The Leading Article in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung
|Written||29 June 1842|
Source: Marx-Engels Collected Works, Volume 2, p. 184;
First Published: Supplement to Rheinische Zeitung Nos. 191, 193 + 195, July 10, 12 + 14, 1842;.
This article was occasioned by attacks on the trend of the Rheinische Zeitung on the part of the influential Kölnische Zeitung, which defended the Catholic Church in the 1840s. In 1842 the Kölnische Zeitung, under the editorship of Karl Hermes, a secret agent of the Prussian Government, took an active part in the campaign against the progressive press and progressive philosophical trends, the Young Hegel’s in particular. The article was published in English in the collections: K. Marx and F. Engels, On Religion, Moscow, 1957, pp. 16-40, and Writings of the Young Marx on Philosophy and Society, New York, 1967, pp. 109-30.
Rheinische Zeitung No. 191, July 10, 1842, Supplement[edit source]
Up to now we have respected the Kölnische Zeitung, if not as the “organ of the Rhenish intelligentsia” at any rate as the Rhenish “information sheet” [Intelligenz]. We regarded above all its, “leading political articles” as a means, both wise and select, for making politics repugnant to the reader, so that he will the more eagerly turn to the vitally refreshing realm of the advertisements which reflects the pulsating life of industry and is often wittily piquant, so that here too the motto would be: per aspera ad astra, through politics to the oysters. However, the finely even balance which the Kölnische Zeitung had hitherto succeeded in maintaining between politics and advertisements has recently been upset by a kind of advertisements which can be called “advertisements of political industry”. In the initial uncertainty as to where this new genus should be placed, it happened that an advertisement was transformed into a leading article, and the leading article into an advertisement, and indeed into one which in the language of the political world is called a “denunciation”, [Anzeige] but if paid for is called simply an “advertisement”.
It is a custom in the North that before the meagre meals, the guests are given a drink of exquisitely fine spirits. In following this custom, we are the more pleased to offer some spirits to our Northern guest because in the meal itself, in the very “ailing” [leitender] article in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung, we find no trace of spirit. Therefore we present first of all a scene from Lucian's Dialogues of the Gods, which we give here in a “generally comprehensible” translation,” because among our readers there is bound to be at least one who is no Hellene.
Lucian's Dialogues of the GodsXXIV. HERMES' COMPLAINTS
Hermes. Is there, dear Mother, in all heaven a god who is more tormented than I am?
Maia. Don't say such things, my son!
Hermes. Why shouldn't I? I, who have such a lot of things to attend to, who have to do everything myself, and have to submit to so many servile duties? In the morning I have to he among the very first to get up, sweep out the dining-room, and put the cushions straight in the council chamber. When everything is in order I have to wait on Jupiter and spend the whole day as his messenger, going to and fro on his errands. Hardly have I returned, and while still covered with dust, I have to serve ambrosia. Worst of all, I am the only one who is allowed no rest even at night, for I have to lead the souls of the dead to Pluto and perform the duties of attendant while the dead are being judged. For it is not enough that in my daytime labours I have to he present at gymnastic exercises, act as herald at meetings of the people, and help the people's orators to memorise their speeches. Nay, torn between so many duties, I must also look after all matter concerning the dead.
Since his expulsion from Olympus, Hermes, by force of habit, still performs “servile duties” and. looks after all matters concerning the dead.
Whether Hermes himself, or his son, the goat-god Pan, wrote the ailing article of No. 179, let the reader decide, bearing in mind that the Greek Hermes was the god of eloquence and logic.
“To spread philosophical and religious views by means of the newspapers, or to combat them in the newspapers, we consider equally impermissible."
While the old man chattered on in this way, I became well aware that he intended to deliver a tedious litany of oracular pronouncements. However, I curbed my impatience, for ought I not to believe this discerning man who is so ingenuous as to express his opinion with the utmost candour in his own house, and I went on reading. But — lo and behold! — this article, which, it is true, cannot be reproached for any philosophical views, at least has the tendency to combat philosophical views and spread religious views.
What are we to make of an article which disputes the right to its own existence, which prefaces itself with a declaration of its own incompetence? The loquacious author will reply to us. He explains how his pretentious articles are to be read. He confines himself to giving some fragments, the “arrangement and connection” of which he leaves to the “perspicacity of the reader” — the most convenient method for the kind of advertisements which he makes it his business to deal with. We should like to “arrange and connect” these fragments, and it is not our fault if the rosary does not become a string of pearls.
The author declares:
“A party which employs these means” (i. e., spreads philosophical and religious views in newspapers and combats such views) “shows thereby, in our opinion, that its intentions are not honest, and that it is less concerned with instructing and enlightening the people than with achieving other external aims."
This being his opinion, the article can have no other intention than the achievement of external aims. These “external aims” will not fail to show themselves.
The state, he says, has not only the right but the duty to “put a stop to the activities of unbidden charterers”. The writer is obviously referring to opponents of his view, for he has long ago convinced himself that he is a bidden charterer.
It is a question, therefore, of a new intensification of the censorship in religious matters, of new police measures against the press, which has hardly been able to draw breath as yet.
“In our opinion, the state is to be reproached, not for excessive severity, but for indulgence carried too far."
The leader writer, however, has second thoughts. It is dangerous to reproach the state. Therefore he addresses himself to the authorities, his accusation against freedom of the press turns into an accusation against the censors. He accuses them of exercising ',too little censorship”.
“Reprehensible indulgence has hitherto been shown also, not by the state, it is true, but by 'individual authorities', in that the new philosophical school has been allowed to make most disgraceful attacks on Christianity in public papers and other publications intended for a readership that is not purely scientific."
Once again, however, the author comes to a halt; again he has second thoughts. Less than eight days ago he found that the freedom of the censorship allowed too little freedom of the press; now he finds that the compulsion of the censors results in too little compulsion of the censorship.
That again has to be remedied.
“As long as the censorship exists it is its most urgent duty to excise such abhorrent offshoots of a childish presumption as have repeatedly offended our eyes in recent days."
Weak eyes! Weak eyes! And
“the weakest eye will be offended by an expression which can he intended only for the level of understanding of the broad masses”.
If the relaxed censorship already allows abhorrent offshoots to appear, what would happen with freedom of the press? If our eyes are too weak to bear the “presumption” of the censored press, how would they he strong enough to bear the “audacity” [Übermut] of a free press?
“As long as the censorship exists it is its most urgent duty.” And when it ceases to exist? The phrase must be interpreted as meaning: it is the most urgent duty of the censorship to remain in existence as long as possible.
But again the author has second thoughts.
“It is not our function to act as public prosecutor, and therefore we refrain from any more detailed designation."
What heavenly goodness there is in this man! He refrains from any more detailed “designation”, and yet it is only by quite detailed, quite definite signs that he could prove and show what his view aims at. He lets fall only vague, half audible words intended to arouse suspicions; it is not his function to be a public prosecutor, his function is to be a hidden prosecutor.
For the last time the unfortunate man has second thoughts, remembering that his function is to write liberal leading articles, and that he has to present himself as a “loyal friend of freedom of the press”. Hence he quickly takes up his final position:
“We could not fail to protest against a course which, if it is not the consequence of accidental negligence, can have no other purpose than to discredit the freer movement of the press in the eyes of the public, to play into the hands of opponents who are afraid of failing to achieve their aim in an open way."
The censorship — we are told by this defender of freedom of the press, who is as bold as he is sharp-witted — if it is not the English leopard with the inscription: “I sleep, wake me not!,, a, has adopted this “disastrous” course in order to discredit the freer movement of the press in the eyes of the public.
'Is there any further need to discredit a movement of the press which calls the attention of the censorship to “accidental negligences”, and which expects to obtain its renown in public opinion through the “penknife of the censor"?
This movement can he called “free” insofar as the licence of shamelessness is also sometimes called “free”, and is it not the shamelessness of stupidity and hypocrisy to claim to be a defender of the freer movement of the press while at the same time teaching that the press will at once fall into the gutter unless it is supported under the arms by two policemen?
And what need is there of censorship, what need is there of this leading article, if the philosophical press discredits itself in the eyes of the public? Of course, the author does not want to restrict in any way “the freedom of scientific research”.
“In our day, scientific research is rightly allowed the widest, most unrestricted scope. “
But how our author conceives scientific research can he seen from the following utterance:
“In this connection a sharp distinction must he drawn between the requirements of freedom of scientific research, through which Christianity can only gain, and what lies outside the limits of scientific research."
Who is to decide on the limits of scientific research if not scientific research itself? According to the leading article, limits should be prescribed to science. The leading article, therefore, knows of an "official reason” which does not learn from scientific research, but teaches it, which is a learned providence that establishes the length every hair should have to convert a scientist's beard into a beard of world importance. The leading article believes in the scientific inspiration of the censorship.
Before going further into these “silly” explanations of the leading article on the subject of “scientific research”, let us sample for a moment the "philosophy of religion” of Herr H., [Hermes] his “own science"!
“Religion is the basis of the state and the most necessary condition for every social association which does not aim merely at achieving some external aim."
The proof. "In its crudest form as childish fetishism it nevertheless to some extent raises man above his sensuous desires which, if he allowed himself to he ruled exclusively by them, could degrade him to the level of an animal and make him incapable of fulfilling any higher aim."
The author of the leading article calls fetishism the "crudest form” of religion. He concedes, therefore, what all “men of science” regard as established even without his agreement, that “animal worship” is a higher form of religion than fetishism. But does not animal worship degrade man below the animal, does it not make the animal man's god?
And now, indeed, “fetishism"! Truly, the erudition of a penny magazine! Fetishism is so far from raising man above his sensuous desires that, on the contrary, it is “the religion of sensuous desire”. Fantasy arising from desire deceives the fetish-worshipper into believing that an “inanimate object” will give up its natural character in order to comply with his desires. Hence the crude desire of the fetish-worshipper smashes the fetish when it ceases to be its most obedient servant.
“In those nations which attained higher historical significance, the flowering of their national life coincides with the highest development of their religious consciousness, and the decline of their greatness and their power coincides with the decline of their religious culture."
To arrive at the truth, the author's assertion must be directly reversed; he has stood history on its head. Among the peoples of the ancient world, Greece and Rome are certainly countries of the highest “historical culture”. Greece flourished at its best internally in the time of Pericles, externally in the time of Alexander. In the age of Pericles the Sophists, and Socrates, who could be called the embodiment of philosophy, art and rhetoric supplanted religion. The age of Alexander was the age of Aristotle, who rejected the eternity of the “individual” spirit and the God of positive religions. And as for Rome! Read Cicero! The Epicurean, Stoic or Sceptic philosophies were the religions of cultured Romans when Rome had reached the zenith of its development. That with the downfall of the ancient states their religions also disappeared requires no further explanation, for the “true religion” of the ancients was the cult of “their nationality”, of their “state”. It was not the downfall of the old religions that caused the downfall of the ancient states, but the downfall of the ancient states that caused the downfall of the old religions. And such ignorance as is found in this leading article proclaims itself the “legislator of scientific research” and writes “decrees” for philosophy.
“The entire ancient world had to collapse because the progress achieved by the peoples in their scientific development was necessarily bound up with a revelation of the errors on which their religious views were based."
According to the leading article, therefore, the entire ancient world collapsed because scientific research revealed the errors of the old religions. Would the ancient world not have perished if scientific research had kept silent about the errors of religion, if the Roman authorities had been recommended by the author of the leading article to excise the writings of Lucretius and Lucian?
For the rest, we shall permit ourselves to enlarge Herr H.'s erudition in another communication.
Rheinische Zeitung No. 193, July 12, 1842, Supplement[edit source]
At the very time when the downfall of the ancient world was approaching, there arose the Alexandrine school, which strove to prove by force the “eternal truth” of Greek mythology and its complete agreement “with the results of scientific research”. The Emperor Julian, too, belonged to this trend, which believed that it could make the newly developing spirit of the times disappear by keeping its eyes closed so as not to see it. However, let us continue with the conclusion arrived at by H.! In the old religions, “the feeble notion of the divine was shrouded in the blackest night of error”, and therefore could not stand up to scientific research. Under Christianity, the opposite is the case, as any thinking machine will conclude. At all events, H. says:
"The greatest results of scientific research have so far only served to confirm the truths of the Christian religion."
We leave aside the fact that all the philosophies of the past without exception have been accused by the theologians of abandoning the Christian religion, even those of the pious Malebranche and the divinely inspired Jakob Böhme, and that Leibniz was accused of being a “Löwenix” (a believer in nothing) by the Brunswick peasants, and of being an atheist by the Englishman Clarke and other supporters of Newton. We leave aside, too, the fact that, as the most capable and consistent section of Protestant theologians has maintained, Christianity cannot he reconciled with reason because “secular” and “spiritual” reason contradict each other, which Tertullian classically expressed by saying: “verum est, quia absurdum est”. [It is true because it is absurd] Leaving aside all this, we ask: how is the agreement of scientific research with religion to be proved, except by allowing it to take its own course and so compelling it to resolve itself into religion? Any other compulsion is at least no proof.
Of course, if from the outset you recognise as the result of scientific research only that which agrees with your own view, it is easy to pose as a prophet. But in that case how are your assertions superior to those of the Indian Brahmin who proves the holiness of the Vedas” by reserving to himself alone the right to read them?
Yes, says H., it is a question of “scientific research”. But every research that contradicts Christianity “stops halfway” or “takes a wrong road”. Could there be a more convenient way of arguing?
Scientific research, once it has “made clear' to itself the content of its results, will never conflict with the truths of Christianity”. At the same time, however, the state must ensure that this “clarification” is impossible, for research must never adapt itself to the level of understanding of the broad mass, i. e., it must never become popular and clear to itself. Even when it is attacked by unscientific investigators in all newspapers of the monarchy, it must be modest and remain silent.
Christianity precludes the possibility of “any new decline”, but the police must be on their guard to see that philosophising newspaper writers do not bring about such a decline; they must guard against this with the utmost strictness. In the struggle with truth, error will of itself be recognised as such, without the need of any suppression by external force; but the state must facilitate this struggle of the truth, not, indeed, by depriving the champions of “error” of inner freedom, which it cannot take away from them, but by depriving them of the possibility of this freedom, the possibility of existence.
Christianity is sure of its victory, but according to H. it is not so sure of it as to spurn the aid of the police.
If from the outset everything that contradicts your faith is error, and has to be treated as error, what distinguishes your claims from those of the Mohammedan or of any other religion? Should philosophy, in order not to contradict the basic tenets of dogma, adopt different principles in each country, in accordance with the saying “every country has its own customs"? Should it believe in one country that 3 x 1 = 1, in another that women have no souls, and in a third that beer is drunk in heaven? Is there no universal human nature, as there is a universal nature of plants and stars? Philosophy asks what is true, not what is held to be true. It asks what is true for all mankind, not what is true for some people. Its
metaphysical truths do not recognise the boundaries of political geography; its political truths know too well where the “bounds” begin for it to confuse the illusory horizon of a particular world or national outlook with the true horizon of the human mind. Of all the defenders of Christianity, H. is the weakest.
The long existence of Christianity is his sole proof in its favour. But has not philosophy also existed from Thales down to the present day, and indeed does not H. himself assert that it now puts forward greater claims and has a higher opinion of its importance than ever before?
Finally, how does H. prove that the state is a “Christian” state, that its aim is not a free association of moral human beings, but an association of believers, not the realisation of freedom, but the realisation of dogma?
“All our European states have Christianity as their basis."
The French state too? The Charter, Article 3, does not say: “every Chfistian” or “only a Christian”, but:
"tous la Français sont également admissibles aux emplois civiles et militaires”. [All Frenchmen are equally eligible for civil and military posts.]
Prussian Law, too, Part II, Section XIII, says:
“The primary duty of the head of state is to maintain tranquillity and security, both internally and externally, and to protect everyone from violence and interference in regard to what belongs to him."
According to § 1, the head of state combines in his person all the “duties and rights of the state”. It does not say that the primary duty of the state is to suppress heretical errors and to ensure citizens the bliss of the other world.
But if some European states are in fact based on Christianity, do these states correspond to their concept and is the “pure existence” of a condition the right of that condition to exist?
According to the view of our H., of course, this is the case, for he reminds adherents of Young Hegelianism
“that, according to the laws which are in force in the greater part of the state, a marriage without consecration by the church is regarded as concubinage and as such is punishable under police regulations”.
Therefore, if “marriage without consecration by the church” is regarded on the Rhine as “marriage” according to the Napoleonic Code, but on the Spree as “concubinage” according to Prussian Law, then punishment “under police regulations” ought to be an argument for philosophers that what is right in one place is wrong in another, that it is not the Napoleonic Code, but Prussian law which has the scientific, moral and rational conception of marriage. This “philosophy of punishment under police regulations” may be convincing in some places, but it is not convincing in Prussia. Furthermore, how little the standpoint of “holy” marriage coincides with that of Prussian Law can be seen from § 12, Part II, Section I, which states:
“Nevertheless, a marriage which is permitted by the laws of the land loses none of its civil validity because the dispensation of the spiritual authorities has not been sought or has been refused."
Hence in Prussia, too, marriage is partially emancipated from the “spiritual authorities” and its “civil” validity is distinguished from its “ecclesiastical” validity.
That our great Christian philosopher of the state has no “high” opinion of the state goes without saying.
“Since our states are not merely legal associations, but at the same time true educational institutions, with the only difference that they extend their care to a wider circle than the institutions devoted to the education of youth”, etc., “the whole of public education” rests “on the basis of Christianity”.
The education of our school youth is based just as much on the ancient classics and the sciences in general as on the catechism.
According to H., the state differs from an institution for young children not in content, but in magnitude, its “care” is wider.
The true “public” education carried out by the state lies in the rational and public existence of the state; the state itself educates its members by making them its members, by converting the aims of the individual into general aims, crude instinct into moral inclination, natural independence into spiritual freedom, by the individual finding his good in the life of the whole, and the whole in the frame of mind of the individual.
The leading article, on the other hand, makes the state not an association of free human beings who educate one another, but a crowd of adults who are destined to be educated from above and to pass from a “narrow” schoolroom into a “wider” one.
This theory of education and tutelage is put forward here by a friend of freedom of the press, who, out of love for this beauty, points out the “negligences of the censorship”, who knows how to describe in the appropriate place the “level of understanding of the broad masses” (perhaps the “level of understanding of the broad masses” has recently begun to appear so doubtful to the Kölnische Zeitung because this mass has ceased to appreciate the superiority of the “unphilosophical newspaper"?) and who advises the learned to keep one view for the stage and another for the backstage!
In the same way that the leading article gives documentary evidence of its “inferior” opinion of the state, so it does now of its low opinion of “Christianity."
“All the newspaper articles in the world will never be able to convince a people which on the whole feels well and happy that it is in an unfortunate condition."
We should think so! The Material feeling of well-being and happiness is a more reliable bulwark against newspaper articles then the blissful and all-conquering trust in faith! H. does not sing: “A reliable fortress is our God.” [Martin Luther's choral, Ein Feste Burg] According to him, the truly believing disposition of the “broad masses” is more exposed to the rust of doubt than the refined worldly culture of the “few"!
“Even incitements to revolt” are less feared by H. “in a well-ordered state” than in a “well-ordered church”, which, moreover, is guided in all truth by the “spirit of God”. A fine believer he is! And now for the reason for it! Namely, the masses can understand political articles but they find philosophical articles incomprehensible!
Finally, if the hint in the leading article that “the half measures adopted recently against Young Hegelianism have had the usual consequences of half measures” is put alongside the ingenuous wish that the latest efforts of the Hegelings may pass “without altogether harmful consequences”, one can understand the words of Cornwall in King Lear.
He cannot flatter, he, — An honest mind and plain, — he must speak truth: And they will take it, so; if not, he's plain. These kind of knaves I know, which in this plainness Harbour more craft, and more corrupter ends, Than twenty silly ducking observants, That stretch their duties nicely [Act II, Scene 2]
We believe we would be insulting the readers of the Rheinische Zeitung if we imagined that they would be satisfied with the spectacle, more comic than serious, of a ci-devant liberal, a “young man of days gone by”, cut down to his proper size. We should like to say a few words on “the heart of the matter”. As long as we were occupied with the polemic against the ailing article, it would have been wrong to interrupt him in his work of self-destruction.
Rheinische Zeitung No. 195, July 14, 1842, Supplement[edit source]
First of all, the question is raised: “Ought philosophy to discuss religious matters also in newspaper articles?"
This question can be answered only by criticising it.
Philosophy, especially German philosophy, has an urge for isolation, for systematic seclusion, for dispassionate self-examination which from the start places it in estranged contrast to the quick-witted and alive-to-events newspapers, whose only delight is in information. Philosophy, taken in its systematic development, is unpopular; its secret life within itself seems to the layman a pursuit as extravagant as it is unpractical, it is regarded as a professor of magic arts, whose incantations sound awe-inspiring because no one understands them.
True to its nature, philosophy has never taken the first step towards exchanging the ascetic frock of the priest for the light, conventional garb of the newspapers. However, philosophers do not spring up like mushrooms out of the ground; they are products of their time, of their nation, whose most subtle, valuable and invisible juices flow in the ideas of philosophy. The same spirit that constructs railways with the hands of workers, constructs philosophical systems in the brains of philosophers. Philosophy does not exist outside the world, any more than the brain exists outside man because it is not situated in the stomach. But philosophy, of course, exists in the world through the brain before it stands with its feet on the ground, whereas many other spheres of human activity have long had their feet rooted in the ground and pluck with their hands the fruits of the world before they have any inkling that the “head” also belongs to this world, or that this world is the world of the head.
Since every true philosophy is the intellectual quintessence of its time, the time must come when philosophy not only internally by its content, but also externally through its form, comes into contact and interaction with the real world of its day. Philosophy then ceases to be a particular system in relation to other particular systems, it becomes philosophy in general in relation to the world, it becomes the philosophy of the contemporary world. The external forms which confirm that philosophy has attained this significance, that it is the living soul of culture, that philosophy has become worldly and the world has become philosophical, have been the same in all ages. One can consult any history book and find repeated with stereotyped fidelity the simplest rituals which unmistakably mark the penetration of philosophy into salons, priests' studies, editorial offices of newspapers and court antechambers, into the love and the hate of contemporaries. Philosophy comes into the world amid the loud cries of its enemies, who betray their inner infection by wild shouts for help against the fiery ardour of ideas. This cry of its enemies has the same significance for philosophy as the first cry of the new-born babe has for the anxiously listening ear of the mother: it is the cry testifying to the life of its ideas, which have burst the orderly hieroglyphic husk of the system and become citizens of the world. The Corybantes and Cabiri, whose loud fanfares announce to the world the birth of the infant Zeus, attack first of all the religious section of the philosophers, partly because the inquisitorial instinct is more certain to have an appeal for the sentimental side of the public, partly because the public, which includes also the opponents of philosophy, can feel the sphere of philosophical ideas only by means of its ideal antennae, and the only circle of ideas in the value of which the public believes almost as much as in the system of material needs is the circle of religious ideas; and finally because religion polemises not against a particular system of philosophy, but against the philosophy of all particular systems.
The true philosophy of the present day does not differ from the true philosophies of the past by this destiny. On the contrary, this destiny is a proof which history owed to its truth.
For six years German newspapers have been drumming against, calumniating, distorting and bowdlerising the religious trend in philosophy. The Augsburg Allgemeine sang bravura arias, almost every overture played the leitmotif, to the effect that philosophy did not deserve to be discussed by this wise lady, that it was a rodomontade of youth, a fashion of blase coteries. But, in spite of all this, it was impossible to get away from philosophy, and the drumming was continually renewed, for the Augsburg paper plays only one instrument in its anti-philosophical cat's concert, the monotonous kettle-drum. All German newspapers, from the Berliner politisches Wochenblatt and the Hamburger Correspondent down to the obscure local newspapers, down to the Kölnische Zeitung, reverberated with the names of Hegel and Schelling, Feuerbach and Bauer, the Deutsche fahrbücher, etc. Finally, the public became eager to see the Leviathan itself, the more so because semi-official articles threatened to have a legal syllabus officially prescribed for philosophy, and it was precisely then that philosophy made its appearance in the newspapers. For a long time philosophy had remained silent in the face of the self-satisfied superficiality which boasted that by means of a few hackneyed newspaper phrases it would blow away like soap-bubbles the long years of study by genius, the hard-won fruits of self-sacrificing solitude, the results of the unseen but slowly exhausting struggles of contemplative thought. Philosophy had even protested against the newspapers as an unsuitable arena, but finally it had to break its silence; it became a newspaper correspondent, and then-unheard-of diversion! — it suddenly occurred to the loquacious purveyors of newspapers that philosophy was not a fitting pabulum for their readers. They could not fail to bring to the notice of the governments that it was dishonest to introduce philosophical and, religious questions into the sphere of the newspapers not for the enlightenment of the public but to achieve external aims.
What could philosophy say about religion or about itself that would be worse than your newspaper hullabaloo had already long ago attributed to it in a worse and more frivolous form? It only has to repeat what you unphilosophical Capuchins preach about it in thousands and thousands of controversial speeches — and the worst will have been said.
But philosophy speaks about religious and philosophical matters in a different way than you have spoken about them. You speak without having studied them, philosophy speaks after studying them; you appeal to the emotions, it appeals to reason; you anathematise, it teaches; you promise heaven and earth, it promises nothing but the truth; you demand belief in your beliefs, it .demands not belief in its results but the testing of doubts; you frighten, it calms. And, in truth, philosophy has enough knowledge of the world to realise that its results do not flatter the pleasure-seeking and egoism of either the heavenly or the earthly world. But the public, which loves truth and knowledge for their own sakes, will be well able to measure its judgment and morality against the judgment and morality of ignorant, servile, inconsistent and venal scribblers.
Of course, there may be some persons who misinterpret philosophy owing to the wretchedness of their understanding and attitude. But do not you Protestants believe that Catholics misinterpret Christianity, do you not reproach the Christian religion on account of the shameful times of the eighth and ninth centuries, or St. Bartholomew's night, or the Inquisition? There is clear proof that Protestant theology's hatred of philosophers arises largely from the tolerance shown by philosophy towards each particular creed as such. Feuerbach and Strauss have been more reproached for regarding Catholic dogmas as Christian than for declaring that the dogmas of Christianity are not dogmas o reason.
But if some individuals cannot digest modern philosophy and die of philosophical indigestion, that is no more evidence against philosophy than the occasional bursting of an engine boiler, with consequent injury to passengers, is evidence against the science of mechanics.
The question whether philosophical and religious matters ought to be discussed in the newspapers dissolves in its own lack of ideas.
When such questions begin to interest the public as questions for newspapers, they have become questions of the time. Then the problem is not whether they should be discussed, but where and how they should be discussed, whether in inner circles of the families and the salons, in schools and churches, but not by the press; by opponents of philosophy, but not by philosophers; in the obscure language of private opinion, but not in the clarifying language of public reason. Then the question is whether the sphere of the press should include what exists as a reality; it is no longer a matter of a particular content of the press, but of the general question whether the press ought to be a genuine press, i.e., a free press.
The second question we separate entirely from the first: “Should the newspapers treat politics philosophically in a so-called Christian state?"
When religion becomes a political factor, a subject-matter of politics, it hardly needs to be said that the newspapers not only may, but must discuss political questions. It seems obvious that philosophy, the wisdom of the world, has a greater right to concern itself with the realm of this world, with the state, than has the wisdom of the other world, religion. The question here is not whether there should be any philosophising about the state, but whether this should be done well or badly, philosophically or unphilosophically, with or without prejudice, with or without consciousness, consistently or inconsistency, quite rationally or semi-rationally. If you make religion into a theory of constitutional law, then you are making religion itself into a kind of philosophy.
Was it not Christianity above all that separated church and state?
Read St. Augustine's De civitate Dei, study the Fathers of the Church and the spirit of Christianity, and then come back and tell us whether the state or the church is the “Christian state"! Or does not every moment of your practical life brand your theory as a lie? Do you consider it wrong to appeal to the courts if you have been cheated? But the apostle writes that it is wrong. If you have been struck on one cheek, do you turn the other also, or do you not rather start an action for assault? But the gospel forbids it. Do you not demand rational right in this world, do you not grumble at the slightest raising of taxes, are you not beside yourself at the least infringement of your personal liberty? But you have been told that suffering in this life is not to be compared with the bliss of the future, that passive sufferance and blissful hope are the cardinal virtues.
Are not most of your court cases and most of your civil laws concerned with property? But you have been told that your treasure is not of this world. Or if you plead that you render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that are God's, then you should regard not only golden Mammon, but at least as much free reason, as the ruler of this world, and the “action of free reason” is what we call philosophising.
When it was proposed to form a quasi-religious union of states in the shape of the Holy Alliance and to make religion the state emblem of Europe, the Pope, with profound intelligence and perfect consistency, refused to join it, on the grounds that the universal Christian link between peoples is the church and not diplomacy, not a secular union of states.
The truly religious state is the theocratic state; the head of such states must he either the God of religion, Jehovah himself, as in the Jewish state, or God's representative, the Dalai Lama, as in Tibet, or finally, as Görres rightly demands in his recent book, all the Christian states must subordinate themselves to a church which is an “infallible church”. For where, as under Protestantism, there is no supreme head of the church, the rule of religion is nothing but the religion of rule, the cult of the government's will.
Once a state includes several creeds having equal rights, it can no longer be a religious state without being a violation of the rights of the particular creeds, a church which condemns all adherents of a different creed as heretics, which makes every morsel of bread depend on one's faith, and which makes dogma the link between individuals and their existence as citizens of the state. Ask the Catholic inhabitants of “poor green Erin”,' ask the Huguenots before the French revolution; they did not appeal to religion, for their religion was not the state religion; they appealed to the “Rights of Humanity”, and philosophy interprets the rights of humanity and demands that the state should he a state of human nature.
But, according to the assertions of half-hearted, narrow-minded rationalism, which is in equal measure unbelieving and theological, the general spirit of Christianity, irrespective of differences of creed, should be the spirit of the state! It is the greatest irreligion, it is the arrogance of secular reason, to divorce the general spirit of religion from actually existing religion. This separation of religion from its dogmas and institutions is tantamount to asserting that the general spirit of the law ought to prevail in the state irrespective of particular laws and positive legal institutions.
If you presume yourself raised so high above religion that you are entitled to separate its general spirit from its positive provisions, how can you reproach the philosophers if they carry out this separation completely and not halfway, if they call the general spirit of religion the human spirit, and not the Christian spirit?
Christians live in states with different political constitutions, some in a republic, others in an absolute monarchy, and others again in a constitutional monarchy. Christianity does not decide whether the constitutions are good, for it knows no distinction between them. It teaches, as religion is bound to teach: submit to authority, for all authority is from God. Therefore, you must judge the rightfulness of state constitutions not on the basis of Christianity, but on the basis of the state's own nature and essence, not on the basis of the nature of Christian society, but on the basis of the nature of human society.
The Byzantine state was the real religious state, for in it dogmas were questions of state, but the Byzantine state was the worst of states. The states of the ancien régime were the most Christian states of all; nevertheless, they were states dependent on the “will of the court”.
There exists a dilemma in the face of which “common” sense is powerless.
Either the Christian state corresponds to the concept of the state as the realisation of rational freedom, and then the state only needs to be a rational state in order to he a Christian state and it suffices to derive the state from the rational character of human relations, a task which philosophy accomplishes; or the state of rational freedom cannot be derived from Christianity, and then you yourself will admit that this derivation is not intended by Christianity, since it does not want a bad state, and a state that is not the realisation of rational freedom is a bad state.
You may solve this dilemma in whatever way you like, you will have to admit that the state must be built on the basis of free reason, and not of religion. Only the crassest ignorance could assert that this theory, the. conversion of the concept of the state into an independent concept, is a passing whim of recent philosophers.
In the political sphere, philosophy has done nothing that physics, mathematics, medicine, and every science, have not done in their respective spheres. Bacon of Verulam said that theological physics was a virgin dedicated to God and barren, he emancipated physics from theology and it became fertile. just as you do not ask the physician whether he is a believer, you have no reason to ask the politician either. Immediately before and after the time of Copernicus' great discovery of the true solar system, the law of gravitation of the state was discovered, its own gravity was found in the state itself. The various European governments tried, in the superficial way of first practical attempts, to apply this result in order to establish a system of equilibrium of states. Earlier, however, Machiavelli and Campanella, and later Hobbes, Spinoza, Hugo Grotius, right down to Rousseau, Fichte and Hegel, began to regard the state through human eyes and to deduce its natural laws from reason and experience, and not from theology. In so doing, they were as little deterred as Copernicus was by the fact that Joshua bade the sun stand still over Gideon and the moon in the valley of Ajalon. Recent philosophy has only continued the work begun by Heraclitus and Aristotle. You wage a polemic, therefore, not against the rational'character of recent philosophy, but against the ever new philosophy of reason. Of course, the ignorance. which perhaps only yesterday or the day before yesterday discovered for the first time age-old ideas about the state in the Rheinische or the Königsberger Zeitung, regards these ideas of history as having suddenly occurred to certain individuals overnight, because they are new to it and reached it only overnight; it forgets that it itself is assuming the old role of the doctor of the Sorbonne who considered it his duty to accuse Montesquieu publicly of being so frivolous as to declare that the supreme merit of the state was political, not ecclesiastical, virtue. It forgets that it is assuming the role of Joachim Lange, who denounced Wolff on the ground that his doctrine of predestination would lead to desertion by the soldiers and thus the weakening of military discipline, and in the long run the collapse of the state. Finally, it forgets that Prussian Law was derived from the philosophical school of precisely “this Wolff”, and that the French Napoleonic Code was derived not from the Old Testament, but from the school of ideas of Voltaire, Rousseau, Condorcet, Mirabeau, and Montesquieu, and from the French revolution. Ignorance is a demon, we fear that it will yet be the cause of many a tragedy; the greatest Greek poets rightly depicted it as tragic fate in the soul-shattering dramas of the royal houses of Mycenae and Thebes.
Whereas the earlier philosophers of constitutional law proceeded in their account of the formation of the state from the instincts, either of ambition or gregariousness, or even from reason, though not social reason, but the reason of the individual, the more ideal and profound view of recent philosophy proceeds from the idea of the whole. It looks on the state as the great organism, in which legal, moral, and political freedom must be realised, and in which the individual citizen in obeying the laws of the state only obeys the natural laws of his own reason, of human reason. Sapienti sat.
In conclusion, we turn once more to the Kölnische Zeitung with a few philosophical words of farewell. It was very sensible of it to take a liberal “of a former day” into its service. One can very conveniently be both liberal and reactionary if only one is always adroit enough to address oneself to the liberals of the recent past who know no other dilemma than that of Vidocq: either “prisoner or gaoler”. It was still more sensible for the liberals of the recent past to join issue with the liberals of the present time. Without parties there is no development, without demarcation there is no progress. We hope that the leading article in No. 179 has opened a new era for the Kölnische Zeitung, the era of character.