Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jacobi and Heehs

[Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi Critique of philosophy
In a masterstroke of philosophical propaganda, Jacobi propelled his position (and himself) to the centre of attention in 1785, by publishing with commentary letters he had recently exchanged with Moses Mendelssohn (Concerning the Doctrine of Spinoza in Letters to Herr Moses Mendelssohn; second, much enlarged edition, 1789) (see Mendelssohn, M.). The purpose of the correspondence had been to clarify Lessing’s declaration, allegedly made to Jacobi in a conversation shortly before Lessing’s death, that he was a Spinozist (see Lessing, G.E.; Spinoza, B. de). In that conversation Jacobi had claimed that philosophy inexorably leads to Spinoza’s ‘substance’, and this abstract concept, when set up as first principle, undermines individual distinctions, most of all the distinction between God and creatures. Lessing had responded by declaring his sympathy for Spinoza, and Jacobi had thereupon urged him to perform a salto mortale – a spiritual somersault in virtue of which, through an act of faith, Lessing would simply declare himself for a personal God, and for freedom, and thereby rejoin common sense.]

[Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
Nobody could have predicted the extent and the fury of the controversy that the publication of the book caused. The controversy goes in the literature under the name of the Spinozism or the Pantheism Dispute. (Jacobi, 1916) Mendelssohn responded to Jacobi in writing (1786) but did not survive to see his reply in print. Already in bad health, he died. (4 January 1786) Jacobi responded to the reply. (1786) Both publications were notable for their bitterly personal tone. In retrospect, the controversy itself and the personal tone it assumed made sense, since the issues that Jacobi had raised had put into question the nature and the value of the new humanism being sponsored by the Enlightenment. As Goethe was to remark many years later, the controversy touched everyone in their deepest convictions. Copyright © 2005 by George di Giovanni]

The Core Problem not altogether dissimilar, it will also be said apropos of The Lives of Sri Aurobindo that "the controversy touched everyone in their deepest convictions." [TNM]

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