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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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6. The Fundamental Intuition of God

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6.  The Fundamental Intuition of God

Because the ego is itself finite, and cannot account, on its own, for the transcendental unity and harmony of the categories it observes itself to be subordinated to, as a whole, and as a whole that is related and constituted by its parts and their relations, Krause proceeds by way of analysing whether there is indeed an infinite ground of all of this. This infinite ground, that at once is the principle of science, God, or Orwesen, has to be the highest thought and, as such, the thought of the ultimate ground of the synthesis of the categories into corresponding unities of unity and difference, that is, into wholes that harmonically are related to their parts.

6.1  Knowledge as a trinary relation

To show the validity of the thought that there is an ultimate, highest principle of science, Krause begins with an analysis of the concept of knowledge, where he understands truth as correspondence, because ‘what is known, in so far as it is known, must be thought as it is as such, so that the knowledge, the representation of the object, completely agrees with the object’ (Krause 1869: 6). The reason for this presupposition is that truth, understood as coherence, is not sufficient to constitute science: ‘If science is to be science (namely, science at all), then it must be systematic. This alone, however, still does not amount to science. For a systematic succession of conclusions, a structure, can be formed on any presupposition of some unproven assumption, and yet it is not knowledge. For the error can also be structural’ (Krause 1892: 53).

Next, and based on this assumption, Krause distinguishes between knowing subject, known object, and knowledge itself. So knowledge has a trinary structure: ‘In knowledge, the knowing essence and the known essence stand in a relation, that is, the outer world to me in so far as I recognize it. And both these things, which stand in relation to each other, I distinguish from the content of the relation itself, namely of knowledge. […] We therefore have to distinguish three things in this relation of knowing: the knower, the known, and the knowledge’ (Krause 1869: 186).29 That is, in contrast to ← 81 | 82 → dual conceptions of knowledge on which a subject knows an object, Krause assumes that the knowing and the known are subject to a further condition. As independent essences, in order to constitute knowledge, both have to be united in knowledge, that is, there has to be ground in virtue of which the subject and the object are brought together to constitute knowledge. Only then can the correspondence theory of truth, used by Krause, be satisfied: ‘We find that the knower is connected as independent with the known as independent. So, both also exist in knowledge as independent and yet are connected. Or, in other words, the knower and the known are united as self-same and whole essences in knowledge, so they still subsist as self-same and whole essences. […] And when I know something that is outside myself […], I again distinguish myself as self-same and whole essence from each known thing that is also a self-same and whole essence. And they are united in an item knowledge that itself is a self-same and whole essence: they do not go into or beyond me, do not give up their independence in mine. They remain, known by me, so independent, as if I did not know them. And yet they are united with me in knowledge’ (Krause 1869: 190–91).

If the known object were to lose its independence in knowledge, knowledge would not be knowledge of objects, as they are, independent of human knowledge. But then the correspondence theory of truth would have to be abandoned, and there would arise an insuperable schism between the things in themselves (Ding an sich) and our knowledge of things in themselves. Therefore, the essence of knowledge consists in the knowing relation, the knowing being, and the known being, being united. Therefore both the knower and the known retain their independence. Otherwise, knowledge could not be as it is: knowledge of objects as they would be if not known. As a consequence, truth exists in the correspondence between the discriminating subject, as independent, and the recognized object, as independent, in such a way that the known object is known as it is, as it would be without its being known. ← 82 | 83 →

It follows that the categories, with which the ego necessarily knows everything that it knows, cannot be only the transcendental categories of knowledge lying in the subject, but must, on the basis of the analysis of the concept of truth, also be the transcendent categories of the being of things in themselves. For, if they were not, then whatever we know would not be known as it would be without being known, and truth could not exist in the union of the knowing subject and the known object, while retaining their respective independence. For this reason, the criticism put forward by Reinhold, according to which Krause’s system failed because of the following error, does not apply: ‘This error lies in the way in which he makes use of the formulas of positing [Setzung], opposition [Entgegensetzung], and unification [Vereinsetzung], in order, by means of the latter, to gain, by deduction and definition, the supposed explanations of all concepts necessary in the whole range of philosophical investigation. [Krause confuses the] logical-formal categories, those in which the subjective general modes of our thinking which are concentrated in the form of judgment are expressed, with our metaphysical categories, that is, with the universal epistemological concepts [Erkenntnißbegriffen] in which the object-oriented determinations of the all-embracing causal connectedness of reality [allumfassenden Causalzusammenhanges der Wirklichkeit] is grasped by our rational recognition’ (Reinhold 1845: 495f.). Krause does not confuse the logical-formal categories of subjective knowledge with the metaphysical categories of the objective essence of nature, but argues that these categories are one and the same type-categories, or that otherwise our understanding of an objective world would have to be judged eo ipso to fail.

6.2  God as the ultimate ground of all things

Krause’s concept of knowledge brings problems familiar today: how is it possible that ‘something, that is not the ego, comes in essential relation to the ego, as knowledge does; how it is possible for the ego to know anything beyond itself?’ (Krause 1869: 188). Although in the fundamental intuition of the ego, the ego seems to have found immediately certain knowledge of itself, because the ego itself is recognized as the principle of the ego, this does not help explain knowledge of objects different from the ego. For the fundamental intuition of the ego cannot explain how knowledge is possible ← 83 | 84 → of something other than the ego. There must be another ground in virtue of which such knowledge is possible. As we shall see, this fundamental ground is God Himself as the scientific principle of fact and knowledge. First, however, it has to be shown that the fundamental intuition of the ego entails this thought of an ultimate principle of everything.

To show this, Krause picks up the results of the analysis of the transcendental constitution of the ego itself. There it has been shown that the ego itself belongs to nature, reason, and their union: humanity. However, since, according to Krause, the ego is not itself the ground in virtue of which this union of nature and reason exists, and since neither reflection on the concept of reason nor on the concept of nature can account for this, and because, in Krause’s system, the principle of sufficient reason is accepted a priori, it is legitimate to ask for the ground in virtue of which the synthesis of nature and reason exists: ‘Do we find still higher thoughts, besides these three fundamental thoughts of reason, nature, and humanity? Do we have thoughts of essences which are besides these three and above them?’ (Krause 1869: 202).

With respect to sensory knowledge, the answer is negative, because the ego finds nothing in sensory knowledge which could not be subordinated to one of these three categories: ‘In the areas of our inner and outer sensory experience, we find nothing but a part of reason, a part of nature, a part of humanity. Also, we definitely do not find in ordinary consciousness the idea of any finite essentiality which might not be subsumed under one of these three’ (Krause 1869: 202). Of course, it does not logically follow from this that there cannot be other regions. For, from the fact that everything with inner and outer sensory faculties of knowledge is either part of reason, part of nature or part of humanity, it does not follow that there could not be something that could in principle be perceived by other senses, and does not fall into these categories. The essential question, which Krause, in fact, is engaged with at this point is not about the complete classification of objects knowable by sensory means, but whether there is non-sensory knowledge going beyond nature, reason and humanity: ‘The higher question is: do we not find in the realm of pure thoughts, independent of all experience, that we think a particular essence [Wesen] even beyond these three? I contend that we bear within us the thought of such a higher principle, which might be beyond reason, nature, and humanity’ (Krause 1869: 202). ← 84 | 85 →

Krause’s argument for this is based on his analysis of the grounding relation he sees established by the principle of sufficient reason, because whenever there is a finite essence, then there is another essence in and through, that is, in virtue of which the first essence is what it is, because, always, ‘a higher essence is the ground of another, of what, and in what, the other is’ (Krause 1869: 202–203).

Now, the essences of nature, reason, and humanity are finite essences, because they can be distinguished from one another: ‘Although we have the thought of reason as infinite in its fashion, since it is not nature, since it is also not for humanity alone, reason in this perspective is thought as finite. We have, similarly, thought nature as infinite in its fashion, as infinite in space, in time, and in regard to force. But it is not spirit, reason. Also, nor is it for humanity alone. It is therefore also thought finite and limited in this perspective. Each is, therefore, not the one that each of the other two is’ (Krause 1869: 203). Based on Krause’s assumption concerning metaphysical grounding, it follows that there must be a ground in virtue of which nature, reason, and humanity are what they are and are related to one another as they are. In other words, since nature and reason are united in humanity, and cannot themselves be the ground in virtue of which this union exists, it follows that there is a higher ground in and through which this union is actual and intelligible: ‘Therefore, we cannot fail to ask for the ground of reason, of nature and humanity. That is, we must raise ourselves to the thought of an essence under which both reason and nature might be subsumed, by which, according to its essentiality, these two might be determined: which is also the ground of the union of both, according to which they are humanity’ (Krause 1869: 204).

This ultimate ground and principle of nature, reason, and humanity, is itself either finite or infinite. If it is finite, then the ground of the ground has to be sought, until an infinite ground is found and ultimate explanation comes to an end: ‘Does this essence also, as we think it, therefore have a yet higher ground itself? If we think of it as finite, if we think that it also has something other than itself, outside, we must again also inquire into the higher ground of this essence, which we think of as the ground of reason, nature, and humanity’ (Krause 1869: 204). If the ground itself is infinite, then ‘the question of ground no longer finds any application with respect to the object’ (Krause 1869: 204). ← 85 | 86 →

The higher essence, the principle of nature, reason, and humanity that operates even as the highest principle of all is, for Krause, nothing other than God, understood as the one infinite fact and knowledge principle of science that as the ultimate unity of unity and difference is that in virtue of which the organic system of science and the reality it pictures are possible as a system at all: ‘In the German language, we find the word “God”: God is that by which an infinite, unconditioned being is denoted, which is at the same time considered as the ground and as the principle of all things. Also in the German language, we find the word “Essence” [Wesen], which, if it is unconditionally understood, is quite suitable to denote this idea [and will, in this use, be written as Orwesen]’ (Krause 1869: 205).

If we ask for the ground of nature, reason, and the union of the two, then we encounter the thought of one infinite essence, as the fact principle in which they are grounded. At this point, Krause does not in any way wish to claim the validity of the thought of God. Rather, his argument is of conditional form: if there is a fundamental ground, then this can only be God, the one, infinite, and unconditioned essence. Whether this idea has objective validity, or whether our idea of the infinite and unconditioned ground of all finite beings does not correspond to reality, is not decided at this point. Before Krause’s argument for validity is presented, the relation between the transcendent and transcendental categories has to be clarified in order to further explain how the categories discovered in the fundamental intuition of the ego shape our recognition of everything that comes to mind, in particular, of every whole, as a whole, and as related to its constitutive parts and the relations amongst them.

6.3  The ubiquity of the formal and material categories

In obtaining from transcendental phenomenology the doctrine of categories by which the ego knows itself, Krause has not yet reached the goal of the analytical-ascending part of science. For even though the recognition of the essentialities of the ego, read off or deduced from the fundamental intuition of the ego, is self-evident, nothing is thereby said about the entirety of ego-surpassing knowledge: ‘These essentialities are assigned factual validity, as long as they are in me. I am thus certain of myself, as I am to myself in the fundamental intuition of the ego. But whether there are also such things ← 86 | 87 → outside me, is, of course, the only […] important question’ (Krause 1869: 223). That is to say, ‘we have answered the following question: how, in virtue of which properties or essentialities, does the ego know itself? But the whole following question is essentially this general one: how does the ego think and know everything that it thinks and knows?’ (Krause 1869: 221).

In order to answer this question, Krause argues that the essentialities, those categories the ego finds in analytic self-observation, with which it already understands itself, in fact, apply to all finite essences, as well as to the scientific principle of fact and knowledge. Let us treat finite essences first. We here find that the material and formal categories, each individually, as well as combined, shape our cognition of each object, that is, of every finite essence. As Krause states: ‘The essentialities which have been recognized are in all things which are thought and known. They are, therefore, at the same time, the highest of those presuppositions which we encounter in the consideration of the ego and, generally, in any finite knowledge. They are therefore also the highest of those non-sensory presuppositions which we bring with us to sense perception, through which we thereby bring about sensory experiential knowledge’ (Krause 1869: 225).

Krause provides a revealing example, which is worth quoting in full: ‘I think of a grain of sand. Imperfect as my knowledge of this object may be, I still think of it as an essence. I think of it as with a determinate essence and as essentially one. And I also think how it is at the same time a self-same and united whole, in which it has unity of essentiality. I also distinguish the grain of sand as prior to and above its essential inner distinction, in so far as it is originally essential. I also have to fix the grain of sand in thought, think of it as something factual and limited (positive). And as such, I think the grain of sand also formally as one, or as one in number. Furthermore, I have to think of it as such, that is, think that this grain of sand is directed to itself, for example by holding itself together, and also by being directed outwards, for example, by external pressure opposing itself, self-absorbing, aligning with, or referring to, the outside. So, I think the grain of sand also according to the formal category of directedness. I must also think of the grain of sand as comprehensive, according to this formal category of positivity. And I have to think its directedness and positivity together. I cannot even think the grain of sand without affirming it, and without at the same time thinking that it is placed as such as self-affirming. And since ← 87 | 88 → it is a finite essence, I can think of it as nothing else but as having negation in itself, according to which it is not everything else. Finally, I must also think it as being, first, as being real in time, according to the existing of nature. But I also refer to this real grain of sand by its concept, by reason, and think the universal and the essentially eternal as the same. And, again, I could not think this, if I did not think it, at the same time, as an essential unity of its categories. And I could not think of it according to all these particular modes of being, if I did not think of it according to the one, undivided, beingness. In addition, I think the grain of sand as a principle, in itself, that is determined by the essentialities of the whole grain of sand. So I think that the grain of sand as inwardly similar to itself, also that, externally, it is similar to other grains of sands, and other finite things. All these, however, are also essentialities, that is, categories, according to which the ego recognizes itself’ (Krause 1869: 222).

The example shows that the material, formal, and material-formal categories recognized in transcendental phenomenology as the essentialities of the ego necessarily refer to all finite things of which the ego can be aware: we cannot help construing external objects as essences that exemplify selfhood, wholeness, positivity, comprehension, directedness, and their syntheses. However, not only finite beings are necessarily grasped with help of these essentialities. The idea of the one infinite and unconditioned essence, that is, the thought of the scientific principle of fact and knowledge, is also understood by these categories, as Krause indicates as follows: ‘For whoever thinks the thoughts: Essence, – that one infinite, unconditioned essence, thinks also: essentiality, infinite, unconditioned essentiality, and, indeed, at the same time, essential-unity of essence [Wesenheiteinheit Wesens]. They think Essence as self-essential [Wesen als selbwesenlich], or independent, or self-sufficient, as itself, and, indeed, purely as itself, because nothing is thinkable beyond it. That is, they think Essence as essence, in accordance with selfhood. Similarly, they also think of Essence as a whole essence, according to wholeness, before and above all division or divisiveness. That is, they think Essence as a whole essence, according to wholeness. And, at the same time, they think both of these two together: self-sameness and wholeness of Essence, and unite them, and become conscious of Essence as an essence of unification’ (Krause 1869: 224). ← 88 | 89 →

Both God and all finite objects are recognized as self-same and whole essences, which are directed towards themselves and comprehend themselves. The difference between knowledge of finite objects, and knowledge of the ultimate principle, consists in this: the material and formal categories are finally and conditionally thought in connection with finite objects, because finite objects are subordinated to these categories. While in relation to God, considered as the ultimate ground and highest principle of science and reality, they are thought as infinite and unconditional essentialities. This follows from Krause’s account of metaphysical grounding, because the one fact principle must be thought as the ultimate ground in virtue of which everything finite becomes intelligible, and therefore it itself cannot be subordinated to these categories, but has to be identified unconditionally with the categories themselves: ‘From this, it is evident that the content of the unconditioned thought, Orwesen, or God, is also thought according to the same essentialities, as also the ego, as everything finite, only with the essential differences that all these qualities in God or Orwesen are thought as unconditioned, infinite essences, as infinite and unconditioned. But all finite beings, as such, are only thought as finite and conditioned’ (Krause 1869: 225).

6.4  The fundamental intuition of God

The thought of the ultimate principle has been identified as the thought of an infinite and highest principle in virtue of which every finite entity is the entity it is. Such a principle cannot itself be subordinated to the categories, because the subordination of an entity under a category entails the need for a higher principle in virtue of which this subordination takes place, and therefore the ultimate principle has to be identical to what it is that the categories ultimately denote. In order to show that the ultimate principle exists and can be known to exist with immediate certainty, Krause begins by further reflection on the concept of knowledge.

First, because ‘knowledge is a relation of the essential union of the known with the knowing’ (Krause 1869: 254), and because knowledge is either of something outside the ego or of something within the ego, it follows that non-sensory knowledge either ‘is kept within the ego, or transcends the ego’ (Krause 1869: 253). The certainty of non-sensory knowledge, which is concerned only with the ego itself, and so is knowledge with which transcendental phenomenology is predominantly concerned in the ← 89 | 90 → analytical-ascending part of science, is assured by the fundamental intuition of the ego: ‘The validity, and therefore, the factual truth of all non-sensory knowledge of the self is known and acknowledged. The ego is the principle of its further self-knowledge. And in the fundamental intuition of the ego, as the principle for all that the ego contains, is then contained, given and co-founded all knowledge of the ego’ (Krause 1869: 254).

As the ego can be described as a principle of itself, and as the ground of all the manifold within the ego, it follows a fortiori that, as soon as the ego has knowledge of something that lies outside itself, it cannot itself be the unifying element, but ‘an external ground must be thought and accepted for every thought which transcends the ego, and must be assumed in respect of the ego’ (Krause 1869: 255–256). In the case of sensory knowledge it follows that, if I recognize the table over there as a finite object which is outside me, then this needs a ground, in and through which the table, as a finite being, is united, in its independence, with myself as a knowing subject. Since neither the table nor I as relata of this knowledge can bring about this union, the ground must be, in a certain respect, distinguishable from the knower and the known.

In the case of non-sensory knowledge that transcends the ego, we find a similar situation: ‘If it is asserted that some non-sensory knowledge is veridical, then it must also be asserted that what is known is united with the knower, that is, there must be something in virtue of which the object of non-sensory knowledge is essentially present to the knower’ (Krause 1869: 254). Because the fact principle, that is to say, God, is also such an ego-transcending thought, its being known must be possible in virtue of a ground lying outside the ego: ‘This assertion is then valid for every idea that transcends the ego, whether the thought is finite and conditional, or infinite and unconditioned. But, this assertion also applies to the idea of the unconditioned infinite Essence or God’ (Krause 1869: 256).

Because, however, the knowledge of the ultimate principle of science must also be immediately certain, it cannot be thought of as grounded in a third that is distinct from this principle of science. This would contradict the immediacy of knowledge and the identity of the fact principle as the one infinite principle of science. It follows that, although there must be a ground that constitutes the union of the knowing subject and God as the principle of science, this ground can be no other than the ultimate principle itself: ‘While we are conscious of this thought, […] God, we are thereby at the same time conscious that this thought, even as our thought, cannot be ← 90 | 91 → grounded and caused by ourselves, nor by any other finite being, but that the possibility and the reality of our thought itself can only be conceived as grounded by the content of this thought, by Essence or by God Himself’ (Krause 1869: 256). That is, ‘because Essence [that is, the fact principle] is thought as being everything essentially as such and in itself, and consequently also as the ground of all that is outside the self, so also Essence is conceived as the ground of every such unity in which something which is apart from the ego is united with the ego in an act of knowledge’ (Krause 1869: 257). The thought that there is an ultimate and highest principle entails that this principle exists, because this thought can only be intelligible in virtue of the very existence of an ultimate principle.

6.5  The coherence of the fundamental intuition of God

The critical feature of Krause’s system is the assertion that humanity is equipped with a special capacity for intuition, which enables one to be immediately certain of the principle of science, that is, to intuit God. In today’s philosophy, it is not assumed that such intuition is possible or coherent. It is assumed that there may be other propositions belief in which is justified in itself, but knowledge of God as immediately certain is either rejected or simply not taken seriously.30

At this point, a word of caution: when Krause speaks of the intuition of God, so he does not mean a revelation of God to individuals. He is not attempting to justify certain beliefs epistemologically, as divine inspiration. Rather, the intuition of God is an activity of reason, i.e. the faculty which thinks everything in unity. The intuition of God is the intuition of the unity of all differences. Krause’s project is thus fundamentally different from the concerns those that William P. Alston deals with in Alston (1991). Alston’s central thesis is as follows: ‘The central thesis of this book is that experiential awareness of God, or as I shall be saying, the perception of God, makes an important contribution to the grounds of religious belief. More specifically, a person can become justified in holding certain kinds of beliefs about God ← 91 | 92 → by virtue of perceiving God as being or doing so-and-so’ (Alston 1991: 1). While Alston comes to a perception of God which, according to his view, shares certain structural features with sense-perception as doxastic practice, Krause is concerned with the intuition of a principle of science which has, as the one principle, to be recognized with immediate certainty.

Is there a good argument against the possibility that human beings can intuit the essence of God, as the fact principle of science, as immediately certain? To show that there is no such intuition of God, it has to be shown that there can be no knowledge of the unconditional ground. For the mere demonstration of the fact that many people do not achieve the intuition of God is not a sufficient condition for the conclusion that this is impossible: ‘It must be shown explicitly that it would be impossible as such [to know the fact principle]. It would not be enough for this that our research does not lead roughly to knowledge of the principle. Because there is nothing more in this than the fact that we have just not found the principle, perhaps because we have not sought it properly, and that we have not found the principle, while others might have found it. We must then confess our ignorance’ (Krause 1869: 16).

The putative proof that there can be no intuition of God as the fact principle leads to absurdity. Any proof that the unconditional ground of all things cannot be known must have an unconditional ground. In a proof, what is proved is by its very nature as it is in through a higher principle. A proof that the principle of science cannot be known as an unconditional ground, would be logically valid exactly when the principle for such a proof is as an unconditional ground, and so it presupposes what it putatively disproves: ‘If [such a proof against the knowability of the fact principle as unconditional ground] were to be made, then the finite mind would have to be known in its higher ground, roughly, in the idea of reason. If this proof were valid, reason would still have to be proven in its higher ground. In brief, it would be necessary to recognize in the knowledge of an unconditioned ground that, and why, finite spirit cannot know this unconditioned ground, the principle. Now the finite spirit can do it, or not: if it can, it makes clear to it the opposite of what has been claimed. But if it is not possible for the finite spirit to know the infinite ground, it also cannot know that it is, as such, not possible to know this infinite ground’ (Krause 1869: 17).

Krause thus concludes that there are no valid arguments against the knowledge of Essence as the one principle of science. Anyone who does ← 92 | 93 → not share this intuition is therefore not in a position to question Krause’s ability to intuit God: ‘So whoever does not recognize the principle has only the power to say that he does not recognize it’ (Krause 1869: 17).

6.6  The circularity of arguments for the existence of God

Krause argues that the recognition of the existence of God as the highest principle of science is established by the principle of sufficient reason (Satz vom Grunde). The prima facie difficulty is that Krause does not claim his proof of the existence of God to be a proof in the traditional sense, if by that we mean a proof that is not circular, that is, that does not presuppose what it aims to establish. The reason for this is that, according to Krause, the principle of sufficient reason (Satz des Grundes), which led to knowledge of God, is understandable when, and only when, the principle of sufficient reason is itself thought as grounded in God, that is, as being operative in virtue of the essence of God as such. For the principle of sufficient reason is itself a finite thought that entails that for every finite entity there must be a higher principle in which it is grounded. The principle of sufficient reason therefore entails that there must be a ground or principle of itself: ‘Now, however, the principle of sufficient reason [Satz des Grundes] itself is something determinately finite […]. Consequently, even according to the principle of sufficient reason, this principle [Satz] must also be applied to itself. The reason of the reason [Grunde des Grundes], the why of the why, the through of the through, must be asked for’ (Krause 1869: 259). That is, without a grounding of the principle of sufficient reason, we would not be entitled to ask for the ground of everything finite.

Following Krause’s logic, the ground of the ground, the why of the why, the through of the through, can only be God or Essence, as the fact principle itself: ‘How do we arrive at the thought of unconditioned, infinite Essence? […] It seems that we come to this thought by means of the principle of sufficient reason [Satzes vom Grunde]. But “by means of” does not mean “through”. And although it is evident that the principle of sufficient reason partly caused us to remind ourselves of the existence of the highest principle of science, the principle of sufficient reason, itself being something finite, cannot be understood as the ground in virtue of which the highest principle of science exists. […] Rather, on the contrary, as we become conscious of God and think what this means quite purely and right, we find that the ← 93 | 94 → principle of sufficient reason and with it the thought of there being the property of being a ground [die Eigenschaft, Grund zu sein] is subordinate to the thought of Essence or God as such’ (Krause 1869: 258).

Based on this, Krause can conclude that the thought of an unconditioned, infinite, Essence is not proven by the principle of sufficient reason but, on the contrary, the thought of God as the fact and knowledge principle grounds the principle of sufficient reason: ‘We therefore see, on the contrary, that the principle of sufficient reason itself is first grounded in our consciousness through the thought of the infinite, unconditioned Essence, that is, God’ (Krause 1869: 206). Then, however, through the attempt to ground the world by means of the principle of sufficient reason, the existence of God can only be proved circularly, which is to say that any proof for the existence of God can only be a ratio cognoscendi, but not the ratio essendi. The ratio essendi of the principle of sufficient reason and its ability to operate as a ratio cognoscendi can only be God as such. Ultimately, for Krause, belief in and knowledge of God’s existence are necessary conditions for being able to believe that the principle of reason is trustworthy. As Krause (1890: 85) states: ‘The belief in one’s own reason is mediated and conditioned by belief in God, but not vice versa. For when it is said that humanity must first believe in itself in order to find God in itself, the knower sees that God, as well as being the ground of the whole man, is also the ground of his faith in his reason; and that humanity must first believe in God before they can reasonably believe in their reason; no less, as they must first know God before they can know themselves.’

6.7  Orwesen as the one subject and object of knowledge and being

The fundamental intuition of God, as the principle of the system of science, established by help of the principle of sufficient reason, is neither sensory nor conceptual knowledge, on similar grounds to those on which the intuition of the ego, in the analytical-ascending part of science as the principle of human science, could be neither conceptual nor sensory: ‘This expression: “Orwesen, God” is the only possible expression in language for the one, self-same, whole, unconditioned, certain essence containing the one, whole, truth. The intuition of Orwesen is therefore the single most important intuition of unconditioned knowledge, however, not as a ← 94 | 95 → conceptual knowledge, if under “concept” is merely thought the intuition of general features shared by a class of objects, also not a sensory or individual idea or intuition of something finite’ (Krause 1828: 361).

If the fundamental intuition of God were sensory knowledge, then its object would be temporal, and the knowledge of eternal non-sensory truths would be excluded from it. This would once again contradict the fact that God is the principle of all knowledge. Instead, intuition of God is ‘neither conceptual nor super-sensory [übersinnlich]. Rather, it is itself prior to, and without, these, as well as without any opposition’ (Krause 1828: 362). That is, ‘the intuition of God is the one, self-same, whole intuition, not however a concept, nor still a sensory representation. Nor has it the form of a judgement or an inference. Also, it is just as super-sensory [übersinnlich], as it is non-conceptual [überbegrifflich], essentially prior to and above all of this, but grasping (embracing) both in and under itself all of this’ (Krause 1886a: 101). In the fundamental intuition of God, everything is synthesised (aufgehoben) in the unity of the essence of God. It is the intuition of the unity of unity and opposition.

God is according to Krause, as the infinite and unconditional principle, at the same time the epistemological principle of all knowledge, because God is the ultimate ground in virtue of which a unity of knowing subject and known object, in their independence, is possible and intelligible: ‘God is thought as the one and entire ground of all knowledge, as the one ground of knowledge; primarily, therefore, as the ground of the self-knowledge of the ego. […] Furthermore, God is at the same time thought as the ground of all knowledge by the ego that transcends the ego, and indeed, as we have seen, as the epistemological ground of the fact that I can think of God myself; and that the ego can also think God as the ground of the ego and all knowledge […] but then also as the ground of all knowledge by the ego of finite beings which are outside the ego’ (Krause 1869: 261–262).

Because God is the infinite and unconditioned fact and knowledge principle, it follows that God in Himself is both the only genuine knowing subject and the only 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 ← 95 | 96 → itself divine knowledge. In knowledge, only God is known, and only God knows. As Wollgast (1990: 22) says: ‘Human self-knowledge, and therefore all knowledge, presupposes an absolute principle, “Essence”, which first makes the unity of thought and being [Sein] possible. The subject, searching for indubitable knowledge, and so reflecting on itself, presupposes the Absolute, knows that it always already finds itself within the Absolute, that it can know itself and the Absolute only through the Absolute.’

By implication of this conception of knowledge, as the principle of fact and knowledge, God makes it comprehensible, in Krause’s system, how it is possible for knowledge which is not immediately certain to be true. For, as fact principle, God is both the ground of all finite things in their material and formal determinations, and the principle through which we know these objects. Through the unity of the being of God, it is assured that transcendental and transcendent categories are identical, and therefore the knowing subject and the known object may correspond in their independence.

The goal of the analytical-ascending part of science has been reached with this development of the intuition of God. For it has been shown that we have immediate, certain, knowledge of the ultimate principle of fact and knowledge, which is grounded by this principle itself. God, as the epistemological and ontological principle of the ground of all the ego’s knowledge is also the ground of knowledge of Himself. In Krause’s words: ‘We have, therefore, attained the goal which we presented to ourselves when we opened this scientific reflection on our prior self-observing and self-perceptive (analytic) knowledge. Immediately upon entering this investigation, we realised: if science is possible for us, then we must be able to achieve immediate and certain knowledge of the one principle; a realization which must be indicated only by its content as being that in virtue of which its truth is perceived immediately and with certainty. Such knowledge, we noted there, can only be thought if the object of this knowledge is infinite, unconditioned Essence itself. So it is seen that Essence is both the ground of fact and the ground of knowledge’ (Krause 1869: 269). Ultimately, the transcendental cognitive structures of the ego are nothing other than the structures of reality itself. So the transcendental categories by which human knowledge is structured are by no means only transcendental categories but the transcendent ontological categories of all being. They are recognized in the intuition of God as the essentialities of God, as such, by which everything is structured. ← 96 | 97 →

6.8  Summary

Transcendental phenomenology is the foundation of science by leading the ego to the necessary acknowledgment of God as the scientific principle of fact and knowledge. The fundamental intuition of God is fulfilled by whoever intuits God as the one infinite fact and knowledge principle of science, or as the ‘absolutely independent, and absolutely whole, and one Essence’ (Krause 1869: 204). Because God is the one principle of knowledge, it follows that the non-conceptual knowledge of the ego by the ego in the fundamental intuition of the ego, as the beginning of science itself, is an intuition in and through the fact principle as well. Transcendental knowledge of God thereby includes transcendental knowledge of the ego, ‘which in this thought [of God] even surpasses itself, but then also returns to the ego again’ (Krause 1869: 248). For Krause, transcendental knowledge of the ego is nothing other than supreme transcendental knowledge applied to the ego. In and through the ego, God knows himself.

The diagram constructed by Krause may, yet again, be of help in understanding the structure behind Krause’s argument for the immediately certain intuition of God:

Let o denote a particular item of knowledge, then, according to Krause, reflection on this item of knowledge entails that there has to be a knowing subject, i, a known object, e, and a principle or ground in virtue of which the subject and the object constitute this item of knowledge, u. In case of the ultimate principle of science, which as the highest principle itself is infinite ← 97 | 98 → and unconditioned, Krause argues that understanding the thought of the highest principle eo ipso is knowledge that the highest principle exists. The reason is that the thought of the highest principle, e, has to be identical with the principle that unites this thought with the subject, that is, with u, since otherwise e would not be the highest principle. Therefore, Krause argues, the as soon as we fully grasp the idea of an infinite principle, we immediately know that the highest principle exists.


29 Cf. Krause (1869: 112): ‘I use the word “to recognize” in the quite general and comprehensive sense, in order to signify by it every presence of every essence, or of every object, in consciousness. This presence might now be complete and perfect, or it might be deficient and imperfect. If the presence of an essence in consciousness is perfect, we usually need the word “knowledge”. If, however, this presence of an object is not yet completed in consciousness, or is deficient, then we employ various other words, for example, “to suspect”, “to believe”, “to guess”, “to mean”.’

30 For a theory of the justification of certain basic beliefs, cf. Plantinga 2000. For a discussion of the question of the possibility of a priori knowledge in general, which, however, completely ignores the question of a priori knowledge of God, cf. Bonjour (1998). For an argument against the possibility of a priori knowledge, cf. Quine (1951).