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SECTION LIX. Man as a Spirit.
Man as created after God’s image is, as spiritualized nature, both spirit and nature, and also the real unity of the two.
A. As a spirit he is a rationally-free, self-determining being, attaining to his full, peculiar reality through free activity. The basis and essence of this spirituality is personal self-consciousness. Only in so far as man is self-conscious can he be moral, and by virtue of this self-consciousness he is answerable for his life,—his life becomes to him a moral one, and is counted to him. But he is conscious of himself as a personal individual, that is, he distinguishes himself from others not merely by his being, but by 37a to him exclusively-peculiar, determined being,—by his peculiar personality, which in this peculiarity does not belong to him directly from nature, but is acquired only by personal, moral activity, and hence constitutes character-peculiarity. The individual being of man is distinguished from that of nature-objects by the fact that it has inherent in itself, as an inner rational power, the destination not to remain a mere individual unit, but to become a personality,—in a word, man is from the very beginning not a mere specimen of his species, but is called to become a peculiarly-determined being.
The Christian idea of man is summed up in the thought of the image of God, and hence presupposes dogmatically the development of the idea of God. The great emphasis which is laid in Scripture on this idea of God-likeness [Gen. i, 26, 27; ix, 6; 1 Cor. xi, 7; James iii, 9; Col. iii, 10; Acts xvii, 28, 29] shows of itself that we have not to do here with a mere poetic figure. All that is created is good,—is an expression of the divine will, and hence is an image of the divine thought; but the rational creature, as the crown of creation, is the most complete expression of this goodness,—is the image of God, bears upon itself the most perfect impress of the Creator. Now as God is essentially a spirit, hence, man is God’s image more immediately only as a rational spirit, whereas the body merely bears on itself, like other nature-objects, the trace of the Creator, but not his perfect impress, and it becomes an image of God only, mediately,—namely, in so far as it is progressively transfigured by the spirit into its own perfect expression. In the Scriptures Christ is called by pre-eminence, the true image of God; but man is called to become like this image [Rom. viii, 29]. Christ is this image not merely as the eternal Son of God, but also and especially as the true Son of Man, who historically and visibly reveals the divine [Col. i, 15]; and as such he is the “first-born among many brethren.”
The rational spirit stands in contrast to mere nature-existence. A nature-entity determines not itself, but is determined 38by a nature-force not lying within its own consciousness,—is even in its activity predominantly unfree, whereas that which constitutes the essence of spirit is, to be free, to determine itself in its peculiarity, to be active toward conscious ends. The brute has not purposes, but only impulses. There is indeed reason in the brute; the brute does not, however, have the reason, but the reason has the brute. The reason that is in nature is only objective rationality; whereas spirit is a subject possessing reason as a consciousness. This consciousness is rational, however, only as self-consciousness, wherein man becomes to himself a real object,—comes into spiritual self-possession, and in this self-possession distinguishes himself from all other objective beings. By virtue of self-consciousness man remains ever in the presence of himself, and at one with himself; and only in virtue of this continuous sameness of the personal spirit, is it morally responsible.
But a spirit is more than a mere numerical individual; nature-creatures differ from others of their species, not by essential peculiarities but by their mere separate being and by outward fortuitous determinations,—are mere essentially-similar specimens of the same kind, mere repetitions of the same existence. But each individual personal spirit has, as distinguished from other personal spirits, a determined peculiarity of its own, which raises it from a mere numerical existence into a determined personality. In self-consciousness man knows himself not merely as a man, but as this particularly-determined man. He bears, therefore, a personal name, the significance of which is, that it is his destination to be something different from others,—to possess in his being something which others neither have nor can have in the same manner. The name is, with man as well as with God, an expression of personal peculiarity—of that which inwardly distinguishes one determined personality from others [Exod. xxxiii, 12, 17; Isa. xliii, 1; xlv, 3, 4; lvi, 5; John x, 3; Rev. iii, 5]; this personal peculiarity the spirit does not have from nature, nor yet is it generated by merely natural development; but the child has from the very beginning the capacity for, and hence the destination unto, such a personality-constituting peculiarity; nor is this capacity a merely conceived possibility, on the contrary it is a real germ; but this germ 39can come to development only by moral activity. This germ of personality which lies in the very essence of the rational spirit does not contain within itself the determined peculiarity; it simply requires development, but as to how, and unto what peculiarity it becomes developed, that depends on the free moral activity of the person himself. That this personal peculiarity does not come from nature, but belongs to the life of the free spirit, is clearly implied in the custom, prevalent among almost all nations and tribes, of name-giving. Nature gives to man at birth his individual existence; the spiritually and historically formed society, or family, gives to him his personal name,—designating thereby either the goal of this personality or its already acquired peculiarity [Gen. iii, 20; iv, 25; v, 29; xxi, 3; xli, 51, 52; Matt. i, 25; Luke i, 60, etc.].
This thought of the moral quality of the personality is not so uncontested as might be supposed. Schleiermacher, in his Philosophical Ethics,44System, p. 93 sqq., 157, 172; comp. Christl. Sitte, p. 58 sqq., and Grundlin. einer Kritik, etc., p. 79 sqq. (2 ed., p. 57); Monologen, 4 Ausg., p. 24 sqq.; Reden, 2. ed., 129. holds that moral individualities differ primitively, before all moral activity, and hence do not merely become different. While preceding moral systems, and especially that of Kant, either overlooked the special peculiarity of the person, or even ignored it as something illegitimate, Schleiermacher emphasizes justly enough the moral significancy of this peculiarity, but lie also rushes to the opposite one-sidedness, and magnifies the difference into a primitive, determined, ante-moral one,—a sort of moral atomistics, which, in order to escape the difficulty of the notion of free self-determination, assumes a much greater incomprehensibility. In a system, sprung up from essentially Pantheistic soil, this view is not inconsequential, inasmuch as here the notion of a really free self-determination is out of the question; but at the same time also the notion of moral personality is precluded, and ethics is reduced to a presentation, not of how man as a free individual should conform himself to a moral idea, but of how he must develop himself in his strictly naturally-determined idiosyncrasy. But a spirit that is absolutely determined by the All (conceived here as 40strictly impersonal) could not essentially differ from a mere nature-creature; even brutes have unfree spirituality. We admit that men, even had they not sinned, would not have manifested perfect similarity, but would have been in some respects differently attuned from nature itself,—as, for example, in the peculiarities of sex, of temperament and of nationality, (see § 67,) but these natural differences affect not the personal essence itself,—do not make of the individual a being strictly personally-different from all others, but are only different traits of entire clans or groups,—are not so much differences of individuals as of races. The fact that in the present condition of mankind, each individual has inborn within him the germ of determined moral peculiarities, of particular vices and the like, is simply a result of his illegitimate abnormal state, and is very far from justifying us in merely cultivating and developing our inborn peculiarities. But Schleiermacher is very erroneous when he regards this original difference, even in spiritual and moral respects, as something necessary and contributive to the aesthetic beauty of the All,—as, for example, when he says: “Some [of the phases of humanity] are the most sublime and striking expression of the beautiful and the divine; others are grotesque products of the most original and fleeting whim of a master-hand; . . . why should we despise that which throws into relief the chief groups, and gives life and fullness to the whole? Is it not befitting that the single heavenly forms should be glorified by the fact that thousands of others bow themselves before them? Undying humanity is unweariedly busy in reproducing itself and in manifesting itself under the greatest variety of manner in the transitory phenomena of finite life. Such is the harmony of the universe, such the great and wonderful simplicity in its eternal art-work. What indeed were the monotonous reiteration of a beau ideal in which, after all, the individuals would be (time and circumstances substracted) strictly like each other-the same formula with the coefficients varied?—what were such a monotony in comparison with this infinite variety of human peculiarities? . . . This individual appears as the rude animal part of humanity, affected only by the first infantile instincts of the race; that other one, as the finest sublimated spirit, free 41from all that is common and unworthy, and with light wing rising above the earth;—but all are there in order to show, by their existence, how the various forces of human nature operate separately and in detail.” (Reden, 2 ed., p. 130 sqq.). Such language outdoes even the Greek distinction of man into barbarous and free-men, and is, as a consistent expression of a purely naturalistic view of the world, in most direct antagonism to the Christian thought of a moral world-order upheld by a holy God.—Rothe (Ethik i, § 120 sqq.) adopts the view of Schleiermacher in a somewhat different, though less consistent form.
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