Hartmann, Eduard von
Eduard von Hartmann 1842-1906
(Full name Carl Robert Eduard von Hartmann) German philosopher and dramatist.
Hartmann's philosophical writings generally are categorized as belonging to the pessimist school of philosophy, which also includes the works of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, Italian philosopher and poet Giacomo Leopardi, and English Romantic poet Lord Byron. The pessimists held that life is inherently less than ideal and that humankind is born to sorrow in a world that provides the worst possible existence. Hartmann, however, attempted to reconcile the work of Immanuel Kant and Georg Hegel with the atheistic suppositions of Schopenhauer. With his concept of the Unconscious as the unifying force behind the actions of all living beings, Hartmann established himself as a precursor to such modern theorists as William James and Sigmund Freud.
Hartmann was born in Berlin, the only child of a Prussian officer and his wife, and a precocious student at the Künigliche Seminarschule and the Friedrichs-Werdersche Gymnasium. He entered the Artillery and Engineering School in 1859 and obtained an army commission in 1860. A knee injury that would plague him for the rest of his life caused Hartmann to abandon his military career and pursue his interests in painting and music, ultimately dedicating himself full-time to his passion for philosophy. He finished both his doctoral degree in philosophy and his major work Philosophy of the Unconscious in 1867. Hartmann married his first wife, Agnes Taubert, in 1871. Agnes Hartmann prominently championed her husband's philosophy with her 1873 essay “Pessimism and Its Opponents,” which offered a scientific rather than emotional defense of Hartmann's pessimism. In 1876 both Hartmann's wife and his father died, and he published The Phenomenology of the Moral Consciousness. He married Alma Lorrenz in 1878, and the couple endured her prolonged illness and Hartmann's knee ailments, which confined him to either crutches or a wheelchair for the remainder of his life. The Hartmanns left Berlin in 1885, relocating to Gross-Lichterfelde, where he continued to write until his death from stomach ailments in 1906.
While publishing on a wide variety of scientific, aesthetic, and philosophical subjects throughout his career, Hartmann is perhaps best remembered for his Philosophy of the Unconscious, a work that he continued to expand into three volumes. In this work Hartmann advocated the Unconsciousness as the combination of the inseparable nature of Schopenhauer's “Will” and Hegel's and Kant's “Intellect.” Hartmann argued that because life exists as an infinite and random combination of unintelligible forces, it is impossible to ascribe scientific or theological explanations to even the most mundane aspects of existence. Hartmann was categorized as a pessimist because of this work's assertion that nonexistence is preferable to existence. He supported his hypothesis by setting forth his “three fallacies of Happiness.” Hartmann's first fallacy was that happiness exists in the present, to which he responded that all pleasures or contentments are derived from painful processes that vastly outweigh the present happiness. Hartmann's second fallacy was that happiness was reserved for the hereafter, to which he responded that there is no guarantee of a life beyond this realm of existence. His third fallacy is that the human race is endeavoring to create a better world for the future, to which Hartmann responded that humankind historically acts upon its vices, actions that he perceived are more rather than less prevalent. He further supported his last argument by contrasting medical and technological advancements of the nineteenth-century with the progress of disease and overpopulation, and further asserted that humankind will forever succumb to old age, illness, poverty, and discontent. Hartmann's subsequent works—most notably Die Phänomenologie des sittlichen Bewusstseins (1879)—mostly expanded upon his first fallacy of happiness by arguing that pessimism is a valid groundwork for a contemporary system of ethics and religion. Because pessimism embraces the true natures of humankind and its world, argued Hartmann, it is the only valid system of belief to prepare for the inevitable demise of the universe. Although many of Hartmann's theories have been discounted by critics and philosophers since the publication of Philosophy of the Unconscious, he is nevertheless considered a major speculative idealist whose pessimist writings foreshadowed and influenced twentieth-century nihilism, as well as established the groundwork for later psychological and philosophical considerations of the human unconscious.
Die Philosophie des Unbewussten [The Philosophy of the Unconscious] (philosophy) 1869
Die Phänomenologie des sittlichen Bewusstseins (philosophy) 1879
Das religiöse Bewusststein der Menschheit (philosophy) 1881
Die Religion des Geistes (essays) 1882
Der Spiritismus [Spiritism] (essays) 1885
Ausgewählte Werke. 13 vols. (philosophy, nonfiction, and essays) 1885-1901
Das Grundproblem der Erkenntnistheorie (philosophy) 1889
Kategorienlehre (philosophy) 1896
Geschichte der Metaphysik. 2 vols. (philosophy) 1899-1900
Die moderne Psychologie [Modern Psychology] (nonfiction) (1901)
Das Problem des Lebens (essays) 1906
System der Philosophie im Grundriss. 8 vols. (philosophy) 1906-09
(The entire section is 74 words.)
SOURCE: “A New System of Philosophy,” in The Academy, Vol. III, No. 43, March 1, 1872, pp. 90-93.
[In the following review of Philosophy of the Unconscious, Lawrenny attempts to discredit Hartmann's conclusions.]
A NEW SYSTEM OF PHILOSOPHY.
The rise of a new philosophical system, which its adherents hail as embodying the most important metaphysical discovery since Hegel and Schopenhauer, cannot be viewed with indifference, and curiosity changes into interest when we find on what principles it claims to rest. Dr. Hartmann modestly confesses that the mysteries of the Dialectic Philosophy are as inaccessible to him as to the ordinary world, and he declares in favour of a simple inductive method, by which he hopes to reconcile or at least to lay the foundations of a system which shall reconcile and embrace the last conclusions of physical science and speculative philosophy. He does not disguise from himself the difficulty of the task, and it would certainly be impossible to exaggerate its importance. In examining the value of his present contribution towards its accomplishment, we must remember that something is gained if only the conditions of the problem have been clearly stated, and the best means for its solution correctly pointed out. For this reason we are anxious to do full justice to the Philosophy of the Unconscious, and though the author is somewhat...
(The entire section is 11903 words.)
SOURCE: “The Scientific Basis of Pessimism: (A) The Pessimists' Interpretation of Physical Nature, The Scientific Basis of Pessimism: (B) The Pessimists' Interpretation of Interpretation of Mind, The Empirical Basis of Pessimism,” in Pessimism: A History and a Criticism, Henry S. King & Co., 1877, pp. 183-255.
[In the following excerpt, Sully questions Hartmann's grasp of science to explain his philosophical theories, and asserts that Hartmann's concept of “Will” does not allow consideration of physical and emotional sensations.]
THE SCIENTIFIC BASIS OF PESSIMISM: (A) THE PESSIMISTS'S INTERPRETATION OF PHYSICAL NATURE.
The pessimism both of Schopenhauer and of Hartmann is based on the conception of will as the reality of the world. This idea, though in its state of complete formation a metaphysical one, is during the earlier stages of its formation a scientific one. Both Schopenhauer and Hartmann profess to ground their ontological reality on the data of science, and both consider it to be inferrible from the known facts of science that will extends through the whole region of phenomena. The examination of this position is, then, the first part of our task in estimating the scientific basis of pessimism.
For the present I do not inquire what will is, and how far the pessimist's conception of it is a correct one. I assume that by will is meant the...
(The entire section is 22553 words.)
SOURCE: “Critique of Pessimism as Taught by Von Hartmann,” in Atheism in Philosophy, Roberts Brothers, 1884, pp. 123-141.
[In the following essay, Hedge takes issue with the Pessimist conclusions made by Hartmann in Philosophy of the Unconscious.]
Does good, or evil, preponderate in the lot of man? Is the human world advancing to millennial peace, or tending to utter ruin? Or does it fluctuate between the two, alternately gaining and losing in certain fixed proportions, which no lapse of time, no social adjustments, and no cosmic revolutions can essentially change? Are Ormuzd and Ahriman so nearly matched that neither the one nor the other in endless ages shall acquire supreme and exclusive sway?
A question old as philosophy, and still awaiting its final solution,—a solution based on irrefragable proofs, and admitting of no appeal. My aim at present is not to establish a thesis on the subject, but to criticise the position of those who maintain the doctrine of an ever-growing ascendency of evil in human life.
Chief among these at present is Eduard von Hartmann, the last representative of the great transcendental movement which dates with Kant. Following in the track of Schopenhauer, with less originality, but finer perceptions and superior dialectic, Von Hartmann devotes a portion of his Philosophy of the Unconscious to the consideration of the question...
(The entire section is 4169 words.)
SOURCE: “The Great Quietus,” in The Philosophy of Disenchantment, Belford Company, 1885, pp. 163-207.
[In the following essay, Saltus examines the life events that shaped Hartmann's embracement of Pessimism, and examines the similarities and differences existing between the philosophies of Schopenhauer and Hartmann.]
It is related of Schopenhauer that he was in the habit of putting down a gold piece on the table d'hôte where he dined, and of taking it up again when the dinner was ended. This gold piece, he explained to his Boswell, was for the waiter the first time that any one of the different officers, who frequented the dining-room, was heard discussing a loftier topic than that which is circled in wine, woman, and song. As the story runs, no occasion ever presented itself in which he could in this manner express his pleasure and contentment; but had he lived long enough to meet Lieutenant Von Hartmann there is little doubt that the gold piece would have formed an immediate and rightful part of the waiter's perquisites.
This gentleman, who is now no longer an officer, but simply a thinker and a man of letters, may, in many respects, be regarded as Schopenhauer's direct descendant. To the world at large very little concerning him is known, and that little is contained in a modest autobiography which appeared a few years ago, and to which his publisher has since added a...
(The entire section is 11505 words.)
SOURCE: “The Epistemology of Ed. V. Hartmann,” in Mind, Vol. 18, No. 5, January, 1893, pp. 188-207.
[In the following essay, Caldwell presents an overview of Hartmann's epistemology.]
In a former paper1 I sought to study the consequences of Schopenhauer's Criticism of Kant's Epistemology. The most important of them, I think, are: the rejection of the doctrine of Subjective Idealism both as regards the form and the matter of knowledge, and the rejection of the thing-in-itself as anything save a conception of the mind. This paper will seek to clear the ground a little further in the same direction by considering the Epistemological problem as seen under the forms of the hypotheses of Realism and Idealism. In particular, I shall seek to consider the statement Hartmann gives of the problem of Epistemology and his treatment of the various solutions which he holds can be given of it. His theory is at once a criticism of some recent chapters in the history of Kantism and itself a chapter in that history.
Curious though it may seem to us in England who have had Berkeley ‘always with us,’ Hartmann, like Schopenhauer begins from Subjective Idealism as the outcome of Kant, or, more strictly, he finds the problem of Epistemology in the Subjective Idealism which is to be traced through various exponents of Kantism like Schopenhauer, Lange, Vaihinger, and even Helmholtz, to...
(The entire section is 8729 words.)
SOURCE: “Eduard Von Hartmann 1842-1906,” in Founders of Modern Psychology, D. Appleton and Company, 1912, pp. 181-243.
[In the following essay, Hall relates biographical details of Hartmann's life in order to explicate his philosophy.]
The most conspicuous figure in the philosophical world for years was unquestionably Hartmann. His opinions, however, were so largely the expression of his remarkable personality, to which attention is irresistibly drawn at so many points in reading his works, that the only logical introduction to an epitome of his philosophy is a brief characterization of the man himself. He was born on February 13, 1842, in Berlin, where nearly all of his life was passed, the only child of a captain and examiner in the artillery school, and was trained at home with the greatest tenderness and devotion by his mother and her maiden sister, although a spirit of military discipline pervaded his father's house. He entered the public school at six, three years in advance of boys of his age. Associating even at school with those older than himself, we can easily believe him when he intimates that he was precocious and somewhat spoiled. His dislike of the routine of school life, his early aversion to Cicero, Demosthenes, history, and mathematics, and his fondness for the English novelists, religious instruction, natural science, and later for Thucydides, Sophocles, mathematics, etc., are...
(The entire section is 19801 words.)
SOURCE: “Hartmann's Pessimism,” in The Philosophical Review, Vol. XXXVIII, No. 4, July, 1929, pp. 350-371.
[In the following essay, Tasanoff places Hartmann's philosophy between those of G. W. F. Hegel and Arthur Schopenhauer, determining that Hartmann escapes major flaws Tasanoff finds evident in the work of the former two philosphers.]
Twenty-five years after the publication of The World as Will and Idea Schopenhauer literally had to beg his publisher Brockhaus to try out a second enlarged edition of his masterpiece. Hartmann's publisher Heymons brought out seven editions of The Philosophy of the Unconscious in six years, to be followed by five more in Hartmann's life-time. That this was merely a publisher's triumph Hartmann would have been the last one to admit. But in the preface to his seventh edition the thirty-two year old author speculated: Had Schopenhauer been fortunate enough to find a real publisher, had the thirty years of unrecognition been spared him, who can tell what his creative powers might have given to the world, and how profoundly and how much earlier the entire course of nineteenth-century philosophy might have been affected thereby! We should not be overwhelmed by these regrets. No author doubts that there is a special pouch in hell for slothful publishers, but it would scarcely do to blame the House of Brockhaus for Germany's long...
(The entire section is 8120 words.)
Darnoi, Dennis N. Kenedy. The Unconscious and Eduard von Hartmann: A Historico-Critical Monograph. The Netherlands: The Hague, 1967, 198 p.
Presents a metaphysical and historical examination of Hartmann's philosophical system.
Kenner, A., ed. “Translator's Preface.” In The Sexes Compared: And Other Essays by Edward von Hartmann, pp. iii-xi. Translated by A. Kenner. New York: MacMillan and Co., 1895.
Relates Hartmann's biographical details and divides his career into five distinct periods.
Mitchell, Ellen M. “The Philosophy of Pessimism.” The Journal of Speculative Philosophy 20, No. 2, (April 1886): 187-94.
Places Hartmann as a disciple of Schopenhauer and attempts to discredit pessimism as self-contradictory.
Tsanoff, Radoslav A. “Pessimism and Immortality.” The Philosophical Review 29, No. 6 (November 1920): 547-70.
Compares Hartmann's philosophical writings with the poetry of Italian Giacomo Leopardi.
Whyte, Lancelot Law. The Unconscious before Freud. New York: Basic Books, Inc., 1960, 219 p.
Assesses Philosophy of the Unconscious as an important work, while claiming that it is neither good philosophy nor good science.
Windelband, Wilhelm. A History...
(The entire section is 187 words.)