unmediated epistemological or ontological status. The result is that life gains no victory over death and the whole material world becomes alienated from thought (p. 94).

-from Kant’s perspective, a proper sublation of objectivity would require knowing the relationship between mind and body, understanding and sensibility (imagination?).

  -Hegel only achieves the thesis that thinking and being are one by renouncing the concept of the concrete individual as absolute unity of subject and object (Schickler: “this unity should have been conceived as a full ontological sublation of the sensory world as a whole–an end for which the concept of resurrection will be shown to be fitting in ch. 7”).

-Hegel conceives of the self in two contradictory ways: empirical/social and absolute/eternal

  a) empirical/social emerges historically from more primitive states of being prior to absolute knowing. It is mortal and conditioned.

  b) absolute self or I=I of the Logic is incapable of being generated and so transcends the finite, empirical individual (like Aristotle’s noesis noeseos). It is immortal and unconditioned.

   -Hegel fails to reconcile these two because his ontology is not robust enough (Steiner’s fourfold ontology may be) (p. 95).

   -Schickler claims that Hegel’s Logic suffers from the same circular ‘bad infinity’ as does his conception of life.

-cognition of the true broken down into analytical and synthetic versions:

  a) analytic takes its object as passively given and breaks it down into its elements, which are described in terms of universals. The empiricists are representative of this method.

  b) synthetic moves in the other direction, beginning with an active definition or very general truth and then drawing out its implications in the form of less general truths. The rationalists, especially Spinoza, exemplify this method.

-cognition of the good is broken down into two forms of eudaimonic life, phronimos and theoria. Hegel considers the latter to be the higher form, but unlike Aristotle, attempts to unify them. The concept of the good concerns the will and desires to unify what is with what ought to be–to realize the good in the world.

the Absolute Idea

-Schickler: “If the reader of Hegel’s Logic expected to arrive at the category of the Absolute Idea accompanied by hosts of singing angels, he would have been disappointed…It is no resurrected Christ, no blazing feast of light and love…but the ultimate self-affirmation of philosophy–of pure thought thinking itself” (p. 97).

  -according to Schickler, Hegel tries to unify man and God too early in the evolutionary process, leaving an unresolved tension between human finitude and the infinite I am I.

  -Schickler: “A truer reconciliation of man and God would be the demonstration that man’s will is able to unify itself with the will of nature in a ceaseless pure loving, in a genuine creative selflessness or world-affirming realization of the I am I. Only here would what is, the true, and what ought to be, the good, be unified.”

-concluding summation of argument (p. 97-99)


Chapter 6: Soul between Body and Spirit in Hegel

-Hegel’s Anthropology, a section in the Encyclopedia, is supposed to cover the entire sphere of human being between man’s animal and spiritual nature (p. 103).

  -it covers everything from psychology to cultural difference to clairvoyance.

  -for Hegel, the body is the predicate of the soul, and the soul is a microcosm.

   -like Aristotle, he considers the soul as the ideality (or form) of the body; he rejects Cartesian dualism by suggesting that the soul realizes itself in and through the body, that it saturates the body at every point with its characteristic qualities (p. 104).

    -He refers to the soul as “the universal immateriality of nature,” suggesting that souls do not exist as particular substances, each separate from the other.

-Schickler claims that Hegel’s philosophical anthropology and psychology are inferior to Aristotle’s in many ways.

three categories of the anthropology: the soul, for Hegel, emerges gradually from the dumb sleep of matter toward spirit.

  1) the natural soul: the universal soul is here still submerged in the rhythms of earth and cosmos

    -Hegel calls it the anima mundi, but says it attains actuality only in individual human souls (p. 105).

    -natural soul provides for the possibility of living in harmony with nature (he adds that lunacy is a victory of spirit over nature)

    -the freer an individual becomes, the less he is determined by his sympathy with nature, and so it would be a mistake to make the participation of the soul in the life of the universe as the highest goal of the science of spirit.

    -Hegel conceived of planetary motions mechanically and was not a believer in astrology (p. 106).

    -Hegel’s natural soul oversteps the ontological categorization of Aristotle’s vegetative soul by considering it the home of cultural differences, etc.

    -Schickler argues that Hegel did not fully draw out the consequences of occult phenomena. He suggests that, in this sense, Hegel’s Enlightenment self won out over his Romantic self (whereas Schelling was far more Romantic and open to an enchanted natural world).

    -Hegel discusses the “local spirits” of different cultures and the different temperaments of individuals, concluding that there is no ontological significance in such characteristics apart from how they allow one to be a vessel for the Idea’s path to self-knowledge in the sphere of the universal (p. 107).

     -Schickler argues that Hegel’s underestimation of the individual contradicts a rigorous dialectical approach to ontology. He fails to properly relate nature and culture.

    -more problems with Hegel’s conception of sensation (p. 108-109)

  2) the feeling soul: it is here that, due to progressive inwardizing of the soul, true unity appears (p. 109). Here the soul attains subjective consciousness of its totality.

    -Hegel: “What I feel, I am, and what I am, I feel.”

    -the feeling soul is the battleground halfway between sensibility and intellectuality: “The soul finds itself caught between the outer universality of the natural soul (of the soul absorbed in an immediate sympathy with nature and as sentient) and the inner universality of the life of thought (of soul which has overcome the immediacy of sensibility and awakened to self-consciousness).”

    -the feeling soul is divided against itself, in that it must contend with anger, trance, and insanity in pursuit of an objective perspective on the world.

    -three categories of feeling soul:

     a) feeling soul in its immediacy- magic relations of dreaming, mother-fetus, and individual to genius.

       -magic is a relation of inner to outer which dispenses with mediation (i.e., the mind can immediately influence other minds), including clairvoyance.

     b) self-feeling soul- the soul’s awareness of particular feelings; here lies insanity, between the subjectivity of feeling-life and the objectivity of thought

     c) habit- the first important victory of spirit over matter wherein the soul subdues the natural and feeling souls in order to actualize the life of the mind (p. 110).

     –clairvoyance: the intuitive knowledge of things already possessed in some form but forgotten; or of events located in regions of space-time different from those in which the physically embodied individual finds himself; or of one’s own mental and physical states; or of another’s mental and physical state. Hegel considers rational, waking consciousness and clairvoyance to be incompatible (in fact, he considers clairvoyance to be a state of illness) (p. 111).

      –animal magnetism: establishes attractive relations between organisms; can involve inducing trance or hypnotic sleep so as to separate feeling soul from mediated, intellectual consciousness; usually one individual acts on another whose will is weaker and less independent in order to induce the trance; consciousness in the magnetic state is not in the head, but in the stomach or the heart, there exercised as a general or common sense; the soul sinks into its inwardness and the organism’s internal fluidity is restored as it is in sleep (p. 112).

     -“how can a soul which is not subject to spatio-temporal restrictions interact with a body which is?” : Hegel makes no attempt even to ask this question properly, according to Schickler (p. 113).

      -Hegel does emphasize that the soul, and not the nervous system senses (because after all, the nervous system is itself an object of the senses).

      -Schickler: “The mind is not an idea of the body, as Spinoza argues. Rather, the body is if anything an idea of the mind, given that the former both falls within sentience, and is, insofar as the soul interpenetrates it, capable of interacting immediately, or magically, with other bodies.”

      -Hegel criticizes any attempt to know the soul through the concepts of the understanding, but also denies direct intuitive forms of knowing, because for him clairvoyance is a sickness of the soul that pulls man down from pure thinking into a lower state of madness. Schickler argues there is no reason, a priori, to deny the possibility of conscious clairvoyance, at at least a rational thought which exists along side an empiricism enriched by clairvoyance.

     –imagination: unifies concepts and percepts via schematism of the understanding, which allows the categories to be constitutive of spatio-temporal experience (p. 114)

      -Schickler: “a fully satisfactory schematism would have to be a transcendental ontology which showed how the self as absolute subject is related to the body whose physical organs are, as it were, the last link in a chain of processes–passing through levels of being intrinsic to life and sentience–which result in the experience of a world of perceptible objects.”

       -Hegel gives a rich phenomenological account of imagination in the anthropology, but draws no ontological conclusions.

     -madness: “I overcome madness when I know my individual place in life and do not confuse ideals with their realization” (p. 115). Insanity is a state of contradiction in the subject-object relation, in which the subject identifies with a non-actual condition. Schickler accuses Hegel of being insane based upon his own criteria (he incorrectly held to the belief that the absolute could be realized in pure thought alone) (p. 127 note 58). The rest of us, too, must concede our insanity and irrationality, “for if the rational is an actual, fully-mediated unity of subject and object, and if this unity is achieved not in thinking alone, but when the self and material world are reconciled through an ultimate act of love, then only Christ–the man-god who not only dared to say he was one with the creator God, but (if we accept the testimonies of history) also proved this unity by resurrecting a body–is properly rational” (p. 116). We need religious mystics, the madmen of history, to help restore us to sanity.

   3) the actual soul: “a mediated unity of the inner being of the soul and the outer being of the body” (p. 117).

    -the actual soul is expressed most clearly in the face, the hands, the erect posture, and the voice of the human body.

    -the actual soul inwardizes, creating an empty space filled by the ego, giving the soul consciousness and the capacity for knowledge

  -Hegel’s system leaves us with a three-tiered conception of nature (p.121):

   1) pre-conscious nature that has consciousness only in and for the knower (according to the categories of the Logic like mechanism, chemism, life), but in no way in and for itself.

    2) pre-conscious soul, including natural and feeling souls prior to individualization, that gives minimal form of immediate awareness of environment.

    3) self-consciousness and thought, beginning with sense-certainty and ending with absolute knowledge.

    -the contradiction of Hegel’s system between matter and spirit, or sensibility and intelligibility, is here apparent, as according to the dictates of speculative philosophy there must be an identity underlying all differences. Hegel does not closes the gap between the non-conscious and conscious levels of nature.

  -if consciousness can achieve clairvoyance, then anthropology would have been expanded to include nature, “which means that owing to its immediate cognitive accessibility, nature is in a deep sense human and that man is indeed a microcosm, not simply the hapless victim of irremovable illusion and error” (p. 122).

Chapter 7: From Kant and Hegel to Steiner


3 Comments Add yours

  1. tertium says:

    This is without a doubt the best book of philosophy I’ve read in the last few years. A great work. Daring, bold, and well argued. Schickler is the kind of thinker I’ve been looking for – someone serious about philosophy and anthroposphy and not so much concerned with the cosmologies, spirits, and beings of anthroposophists. He is gesturing to why we should take things seriously not preaching to the choir as most anthroposophists seems to be doing – endless talks among themselves about the Michael, Lucifer and other angels – these discussions make very little sense to an outsider like me. What is needed is for people that have read Steiner ( and I have) that think he’s not a complete wacko is to engage the philosophical tradition, to challenge and involve themselves in it instead of having these esoteric conferences that mean nothing to people.

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