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The Panentheism of Karl Christian Friedrich Krause (1781-1832)

From Transcendental Philosophy to Metaphysics


Benedikt Paul Göcke

The book provides the first analysis of Karl Christian Friedrich Krause’s system of philosophy and his panentheism in English. Karl Christian Friedrich Krause has bequeathed to us a system of philosophy which is little recognised in contemporary philosophy. This is both surprising and unfortunate, because Krause’s philosophical system has much to offer: Through transcendental reflection on the nature of the human, Krause understands God as the one infinite and unconditioned reality, and the ultimate necessary condition of knowledge. God makes humanity, nature, and reason ultimately comprehensible as the essential categories of the divine Essence. God is thus the single, primary, object of science that is already logically presupposed even before His discovery. Science presupposes theology, and theology is best read as panentheism.

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14. Closing Assessment

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14.  Closing Assessment

In the present discussion, Krause is hardly taken into account. Neither in the German-speaking nor in the Anglo-Saxon discussion is his system taken up, researched or further developed. While this is hardly to be excused in the German-speaking world, since many of his works are readily available, even if not in a critical edition, the lack of discussion of Krause within the Anglo-Saxon space is only indirectly reproachable, since the works of Krause’s philosophy have not yet been translated into English. It is therefore not surprising that Krause is generally mentioned in only two connections: on the one hand, in work on the introduction of the concept of ‘panentheism’ into philosophical discussion, and on the other hand, as the author of an obscure mystical work, whom it is hardly worth the trouble of dealing with.112

The general ignorance of Krause’s work is regrettable, if, through it, historical inaccuracies arise which are hard to justify. Thus, historically, it is plainly inadequate, if not false, if Hegel and Schelling are declared the fathers of modern panentheism. Thus, Cooper writes to this effect: ‘Schelling and Hegel are the patriarchs of contemporary panentheism because they are the first to affirm that God, though eternal in essence, develops in existence by involving himself in the world and the world in himself. […] Both Schelling and Hegel therefore distinguish God’s essence from his existence and imply duality in the divine nature: God is eternal and temporal, potential and actual, infinite and finite, immutable yet developing. […] In parallel ways, Schelling and Hegel both influence subsequent philosophy significantly’ (Cooper 2006: 118). Seen systematically, Krause would have had to be mentioned at this point because, unlike Schelling, he actually developed a system of panentheism and, in contrast to Hegel, also expressis ← 233 | 234 → verbis as such. Further on, according to Cooper: ‘Although Schelling and Hegel better articulated the philosophical intuitions that Krause expressed, he certainly deserves recognition for coining the term panentheism’ (Cooper 2006: 122). That Schelling and Hegel formulated Krause’s intuition better can be asserted only with reference to Krause’s panentheistic system of philosophy, in actual comparison with Schelling and Hegel. Unfortunately, such a study is only available in a very short form by Stefan Groß (2008), so it is unclear with what Cooper actually supports his claim.

In the course of this work, the panentheism of Karl Christian Friedrich Krause has been presented as an organic system of science. It was defended against the most important of immediate objections, and it was shown that, in the current debate, he is an attractive paradigm for today’s philosophy, and can readily be situated in terms of the present discussion. The analysis in this book shows only a small section of the entire panentheistic system of Krause’s philosophy. In a certain sense, the justification and description of panentheism is only the basic structure (Grundstruktur) of the whole system of science. Topics that have not been discussed include topics such as the question of the essence of becoming, change in time, the nature of space, time, and others. Krause has something to say on all of these topics. The philosophy of Krause is an almost unmanageable field of research, which, unfortunately, for the most part is still completely uncultivated.

The last word of this work shall belong to Krause, and certainly refreshes the relation to Kant described in the introduction: ‘We are convinced that, the task of scientific research and scientific education [Wissenschaftsforschung und Wissenschaftsbildung], in its main points, is satisfactorily carried out in our system, the principles which have been repeatedly described by us, and the partial execution of which we have published in a series of works. For, given that the recognition and acknowledgment of the principle is gained by the analytic-subjective self-knowledge of the mind, the whole structure of science can be pictured in law-like and organic progress. And so the task of Socrates and Plato, as well as Kant, Fichte, and Schelling, is generally solved. And on this foundation [Grundlage], unshakable by sophistry and scepticism, or rather: in and through the, now achieved, unconditioned, in itself self-certain, fundamental knowledge [Grunderkenntnis], the […] time being ripe for humanity to begin achieving the construction of science, the work of the millennium.’ (Krause 1889a: 478).

112 Cf. Palmquist (2008: 20): ‘Krause claimed his philosophical system represented “the true Kantian position.” Fortunately, we need not evaluate this rather questionable claim. […] I am not assuming that Krause’s own, rather peculiar and highly obscure version of panentheism was a faithful development of Kant’s own thinking. [FN 10]: Krause developed a tortuously complex vocabulary with many compound German terms that were newly invented to serve Krause’s “mystical purposes”’.