Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

4 articles on this Page

Is German Philosophy responsi-I…

News
Cite
Share

Is German Philosophy responsi- ble for German Militarism ? AN ADDRESS DELIVERED, BEFORE THE CAMWY FYDD SOCIETY, TRELEW, OX OCr. 15, 1916. IV. I It may be said that both Schopenhauer and Hartmann built their moral theory of life on Pessimism. But whereas Schopenhauer teaches the suppresion of the Will to-live," Hartmann inculcates ai active engagement in practical pursuits, unselfish aims, and a general devotion to the higher interests of Society at large. Yet in all his writings thel e is no suggestion that these interests aro to be measured by military standards, nor that they can be best served by the ruthless waging of successful war. Verv remarkable is Hartmann's contention that Pessimism by no means necessarily leads to apathy, and quietsm,—"Is it not rather the fact," he asks, that true Pessi- inisin leads to a more energetic occupation "with life's work than any other theory of the universe ? But, he insists, that to pro- duce this result, Pessimism must be linked with the philosophical Monism which teaches the essential one ness of individuals, united as component parts of the Great World- being. In the field of pure Ethics he reaches a transcendent height that is unsurpassed. and unsurpassable. For this is what he says: "Virtue which does not find its re- "ward in itself is no virtue. "If it derives this payment from itself, it requires no other: if it does not, it DESERVES none: The prospect of rewards and punishments can "only produce an external, legal righteous "ness, never real virtue; indeed it injures "this latter by undermining its disinterest "edness." Yet, in speaking of the differences between his own and Schopenhauer's theory of the universe he writes But we have this neg- ative quality in common, that we are the "only two speculative philosophers who have openly taken up a position outside Christian theism, and have shewn that it is "theoretically unsound." It is evident that no case can be made out against Hartmann, as a philosophic progeni- tor of Kaiser's "God and I"—Germanic Mili- tarism. We may fitly conclude this sketchy outline with a brief account of Neitzsche, who was born in 1844; became Professor of Philology at Bale: gave up public work in 1878, in consequence of brain-trcuble, and died in 19O0. Nietzsche was no systematic philosopher like Schopenhauer or Hartmann, though his first introduction to the problems of philoso phv was through the former of these—from whom he seems to have taken over the semi deification of the WILL. But if he did not I share Schopenhauer's capacity for sustained abstract thinking, he possessed a facultv for vigorous and picturesque literary expression which is rare among German moralists and metaphysicians, and was certainly, in its al- most brutal unconventionality, all his own. A characteristic title of one of his works is: Beyond Good and Evil." And a character- istic statement of his thought is this A "living being seeks above all things to dis- change his strength. Life itself is the WILL- H TO-POWER. It is this that every man in his "heart desires—to assert himselt against the "world without, to appropriate, to .injure, to suppress, to exploit. And again, Exploit- ation belongs to the nature of the living "being, as a primary organic function. It is "a consequence of the Will to-Power." Starting from such a principle as this, the frequently recurring. paeans in favor of war that we find in Nietzsche's books can cause no surprise. All the familiar praises of N. are there. War purifies States. It certainly BARBARIZES them. But, even in so doing, it NATURALISES them. Wif is the sleep of pacific cowardice, of selfish commercialism,, of degenerate sensibilities and refinements— from which the nations awake refreshed. War, in a word, is its own justiifcation. He writes the famous sentence: "You say that I a good cause hallows even war. 1 say un- "to you that a good war haiiows every "cause." And from such doctrine his vision of the it-on-willod, stoi)y-licirte(I Superman emerges logically enough. Here cet-tiitily is plenty of grist for the mills of German bellicose ambition. Yet, nothing is plainer from the perusal of Nietz- sche's works than that he himself had no sympathy with this, nor with the exaggerated nationalist that saw a special grandeur in the German race, and believed in its civilizing mission as that of a divinely-chosen people On the contrary, we find him in 1873, warn nig his countrymen against the errors of sup- posing that the success of 1870 was due to anything that could be called German culture. .1 At present," lie writes, both the public and the private life of Germany shew every sign of the utmost lack of culture." And in his "Twilight of the Idols," written in 1889,110 complains as follows "There are no longer "German philosophers. This nation has ar bitrarilv stupefied itself through alcohol and Christianity. German seriousness, profun dity, and passion in intellectual matters are more and more on the decline." Nietzsche's Ideal State was most certainly not a Germanised one. He vvoutd appeal to have looked forward to an entirely new and non-national tvpe of civilization,—the European in contradistinction to the Germanic or any other existing national form—in which wbat he considered the degenerative effects qf modern comfort, culture, and compassion should be discounted by a return to Nature. and to the primitve struggle for existence of ages in which man's needs were mainly physical. For he was just as antagonistic to the doctrines of a free-thinking Sccialiam as he was to the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount. We may perhaps summarise the net result of this incomplete and cursory survey as fol lows:-Ot the five chief metaphysical philos phers that Germany produced between 1780 and 1880 not one can be fairly considered as having afforded any justification whatever for the rise of the German militarism that we know to-day. Of the literary and revolutionary moralist whom we have last reviewed, and upon whose shoulders so much responsibility has been latelv placed, we can say this :—That Nietz ache's glorification of war in general, and his assumed prophetic vision of a future Super iiiati must certainly have added fuel to the fires kindled bv the great Prussian historian Tieitzschke, and li is lessei- followers-to sa\ nothing of that enormous military literature in which Germany leads the worid. But we must, in accuracy, add that Nietzsche him self never gave this nationalistic application to his own stern, staik moral principles, and would assuredly have deeply disapproved of anViSiich. It was in this spirit that he wrote Nations are something artificial at presei t. and unstable, and. should most II carefully avoid all hot headed rivalry and [ hostility." It is not at anv in German Philosophy that we have to seek the real roots of German J Militarism. ELLIS THURTELL. ———

Betsi Cadwaladr.I

Family Notices

Owen T. Knowles.1