FROHMAN (Neo-Stoicism and the Transition to Modernity in Wilhelm Dilthey's Philosophy of History) [KW neostoicism].pdf

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Neo-Stoicism and the Transition to Modernity in Wilhelm Dilthey's Philosophy of History Larry Frohman Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol. 56, No. 2. (Apr., 1995), pp. 263-287. Stable URL: Journal of the History of Ideas is currently published by University of Pennsylvania Press. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, avail
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  Neo-Stoicism and the Transition to Modernity in Wilhelm Dilthey's Philosophy of History Larry Frohman  Journal of the History of Ideas , Vol. 56, No. 2. (Apr., 1995), pp. 263-287. Stable URL:  Journal of the History of Ideas  is currently published by University of Pennsylvania Press.Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless you have obtainedprior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you may use content inthe JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is an independent not-for-profit organization dedicated to and preserving a digital archive of scholarly journals. Formore information regarding JSTOR, please contact May 7 14:32:51 2007  Neo-Stoicism and the Transition to Modernity in Wilhelm Dilthey's Philosophy of History Larry Frohman As a historian of ideas, Wilhelm Dilthey is best known for the Introduc- tion to the Human Sciences, his Life ofSchleiermacher and other writings on German Idealism and Romanticism, and his essays on the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the development of the natural system of the seven- teenth century. In this latter group of essays, which are collected in the second volume of his Schriften,' Dilthey argued that the recovery of Stoic philosophy in the later sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries played a central-in fact, nearly constitutive-role in the formation of the modern individual and, more generally, the transition to modernity. Until recently, these writings have received little attention, and the few existing interpreta- tions have sharply criticized Dilthey's arguments. However, I would like to suggest that, for understanding both the transition to modernity and the development of Dilthey's own work, his arguments in these essays are more srcinal and potentially far more important than has generally been recog- nized. These essays are animated and unified by a progressive philosophy of history which was intended both to provide a historical-philosophical foun- dation for Dilthey's systematic philosophical writings in the 1880s and 1890s and to legitimate the political aspirations of mid-nineteenth-century German liberalism. Both of these aims are intricately connected with his account of the way the historical reception of antique Stoicism contributed to solving the problems posed by the dissolution of the medieval world-view and the subjectification of religious belief and science in the sixteenth century. The most important recent critique of Dilthey's arguments is that ad- vanced by Hans Blumenberg. In an Akademieabhandlung composed in con- junction with his Legitimacy of the Modern Age, Blumenberg has argued that Wilhelm Dilthey, Gesammelte Schriften (20 vols. to date, Stuttgart and Gottingen, 1914-90) and Selected Works (2 vols. to date, Princeton, 1985- , cited as G.S. and S. W. respectively. 63 Copyright 1995 by Journal of the History of Ideas, Inc.   64 Larry Frohman the recovery of Stoic philosophy could not have played the central role which Dilthey attributed to it. According to Blumenberg, the experience of an an- thropological minimum under the conditions of a theological maximum'' led to the formulation of a reflexive, intransitive conception of self-preservation, which he regards as the srcin of the modern idea of reason. However, because the problem of radical contingency, which resulted from the increas- ing disproportion between God's ordinate and absolute power in late medi- eval nominalism, could not have even appeared as a problem to the teleologi- cal metaphysics of antique Stoicism, Blumenberg maintains that neo-Sto- icism did not have the intellectual resources which would have enabled it to contribute to the overcoming of the crisis of late medieval thought. Conse- quently, he concludes that Dilthey's interpretation of neo-Stoicism and the natural system is marred by an uncritical reliance on the teleological harmony of man and nature in antique Stoici~m.~ More recently, Giinther Abel has echoed Blumenberg's criticisms of Dilthey, while at the same time criticizing Blumenberg from a perspective which throws much light on Dilthey's actual intentiom3 Abel builds on Blumenberg's anthropological-phenomenological description of the way the disappearance of both the natural and social order in the sixteenth century provided the impetus for the constitution of the modem subject in a process of self-preservation and self-assertion. In contrast to Blumenberg, however, Abel argues that the logos philosophy of the Stoics and Stoic ethics-but not Stoic philosophy of nature-did in fact contribute to the development of that conception of reason which made it possible to overcome the crisis of late medieval nominalism and the modern Gnostic experience of a totally alien and purposeless universe. If neo-Stoicism had srcinally served in the six- teenth century as a doctrine of withdrawal and consolation, Abel argues that, in the work of Justus Lipsius, Guillaume Du Vair, and Pierre Charron, this conception of reason and subjectivity provided a new, constructive founda- tion for ethics and politics which made it possible to transcend the ontologi- cal chaos resulting from the religious wars and developments in science and metaphysics. Hans Blumenberg, Selbsterhaltung und Beharrung. Zur Konstitution der neuzeit- lichen Rationalitat. Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literature in Mainz. Abhand- lungen der Geistes- und sozi lwissensch ftlichen Klasse (1969), Nr. 11, and The Legiti- macy of the Modern Age tr. Robert Wallace (Cambridge, 1983). On antique Stoicism, see Max Pohlenz, Die Stoa: Geschichte einer geistigen Bewegung (Gottingen, 19724). Abel, Stoizismus und Fruhe Neuzeit. Zur Entstehungsgeschichte modernen Denkens im Felde von Ethik und Politik (Berlin, 1978), 7-42. William Bouwsma, The Two Faces of Humanism: Stoicism and Augustinianism in Renaissance Thought, in A Usable Past: Essays in European Cultural History (Berkeley, 1990), 19-73, also notes a new and more constructive function of Stoic thought beginning with Lipsius, Charron, and Du Vair. The only older study of Dilthey's interpretation of the natural system is Franz Borkenau, Der fibergang vom feudalen zum burgerlichen Weltbild. Studien zur Geschichte der Philo- sophie der Manufakturperiode (Paris, 1934).   65 ilhelm Dilthey s Philosophy of History However, the position which Dilthey defended in these essays is not all that different from that adopted by Abel himself, and the validity of these criticisms is limited by the failure of Blumenberg and Abel-as well as other students of Dilthey's work-to examine the systematic philosophical claims advanced by Dilthey in these essays. Although Dilthey's theory of world- views (Weltanschauungslehre) and his extensive writings on the history of occidental philosophy and culture have often been adduced as evidence of his supposed historicism, these writings, which are heavily indebted to Kant's transcendental dialectic, in fact represent one of the most interesting attempts after Hegel to provide a philosophical account of the entire history of occidental thought from the prehistorical era of mythical thought via classical hellenism and medieval Christian philosophy to the Renaissance, the Refor- mation, and ultimately German Idealism. In these writings, Dilthey argued, first, that there was no insuperable opposition between historical consciousness and the search for absolute truths because the central ideas of the occidental metaphysical tradition were themselves of historical srcin and, second, that historical consciousness was not the antithesis of transcendental philosophy, but rather the natural culmi- nation of the human spirit's reflection upon its own immanent limits. Dilthey identified the three fundamental world-views-Naturalism, Subjective Ideal- ism, and Objective Idealism-with the three regulative ideas of pure reason which Kant had analyzed in the Critique of Pure Reason. Kant had argued that these regulative ideas corresponded to the three fundamental forms of judgment-categorical, hypothetical, and disjunctive-and the three mo-ments of syllogistic th~ught.~ ailthey, however, building upon little-studied philosophical anthropology, argued that the three world-views had arisen historically through man's efforts to dominate symbolically and in- strumentally the life-world in which he was embedded. Dilthey's phenom- enology of metaphy~ics ~ econstructs the historical development of these world-views as metaphysical concepts claiming to grasp the essence of reality and the subsequent self-destruction of these metaphysical world- views upon the antinomies inherent in their own aspirations to grasp the totality of possible e~perience.~ On the basis of this proof of the impossibility of the occidental meta- physical project, Dilthey argued in his writings on the Renaissance, the Reformation, and the natural system that the transition to modernity had been made possible by the reconstruction of these quasi-transcendental world-views as regulative ideas immanent in the human spirit. This intellec- Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, tr. Norman Kemp Smith (New York, 1965), 304-7. G.S. I, 406. See my From Idealism to Phenomenology: Politics and the Philosophy ofHistory in the Work of Wilhelm Dilthey (Ph.D. diss., U. California, Berkeley, 1992), chs. 3 and 4.
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