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The Theological ethics of the nineteenth century, in so far as it came not into a relation of complete dependence upon some particular philosopher of the day, remained either upon a purely Biblical ground, mlaking no use or only a very moderate use of philosophical thoughts, or assumed a rather eclectico-philosophical character. Rationalism proved surprisingly unfruitful.
Ethics was treated in a predominantly original manner by Schleiermacher, in a widely differing and irreconcilable double-form of philosophical and of theological ethics,—in the former case entirely irrespective of the God-consciousness, and in the latter, from the inner nature of the pious Christian consciousness,—with great richness and ingenuity of thought, but also without a rigidly scientific form, and, in a violently-revolutionary originality, in many cases beclouding the Biblical view with foreign thoughts.—Rothe shaped his “Theological Ethics” into a system of theosophic speculation, resting upon the philosophy of Hegel and Schleiermacher, but carried out in an unclear originality, covering almost the entire field of Christian doctrine,—constituting a work in which a pious mind, and exotic thoughts deeply endangering the Christian consciousness, go hand in hand.
Although the scientific treatment of the subject-matter of ethics in the earlier and (in the main) Biblical moralists of the nineteenth century, may be regarded as relatively feeble, 360yet they have this not to be despised significancy, that in an age almost entirely estranged from Biblical Christianity they kept alive the consciousness of this estrangement, and faithfully held fast to the indestructible bases of Christian Ethics. Reinhard’s “System of Christian Ethics” (1780-1815) has indeed neither any special depth of thought nor a rigidly scientific form, and contains many insipid and useless discussions, and furnishes no just comprehension of the inner essence of the moral idea; but yet it gives indication of a thorough examination of the Scriptures, and of an unprejudiced observation of real life, furnishing often in detail good and morally earnest discussions, and avoiding all eccentricity. His classification of the whole is poorly adapted to give a clear steadily-progressive development of the subject-matter. In his third edition Reinhard declares himself very decidedly against Kant.—Flatt of Tübingen in his “Lectures on Christian Ethics” (published by Steudel in 1823) gives only carefully-compiled, purely Biblical material, without impressing upon it-a scientific form.—F. H. C. Schwarz of Heidelberg in his “Evangelically-Christian Ethics,” 1821, presents ethics in two different forms, in the first volume in a scientific, in the second in an edificatory form, but which is designed to serve at the same time in elucidation of the first,—presenting for the most part a simple evangelical view, brief, clear,—but without deeper foundation.
De Wette has furnished a threefold treatment of ethics, which more than the above-mentioned works is imbued with philosophical thoughts (from the stand-point of the Kantian Fries). His “Christian Ethics” (1819) one half of which is occupied by the history of ethics (which is introduced between the general and the special part), is more ingenious than profound, and does not appreciate the full significancy of the evangelical consciousness. His “Lectures on Christian Ethics,” 1824, are intended for a wider circle of readers. (His Compendium of Christian Ethics, 1833, is only a brief outline.) With the exception of this rather Rationalistic than evangelical treatment of ethics, Rationalism has, contrary to what might have been expected, produced but very little in the ethical field. The next most noticeable work is Ammon’s (comp. § 43) later “Hand-book of Christian 361Ethics,” (1823, ’38), scientifically very unimportant, and containing, besides many examples and anecdotes, mostly only commonplace thoughts and mere objective observations, without in any degree going into the depth of the subject.—Baumgarten-Crusius in his “Compendium,”252252 Lehrbuch, 1826. breaks already, in many respects, with Rationalism; his work is ill-digested, but in many respects instructive. Kähler, in his “Christian Ethics” (1833; a “Scientific Abridgment,” 1835) hesitatingly endeavors to rise beyond the Rationalistic stand-point, and gives much that is peculiar, and also much that is superfluous.
Philosophical and theological ethics were treated very profoundly and very peculiarly, but in a manner violently revolutionary and different from all precedent treatment of the subject, by Schleiermacher; indeed in no other science does the inner and unmediated scientific dualism of this writer appear so prominently as here. His critical acumen, his restlessly changing and almost fitfully metamorphosing productiveness, showed itself here under the most brilliant forms; but there is for that reason all the greater need of a cautious guarding against being deceived by the arts of his dialectic genius. Introduced into the field of philosophy by the study of the Greeks, and especially of Plato, enthusiastic for Spinoza, and building mostly upon him, but also powerfully incited by Fichte and Schelling, and uniting in himself the collective, anti-historical and anti-Christian culture of his day, Schleiermacher was not able to harmonize his Pantheistic and unhistorical metaphysics with his heart-Christianity, which latter, though sometimes drooping and wounded, yet grew constantly more and more vital with the advance of his years; he left these two forces standing side-by-side in his soul, and honestly entertained and expressed religious convictions with which his philosophical opinions stood in irreconcilable antagonism; and it would be a great mistake to undertake to interpret the ones by the others. Schleiermacher did not rise above this inner dualism,—a state which not every mind would be able to endure. In his first period, he manifested in the field of ethics a keen critical power, but also as yet great unclearness as to the 362positive essence of Christian morality; and he did not keep free from some of the serious errors of the uncurbed spirit of the age. The moral laxity of the “geniuses” then reigning supreme in the world of letters, threw its dusky shadows also over this mighty spirit. His justificatory “Letters” on Schlegel’s immoral “Lucinde,” 1800, were of a nature to be used, and unfortunately not without ground, by Gutzkow in countenancing the “rehabilitation of the flesh” which was then taught by this writer, and in casting reproach upon the sacredness of wedlock.253253 Comp. Vorländer’s: Schleierm.’s Sittenlehre, p. 69; C. H. Weisse in Tholuck’s Litter. Anz., 1835, 408 sqq.; Twesten, in his preface to Schleiermacher’s Grundriss, p. 76 sqq.—In his “Discourses on Religion,” 1799, which breathe a Spinozistic spirit under the drapery of poetic rhetoric, Schleiermacher declares also evil as belonging to, and co-ordinate in, the beauty of the universe. Morality rests upon religion. In his “Monologues,” 1800; which emphasize the ethical phase, there is manifested a bold, high-aiming self-feeling,—the full, overflowing self-consciousness of the youthful genius. Self-examination appears here as the basis and fountain of all wisdom,—not indeed in the sense, that man is to compare himself in his reality with an idea or a divinely-revealed law, in order to arrive at humility and at a consciousness of his need of redemption, but on the contrary it is an immersing of self in one’s own immediate genial reality as the fountain of all truth and strength,—a full, self-satisfying enjoyment of self, a pride-inspired self-mirroring of a nobly-aspiring spirit.254254 Compare the dissenting judgment of Twesten, idem, p. 83 sqq. Though this unhumble spirit of self-enjoying was not peculiar to him, but was rather the spirit then dominant among the excessively self-conscious “geniuses” of the day, still there lhy therein the germ of an ethico-scientific peculiarity of Schleiermacher, as against the Kantian school. In the latter, individual man is a mere moral exemplar shaped after a general pattern, merely a single fulfiller of an impersonal moral law, the essence of which consists precisely in not recognizing the peculiarity of the person, but in throwing it off, and in giving validity only to the general. Schleiermacher maintains, on the contrary, that every man is to represent humanity in a 363peculiar manner, and that, accordingly, it is the very opposite of correct to propose to one’s self simply the question, “whether this my maxim is adapted to be exalted into a law for all men.” Even as the artist does not produce an object of beauty by representing simply abstract, mathematically-correct forms, but by expressing that which is individually-peculiar, so is also the moral man to be an artist, an artist whose task it is to develop himself into a personally peculiar art-work, and not merely into a monotonous expression of the species. He is not to strip off, but, on the contrary, artistically to develop, his personal peculiarity,—he is not to cast himself down before duty as a thought different from his individual personality, but rather on the contrary “constantly to become more fully what he is; this is his sole desire.” Thus Schleiermacher, in opposing the Kantian one-sidedness, involves himself in the opposite one; both positions are equally true and equally untrue, and the Christian view stands in the middle-ground between them. If the Kantian view answers rather to the Old Testament law-system, then that of Schleiermacher would answer rather to the Christian idea of the freedom of the children of God (at least,—in case it were applied to spiritually-regenerated children of God, which, however, is not the case), so that consequently the presentiment of the higher truth turns into untruth,—into a perilous holding-fast to self, and this all the more so for the reason that it is absolutely and independently based upon mere self, for “from within came the high revelation, produced by no teachings of virtue and by no system of the sages.”
The “Elements of a Criticism of Preceding Ethics,” 1803,—able but in a heavy and often unclear style, and hence more celebrated than known,—relate only to philosophical ethics, and discard, in keen but sometimes unjust criticism, all previous methods of treating this science, and present (as opposed to the more usual method of treating of ethics as the doctrine of virtues or duties) the doctrine of goods as the basis of the science, and, hence, ethics as an analysis of the highest good; the good is the objective realization of the moral. The criticism of the work is applied not so much to the contents as to the scientific form, and seeks to show that the contents can be 364true only when the form is perfect; there is no other criterion of truth in ethics than the scientific form. Plato and Spinoza are esteemed most highly. In explaining away the almost unbounded self-feeling of the author, large account must be made for the spirit of the times; less care is given to the demonstration of his own view than to the many-sided assailing of the views of others.
The “Sketch of a System of Ethics” (published in 1835 by Schweizer,—from Schleiermacher’s posthumous papers, in an imperfect digest of different sketches; in a briefer and more general form in 1841 as “Outlines of Philosophical Ethics” with an introductory preface by Twesten)255255 Comp. Vorländer: Schleierm.’s Sittenlehre, 1851,—keen and clear but not evangelical. rests upon the philosophy of Spinoza and the earlier views of Schelling, but contains speculations in many respects peculiar, and not always sufficiently developed. In this philosophical ethics Schleiermacher leaves entirely out of consideration the Christian consciousness, and indeed the religious consciousness. in general,—knows nothing of a personal God as moral Lawgiver, nor of an immortal personal Spirit independent of nature; this religious basis is left so entirely in the background that Schleiermacher (as late as in 1825) answered the question: whence, then, arose in the moral law the idea of a “should,” which seems to refer to a commanding will? by saying, that in the Jewish legislation the divine will had been conceived as of a magisterial character demanding obedience; and that this form had also been adopted in Christian instruction, and “thus arose the custom of associating with moral knowledge also the ‘should,’ and this custom was retained even after men had begun to reduce moral knowledge to a general form, wherein there was no longer any reference to an outwardly-revealed divine will, but human reason itself was regarded as the legislating factor.”256256 Werke, iii, 2, 403. The two manifestation-forms of God in Spinoza, namely, thought and extension, and the primitive antithesis of Schelling, reappear here as the antithesis of the universe in reason and nature, in the ideal and the real. The highest antithesis in the world is the antithesis of material (known) and of spiritual (knowing) existence. The existence in which the former element predominates 365is nature; the existence in which the knowing element predominates is reason, the two appearing in man as body and soul. Hence reason is essentially knowing, and, in so far as it is self-active, willing. Speculative reason is ethics, which has, then, physics over against itself, the two embracing the whole field of science, so that ethics appears essentially as the collective philosophy of the spirit,—an entirely unjustifiable deviation from all previous nomenclature.257257 See his discussion of the difference between natural and moral law: Werke, iii, 2, 397. Ethics presents the collective operation of active human reason upon nature. Hence the aim of moral-effort is, the perfect interpenetration of reason and nature, a permeation of nature by reason, and indeed of all nature in so far as standing in connection with human nature. This interpenetration is the highest good,258258 Ueber das höchste Gut, 1827, ’30; Werke, iii, 2, 446. the sum total of all single goods; it is embodied in the thought of the Golden Age, where man dominated absolutely over nature, and in the thought of everlasting peace, of the perfection of knowledge, and in the thought of a kingdom of heaven, and in a free communion of the highest self-consciousness by means of spiritual self-representation. In the individual the attainment of the moral goal appears as personal perfection, as a perfect unity of nature with intelligence, and hence as a perfect blessedness.—But the unity of reason and nature is to be conceived in a threefold manner: (1) In reference to the end-point of the moral striving, namely, the real unity of reason and nature, as the highest good; herein is embraced the multiplicity of particular manifestations of said unity, and hence of good; this is ethics as the doctrine of goods or as the doctrine of the highest good; (2) in reference to the beginning-point of the moral striving, namely, the efficiency of reason in human nature, and hence said unity conceived as power, that is, as virtue,—the doctrine of virtue;259259 Comp. Abh. üb. d. Behundlung des Tugendbegriffs, 1819; idem 350. (3) in reference to the relation between the beginning-point and the end-point, and hence in the movement of the power toward the goal, and consequently a modus operandi of reason in realizing the highest good; this is the doctrine of duties.260260 Comp. Abh. üb. d. Behandlung des Pflichtbegriffes, 1824; idem 379. Hence a threefold 366manner of presenting ethics is possible and necessary; each embraces really the whole field of the moral, but as considered from a different point of view; each, however, refers to the others. In giving all the goods, one must give at the same time all the virtues and duties, and the converse. However, the doctrine of goods is the most self-based and independent, because it embraces the ultimate goal. “Every definite existence is good in so far as it is a world for itself, a copy of absolute being, and hence in the disappearing of the antitheses”;261261 System, p. 54. a good is “every harmony of particular phases of reason and nature,”—that wherein “the interpenetration of reason and of nature is independently brought about, in so far as this unity of reason and nature bears itself like the whole in an organic manner.262262 Ibid., p. 72.—The doctrine of goods alone is fully developed, while the doctrine of virtue and of duties is treated but very briefly and meagerly.
In the doctrines of goods Schleiermacher distinguishes a twofold moral activity: (1) In so far as reason exerts itself upon nature as external to it, it is organizing, in that it makes nature an organ of reason; (2) in so far as the interpretation of reason and nature is already posited, the activity of reason is of a symbolizing character, in that it makes itself recognizable in its work. These two activities manifest themselves in turn in two different manners. In as far, namely, as reason is the same in all men, in so far also these two activities are alike in all; but in as far as individual men are originally and in their very idea different from each other, in so far also is the activity of an individual character, shaping itself in a peculiar manner in each individual. This notion of a legitimate personal peculiarity, Schleiermacher emphasizes very strongly, without, however, really grounding it philosophically.—Virtue expresses itself either as enlivening or as militant: as enlivening, it expresses the harmonious union of reason and nature; as militant, it overcomes the resistance of nature; under another phase it is either cognoscitive or representative; thus we arrive at four cardinal virtues:—the enlivening virtue as cognoscitive or representative is wisdom or soundness of judgment; as representative it is love; the militant virtue as cognoscitive is prudence; 367as representative it is persistence. (In his academical Dissertation on the notion of virtue, Schleiermacher varies in form somewhat from his System of Ethics.)—The very unequal carrying out of the subject in detail presents, together with great acumen, also much unsound and fruitless sophistry; the brilliant thoughts shoot forth in every direction in sharp-cut crystal-gleams before the dazzled eye of the beholder, but often only to dissolve themselves suddenly again into a state of formless fluidity. The interrupted, incomplete, un-uniform presentation, as given in the hastily-edited edition, render the reading of this work very difficult, and the ethical results appear by no means so rich as, from the pretensions of the system, one might be led to expect; and it is often impossible to resist the impression that the work abounds in unprofitable sophistry. The academical Essays that belong here, though ably developed, present after all but mere fragments of the whole.
A wholly different picture is furnished by the Theological Ethics, which was edited by Jonas in 1843, from Schleiermacher’s posthumous papers, and from notes written by his hearers, under the title: “Christian Ethics according to the Principles of the Evangelical Church.”263263 Die christliche Sitte, etc. The idea of the moral is developed from the Christianly-determined self-consciousness; hence ethics is the analysis and presentation of the Christian self-consciousness, in so far as the same tends to pass over into act. The moral subject is not considered as a mere isolated individual, but predominantly as being a member of the Church, and as influenced by the spirit of the Church. The state of the human self-consciousness as in communion with God through Christ, is salvation and blessedness. This salvation, however, is primarily merely an incomplete but progressive one, seeing that we are always still in need of redemption; hence our life is a constant alternation of pleasure and unpleasure, and therein lies an “impulse” to activities in view of arriving at true blessedness. In unpleasure lies the impulse to a manner of action whereby the momentarily-disturbed normal state is to be restored, that is, a restorative or purifying manner of action; in pleasure lies the impulse to a manner of action which subordinates a lower life-power (as willingly yielding itself to a higher one) directly and without any resistance to the higher 368one, thus educating the lower power, and, hence, deepening and extending the harmony of the two,—the deepening and extending manner of acting. Both manners of acting aim at effecting something, at bringing about a change, and, hence, constitute unitedly the operative form of action, whereby man is to pass from one condition into another. The purifying form of action relates primarily to Christian communion, and appears as Church-discipline and as Church-reform (reformatory action); and then again, in relation to civil society, as domestic discipline, as the administration of civil justice, as State-reformation, and as purifying action in the relation of one state to another.—The extending form of action, which is essentially the educating of the, as yet lower, but willing life through the higher, takes place primarily in the sphere of the Church,—aims to widen and intensify the efficaciousness of the Holy Spirit as dwelling in the Church, and of Christian sentiment. This presupposes the propagation of the human race, the production of human personalities. Hence the extending form of activity in the Church is primarily the communion of the sexes, and then the inner extending and heightening of the life of the Church. Then also the extending form of action relates to the state, and looks to the training of all human talents, and to the transforming of nature for the spirit,—in both cases as one common act of all the individuals belonging to the human race, and hence a maturing of all the citizens through spiritual and material commerce; (in this connection it is treated of property, of trade, of money, etc.). This is the first part of ethics, that which embraces the operative form of action.
Now, between the moments of pleasure and unpleasure there occur moments of satisfaction (and which are consequently distinguished from those of pleasure), that is, of relative blessedness, the fundamental feeling proper of the Christian, and which is at the same time also an impulse to acting. This acting, however, aims not at effecting a change, but only at revealing itself outwardly, at making known its condition of happiness to others, and hence is not an operative but a representative acting. The operative form of acting is only the way for attaining to the perfect dominion of the spirit over the flesh, that is, to the feeling of blessedness; and the active 369expression of this feeling and of this dominion is the representative form of action, which manifests this inner self-consciousness by means of communion with others, and hence from motives of love. The essence of love is the inner necessity of the constant intercommunion of self-consciousness as separated by personality,—rests upon communion, and develops it to a higher degree. Although the representative form of action takes its rise from the communion of the subject with God, yet this communion is mediated by the Holy Spirit that dwells in the Christian society. Hence the representative form of action relates primarily to the evangelically-religious communion,—is divine worship, or the sum total of all actions whereby we present ourselves as organs of God by means of the Holy Spirit; it embraces, in the wider sense, also the virtues of chastity, patience, endurance, humility, in so far as in them is manifested the dominion of the flesh over the spirit. Then again, this form of action relates to general human communion, which is the outer sphere of this action, as divine worship is the inner, in other words, the sphere of social life, the representative form of action in the intercourse of men, as not immediately connected with Christian communion, not, however, as an operative form of action, but predominantly merely as beholding and enjoying. In this connection, Schleiermacher considers, first, the social life proper, and particularly social intercourse in eating and drinking under circumstances of luxury and decoration, and, then, art, and lastly play.
However much we may admire the creative genius whereby Schleiermacher endeavored to establish and carry out his highly peculiar classification of ethics, still in reality we cannot but declare it as unadapted and unsuccessful; and, in spite of the great and almost idolizing admiration shown by the public for the skillful thought-artist, this piece of art has not succeeded in calling forth any imitation. At the very first glance one recognizes the utter unnaturalness of making Christian ethics begin with Church-discipline and Church-reformation, and close with the subject of play; while, in the second part, is presented the widening form of action in Church-communion, and, in the third, the ecclesiastical worship of God,—as also the unnaturalness of placing sexual communion alongside 370of Church-communion as simply its presupposition, and of treating it only subsequently to the discussion of Church-discipline and domestic discipline,—and of treating of four Christian virtues, in isolation from all the others, under the head of divine worship, and among them that of chastity, which of course falls under the head of sexual communion, whereas in fact all and every other of the Christian virtues might with just as good right be treated under the rubric of divine worship. The chief subdivisions of Christian acting as purifying, extending and representative acting, cannot by any means be sharply separated from each other; on the contrary, in each one of them also the other is necessarily involved; the extending or distributive acting is not possible otherwise than by a representing. At all events the purifying activity could not be the first, for the obtaining and confirming of life-communion with God must, as moral activities, precede the purifying of the already-obtained communion. The feelings of pleasure and displeasure are, as pure states of experience, not by any means per se the bases of the Christianly-moral activity; both feelings may per se be just as readily-immoral as moral; and the first moral striving must be directed to the end that the pleasure and displeasure themselves be moral, whereas they are here presupposed unconditionally as “impulses” to the moral; but this system of ethics is not written for saints (who might indeed be regarded as determining themselves by the simple feeling of pleasure or unpleasure per se), since it sets out with a purifying form of action, relating to the subject himself. It is true, Schleiermacher brings this pleasure and displeasure into relation to communion with God; but the apostle distinguishes, also in the saints, a pleasure and a displeasure in this God-communion (Rom. vii, 22 sqq.); hence if there exists also in the Christian, before his final perfection, as yet an unpious pleasure and an unpious displeasure, it follows that the moral striving must in fact direct itself primarily upon this pleasure and unpleasure. Furthermore, the entirely unusual separating of the pious pleasure-feeling and of the blessedness-feeling (so fully that two chief-divisions of ethics are based thereupon), is neither justifiable nor practical. The objective goal of the moral activity, that is, the doctrine of moral good, is rather presupposed than developed. Knowledge or Christian 371wisdom is thrown quite disproportionately in the background, behind the subjects of feeling, of disposition, and of acting. In general we find, notwithstanding the great dialectic art employed, especially in the analysis of ideas, still quite frequently an indefiniteness and unfruitfulness of the moral ideas in their practical significancy,—an excessive prominence of the subjective peculiarity and a corresponding unprominence of a simple Biblical spirit. The ecclesiastical element with which, from unecclesiastical quarters, Schleiermacher has been reproached, is in fact reduced in him to its merest minimum. “With the exception of the free activity of the Holy Ghost nothing is to be regarded as absolutely fixed by the Holy Scriptures, but every thing as accepted only provisionally, and to be regarded as remaining subject to a constant revision.” All symbolical settlings of doctrine are Romanizing, and must be made revocable.264264 Christl. Sitte., etc., Beil., p. 184. We cannot see, however, why precisely the activity of the Holy Ghost is to be regarded as an absolutely-established point, and not also subject to a constant revision,—why it is not “revocable”; and just as little can we see why this activity, if it is valid at all, should not lead to a real knowledge of the truth, and hence to a definitively-established knowledge.
Richard Rothe, standing in part upon Schleiermacher’s stand-point, but also making use of Hegelian and Schellingian philosophy in combination with his own somewhat peculiar and daring form of speculation, furnishes, in his “Theological Ethics ” (1845-’49, thoroughly revised, 1867) a system of theosophy embracing also a large portion of dogmatics and even some extra-theological topics, which, however much we may admire its erudition and earnest thought-labor, yet, in view of its wonderful commingling of Christian faith, extra-Christian philosophy and extra-philosophical fantasy, we cannot avoid regarding as a failure. Rothe manifests, in contrast to a large number of more recent Speculative theologians, an estimable sense for scientific honesty; and where he deviates from the ecclesiastical and Biblical view (and this occurs in very essential and fundamental things) there he does not disguise the antithesis in fine-sounding words; not every one, however, could succeed 372so naïvely as Rothe in harmonizing with a pious faith in other respects, such questionable contradictions to the general Christian consciousness as are found, e. g., in his doctrines of the omniscience of God (which he limits to the past, the present, and the necessary), and in his doctrine of the church (which he treats in the spirit of entire anti-ecclesiasticism). His merely-apparently profound and frequently very unbridled speculations do not constitute a steadily progressive and regularly-developed line of thought, but are in many respects mere plays of thought and fantasy; and it is only after passing through these portions of the work (which, though treated with a certain amateur-fondness, are yet really very unfruitful of ethical results, and are presented in a not unfrequently sadly misused language), that we enter, in the third part, upon a frequently excellent, beautifully-presented, and really ethical current of thought, though not without also occasionally meeting with surprising eccentricities. Rothe’s view of ethics as a science we have already mentioned (§ 3, § 4).—The moral task of man is, by virtue of his free self-determination, to appropriate material nature to his own personality; hence the idea of the moral is: “the real unity of the personality and of material nature, a unity as impressed upon nature by the personality itself in virtue of its nature-determining functions, or, the unity of the personality and of material nature as the appropriatedness of the latter to the former.” Morality is an independent something alongside of piety, and rests by no means upon piety,—is entirely co-ordinate to and independent of it. Ethics falls into three divisions: it considers (1) the moral as being a product, that is, the pure and full manifestation of the moral in the unfolded totality of its special moments and of their organization into unity, that is, the moral world in its completeness—the doctrine of goods. The good is the normal real unity of the personality and of material nature, the appropriatedness of the latter to the former. Here Rothe considers, first, the highest good as an abstract ideal, irrespective of sin; (in this connection are treated also of six forms of moral communion, of which the highest and most comprehensive is the State; which is ultimately destined to embrace all moral life, and to absorb the communion of piety, namely, the church, into 373itself; the church has only a transitional significancy, but the state a higher, permanent one). Hereupon follows a complete treatment of eschatology. The other, next-following, phase is the highest good in its concrete reality; here it is treated, first, of sin, as something inhering in human nature, and hence necessary and originally co-posited in the divine world-plan; and, then, of redemption; where a complete doctrine of redemption is presented. (2) The causality or power bringing forth this product, that is, virtue, and hence the doctrine of virtue, is treated of in the second part, and, in connection therewith, also the corresponding un-virtues. (3) As this power is a self-determining one, hence there is need of a determined formula of the moral product, namely, a moral law, by the observing of which, on the part of the producing moral power, the real production of the moral world is conditioned, namely, the doctrine of duties, which in turn falls into the doctrine of self-duties and the doctrine of social duties.—In the two first and rather speculative parts of the work, Rothe treats of many things which one would not look for in a work on ethics, e. g., of pure matter, of space and time, of extension and motion, of atomic attraction and repulsion, of-gravity, of fluidity, of crystallization, of vegetation, of comets, and the like; these digressions into the sphere of natural philosophy belong among the oddities of the work. The excessively artificial schemata are repeated in constant and very strange application, the quadropartite division being throughout observed, even though the observing of it requires the invention of entirely new definitions and new words; and not unfrequently are found entirely useless and profitless splittings of ideas. The chief fault of this work, however, seems to us to lie in the fact, that it unhesitatingly lays at the foundation of Christian Ethics, theories which are utterly foreign to the Christian world-theory, such as that of the philosophical ethics of Schleiermacher, which, however, Schleiermacher himself declared to be inapplicable to Christian ethics. Rothe’s notion of the moral is endurable only in a philosophical system such as Schleiermacher’s; and, even there appearing only as an oddity, is not only per se entirely unsound, but also utterly in contradiction to the entire evangelico-ethical consciousness. This consciousness has as 374its moral goal something utterly other than the appropriating of material nature to the personal nature; the kingdom of God has with this nature primarily and essentially nothing to do.
The other more recent writers on ethics keep themselves more independent of recent philosophy. The work of Harless: “Christian Ethics” (since 1842 in five almost similar editions; the sixth edition, 1864, greatly enlarged), is a brief, able and purely-Biblical treatise,—practical, purely-evangelical and well written; but the scientific form is faulty; the ideas are not sharply distinguished nor always held fast to; the clearness is more frequently appearance than reality; the development of thought is neither vigorous nor uninterrupted; the classification (salvation-good, salvation-possession, salvation-preservation) is not capable of being kept distinct; the second and third parts overlap each other, for there is no possession without preservation; and what appears here as preservation is in fact possession; the general introduction is insufficient, and Harless himself says of his book, that it contains “no trace of a system.”265265 Vorr. z. 6 Au. XV.—The work of Sartorius: “The Doctrine of holy Love, or Elements of Evangelico-Ecclesiastical Moral Theology,” (third edition, 1851-’56), is intended for the general public, and is not a scientific treatise, nor yet a book of edification; but it goes beyond the limits of mere ethics, and embraces love in the widest sense; hence it treats also of the love of God to himself, and of its realization in the Trinity, and to man,—also of creation and redemption, thus combining much dogmatical matter with ethics. The spirit of the work is purely evangelical, of ardent faith-enlivened and enlivening. The discussion, however, remains mostly in the sphere of the general; the individual moral phenomena are neither completely nor closely examined.—(W. Böhmer: “Theological Ethics,” 1846-’53).—C. F. Schmid’s “Christian Ethics,” edited by Heller, 1861, is of a truly Biblical spirit,—earnest, judicious, and giving evidence of Christian life-experience; the scientific classification and form are not happy—are not derived fromf the subject-matter, but outwardly thrown upon it; many weighty points are omitted, and the manner of treatment is unequal.—Palmer’s “Ethics of Christianity,” 3751864, is an outline destined for wider, cultivated circles; the view taken is sound and evangelical, morally earnest and judicious, and the style pleasing, light, and untechnical.—T. Culmann’s “Christian Ethics,” first part, 1864, is based upon Baader’s theosophy, and is in sharp antithesis to all rationalistic superficiality, although, notwithstanding its many ingenious and even profound thoughts, it strays away into many, and even anti-Scriptural, assumptions and dreamy brain-fancies.
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