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Is German Philosophy responsible…


Is German Philosophy responsi- ble for German Militarism ? AN ADDRESS DELIVERED BEFORE TH CAMWY FYDD SOCIETY, TRELEW, ON OCT. 15, 1913. In any attempt to utter words of wisdom upon a difficult and debatable question of in- tellectual importance, it is always just as well to begin with a little defining of the chief terms used. As regards that German Mili tarisin whose alleged relationship to German Philosophy is the subject of this slender pa- per, it must be stated at the start that the epithet German is to be emphasised as dis- tingishing this form of militarism from every other known to us to-day. The characteristic of this type of war-Hke rage is that it is considered by its chief cniti- vators as but the crown of Teutonic industrial, commercial, political, and even intellectual! endeavour. To the genuine militarist of Teu- tonic stock the prime object of all the activi-! tics of peace is the most perfect preparation possible for a successful war. And the ob- ject of such a war is not merely the material increase in German territory that it will bring. It is also the extension of what, in German phraseology, may be called the Spiritual em- pire of the historic German Soul over the imagination and the mind of men. Re ardiii,? that P,?l Regarding that Philosophy whose real or supposed effect upon the ominous exhibition of the nation's warlike principles and ener- gies we have set but to consider, it, mIght perhaps be held that no influential contact was possible between two trains of ideas so radically different as contemplation and com- bativicy. But we have to remember that the strife of nations, though undoubtedly depend- ent primarily upon the pugnacity of individ- uals, is still something far superior to this, and is rooted in deeper and obscure causes. We must remember also that, from the time of Plato down to our modern Emerson- with his maxim," Thoughts rule the world "— all men who have gained any real competence in the sphere of Philosophy have insisted on the supreme importance of theory in the pro- gressive development of the practical activi- ties of the race. Modern German Philosophy may be con- sidered to begin with Kant, who was born in 1724 and died in 1804. His first great work, the 11 Critique of Pure Reason," published in 1781, was fundamentally anti-theological. The book, however, attracted little attention and in the second edition, which saw the light in 1787, its author modified his former iconoclastic handling of the problem of Div- inity. In his famous Critique of Practical Reason," published in 1788, he brought back, as the primal cause of human conscience, the Deity whotii his "pure reason" had failed to recognise in the external world. Kant, indeed, was nothing if not a pure and pacific moralist., "Two things," he *v rote, "fill me with awe and wonder the starry heavens above, and the moral-law within." N c) th i tizl. could have been more abhorrent to him than such preaching of patriotic hatred towards England, and such paeans in praise of war as those with which his country has resounded since. In point of fact, at the age of 71 he produced a booklet entitled "Perpetual Peace," which would have appeared an idiotic dream to Treitschke and Bernhardi and their enthusiastic followers of to-day. This essay was a notable precursor of our present pacifist literatare. It predicted the time when standing armies shall cease. It laid down the important principle, that no state at war should commit such hostile acts as must make mutual trust impossible in fu- ture times of peace. It declared that punitive wars "—such as Austria described herself, two years ago as waging against Servia- were altogether inconsistent with the notion of political right. It is evident that in Kant's philosophy no support is found for Prussian Militarism, al- I though the greater part of his life was spent in the spacious reign of that most war-like- monarch Frederick the Great. What now are we to say of the second dis- tingushed name in the history of that which is known as the Idealistic Schooi of German Pliilospby--Ficlite, to wit, who was born in 1762 and died in 1814 ? This thinker became a convert to the Kantian moral philosophy, as expressed in the "Critique of Practical Reason," but soon abandoned that standpoiut, and took up a Pantheistic position that rather recalled the theory of Spinoza, whose fate, indeed, he shared in being denounced by the orthodox as no better than an atheist. The writings of Fichte were more specific- ally metaphysical than ethical. But he came in direct touch with the problem of war after the crushing of Prussia by Napoleon in the years 1806 and 1807. Towards the end of the latter year he produced his famous Ad- dresses to the German nation," which brought a new spirit into politics. They were a summons to the principle of nationality, and an impassioned appeal for a system of edu- cation which should gradually reconstruct the shattered Prussian State. After Napoleon's fatal retreat from Mos- cow in 1812, Fichte deiivered a series of lectures entitled,—" On the idea of a Just War." In these he made it clear that for him it was only the good cause that made a good war. He would have held up his hands in horror at the cynical maxim of modern mili- tarist Germany that the materially good," namely, the successful war can, by its mere success, make the cause worthy of being con- sidered morally good or just. ( To be continued.) I

j AVISO. !


Cymdeithas Camwy Fydd, Treiew.


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