Title: Reason and the unity of experience
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00098871/00001
 Material Information
Title: Reason and the unity of experience Nietzsche's critique of traditional conceptions of totality
Physical Description: vii, 159 leaves : ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Sugalski, Jan Raymond, 1943-
Publication Date: 1976
Copyright Date: 1976
Subject: Nihilism   ( lcsh )
Philosophy thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Philosophy -- UF
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Thesis: Thesis--University of Florida.
Bibliography: Bibliography: leaves 154-158.
General Note: Typescript.
General Note: Vita.
Statement of Responsibility: by Jan Raymond Sugalski.
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Bibliographic ID: UF00098871
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: alephbibnum - 000178217
oclc - 03114194
notis - AAU4722


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Jan Raymond Sugalski


I wish to thank all those who have aided me in the production of

this dissertation. In particular, I wish to thank the members of my

committee Dr. Thomas Auxter, Dr. Ellen Haring, Dr. Jay Zeman and Dr.

Raymond Gay-Crosier. I am further grateful to Dr. Henry Allison,

former member of the University of Florida Department of Philosophy,

and Dr. George Tunstall, former member of the University of Florida

Department of German and Slavic Languages, for what I consider to be

invaluable assistance rendered through our many and lengthy discussions

on this and related topics.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. .......... . . . . . . ... iii

ABSTRACT. . . . . . . .. . . . . . ... v

INTRODUCTION. . . . ........... . . 1


NOTES ..... . . . . . . . 52


NOTES . . .. .. . . ........... . 69


NOTES . . .... ................... 82


NOTES . . . . .. . . . . . . . 103

OF UNITY. .. ... ........ .. .... .105

NOTES . . . . . . ... . ... ... .131

CHAPTER VI CONCLUSIONS . . . ... .......... .134

NOTES . . . . . . .. . . . .152

BIBLIOGRAPHY. ............... . . . . . . .154

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH .. . . . .... .. . .159


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements
for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Jan Raymond Sugalski

December, 1976

Co-chairmen: Ellen S. Haring
Thomas W. Auxter
Major Department: Philosophy

This dissertation is concerned to understand Nietzsche's philosophy

within the rational philosophic tradition. The point of view adopted

is not Nietzsche's and is almost certainly not one he would have ap-

proved but is an attempt to make sense of his general approach to the

tradition. There are two basic motivations for this project: (1) the

need for an account of Nietzsche's fundamental concerns in terms of the

deepest characterizations of the tradition of reason, and (2) the need

to do this in a way which remains within traditional philosophic language

and does not require an understanding of the particular ideas and

language of the person commenting on Nietzsche's philosophy, as is the

case with Heidegger's and Jasper's commentaries.

To accomplish this aim, I approach the tradition according to what

I believe is its most basic aspect. I treat the tradition as an extended

attempt to give a unified rational account of human experience as a

whole. This point of view is maintained throughout with the object of

insuring that the understanding of Nietzsche obtained will proceed on

a level commensurate with the basic concern of the rational tradition.

Within the general theme of the unity of experience, the following

basic subthemes become pertinent: (1) the movement of reason toward

unity, (2) the principle of sufficient reason, (3) the drive to estab-

lish an unconditioned principle in philosophy, (4) Nietzsche's concepts

of nihilism and the will to power. By means of these fundamental

themes, I attempt to show the failure of the tradition of reason to

give an explication of the unity of experience, and in terms of this,

I try to gain an understanding of Nietzsche's position on nihilism and

the will to power. This approach has the added virtue of demonstrating

the intimate connection between nihilism and the will to power, a point

not generally noticed in the commentaries on Nietzsche.

The dissertation proceeds as follows. Chapter one establishes the

theme of unity in the modern philosophic tradition and represents Kant's

philosophy as the culmination of this tradition. Kant's idea of reason

as seeking unity is taken as definitive of reason's role in philosophy.

Kant's main concern with reason is taken as the concern of the rational

tradition generally, namely the attempt to give a discursive account of

the unity of experience. The second chapter is meant to carry further

an already established connection between the principle of sufficient

reason and the problem of unity. This leads to a consideration of

Schopenhauer's philosophy in chapter three by way of transition to

Nietzsche's philosophy proper. Schopenhauer is considered strictly in

terms of what Nietzsche regards as Schopenhauer's failure, viz., his

inability to give a unified view of experience, or his failure to

reconcile Kant's Ding an Sicl and the phenomenal world. The


consideration of Schopenhauer's defects leads to a discussion of

nihilism, the will to power and Nietzsche's value philosophy. This in

turn leads to a discussion of Nietzsche's view of unity with respect

to nihilism in chapter five. In the final chapter, the general adequacy

of Nietzsche's position with respect to the problem of the unity of ex-

perience in the tradition is discussed. Certain methodological problems

of Nietzsche's philosophy are raised without, however, leading to a

discussion in detail. These considerations invite the conclusion,

similar to that of Heidegger, that although Nietzsche's philosophy lies

within the traditional philosophic understanding of reason, it does not

achieve unity in the form desired by this tradition.



The present thesis is an attempt to understand the philosophy of

Friedrich Nietzsche with respect to the Western philosophic tradition.

To facilitate this project, I approach the tradition in what I believe

is its basic aspect, the attempt to give a unified rational account of

human experience as a whole. The attempt to give such an account

fundamentally characterizes the activity of reason in the tradition.

The thesis will therefore concern itself with Nietzsche's understanding

of reason in the tradition. More particularly, the leading principle

of reason, the principle of sufficient reason, is emphasized throughout

the presentation. At all times, it is intended that the closest con-

nection be made between the following three points of view: the

activity of reason in general, the problem of the unity of experience

and the principle of sufficient reason. Furthermore, as will be argued

in the first chapter dealing with Kant, the drive to establish an

"unconditioned" in philosophy in whatever form cannot be divorced from

these three points of view and becomes important for Nietzsche's

particular way of viewing the tradition. We therefore have four

primary viewpoints on the movement of the rational philosophic tradition:

the activity of reason in general, the attempt to give a unified account

of experience as a whole, the principle of sufficient reason, and the

attempt to posit an "unconditioned."

Nietzsche had much to say about the rational philosophic tradition

and furthermore had a primitive leading principle which (for him) func-

tioned at a level as basic as any in the tradition. Since the Western

rational tradition as a whole becomes an explicit theme in Nietzsche's

philosophy, Nietzsche may be legitimately regarded as a philosopher

of philosophy. This being the case, it seems appropriate to deal with

Nietzsche's philosophy at a level coincident with the deepest possible

characterization of the tradition in general. I consider this level

to be a properly metaphysical or ontological one and consequently regard

the most complete understanding of Nietzsche's position as possible only

at this level. I will not specifically argue for this position.

Nietzsche's status as a metaphysician is controversial. The standpoint

of the present thesis is simply that any philosopher who makes a problem

of the activity of reason in the philosophic tradition cannot avoid

philosophizing at a properly metaphysical level. A certain effort has

therefore been made to place Nietzsche's philosophy within the language

of the tradition. Poetic or strongly metaphorical language which one

might easily fall into while discussing Nietzsche is, as far as pos-

sible, consciously kept to a minimum. On the other hand, Nietzsche's

philosophy cannot be forced into the mold of a dry epistemology and

there has been no attempt to do so here. There are, however, concerns

which enter the philosophic tradition for the first time with Nietzsche

and therefore do not completely lend themselves to explication in

traditional terms. The most outstanding example of this is the theme

of nihilism, Nietzsche's most basic concern. Since the project is to

understand Nietzsche's philosophy in terms of the tradition and vice

versa, I have tried to present this most basic concern in traditional

philosophic categories. This, as I believe, can never be totally

successful but must be attempted for an adequate understanding of

Nietzsche's place in philosophy.

Where does the present thesis stand with respect to the Nietzsche

literature? Anyone who reads extensively in this literature will dis-

cover that it falls into two basic categories. First there is that

literature which is basically expository, takes over Nietzsche's remarks

on the tradition without much analysis, does not try to see the unity

of his thought (in fact could not since it never goes deep enough) and,

in general, leaves the reader with a lot of information on what

Nietzsche said but very little knowledge of his significance philosophi-

cally. With this type of presentation, Nietzsche's philosophy emerges

as just another position in the tradition to be placed alongside every

other. Into this first category can be placed at least ninety percent

of everything written on the subject. In the second place, we have

that literature typified by the extensive Heideggerian analysis which

while going deeply into a metaphysical critique of Nietzsche's philosophy,

depends for its understanding upon a quite thorough acquaintance with

the author's own language and philosophical position. The following

thesis tries to steer a middle course between these two approaches. It

strives to grasp the primary sense of Nietzsche's philosophy at a

nonsuperficial level yet does not do so in terms of nontraditional

language or modes of classification. Consequently, it only focuses on

the most general significant features of the tradition arising out of

the traditional conception of reason.

Beginning with the first chapter, immanuel Kant's philosophy will

come under discussion. There are at least three main and intimately

related reasons for this. First, with Kant reason as it was understood

by the tradition comes under an explicit critique. Whether Kant's

view of his own project as reason coming under its own gaze is valid

or not, the fact remains that the tradition comes to a culmination in

Kant's philosophy when the place of reason becomes an explicit theme.

Second, this thesis takes the position that Kant's Critique of Pure

Reason is primarily an essay on the principle of sufficient reason.

This might be guessed simply from the fact that the Critique is an

investigation of the place of reason and the principle of sufficient

reason has been represented as the highest principle of reason. Viewing

the Critique in this way has the advantage of allowing a more obvious

connection to be made with the idea of the unity of experience or the

world. Third, with Kant's phenomena/noumena distinction, we have the cul-

mination of the perennial philosophic idea, the real/apparent world

dichotomy. This separation and the question of its legitimacy became

one of Nietzsche's chief interests in his consideration of the rational


The reader will search Nietzsche's writings in vain for a charac-

terization of his philosophy as given here in terms of the unity of

experience. Nietzsche did not present his views in any "system" of

philosophy. What is presented here is not an attempt to make Nietzsche

systematic, but an attempt to see his most basic concerns as a con-

sistent development of one line of thought. As a prime example, this

thesis tries to intimately relate nihilism as Nietzsche understands it

with his concept of the will to power. Only Martin Heidegger's

Nietzsche addresses itself in any thoughtful way to this connection.

Yet there could hardly be a more basic connection to be made in

Nietzsche's philosophy; a commentary which fails to consider this

cannot possibly claim to be dealing with Nietzsche's philosophy at its

deepest level. The standpoint of unity employed in this thesis has been

extracted from an extensive reading of Nietzsche's original philosophy

and the commentaries on it. This standpoint has also been adopted as

the result of a sustained attempt to view everyday experience in

Nietzschean terms. Finally the present approach arises from the need

to grasp the tradition in a convenient yet nonsuperficial form so as

to make it manageable as a theme of Nietzsche's philosophy. Hopefully

generalizations of the tradition used in this thesis will not be thought

too artificial.

Because of the level at which Nietzsche's philosophy is treated

here, there has not been much concern to use supportive material from

any particular period of his development. Although cahnges in method,

emphasis and mode of expression do occur, these do not affect Nietzsche's

most basic concerns as dealt with here. At the deepest level Nietzsche's

concerns remain the same. A good deal of material has been taken from

the collection of notes never published by Nietzsche but first issued

by his sister under the title The Will to Power (Der Wille zur Macht).

The reason for this is simply that by far most of Nietzsche's explicit

metaphysical remarks, remarks about the rational tradition and

specific references to the will to power appear in these notes. There

has been a continuing controversy for many years about the importance

of Nietzsche's unpublished notes as opposed to his published writings.

In my opinion, this controversy is completely pointless, because without

a direct statement by Nietzsche (unlikely at this late date), there are

simply no criteria by which the issue could be settled. The contro-

versy derives its force from the initial premise that Nietzsche's

writings show basic inconsistencies, however this is a premise which

has by no means been established. The most anyone need do in any case

is to read Nietzsche as a whole and attempt to see his thought as a

unity. My own position is that there is no inherent incompatibility

at all between the published and unpublished writings and that anyone

who lives with Nietzsche's thought long enough and enters into its

spirit will come to the same conclusion.

The following thesis proceeds as follows. The first chapter

establishes the theme of unity in the rational tradition and the sense

in which it culminates in Kant's philosophy. Throughout the overriding

concern is with Kant's view of reason and its drive toward unity. The

thesis takes Kant's main concern as the problem of the unity of

experience or the constitution of a world. The second chapter is meant

to carry further the connection of the principle of sufficient reason

(introduced in the first chapter) with the problem of unity. This is

all by way of a consideration of Schopenhauer's philosophy in chapter

three which strongly emphasizes the place of the principle of sufficient

reason. Schopenhauer is considered strictly in light of his failure

to give a unified view of experience; his failure to reconcile Kant's

Ding an sich (Schopenhauer's Will) with the phenomenal world. But

Schopenhauer's failure is instructive. It leads to the conclusion that

the traditional view of knowledge and quest for unity in terms of the

principle of sufficient reason is not viable. This in turn leads to

Nietzsche's value philosophy based upon the will to power which abjures

all absolutes or unconditional according to which the world is to be

ultimately explicated. In addition, the advent of nihilism as an

explicit philosophic theme is to be connected with the problem of unity.

At this point, the designation of Nietzsche as a philosopher of philos-

ophy should make more sense since his basic concern with nihilism will

have been connected with the basic problem of traditional philosophy.

The last chapter concerns itself chiefly with two questions. To what

extent does Nietzsche overcome the traditional problem of unity and

the related question, does Nietzsche's critique of the tradition apply

to his own philosophy? A discussion of these questions leads to a

conclusion similar to that reached by Heidegger. That is, Nietzsche's

position of perspectivism is viewed as the last one possible within the

traditional view of reason. Nietzsche's doctrine of the will to power

is to be viewed as the last available means of expression for the

activity of life (which includes the activity of the philosopher) in

general. Its peculiar status lies in its self-reflexive character.

Its unconditional force stems not from its mere assertion, but from

the fact that it inherently excludes alternatives. Insofar, however,

as the will to power is autonomous, it must be vulnerable to the weak-

nesses of all causa sui principles. Consequently the will to power

does not fulfill the demand of the tradition for a discursive account

of the unity of experience, and nihilism as outline with respect to

the attempt to achieve this unity remains intact.



In order to acquire an adequate understanding of Nietzsche's view

of the rational philosophic tradition and his place in it, this chapter

will attempt to characterize the tradition in terms of the activity of

reason. This activity is fundamentally one of a quest for unity. This

activity first comes to explicit consciousness with Kant's philosophy,

thus the Kantian philosophy may be regarded as a culmination of the

Western philosophic tradition insofar as this tradition is viewed as

rational. The present historical survey will, therefore, lead up to

a discussion of Kant's philosophy with specific reference to his

characterization of the activity of reason. Throughout, the emphasis

will be on reason and its activity as the attempt to give an account

of the unity of human experience. Having understood the course of the

modern rational tradition in terms of its fundamental activity, the

foundation will be laid for an understanding of Nietzsche's position

with respect to this tradition.

As indicated, when we speak of unity, by this is meant the unity

of experience. This unity is recognized as the basis for notions like

the "universe," "world" and ultimately, the notion of "thing" in

general. In philosophy, this recognition of unity has been the basis

for the postulation of substance, that which underlies the properties

of an object and allows us to speak of a totality or a unity in

opposition to a mere aggregate. In addition, the notion of permanence

has been connected with the idea of substance. The postulation of

substance is quite understandable if we take a certain common view of

the tradition. This view as expressed by Lucien Goldmann is as


All genuinely philosophical thought sets out
from the premiss that there is in human existence
something eternal and immutable, the search for
which constitutes the principal task of philosophy;
this point of departure thus assumes the existence
of objective truth.1

This is a view with which Nietzsche would certainly agree. The notions

of permanence and unity persist throughout the tradition and their

power as fundamental motivating factors can be clearly seen. This is

no less true with respect to Kant's Inaugural Dissertation (Dissertation

on the Form and Principles of the Sensible and Intelligible World)

where we meet the question of unity in the form of the totality vs the

aggregate. In Hume's problems with causality, the problem of unity is

further perceptible with the felt need for but lack of a necessary

connection between events. Concerning the assumption of objective

truth as Goldmann characterizes the tradition, we are principally

interested here in this as it developed from the time that ens is

essentially no longer ens creatum but becomes ens certum, indubitatum,

vere cogitatum. Truth is now no longer decided by the method of

authority but becomes dependent on the nature of thinking.

In Descartes' example of the changing characteristics of wax, we

get the explicit move toward truth as certainty based upon the thinking

substance. The thinghood of the wax leads to the unity of the thinking

substance, as its basis; "... with how much more [evidence] and dis-

tinctness must it be said that I now know myself, since all the reasons

which contribute to the knowledge of wax, or any other body whatever,

are yet better proofs of the nature of my mind!'2 The external world

serves as one gigantic piece of evidence for the existence of the

cogito and the cogito then subsequently becomes the basis for the

truth of perception through the criteria of clarity and distinctness

"and 1 have already fully demonstrated that all that I know clearly is

true." "... what 1 perceive clearly and distinctly cannot fail to be

true." What truth is Descartes assumes we already know. He is mainly

interested in a criterion whereby we can determine what is true. The

criteria, of course, are clarity and distinctness. To perceive some-

thing clearly and distinctly is to be able to isolate it from every-

thing else, to individuate the perception from others. The criteria

of clarity and distinctness as criteria for determining truth can be

correlated with Nietzsche's view, to be discussed in more detail later,

of the activity of philosophy as imposing "upon becoming the character

of being."5 But this further involves a static conception of truth,

that is, a conception of truth as characterized above by Goldmann. It

is with the beginning of the modern period that this static conception

of truth becomes explicitly formulated in terms of clarity and dis-

tinctness. The notion of truth as certainty emerges with criteria for

determining certainty.

In Principle 10 of the Principles of Philosophy, Descartes says,

And when I stated that this proposition I think,
therefore I am is the first and most certain which
presents itself to those who philosophise in orderly
fashion, I did not for all that deny that we must
first of all know what is knowledge, what is existence,
and what is certainty, and that in order to think we
must be, and such like; but because these are notions
of the simplest possible kind, which of themselves
give us no knowledge of anything that exists, I did
not think them worthy of being put on record.6

That which can be determined as certain is true. We already

presumably know what certainty is, but we are in need of a set of criteria

for discovering what can be taken as certain. These criteria Descartes

finds in clarity and distinctness based upon the model of mathematics.

Descartes upholds the traditional notion of man as the rational animal

with an already presupposed connection made between rationality,

thinking and certainty. Yet, it is this presupposed nature of and

emphasis upon reason as primary which conditions the attempts after

Descartes to humanly grasp (rationalize) experience as a whole.

The example of the wax which is meant to lead to the indubitability

of the cogito shows that already an idea of what will count as certain

is already operative in Descartes' thinking. There is nothing certain

in sense impressions because they are in flux, are mutable. The idea

of certainty and truth as concomitant with immutability is, of course,

an old theme. With Descartes, however, man as a thinking being becomes

capable of certainty without waiting for revelation. True, God still

waits in the background to guarantee the validity of the application

of a criterion of clarity and distinctness, however man reaches this

conclusion through his reason. Immutability, as it did traditionally,

becomes a sign for that which is most true; it becomes a basis for

knowing anything. The light of nature tells us that "no qualities or

properties pertain to nothing; and that where some are perceived there

must necessarily be some thing or substance on which they depend. And

the same light shows us that we know a thing or substance so much the

better the more properties we observe in it." We know substance as

that which supports the properties and while properties may come and

go, the substance persists and we are allowed to speak of the "same"


object. Here there is nothing at all different from the scholastic


Descartes' philosophy is significant because it defines the nature

of thinking which persists throughout modern philosophy; it defines the

notion of reason and its operation. Furthermore the role of reason in

man's attempt to deal with his world is emphasized. Besides the notion

of clarity and distinctness as criteria of truth, we get the notion

that thinking is always conscious thinking, a notion which is later

criticized by Leibniz. More importantly, what comes to consciousness

is most significant for Descartes; what I consciously perceive clearly

and distinctly is true. Substance itself is not perceived, but

Descartes implies it is the result of an immediate inference from a

group of properties and the "notion that nothing is possessed of no

attributes, properties, or qualities."8 But it could be objected that

this is circular reasoning because the notion of property implies its

being a property of something, therefore, properties could not be

apprehended as such. At any rate, it is significant that the mutability

of properties of the "same thing" force us to push on to something less

mutable and hence, more "real." Reality thus becomes a function of


Of the things we consider as real, the most
general are substance, duration, order, number,
and possibly such other similar matters as range
through all the classes of real things. I do not
observe, however, more than two ultimate classes
of real things -- the one is intellectual things,
or those of the intelligence, that is, pertaining
to the mind or to thinking substance, the other is
material things, or that pertaining to extended
substances, i.e., to body.9

Thinking substance and extended substance are both substances but

still only with a qualification, namely, that they have both been

created by God. Descartes says, "By substance, we can understand

nothing else than a thing which so exists that it needs no other thing

in order to exist. And, in fact, only one single substance can be

understood which clearly needs nothing else, namely, God."10 Yet the

notion that both extension and thinking come under the common designa-

tion substance, does not help us in understanding the interaction

between them. Furthermore, the principium individuationis and its

connection with substance is left unknown. According to Descartes

variety was presumably produced through an original motion caused by

God in extension. There is a sort of Deus ex machine in the action

of God producing variety in the world. The relation of properties of

things to the things themselves (things taken as substances) presents

a problem of unity which is never made clear.

When we come to the philosophy of Spinoza, we have several changes,

the most important of which is that there is only one substance of

which extension and thought are attributes. These two attributes may

be conceived as absolutely distinct from one another but are to be

regarded as expressions of one substance. The important point is that

the dichotomy of two substances is recognized by Spinoza as untenable.11

Spinoza is concerned to avoid any kind of emanationism, therefore God

must be represented as being extended. The motion in matter is an

activity of extension as an attribute of the one substance. The Deus

ex machine involved in a distinct separation of natural naturans and

natural naturata is supposedly avoided in Spinoza, but is it really?

The Deus ex machine actually lies in Spinoza's claim that finite modes

appear out of the one substance but we don't know how this happens.

Spinoza must, as must every philosopher, face the problem of those who


favor the theory of emanationists,namely how does the finite proceed

from the infinite or multiplicity from unity. This problem does not

seem to be overcome by Spinoza. He is forced to make some attempt to

solve it by postulating an infinite series of efficient causes but

this hardly solves the problem of unity.

Descartes postulated distinct substances which obviously did not

permit an understandable unity; Spinoza made the next logical move by

developing a monism in which everything was said to be the expression

of one substance. Both of these thinkers recognized, at least implicit-

ly, the problem they were faced with; "the truth about being as such in

totality" had not been realized.12 In both cases a unity of experience

was recognized and multiplicity was to be accounted for. Furthermore,

certain distinctions must be taken as given absolutely. Descartes has

two absolutes in the form of the res cogitans and the res extensa which

must produce a unity. Spinoza has an absolute causa sui substance and

must account for multiplicity, that is to say: finitude. From his

initial monistic position, Spinoza must account for the emergence of

particulars while still maintaining their identity with the whole.

The philosophy of Leibniz may be looked at as an attempt to overcome

Spinoza's problems of diversity in unity. The main point of this

discussion is that Descartes, Spinoza and Leibniz represent the three

logical alternatives for accounting for multiplicity out of unity

within a certain given framework, yet because of the way the problem

is set up in terms of an already given idea of reason and its role, a

Deus ex machine must always be introduced.

In the Leibnizian philosophy, totality is represented by the

totality of perspectives of the monads which are infinite and differ

from one another by no specifiable degree, however small. This is the

analogue of the principle of least difference. But this is not merely

a successive infinite like Spinoza's infinite chain of efficient causes.

Because each monad is a perspective on the whole universe, it contains

the universe in its own way while maintaining its distinctness. Further-

more, the monads are unextended, simple substances which are not subject

to external action, because strictly speaking there is no external.

Descartes had the problem of the atomists while Spinoza had the problem

of the monists. Leibniz's solution is really ingenious in that he affirms

a multiplicity of substances while maintaining that each substance

reflects all the others.

Leibniz himself seems to have seen his position as the only

alternative to the shortcomings of the Cartesian and Spinozistic philos-

ophies.3 Each monad of the Leibnizian system is a self-contained,

self-active center of force which is constantly developing new per-

spectives. This is what Leibniz calls appetition. Extension and matter

are not primary for Leibniz as for Descartes since extension implies

divisibility and therefore no simplicity, and matter is by no means

simple. Leibniz is fully aware that matter alone was incapable of

offering any ultimate explanation. Yet a substance has to be postulated

and in an absolute sense. In the New Essays Concerning Human Under-

standing, Leibniz says we postulate substance "from that which demands

a kind of knowledge of which the object does not admit."14

Ingenious as Leibniz's solution of the problems of Descartes and

Spinoza is, the necessity of postulating absolute, causa sui, uncon-

ditionals shows its effects in his philosophy. In the first place, the

exact place of God as the highest monad seems impossible to clarify

within his system. We are led to God for the ultimate explanation of

things. Furthermore, God has created the infinity of monads which as

substances are ultimately distinct from one another. Each of these

monads, since they reflect the whole, must contain God although in an

obscure way. But God has a perfectly adequate, clear and distinct

perception of the whole, so the necessity for creating an infinity of

monads never becomes clear. Because Leibniz is not clear about the

position of God, he seems constantly to equivocate between God as

separate from his creation and identified with it. Indeed it seems

impossible to understand what creation could mean in this case. In

the Discourse on Metaphysics, it is said "each substance is a world by

itself, independent of everything else excepting God."15 But in what

the dependence on God consists is difficult to say. We always come

back to the same problem, either God is his creation or he is distinct

from it. Furthermore, in several places in Leibniz's writings we meet

the traditional notion that everything is "emanating" from God in a

continuous act of creation and is thereby held in existence. In one

place God is referred to as the "extramundane reason of things."17 But

the notion of "emanation" and the "reason of things" do not make the

unity of the world as we experience it any more comprehensible although

they are presumably used to express a recognized unity.

Secondly, and as an illustration of problems of unity, the peren-

nial dichotomy of contingency and necessity is preserved in Leibniz in

the form of the inability to unify the principle of sufficient reason

and the principle of contradiction. The problem becomes one of

accounting for contingent truths in a necessary universe. Although

contingent truths may be said to be certain, they cannot be said to be

necessary. Leibniz attempts his famous resolution of the problem of

contingency and necessity in his distinction between moral perfection

and metaphysical perfection, yet, as far as I know, no one has made

adequate sense of this distinction.18

Thirdly, the postulating of absolute unconditional implies that

Leibniz holds an absolute theory of truth. That is, there is a truth

to be attained although for the human mind the acquisition of adequate

knowledge of "external" objects would require an infinite analysis.

In a letter, Leibniz makes another kind of distinction which is more


Being itself and truth are not known wholly
through the senses; for it would not be impossible
for a creature to have long and orderly dreams,
resembling our life, of such a sort that everything
which it thought it perceived through the senses
would be but mere appearance. There must therefore
be something beyond the senses, which distinguishes
the true from the apparent.19

Positing a multiplicity of absolute unconditional causes further

problems in that Leibniz finds it necessary to postulate a preestab-

lished harmony because his monads are absolutely distinct from one

another even though their perspectives can never be entirely distin-

guished. Leibniz does not see occasionalism as a viable alternative.

But the nature of each monad consists only in perception and appetition

and its perception is a perception of the universe which includes the

other monads. Given all of this, what does it mean to say that the

monads are absolutely distinct? The problem is one of the incompati-

bility of Leibniz's principle of continuity, and his doctrine of

discrete slLn.innlcs. Of course this is just another statement of the

unity-multiplicity problem, and, although we can make sense of this in

mathematics, on the level of matters of fact, where metaphysics is

ultimately concerned to understand it, the problem seems insoluble.

The principle of continuity follows from the principle of sufficient

reason, but how do we know that this does not apply just in the order

of knowledge and not in the order of nature? Leibniz's answer would

of course be that there is no ultimate distinction between mind and

matter but this conclusion must itself be based upon the principle of


There is no intention to go into Leibniz's philosophy in greater

detail, but what has been said of Descartes, Spinoza and Leihniz should

suffice to show that they all move within a certain framework of

thinking. They represent the three possible basic alternatives

within this framework. Put in its crudest form, these alternatives

are atomism, monism or both at once. From this point of view, we

recognize Liebniz as one end point in the history of Philosophy. Either

all philosophy is condemned to follow these three basic forms, although

perhaps with a greatly diversified content, or a change in the point of

view of what philosophy is to do is necessary. Yet the task of

metaphysics remains the same; to make comprehensible the unity of

experience as a whole.

While the position of the Christian God was intact, it is easy to

see that the Deus ex machine could always be employed without suspicion,

and this makes it understandable that a position like occasionalism

could and did develop early in the history of modern philosophy. With

the occasionalists the "unreasonable" nature of this device did not

appear as an objection as it might today. With the move to the cogito

and the move toward man as the center, the comprehensibility of all


being becomes necessary because man must take over explanations pre-

viously referred to God. This is simply a characteristic of the move

out of the middle ages. This comprehension, as mentioned, is charac-

terized by a certain framework of thinking. What is this framework?

The discussions above meant to aim at the idea that the framework of

thinking beginning with Descartes is characterized by a certain

assumption as to the priority and nature of "objective" thinking.

The dominant mode of thinking has as its banner the notion of "clear

and distinct ideas." From this position the notion that thinking is

to take place in terms of well defined categories follows immediately.

As a further indication that this position is correct, the follow-

ing situation should be noted from the position of Leibniz in 1684.

Leibniz notes that there has been abuse of the criteria of clarity and

distinctness on the ground that something may appear as clear and

distinct "and turns out to be really obscure and indistinct." Leibniz

then says, "This axiom is therefore useless so long as we have not

drawn up the criteria of the clear and distinct, such as we have

given. But what "criteria" are given or can be given? Leibniz

gave the following: "... knowledge is clear when it is sufficient to

enable me to recognize the things represented ...." Knowledge "is

indistinct as soon as I am not able to enumerate separately the

characteristics required to distinguish [note the circularity in the use

of this word] the thing from others ... Furthermore "a distinct idea

... is like the one the goldsmiths have of gold ... one based on dis-

tinctive [?] characters and results of assayers' tests which suffice

to distinguish [?] gold from all other similar bodies."21 At another

place Leibniz says, "... it already becomes clear that in order to


have distinct knowledge, we need intuitive awareness of its content."22

It seems then that we decide if our knowledge is clear and distinct by

seeing whether it is clear and distinct, and the appeal to intuitive

knowledge seems very "irrational." So we see that clarity and distinct-

ness function as an ultimate ground of truth and objective knowledge.

In the New Essays, Philalethes says, "When words are so joined in

propositions that they express exactly the agreement or disagreement as

it really is, it is a certainty of truth .... Theophilus, the

exponent of Leibniz's views then says that this "kind of certainty

appears to be nothing else than the truth itself."24 However, the

determination of the agreement or disagreement depends upon our ability

to discriminate a situation that really is.

In summation, the foregoing treatment of Descartes, Spinoza and

Leibniz was meant to indicate the plausibility of their metaphysical

positions once given a certain way or regarding truth and being. It

was emphasized here and was emphasized by Nietzsche that this conception

has been a traditionally static and categorial one. That the framework

for deciding questions of truth was given as static follows from

Descartes' adoption of the criteria of clarity and distinctness. These

criteria only make explicit an already long-established criterion for

truth, namely, immutability. That which is mutable, that which changes

into something else is that which is confusing. It is essential that

a thing remain identical with itself and endure. That which is

absolutely true must be absolutely immutable. This points to an

unconditioned; something which is unconditionally true, something in

itself. But the notion of an unconditioned truth is by definition

irrational according to the principle of sufficient reason, because


reason depends upon the ways in which parts of our experience are not

radically distinct from others. Yet the elimination of confusion

depends upon the ability to clearly and distinctly discriminate areas

of our experience. Leibniz saw both the principle of noncontradiction

and the principle of sufficient reason as necessary but their connec-

tion is not too clear.

As a clue to the way truth was regarded in the tradition being

considered, consider the following quotation from Leibniz and also

employed by Heidegger in On the Essence of Ground (Vom Wesen des


Thus a predicate, or consequent, is always present
in a subject, or antecedent; and in this fact consists
the universal nature of truth ... This connection and
inclusion of the predicate in the subject is explicit
in relations of identity. In all other relations it is
implicit and is revealed through an analysis of notions,
upon which a priori demonstration is based.
From these things, which have not been adequately
considered due to their great simplicity, there follow
many other things of great importance. Indeed, from
them there at once arises the familiar axiom: "Nothing
is without reason," or "there is no effect without a
cause." If the axiom did not hold, there might be a
truth which could not be proved a priori, i.e., which
could not be resolved into relations of identity; and
this is contrary to the nature of truth, which is
always identical, whether explicitly of implicitly.25

The statement shows the principle of sufficient reason as

dependent upon a notion of truth as identity. it would to against the

nature of reason for there to be any beings without a reason. This

conclusion follows upon the supposition of a complete metaphysical

unity wherein a break or hiatus would be contrary to reason. Experience

forms a continuum as Leibniz thought, and if this were not the case,

human understanding of experience would be defeated from the start.

For Leibniz, this fact is expressed in the proposition with its subject-

predicate form. Every subject can ultimately be exhausted in its

predicate. Leibniz is quite correct when he views what it would mean

to possess the "truth" as understanding experience as a whole. It

must be noted, however, that a categorical way of thinking seems to

be self-defeating with respect to the project of understanding exper-

ience as a unity. In the end, we would be under the obligation to

break out of our categories in order to achieve the desired unity.

Each category would have to be shown in its essential connection with

every other and thus lose its status of a well-defined category; the

very status which was thought to be the source of its power.

In the philosophic positions discussed we recognize a "need" to

maintain at least three conflicting notions which provide the framework

in which these metaphysical positions become the viable alternatives.

These conflicting notions are experience as a unified whole, an

unconditional "substance" and the criteria of clarity and distinctness

for deciding truth. The philosophy of Leibniz is the last alternative

within this framework and in this light, at least, it is understandable

that L.W. Beck in his Early German Philosophy says, "with the exception

of Lessing, German philosophers who lived between Leibniz and Kant are

now forgotten."26 Moreover, the foregoing makes plausible Nietzsche's

characterization of the philosopher's attempt "to impose upon becoming

the character of being ....27 Again Nietzsche's statement that the

"will to truth is a making firm, a making true and durable ..."28

exhibits considerable force when we understand these alternatives of

the tradition.

The drive to the "thinkability of all being," as Nietzsche

describes traditional philosophy, implies that the philosopher must

represent human experience somehow as a totality (unity). This is

implied by those philosophers who see the principle of sufficient

reason as fundamental for any rational endeavor. The requirement for

a unified view, however, has further required that some "unconditioned"

be postulated and this "unconditioned" has been traditionally repre-

sented as substance.

Now it is simply not philosophically adequate to postulate an

unconditioned immutable substance and then assert that the particulars

of experience emerge from this or exhibit this substance while at the

same time remaining identical with it. What philosophy demands is an

understanding of this permanence-in-change situation but without being

condemned to proceed strictly from one side of the permanence-flux

dichotomy or the other. To satisfy this situation would be to achieve

a philosophic unity in its most radical form.

The permanence-flux dichotomy may show up in a purely abstract way

as in considerations of change in general or it may take the form of a

split between the abstract realm as a whole and the concrete. The

split is sometimes seen under the rubric Geisteswissenschaft/Naturwissen-

schaft. It is this latter characterization and the attempt to gain a

unified experience in terms of it which most interested Nietzsche and

Kant. Nietzsche's many remarks concerning the scholar and his remarks

on the will-to-truth as anti-life are meant to reflect the one-sided

nature of the traditional way of seeking unity. It has been the con-

tention of the presentation of this part so far to indicate that a

certain pregiven way of regarding truth in an absolute sense, in a

static, categorial, unconditioned sense, biased the search for a unified

human experience from the start. The notion of truth and what it means

to understand which reigns in the modern tradition as an abstract notion


is unsuccessful in bringing about even an adequate abstract unity much

less one which takes into accrount the "irrational" side of human

In the remaining pages of this Chapter, the discussion will revolve

around Kant's attempts to deal with the problem of the disunity of

experience. It will be seen that Kant retains the fundamental notions

of the tradition such that the fundamental problem of disunity remains.

Yet Kant represents an extreme solution to the problem which seems

plausible if it is granted that Leibniz represents a last alternative

within a certain given approach to the problem. As is well known,

Kant's expedient is to radically separate two aspects of experience,

the theoretical and practical. It is the contention of this discussion

that Kant's expedient is dictated by a recognition that the traditional

approach will not work and that although the notion of an unconditioned

cannot be given up, knowledge of it must be radically limited. Kant's

notion of what thinking involves, however, by no means differs from

the tradition.

In Kant's famous letter to Marcus Herz of 1772, Kant gives an

informal review of alternatives to account for the unity of experience

somewhat after the manner of Leibniz's review of his predecessors'

attempts. Kant, like Leibniz, is seen to reject any Deus ex machine

position as "the most absurd argument one could choose."30 Then in

The Critique of Pure Reason, Kant mentions a "middle course" between

experience making concepts possible or concepts making experience


A middle course may be proposed between the two ...
[that is] subjective dispositions of thought, implanted
in us from the first moment of our existence, and so
ordered by our Creator that their employment is in

complete harmony with the laws of nature in
accordance with which experience proceeds -- a
kind of preformation-system of pure reason.3

But Kant goes on to write:

... there is this decisive objection against the
suggested middle course, that the necessity of the
categories, which belongs to their very conception,
would then have to be sacrificed. The concept of
cause, for instance, which expresses the necessity
of an event under presupposed condition would be
false if it rested only on an arbitrary subjective
necessity, implanted in us, of connecting certain
empirical representations according to the rule of
causal relation.32

In these lines is expressed the fundamental proposition without which

The Critique of Pure Reason would not exist and which dictates Kant's

procedure throughout, namely that there is an absolutely necessary

aspect of experience which must be accounted for. It is ultimately

the failure of all previous positions to account for this which con-

demns them. But we ask, "Where does this supposition come from?" What

is being recognized with this claim of necessity? If we read the

Critique in terms of this concern with necessity, it is easy to miss

Kant's fundamental viewpoint. The necessity that Kant has in mind is

that which goes to make up one unified human experience. The emphasis

upon necessity as Kant presents it means that all parts of experience

are in thoroughgoing interconnection and constitute a totality or unity.

Kant's viewpoint on this will be presented in the following in his


Certainly we cannot treat necessity in a Humean sense or in terms

of a "necessary" causal connection of the billiard ball variety. If

this is done, Kant's Second and Third Analogy concerning the reciprocity

and simultaneity of cause and effect becomes hopelessly confused or

even nonsense.


As a last remark on this issue of necessity, it should be noted

that Kant's objection above with regard to the "middle course" has no

force at all if he is concerned with the "necessity" of particular

events in causal connection in a Humean sense. This is so because a

theory of preestablished harmony would not at all sacrifice "the

necessity of the categories." That is, it would not sacrifice their

necessity in so far as all experience would be seen to be in con-

formity with them. What Kant really intends to convey here is that a

theory of preestablished harmony is not "reasonable;" does not allow

itself to be ultimately understood, and therefore defeats from the

start any attempt to attain a unified view.

We see what primarily concerns Kant when we look at his Inaugural

Dissertation and find that it starts off immediately with the problem

of the possibility of the recognition of a world in general. In this,

we have explicitly presented the problem of unity in multiplicity.

Kant says of the problem, "This absolute totality may bear on the face

of it the appearance of an everyday concept and one that is easily met

with, especially when it is stated negatively as happens in a definition.

Yet when we reflect upon it more deeply it is seen to constitute a crux

for the philosopher."34 The problem of the possibility of a "world"

is the philosophic problem par excellence. So we see once again that

Kant is essentially concerned with the basic metaphysical issue whose

last possibility of formulation was given above as articulated in the

position of Leibniz. This emphasis upon the problem of unity as Kant's

main concern is, of course, not new and may be found discussed in a

work entitled Schopenhauer's Criticism of Kant by Radoslav Tsanoff.35

It is moreover the position taken by Lucien Goldmann in his work,


Immanuel Kant. Note the following quotation which is representative

of the present thesis:

.. it is with Kant that philosophy first
attains knowledge of one of the most important
dialectical opposition -- between empiricism and
totality, between form and content -- ... Kant was
the first to set out this opposition in all its
starkness and to place it at the center of his
philosophical system.36

Note also the following:

Kant seems to me to be the first modern thinker to
recognize anew the importance of the totality as a
fundamental category of existence, or at least to
recognize its problematic character.37

It must be noted at the outset that from the pre-
critical period onwards the category of totality
occupies a most important place. Indeed, it.
provides the key to the development of Kant's
thought, a point which most of the neo-Kantians
failed to grasp.38

Before going into Kant's attempt to deal with the problem of the unity

of experience, a comment is necessary in terms of the possible objection

that the empiricist approach is left out of account in this presenta-

tion. In effect, this is quite true, yet, on the other hand, the

rationalists mentioned have not been considered simply because they

are rationalists. They have been considered because it is more obvious

in their case that their prime concern has been to represent experience

as a unity or a whole. This treatment is not meant in any way as an

attempt to defend the rationalists against traditional objections to

their program. It is well known that Kant was critical of both the

so-called rational and empirical approaches, and he is sometimes

represented as attempting their reconciliation. It must be pointed out,

however, that this is once again a confirmation that Kant's ultimate

concern is that of the problem of unity. In other words, the traditional


division of method according to rationalism and empiricism both turn

out (from a Kantian point of view) to be inadequate for dealing with a

complete explanation of experience or, as characterized here, the

representation of experience as a unity. Both the rationalists and

empiricists may be represented as having the same ultimate goal yet

differing in the means of achieving it.

If we ask ourselves why so much attention was given by Kant and

others to Hume's encounter with the principle of causality, the ultimate

answer to this must come in the form of a concern to understand experi-

ence as a unity. Answers to the question in the forms: "Science

depends upon the principle," or "the work of science is put in jeopardy

by Humean skepticism," are really quite superficial from a philosophic

point of view. This is shown by the fact that the concern to "save"

science in this sense is a concern to save a way of unifying a large

part of my experience and a concern to save the hope that a sure method

of continuing the process of unification has been found. At any rate,

in the interest of completeness and to help point up its inadequacy,

a few words concerning the naturalistic-realistic approach are given

below. There will then follow a more specific treatment of Kant. The

problem of the unity of experience before Kant had more and more taken

on a psychological tendency where attention is given to the coordina-

tion of the senses and the relation of the senses to the intellect.

In speaking of this trend in English and French psychology of the first

half of the eighteenth century, Cassirer in The Philosophy of the

Enlightenment says, "Both these psychologies want to get rid of the

last remnants of dualism which had remained in Locke's psychological

principles; they want to do away with the distinction between internal

and external experience and reduce all human knowledge to a single

source."39 In fact, Cassirer sees as the "common center" of episte-

mological and psychological considerations at this time the problem

which Molyneux first formulated in his Optica,

Is the experience derived from one field of sense
perception a sufficient basis on which to construct
another field of perception that is of qualitatively
different content and of specifically different struc-
ture? Is there an inner connection [allowing us to make
a transition from one sense to another]. Will a person
born blind -- who has acquired an exact knowledge of
certain corporeal forms by means of experience [have
the same power of discrimination without the sense of
touch if he regains his sight].40

Progress beyond Leibniz takes the form of a clear separation of the

sensible from the intellectual and then attempts to get them together.

This is not exactly how the problem of unity was posed for Leibniz,

but there seems to have been general dissatisfaction with Leibniz's

adjudication of mind and matter according to clear and confused per-

ception. Also, however, Leibniz's objections to Locke did not become

generally known until 1765 in the New Essays.

At any rate, because of the preoccupation with the unity of

experience in the way described by Cassirer, experiments like the

famous Cheseldon case of 1728, in which a boy born blind was given

sight, generated tremendous interest. From this point on, until the

time of Kant's reformulation, confusion reigns supreme with all kinds

of sensationalistic interpretations which get nowhere with the problem

of unity because of their realistic-psychological orientation.

It is in the form of the relation of the understanding to objects

of sense that Kant takes up the problem of the unity of experience.

But it is to be noted that Kant's perspective on the problem is deeper

than his predecessor's and in this respect he harks back to Leibniz.

For Leibniz there was a primary interest in the question of the most

basic principles of reality and of man's place in the universe. His

concerns in this sense may be properly termed metaphysical. With the

emphasis upon psychological and physiological concerns which antedate

Kant, the question of the possibility of a metaphysics, in so far as

we can characterize it as a concern with a unified experience, never

gets posed. Kant would claim that this is always the case with a

naturalistic-realistic approach. This is why Kant may be interpreted

as the only logical successor to Leibniz as was earlier indicated with

reference to L.W. Beck. Both Kant and Ieibniz were concerned to

delineate those features of experience within which my experience of

a world becomes possible at all (although this was not Leibniz's way

of putting it). In terms of this situation, what do we see Hume doing

when he fails to find a necessary connection between events in terms of

the principle of causality? In essence, Hume gives up by appealing to

custom. Yet, he has no choice given the already established realistic

standpoint from which he philosophizes.

Immediately before Kant, thinkers were occupied with wondering

about the status of non-logical necessity principally in the form of

Hume's problem. Here was a necessity not determinable by the principle

of contradiction. Yet here again we are back to Leibniz and his postu-

lation of two first principles of reasoning; the principle of contra-

diction and the principle of sufficient reason. Indeed it seems that

the only way to make sense out of Kant's Second and Third Analogies is

to regard his problem there as one concerning the principle of sufficient

reason and not as one of causal connection in the billiard ball sense.

The principle of sufficient reason in Leibniz and Kant was a realization

of the unity of experience. Consequently, as mentioned earlier, the

necessity Kant is concerned with in The Critique of Pure Reason is

that of the necessary unity recognized in experience and just as this

unity is simply recognized and cannot be argued for,41 likewise, to

speak with Schopenhauer, "to seek a proof for the principle of suf-

ficient reason, is, ... an especially flagrant absurdity." We see

the same opinion expressed by Leibniz in his correspondence with
Clarke,43 and in this respect Leibniz's insight was ahead of many of

those who followed him, namely, that the principle of contradiction

alone could not be regarded as the highest principle of reason. Yet

even Leibniz did not grasp fully the insight at the basis of the post-

ulation of the principle of sufficient reason, for he says that it

applies to contingency while the principle of contradiction applies to

necessity. Necessity is taken in the sense of logical necessity. The

principle of sufficient reason in Leibniz gets tied up with possible

worlds in notions of the "best" and expressions like the following:

All contingent propositions have reason for being
as they are rather than otherwise or (what is the same
thing) they have a priori proofs of their truth, which
render them certain, and show that the connection of
subject and predicate in these propositions has its
foundation in the nature of the one and the other; but
they do not have demonstrations of necessity, since these
reasons are only founded on the principle of contingency
or the existence of things, i.e., on what is or appears
the best among several equally possible things ....4

But too much gets sneaked in here with "the connection of subject and

predicate in these propositions has its foundation in the nature of the

one and the other ...." It is precisely this connection as constituting

a unity which is the most interesting thing. The principle of suf-

ficient reason simply says that there must be a chain of events leading

up to any particular event we might choose such as Caesar crossing the

Rubicon and determined by the ultimate reason; that God freely chose

this world. But the real unity of this connection of events, we never

learn. The highest approach to unity is achieved by the postulation

of individual substances each of which reflects the whole universe.

But when we specifically examine the connection between subject and

predicate, we postulate that all relations reduce to the relation of

identity. For Leibniz, the principle of sufficient reason plays less

of a role in describing what is recognized when we recognize a world,

than in the question "why this world at all?"

The principle of sufficient reason after Leibniz takes on the more

explicit sense of referring to the unity of experience, and controversy

centers around whether its status is logical or ontological. However,

it is not realized that at the level of the true insight regarding the

unity of experience, that is, the true meaning of the principle of

sufficient reason, the logical/ontological distinction really doesn't

hold up. We still get the old distinction of matter and form at this

level in the discussions at the time of Kant warning not to confuse

reasons with causes. Reasons belong to thought, causes concern the

material world. While this may be a legitimate distinction, we cannot

stop with it if our task is to make the unity of experience under-

standable. But we have seen that this was indeed Kant's problem as he

expressed it in his Inaugural Dissertation and later as the unity of

the various fields of human endeavor under metaphysics. The task is

to find the highest principle of unity in experience and of course, we

mean experience as a whole.

Note the following from "The Discipline of Pure Reason" in the


The semblance of conviction which rests upon
subjective causes of association [as opposed to a
proof which shows the necessary conditions for any
objective experience], and which is regarded as insight
into a natural affinity, cannot balance the misgivings
to which so hazardous a course must rightly give rise.
On this account, all attempts to prove the principle
of sufficient reason have, by the universal admission
of those concerned, been fruitless; and prior to our
own transcendental criticism, it was considered
better, since that principle could not be surrendered,
boldly to appeal to the common sense of mankind -- an
expedient which always is a sign that the cause of
reason is in desperate straits -- rather than to attempt
new dogmatic proofs.45

It is perfectly clear from this that Kant cannot be satisfied with any

philosophical investigation which stops short of a complete explication

of experience. This passage is also confirmation of the thesis that,

in spite of only a few explicit references to it, Kant was quite con-

cerned with the principle of sufficient reason and what it represents

as an ultimate principle, namely, an expression of the recognition of

the ultimate unity of experience. As a further confirmation of Kant's

concern, the "Second Analogy" should be noted in which the only other

mention of the principle of sufficient reason occurs in connection with

the unity of time; "The principle of sufficient reason is thus the

ground of possible experience, that is, of objective knowledge of

appearances in respect of their relation in the order of time."46

Furthermore, in the section entitled "Transcendental Logic" where

general logic is contrasted with transcendental logic, the principle

of contradiction is given as the highest appeal in general logic, but

no principle for transcendental logic is given. From the previous

history of philosophy we might guess that this would be the principle

of sufficient reason -- and indeed, it turns out to be Kant's form of

this principle. Kant, however, no doubt to divorce himself from the

previous confusions and Leibniz generally avoids its use.

There will be no attempt here to discuss in detail Kant's "theory

of knowledge." We are interested mainly in how his doctrine relates

to the previous discussion concerning the unity of experience and what

we have called a certain way of thinking characteristic of the tradi-

tion. It is well known that Kant distinguished between the phenomenal

world with which our knowledge is concerned and the noumenal world of

which we cannot have any knowledge. Furthermore, the unity of

experience, the content of experience consisting of appearances only,

is to be accounted for by the unity of consciousness. So, "the tran-

scendental unity of apperception is that unity through which all the

manifold given in an intuition is united in a concept of the object."47

This is the basis of all our "objective" knowledge and what makes a

unified experience possible. The detailed derivation of this is given

in the "Transcendental Deduction."

It is furthermore well known that Kant wanted to avoid both

transcendental realism and subjective idealism. To achieve this, it

was necessary to posit the subject as the source of objective knowledge

while still maintaining the subject/object distinction in a real sense.

The unity which Kant was ostensibly concerned to comprehend was that

concerning the question of how concepts could apply to objects; the

familiar problem of unity as we saw it formulated in the period between

Kant and Leibniz. As Kant says, "Hitherto it has been assumed that

all our knowledge must conform to objects."48

The problem of unity presents itself in a number of basic ways.

On the one hand, we may confront the problem at the level of the unity

of appearances, that is, in terms of a world which appears to a subject.


On the other hand, we may confront the problem in terms of the unity

of the perceiving subject with the world that appears. Kant was, of

course, concerned to show that these are by no means isolated problems.

Ultimately, however, when no longer concerned primarily with reason

in its theoretical employment, Kant is forced to preserve a disunity

in terms of the phenomenal/noumenal distinction. With regard to the

world as appearance and the problem of multiplicity in unity at this

level, what we require is a principium individuationis under which

unity is maintained. Kant attempts to ground the connection of

multiplicity in unity through time. This is made explicit in the

analogies of experience where Kant's fundamental use of time is equated

with the fundamental character of the principle of sufficient reason.

In this respect, it makes sense that the Analogies are the last stage

of the Critique before the treatment of the phenomena/noumena division.

In other words, once we reach the level of the principle of sufficient

reason, at the level of appearances there is nowhere else to go.

With regard to Kant's inability to overcome all disunity, we

notice that Kant is quite unequivocal about the fact that a "manifold

of sense" is given and furthermore given as a manifold. In the

"Transcendental Aesthetic" Kant says, "Objects are given to us by

means of sensibility," very loosely speaking, of course, since as such

an "object" cannot be given. The object is given "insofar as the mind

is affected in a certain way."50 The subject is in this sense "recep-

tive." "Our knowledge springs from two fundamental sources of the

mind; the first is the capacity of receiving representations (recep-

tivity for impressions), the second is the power of knowing an object

through these represetatios 51 Through the union of the
through these representations Through the union of the

sensible given and concepts, knowledge arises.

Although this is the way human knowledge is constituted, Kant

postulates another way of knowing which eliminates the receptive aspect

of knowledge. The distinction is between an intuitus derivatives and

an intuitus originarius. In the former case, the understanding must

wait on the manifold of sense before there can be knowledge; the con-

cepts only represent the possibility of an object. In the latter case,

a direct knowledge of the object is postulated apart from sensibility.

This knowledge would be knowledge of the thing-in-itself. For us

mortals, the understanding stands in the service of sensible intuition.

But this means that human knowledge depends upon "something" independent

of itself. The postulation of the thing-in-itself is at least

partially the result of the receptivity associated with our human

finite knowing. Kant must account for the givenness of a manifold of

sense without conceding a complete objective idealism?

In order to grasp in more detail what Kant's treatment of unity

involves at the theoretical level, and thus to confirm that Kant's

discussion in the Analogies is basically a concern with the principle

of sufficient reason, the Analogies will be discussed with reference

to A.O. Lovejoy's article "On Kant's Reply to Hume."52

Firstly, Lovejoy seems to be in basic agreement with the thesis

of the discussion so far that Leibniz is really the last figure of

great significance when we consider Kant's basic concern in the

Critique. Secondly, as a result of this, Lovejoy sees the central

importance of the Second Analogy in the Critique. Thirdly, Lovejoy

correctly sees that Leibniz did not take the principle of sufficient

reason in a more extended sense "as Kant believed that he had." The

more extended sense was meant by Kant to provide an apodictic justifi-

cation for synthetic judgments. Fourthly, Lovejoy's conclusion is that

Kant did not solve Hume's problem according to the exposition of the

Second Analogy, and as Kant presents it, we can only agree. But it

must be said that Lovejoy does not attempt to extend the concept of

the principle of sufficient reason or attempt to see what Kant is

really up to. Lovejoy himself does not totally grasp the insight

expressed in the principle of sufficient reason, but regards it accord-

ing to a Humean model and, therefore, as noted earlier, the argumenta-

tion of Kant becomes nonsense and nonsense is relatively easy to

criticize. It will be necessary to return to this point and ask

whether in light of the previous discussion there might be necessary

reasons for the mode of Kant's presentation and therefore the resulting

misunderstanding of the Analogies.

Kant's concern, as has been insisted all along, was that of the

unity of experience, the fact that experience is everywhere inter-

connected. This interconnectedness is a characteristic which cannot

be accounted for as simply a logical unity "for although our knowledge

may be in complete accordance with logical demands, that is, may not

contradict itself, it is still possible that it may be in contradiction

[used in strange sense here] with its object."53 The logical connec-

tions are a sine qua non yet not sufficient. At this point in the

present discussion, I venture a more explicit attempt to say what the

insight behind the principle of sufficient reason has been. In general

this is only open to a negative mode of expression and here the help of

Schopenhauer is enlisted. In the fourth book of the first volume of

The World As Will and Representation (Die Welt als Wille und

Vorstellung) we see:

.. the concept of nothing is essentially
relative, and always refers to a definite something
that it negates ... considered more closely, an
absolute nothing, a really proper nihil negativum,
is not even conceivable, but everything of this
kind, considered from a higher standpoint or subsumed
under a wider concept, is always only a nihil
privativum. Every nothing is thought of as such
only in relation to something else; it presupposes
this relation, and thus that other thing also.

Thus every nihil negativum or absolute nothing, if
subordinated to a higher concept, will appear as a
mere nihil privatum or relative nothing, which can
always change signs with what it negates, so that
that would then be thought of as negation, but itself
as affirmation.54

This should be compared with Leibniz's notion that nature makes no

"leaps," and consequently is a continuum since it is precisely the

denial of a nihil negativum which demands the postulation of a con-

tinuum. In other words, no differences in nature, however small, can

be represented as absolute differences.

The formulation above is noteworthy in connection with the present

discussion on two accounts. Firstly, we notice that Schopenhauer's

point is only capable of negative expression. This corresponds to the

procedure of Kant in his "Deductions" where the inconceivability of the

absence of something is appealed to; namely, the absence of the cate-

gories. This is a feature of any transcendental deduction in that we

must prove our point by showing that unless it is admitted, experience

as we know it is not possible. Secondly, the concern here is with a

conceptual or theoretical nothing at the level of appearances, and an

existentialist might object that this is far from what he means by the

term 'nothing.' We might note in addition that for Kant as for Leibniz,

unity is of the very essence of reason. Says Kant, "The law of reason

which requires us to seek for this unity, is a necessary law, since

without it we should have no reason at all, and without reason no

coherent employment of the understanding, and in the absence of this

no sufficient criterion of empirical truth."55 From this it follows,

that the notion of a nihil negativum is unreasonable, i.e., goes against

the very nature of reason which is to seek a unity. Furthermore, the

impossibility of a proof for the principle of sufficient reason claimed

by many philosophers is more comprehensible in terms of this nihil

negativum. The very nature of a proof depends upon the ability to

make smooth (comprehensible) transitions from one aspect of experience

to another or experience regarded one way to experience regarded in

another. But this is ruled out from the start if the possibility of an

absolute break nihill negativum) is admitted.

Yet in the Second Analogy, Kant does attempt a "proof" for the

principle of sufficient reason. This amounts, for Kant, to showing

the indispensibility of a thoroughly interconnected experience. A.O.

Lovejoy's article is a good example of how commentators completely miss

the point of Kant's Analogies by considering them as a specific

refutation of Hume.56 There are many misunderstandings in this

article, not the least of which is that Lovejoy thinks the force of

Kant's presentation lies at a point where it does not exist at all.

For this presentation, the significance of Lovejoy's article lies in

its criticism of Kant on the basis that Kant's express purpose was to

refute Hume's specific formulation. In fact, we need not claim this

at all but merely understand that Hume's problem with causality gave

rise in Kant to the more general problem of the necessary unity (inter-

connectedness) of experience as a whole. For example, Lovejoy states:

Yet if the thesis of the Second Analogy -- that
"every event follows upon an antecedent event according
to a rule" -- is meant to have any relevancy to
Hume's problem, it should mean that every event has
some determinate antecedent and that it can be cer-
tainly known a priori that the same kind of antecedent
will in all instance, be followed by the same kind of

But this goes much too far because the principle of sufficient reason

as Kant was trying to establish it, is by no means the principle of

causality which concerned Hume. As mentioned above in the brief dis-

cussion of Kant's understanding of necessity, the Humean conception of

causality will not work. Consequently, to accuse Kant of not refuting

Hume is simply a misunderstanding of Kant's whole concern in terms of

the thoroughgoing unity of experience. It is unfortunate that Kant

so often has recourse to the language of physical causality in his

discussion of the Analogies. However, taken in the context of Kant's

philosophy as a whole and his concern with the unity of experience,

we ought not to be misled by his language. Lovejoy says, "To Kant

himself, his arguments about causality seemed the very core of the

Kritik der reinen Vernunft ..."58 This would be absurd, however, if

Kant's concern were taken in a less basic sense than that of the

principle of sufficient reason. Indeed, if Kant's treatment of the

unity of experience is at the level of the principle of sufficient

reason, then a complete refutation of Lovejoy's position would entail

showing that Hume's problem could not even arise unless the unity of

experience at the level of Kant's treatment were presupposed.

A full discussion of A.O. Lovejoy's article is neither intended

nor necessary. The concern has been to point to Kant's preoccupation

with the unity of experience and to further indicate that this concern

is not to be taken in any superficial sense. With the Analogies, we

reach the highest expression of unity possible at the level of the

understanding: "The general principle of the three analogies ... rests

on the synthetic unity of all appearances as regards their relation in


The "unity of knowledge" or unity at the level of the understanding

does not overcome the problem of unity. After treating the under-

standing, Kant points out that a basic disunity still exists in terms

of a manifold of sense which must be "given" to a receptive subject and

the pure forms of thought. This leads Kant into a discussion of the

thing in itself which must now be considered.

In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant emphatically states that

human knowledge depends upon the receptivity of a given manifold of

sense which the understanding then structures. It is in terms of the

need for this receptive aspect of human knowledge that Kant gives one

of his characterizations of the thing in itself as opposed to the

object of appearance. Kant says that there might be an intuitive

intellect which does not have to depend upon the given manifold of

sense but could, as it were, "perceive" objects immediately. However,

... we cannot in the least represent to our-
selves the possibility of an understanding which
should know its object, not discursively through
categories, but intuitively in a non-sensible

This way of putting the matter makes explicit the finite character of

human knowledge which is dependent upon a given sensible manifold. In

this respect, the thing in itself may be represented as a limiting


What our understanding acquires through this
concept of a noumenon, is a negative extension;
that is to say, understanding is not limited through
sensibility; on the contrary, it itself limits

sensibility by applying the term noumena to things
in themselves (things not regarded as appearances).61

This way of expressing the situation is obviously not meant to tell us

something about another type of nonhuman knowledge, but is designed to

characterize human knowledge. Part of the point of the Analogies was

to show how one aspect of experience can only be known in terms of some

other aspect. No one aspect can be known, so to speak, "in itself" but

only in relation to other appearances. The series of appearances with

respect to any one object can never be exhausted since, for Kant, this

would be to arrive at an appearance which was not itself conditioned

by other appearances. But an unconditioned appearance can never be a

part of my experience as Kant was concerned to show in the Analogies

and the "Antinomy of Pure Reason." From this point of view, we might

interpret the thing in itself as the object regarded as completely

determined. As Kant says in the "Transcendental Aesthetic" and Lucien

Goldmann emphasizes, "The undetermined object of an empirical intuition

is entitled appearance."62 From this Goldmann concludes, "It follows,

reversing the assertion, that the completely determined object of a

non-empirical intuition is the thing in itself."63 Of course, no

object is ever completely determined in this sense. Goldmann further

supports this interpretation with a quotation from the "Ideal of Pure


If, therefore, reason employs in the complete
determination of things a transcendental substrate
... this substrate cannot be anything else than the
idea of an omnitudo realitatis ... But the concept
of what thus possesses all reality is just the con-
cept of a thing in itself as completely determined.64

Furthermore, as Kant emphasizes in the "Antinomy of Pure Reason" and

the "Ideal of Pure Reason," the notion of a completed series of

appearances is coincident with the notion of an unconditioned some-

thing of which the understanding can know nothing. The interpretation

of the thing in itself which Goldmann adopts seems quite plausible and

in its briefest form says, "in the knowledge of the thing in itself,

we are dealing with the category of totality which according to Kant,

is lacking in human knowledge ....65 There is, however, as mentioned

above, the other interpretation of Kant's thing in itself in terms of

the receptivity of the subject. As indicated above, Kant's discussion

of the divine intellect which does not have to depend upon a sensible

given, indicates an actual "something" apart from the subject which

supplies the sensible manifold.

We have then two ways of indicating the limitation of human

knowledge and expressing the thing in itself: first, in terms of an

unachievable totality and second, in terms of a dependence upon a

sensible manifold which must be given to a receptive subject. Both

of these interpretations can be partially reconciled by saying that,

as Goldmann indicates, the understanding always remains with an un-

determined object in terms of appearances which if allowed to reach

totality would represent the thing in itself. When Kant discusses the

thing in itself in terms of the receptivity of the subject, he does so

from the point of view of the understanding. When, however, Kant

discusses the thing in itself in terms of a totality, he is concerned

with reason per se. Insofar as the understanding seeks unity, it must

do so in terms of appearances which are all merely conditions of

further appearances. The "understanding does not admit among appear-

ances any condition which can itself be empirically unconditioned."66

... in the empirical regress we can have no
experience of an absolute limit, that is, no ex-
perience of any condition as being one that empirically
is absolutely unconditioned. The reason is this:
such an experience would have to contain a limitation
of appearances by nothing, or by the void, and in the
continued regress we should have to be able to encounter
this limitation in a perception -- which is impossible.67

We here have expressed explicitly the denial of the nihil negativum as

mentioned above in the discussion of the Analogies. Every appearance

must be conditioned by another appearance. Although it is permissible

to speak of unity with regard to the function of the understanding,

this is not a unity in its most radical sense, namely a totality. It

is only permissible to postulate a totality with respect to reason,

but of course apart from the possibility of an intuition.

The unity of reason is therefore not the unity
of a possible experience, but is essentially different
from such unity, which is that of the understanding.
That everything which happens has a cause, is not a
principle known and proscribed by reason. That
principle makes the unity of experience possible,
and borrows nothing from reason, which apart from
this relation to possible experience, could never,
from mere concepts, have imposed any such synthetic

The highest form of unity attributable to the understanding is the

highest form of unity attributable to the series of appearances.

According to the above interpretation of the Analogies, this unity

turns out to be the principle of sufficient reason. This form of

unity, however, does not suffice for the realization of an ultimate

unity in the form of a totality. The understanding merely involves

itself in an infinite regress when it attempts to seek the totality.

The quest for the totality can ultimately only lead to an un-

conditioned, that is, to an end of the series of appearances. This is

why an unconditioned beginning for the series of appearances can never

be found. Therefore, if an unconditioned is to be found, it must lie

outside the series of appearances.

That everything which happens has a Iuase is a
universal law, conditioning the very possibility of
all experience. Hence the causality of the cause,
which itself happens or comes to be, must itself in
turn have a cause; and thus the entire field of ex-
perience, however far it may extend, is transformed
into a sum-total of the merely natural. But since in
this way no absolute totality of conditions determining
causal relation can be obtained, reason creates for
itself the idea of a spontaneity which can begin to
act of itself, without requiring to be determined to
action by an antecedent cause ....69

My purpose has only been to point out that since
the thoroughgoing connection of all appearances, in
a context of nature, is an inexorable law, the in-
evitable consequence of obstinately insisting upon
the reality of appearances is to destroy all freedom.
Those who thus follow the common view have never been
able to reconcile nature and freedom.70

But Kant's "reconciliation" amounts to creating a radical breach

between the world of appearance and the world of freedom; the phenomenal

and noumenal world. The attempt to gain the unconditioned or totality

in the realm of appearance is given up, but it is sacrificed at the

cost of the unity of our world. Was there not, however, a disunified

world present from the beginning with respect to the sensible given?

We never knew where the sensible manifold came from, and the notion of

an inside/outside distinction with regard to the knowing subject was

presupposed as basic from the beginning of the Critique. In "The

Antinomy of Pure Reason" Kant finally gets around to indicating that

the unconditioned which lies outside of the series of appearances may

be postulated as the "cause" of the appearances.

The faculty of sensible intuition is strictly only
a receptivity, a capacity of being affected in a
certain manner with representations .... The non-
sensible cause of these representations is completely
unknown to us, and cannot therefore be intuited by us
as object.

We may, however, entitle the purely intelligible
cause of appearances in general the transcendental
object, but merely in order to have something cor-
responding to sensibility viewed as a receptivity.71

The question of the totality of appearances along with the receptivity

of the subject are both connected in terms of the unconditioned

postulated outside the realms of appearance. On the basis of the

unconditioned we can bring together the two interpretations of the

thing in itself. The question as to the ultimate origin of the given

manifold of sense and the question of the ultimate unity of the world

in terms of a totality are both referred to the unconditioned as thing

in itself.

Thus the world presents itself as an ultimate disunity from my

human standpoint. The world of appearance can never satisfy the demand

of my reason, which always seeks the unconditioned. The apparent world

as opposed to the real world (if we may so characterize it) it now

asserted to be an irreparable part of (definitive of) human knowing.

We may attempt to overcome the real/apparent dichotomy by saying that

it is actually the thing in itself which comes to appearance as the

world we know, but these would be totally empty words without some

knowledge of the thing in itself outside the realm of appearance.

In terms of the traditional problems with disunity, where does

Kant stand. When we read Kant's discussions of his predecessors, it

is obvious that his criticisms revolve around their failure to draw a

radical distinction between the world as appearance and the world in

itself. All problems stemming from the conflict of necessity and

freedom are the result of this failure. Besides ethical problems,

however, it is clear that Kant views his predecessors as attempting


to overcome problems of multiplicity in unity by seeking the solution

in the world as it appears. Thus, Kant's message to his predecessors

is basically this: the ultimate unity of the world which appears, is

not itself a piece of knowledge (in the realm of appearance). There-

fore, all previous attempts to understand the world in terms of an

overriding principle of multiplicity in unity were bound to fail,

because their authors unknowingly took appearance for the thing in


If we characterize Kant's project as the understanding of human

experience as a whole or in terms of the Inaugural Dissertation, as the

constitution of a world, we must ultimately conclude that he fails.

But Kant's project is different from all previous attempts because it

presumes to show why it must fail. To this extent a thoroughgoing

attempt to understand the constitution of the world must simultaneously

be a critique of reason. This is so because of the place occupied by

reason: "For reason is the faculty which supplies the principles of

a prior knowledge,"72 and "metaphysics consists, at least in intention,

entirely of a prior synthetic propositions."73 Kant says furthermore

that "the proper problem of pure reason is contained in the question:

How are a priori synthetic judgments possible?" Therefore the proper

critique of metaphysics amounts to a critique of pure reason.

In terms of the concern of this chapter with the problem of unity,

we must conclude that for Kant, the overriding concern of traditional

metaphysics has been the problem of how a world is constituted as a

unity. Kant states in the "Architectonic of Pure Reason,"

The philosophy of pure reason is either a propaedeutic
(preparation) which investigates the faculty of reason
in respect of all its pure a priori knowledge, and is

entitled criticism, or secondly, it is the system of
pure reason, that is, the science which exhibits in
systematic connection the whole body (true as well as
illusory) of philosophical knowledge arising out of
pure reason, and which is entitled metaphysics. The
title 'metaphysics' may also, however, be given to the
whole of pure philosophy, inclusive of criticism, and
so as compr nhetnding the investigation of all that can
ever be known a priori as well as the exposition of
that which constitutes a system of the pure philosophical
modes of knowledge of this type -- in distinction,
therefore, from all empirical and from all mathematical
employment of reason.


Mathematics, natural science, even our empirical
knowledge, have a high value as means, for the most
part, to contingent ends, but also, in the ultimate
outcome, to ends that are necessary and essential to
humanity. This latter service, however, they can dis-
charge only as they are aided by a knowledge through
reason from pure concepts, which, however we may choose
to entitle it, is really nothing but metaphysics.7

All pure a prior knowledge, owing to the special
faculty of knowledge in which alone it can originate,
has in itself a peculiar unity; and metaphysics is the
philosophy which has as its task the statement of that
knowledge in this systematic unity.77

The disunity expressed in experience as a whole and ultimately neces-

sitated by the inability of the realm of appearances to produce a

totality is reflected in the division of metaphysics into speculative

and practical; a metaphysics of nature and a metaphysics of morals. In

both cases we have a metaphysics, because we are concerned with "the

demand of reason for a complete systematic unity."78 The "demand" for

unity lies at the basis of the creation of all metaphysical systems,

because reason is at the basis of all metaphysical systems. Moreover

insofar as we regard metaphysics as philosophy in its most basic form,

this demand lies at the basis of all philosophy. "Metaphysics ...

alone properly constitutes what may be entitled philosophy in the

strict sense of the term."79

The demand of reason has been behind the previous attempts to

attain a unified world view in terms of a philosophy. The tradition,

however, maintained a radical distinction between man as a thinking

being and man as a sensing being. This division is clearly set forth

in Descartes philosophy in terms of the two substances of thought and

extention. Man is set down in a world as a thinking being and then

proceeds to discover this world as it is given to him through the

senses. The project of philosophy in terms of the problem of unity is

then to get these two "substances" together to constitute a world. The

problem of the constitution of a unified experience given over to Kant

does not differ from that of the tradition. Kant, however, makes the

failure of the previous attempts at unity the basic problem of his

philosophy. Kant's predecessors failed to attain a unified account of

experience because they failed to carry out a critique of reason itself

and ascertain the limits of objective knowledge. Having carried out

the critique, what is Kant's answer as to the possibility of compre-

hending experience as a unified whole? We must conclude that Kant

denies the possibility of such comprehension. In the end, I am left

as a subject in a world which is given to me I know not how. The

traditional problem of the unity of human experience is only pushed

back one step. Regarding the world as appearance opposed to a world

in itself still maintains the old opposition between a thinking sub-

ject and a given world of which he must make sense. Put in other terms,

the realms of thinking and acting remain distinct. This is a common

theme of Goldmann.

For Kant, however, knowledge and action, theory
and practice, were almost totally separate; the impos-
sibility of uniting them constituted indeed, as I have
often repeated, the upper limit of his philosophy.80

Through thought man gets at the truth of things insofar as he can

know it. Man is first and foremost a reasonable being: man = the

rational animal. Kant does not question the traditional equation in

terms of which reason is given the highest place; man is defined in

terms of reason. That a critique of the metaphysical tradition could

be written as a critique of pure reason, testifies to the primacy of

reason in the tradition. More than this, however, metaphysics,

... can be brought to completion and fixity as to be in
need of no further change or be subject to any augmenta-
tion by new discoveries; because here reason has the
sources of its knowledge in itself, not in objects and
their observation, by which its stock of knowledge could
be further increased.81

Is this then where a critique of pure reason ultimately ends? Is

reason simply this faculty of man which presses on to an unconditioned

of which it can never have objective knowledge? Is the end of

philosophy proper to be reason's knowledge of itself? That a higher

standpoint is possible, is indicated by Kant himself in the Prolegomena.

That the human mind will ever give up metaphysical
researches is as little to be expected as that we, to
avoid inhaling impure air, should prefer to give up
breathing altogether. There will, therefore, always
be metaphysics in the world; nay, everyone, especially
every reflective man, will have it and, for want of a
recognized standard, will shape it for himself after
his own pattern. What has hitherto been called meta-
physics cannot satisfy any critical mind, but to forego
it entirely is impossible; therefore a Critique of Pure
Reason itself must now be attempted or, if one exists,
investigated and brought to the full test, because there
is no other means of supplying this pressing want which
is something more than mere thirst for knowledge.82

Kant realises that what is involved is "something more than a mere

thirst for knowledge" or as some might say, "curiosity," yet he does

not pursue the issue to a higher standpoint. To make this "metaphysical

need" a problem would be to jeopardize the primacy of reason or the


primacy of thought in the tradition. Kant does not make the "need"

for metaphysics a problem; his highest appeal is to the "nature of

reason." The drive toward totality and the unconditioned in experience

is attributed to the "nature of reason" and thus remains inexplicable.

The question then arises whether reason may be regarded from the higher

perspective which would then, like Kant's critique of pure reason, make

the metaphysical tradition a problem but in a more radical and com-

prehensive way.



The following reference scheme will be used throughout the notes
of the dissertation. All references to Karl Schlechta's three volume
edition of Nietzsche's writings, Werke in drei Banden, will be made as
in the following example: Schlechta, Vol. II, p. 100. This will then
be followed by a reference in parentheses to a translation (if available)
of the particular work cited in Schlechta's edition. The citation for
the translation will consist of the translator's name followed by an
abbreviation of the particular work of Nietzsche translated with
appropriate page number. Thus a complete reference might be: Schlecta,
Vol. II, p. 100. (Kaufmann, GM, p. 50).
The abbreviations for the individual works of Nietzsche cited will
be as follows:

AC The Antichrist translated by R.J. Hollingdale in Twilight of
the Idols and the Antichrist. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1968.

BGE Beyond Good and Evil translated by Walter Kaufmann in Beyond
Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future. New
York: Random House, Inc., 1966.

BT The Birth of Tragedy translated by Walter Kaufmann in The Birth
of Tragedy and the Case of Wagner. New York: Random House,
Inc., 1967.

DS David Strauss translated by A.M. Ludovici in The Complete
Works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Vol. IV: Thoughts Out of
Season, Part I. Edited by Oscar Levy. New York: Russell
and Russell, Inc., 1964, pp. 1-97.

GM On the Genealogy of Morals translated by Walter Kaufmann in
On the Genealogy of Morals and Ecce Homo. New York: Random
House, Inc., 1967.

SE Schopenhauer as Educator translated by Adrian Collins in The
Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Vol. V: Thoughts Out
of Season, Part It. Edited by Oscar Levy. New York: Russell
and Russell, Inc., 1964, pp. 101-201.

TI Twilight of the Idols translated by R.J. Hollingdale in
Twilight of the Idols and the Antichrist. Baltimore: Penguin
Books, 1968.

UAH The Use and Abuse of History translated by Adrian Collins in
The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche. Vol. V: Thoughts
Out of Season, Part II. Edited by Oscar Levy. New York:
Russell and Russell, Inc., 1964, pp. 1-100.

Z Thus Spoke Zarathustra translated by Walter Kaufmann in The
Portable Nietzsche. New York: The Viking Press, Inc.,



1. Lucien Goldmann, Immanuel Kant, Translated by Robert Black
(London, 1971), p. 31. The basic line of thinking in this chapter is
very close to the view of Goldmann to whom I will refer throughout. My
presentation, however, is not, like Goldmann's, concerned with socio-
logical or economic factors as conditions for a particular metaphysical
point of view. It is concerned, like Goldmann's presentation, with the
problem of the individual/community unit but only in a very derivative
way, namely, as one small part of the unity problem. My presentation
is, however, in complete agreement with Goldmann's characterization of
the tradition as quoted. It is furthermore in complete agreement with
the emphasis put on Kant's pre-critical writing.
2. Rend Descartes, The Philosophical Works of Descartes, Translated
by Elizabeth S. Haldane and G.R.T. Ross (New York, 1955), Vol. I,
pp. 156-157.
3. Ibid., p. 180.
4. Ibid., p. 184.
5. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, The Will to Power, Translated by
Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale (New York, 1967), no. 585. Here-
after abbreviated WP. Thus: WP, no. 585. Numbers refer to note numbers
rather than pages. Kaufmann's translation of Der Wille zur Macht is
used although it follows the erroneous ordering of the original editors
because it is much more convenient than, say, Schlechta's edition for
purposes of reference.
6. Descartes, Works, Vol. I, p. 222.
7. Ibid., p. 223.
8. Ibid., p. 240.
9. Ibid., p. 238.
10. Ibid., p. 239.
11. Benedict de Spinoza, The Chief Works of Benedict de Spinoza,
Translated by R.H.M. Elwes (New York, 1955), Vol. II, pp. 50-51. Spinoza
says here, "And as it has been shown already that existence appertains
to the nature of substance, existence must necessarily be included in its
definition; and from its definition ... we cannot infer the existence
of several substances; therefore it follows that there is only one sub-
stance." Spinoza is concerned to show that if substance had a cause
outside itself, this would necessitate two absolutely distinct entities
whose reason would lie in a third thing.
12. Martin Heidegger, Nietzsche (Pfullingen, 1961), Vol. II, p. 193.
All quotations from Heidegger's Nietzsche are my translations unless
otherwise specified.


13. Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr von Leibniz, "New System of the
Nature of Substances and of the Communication Between Them," The
Monadology and Other Philosophical Writings, Translated by Robert Latta
(Oxford, 1898), p. 313.
14. Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr von Leibniz, New Essays Concerning
Human Understanding, Translated by Alfred Gideon Langley (LaSalle, 1949),
p. 227.
15. Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr von Leibniz, Selections, Edited by
Philip P. Wiener (New York, 1951), p. 309. Leibniz says here, "... created
substances depend upon God who preserves them and can produce them con-
tinually by a kind of emanation ...." It is presumably this "kind of
emanation" which Spinoza was concerned to avoid. With regard to Spinoza
and the problem of emanation see Harry Austryn Wolfson The Philosophy
of Spinoza (New York, 1969), pp. 306-308.
16. Ibid., p. 309.
17. Ibid., p. 345.
18. For a similar opinion on this issue see Arthur 0. Lovejoy,
The Great Chain of Being (Cambridge, 1971), pp. 170-175.
19. Leibniz, Selections, p. 359. Leibniz is here denying the
possibility of a radical phenomenalism. He seems to be arguing on the
basis of the principle of sufficient reason. Since we do in fact make
the real/apparent distinction there must be a reason for it which itself
does not lie in the realm of appearance.
20. Ibid., p. 288.
21. Ibid., p. 284.
22. Ibid., p. 286.
23. Leibniz, New Essays, p. 453.
24. Ibid., p. 454.
25. Martin Heidegger, The Essence of Reason, Translated by Terrence
Malick (Evanston, 1969), p. 17.
26. Lewis White Beck, Early German Philosophy (Cambridge, 1969),
p. 392.
27. WP, no. 585.
28. WP, no. 552.
29. It will be objected that if this "irrational" side of
experience was made comprehensible, this would once again be an abstrac-
tion. What is ultimately desired is to understand the "irrational" as
irrational. It is difficult to see what could be involved here since
there seems to be a contradiction in this notion. What the discussion
is moving toward is a way to "understand" this disunity or "irrational"
in experience.
30. Immanuel Kant, Kant: Selected Pre-critical Writings, Trans-
lated by C.B. Kerferd and D.E. Walford (Manchester, 1968), p. 113.
31. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, Translated by Norman
Kemp Smith (New York, 1929), pp. 174-175.
32. Ibid., p. 175.
33. This is a mistake made by Schopenhauer in his discussion of
the Kantian philosophy. For an account of this see Radoslav Tsanoff,
Schopenhauer's Criticism of Kant (New York, 1911), p. 36.
34. Kant, Selected Pre-critical Writings, p. 53.
35. Tsanoff, Schopenhauer's Criticism of Kant, p. 9 and p. 36.
36. Goldmann, Immanuel Kant, p. 19.
37. Ibid., p. 36.
38. Ibid., p. 58.


39. Ernst Cassirer, The Philosophy of the Enlightenment, Translated
by Fritz C.A. Koelln and James P. Pettegrove (Boston, 1955), pp. 99-100.
40. Ibid., pp. 108-109.
41. In this connection see G.W.F. Hegel, The History of Philosophy,
Translated by E.S. Haldane and Frances H. Simson (New York, 1974),
Vol. IIt, pp. 428-429. Hegel criticizes Kant for being as dogmatic as
his predecessors but in the form of a "subjective" instead of "objective
dogmatism." Ile is also critical of Kant for leaving the concept of
necessity unexamined.
42. Arthur Schopenhauer, The Fourfold Root of the Principle of
Sufficient Reason, Translated by E.F.J. Payne (LaSalle, 1974), p. 32.
43. Gottfried Wilhelm Freiherr von Leibniz, The Leihniz-Clarke
Correspondence, Edited by H.G. Alexander (Manchester, 1956), p. 95 and
p. 119. Licbniz criticizes Clarke for demanding a proof of the principle
of sufficient reason. "Is this a principle, that wants to be proved?"
At certain points, however, Leibniz does not seem too sure about the
status of the principle; he implies that it is an inductive generaliza-
tion. "It is certain, there is an infinite number of instances, wherein
it succeeds [or rather it succeeds] in all the known cases in which it
has been made use of. From whence one may reasonably conclude, that it
will succeed also in unknown cases ...
44. Leibniz, Selections, pp. 94-95.
45. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, pp. 621-622.
46. Ibid., p. 226.
47. Ibid., p. 157.
48. Ibid., p. 22.
49. It will be objected that the Analogies are not the last stage
before the treatment of the phenomena/noumena distinction. But, of
course, they are last with respect to the constitution of the object.
The Postulates of Empirical Thought have to do with modalities of already
constituted objects. As Kant states on page 239 of the Critique, "No
additional determinations are thereby thought in the object itself ...
50. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 65.
51. ibid., p. 92.
52. Arthur O. Lovejoy, "On Kant's Reply to Hume," Kant: Disputed
Questions, Edited by Moltke S. Gram (Chicago, 1967), pp. 284-308. There
is no intention of entering upon an exposition of the literature on
Kant's Second Analogy. The interpretation of this Analogy is one of
the most controversial points in Kant scholarship. Lovejoy's article
has been selected because it is an especially good example of the type
of position I am interested in denying. I am not interested in this
article per se but only as representative of a type of common misunder-
53. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 98.
54. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation,
Translated by E.F.J. Payne (New York, 1966), Vol. I, p. 409.
55. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 538. Kant's statement here
that "... without it [reason's drive toward unity] we should have no
reason at all ...," I take to be an explicit recognition on his part of
the intimate connection between the unity of experience and the principle
of sufficient reason.

56. The Analogies can undoubtedly be regarded as a refutation of
Hume but the issue is actually much larger. I take Kant's concern to be
at the level of the principle of sufficient reason and the unity of
experience generally. Hume's function was to focus Kant's attention
at the most fundamental level of unity. Kant's mention of the principle
of sufficient reason at the very end of the Analogies of Experience con-
firms my interpretation of Kant's position.
57. Lovejoy, "On Kant's Reply to Hume," p. 301.
58. Ibid., p. 303.
59. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 209.
60. Ibid., pp. 272-273.
61. Ibid., p. 273.
62. Ibid., p. 65.
63. Goldmann, Immanuel Kant, p. 134.
64. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 490.
65. Goldmann, Immanuel Kant, p. 134.
66. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 463.
67. Ibid., p. 455.
68. Ibid., p. 306.
69. Ibid., p. 465.
70. Ibid., p. 467.
71. Ibid., p. 441. Notice that this idea of the transcendental
object seems to contradict Kant's view elsewhere (p. 271).
72. Ibid., p. 58.
73. Ibid., p. 55.
74. Ibid.
75. Ibid., p. 665.
76. Ibid.
77. Ibid., p. 661.
78. Ibid., p. 658.
79. Ibid., p. 665.
80. Ibid., p. 155.
81. Ibid., p. 61.
82. Immanuel Kant, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics,
Translated by Lewis White Beck (New York, 1950), p. 116.



The general point of view taken in the previous discussion of Kant

was that of the unity of experience. It is important to again empha-

size the importance of this point of view and why it was adopted. If

we understand Nietzsche as a philosopher of philosophy, then an under-

standing of his philosophy is only properly grasped when it is related

to the most basic ways of characterizing the philosophic tradition as

a whole. The position of this thesis is that most basically the

problem of the unity of experience characterizes the ground movement

of philosophy. It is in fact a further assumption of this thesis that

a complete "proof" of this position would literally constitute a

recapitulation of the history of philosophy.

Because the question of the unity of experience becomes essential,

it was most expedient to focus on the principle of sufficient reason.

The principle of sufficient reason is taken as most essentially a

statement which says, among other things, that my experience insofar

as it is to be open to a rational critique or indeed understood at all

must be an interconnected whole. It must, because this at least is

involved in what we mean by understanding anything, he possible to move

from one part of my experience to any other. Put alternatively, to the

extent to which I cannot make this move or transition in experience, to

this extent any particular area of my experience I care to choose must

be said to be irrational. It is then noteworthy that the problem of

the unity of experience becomes simply the problem of the limits of

reason in general. Kant saw this more clearly than anyone before him.

The previous discussion of Kant arises out of the conviction that the

Critique of Pure Reason may be taken most consistently as a treatise

on the principle of sufficient reason. Although this point may not be

immediately apparent, when we regard the principle of sufficient reason

and the Critique within the perspective of a concern with the unity of

experience, the connection becomes quite obvious.

At the most basic level of pure epistemology, of course, and as

Kant treats the subject in the Critique, the principle of sufficient

reason may merely be taken as a recognition that if "anything" is to

be part of my possible experience then there must be features of this

possible experience which it has in common with my experience as a

whole. This then becomes an admission that if I have experience at

all, this experience must be in principle demonstrably unified. There-

fore a consideration of the problem of the unity of experience is at

least as basic as a consideration of the possibility of experience in

general. Kant expresses this conclusion himself in the Critique where

the entire "Transcendental Deduction" hinges on the notion of the

synthetic unity of consciousness. Kant states, "The synthetic unity

of consciousness is, therefore, an objective condition of all knowledge.

Tt is not merely a condition that I myself require in knowing an

object, but is a condition under which every intuition must stand in

order to become an object for me."l It is highly significant that in

a work which for the first time makes reason an explicit philosophic

theme, Kant should find it necessary to assert the importance of the

notion of unity. It is to be expected, therefore, that the most basic


understanding of Nietzsche's position with respect to Kant and the

philosophic tradition ought to occur at the level of the unity of

experience. It is this consideration which has motivated the discussion

of this thesis so far and assures that the understanding of Nietzsche's

position will not proceed at some superficial level.

Because of the perspective of unity adopted here, the forms of

disunity recognized by the philosophic tradition become of interest.

In the historically oriented discussion of the last chapter, the con-

cern was to show the movement of the rational tradition as a progressive

attempt to overcome these disunities. To the extent that a philosophy

may be said to fail, the failure may be localized at that point where

a leap in thinking is required. At this point the position in question

may be characterized as irrational. Kierkegaard's position falls into

this category, and of course, Kierkegaard himself insisted that the

rational tradition could not accomplish its goal of unity; his entire

discussion of truth as subjectivity reflects this distinction.

In the tradition as based upon the primacy of reason, why is a

leap in thinking seen as objectionable? It is objectionable, because

we already have an a prior recognition that our experience is "one"

and feel that an account of this experience ought to reflect this

recognized unity. All this simply says that we cannot operate other

than at the level of the principle of sufficient reason. This is why

we might expect that with the inception of modern philosophy with

Descartes and the beginning of epistemology as it has come to be

understood there could be no other outcome than Absolute Idealism.

This was expressed by Leszek Kolakowski in the following way:

The development of post-Cartesian philosophy was
to a large degree a spate of imitations of the same
procedure; philosophers accepted Descartes' question

completely, and with it half his answer, and stubborn
attempts to modify the cogito formula dragged on into
this century.

Once the consciousness of the thought process is the
ultimate datum of cognition, all of reality becomes
incapable of going outside the thought process.

The tradition may be characterized as an attempt to overcome all

opposition in philosophic accounts of experience. Hegel of course

realized this in his periodization of the history of philosophy making

Descartes the beginning of the modern period.

The forms the disunity of experience has taken were indicated in

the cursory review of the previous chapter. Within the last 150 years,

with the emergence of an existentialist way of thinking, this disunity

has more and more come to be an explicit theme. In fact it has gained

a certain respectability and found a philosophic home of its own. The

emerging preoccupation with the fundamental problems connected with

the disunities in experience comes to explicitness with the concept of

the Nothing. It is an interesting question whether the existentialist

realization of its Nothing is not ultimately the same Nothing which

reveals itself in the many dichotomies of the rational philosophic

tradition beginning with Descartes and the subject/object distinction.

In Kant's philosophy, the Nothing reaches a hitherto unknown explicitness

in the form of the phenomena/noumena distinction, and it is in terms

of this that Kant may be viewed as a culmination of the rationalist

tradition and may conversely (as is not usually done) be viewed as the

beginning of the modern existentialist tradition. The Nothing of

concern here is of course the nihil negativum.

Where do we meet this nothingness in the existentialist tradition?

Between Kierkegaard's objective and subjective lies the Nothing.

Between the individual and mankind lies the Nothing. Between the

infinite and the finite lies the Nothing. The traditional recognition

in the phrase "the finitude of man" is the recognition of the "gap"

supposedly existing between man and a wholistic viewpoint of whose

existence he can have some awareness but cannot attain. In fact this

might be said to be the basis of the so-called "tragic world view" which

the Greeks clearly recognized. The "tragic world view" is dis-

tinguished by the recognition that man is not capable of comprehending

the totality of his experience. The tragic hero, whether he deceives

himself about it or not, is in the position of acting on inadequate

knowledge. It is usually understood that this lack of knowledge is

not simply an accidental deficiency, but an inevitable result of the

human condition. The point at which man falls short of the necessary

insight into existence represents the point at which a recognition of

the nihil negativum enters. Existentialism as it has developed in the

modern tradition has explicitly recognized this nihil negativum and

made it an explicit philosophic theme. Man's striving (specifically

man's striving for rational comprehension) may be regarded as an

attempt to overcome this recognition of the nothing. Kierkegaard has

asserted this, and as will be seen, Nietzsche described much of the

activity of modernity as an attempt to escape this recognition.

Nietzsche's use of the phrase (not unique with him) "God is dead"

labels the abyss which modern man finds opening before him and which

he desperately tries to fill. Part of Nietzsche's distinction as a

philosopher stems from taking seriously the idea that the philosophic

tradition might be one attempt to fill the abyss. This is an important

point and helps make clearer why Nietzsche put so much stress on value

considerations in his discussion of the tradition rather than preoccupy-

ing himself with traditional metaphysical and epistemological

categories. This point will be considered further in what follows.

The rational view of the world involves an explicable, systematic

whole which can be laid before us in a discursive manner. For the most

part, existentialist philosophies are interested in denying that this

program can be carried out. They usually posit in one form or another

an opaque, irreducible aspect of experience which can only be known to

exist but never described. This for example is the position of Karl

Jaspers. With respect to the concerns of the present thesis, the

point to be noticed is that the existentialist assertion of an opaque

aspect of experience is at the same time an assertion of the Nothing.

The principle of sufficient reason as it has grounded reason in the

tradition is now asserted to no longer apply. In this sense, it is

correct to view existentialism as a reaction to the rational tradition.

It is furthermore noteworthy that the concept of necessity is strikingly

absent in existentialist thought. This is obviously due to the

intimate connection between reason and necessity in the tradition.

As already mentioned, the concept of necessity is fundamental to Kant's

position and cannot be further grounded; it can no more be grounded

than the principle of sufficient reason itself can be grounded. In

contrast to the emphasis upon necessity in the tradition, existential-

ism is concerned to assert the importance of possibility and human

freedom. In a tradition based upon the primacy of reason, this would

signal the breakdown of the principle of sufficient reason. Note that

Schopenhauer, whose philosophy more than any other in the tradition

emphasizes the principle of sufficient reason, consistently denies the

existence of real possibility.

Let u-i look at how reason is understood in terms of necessity with

Kant and two philosophers of the rationalist tradition after him;

Fichte and Hegel. In the last chapter, a close connection was made

between Kant's notion of the a prior and necessary knowledge. A prior

knowledge is the proper business of metaphysics thus metaphysics studies

the necessary features of experience. Furthermore, "reason is the

faculty which supplies the principles of a priori knowledge." It

sounds almost trivial when a point is made of the connection between

reason and necessity, because the job of reason is to show that the

world is this way and no other and this is equivalent to showing how

any particular feature of experience we care to choose is necessarily

connected with the rest of experience. According to Fichte, "Philosophy

anticipates the entirety of experience and thinks it only as necessary,

and to that extent it is ... a priori." In fact both Fichte and Hegel

explicitly criticized Kant for not showing the necessity in the

development of his philosophy at every turn, such that their advance

over Kant may be taken as finally demonstrating that necessity. In

the Lesser Logic, Hegel states, "But with the rise of this thinking

study of things, it soon becomes evident that thought will be satisfied

with nothing short of showing the necessity of its facts ....9 Hegel's

and Fichte's philosophies are represented as absolute idealisms

precisely because they are concerned to push the idea of necessity in

knowledge to its limit; no fact may be left undemonstrated in its

necessity. With regard to this specific theme of necessity in the

rationalist tradition Hegel is to be taken as the end of the Western

rationalist tradition. It is the premium put upon necessity in the

rationalist tradition which accounts for the emphasis upon reason.

Reason is nothing without necessity.10

While maintaining that what has been said of the traditional

notion of reason is the case and further maintaining the existential-

ist position on the bankruptcy of this view of reason, this by no

means destroys the deeper sense of the reasonable in terms of the unity

of experience. What is at stake is whether this unity need be taken

in the discursive sense of a thoroughgoing series of interconnections

forming a system. Furthermore, the question arises at this point in

the investigation and historically after the philosophy of Hegel

whether philosophy as it has been practiced traditionally may not

stand in the service of life in general. This Nietzschean question

could have made no sense whatever to Hegel since philosophy by defini-

tion could have nothing outside itself. Thus we are presumably at

an impasse with the traditional understanding of reason and necessity.

To move further will require no less than a new perspective on the

world; a perspective in which the place of reason is redefined. It

will be further required that reason give up attempting to ground

itself. If we believe that Hegel left any part of life unaccounted

for, then we tacitly admit that Absolute Idealism was not achieved.

Let us accept that Hegel made the fullest possible attempt to achieve

a self-grounding of knowledge. If we are then dissatisfied with his

effort, it can only be because we feel that something has been left

out of account. For Hegel, of course, it would be absurd to maintain

that some phenomenon could become part of my experience and yet remain

uncomprehended by philosophy. Yet this very fact allows one to know

what form any denial of the complete dominance of reason in the

tradition must take. Any objector to Hegel must finally assert that

the ultimately irrational, the irrational in principle, is a possible

component of experience. This could take the form of either (1) show-

ing that the rational as Hegel understands it cannot encompass experi-

ence as a whole; there is a real which is not rational or (2) showing

that in general no view of reason could be self-justifying. This,

of course, was precisely the line taken by Kierkegaard with his dis-

tinction between the radically subjective individual and the objective

world. As long, however, as one maintains the existence of a breach

in experience as a whole, the traditional rationalist will claim that

reason has more work to do, i.e., as asserted before, nothing short of

an Absolute Idealism will do.1

As mentioned above, the so-called bankruptcy of reason by no means

destroys the deeper sense of the reasonable in terms of the unity of

experience. Certainly idealism after Kant was more intent than ever

to assert the criterion of unity as a measure of the rational together

with the concept of necessity which was to remain unavoidably vague.

Furthermore, as stated above, even with the advent of a philosophy

asserting ultimate irrationalities in experience, the concept of the

rational remains unchanged. Thus, looked at from the standpoint of the

unity of experience per se, the concern of philosophy remains the same

with respect to the constitution of the reasonable. Indeed, the task

of reason in terms of seeking unity remains unchanged from Kant onward.

What does historically change is the form the unity of experience is

to take. The notion of reason in its basic form remains as given by


... what is peculiarly distinctive of reason in its
attitude to this body of knowledge is that it prescribes


and seeks to achieve its systemization, that is,
to exhibit the connection of its parts in conformity
with a single principle. This unity of reason always
presupposes an idea, namely, that of the form of a
whole of knowledge -- a whole which is prior to the
determinate knowledge of the parts and which con-
tains the conditions that determine a priori for
every part its position and relation to the other
parts. This idea accordingly postulates a complete
unity in the knowledge obtained by the understanding,
by which this knowledge is to be not a mere contingent
aggregate, but a system connected according to
necessary laws.12

Kant is at this point a few pages away from an oblique statement

of the principle of sufficient reason (A651, B679). Kant puts it this

way: "The law of reason which requires us to seek for this unity, is

a necessary law, since without it we should have no reason at all, and

without reason no coherent employment of the understanding ....13

Further formulations follow in A659, B687 but stated in the form of

the principle of continuity; a necessary corollary of the principle of

sufficient reason. In his formulations, however, Kant makes a typical

vacillation as illustrated by the following remark: "Such anticipa-

tions [that is, the various formulations of unity], when confirmed,

yield strong evidence in support of the view that the hypothetically

conceived unity is well-grounded ......4 "Well-grounded" at this point

refers to the idea that "nature" may be actually the way reason has

postulated it. But, of course, the postulation of an independent

reality or "nature" in this sense has no place in the whole Kantian

project and indeed could have no definite meaning attached to it. Kant

seems to be aware of this but unable to think consistently in terms of

his avowed project, consequently he follows his assertion with the

traditional qualification that "this continuity of forms is a mere idea,

to which no congruent object can be discovered in experience."1 It


is appropriate to point out here that reason per se has nothing to do

with truth or falsity which is the business of the understanding or the

categories. Because of this, Kant cannot legitimately talk about a

"nature" which may or may not correspond to ideas of reason. The

understanding must fellow the principles of reason, but reason is not

concerned with the constitution of objects which is the work of the


The upshot of Kant's conception of reason is this: "Unconditioned

necessity, which we so indispensibly require as the last bearer of all

things, is for human reason the veritable abyss."16 This has been the

condition of reason in the Western tradition for the past two millenia.

The force of the drive toward unity as it was characterized in the last

chapter may be extended to the history of philosophy as a whole as

was done by Arthur Lovejoy in his work The Great Chain of Being. The

present discussion has focused on the modern period of philosophy,

because it is in this period that the ground motivation of philosophy

in terms of the principle of sufficient reason comes to explicit

philosophical consciousness. As long as this principle remained the

highest operative principle of reason, there could be no other satis-

factory outcome for philosophy than a complete and unified description

of experience. This unity, however, which must be viewed as the hoped

for outcome of all the activity of the philosophic tradition has not

been achieved. Furthermore the suspicion grows as to whether, at least

on the traditional view of reason, the goal is achieveable at all.

The situation has recently been characterized as epistemologicall

nihilism." "Men ... find that there is no truth, and that they should

continue to seek it. The will to truth drives men even further into

the void, and that they may now recognize it as void is no help."'7

In the following chapter, a short discussion of Schopenhauer is

used to lead into a discussion of nihilism. Schopenhauer's philosophy

was of considerable influence on Nietzsche's entrance into philosophy

but more importantly for our purposes, it represents a significantly

different attempt within the tradition to grasp the unity of experience.

Many problems with the traditional attempts are brought to their

highest degree of explicitness in Schopenhauer's philosophy. The most

obvious example of this is Schopenhauer's explicit emphasis and

extended discussions of the principle of sufficient reason. Because

this principle plays such an explicitly dominant role in Schopenhauer's

philosophy, it becomes abundantly clear that the ground motivation of

this philosophy is to comprehend experience as a unity. This makes its

failure particularly instructive.



1. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, Translated by Norman
Kemp Smith (New York, 1929), p. 156.
2. Leszek Kolakowski, Toward a Marxist Humanism, Translated by
Jane Zielonko Peel (New York, 1968), p. 21.
3. G.W.F. Hegel, The History of Philosophy, Translated by E.S.
Haldane and Frances H. Simson (New York, 1974), Vol. ITl, p. 217.
4. Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript,
Translated by David F. Swenson and Walter Lowrie (Princeton, 1941),
esp. Chapter II, pp. 67-113.
5. Karl Jaspers, Reason and Existence, Translated by William
Earle (New York, 1955), pp. 61-62. Jaspers states, "... but Existenz
is the unintelligible, standing by and against other Existenzen, breaking
up every whole and never reaching any real totality."
6. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation,
Translated by E.F.J. Payne (New York, 1966), Vol I, p. 463f. Schopen-
hauer therefore collapses the distinction between the actual and the
possible. His basic line of thinking is that if a given event were
possible it must have occurred. The fact that it does not occur proves
that, in fact, it was not possible. For a fuller development of this
position, see Arthur Schopenhauer, On the Freedom of the Will, Translated
by Konstantin Kolenda (New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1960).
7. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 58.
8. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Science of Knowledge, Edited and
translated by Peter Heath and John Lachs (New York, 1970), p. 26.
9. G.W.F. Hegel, Hegel's Logic, Translated by William Wallace
(Oxford, 1975), p. 3.
10. For a discussion of the primacy of necessity in Kant's Critiques,
see Heinz RSttges, Nietzsche und die Dialectik des Aufklirung (Berlin,
1972), p. 177ff. Here it is stated (p. 182), "... durch das Erheben des
spezifisch Kantischen Notwendigkeitsbegriffs zum Kriterium fiir
Wissenschaft und Ethik Kant eine bestimmte spekulative Voraussetzung,
die selbst nicht begrindet werden kann ....
11. There is no intention of entering into an extended discussion
of Hegel's philosophy. Any full treatment of Nietzsche's confrontation
with the tradition will eventually have to face the difficulties in-
volved in a confrontation between Nietzsche and Hegel. To my knowledge
this has not been done in any complete way. The requisite knowledge
of Hegel's philosophy alone would be an obstacle to this kind of in-
vestigation. I believe that Nietzsche's position with respect to the
tradition will not be sufficiently comprehended until Hegel's philosophy
is understood. This is because Hegel represents the Absolute Idealist
position toward which reason in the philosophic tradition has been
tending. Hegel may be considered a culmination of the tradition but in

a sense different from that of Kant. Kant's philosophy may be
legitimately regarded as a culmination, because it asserts the limits of
reason through the use of reason. By thus making a definite assertion
about the limits of reason as understood by the tradition, Kant pro-
vided a clear statement and foundation from which the later Idealists
could assert the incompleteness of his position and attempt to go beyond.
In the sense that a move to a dialectical position was found
necessary by Fichte and a dialectical-historical by Hegel, the con-
ception of reason after Kant was new. Yet, from the deepest point of
view, I would want to maintain that Hegel's position still remains within
the tradition of reason; which has its ultimate culmination in Nietzsche's
philosophy. Here I can only acknowledge the importance of a
Nietzsche-Hegel dialogue.
12. Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, p. 532.
13. Ibid., p. 538.
14. Ibid., p. 544. Throughout his discussion of reason, it seems
to me that Kant desperately wants to assert a nature which is the way
reason expresses it but quite independent of reason itself. Such an
assertion would, of course, destroy the very foundations of the Critique.
See, for example, pp. 537-538.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid., p. 513.
17. Tracy B. Strong, Friedrich Nietzsche and the Politics of
Transfiguration (Berkeley, 1975), p. 77.
18. Schopenhauer's doctoral dissertation was entitled The Fourfold
Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason.



It is well-known that Schopenhauer maintained Kant's notion of the

thing-in-itself in the form of his doctrine of the will. In The World

As Will and Representation it is stated that our willing "is the one

thing known to us immediately, and not given to us merely in the

representation, as all else is."' The will "is the point where the

thing-in-itself enters the phenomenon most immediately."2 Moreover,

it is Schopenhauer's contention that modern philosophy since Descartes

has operated with the division of "knowledge" into will and representa-

tion and been motivated by the problem of getting them together.

Schopenhauer represents the primary problem of philosophy as "the deep

gulf between the ideal and the real."3

... once first demonstrated by Descartes, it has ever
since given philosophers no rest. But after Kant had
at last shown most thoroughly the complete diversity of
the ideal and the real, it was an attempt as bold as it
was absurd ... to try to assert the absolute identity
of the two by dogmatic utterances referring to a so-
called intellectual intuition.

Schopenhauer is the interesting case of a philosopher who categor-

ically rejects all idealist philosophy between Kant and himself. He

viewed his philosophy as the legitimate successor and correction of

Kant's philosophy. Yet it must be said that his general philosophic

project is quite close to that of the idealists. A comparison on this

point will be useful in terms of an understanding of Kant. The situa-

tion may be put concisely and rather sketchily as follows.

Both Schopenhauer and the idealists may be viewed as reacting to

Kant's philosophy. The reactions took the form of attempts to complete

the Kantian position by overcoming the dichotomies inherent in that

position. Schopenhauer and Fichte both explicitly call themselves

Kantians. Fichte sees himself as simply drawing out the consequences

of Kant's conclusions. Schopenhauer's philosophy is a constant dialogue

with Kant although this is often only very implicit. Both Fichte and

Hegel characterize their projects at various points as an attempt to

eliminate the radical breaks in Kant's philosophy which he himself took

as unavoidable for finite human reason. With Schopenhauer's main work,

we have his attempt to overcome the phenomena/noumena distinction. The

title of the work, The World As Will and Representation, betrays what

Schopenhauer's problem is. There is the recognition of one thing, a

world, which we must attempt to make sense of in terms of will and

representation. But this necessarily entails identifying the two in

some sense. Therein lies the problem. The reader sees time and again

how every discussion leads up to this connection and how Schopenhauer

fails to make it understandable. The World As Will and Representation

may without exaggeration be viewed as a long series of attempts to see

will and representation (thinking) as a unity called the world. Both

Schopenhauer and the idealists then are concerned to understand the

unity we recognize as the world. This is the way this thesis has

characterized the goal of philosophy in general. Schopenhauer's

vehement objections to the idealists are mainly at the level of method

and not of aim.5 It must be added, however, that even this is not too

clear. For example, Schopenhauer rejects the idealist notion of

intellectual intuition yet asserts that we do have immediate knowledge,

e.g. the subjective/objective distinction is given immediately thus

cannot be further grounded.

The outcome of Schopenhauer's attempts to go beyond Kant really

amounts to vacillating between two assertions which, when all is said

and done, remain at the level of mere assertion. First, the thing-in-

itself (will) is toto genere different from phenomena (representation).

Second, the phenomenal world must be seen as the world as will coming

to consciousness in representation. The root of Schopenhauer's dif-

ficulties is easy to see; he cannot make will phenomenal, because it

cannot then be seen simultaneously as will. He wants to say, "See how

the phenomena reveal the inner nature of the world as will?" But when

he attempts to display this, he finds himself pointing only to phenomena.

Schopenhauer clearly realizes his problem, but since he has one notion

of what thinking consists of, he finds no way out of his troubles.

Schopenhauer sees his own significance as a philosopher in the

following way:

... all philosophers before me, from the first to the
last, place the true and real inner nature or kernal of
man in the knowing consciousness. Accordingly, they
have conceived and explained the I, or in the case of
many of them its transcendent hypostasis called soul,
as primarily and essentially knowing, in fact thinking,
and only in consequence of this, secondarily and
derivatively, as willing. This extremely old, universal,
and fundamental error ... must first of all be set aside,
and instead of it the true state of the case must be
brought to perfectly distinct consciousness. However,
as this is done for the first time here after thousands
of years of philosophizing, some detailed account will
not be out of place. The remarkable phenomenon that in
this fundamental and essential point all philosophers
have erred ... might be partly explained ... from the
fact that all of them aimed at presenting man as dif-
fering as widely as possible from the animals.6

That Schopenhauer's philosophy does not overcome the age-old problems

involved is illustrated by the vagaries to which he is reduced in

his description of the connection between consciousness and the will.

My philosophy alone ... puts man's real inner nature
not in consciousness, but in the will. This will is not
essentially united with consciousness, but is related to
consciousness, in other words to knowledge, as substance
to accident, as something illuminated to light, as the
string to the sounding-board ...

Tn general terms, how does Schopenhauer's philosophy differ from

the tradition up to and including Kant? He basically preserves the

traditional division of willing and thinking but attempts to give a

"correct and universal understanding of experience" (the main task of

philosophy for Schopenhauer) from the standpoint of the primacy of the

will. By reversing the traditional emphasis in the division,

Schopenhauer believes he can achieve the goal of philosophy. The con-

nection, however, which was the traditional problem, remains a problem.

But says Schopenhauer,

... even if the root cannot be directly brought to
light, it must yet be possible to lay hold of some data
for explaining the connexion between the world of
phenomena and the being-in-itself of things. Here,
therefore, lies the path on which I have gone beyond
Kant and the limit he set. But in doing this, I have
stood on the ground of reflection, consequently of
honesty and hence without the vain pretension of in-
tellectual intuition or absolute thought that charac-
terizes the period of pseudo-philosophy between Kant
and myself.

Anyone who reads through Schopenhauer's chief work will clearly see

that the connection is never shown. At the crucial points where one

would expect to find the connection explicitly presented, Schopenhauer

is reduced to metaphor, analogy or the mere assertion that the will is

presenting itself in such and such a phenomenal way. It might be

expected that if the primacy of thinking in the tradition could not

satisfactorily bring about the comprehension of experience as a unity

then reversing the emphasis of the thinking/willing dichotomy would be

equally useless. The fact is that Schopenhauer takes over, in its

essentials, the traditional way of regarding the two sides of the

division. Note what he says about knowledge. "It is above all else

and essentially representation. What is representation? A very com-

plicated physiological occurrence in an animal's brain, whose result is

the consciousness of a picture or image at that very spot."9

Schopenhauer explicitly states the traditional view of thinking as

representational thinking. This is precisely the way we later find

Heidegger characterizing traditional western metaphysical thinking.

Because Schopenhauer maintains this notion of thinking and yet

holds out the possibility of a unified view of experience, he is beset

with insoluble difficulties. The unity sought, as Kant clearly showed,

cannot be gained in a discursive way by externally related representa-

tions. To overcome his problems, Schopenhauer introduces his doctrine

of Ideas, and here a brief account of Schopenhauer's doctrine of Ideas

is in order.

The one will becomes dispersed as phenomena which constitute the

world as it is thinkable for us, i.e., the world as representation or

the world as it is subject to the principle of sufficient reason and

the principles of individuation, space and time. But the unity of the

one will cannot be faithfully given by the world as we know it, that

is, as a world of particulars. With the doctrine of the Idea,

Schopenhauer posits a phenomenal way of knowing which he asserts is not

dictated by the principle of sufficient reason. "... the Idea does not

enter into that principle; hence neither plurality nor change belongs

to it." Here, by the way, Schopenhauer must start equivocating

because although he must assert the Ideas to be phenomenal, up to this

point the phenomenal world has been virtually defined as that world

which is subject to the principle of sufficient reason.

With respect to the Idea, Schopenhauer says, "... it alone is the

most adequate object vty possible of the will or of the thing-in-

itself; indeed it is even the whole thing-in-itself, only under the

form of the representation." Furthermore:

When the Tdea appears, subject and object can no
longer be distinguished in it, because the Idea, the
adequate objectivity of the will, the real world as
representation, arises only when subject and object 12
reciprocally fill and penetrate each other completely.

In art, Schopenhauer tells us, we are presented with the Idea as

instantiated in some particular. We are then privy to the essentials

of a world which is normally a dispersion of particulars.

... only the essential in ... the will's objectification
constitutes the Tdea; on the other hand, its unfolding
or development [Schopenhauer means in the form of
particular objects like crystals, plants, etc.], because
drawn apart in the forms of the principle of sufficient
reason into a multiplicity of many-sided phenomena, is
inessential to the Idea ...13

What is the Idea? "We can define it accurately as the way of con-

sidering things independently of the principle of sufficient reason,

in contrast to the ... way of science and experience.

.. science ... is with every end it attains again and
again directed farther, and can never find an ultimate
goal or complete satisfaction, any more than by running
we can reach the point where the clouds touch the
horizon; art, on the contrary, is everywhere at its

The connection of the particular object with the Idea instantiated

in it, however, is never made clear. The "how" of the instantiation is

never presented yet this is precisely what we wish to comprehend. We

have here, of course, the classic problem of the instantiation of the

universal in the particular, but with Schopenhauer's philosophy, we are

no nearer a solution. At the end of volume two of The World As Will

and Representation, Schopenhauer presents a lengthy discussion of

mysticism and attempts to confirm his own position by pointing to the

common features of previous well-known mystical experiences. These

common features, he argues, are due to the fact that "the inner essence

of all things is at bottom identical."6 But Schopenhauer can do no

more than assert the validity of mystical experience as a confirmation

of an underlying unity. In fact, mystical experience proper, which

betrays for Schopenhauer the basic unity of the world, is not a legiti-

mate topic for philosophy. He says with reference to philosophy in

general and his own in particular,

... it must remain cosmology, and cannot become theology.
Its theme must restrict itself to the world; to express
from every aspect what this world is, what it may be in
its innermost nature, is all that it can honestly achieve.
Now it is in keeping with this that, when my teaching
reaches its highest point, it assumes a negative
character, and so ends with a negation. Thus it can
speak here only of what is denied or given up; but what
is gained in place of this, what is laid hold of, it is
forced ... to describe as nothing; and it can add only
the consolation that it may be merely a relative, not an
absolute, nothing. For, if something is no one of all
the things that we know, then certainly it is for us
in general nothing. Yet it still does not follow from
this that it is nothing absolutely, namely that is must
be nothing from every possible point of view and in
every possible sense, but only that we are restricted
to a wholly negative knowledge of it; and this may very
well lie in the limitation of our point of view.17

But ultimately all of this makes no sense. The above paragraph contains

internal inconsistencies and is furthermore inconsistent with what

Schopenhauer has said earlier in his presentation. As an example, it

it perfectly obvious that we cannot be dealing with a relative nothing

at this point because this is a concept of nothing based upon an

already unified experience and is completely bound to a view of the

world according to the principium individuationis as Schopenhauer

asserts many times. A relative nothing would imply that in principle

all mystical experiences could be reduced to experiences under the

principle of sufficient reason which is precisely what Schopenhauer

is interested in denying at this point in his presentation. There is

no need to detail Schopenhauer's inconsistencies; there are many of them

throughout his philosophy. What is most instructive, however, is what

these inconsistencies reveal concerning Schopenhauer's attempt to dis-

close experience as a coherent unity. In the end he must simply assert

this unity. How the unity or underlying will of things is instantiated

in the particular phenomena or different "points of view" remains

incomprehensible. The unity cannot be directly stated, but this is

what the philosopher ultimately feels compelled to state.

Schopenhauer's problem, of course, stems from the fact that he

begins with two apparently basic aspects of experience and must make

understandable how one unified experience can contain both. This un-

fortunately usually degenerates into the attempt to reduce one to the

other and thereby seems to result in the denial of the reality of one

aspect. With respect to this problem, Stanley Rosen has said in

reference to Kant, "The Kantian philosophy attempted to avoid the

silence of monism by preserving the distinct identities of nature and
Geist.18 It must be said that Schopenhauer attempted to capture the

distinction while proclaiming a monism by making nature a manifestation

of the spirit (will). As stated already however, how this actually can

occur remains incomprehensible. When the outcome is a form of monism,

it cannot be adequately stated in terms of the particulars of experience.

This is one of Rosen's main points with respect to the problem of


monistic philosophies. Schopenhauer continually wavers with respect

to how much he can positively assert. He is constantly taking back

with the left hand what he has just given with the right. This is the

situation one might expect from a philosophy which attempts to unify

two apparently mutually exclusive parts of experience. The problem of

the instantiation of the universal in the particular of which the

problem of the unity of experience is a form cannot be understood from

a reductionist point of view, because the integrity of each side of the

dichotomy must he maintained.

During the last few years of his life, Schopenhauer's philosophy

began to get the recognition he had originally hoped for it. It might

be conjectured that the attempt to develop certain lines of the Hegelian

philosophy during the intervening years had begun to wane and thus the

time was ripe for something new -- even an antihegelian position. It

is well-known that interest in philosophy in Germany reached its lowest

point around the middle of the nineteenth century just before the

development of Neo-Kantianism, thus Schopenhauer seems to have filled

the space between a waning Hegelianism and a waxing Neo-Kantianism.

At any rate, Schopenhauer falls outside the mainstream of nineteenth

century philosophy, yet, as has been urged in this thesis, not in his

most basic aim but only in the way he attempts to realize this aim.

The project of philosophy still remains to understand and express the

unity of experience. The lasting contribution of the Hegelian

philosophy was "in his theory that the nature of every phenomenon of

life is to be understood historically.19 This is a point which was

virtually ignored by Schopenhauer but which exerted a great influence

upon Nietzsche. And although Schopenhauer strongly affected Nietzsche's


philosophy, many of Nietzsche's views on Kantianism betray the influence

of Neo-Kantian doctrines prevalent during his development; in particular

those of Gustav TeichmUller, Afrikan Spir and F.A. Lange.2

The exhaustion which becomes explicit in the philosophy of

Schopenhauer stands as a sign from the philosophic point of view of

nihilism. The express recognition of nihilism arises with the final

unsuccessful attempts in the tradition to give a philosophical account

of the unity of human experience. Nietzsche is the first philosopher

to philosophize on the basis of the knowledge that the previous activity

of the tradition has been nihilistic. The tradition can be historically

characterized as nihilistic, hence Nietzsche accepts the view that a

general movement in history can be perceived; that patterns of develop-

ment can be recognized. He rejects the view, however, that we can know

whether or not this development has a point, a goal, a final outcome.

In light of this, he further rejects the notion that man as an indi-

vidual might view his life as meaningful in terms of a historical whole.

The problem of nihilism is often equated with the problem of

meaning. It is also equated with a crisis of values or the problem of

the ultimate justification of man's existence. These are acceptable

descriptions of nihilism but for this thesis it is most important to

insist on the connection of nihilism with the problem of the unity of

experience and with the conception of reason particularly as Kant

presents it. The explicit recognition of nihilism coincides with the

last attempts to carry out the presentation of human experience as a

unity. With this in mind, we focused upon the failure of Schopenhauer's

philosophy. This was doubly appropriate since Nietzsche entered

philosophy proper through Schopenhauer's philosophy. The stage is now

set for a philosophy which makes the phenomenon of nihilism its most

basic theme.

The following discussion of Nietzsche's conception of nihilism

proceeds from a characterization of the philosophic tradition as the

attempt to state clearly the unity of experience. in addition, the

discussion proceeds from the understanding that only within the "whole"

can the question of meaningfulness be ultimately answered. Furthermore

it should be kept in mind that the drive toward unity virtually becomes

a defining characteristic of reason for Kant. In view of this, problems

involved in our discussion of the unity of experience may be taken

literally as problems of reason in general. These considerations in

the discussion of nihilism will then allow a further understanding of

Nietzsche's position in the tradition vis a vis his doctrine of the

will to power. The progress of this thesis may then be crudely

schematized as follows:

1) The progress of reason as the drive toward unity (Kant)

2) The drive toward unity in terms of meaning and value (Niezsche)

3) The failure of the drive toward unity as a characterization of

4) Nietzsche's doctrine of the will to power with respect to
nihilism and therefore reason in the tradition.



1. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation,
Translated by E.F.J. Payne (New York, 1966), Vol. II, p. 196.
2. Ibid., p. 197.
3. Ibid., p. 192.
4. Ibid.
5. This gives a clear indication of one way in which Kant may be
regarded as the culmination of the tradition. Namely, the Idealists
and their followers along with Schopenhauer all philosophize from the
same problematic ground established by Kant. With the later Neo-
Kantians, of course, the connection is explicit.
6. Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, pp. 198-199.
7. Ibid., p. 199.
8. Ibid., p. 289.
9. Ibid., p. 191.
10. ibid., Vol. I, p. 169. Schopenhauer believed he had the
correct understanding of Plato's Ideas. He says here, "Further, I hope
that, after what has been said, there will be no hesitation in recog-
nizing again in the definite grades of the objectification of that will,
which forms the in-itself of the world, what Plato called the eternal
Ideas ..
11. Ibid., p. 175.
12. Ibid., p. 180.
13. Ibid., p. 182.
14. Ibid., p. 185.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid., Vol. II, p. 610.
17. Ibid., pp. 611-612.
18. Stanley Rosen, Nihilism: A Philosophical Essay (New Haven,
1969), p. 90. Rosen goes on to state that Kant therefore alienated
nature and Ceist. Their unity remains an unachievable ideal.
19. Karl Ldwith, From Hegel to Nietzsche, Translated by David E.
Green (Garden City, 1967), p. 121.
20. For an appreciation of the possible influence of these Neo-
Kantians, see Karl-llcinz Dickopp, "Aspekte zum Verhfltnis Nietzsche-Kant
und ihre Bedeutung fur die Interpretation des Willen zur Macht,"
Kant-Studien, Vol. LXI, no. 1 (1970), pp. 97-111.



Stanley Rosen in his work on nihilism has said "The modern project

to master nature begins in Cartesian pride and ends in the pessimism of

Schopenhauer and the nihilism of Nietzsche." Rosen's view of nihilism

is compatible with what this thesis has presented so far; his emphasis

and line of attack are, however, different. In the following develop-

ment of the concept of nihilism, there will be occasion to emphasize

Rosen's approach when it is pertinent to the presentation.

We see above that Rosen's view of Schopenhauer's position coincides

with our previous discussion. Rosen, however, uses the idea of master-

ing nature as the ground motivation of philosophy. This, according to

the context of the remark, is to make explicit the connection with

Nietzsche's will to power. Of course, it is only a short move from the

notion of mastering nature to nihilism as a crisis of reason when we

consider the influence that the idea of "knowledge as power" has played

in the tradition. Rosen, in fact, does see nihilism as a crisis of

reason. He states, "Reason has been conceived as a human project or

the instrument of a human project, but in either case it emerges from

the pre-rational stratum of desire, basically the desire to master

nature."2 He further states "Contemporary man desperately needs a

rational interpretation of reason. Instead, he has been furnished with

epistemologies, or technical discussions of how reason works." Because

reason cannot be grounded in some "reasonable" way, nihilism arises.

This might be put in terms of the present thesis as follows: Because

the unity of experience cannot be explicated philosophically (in terms

of a reasonable account), philosophy ends in nihilism. Rosen believes

that "the problem of modern philosophy up to Kant was not dualism, but

rather its intrinsic inclination toward monistic nihilism." This con-

firms that Rosen basically shares Nietzsche's view of at least the

modern tradition. The phrase monisticc nihilism" does, however, betray

a difference. It is the fact of monism and its inability to come to

complete expression which reveals the nihilistic element for Rosen.

The problem of monistic positions in terms of nihilism will be treated

in the sequel.

At this point, let us proceed with an account of Nietzsche's con-

cept of nihilism. In his unpublished writings, Nietzsche gave a by now

famous formulation of nihilism. "What does nihilism mean? That the

highest values devaluate themselves. The aim is lacking; 'why' finds

no answer. This appears to be a very mysterious answer to the

question. The answer is framed in the form of values and furthermore

apparently makes these values autonomous or self-acting. Commentators

on the definition of nihilism have usually emphasized the devaluation

of values but not its autonomous character which, as I hope will be

shown, is a very important aspect of the concept of nihilism, partic-

ularly in connection with the will to power.

For Nietzsche, nihilism is a historical phenomenon but not in the

sense of an event within history; history is itself nihilistic.

Nihilism describes the movement of history itself. In this respect,

Nietzsche regards it as a necessary event. It makes no sense to


realistically entertain the idea of alternatives as if the progress of

nihilism thus far were an accident. History as nihilistic is a product

of the basic condition of man. The development of history is the

development and progressive working-out of nihilism. In true Hegelian

fashion, there comes a time when man becomes self-conscious enough to

realize this. Nietzsche's philosophy represents this form of self-


That the "highest values devaluate themselves" is a necessary

process. How is this to be understood? There are two senses in which

this might be understood one of which is more basic than the other and

relies on the doctrine of the will to power. We must be clear that the

process Nietzsche is describing is an autonomous one. There is one

process in which the establishment of values is one side and the de-

valuation the oppostie side. Furthermore, Nietzsche believes that in

order for a given value to be established it is necessary for there to

be a simultaneous devaluation. Ultimately the process manifested in

this valuing and devaluing is the process of the will to power itself.

This will be discussed later in a chapter on the will to power.

In Nietzsche's philosophy, the terms 'meaning' and 'value' may be

used synonymously. If we want to consider meaning apart from value,

this must be at some level less basic than the one with which Nietzsche

is generally concerned. Nietzsche speaks of value in many instances

where others might speak of meaning. This is a point agreed upon by

virtually all commentators, and Nietzsche's writings are filled with

examples in which the two terms might be interchanged.

With the loss of the highest values (meaning) we are sunk in

nihilism, yet the idea of nihilism does not correspond strictly with

the loss of meaning per se. An important distinction must be made here

between two ideas of nihilism concerning which Nietzsche himself seems

sometimes ambiguous. As noted above, nihilism may refer to the complete

process of valuation and devaluation and indeed this is his deepest

understanding of nihilism.

The meaning could have been: the fulfillment of
some highest ethical canon in all events, the moral world
order; or the growth of love and harmony in the inter-
course of beings; or the gradual approximation of a
state of universal happiness -- any goal at least con-
stitutes some meaning.6

According to the strict understanding of nihilism the nihilist is not

one who believes in the ultimate meaninglessness of existence, but one

who recognizes the futility of fixing any ultimate meaning on existence

because "the highest values devaluate themselves." Nietzsche believed,

in fact, that the ultimate meaninglessness of existence could not be

asserted, because the standpoint from which such a judgment must pre-

sume to be made, could never be assumed. Nietzsche often speaks of

nihilism in the sense of simply a loss of meaning thereby using the

term in its more common form. He says, for example, "The faith in the

categories of reason is the cause of nihilism." Here nihilism is

regarded as an event which can be "caused." In this context, nihilism

could simply mean a loss of value. From his more precise and compre-

hensive standpoint, however, Nietzsche could just as readily assert

that nihilism is the cause of the faith in the categories of reason.

The setting up of meaning-value is just as much a part of the total

phenomenon, nihilism, as the devaluation.

The implicit presence of nihilism as a condition is what, for

Nietzsche, allows us to grasp the ground movement of Western metaphysics.

Western philosophy as a whole presents itself as a problem for Nietzsche

under the name of nihilism. In this regard, the explicit doctrines of

the various past philosophies are to be looked at as particulars and

as symptoms of the condition, nihilism. Every explicit philosophy is

conditioned by its predecessors but regarded in this way, we do not

grasp the movement of the tradition as a whole. For this the tradition

as a series of historical facts must be transcended. The philosophies

of the tradition as explicitly put forth were therefore a surface

phenomenon which must be interpreted as signs of something deeper. It

may be possible, for example, to show how a given philosophy emerges as

a reaction to its immediate predecessor, yet this would remain a self-

contained analysis by leaving the preconditions of the given type of

philosophizing unexamined. This is in fact the way most histories of

philosophy proceed. One may find a good example of Nietzsche's quite

different mode of procedure in the first part of Beyond Good and Evil.

One of the results of the implicit nihilistic character of the

tradition, is that, in a rather dialectical fashion, attempts to cure

the symptoms only bring about the opposite of what was desired. What

is meant here is not difficult to understand. At the surface level,

at the symptomatic level, certain "facts" are placed opposite each

other, let us say, as a crude example, pleasure and pain. These

"opposites" are then each made the cure for an excess of the other

without anyone's realizing that they are equally necessary from a

higher perspective. Nietzsche would speak here, however, of the re-

placement of one supreme value with another. "Believing one chooses

remedies, one chooses in fact that which hastens exhaustion; Christianity

is an example; progress is another instance."

In the dialectic of "the devaluation of values," one believes that


to avoid the loss of meaning, to avoid the devaluation of values one

must set up other values. Or to eliminate one situation which arose

from "wrong" values we seek to work according to counter values. This

is a "common sense" reactive point of view which, according to

Nietzsche, never questions the process of valuing itself. "Common

sense" never entertains the possibility that the very action it takes

to eliminate its discontent is that which, in the end, promotes it.

"Are not all 'values' lures that draw out the comedy without bringing

it closer to a solution?"

As mentioned earlier, there comes a point when the process of

valuation/devaluation may be grasped as what it is in fact. The philos-

opher may be the individual who explicitly articulates the realization

but it will reveal itself across the whole spectrum of human concerns.

"The entire idealism of mankind hitherto is on the point of changing

suddenly into nihilism -- into the belief in absolute worthlessness,

i.e., meaninglessness."10 Here Nietzsche uses the term 'nihilism' in

its more restricted common form. However, the whole process by which

ideals are created and destroyed may, according to the foregoing account,

also be viewed as nihilism. Idealism acquires a peculiar meaning which

applies to virtually every philosophy which attempts to make absolute

pronouncements on the character of existence. Basically all philosophy

since Plato represents idealism as Nietzsche understands it. According

to Nietzsche's famous formulation of the activity of philosophy, the

tradition has tried "to impose upon becoming the character of being."ll

Idealism means imposing "upon becoming the character of being." It

indicates that for mankind existence is meaningful, that is, man lives

in terms of an expressed or unexpressed interpretation of existence.


That "the entire idealism of mankind hitherto is on the point of

changing suddenly into nihilism," once again represents the dialectical

movement whereby one state of things gives rise to its opposite. The

idealism which Nietzsche sees as represeniiii e of Western metaphysics

is about to collapse. But into what?

Extreme positions are not succeeded by moderate ones
but by extreme positions of the opposite kind. Thus the
belief in the absolute immorality of nature, in aim --
and meaninglessness, is the psychologically necessary
affect once the belief in Cod and an essentially moral
order become untenable. Nihilism appears at that point,
not that the displeasure at existence has become greater
than before but because one has come to mistrust any
"meaning" in suffering, indeed in existence. One inter-
pretation has collapsed; but because it was considered
the interpretation it now seems as if there were no
meaning at all in existence, as if everything were in

In order to move further into Nietzsche's characterization of

nihilism and his critique of philosophy generally, it is necessary now

to introduce his fundamental metaphysical conception, the will to power.

This most basic principle of Nietzsche's philosophy is difficult to

understand and the reader may feel that he never comes to an adequate

grasp of the concept. In the final chapter of this thesis, I will

discuss this problem more thoroughly and suggest there are necessary

reasons for the difficulty. For the present, however, I would like to

make the connection between Nietzsche's concept of nihilism as presented

in its most basic form above and the will to power. As far as I am

aware, this connection has been treated adequately only by Heidegger,

yet it is absolutely imperative to understand this connection if

Nietzsche's philosophy is to be comprehended as a unity.

The will to power is an autonomous principle whose autonomy is

revealed in the process of valuation/devaluation discussed above. It

is definitive for all life; in fact, life is the will to power for

Nietzsche. He has Zarathustra say, "wherever I found life, I found

the will to power."1 The will to power exhibits a dialectical process

of the Hegelian type in that it represents a self-contained principle

which operates through a simultaneous process of creation and destruc-

tion. This is in fact the basis of Nietzsche's many statements

asserting that all creating whether artistic or otherwise involves a

necessary destroying. Every increase in power involves a simultaneous

decrease. One might translate this as "you can't get something for

nothing" or creation ex nihilo is not permitted. Nietzsche attempts

to make this point over and over again.

Displeasure, as an obstacle to its [an organism's]
will to power is therefore a normal fact, the normal
ingredient of every organic event; man does not avoid
it, he is rather in continual need of it; every victory,
every feeling of pleasure, every event, presupposes a
resistance overcome.1

Overall insight. -- Actually, every major growth is
accompanied by a tremendous crumbling and passing away:
suffering, the symptoms of decline belong in the times
of tremendous advances; every fruitful and powerful
movement of humanity has also created at the same time
a nihilistic movement. It could be the sign of a crucial
and most essential growth, of the transition to new
conditions of existence, that the most extreme form of
pessimism, genuine nihilism, would come into the world.
This I have comprehended.15

Above we saw Nietzsche characterize philosophy as imposing "upon

becoming the character of being." If this quotation is completed we

get "To impose upon becoming the character of being -- that is the

supreme will to power." The philosopher, then, exercizes the "supreme

will to power." He attempts to characterize existence as a whole; he

attempts to say that things are thus and not otherwise. Of course

other people besides philosophers need to impose a stable set of

interpretations or values on their world, but the philosopher is the

peculiar type whose job it is to make all of this explicit. For others,

the basic ways in which they characterize experience remain at a

subterranian level.

Nietzsche's concept of power is, of course, basic to his position.

It will therefore be useful to clarify this concept. To do this I would

like to develop the concept in basically the way Heidegger does in his

commentary on Nietzsche. Heidegger describes the situation as follows:

Every power is only power insofar as and so long as
it is more power, that is, power increasing. Power can
hold itself in its essence only as it climbs over and
reaches beyond an already achieved stage of power, we
say: overpowers. As soon as power remains at one stage
of power, it is already without power. (Jede Macht ist
nur Macht, sofern sie und solange sie Mehr-Macht d.h.
Machtsteigerung ist. Macht kann sich nur in sich selbst,
d.h. in ihrem Wesen halten, indem sie die je erreichte
Machtstufe, also je sich selbst ibersteigt und dberholt,
wir sagen: nbernmchtigt.)16

Power is not an entity in itself but is only recognized insofar as it

is active or has concrete effects. The point here parallels the kind

of arguments designed to eliminate the old notion of "force" in physics

as some kind of entity or substance with a status apart from some

perceivable change. Analogously, something is said to possess power

only insofar as there is an overcoming of a resistance or a movement

from one power stage to another. For Nietzsche, life as will to power

meant that, as living, an organism was in a constant state of overcoming

-- generation and degeneration. From this point of view, to speak of a

power which could not manifest itself would be to speak nonsense. When

the process of constant overcoming or growth ceases, this is equivalent

to death. It is important to see in this description that, consistent

with a dialectical position, there is no question of a one-sided


interpretation of life. This theory makes life and death complemen-

taries, indeed, necessary counterparts. There is simply the process

with its two sides of overpowering and being overpowered. The

following unpublished selection may be enlightening,

My idea is that every specific body strives to
become master over all space and to extend its force
(-its will to power) and to thrust back all that resists
its extention. But it continually encounters similar
efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming
to an arrangement ("union") with those of them that are
sufficiently related to it.17

Once the dialectical character of Nietzsche's fundamental concep-

tion is understood, it becomes more understandable why "the entire

idealism of mankind hitherto is on the point of changing suddenly into

nihilism ...." If as Nietzsche asserts, the erection of ideals is a

consequence of life which is the will to power, then man's idealizing

function must participate in the dialectic manifested in the will to

power; "the highest values" must "devalue themselves." We have reached

here an explicit connection between the will to power and nihilism.

The remainder of this chapter will be concerned with nihilism and the

will to power in connection with man's idealizing function, the positing

of "values" and "truths" and the attempt to give a meaning or inter-

pretation to existence.

Nietzsche usually makes no explicit distinction between ideals,

values and truths. In general, however, we can say that "value" is used

in a more primary sense; closer to the word 'interpretation'. At times

Nietzsche uses the words 'ideals', 'values' and 'truths' in a more

common way. When reading Nietzsche, one must be careful not to confuse

the senses of these words. In On the Genealogy of Morals (Zur

Genealogie der Moral), for example, we rend, "... the value of these

values themselves must first be called in question.18 The second use

of the word 'value' refers to traditional moral interpretations while

the first refers to the condition of man as part of life or will to

power. Furthermore there are numerous instances of the following type:

"The question of values is more fundamental than the question of

certainty: the latter becomes serious only by presupposing that the

value question has already been answered."9 In addition, "... we know,

too, that reverence for truth is already the consequence of an illusion

-- and that one should value more than truth the force that forms,

simplifies, shapes, invents.""

In light of the possible confusion regarding ideals, truths and

values as Nietzsche presents them, it is important to be careful in

determining exactly where Nietzsche is directing his criticism of the

tradition. It is sometimes simplistically thought, for instance, that

Nietzsche condemns all valuing, idealizing and "holding for true." He

is often dismissed as a nihilist who believes in nothing, claims there

is no truth and therefore holds that "everything is permitted."

The criticism Nietzsche directs against the tradition, when viewed

correctly, is always based upon whether values or truths represent a

denial or affirmation of the will to power which means life. His

criticism cannot be directed against the establishing of truths as

such, because this would ignore value or truth-setting as a necessary

process of the will to power as described above. In this respect,

Nietzsche's criticisms are primarily directed against truths as an

attempt to "fix becoming" as "external truths." In an important section

of Thus Spake Zarathustra (Also Sprach Zarathustra) entitled "On

Self-Overcoming" Zarathustra says,

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