H
OUSTON STEWART CHAMBERLAIN

THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY

Volume II, Chapter 9B1, page 261—293. Discovery.

 
Cover of the Foundations


CONTENTS

Back to main page
The original text in German: Die Grundlagen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts
DOWNLOAD the Foundations of the Nineteenth Century

INTRODUCTION BY LORD REDESDALE i v
AUTHOR'S INTRODUCTION i lix

DIVISION I: THE LEGACY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD
INTRODUCTORY i 3
FIRST CHAPTER: HELLENIC ART AND PHILOSOPHY i 14
SECOND CHAPTER: ROMAN LAW i 93
THIRD CHAPTER: THE REVELATION OF CHRIST i 174

DIVISION II: THE HEIRS
INTRODUCTORY i 251
FOURTH CHAPTER: THE CHAOS i 258
FIFTH CHAPTER: THE ENTRANCE OF THE JEWS INTO WESTERN HISTORY i 329
SIXTH CHAPTER: THE ENTRANCE OF THE GERMANIC PEOPLE INTO HISTORY i 494

DIVISION III: THE STRUGGLE
INTRODUCTORY ii 3
SEVENTH CHAPTER: RELIGION ii 13
EIGHTH CHAPTER: STATE ii 139
NINTH CHAPTER: FROM THE YEAR 1200 TO THE YEAR 1800
A. The Teutons as Creators of a New Culture
ii 187
B. Historical Survey ii 233
1. DISCOVERY ii 261
2. SCIENCE ii 293
3. INDUSTRY ii 329
4. POLITICAL ECONOMY ii 344
5. POLITICS AND CHURCH ii 365
6. PHILOSOPHY AND RELIGION ii 389
7. ART ii 495
INDEX ii 565

 
261

1. DISCOVERY (From Marco Polo to Galvani)

THE INBORN CAPACITY

    To the sum of what is to be known there is obviously no limit. In science — in contrast to the material of knowledge — a stage of development might certainly be conceived at which all the great laws of nature should have been discovered; for we have to deal with a question of a relation between phenomena and the human reason, and so of something which, in consequence of the special nature of our reason, is strictly limited, and, as it were, “individual“ — inasmuch as it is accommodated to and pertinent to the individuality of the human race. Science would in this case find an inexhaustible scope within itself, only in a more and more refined analysis. On the other hand, all experience proves that the realm of phenomena and of forms is infinite and can never be completely investigated. No geography, physiography or geology, however scientific, can tell us anything at all about the peculiarities of a yet undiscovered country; a newly discovered moss, a newly discovered beetle, is an absolutely new thing, an actual and permanent enrichment of our conceptive world, of the material of our knowledge. Naturally, for our own human convenience, we shall at once assign beetle and moss to some established species, and if no pinching and squeezing will accomplish this, we shall for the sake of classification invent a new “species,“ incorporating it, if possible, in a well-known “order“; nevertheless the beetle in question and the moss in question remain, as before, something perfectly individual, something that could not be invented or reasoned out, a new unexpected embodiment, so to speak, of the cosmic plan, and this embodiment we now possess, whereas formerly we lacked it. It is the same with all phenomena. The refraction of light by the prism, the presence of


262 DISCOVERY

electricity everywhere, the circulation of the blood ... every discovered fact means an enrichment. “The individual manifestations of the laws of nature,“ says Goethe, “all lie like Sphinxes, rigid, unyielding, silent outside of us. Every new phenomenon perceived is a discovery; every discovery a possession.“ This makes the distinction within the sphere of knowledge between discovery and science very clear; the one has to deal with the Sphinxes that lie without us, the other means the elaboration of these perceptions into the new form of an inner possession. * That is why we can very well compare the raw material of knowledge, i.e., the mass of the Discovered, to the raw material of property, that is, money. So long ago as the year 1300 the old chronicler Robert of Gloucester wrote: “For the more that a man can, the more worth he is.“ He who knows much is rich, he who knows little is poor. But this very comparison, which, to begin with, will seem somewhat commonplace, serves excellently to teach us how to lay our finger on the critical point as regards knowledge; for the value of money depends altogether on the use which we are able to make of it. That riches give power and poverty cripples, is a truism; the most stupid observes it daily in himself and in others, and yet Shakespeare, one of the wisest of men, wrote:
If thou art rich, thou'rt poor.
And, as a matter of fact, life teaches us that no simple, direct relation prevails between riches and power. Just as hyperaemia or superfluity of blood in the organism proves a hindrance to vital activity and finally even causes death, so we frequently observe how easily great riches

    * Goethe repeatedly lays great stress upon the distinction between “without us“ and “within us“; here it is very useful in distinguishing between discovery and science; but as soon as we transfer it to the purely philosophical or even purely scientific sphere, we must be very cautious: see the remarks at the beginning of the section on “Science.“


263
DISCOVERY


can paralyse. It is the same with knowledge. I have shown in a previous section how the Indians were ruined by anaemia of the material of knowledge; they were, so to speak, starved idealists; the Chinese, on the other hand, resembled bloated upstarts, who had no idea how to employ the huge capital of knowledge which they have collected — being without initiative, imagination or idea. The common proverb, “Knowledge is power,“ is not, therefore, absolutely valid, it depends upon the person who knows. It might be said of knowledge, even more than of gold, that in itself it is nothing at all, absolutely nothing, and just as likely to injure a man and utterly ruin him as to elevate and ennoble him. The ignorant Chinese peasant is one of the most efficient and happy men in the world, the learned Chinaman is a plague, he is the cancer of his people; that is why that wonderful man, Lâo-tze — who has been so shamefully misunderstood by our modern commentators, reared as they have been on phrases of “humanity“ — was absolutely right in saying: “Alas, if we [the Chinese] could only give up our great knowledge and do away with learning, our people would be a hundred times more prosperous.“ * Thus here again we are thrown back upon individuality, natural capacities, inborn character. A minimum of knowledge suffices one human race, more is fatal, for it has no organ to digest it; in the case of another the thirst for knowledge is natural, and the people pines away when it can convey no nourishment for this need; it also understands how to elaborate in a hundred ways the continual stream of the material of knowledge; not only for the transformation of outward life, but for the continual enrichment of thought and action. The Teutons are in this case. It is not the amount of their knowledge that deserves admiration — for all knowledge constantly remains relative — but the fact that they possessed the rare capacity to acquire it, that is,

    * Tâo Teh King xix. 1.

264
DISCOVERY


ceaselessly to discover, ceaselessly to force the “silent Sphinxes“ to speak, and in addition the capacity to absorb, so to say, what had been taken up, so that there was always room for new matter, without causing hypertrophy.
    We see how infinitely complex every individuality is. But I hope that from these few remarks, in union with those in the preceding part of this chapter, the reader will without difficulty grasp the peculiar importance of knowledge for the life of the Teuton, knowledge of course in its simplest form, as the discovery of facts. He will also recognise that in many ways this — in a certain sense purely material — gift is connected with his higher and highest capacities. Only remarkable philosophical gifts and only an extremely active economic life can render the consumption, digestion, and utilisation of so much knowledge possible. It is not the knowledge that has created the vigour; the great superfluity of vigour has ceaselessly striven to acquire ever wider knowledge, in exactly the same way as it has striven to acquire more and more possession in other spheres. This is the true inner source of the victorious career of the zeal for knowledge, which from the thirteenth century onwards never flags. He who grasps this fact will follow the history of discoveries not like a child, but with understanding.
 
THE IMPELLING POWERS

    When we contemplate this phenomenon which is so characteristically individualistic, we are at once bound to be impressed by the connection of the various sides of the individuality. I have just said that our treasure of knowledge is due to our keenness to possess; I had no intention to attach any evil signification to this word; possession is power, power is freedom. Moreover, all such keenness implies not merely a longing to increase our power by lay-


265
DISCOVERY


ing hold of what lies outside of ourselves, but also the longing for renunciation of self. Here, as in love, the contrasts go hand in hand; we take, in order to take, but we also take in order to give. And precisely as we recognised in the case of the Teuton an affinity between the founder of states and the artist, * so a certain noble striving after possession is closely related to the capacity to create new things out of what is possessed, and to present them to the world for its enrichment. But in spite of all we must not overlook one fact in the history of our discoveries, what a great part has been played quite directly and undisguisedly by the craving for gold. For at the one end of the work of discovery there stands, as the simple broad basis of everything else, the investigation of the earth, the discovery of the planet which is the abode of man; it was this that first taught us with certainty the shape and nature of our planet, and at the same time the fundamental facts concerning man's position in the cosmos; from it we first learnt full details concerning the various races of men, the nature of rocks, the vegetable and animal world; at the extreme other end of the same work stands the investigation of the inner constitution of visible matter, what we to-day call chemistry and physics, an extremely mysterious and, till a short time ago, doubtful interference with the bowels of nature, savouring of magic, but at the same time a most important source of our present knowledge and our present power. † Now in the opening up of these two spheres of knowledge, in the voyages of discovery and in alchemy as well, the direct search for gold was for centuries the impelling power. Besides this motive and above it, we certainly always find in the great individual pioneers something else — a pure ideal power; a Columbus is ready at any moment to die for his idea, an

    * See vol. i. p. 543.

    † The great importance of alchemy as the source of chemistry is now universally recognised; I need only refer to the books of Berthelot and Kopp.

266
DISCOVERY


Albertus Magnus is vaguely pursuing the great problems of the world; but such men would not have found the needful support nor would bands of followers, indispensable for the toilsome work of discovery, have joined them, had not the hope of immediate gain spurred them on. The hope of finding gold led to keener observation, it doubled the inventive power, it inspired the most daring hypotheses, it conferred infinite endurance and contempt of death. After all it is much the same to-day: the States, it is true, no longer scramble for the yellow metal, as the Spaniards and Portuguese of the sixteenth century did, yet the gradual discovery of the world and its subjection to Teutonic influence depends solely upon whether it will pay. Even a Livingstone has after all proved a pioneer for capitalists in search of high interest, and it is they who first carry out what the individual idealist could not accomplish. Similarly, modern chemistry could not dispense with expensive laboratories and instruments, and the State maintains these, not out of enthusiasm for pure science, but because the industrial inventions that spring therefrom enrich the country. * The South Pole, which still defies the twentieth century, would be discovered and overrun in six months if people thought that rocks of pure gold rise there above the waves.
    As the reader can see, I have no wish to represent ourselves as better and nobler than we are; honesty is the best policy, as the proverb says; and this holds good even here. For from this observation regarding the power of gold we are brought to recognise a fact which, once our attention is called to it, we shall find confirmed on all sides: that the Teuton has a peculiar capacity to make a good use of his shortcomings; the ancients would have said that he was a favourite of the

    * To say nothing of the discovery of new kinds of powder for cannons and explosives for torpedoes.


267
DISCOVERY


Gods; I think that I see in this a proof of his great capacity for culture. A commercial company, with an eye only to good interest and not always proceeding conscientiously, subjugates India, but its activity is kept alive and ennobled by a whole succession of stainless military heroes and great statesmen, and it was the officials of this company who — fired by noble enthusiasm and qualified for their task by a learning acquired by great self-sacrifice — enriched our culture by the revelation of the old Aryan language. We are thrilled with horror when we read the history of the annihilation of the Indians in North America: everywhere on the side of the Europeans there is injustice, treachery, savage cruelty; * and yet how decisive was this very work of destruction for the later development of a noble, thoroughly Teutonic nation upon that soil! A comparative glance at the South American bastard colonies convinces us of this. † That boundless passion displayed in the pursuit of gold leads to the recognition of yet another fact, one that is essential for the history of our discoveries. Passion may, indeed, influence very various parts of our being — that depends upon the individual; characteristic of our race are daring, endurance, self-sacrifice; great power of conception, which causes the individual to become quite wrapt up in his idea. But this element of passion does not by any means reveal itself merely in the sphere of egotistical interest: it confers on the artist power to work on amid poverty and neglect; it provides statesmen, reformers and martyrs; it has also given us our discoverers. Rousseau's remark: “Il n'y a

    * Take as an example the total annihilation of the most intelligent and thoroughly friendly tribe of the Natchez by the French on the Mississippi (in Du Pratz: History of Louisiana) or the history of the relations between the English and the Cherokees (Trumbull: History of the United States). It is always the same story: a fearful injustice on the part of the Europeans provokes the Indians to take vengeance, and for this vengeance they are punished, that is, slaughtered.

    † See vol. i. p. 286.

268
DISCOVERY


que de grandes passions que fassent de grandes choses,“ is probably not so universally true as he thought, but it is absolutely true of us Teutons. In our great journeys of discovery, as in our attempts to transform substances, the hope of gain has been the great incentive, but in no other sphere, unless it be in that of medicine, has this succeeded. Here then, was the passionate impulse dominant — an impulse likewise towards possession, but it was the possession of knowledge, purely as knowledge. Here we have a peculiar and specially to be venerated aspect of the purely ideal impulse; to me it seems closely related to the artistic and the religious impulse; it explains that intimate connection between culture and knowledge, the puzzling nature of which I have so often illustrated by practical examples. * To believe that knowledge produces culture (as is frequently taught to-day) is senseless and contradicts experience; living wisdom, however, can only find a place in a mind predisposed to high culture; otherwise knowledge remains lying on the surface like manure on a stony field — it poisons the atmosphere and does no good. Concerning this passionate character of genius as the fundamental cause of our victorious career of discoveries, one of the greatest discoverers of the nineteenth century, Justus Liebig, has written as follows: “The great mass of men have no idea what difficulties are involved in works which really extend the sphere of knowledge; indeed, we may say that man's innate impulse towards truth would not suffice to overcome the difficulties which oppose the accomplishment of every great result, if this impulse did not in individuals grow into a mighty passion which braces and multiplies their powers. All these works are undertaken without prospect of gain and without claim to thanks; the man who accomplishes them has seldom the good fortune to live to see them put

    * See pp. 247 and 251.


269 DISCOVERY

to practical use; he cannot turn his achievement into money in the market of life, it has no price and cannot be ordered or bought.“ *
    This perfectly disinterested “passion“ we find, in fact, everywhere in the history of our discoveries. † To the reader whose knowledge in this branch is not very extensive, I should recommend the study of Gilbert, a man who, at the end of the sixteenth century (when Shakespeare was writing his dramas), by absolutely endless experiments laid the foundation of our knowledge of electricity and magnetism. At that time no one could dream of the practical application of this knowledge even in distant centuries; indeed these things were so mysterious that up to Gilbert's time they had either not been heeded and observed, or only used for philosophical hocus-pocus. And this one man, who had only the old and well-known observations in connection with rubbed amber and the magnet to start from, experimented so indefatigably and extracted from nature her secret with such natural genius that he established, once for all, all the fundamental facts in reference to magnetism, recognised electricity (the word was coined by him) as a phenomenon different from magnetism, and paved the way for its investigation.

NATURE AS TEACHER

    Now we may connect with the example of Gilbert a distinction which I briefly established in drawing up my


    * Wissenschaft und Landwirtschaft ii. at the end.

    † An excellent example of the “disinterested passion“ peculiar to the pure Teuton is provided by the English peasant Tyson, who died in 1898. He had emigrated to Australia as a labourer, and died the greatest landed proprietor in the world, with a fortune reckoned at five million pounds. This man remained to the last so simple that he never possessed a white shirt, much less a pair of gloves; only when absolutely necessary did he pay a brief visit to a city; he had an insurmountable distrust of all churches. Money in itself was a matter

270 DISCOVERY

Table of subjects, and which I again cursorily touched upon when mentioning Goethe's distinction between what is without and what is within us; practice will show its importance more clearly than theory, and it is essential for a rational view of the history of Teutonic discoveries: I mean the distinction between discovery and science. Nothing will make this clearer to us than a comparative glance at the Hellenes. The capacity of the Hellenes for real science was great, in many respects greater than our own (think only of Democritus, Aristotle, Euclid, Aristarchus, &c.); their capacity for discovery, on the contrary, was strikingly small. In this case, too, the simplest example is at the same time the most instructive. Pytheas, the Greek explorer — the equal of any later traveller in daring, intuition and understanding * — stands quite alone; he was ridiculed by all, and not a single one of those philosophers who could tell us such beautiful things concerning God, the soul, atoms and the heavenly sphere, had the faintest idea of the significance which the simple investigation of the surface of the earth must have for man. This shows a striking lack of curiosity and absence of all genuine thirst for knowledge, a total blindness to the value of facts, purely as such. And do not suppose that in their case “progress“ was a mere question of time. Discovery can begin every day and anywhere; the necessary instruments — mechanical and intellectual — are derived spontaneously from the needs of the investigation. Even to our own day the most faithful observers are usually not the most learned men, and frequently they are exceedingly weak in the theoretical summarising of their

of indifference to him: he valued it only as an ally in his great lifework, the struggle with the desert. When asked about his wealth he replied, “It is not having it but fighting for it that gives me pleasure.“ A true Teuton! worthy of his countryman Shakespeare:
Things won are done, joy's soul lies in the doing.
    * See vol. i. p. 52.

271
DISCOVERY


knowledge. Thus, for example, Faraday (perhaps the most remarkable discoverer of the nineteenth century) grew up almost without higher education as a bookbinder's apprentice; his knowledge of physics he derived from encyclopaedias which he had to bind, that of chemistry from a popular summary for young girls; thus prepared he began to make those discoveries upon which almost the whole technical part of electricity is to-day based. * Neither William Jones nor Colebrooke, the two discoverers of the Sanscrit language at the end of the eighteenth century, were philologists by profession. The man who accomplished what no other scholar had been able to do, who discovered how to steal from plants the secret of their life, the founder of the physiology of plants, Stephen Hales (1761), was a country minister. We only need in fact to watch Gilbert, whom we mentioned above, at work: all his experiments in electricity of friction might have been carried out by any clever Greek two thousand years before; he invented his own apparatus; in his time there were no higher mathematics, without which a complete comprehension of these phenomena is to-day scarcely thinkable. No, the Greek observed but little and never without bias; he immediately plunged into theory and hypothesis, that is, into science and philosophy; the passionate patience which the work of discovery demands was not given to him. We Teutons, on the other hand, possess a special talent for the investigation of nature, and this talent does not lie on the surface, but is most closely bound up with the deepest depths of our being. As theorists we have apparently no great claim to importance: the philologists confess that the Indian Pânini surpasses the greatest Grammarians of to-day; † the jurists say that the ancient Romans were

    * See Tyndall: Faraday as a Discoverer (1890); and W. Grosse: Der Äther (1898).

    † See vol. i. p. 431.

272 DISCOVERY

very superior to us in jurisprudence; even after we had sailed round the world we would not believe that it was round till the fact had been fully proved to us and hammered into us for centuries, whereas the Greeks, who knew only the insignificant Mediterranean, had long ago demonstrated the fact by way of pure science; in spite of the enormous increase of our knowledge, we still cannot do without Hellenic “atoms,“ Indian “ether,“ Babylonian “evolution.“ As discoverers, however, we have no rivals. So that historian of Teutonic civilisation and culture, whom I invoked above, will here have to draw a subtle and clear distinction, and then dwell long and in detail upon our work of discovery.
    Discovery demands above all childlike freedom from bias — hence those large childlike eyes which attract us in a countenance such as Faraday's. The whole secret of discovery lies in this, to let nature speak. For this self-control is essential: the Greeks did not possess it. The preponderance of their genius lay in creative work, the preponderance of ours lies in receptivity. For nature does not obey a word of command, she does not speak as we men desire, or utter what we wish to hear; we have by endless patience, by unconditional subjection, by a thousand groping attempts to find out how she wills to be questioned and what questions she cares to answer, what not. Hence observation is a splendid discipline for the formation of character: it exercises endurance, restrains arbitrariness, teaches absolute truthfulness. The observation of nature has played this part in the history of Teutonism; it would play the same part to-morrow in our schools, if only the pall of medieval superstition would at length lift, and we came to understand the fact that it is not the repetition by rote of antiquated wisdom in dead, misunderstood languages, nor the knowledge of so-called “facts“ and still less science, but the “method“ of acquiring all knowledge —

273 DISCOVERY

— namely observation — that should be the foundation of all education, as the one discipline which at the same time forms the mind and the character, confers freedom but not licence, and opens up to every one the source of all truth and all originality. For here again we observe knowledge and culture in contact and begin better to understand how discoverers and poets belong to the one family: for only nature is really original, but she is so everywhere and at all times. “Nature alone is infinitely rich, and she alone forms the great artist.“ *
    The men whom we call geniuses, a Leonardo, a Shakespeare, a Bach, a Kant, a Goethe, are finely organised observers; not, of course, in the sense of brooding and burrowing, but in that of seeing, storing up and elaborating what they have seen. This power of seeing, that is, the capacity of the individual man to adopt such an attitude towards nature that, within certain limits prescribed by his individuality, he may absorb her ever creative originality and thus become qualified to be creative and original himself — this power of seeing can be trained and developed. Certainly only in the case of a few extraordinary men will it display freely creative activity, but it will render thousands capable of original achievements.
    If the impulse to discovery by investigation is innate in the Teuton in the manner described, why was it so long in awakening! It was not long in awakening, but was systematically suppressed by other powers. As soon as the migrations with their ceaseless wars gave even a moment's peace, the Teuton set to work, thirsting after knowledge and diligently investigating. Charlemagne and King Alfred are well-known examples (see vol. i. p. 326 f.); even of Charlemagne's father, Pepin, we

    * Goethe: Werther's Leiden, Letter of May 26 of the 1st year. Cf. what is said in vol. i. p. 267.

274 DISCOVERY

read in Lamprecht, * that he was “full of understanding, especially for the natural sciences.“ † Important are the utterances of such a man as Scotus Erigena, who (in the ninth century) said that nature can and should be investigated; that only thereby does she fulfil her divine purpose. ‡ Now what was the fate of this man who in spite of his desire for knowledge was extremely pious and characteristically inclined to fanatical mysticism? At the command of Pope Nicholas I. he was driven from his chair in Paris and finally murdered, and even four centuries later his works, which in the meantime had been widely circulated among all really religious, anti-Roman Teutons of various nations, were hunted for everywhere by the emissaries of Honorius II. and burned. The same happened whenever a desire for knowledge began to assert itself. Precisely in the thirteenth century, at the moment when the writings of Scotus Erigena were being committed so zealously to the flames, there was born that incomprehensibly great mind Roger Bacon, § who sought to fill men with ardour for discovery, “by sailing out to the west, in order to reach the east,“ who constructed the microscope and in theory planned the telescope, who first demonstrated the importance of scientific knowledge of languages studied in a strictly philological manner, &c., &c., and who above all established for good the importance of the observation of nature as the basis of all real knowledge, and spent his whole fortune on physical experiments. Now what encouragement did this man receive, though he was better qualified than any one before or after him to provide the spark that would make the intellectual capacities

    * Deutsche Geschichte ii. 13.
    † In passing let me make the addition which is so important for our Teutonic individuality, “for the natural sciences and music.“!
    ‡ De Divisione Naturae v. 33; cf., too, p. 129 above.
    § Of him Goethe says (in his Gespräche ii. 46): “The whole magic of nature, in the finest sense of the word, is revealed to him.“

275
DISCOVERY


of all Teutons burst into bright flames? At first he was merely forbidden to write down the results of his experiments, that is to say, to communicate them to the world; then the reading of the books already issued was punished with excommunication, and his papers — the results of his studies — were destroyed; finally he was condemned to a cruel imprisonment, in which he remained for many years, till shortly before his death. The struggle which I have exemplified by these two cases lasted for centuries and cost much blood and suffering. Essentially, it is exactly the same struggle as that described in my eighth chapter: Rome against Teutonism. For, no matter what we may think of Roman infallibility, every unbiased person will admit that Rome has always with unerring instinct known how to hinder what was likely to further Teutonism, and to give support to everything whereby it was bound to be most seriously injured.
    However, to rob the matter of all sting which might still wound, we will follow it back to its purely human kernel: what do we find there? We find that actual, concrete knowledge, that is, the great work of toilsome discovery, has one deadly enemy, omniscience. The Jews are a case in point (vol. i. p. 401); if a man possesses a sacred book, which contains all wisdom, then all further investigation is as superfluous as it is sinful: the Christian Church took over the Jewish tradition. This fastening on to Judaism, which was so fatal for our history, is being accomplished before our very eyes; it can be demonstrated step by step. The old Church Fathers, taking their stand expressly upon the Jewish Torah, are unanimous in preaching contempt of art and of science. Ambrosius, for example, says that Moses had been educated in all worldly wisdom, and had proved that “science is a pernicious folly, upon which we must turn our backs, before we can find God.“ “To study astronomy and

276 DISCOVERY

geometry, to follow the course of the sun among the stars and to make maps and charts of lands and seas, means to neglect salvation for things of no account.“ * Augustine allows the study of the course of the moon, “for otherwise we could not fix Easter correctly“; in other respects he considers the study of astronomy a waste of time, in that it takes the attention away from useful to useless things! He likewise declares that all art belongs “to the number of superfluous human institutions.“ † However, this still purely Jewish attitude of the ancient Church Fathers denotes an “infancy of art;“ it was in truth sufficient to keep barbarians stupid as long as possible; but the Teuton was only outwardly a barbarian; as soon as he came to himself, his capacity for culture developed absolutely of itself, and then it was necessary to forge other weapons. It was a man born in the distant south, a Teuton of German extraction who had joined the ranks of the enemy, Thomas Aquinas, who was the most famous armourer; in the service of the Church he sought to quench his countrymen's ardent thirst for knowledge by offering them complete, divine omniscience. Well might his contemporary, Roger Bacon, speak in mockery of “the boy who taught everything, without having himself learned anything“ — for Bacon had clearly proved that we still utterly lacked the bases of the simplest knowledge, and he had shown the only way in which this defect could be remedied — but what availed reason and truthfulness? Thomas — who asserted that the sacred Church doctrine, in alliance with the scarcely less sacred Aristotle, was quite adequate to answer once for all every conceivable question (see p. 178), while all further inquiry was superfluous and criminal — was declared a saint, while Bacon was thrown into prison. And the omniscience of Thomas did actually succeed

    * De officiis ministrorum i. 26, 122—123.

    † De doctrina christiana i. 26, 2, and i. 30, 2.

277 DISCOVERY

in completely retarding for three whole centuries the mathematical, physical, astronomical and philological researches which had already begun! *
    We now understand why the work of discovery was so late in starting. At the same time we perceive a universal law which applies to all knowledge: it is not ignorance but omniscience that forms a fatal atmosphere for every increase of the material of knowledge. Wisdom and ignorance are both merely designations for notions that can never be accurately fixed, because they are purely relative; the absolute difference lies altogether elsewhere, it is the difference between the man who is conscious of his ignorance and the man who, owing to some self-deception, either imagines that he possesses all knowledge, or thinks himself above all knowledge. Indeed, we might perhaps go further and assert that every science, even genuine science, contains a danger for discovery, in that it paralyses to some extent the untrammelled naturalness of the observer in his attitude to nature. Here, as elsewhere (see p. 182), the decisive thing is not so much the amount or the nature of knowledge as the attitude of the mind towards it. † In the recognition of this fact lies the whole importance of

    * This is the philosopher whom the Jesuits to-day elevate to the throne (see p. 177) and whose doctrines are henceforth to supply the foundation for the philosophical culture of all Roman Catholics! We can see how freely the Teutonic spirit moved, before these fetters were imposed by the Church, from the fact that at the University of Paris in the thirteenth century theses like the following were defended, “The sayings of the Theologists are based on fables,“ “There is no increase of knowledge because of the pretended knowledge of the Theologians,“ and “The Christian religion prevents increase of knowledge.“ (Cf. Wernicke: Die mathematisch-naturwissenschaftliche Forschung, &c., 1898, p. 5).

    † Hence Kant's profound remark on the importance of astronomy: “The most important thing surely is that it has revealed to us the abyss of our ignorance, which, but for that science, we could never have conceived to be so great, and that reflection upon this must produce a great change in the determination of the final purposes of our employment of reason.“ (Critique of Pure Reason, note in the section entitled “Concerning the Transcendental Ideal.“)

278
DISCOVERY


Socrates, who was persecuted by the mighty of his time for the very same reason as were Scotus Erigena and Roger Bacon by the authorities of their age. I have no intention of making the attitude of the Roman Catholic Church a reproach levelled at it especially and alone. It is true that the Catholic Church is always the first to attract our attention, if only because of the decisive power which it possessed a few centuries ago, but also for the splendid consistency with which it has always, up to the present day, maintained the one logical standpoint — that our system of faith is based on Judaism — but even outside this Church we find the same spirit as the inevitable consequence of every historical, materialistic religion. Martin Luther, for example, makes the following terrible remark, “The wisdom of the Greeks, when compared to that of the Jews, is absolutely bestial; for apart from God there can be no wisdom, nor any understanding and insight.“ That is to say, the ever glorious achievements of the Hellenes are “bestial“ in comparison with the absolute ignorance and uncultured rudeness of a people which has never achieved anything at all in any single field of human knowledge or activity! Roger Bacon, on the other hand, in the first part of his Opus majus, proves that the principal cause of human ignorance is “the pride of a pretended knowledge,“ and there he truly hits the nail on the head. * The lawyer Krebs (better known as Cardinal Cuxanus and famous as the man who brought to light the Roman decretal swindle) maintained the same thesis two centuries

    * According to him there are four causes of ignorance — faith in authority, the power of custom, illusions of sense and the proud delusion of an imagined wisdom. Of the Thomists and Franciscans, considered the greatest scholars of his age, Bacon says: “The world has never witnessed such a semblance of knowledge as there is to-day, and yet in reality ignorance was never so crass and error so deep-rooted“ (from a quotation in Whewell: History of the Inductive Sciences, 3rd ed. p. 378).


279 DISCOVERY

later in his much-discussed work De docta ignorantia, in the first book of which he expounds the “science of not-knowing“ as the first step towards all further knowledge.
    As soon as this view had gained so firm a hold that even Cardinals could give utterance to it without falling into disfavour, the victory of knowledge was assured. However, if we are to understand the history of our discoveries and our sciences, we must never lose sight of the fundamental principle here established. There has been, it is true, a shifting of the relations of power since that time, but not of principles. Step by step we have had not only to wrest our knowledge from nature, but to do so in defiance of the obstacles everywhere planted in our path by the powers of ignorant omniscience. When Tyndall in his famous address to the British Association in Belfast in the year 1874 demanded absolute freedom of investigation, he raised a storm of indignation in the whole Anglican Church and also in all the Churches of the dissenters. Sincere harmony between science and Church we can never have, in the way in which it prevailed in India: it is absolutely impossible to harmonise a system of faith derived from Judaism, chronistic and absolutist, with the inquiring, investigating instincts of the Teutonic personality. We may fail to understand this, we may deny it for reasons of interest, we may seek to hush it up in the interest of other far-reaching plans, nevertheless it remains true, and this truth forms one of the causes of the deep-seated discord of our age. That is also the reason why so very little of our great work of discovery has been consciously assimilated by the nations. They see, of course, some results of research, such as those which have led to innovations which could be exploited by industry; but obviously it does not in the least matter whether our light is derived

280
DISCOVERY


from tallow candles or electric globes; the important matter is, not how we see, but who sees. It will only be when we shall have so completely revolutionised our methods of education that the training of each individual from the first shall resemble a Discovery, instead of merely consisting in the transmission of ready-made wisdom, that we shall really have thrown off the alien yoke in this fundamental sphere of knowledge and shall be able to move on towards the full development of our best powers.
    If we turn our gaze from such a possible future back to our still poverty-stricken present, we shall be able also to look even further back, and to realise intelligently what obstacles the work of discovery, the most difficult of all works, encountered at every step. But for the lust of gold and the inimitable simplicity of the Teutons success would have been impossible. They even knew how to turn to account the childish cosmogony of Moses. * Thus, for example, we observe how the theologians of the University of Salamanca with the help of a whole arsenal of quotations from the Bible and the Church Fathers proved that the idea of a western route over the Atlantic Ocean was nonsense and blasphemy, and thereby persuaded the Government not to assist Columbus; † but Columbus himself, pious man as he was, did not lose heart; for he too relied, in his calculations, not so much upon the map of Toscanelli and the opinions of Seneca, Pliny, &c., as upon Holy Scripture and especially the apocalyptic book of Ezra, where he found the statement that water covers only the seventh part of the earth. ‡ Truly a thoroughly Teutonic way of turning

    * As happens again in the case of Darwinism to-day.

    † Fiske: Discovery of America c. v.
    ‡ This is naturally only an application of the favourite division into the sacred number seven, derived from the (supposed) number of the planets. Compare the second book of Ezra in the Apocrypha, vi. 42

281
DISCOVERY


Jewish apocalyptic writings to account! If men had then had any idea that water, instead of covering a seventh of the surface of the earth — as the infallible source of all knowledge taught — covered almost exactly three-fourths, they would never have ventured out upon the ocean. In the later history of geographical discovery also several such pious confusions were of great service. Thus it was the gift to Spain (mentioned on p. 168) of all lands west of the Azores by the Pope as absolute lord of the world, that literally compelled the Portuguese to discover the eastern route to India by the Cape of Good Hope. When, however, this was achieved, the Spaniards were at a disadvantage; for the Pope had bestowed upon the Portuguese the whole eastern world, and now they had found Madagascar and India, with its fabulous treasures in gold, jewels, spices, &c., while America, to begin with, offered little; and thus the Spaniards knew no peace till Magalhães had accomplished his great achievement and reached India by the western route. *

    and 52 (also called the fourth book of Ezra, when the canonical book of Ezra and the book of Nehemiah are regarded as the first and second, as was formerly the custom). It is a most noteworthy fact that Columbus is indebted for all his arguments for a western route to India, as well as for his knowledge of this passage from Ezra, to the great Roger Bacon. It is some consolation that this poor man, who was persecuted to death by the Church, exercised decisive influence not only upon mathematics, astronomy and physics, but also upon the history of geographical discoveries.
    * Magalhães saw land, i.e., completed the proof that the earth is round, on March 6, 1521, the very day on which Charles V. signed the summons of Luther to Worms.

282 DISCOVERY

THE UNITY OF THE WORK OF DISCOVERY

    I do not propose to enter into details. There certainly remains a great deal to discuss, which the reader will not be able to supplement from histories or encyclopaedias; but as soon as the whole living organism stands clearly before our eyes — the special capacity, the impelling forces, the obstacles due to the surroundings — then the task here assigned to me is completed, and that is, I think, now the case. For it has not been my object to chronicle the past, but to illumine the present. And for that reason I should like to direct attention with special emphasis to one point only. It utterly confuses our historical perception when geographical discoveries are separated, as they usually are, from other discoveries; in the same way further confusion arises, when those discoveries which affect especially the human race — discoveries in ethnography, language, the history of religion, &c. — are put in a class by themselves, or assigned to philology and history. The unity of science is being recognized more and more every day — the unity of the work of discovery, that is, of the collecting of the material of knowledge, demands the same recognition. Whatever be discovered, whether it be a daring adventurer, an ingenious man engaged in industry, or a patient scholar that brings it to the light of day, it is the same gifts of our individuality that are at work, the same impulse towards possession, the same passionate spirit, the same devotion to nature, the same art of observation; it is the same Teuton of whom Faust says:
Im Weiterschreiten find' er Qual und Glück
Er! unbefriedigt jeden Augenblick. *
    Every single discovery, no matter in what sphere,

    * In further progress let him find pain and happiness, he! unsatisfied at every moment.


283
DISCOVERY


furthers every other, however remote from it. This is particularly manifest in geographical discoveries. It was avarice and religious fanaticism at the same time that induced the European States to interest themselves in discovery; but the chief result for the human intellect was, to begin with, the proof that the earth is round. The importance of this discovery is simply inestimable. It is true that the Pythagoreans had long ago supposed, and that scholars at various times had asserted that the earth was spherical; but it is a mighty advance from theoretical speculations such as this to an irrefutable, concrete, tangible proof. From the Papal gifts to the Spaniards and Portuguese of the year 1493 (see p. 168) we see clearly enough that the Church did not really believe that the earth was spherical: for to the west of every single degree of latitude lies the whole earth! I have already pointed out (p. 7 note) that Augustine considered the idea of Antipodes absurd and contrary to Scripture. At the close of the fifteenth century the orthodox still accepted as authoritative the geography of the monk Cosmas Indicopleustes, who declares the view of Greek scholars to be blasphemy and imagines the world to be a flat rectangle enclosed by the four walls of heaven; above the star-spangled firmament dwell God and the angels. * Though we may smile at such conceptions now, they were and are prescribed by Church doctrine. In reference to hell, Thomas Aquinas, for example, expressly warns men against the tendency to conceive it only spiritually; on the contrary, it is poenas corporeas (corporal punishments) that men will have to endure: likewise the flames of hell are to be understood literally, secundum litteram intelligenda; and this surely implies the conception of a place — to wit, “underneath the earth.“ † A round earth, hovering in

    * Fiske: Discovery of America, chap. iii.

    † Compendium Theologiae, chap. clxxix. I have no doubt that Thomas Aquinas believed also in a definite localisation of heaven

284 DISCOVERY

space, destroys the tangible conception of hell just as thoroughly as and much more convincingly than Kant's transcendentality of space. Scarcely one of the daring seafarers quite firmly believed in the earth as a sphere, and Magalhães had great difficulty in pacifying his comrades when he sailed across the Pacific Ocean, as they daily feared they would reach the “edge“ of the world and fall direct into hell. And now the matter had been concretely proved; the men who had sailed out towards the west came back from the east. That was for the time being the completion of the work begun by Marco Polo (1254—1323); he had been the first to announce with certainty that an ocean lay extended to the east of Asia. * At one blow rational astronomy had become

though he appears to have laid less stress on it. Conrad of Megenberg, a very scholarly and pious man, canon of the Ravensberg Cathedral and author of the very first Natural History in German, who died exactly a hundred years after him, says expressly in the astronomical part of his work, “The first and uppermost heaven (there are ten of them) stands still and does not revolve. It is called in Latin Empyreum, in German Feuerhimmel, because it glows and glitters in supernatural brightness. There God dwells with the Chosen“ (Das Buch der Natur ii. 1). The new astronomy, based on the new geography, therefore actually destroyed “the dwelling of God,“ on which till then even scholarly and free-thinking men had believed, and robbed the physico-theological conceptions of all convincing reality.

    * The map given on the next page will enable the reader to understand more clearly the work of geographical discovery which began in the thirteenth century. The black portion shows how much of the world was known to Europeans in the first half of the thirteenth century, i.e., before Marco Polo; all that is left white was absolutely terra incognita. The comparison is striking and the diagram is a symbol of the activity of the Teutons in discovery in other spheres as well. If we were to take former ages and non-European peoples into consideration, the black portion would require to be modified considerably; the Phoenicians, for instance, knew the Cape Verde Islands, but they had since then been lost to view so completely that the old accounts were regarded as fables; the Khalifs had been in constant intercourse with Madagascar and even knew — it is said — the sea-route to China by way of India; there were Christian (Nestorian) bishops of China in the seventh century, &c. — We cannot but suppose that some few Europeans, at the Papal Court and in trade centres, had vaguely heard of these things even in the thirteenth century; but, as I wished to show what was really known and had been actually seen, my map

285
DISCOVERY


Terra Incognita at the beginning of the 13th century

286 DISCOVERY

possible. The earth was round; consequently it hovered in space. But if so, why should not sun, moon and planets do the same? Thus brilliant hypotheses of the Hellenes were once more honoured. * Previous to Magalhães such speculations (e.g., those of Regiomontanus) had never gained a firm footing; whereas, now that there was no longer any doubt about the shape of the earth, a Copernicus immediately appeared; for speculation was now based on sure facts. But hereby the remembrance of the telescope which Roger Bacon had suggested was at once awakened, and the discoveries upon our planet were continued by discoveries in the heavens. Scarcely had the motion of the earth been put forward as a probable hypothesis, when the revolution of the moons around Jupiter was observed by the eye. † History shows us what an enormous impulse physics received from the complete revolution of cosmic conceptions. It is true that

rather contains too much than too little. Of the coast of India, for example, Europeans had then no definite knowledge at all; three centuries later, as we see from the map of Johann Ruysch, their conceptions were still uncertain and erroneous; of inner Asia they knew only the caravan routes to Samarkand and the Indus. A few years before Marco Polo two Franciscan monks reached Karakorum, the capital of the Great Khan, and brought back the first minute accounts of China — though only from hearsay. In the Jahresberichte der Geschichtswissenschaft (xxii. 97) Helmolt supplements this note as follows: “Since 638 an Imperial Chinese edict permitted the Nestorians to carry on missionary work in China; an inscription of the year 781 (described in Navarra: China und die Chinesen, 1901, p. 1089 f.) mentions the Nestorian patriarch Chanan-Ischu, and tells us that since the beginning of missionary activity in China seventy missionaries had gone there; to the south of the Balkhash lake the tombstones of more than 3000 Nestorian Christians have been found.“ See also the lecture of Baelz: Die Ostasiaten, 1901, p. 35 f. About the end of the tenth century there were thousands of Christian churches in China.

    * In the dedication of his De Revolutionibus, Copernicus mentions these views of the ancients. When the work was afterwards put on the Index, the doctrine of Copernicus was simply designated doctrina Pythagorica (Lange: Geschichte des Materialismus, 4th ed. i. 172).
    † The motion of these moons is so easy to observe that Galilei noticed it at once and mentioned it in a letter dated January 30, 1610.

287 DISCOVERY

physics begin with Archimedes, so that we must acknowledge that the Renaissance was of some little service here, but Galilei points out that the depreciation of higher mathematics and mechanics was due to the want of a visible object for their application, * and the chief thing is that a mechanical view of the world could only force itself upon men when they perceived with their eyes the mechanical structure of the cosmos. Now for the first time were the laws of falling bodies carefully investigated; this led to a new conception and analysis of gravitation, and a new and more accurate determination of the fundamental qualities of matter. The impetus to all these studies was given by the imagination, powerfully stirred as it was by the vision of constellations hovering in space. The great importance of continual discoveries for stimulating the imagination, and consequently also for art, has been alluded to already (vol. i. p. 267); here we gain a sight of the principle at work. We see how one thing leads to another, and how the first impulse to all these discoveries is to be sought in the voyages of discovery. But soon this central influence extended its waves farther and farther, to the deepest depths of philosophy and religion. For many facts were now discovered which directly contradicted the apparent proofs and doctrines of the sacrosanct Aristotle. Nature always works in an unexpected way; man possesses no organ to enable him to divine what has not yet been observed, be it form or law; this gift is denied to him. Discovery is always revelation. These revelations, these answers wrung from the “silent Sphinxes“ to riddles hitherto wrapt in sacred gloom, worked in the brains of men of genius and enabled them not only to anticipate future discoveries but also to lay the foundation of an absolutely new view of life's problems —

    * This is at any rate the interpretation which I have given to a quotation in Thurot, Recherches historiques sur le principe d'Archimède, 1869, but at present I am unfortunately unable to verify the accuracy of my memory and the correctness of my view.


288
DISCOVERY


a view which was neither Hellenic nor Jewish, but Teutonic. Thus Leonardo da Vinci — a pioneer of all genuine science — already proclaimed la terra è una stella (the earth is a star), and added elsewhere by way of explanation, la terra non è nel mezzo del mondo (the earth is not in the centre of the universe); and with a sheerly incredible power of intuition he gave utterance to the ever memorable words, “All life is motion.“ * A hundred years later Giordano Bruno, the inspired visionary, saw our whole solar system moving on in infinite space, the earth with its burden of men and human destinies a mere atom among countless atoms. This was truly very far from the cosmogony of Moses and the God who had chosen the small people of the Jews, “that he might be honoured“; and it was almost equally as far from Aristotle with his pedantic and childish teleology. We had to begin to rear the edifice of an absolutely new philosophy, which should answer to the requirements of the Teutonic horizon and the Teutonic tendency of mind. In that connection Descartes, who was born before Bruno died, acquired an importance which affected the history of the world, in that he, exactly as his ancestors, the daring seafarers, insisted on systematically doubting everything traditional and on fearlessly investigating the Unknown. I shall return to this later. All these things resulted from the geographical discoveries. Naturally they cannot be regarded as effects following causes, but certainly as events which had been occasioned by definite occurrences. Had we possessed freedom, the historical development of our work of discovery might have been different, as we see clearly enough from the example of Roger Bacon; however, natura sese adjuvat; all paths but that of geo-

    * I find the passage quoted thus in several places, but the only remark of the kind which I know in the original is somewhat different: Il moto è causa d'ogni vita (Motion is the cause of all life) (in J. P. Richter's edition of the Scritti letterari di Leonardo da Vinci, ii, 286, Fragment No. 1139). The former quotations are taken from Nos. 865 and 858.


289
DISCOVERY


graphical discoveries had been forcibly closed against us; this remained open, because all Churches love the perfume of gold, and because even a Columbus dreamt of equipping an army against the Turks with the treasure to be won; thus geographical discovery became the basis of all other discoveries, and so at the same time the foundation of our gradual intellectual emancipation, which, however, is even now far from being perfect.
    It would be easy to prove the influence which the discovery of the world exercised upon all other branches of life, upon industry and trade, and so at the same time upon the economic moulding of Europe, upon agriculture by the introduction of new vegetables, like the potato, upon medicine (think of quinine), upon politics, and so forth. I leave this to the reader and only call his attention to the fact that in all these spheres the aforementioned influence increases the nearer we come to the nineteenth century; every day our life, in contrast to the “European“ life of former days, is becoming more and more a “planetary“ one.
 
IDEALISM

    There is another great sphere of profound influence, little heeded in this connection, which I cannot leave undiscussed, and that all the more since in this very case the inevitable consequences of the discoveries have taken longest to reveal themselves and hardly began even in the nineteenth century to assume definite shape: I mean the influence of discoveries upon religion. The discovery — first of the spheroidal shape of the earth, secondly, of its position in the cosmos, then of the laws of motion, of the chemical structure of matter, &c. &c., has brought about that the faultlessly mechanical interpretation of nature is unavoidable and the only true one. When I say “the only true one,“ I mean that


290 DISCOVERY

it can be the only true one for us Teutons; other men may — in the future as in the past — think differently; among us also there is now and then a reaction against the too one-sided predominance of a purely mechanical interpretation of nature; but let not ephemeral movements lead us astray; we must ever of necessity come back to mechanism, and so long as the Teuton predominates, he will force this view of his even upon non-Teutons. I am not speaking of theories, I must discuss them elsewhere; but whatever form the theory may assume, henceforth it will always be “mechanical,“ that is, the inexorable demand of Teutonic thought, for only thus can it keep the outer and the inner world beneficially acting and reacting upon each other. This is so unrestrictedly true of us that I can in no way make up my mind to regard the doctrine of mechanism as a “theory,“ and consequently as pertaining to “science“: I think I must rather view it as a discovery, as an established fact. The philosopher may justify this, but the triumphant progress of our tangible discoveries is a sufficient guarantee for the ordinary man; for the mechanical thought, strictly adhered to, has been from the beginning to the present day the Ariadne's thread which has guided us in safety through all the labyrinthine paths of error. As I wrote on the title-page of this book, “We proclaim our adherence to the race which from out the darkness strives to reach the light.“ What in the world of empirical experience has led and still leads us from darkness into light was and is the unfaltering adherence to mechanism. By this — and this alone — we have acquired a mass of perceptions and a command over nature never equalled by any other human race. * Now this victory

    * As one must ever and in all things be apprehensive of being misunderstood in an age when the philosophic sense has become so barbarous, I add in the words of Kant, “Though there can be no real knowledge of nature unless mechanism is made the basis of research, yet this is true only of matter and does not preclude the searching after


291 DISCOVERY

of mechanism signifies the inevitable, complete overthrow of all materialistic religion. This issue is a surprise, but irrefutable. The Jewish world-chronicle might have some significance for Cosmas Indicopleustes, for us it can have none; as applied to the universe, as we know it to-day, it is simply absurd. But equally untenable in the face of mechanism is all that Eastern magic which, almost undisguised, forms so essential a part of the so-called Christian Creed (see pp. 123, 128). Mechanism in philosophy and materialism in religion are for ever irreconcilable. He who mechanically interprets empirical nature as perceived by the senses has an ideal religion or none at all; all else is conscious or unconscious self-deception. The Jew knew no mechanism of any kind: from Creation out of nothing to his dreams of a Messianic future everything is in his case freely ruling, all-powerful arbitrariness; * that is also the reason why he never discovered anything; with him one thing only is essential, the Creator; that explains everything. The mystical and magical notions, upon which all our ecclesiastical sacraments are based, stand on an even lower plane of materialism; for they signify principally a change of substance and are therefore nothing more nor less than the alchemy of souls. Consistent mechanism, on the other hand, as we Teutons have created it and from which we can no longer escape, is compatible only with a purely ideal, i.e., transcendent, religion, such as Jesus Christ had taught: the Kingdom of God is within you. † Religion for us cannot be chronicle, but experience only — inner, direct experience.
    I must come back to this elsewhere. Here I shall anticipate one point only, that in my opinion Kant's universal importance rests upon his brilliant compre-

and reflecting upon a Principle, which is quite different from explanation according to the mechanism of nature“ (Kritik der Urteilskraft, § 70).

    * See vol. i. p. 240 f.

    † See vol. i. p. 187 f., vol. ii. p. 40.

292 DISCOVERY

hension of this fact, that the Mechanical doctrine, consistently pursued to its furthest limits, furnishes the explanation of the world, and that the purely Ideal doctrine alone furnishes laws for the inner man. *
    For how many more centuries shall we drag the fetter of the conscious falsehood of believing in absurdities as revealed truth? I do not know. But I hope that we shall not do so much longer. For the religious craving is growing so great and so imperious in our breasts that of necessity a day must come when that craving will

    * In the interest of philosophically trained readers I wish to remark that I am aware of the fact that Kant establishes a dynamic natural philosophy in contrast to a mechanical natural philosophy (Metaphysische Anfangsgründe der Naturwissenschaft ii.), but there it is a question of distinctions which cannot be brought forward in a work like the present; moreover, Kant uses the word “Dynamic“ merely to express a special view of a strictly mechanical (according to the general use of the term) interpretation of nature. I should like to take this opportunity of making it perfectly clear that I do not bind myself hand and foot to the Kantian system. I am not learned enough to follow all these scholastic turnings and twistings; it would be presumption for me to say that I belonged to this or that school; but the personality I do see clearly, and I observe what a mighty stimulus it is, and in what directions. The important thing for me is not the “being right“ or “being wrong“ — this never-ceasing battling with windmills of puny minds — but first and foremost the importance (I might be inclined in this connection to say the “dynamic“ importance) of the mind in question, and secondly its individuality. And in this respect I behold Kant so great that but few in the world's history can be compared with him, and he is so thoroughly and specifically Teutonic (even in the limiting sense of the word) that he attains to typical significance. Philosophical technique is in him something subordinate, conditioned, accidental, ephemeral; the decisive, unconditioned, unephemeral element is the fundamental power, “not the word spoken but the speaker of it,“ as the Upanishads express it. For Kant's importance as a discoverer I also refer the reader to F. A. Lange's Geschichte des Materialismus (1881, p. 383), where the author shows with admirable acuteness that with Kant it was not, and could not be, a question of proving his fundamental principles, but rather of discovering them. In reality Kant is an observer, to be compared with Galilei or Harvey: he proceeds from facts and “in reality his method is no other than that of induction.“ The confusion arises from the fact that men are not clear on this matter. At any rate it is evident that, even from a formal point of view, I was justified in closing the section on “Discovery“ with the name of Kant.


293
DISCOVERY


shatter the rotten, gloomy edifice, and then we shall step out into the new, bright, glorious kingdom which has long been awaiting us; that will be the crown of the Teutonic work of discovery.



Back to main page
The original text in German: Kapitel 9b1
Previous chapter: Historical Survey
Next chapter: Science

Last update: March 16th, 2008.