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

From Transcendental Philosophy to Metaphysics

Series:

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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2. Overview: The Panentheism of Karl Christian Friedrich Krause

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2.  Overview: The Panentheism of Karl Christian Friedrich Krause

Panentheism in the philosophy of religion, holism in the philosophy of science, panpsychism in the philosophy of mind, and metaphysical grounding have all attracted substantial interest in Anglo-Saxon philosophy. Krause, although almost unknown in Anglo-Saxon philosophy, left us with an impressive monistic system of philosophy that unites metaphysical grounding with panentheism in the philosophy of religion, with holism in the philosophy of science, ultimate explanation in epistemology, and panpsychism in the philosophy of mind: Krause’s system of philosophy is based on ultimate justification through reflections on the transcendental constitution of the ego in such a way that the ego recognizes that, metaphysically, only one entity, God, exists. This entity, God, is the whole of reality and logically prior to its parts, which, according to Krause, are grounded in God, that is, are what they are in virtue of the fact that God as a whole is what God is. Because God is the highest principle or, synonymously, the ultimate ground of reality, every finite entity is a part of the whole and possesses finite realization of the properties of the whole, which, because God is conscious of Himself, entails the panpsychistic conclusion that every entity participates in the divine consciousness. Furthermore, because God is metaphysically the only genuine entity, God is the one and only object of science as a whole (Wissenschaft), and each and every particular science deals with a particular aspect of the divine being that is its principle.

2.1  The system of science

Krause begins the justification of panentheism with scientific theoretic analyses: science is an organic system in which all knowledge is connected with all other knowledge, and only through this connection with other knowledge does it become the knowledge that it is. In this way, findings in physics are linked, for example, to the findings of biology, which in turn are connected with the findings of metaphysics. If one of these sciences were different, the whole system of science would be different. If, for example, other laws applied in physics, then metaphysics would lead to other results, ← 33 | 34 → and if the truths of metaphysics were different from those they are, then physics would be different.

Science, understood as such an organic unity of knowledge, according to Krause, implies that there must be a single and ultimate principle, which is the foundation of all being, and therefore, eo ipso, of all knowledge. In this principle of science, the whole system of science, with its general and individual knowledge, must be grounded and ready for development. The principle of science is that in virtue of which the system of science is what it is, and based on the understanding of this principle it must be possible to understand each individual science in its essence, as well as to show why sciences such as physics, biology, and metaphysics are connected to one another as they are. That is, the principle of science must enable us to understand several objects: why the system of science is as it is; why, therefore, that which is true is true; why what is, is as it is; and why what is known is known in the way it is known.

For its justification, the system of science, according to Krause, however, needs the immediately certain intuition of the principle of science, which Krause also refers to as God or Orwesen, because only immediately certain intuition enables us to establish a system of science that is true beyond doubt. In this, Krause follows Fichte’s earlier determination of scientific thought. As Fichte (1965: 46ff) says: ‘The described science (i.e. philosophy as the system of science) should, in the first place, be a science of science in general. Any possible science has a principle [Grundsatz] which cannot be proven in it but one must be certain of it beforehand. Now, where should this principle be demonstrated? Undoubtedly in that science, which has to ground [begründen] all possible sciences. In this perspective, the doctrine of science has two things to do. First of all, to establish the principles of science in general; to show to what extent, under what conditions, and perhaps to what extent, something can be certain, and indeed, what it means to be certain. […] Every science, if it is not a single proposition ripped out but a whole, consisting of several propositions, has a systematic form. A general theory of science, therefore, has the obligation to establish the systematic form for all possible sciences. Science is itself a science. For this reason, too, it must first have a principle which cannot be proven in it, but is presupposed in the light of its possibility as a science. But this principle cannot be proven in any other higher science […]. This principle, the ← 34 | 35 → theory of science, and by virtue of this, all sciences and all knowledge, is, therefore, in no way capable of proof. It cannot be traced back to a higher proposition […]. Nevertheless, it is indeed certain in itself, and by it own will, and certain through itself.’

2.2  The analytical-ascending part of science

The principle of science is that in virtue of which there is, in science and reality, unity in difference and difference in unity. Because not every human being is in a position to intuit this principle without preparatory philosophical didactics, Krause divides the method of elaborating the system of science into two different but mutually referring parts: the analytical-ascending part of science, and the synthetical-descending part. The analytical-ascending part has the task of empowering people to intuit God, that is, to grasp the principle of science, and to recognise that the thought of God is due to immediate certainty.

The method of analytical-ascending science is transcendental phenomenology, which means that only those cognitions that the ego must necessarily bring to the description of itself may be used. The synthetical-descending part of science goes from knowledge of God to knowledge of the world, and shows how the system of science can be deduced from the intuition of God in a way that entails panentheism. The method here essentially consists in explicating and clarifying the intuition of God as the one, self-same, and whole essence by analysing the conceptual and ontological relations between the properties of the divine being that at once serve as the universe of discourse of the system of science.

The analytical-ascending part of science must itself begin with immediately certain knowledge. For only such knowledge can avoid the justificatory regress which a correspondence-theoretical concept of truth, presupposed by Krause, entails. As neither the knowledge of objects in the external world nor the knowledge of other rational minds possesses, on Krause’s view, such a status, he can exclude these kinds of knowledge. Only the fundamental intuition of the ego, as an intuition of the ego itself, as one self-same and whole essence, is, according to Krause, achieved in such a way that it guarantees its own truth analytically. For, in the fundamental intuition of the ego, it is known that the knowing subject and the known ← 35 | 36 → object are the same object, which enables the ego to directly intuit and see what is part of its transcendental constitution. The fundamental intuition of the ego, the pure self-consciousness of being the self-same and whole essence, is therefore the epistemological anchor of the analytical-ascending part of science: everything that is known in the analytical-ascending part of science must be known with the same certainty as that which is known in and through the fundamental intuition of the ego and in this sense must be able to be deduced or read off of the fundamental intuition of the ego.

Since the ego is not the principle of science as such, due to its finitude, but since the fundamental intuition of the ego is the beginning of science, it follows that Krause must arrive at the intuition of the principle of science only by describing that which the ego must necessarily bring to the knowledge of himself. From transcendental phenomenology, in which only that which is as certain as the fundamental intuition of the ego can be recognised, it must be shown that we have immediately certain knowledge of God as the infinite und unconditioned one, self-same, and whole fact and knowledge principle of science. God must already be in the ego in order to be able to be known by the ego; the foundation of science must already be in the ego for science to be possible.

That what the ego must necessarily bring to the knowledge of himself, according to Krause, is knowledge of the material and formal categories of the ego, where Krause’s word for these categories is Wesenheiten – essentialities. The material categories are those properties that determine the material constitution of the ego, while the formal categories determine the manner in which the ego is given to itself. Based on this it follows that in the analytical-ascending part of science, understanding of the transcendental constitution of the ego has to enable us to understand that there is a higher principle beyond the categories and their existence that is adequately referred to as God, if God is considered as the fact and knowledge principle of science. This principle or ground has to be recognized as that which constitutes both the transcendental constitution of the ego and, in the context of Krause’s system of philosophy, the system of science itself.

To discover these categories of the ego, to elaborate a particular doctrine of the material and formal categories, Krause distinguishes between two mutually supporting perspectives from which the ego, and ultimately any entity, can be analysed in the analytical-ascending part of science: we can consider the ego as such, and we can consider the ego is in itself. If we consider the ← 36 | 37 → ego, or any other entity, as such, then we try to discover the material and formal categories of the ego as a whole, and as a whole only. If we consider the ego, or any other entity, in itself, then we analyse the intrinsic categorial constitution of the whole, that is, we analyse the parts that constitute the whole as a whole, as well as how the parts are related amongst each other and to the whole, in order to constitute the whole. The two perspectives, according to Krause, are mutually supporting because what an entity is, as such, is metaphysically equivalent to what it is in itself. If, as such, an entity was different, then it would be different in itself, and vice versa.

Regarding its essentialities, the ego, as such, is first recognized as a self-same being, wholly directed towards itself, and comprehending itself as a whole. That is, the ego is subordinated to the material categories of selfhood (Selbheit) and wholeness (Ganzheit), and to the formal categories of directedness (Richtheit) and comprehension (Fassheit). Next, the ego phenomenologically observes that once any of these categories is given, it is impossible not to recognize the presence of the others: the wholeness of the ego is not separable from the selfhood of the ego. For the ego could not be a whole being unless it were a self-same being. Directedness is not separable from comprehension. For the ego could not grasp itself as a whole if it were not directed towards itself. The ego could not be a whole being if it were not directed toward itself. The ego, in other words, recognizes that it is also subordinated to the various combinations of the formal and material categories selfhood, wholeness, directedness, and comprehension, combinations which Krause refers to, for instance, as selfhood-wholeness-unity (Selbganzvereinheit) or directedness-comprehension-unity (Richtfassvereinheit). Finally, because the ego recognizes that its being as a whole is not exhausted by any of these categories or their combinations, for instance, as a whole it is more than selfhood or directedness-comprehension-unity, the ego becomes aware of the fact that as a whole it is the higher unity of what belongs to its transcendental constitution. Therefore, the ego can understand itself as the higher unity of the unity and difference that make up for its transcendental constitution. In Krause’s words, the ego recognizes itself as the original-unity-of-essentiality of its being.

In itself, the ego first knows itself as a body – bodily essence – and as a mind – rational essence, because body and mind are the parts that constitute the ego as a whole. Next, and analogously to the phenomenological ← 37 | 38 → observation of what the ego is as such, the ego knows that in itself it is a unity of body and mind – the ego is not only mind and not only body, but through the unity of its being is both body and mind: a human being. Since the unity of body and mind, however, is not exhaustive of the unity of the ego – the ego is aware that as a whole it is more than the overlapping of mind and body – it follows that the ego recognizes itself again as a higher unity that has to be distinguished from the unity of body and mind. Since body and mind are prima facie distinct, and since the ego as such cannot itself stand in external opposition to that which the ego is in itself, the ego thereby knows that it is a higher unity of the entities which, as constitutive parts of itself, are contrary to each other: mind and body.

2.3  The intuition of God as the ultimate ground

The ego knows that it necessarily describes itself, on the one hand, as a self-same being, wholly directed towards itself, comprehending itself as a whole, and, on the other, also describes itself as a union of mind and body. Because, according to Krause, the concept of mind entails the concept of reason, while the concept of body entails the concept of nature, it follows that the ego necessarily brings to the knowledge of himself a priori concepts such as that of unity, distinction, selfhood, wholeness, directedness, comprehension, nature, and reason. Since the transcendentally observed essentialities of the ego as such and the ego in itself do not provide a sufficient reason for either their existence or the existence of their observed unities and distinctions – for instance, reflection on selfhood does not account for its union with wholeness and directedness – the analytical-ascending part of science proceeds by asking for the higher ground or principle of the transcendentally observed constitution of the ego as a whole. Since the principle of sufficient reason (Satz vom Grunde), according to Krause, is available a priori and is what enables the ego to ask for the ground of its constitution, the ego is allowed to ask for the ultimate ground of its constitution.

Deploying the principle of sufficient reason, then, the ego discovers the thought of God as the infinite and unconditioned principle of fact and knowledge that has to exist if there is a sufficient condition for the transcendental constitution of the ego at all. However, that such a principle is needed to account for the transcendental constitution of the ego, does not ← 38 | 39 → entail that it actually exists. To understand how it is possible for the thought of God to arrive at validity, to understand that the principle of fact and knowledge exists, Krause analyses the concept of knowledge.

Knowledge is a trinary structure: there is a knowing subject, a known object and a ground that brings together the knowing subject and the known object, without abolishing (aufzuheben) the independence of the knowing subject or of the known object. The truth of some knowledge is the correspondence between a knowing subject and a known object. That is, some knowledge is true precisely when the knowing subject and the known object are a unity, while maintaining their self-sufficiency. Next Krause argues that correspondence-theoretical truth implies that the transcendental categories, with which we know everything we know, are also the transcendent categories of what we know. Otherwise, the known object would not be known as it is, that is, as it would be without its being known.

If, however, we relate this to the idea of God, that is, to the idea of the ultimate principle of fact and knowledge, which, deploying the principle of sufficient reason, has to exist, if there is a ground in virtue of which the ego possesses its observed essentialities at all, then it follows that this thought itself can only be caused in us by God: for the thought of God is by definition a thought of an infinite and unconditioned ultimate ground, which can only be united with the finite knowing subject through an infinite ground itself: because the object of knowledge is considered infinite, the subject of knowledge considered finite, knowledge of God as the infinite principle of science can only be grounded in God Himself. We know of God in, and through, God, and are therefore immediately certain that God exists. We know of the infinite through the infinite itself.

Because God is the infinite and unconditioned fact and knowledge principle, it follows that we know, by this principle, through itself, that God in Himself is actually, from the point of view of metaphysics, both the only genuine knowing subject and the only genuine known object. Human knowledge, for example, the immediately certain fundamental intuition of the ego, is ultimately knowledge of God, from Himself: God, as knowing subject A, knows God as known object B, and is, as the fact principle of science, Himself the ground of this knowledge. All knowing is thereby not only knowing that is grounded in God, but is itself divine knowledge. In knowledge, only God is known, and only God knows. ← 39 | 40 →

2.4  The synthetical-descending part of science

The method of transcendental phenomenology, in which the ego discovers both the material and formal categories by which it is constituted, as well as their relations amongst each other, and to the ego itself, enables the ego to recognize that a necessary condition for the possibility of its very own essence and mode of givenness is the existence of an ultimate principle of fact and knowledge. This knowledge of the existence of God considered as the ultimate principle of fact and knowledge ends the analytical-ascending part of science, and Krause can begin to develop his panentheistic philosophy of science based on the fundamental intuition of God.

The first question to be asked in the synthetical-descending part of science, once the ego achieved the fundamental intuition of the fact and knowledge principle of science, and knows such a principle to exist, is for the essentialities, that is, for the essential properties of this principle, as such. For Krause, since the principle of fact and knowledge is God or Orwesen, this question is equivalent to the demand to clarify the essence of God as such, to make explicit what precisely it is that is appreciated in the fundamental intuition of God, and to show in which way this helps to account for the system of science. In the synthetical-descending part of science, Krause therefore shows how the formal and material categories of every entity and every item of knowledge, elaborated in the course of the analytical-ascending part of science, can be read off or deduced from the fundamental intuition of the nature of God as such.

In this respect, according to Krause, there is a fundamental difference between the way in which, for instance, the ego is related to its essentialities, that is, to its material and formal categories, and the way in which God is related to these categories: whereas the ego is subordinated to the categories – they are the formal and material determinations of its very being and existence as a finite entity – the ultimate principle of fact and knowledge, that is, the source of all being and knowledge, due to the logic of ultimate explanation, cannot be considered to be subordinated to these categories. For in this case we had to ask for a further principle in virtue of which the first principle is subordinated to these categories.

Instead, God as such has to be identical to each and every of these categories and to their relations of unity and difference, while God, as a whole, ← 40 | 41 → must not be reducible to any particular category, or their relations of unity and difference. The categories are constitutive of God, as a whole, but God cannot be reduced to any of His parts. For in this case, the reduction to one of the divine essentialities would exclude the identification of the one principle with the other categories, which would contradict God’s being the ultimate principle of fact and knowledge in virtue of which there is, in science, a unity in difference and a unity of unity and difference. God as such has to be considered as the ultimate and highest unity of the unity and difference of what God is, that is, of what it is that belongs to the essence of the divine being.

Based on these assumptions, Krause can proceed as follows: since transcendental phenomenology discovered that the material categories are selfhood and wholeness and that the formal categories are directedness and comprehension, God, considered as the fact and knowledge principle of science, is recognized as being identical to selfhood and wholeness, to directedness and comprehension, to their combinations and differences, while at the same time, God is not reducible to any of these determinations in particular: God, as a whole, is the higher unity of what can be distinguished as being part of the essence of God. For instance, it is true to say that God is wholeness, is what wholeness is all about, and that God is directedness, is what directedness is all about: the paradigm case of what it means to possess wholeness and of what it means to be directed towards oneself, the necessary condition for the possibility of wholeness and directedness in the world, is God. At the same time, it is true that God is also the union of wholeness and directedness, that is, is the paradigm of what it means that a whole is completely directed towards itself. However, since God, as such, cannot be reduced to any particular essentiality that is part of his being, God also is the higher unity of the determinations, unities, and differences to be found in Him.

To enable a more intuitive grasp of what is entailed in the fundamental intuition of God, Krause developed the following diagram that can be understood as the key to his central insights and as the key to his central concepts, because the dialectical moves of determination, unification, difference, and higher unity can simply be read off this diagram: ← 41 | 42 →

As an example, the essence of the scientific principle of fact and knowledge, the essence of God, regarding the material categories, is as follows: When o denotes God as such, that is, the object under consideration, wholeness is denoted by e and selfhood by i, we can observe the following: there is unity and distinction of wholeness and selfhood: ä. Since, however, wholeness and selfhood do no exhaust the essence of God, since God is not reducible to either i, e, or ä, the letter u denotes the higher unity of God as such, o, in respect to wholeness and selfhood. Since God considered as the higher unity of selfhood, wholeness, and their union, cannot be plainly opposed to i, e, and ä, he is also united, as the higher unity u, with selfhood, wholeness, and their union, that is, with ö, ü, and a.22 ← 42 | 43 →

2.5  Krause’s argument for panentheism: God in Himself

Once Krause clarified the nature of God as such, he turns to what can be said about God’s relation to the world. First, Krause argues that the world is the realm of the finite and as such is constituted by the two elements of reason and nature, as well as by their union, humanity. Because, according to Krause, philosophical reflection on the concepts of nature and reason reveals that what is properly denoted by ‘nature’ is wholeness and what is properly denoted by ‘reason’ is selfhood, Krause is able to show that the world as the realm of the finite is constituted by wholeness, selfhood, and their union, humanity.23 Since, however, wholeness and selfhood are essentialities of God as such, and since neither of them on its own can account for the unity they constitute, there has to be a ground in virtue of which selfhood and wholeness constitute the world. This ground cannot be the ultimate principle of fact and knowledge, considered as such, for this principle is not in opposition or distinction to anything else. A whole, as such, cannot be opposed to its parts. It has to be God inasmuch as God, in Himself, is the higher unity and principle of what can be distinguished in God.

Krause calls this higher unity that is constitutive of the divine being as a whole, but only denotes God inasmuch as He is the higher unity of the differences constitutive of the divine being considered as such, Urwesen (let Urwesen denote u in the above diagram, and Orwesen, that is, God as such, o, and you can read off the logic behind this idea). Urwesen is the principle in virtue of which the essentialities of Orwesen, as the constitutive parts of God as such, actually constitute the whole that is Orwesen. The distinction between Orwesen and Urwesen, together with the analysis ← 43 | 44 → of the essentialities of God, entails that the existence and nature of the world is an essentiality of God as such: the world is a constitutive part of the whole that is God. The existence and nature of the world is an intrinsic determination of God. God is, as such, the one principle of fact and knowledge that is the exemplar of every possible determination of every possible being or item of knowledge. God is, in Himself, such that everything is in God because as a whole God is logically prior to His parts. Everything is yet already contained in God and is what it is because it is a part of God; it could not even be thought of independently from the whole that is God. All that is thinkable, all that is knowable, all that is, and all that can be, is a finite realization of the essentialities of God and thereby yet already in God.

The panentheism of Krause is the thesis that the world is ‘in’ God, in so far as God is Orwesen (in the diagram this is represented by i, ä, and e being in o), but the world is apart from God, in so far as that God is Urwesen (in the diagram this is represented by i, ä, and e being difference from u). If we think of God as Orwesen, then the world is an inner structure of God, and can be deduced from the intuition of God. If we think of God as Urwesen, then God, as the ground of the world, is to be distinguished from the world. Based on this logic of unity and difference, and of unity of unity and difference, the system of science can be understood as follows: it is what it is because God is what God is, it has unity because of the unity of the divine being, and the only purpose of science is to make explicit this divine being that is yet already given in and through the fundamental intuition of God. Philosophy of science, according to Krause, therefore proceeds by showing that each of the sciences deals with a particular essentiality of the divine being, its union with other essentialities, or the differences amongst them.

The following chapters spell out this overview in more detail before the second part of the book relates Krause’s panentheism to recent debates in the philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, and philosophy of mind.


22 As an exercise, to familiarize yourself with Krause’s way of thinking, use the diagram to read of the structure of knowledge, the ego as such, and the ego in itself. As such, any knowledge is self-same and complete knowledge which is self-contained and directed towards itself. In itself, knowledge is first based on the opposition of the knowing subject, i, to the known object, e. However, in knowledge, these cannot be thought of independently, but must correspond that is, agree, under relation of their self-sufficiency, a. Because i and e cannot be the basis of this unity, it follows that there must be a ground in knowledge, which is both the ground of the knowing subject, and the ground of the known object, as well as the ground of their unity. As such, the ego, o, is a self-same, i, and whole, e, essence. Because the ego is the unity of that which the ego is, it follows that the ego is also the unity of selfhood and wholeness, a, and that it must be distinguished as such from selfhood, wholeness, and the unity of selfhood and wholeness, that is, as the original unity of its essence, u. In itself, the ego, o, finds itself as mind and as body, that is, as i and as e. Further, the ego in itself is recognized to be the union of mind and body, that is, a. And, because the self as such cannot stand in opposition to its inner essentialities, it must, in itself, be thought of as the higher unity of its determinations, that is, as u.

23 More exactly: selfhood and wholeness are united and distinguished in the same way in which nature and reason are also to be found united and differentiated. Selfhood is the predominating element on the side of reason, and wholeness on the side of nature. In Krause’s words: ‘[We find] that, in reason, selfhood is the dominant element in the relation of selfhood and wholeness, […] in nature, however, wholeness dominates in the relation of selfhood and wholeness’ (Krause 1828: 398).