previous next

[99] in the one country, and Kant's and Fichte's high, abstract idealism in the other; because in England the man of letters must be more or less a practical man; in Germany, he is necessarily as pure a theorist or idealist as the Greeks were. But, whether my explanation of the cause be right or wrong, the fact remains unquestionable, and the next thing you will desire to know, will be the effects of this system of things.

They are undoubtedly manifold; more perhaps than I suspect, and certainly more than the Germans themselves believe; but two are very obvious, and more important probably than all the others. The first is an extreme freedom, and, as I should call it, latitudinarianism in thinking, speaking, writing, and teaching on all subjects, even law, religion, and politics, with the single exception of the actual measures of the government. A more perfect freedom, and in most cases a more perfect use and indulgence of it, cannot be imagined than is now to be found in Germany; and nobody can read the books published, without observing their high abstract nature, and seeing that their free tone is derived almost, perhaps altogether, from the general character of the prevalent metaphysics. The second is an extreme mental activity, produced by the necessity which every scholar has felt himself under to understand all three of the great systems which, within the last thirty years, everybody has been obliged to talk about; and then a consequent necessity that he who writes a book must, whatever be his subject, write it in a philosophical, discriminating spirit, and on a broad and systematic plan.

On this last are founded the chief improvements which the Germans are now making in literature and science, and both are to be almost exclusively attributed to the peculiar character of their metaphysics. These, then, are the two most important results of the German metaphysics: the first, bad in the extravagance to which it is now carried; and the second, essentially good, and continually tending, I think,—unless my views of human nature are too favorable,—to diminish and extirpate the evil of the first.

I have now, my dear Edward, explained to you as well as I am able in a letter the three points I intended to explain. . . . . Such as it is, it is as good an idea as I can give you, in so short a space, of the present condition of metaphysics in Germany. . . .

To Elisha Ticknor.

Gottingen, June 20, 1816.
. . . . .We have always been accustomed to hear and to talk of the republic of letters as a state of things in which talent and learning

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Gottingen (Lower Saxony, Germany) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
Elisha Ticknor (1)
Kant (1)
Fichte (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
June 20th, 1816 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: