German Philosophy in 1912

Ewald, Oscar 1913. German Philosophy in 1912. Translated by E. Jordan. The Philosophical Review 22(5): 484-501.

Pure tehory of knowledge is the philosophical tendency which stretches the concept of knowledge so far as to include within it all questions about the being of things. (Ewald 1913: 484)
This seems to be one of the tendencies of social constructivism.
Kant's results are here regarded as less authoritatuve and significant than his method. The method, however, points back to Plato, since it was Plato who first understood that the procedure of thought does not consist in establishing a rigidly fixed system of ideas, but involves unceasing movement. And for Kant also thought is infinite movement. There is nothing that is not involved in this process of motion, there are no objects at rest, no things in themselves, which thought might, as it were, approach from without in order to imprint its form upon them. (Ewald 1913: 484-485)
Compare this to Peirce's infinite semiosis and the equivalence of thought and sign-processes.
There can be nothing absolutely foreign to thought. Such a conception is precluded by the 'Copernican' revolution of view accomplished by Kant, according to which being finds in thought its ultimate explanation. But the categories must not be regarded as fixed schemes and forms of the mind - an error from which Kant was not quite free. They must not be conceived as proceeding from an immovable point, but rather as constituted by the reciprocal functional relationships and determining conditions; they must be resolved again into the living thought process itself which created them. (Ewald 1913: 485)
This is comparable to the structural-functional approach of the russian formalist school and the Prague Linguistic Circle, i.e. the notions of hierarchy and dominant.
Logical thought becomes a world-creating power since it not merely circumscribes the forms of things, but penetrates into their innermost nature. It must not limit itself to a sensuous significance; it must represent a creative act, a dynamic mode of reality. (Ewald 1913: 486)
Again a congeniality with Peirce, who indeed investigated not only perception but the innermost nature of thought-signs.
Neo-Kantianism denies the possibility of transcending consciousness and reaching the thing in itself, on the grounds that subject and object and the relation between them which is exhibited in an act of knowledge are not immediate reality, but merely an expression of a logical act and similar in character to the limiting concept of a 'thing in itself' which is postulated as lying beyond the correlation of subject and object. (Ewald 1913: 486)
Compare this to how in Peirce's scheme the interpretant mediates the subject and object or the representamen and the object.
Quite recently there appears to be a reaction against this extreme logism (Logismus), of which mention was made in last year's report. (Ewald 1913: 486)
A term that can equally well describe Peirce's semeiotic. The translator has clearly laboured under translating the variants of the word "logic" that appear in this paper. In one instance Logismus becomes "logistics" and in another "logicism".
But in thought values the factual character of thought is not exhausted: thinking is always found connected with a thinking being. And so it appears that the organic unity of subject and object, which thelogicist tries to make dependent on thought, is in reality already presupposed by thought. This is indeed the real sense of the Cartesian principle which forms the point of departure for modern philosophy. Even where the value of thought and its results are still under dispute, the reality of thought, and with it of the thinking Ego, seems assured. The logicist will escape this consequence by regarding pure thinking as a completely impersonal process which does not presuppose the empirical subject, but only creates it continuously. But in that case a superpersonal, metaphysical consciousness must be required as a bearer of thought. And really many logicists recognize the fact that they are driven to this consequence, to which, to be sure, they give a very unsafe and ambiguous expression in the notion of 'consciousness in general.' I have already shown in early articles that only a real consciousness can serve as the bearer of a real process of thought, and that this implies in our case therefore a real All-consciousness liket he Hegelian World-Spirit. Doubtless this position is influenced to a much greater extent by metaphysical considerations than are the theories which refer thought merely to an empirical Ego. (Ewald 1913: 487-488)
This is somewhat related to the cultural semiotic definition of culture as, essentially, a thinking device (a kind of cybernetic system) composed of a collective self (a group with a certain unity and self-description) bearing supraindividual consciousness (here, superpersonal consciousness). E.g. "The world "reality" denotes two different phenomena. On the one hand, this reality is phenomena, in the Kantian sense, i.e. it is that reality which correlates to cultur, either resisting it, or merging with it. On the other hand, there is the noumenal sense (in Kantian terminology) in which we may refer to reality as a space which is forever beyond the limits of culture. However, the whole structure of these definitions and terms changes, if at the center of our world we place not one isolated "I" but a more complex organised space of the many mutually dependent correlative "I"'s." (Lotman 2009: 24)
The notion of an external world is not gained through the operation of intelligence, but through a voluntaristic activity. When we meet with an obstacle in our active willing experience, we become immediately aware of a foreign existence. The consciousness of the object is consequently transferred into a pre-logical sphere. (Ewald 1913: 488)
Similarly, Lotman's argument continues that because of the heterogeneity of culture and complex relationships between the translatable and the untranslatable, there are possibilities for a breakthrough into the space beyond the limits (into the extra-semiotic sphere or, here, into the pre-logical sphere). "Thus, the world of semiosis is not fatally locked in on itself: it forms a complex structure, which always "plays" with the space external to it, first drawing it into itself, then throwing into it those elements of its own which have already been used and which have lost their semiotic activity." (Lotman 2009: 24)
In mathematics thought creates continuously its own objects without regard to whether or not these objects belong to any reality at all. In the concrete sciences, on the contrary, thought is bound up with objects which, by virtue of their own nature, prescribe to thought its direction. (Ewald 1913: 490)
An antinomy not unlike this one can be found very generally between the theoretical and the empirical sciences, between prescriptive and descriptive approaches, etc.
The idealistic objection that even in this case objects are not something given ready-made, is justified in so far that thought is never a mere process of mirroring, but is rather a process of constructing and defining. (Ewald 1913: 490)
I recall the memory theory according to which remembering is not simply recalling a memory like picking up a book and rereading the words we already knew were there, but more like a rewriting activity like glancing at the words in a book for a brief moment and then proceeding to paraphrase in new words what you thought that given passage said. E.g. every remembering is re-membering (if that distinction makes sense).
The process of construction and determination, however, is in this case not free, or dominated by merely ideal laws, but is dominated by the actual character of the material. (Ewald 1913: 490)
I could see the Russian Formalists at the time (1914-1924) interpreting this very passage as saying something like "the process of construction and determination of an artistic work is not free or dominated merely by the artistic idea but by the material itself". It is unknown whether this specific passage was ever read by the Formalists, but the terminology and approach sure is similar.
Knowledge consists neither in mirroring nor in creating; it is a comprehension of realities which are not given, but whcih are made manifest through what is given. (Ewald 1913: 491)
In other words, knowledge does not exactly mirror reality nor is it completely removed from it but rather an interplay between the two.
Broder Christiansen shows another direction of interest in his Philosophie der Kunst< (Verlag von Claus und Feddersen, Hanau). His formulation of the problems - in many respects not unlike that of Guyau - remains much closer to reality, especially to the reality of life. Art is self-revelation of the absolute and the meta-physical in man. (Ewald 1913: 493)
Huh. Broder Christiansen and his book, Philosophie der Kunst, supposedly influenced the Russian Formalis (which is why I seeked out for it and found this paper instead), but this is the only statement about it given here, and it doesn't seem to connect with anything in the Formalist thought, as far as I know.
Christiansen's book Vom Selbstbewusstsein (Verlag Friedrich Feddersen, Berlin, pp. 87) may be considered as a completion of his earlier work. By means of an acute process of analysis, the author tries to reach in the course of the discussion the surprising result that there is no immediate knowledge of the spiritual, and no immediacy of self-consciousness; and that not perception, but rather reflection is the instrument through which the self is known. The depths of the soul life remain unknown. The author seeks a proof of this proposition in the fact that psychology, in spite of efforts of more than two thousand years, is not able to point out the elementary processes of the internal world in a way that is free from contradiction. (Ewald 1913: 194)
The direct equivalent of Selbstbewusstsein seems to be "self-confidence", although it is also used in terms of "self-consciousness" and "self-awareness". In any case it concerns autocommunication and these phrases here indicate that no amount of self-communication will reveal the greatest depths of the self.
For pragmatism it is thecontent of a conception, its serviceableness, whic hgives to the concept its truth-value; "for Goethe it is the process of conceiving, the living function which conception calls into play in connection with spiritual development." (Simmel 1913 in Ewald 1913: 500)
This does not sound like the pragmatism that I know.


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