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

From Transcendental Philosophy to Metaphysics

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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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5. Nature, Reason, and the Ego in Itself

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5.  Nature, Reason, and the Ego in Itself

That the ego as such is intuited as a whole is a necessary condition for one to be able to turn towards the analyses of the ego in itself. For only if the ego is grasped as a whole, only if one is aware of the material and formal categories that belong to the transcendental constitution of the ego, as a whole, does it make sense to ask about its constitutive parts, the relations amongst them, and to the ego, as a whole: if one did not possess the concept of the ego as a whole, one could not even identify its constitutive parts and their relation to the whole. The next task of the analytical-ascending part of science, therefore, is to turn to the essentialities that constitute the essence of the ego in itself, and to analyse in which way the constitutive parts of the ego are related amongst themselves, and to the ego as such, that is, to the ego as a whole. To carry out this task, Krause again operates with the method of transcendental phenomenology and only allows those insights to be read off or deduced from the fundamental intuition of the ego that are immediately certain and therefore express truths which each and every subject, by achieving the fundamental intuition itself, would agree upon.

5.1  The ego as body and mind

According to Krause (1869: 75), ‘the fulfilment of the intuition of what the ego is in itself, or as inner, is inside itself’ enables the ego to be immediately certain of the following: ‘I consist of mind and body’ (Krause 1869: 76). The reason for the adequacy of this insight is that every ego of necessity will, simply by reflecting on itself, recognize that it addresses itself as consisting of a mind and of a body, irrespectively of what further metaphysical reflection will show concerning the relation between mind and body.

Since further metaphysical knowledge is bracketed in the analytical-ascending part of science, Krause seems to be right in spelling out this insight in the way he does: it is not possible to consider the ego in itself, that is, to consider the constitutive parts of the ego as a whole and how they relate to the ego as a whole, and at the same time to deny that the ego at least possesses the concept of itself as a body and as a mind. In phenomenological terms: the ego at least appears to itself as having a body and as having a mind. ← 69 | 70 →

Based on the assumption that the ego in itself consists of mind and body, there are, therefore, at least three different perspectives from which the ego can be further illuminated. First, the analytical-ascending part of science has to clarify in greater detail the ego’s relation to its body as a constitutive part of the ego as a whole. Second, it has to clarify the ego’s relation to its mind as a constitutive part. Finally, the analytical-ascending part of science has to ask for the relation between the ego’s body and the ego’s mind in so far as both parts are constitutive of the ego as a whole.

5.2  The ego as a body

It is immediately certain that the ego, in itself, perceives itself to be constituted, at least in part, by its body. Because the method of the analytical-ascending part of science is transcendental phenomenology, Krause analyses the necessary conditions for the possibility that the ego recognizes itself as a body in order to further illuminate the ego’s relation to its body.

Krause begins by noting that we ‘know of our body […] through sense perception; we certainly see its limbs, we hear its movements, we taste, smell, definitely feel our body’ (Krause 1869: 78). Therefore, the ego knows its body through its body: ‘The perception of our body is therefore itself mediated through bodily perception. Precisely so, as the whole ego perceives itself, so it thereby perceives its body, so the body falls under its own senses’ (Krause 1869: 78). However, even though mediated through the senses, knowledge of one’s own body is not achieved purely by the senses, that is, a posteriori. For, although the senses are used in self-observation, the senses, on their own, are not sufficient to constitute knowledge of the body of and by the ego, as the self-same and whole body of the ego. For perception by, for instance, sight, smell, and taste, does not imply that the particular senses belong to a single body: That the ego feels a pain in its arm and that the ego sees a bleeding arm do not, each on their own, as operation of different senses, entail that the aching arm and the bleeding arm belong to one and the same body: ‘Therefore, we must first draw together these disparate perceptions, of our own body, in the mind [im Geiste], by thinking, and relate them to an enduring self-same and whole object, whereby they are all compelled to arrive at the conclusion that we have an organic body’ (Krause 1869: 79). ← 70 | 71 →

The necessary condition for the possibility that the ego is able to draw these disparate perceptions together to arrive at the concept of its own, self-same and whole body, is, of course, amongst other concepts, the ego’s possession of those non-sensory a priori concepts that it already applied in order to describe the transcendental constitution of the ego as a whole. These categorial concepts discovered in the reflection on the transcendental constitution of the ego as such, make possible the conceptual grasping of what is delivered by the senses as constituting one’s own body, as a self-same and whole body of the ego: ‘If the mind did not have the thoughts: something, something definite, one, the same, whole, part, limb […], we could not even become conscious of our body in its physical determinateness. For I must first interpret the representation of my body in the eye. I must conclude, on the basis of these presuppositions, that this representation is of a limb belonging to one and the same body. For example, what belongs to my hand, and what I know of certain things of my body, is, although quite disparate, only possible on the assumption that I possess, a priori, the concepts needed to understand that what is delivered by the different senses belongs to one and the same body, my body’ (Krause 1869: 78). The relation of the ego to the lived-body qua its own lived-body would be impossible without the categorial concepts, which enable the ego to determine perceptions mediated through the senses as perceptions of its own body. Without a priori presuppositions, there is no a posteriori lived-body-ness: ‘The recognition of our body rests by no means solely on sense perception, but we already bring this certainty to every determinate sense perception, and, in doing so, make all the non-sensory a priori presuppositions which we have already noticed in the survey of the ego as such’ (Krause 1869: 82).

In sum, the ego recognizes that, as a whole, it is constituted, at least in part, by its body that, as a self-same and whole body, is subordinated to the same material and formal categories to which also the ego, as a whole, is subordinated. Because, as we have seen, none of the categories stands arbitrarily juxtaposed next to each other, it follows that the ego as a body is a self-same and whole body that is directed upon itself, grasps itself, and possesses unity-of-determination and unity-of-difference. ← 71 | 72 →

5.3  The ego as a mind

The ego’s recognition of its body as being a constitutive part of the ego as a whole does not exhaust the analyses of the ego in itself, because the ego recognizes that in addition to its body it also possesses a mind: ‘I find myself to be a distinct essence from the body. As an essence distinguished from the body, I call my own being or myself, a mind’ (Krause 1869: 102). Therefore, after reflecting on the relation of the ego to its body, Krause turns to the ego’s relation to its mind (Geist), as a constitutive part of the ego as a whole. The question Krause briefly deals with is: ‘What can I find that I am, in so far as I distinguish myself from my body, in so far as I am a distinct essence from the body?’ (Krause 1869: 100).

First, as a mind, considered independent of its body, the ego is, like the body, and the ego as such, a whole and self-same essence that is subordinated to the same material and formal categories that were discovered in the analyses of the ego as such. The reason is that the moment I recognize that a constitutive part of myself, as a whole, is my being a mind, is the moment in which I recognize that I cannot deny selfhood, wholeness, directedness, or comprehension as determinations of myself as a mind. However, Krause is clear to emphasize that in transcendental phenomenology no ontological conclusion can be drawn from the fact that the ego as a mind is grasped as a whole and self-same essence: ‘The assertion that, as a mind, I could well be alone without the body, by no means lies in this insight [that the ego is one self and whole as a mind]. Because self-observation does not give any information about whether this is possible or not’ (Krause 1869: 102).

Next, as a mind, the ego possesses the faculty of reason and understanding. Understanding, according to Krause, is the faculty by which the ego as a mind can distinguish objects, while, by means of reason, unity is sought in diversity. Both reason and intellect are conceptual capacities: ‘In so far as one considers the individual through his differences from other individuals, is he understanding [Verstand, intellectus]. In so far as one holds, and unites, several individuals against several other individuals, he is describable as reason [Vernunft, ratio]. The understanding separates and distinguishes, reason connects and relates. Both are opposed in their intention, but always active at the same time’ (Krause 1892: 41). That is to say, ‘reason is the faculty of the mind of taking together, by which one sees unity. However, one sees against manifoldness’ (Krause 1892: 42). ← 72 | 73 →

In sum, as a mind, the ego is a self-same and whole essence that is subordinated to the same categories as the ego’s body and the ego as such, and it possesses the faculty of reason which is what allows the ego to see unity in difference, difference in unity, and the unity of unity and difference.

5.4  The ego as a human being

The ego in itself may be described in two respects: as mind and as body. Both are constitutive parts of the ego as a whole, and both the ego as a mind and the ego as a body, are, like the ego as such, self-same and whole essences that are subordinated to the formal and material categories discovered in the analyses of the transcendental constitution of the ego as a whole. Because the ego, as a whole, is related to its parts and because the parts that constitute the whole are related amongst each other, Krause has to investigate the relation between the ego as a mind and the ego as a body: ‘As mind, in what relation do I stand to myself as body?’ Or, in short: what is the relation between mind and body?’ (Krause 1869: 103).

In principle, there exist three possibilities: (1) the mind is subordinate to the body; (2) the body is subordinate to the mind; or (3) the body and the mind are on the same level of logical order: ‘Is the mind next to the body, on the same level, so that mind is just as essential as body, and body no less essential as mind? Or is it, roughly, such that mind is the higher essence, body the subordinate essence, such that body is not on the same essential level as mind [?]. […] Is body subordinated, or, conversely, is body the higher, and mind subordinated to it[?]’ (Krause 1869: 103).

Krause is aware that depending on whether the mind or the body is construed as dominant, the relation of the ego as such to mind and body alters, in daily life. If the ego as a body is thought of as more important than the ego as a mind, the ego as such runs the risk of neglecting the mind and concentrating only on the care of the body. This attitude can be observed as being, unfortunately, an important part of contemporary Western culture, as is easily recognised to be the case in innumerable body cultures, and the growing felt need to keep each individual’s body young and attractive. It is only to be expected that the philosophy of such a culture is also concentrated on the material physicality of our being. However, if the ego as a mind is taken to be more important than the ego as a body, there is an equal ← 73 | 74 → danger that the body is neglected. In general, as Krause says, ‘as far as the relation of this doctrine to life is concerned, it is of the greatest practical importance how the relation of mind to body might appear to humanity. For example, humanity will regard the mind as equal with the body. They will also regard the body as something essential, in itself worthy. They will nurture, care, train, to seek to maintain it in health and beauty. If, on the other hand, one might think that the mind is nothing independent, but only a particular activity of the body, roughly, only the highest animal function, then one will easily fall into the opinion that, if the body dies, so will it be with the mind’ (Krause 1869: 104).

Krause’s own position on the mind-body relation emphasizes the equal importance of the ego’s mind and the ego’s body: the ego as a mind and the ego as a body are equal parts before the constitution of the ego as a whole, that is, as such. As equal parts of the constitution of the ego as a whole, the ego’s mind and the ego’s body are related amongst each other, because the ego as such is not only each of mind and body, but, as a whole, is constituted by the synthesis of both. This synthesis of mind and body, according to Krause, is what is meant by the concept of a human being. In Krause’s words: ‘I, as a whole essence, am a mind […]. But as mind I am not […] my body. But I am indeed the body as ego, in so far as the body […] is essentially united with me as a mind. And, in so far as I am a mind, and at the same time am a body, or to speak more precisely, in so far as I as mind am essentially connected with my body […] I am a human being. Thus the ego finds itself as mind and […] as body, and as the essential union [Vereinwesen] of both, that is, as human’ (Krause 1869: 180).

Although the ego is aware that, in itself, it is a body, and a mind, and in virtue of the union of body and mind is what is called a human being, the ego, analogous to the analysis of its transcendental constitution as such, is aware that, as a whole, it is not completely exhausted by its parts and their relation with one another. That is to say, in itself, the ego, as a whole that is related to, and constituted by its parts, is distinguished, as a whole, from what is constitutive of the ego as a whole. In so far as the ego is a whole that is not reducible to its parts and their relation, the ego can be referred to as the higher unity of its parts, as their principle of unity, and therefore is precisely what unites the differences and unities of its parts into a whole. The ego intuits that it is distinguished as the higher unity of mind, body, and their union. ← 74 | 75 →

5.5  Nature and reason

That the ego, in itself, is a body and a mind, and through the union of body and mind is a human being, does not provide the full analysis of what the ego is, in itself. The reason is that the ego, qua being a body, and qua being a mind, recognizes that it is part of larger realms of being: Qua being a body, the ego is part of nature, and qua being a mind, the ego is part of reason. That is, according to Krause, further reflection on the ego, in itself, shows that as body, the ego recognizes itself as part of nature, and as a mind, the ego recognizes itself as part of reason, which is to say that the ego possesses a priori concepts of nature and reason.

Regarding the ego as a body, Krause argues that although the ego becomes aware of its own body as a self-same and whole body, through the formal and material categories, the ego, at the same time, by reflecting on its concept of his body, also finds itself standing in a particular relation of alienation to its own body. The body is not entirely part of the ego—that is, it is not wholly under the ego’s control. To an equally great extent, the body is withdrawn from the control of the ego as a component and part of nature and therefore ‘we even maintain that this body belongs much more to nature than to the ego’ (Krause 1869: 83–84).

Krause advances two arguments for this thesis. The first is genetic: although the body is connected with the ego, as its body, it is subject to laws of nature in its genesis and sustained existence. Without oxygen, without food, without natural laws, it would be impossible for the body to exist: ‘For we assert that the whole body is formed by nature, that it is, and is in, nature. Its generation, its birth, its growth, its decay, its corruption: all these are acts of nature. From this perspective, the body belongs to nature much more than to the ego’ (Krause 1869: 84). Therefore, although the ego recognizes its body as a whole, and as one and the same essence, further reflection on the entailments of the concept of this body shows that the body is, and has to be, part of nature in order to exist.

The second argument concerns the voluntary control of one’s own body. If the body were wholly associated with the ego, then the ego would be able to exercise complete control over all bodily functions. The body, however, can only be controlled to a small extent by the ego, because many body functions are not under voluntary control. It follows that the body is not ← 75 | 76 → entirely subordinate to the will of the ego, but is part of the whole of nature, which controls these body functions by law: ‘Whether I like to think this or not, I have perception, my heart beats, my stomach digests, my lungs breath, only because of part of its nervous system, and I have only any part in it as a mind [Geist]. It is therefore not even true that the body as a whole belongs to me as mind. It is only joined to me as a part of nature. I only have mental control over it in part’ (Krause 1869: 84). The ego as a whole, and as one and the same being, experiences its body as both its own and as an alien body. In so far as the ego experiences its body as an alien body, it experiences it as part of nature.

The deployed concept of nature, however, cannot be gained through sense perception, because sensory states always only represent the individual: ‘Everything which we claim to know of nature with generality and necessity, we cannot derive from sense perception; because the senses present absolutely nothing like this, for they only offer finite qualities of the individuals in nature’ (Krause 1869: 88). Any knowledge of an object, mediated by the senses and the transcendental categories, therefore is knowledge of a finite object in nature, but not knowledge of what nature is, as such. That is to say, the very concept of nature has to be accessible a priori as the concept of that in which finite objects exist and have their being.

According to Krause, such a concept can be distinguished as the concept of an organic, self-same and whole, infinite space that, as a whole, can be distinguished from its constitutive parts, the finite entities that make up ‘the whole of everything bodily’ (Krause 1869: 24). As Krause (1829: 151) states: ‘We find in ourselves alone the a priori assumption of the infinite, original, whole, and indeed filled space. And, therefore we raise ourselves to the thoroughly trans-sensory thought of nature, that is, to the physical world which, in a certain sense, is external to us all. As one, in space, motion, and infinite force, original self-same and whole self-essence [urganzes Selbwesen] that is all that is of its kind, in itself, holds within itself the entire heavenly structure, and all the stages of bodily essences, essentialities, and activities, and is primordial and eternal, as such, but temporal in itself. And this intuition of nature […] contains, at the same time, the intuition of the primordial concept of nature, in so far as it is, as a self-same and whole, above all its internal parts, members, and formations.’ ← 76 | 77 →

Without the assumption that nature is this infinite and harmonious space in which individual finite entities exist, we could not even think of the existence of finite objects presented by the senses as being part of nature. We need to understand nature as a whole, in order to understand what it is to be a part of nature. As Krause (1869: 70) says: ‘If I am conscious of space as a whole, then I think of infinite space, and I do not think that this whole space is inwardly limited, that I can assume as much parts as one likes. But I think, rather, precisely that which must first be thought, so that I can also think the thoughts of parts of space.’ That is to say, ‘every finite essence is part of nature, is in nature in an infinite manner that is in accordance with the eternal harmony of the whole of nature. […] In its finitude, every finite entity [in nature] is an expression of the harmony of the finite and infinite’ (Krause 2007: 80).

Nature, then, is the harmonious and whole of all finite essences bound together in infinite space, because ‘the eternal and infinite form of nature is space’ (Krause 2007: 81). Inasmuch as nature is a harmonious whole that, as a whole, can be distinguished from the finite entities existing as parts in nature, nature itself is a self-same and whole essence that, like the ego as such, is subordinated to the formal and material essentialities that constitute its very essence and being.

Regarding the ego as a mind, Krause argues that in the same way in which the recognition of the ego as a body entails that the ego’s body is part of a bigger whole, nature, so the thought of the ego as a mind entails that the ego participates in a higher realm, the realm of reason: ‘Both the ego as body and the ego as mind are independent and whole beings. In contrast to the body, the ego, as mind, is not a body extended in space and time. But it first makes possible, through the assumptions which lie within it, the a priori concept of a corporeal physical nature, extended in time and space. While, furthermore, the ego is part of all nature through its body, the ego finds itself as a mind, independent of the totality of nature, as part of reason’ (Krause 1869: 107).

The realm of reason is, on the one hand, the realm of ‘eternal and infinite concepts’ (Krause 2007: 81) that constitute an organic and harmonious infinite whole, that, as a whole, can be distinguished from its parts as a self-same and whole essence that is subordinated to the material ← 77 | 78 → and formal categories. Concepts, according to Krause, are ‘thought to be infinite in their infinite finitude, where this infinite finitude is worked out and brought to mind by an ever more precise determination of their boundaries to one another and the harmony amongst them’ (Krause 2007: 81). That is to say, every concept is finite inasmuch as concepts operate by exclusion, finitude, and that based on the assumption that there are infinitely many concepts, in principle, the complete determination of a concept would have to take into account, due to the organic unity of the realm of reason, the whole infinity of different concepts all at once. That the ego as a mind is part of the realm of reason therefore, amongst other things, means that inasmuch as the ego is a mind it participates in, and has access to the infinite realm of concepts and their relations of inclusion and exclusion. On the other hand, the realm of reason is also the realm of freedom: it is qua participating in the realm of reason that the ego is free and is, as a freely acting human being, through nature united with each and every being that participates in reason.

Because the ego recognizes that as a body it is part of nature and as a mind it is part of reason, and because the ego recognizes that it is a human being in so far as it is a union of body and mind, the ego becomes aware of the fact that in so far as it is a human being, it participates in the union of nature and reason, both of which are of equal importance for the constitution of the ego as a whole. This, though, entails that although nature and reason can be distinguished from one another, the distinction between nature and reason is not an absolute distinction. Instead, it is a relative distinction that, in humanity, is yet already abolished in and through the union of nature and reason. For, nature is in reason and reason in nature. Nature is in reason as a world of imagination, while reason is in nature as organized matter: ‘Nature, therefore, inasmuch as it is rational (organic), is in reason, and is accepted by reason. […] Reason, however, in so far as it is natural, is in nature, and is accepted by nature, in so far as nature is reason. Reason, therefore, in its infinity and peculiarity, must be nature, only a nature in its peculiar form […] with the character of reason […]. This nature in reason opens itself up as a world of imagination [Phantasie]. Nature, on the other hand, must be reason. This reason in nature goes on in the free self-organization of nature’ (Krause 2007: 81/82). ← 78 | 79 →

In sum, although nature and reason can be distinguished in so far as emphasis is put on the fact that nature is the organic whole of bodily essences and reason is the organic whole of spiritual and freely acting essences, there is a fundamental union between nature and reason, which today we would express as the fact that nature is a reasonable whole that is open to adequate conceptualization, this presupposition being itself a necessary condition for the possibility of science, a principal task of which precisely consist in the conceptualization of nature in a reasonable way.

5.6  Nature, reason, humanity, and the concept of the world

The ego, in itself, is both a mind, a body, the union of nature and reason, and the higher unity of the unity and difference between nature and reason. The next question, then, is as follows: ‘Where then does this union of mind and of body come from, and why is this union with nature so precisely defined and limited?’ (Krause 1869: 112). Unfortunately, the question of how this synthesis of nature and reason is achieved, cannot be answered at this stage in the analytical-ascending part of science, because the ego is not yet aware of the existence of a higher ground in virtue of which nature and reason are both distinct and united.

As we will see, for Krause, this ground of the unification (Vereinigung) of nature and reason only becomes fully understandable once the ego is able to accomplish the fundamental intuition of God: ‘We oppose nature and spirit. We distinguish them, assert that spirit is not nature, and vice versa. This compels us to ask for a ground of the three objects mentioned, for the higher and the highest One, in which these three are, and are comprehended. The thought of the highest One is already denoted in the educated consciousness of our people, and other peoples, by the name “God”’ (Krause 1869: 24).

What can be said though, is that there is nothing in the world which may not to be subsumed under one of the various headings: nature, reason, and humanity. The reason is that the ego cannot think of anything existing in the world that is not either subordinated to reason, to nature, or to humanity. Therefore, Krause concludes that the world is the union of nature, reason and humanity: ‘Now, these three objects, humanity, nature, and reason, make up what we call the world’ (Krause 1869: 24). Considered systematically, of course, nature and reason are the only constituents of the world, because humanity is itself a synthesis of nature and reason. ← 79 | 80 →

5.7  Summary

After the analysis of the ego as such, Krause turns to the analysis of the ego in itself. The ego, as it shows itself regarding its constitution, in the fundamental intuition of the ego, discovers that, as a whole, it is constituted by a body and a mind, and that the union of body and mind is what constitutes the ego’s humanity. The ego goes beyond the body to nature, because the body is indeed part of nature as it is part of myself as human being. The ego goes beyond the mind to reason, because to be mind means to participate in reason.

The diagram constructed by Krause may, again, be of help in understanding the structure behind the fundamental intuition of the constitution of the ego in itself:

When o denotes the ego as such, i denotes the ego-as-mind and e denotes the ego as body, then the fundamental intuition of the ego, in itself, will enable you to see that in the ego there is a union of mind and body, that entails a union of reason and nature, ä. That the ego is not reducible to either i, ä, or e, and is not in external opposition to mind, body, and their union, just means that the ego, in itself, is also the higher unity of these essentialities, u. In virtue of its being the higher unity, however, it is at the same time united with i, ä, and e, visualized as ü, a, and ö.