Krause, Karl Christian Friedrich (1781–1832)

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Karl Christian Friedrich Krause, a German pantheistic philosopher, was born at Eisenberg in Thuringia. He studied at Jena, where he came under the influence of Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Friedrich Schelling. In 1812 he became Privatdozent, but his many efforts to secure a professorship were all unsuccessful. For a time he taught music in Dresden. In 1805 he joined the Freemasons, to further his ideal of a world society. His internationalist leanings were responsible for his failure to be appointed professor in Göttingen, and in Munich his chances were spoiled by the opposition of Schelling. Just as he finally obtained a position, Krause died of a heart attack.

Like several of his contemporaries, Krause claimed to be developing the true Kantian position. His orientation, however, was mystical and spiritualistic. The obscurity of his style is awesome; he expressed himself in an artificial and often unfathomable vocabulary which included such monstrous neologisms as Or-om-wesenlebverhaltheit and Vereinselbganzweseninnesein words that are untranslatable into German, let alone into English. He called his system the theory of essence (Wesenlehre ) and presented an elaborate set of categories, including Unity, Selfhood, Propositionality (Satzheit ), "Graspness" (Fassheit ), Unification-in-propositionality (Satzheitvereinheit ), and so forth. The system was intended to mediate between pantheism and theism; hence Krause called his position "Panentheism," to suggest the idea that God or Absolute Being is one with the world, though not exhausted by it. From this central doctrine Krause derived a theory of man and of history. He regarded all men as part of a spiritual whole, an ideal League of Humanity (Menschheitsbund ), the actualization of which is the goal of history.

Like Fichte, Krause took self-consciousness as his starting point in the belief that it provides a key to the essence of all things. The ego discovers itself to be both mind and body, enduring and changing; it is an organic, self-sustaining whole. According to Krause, this is the clue to the nature of other beings and of God. Considering its own finitude and that of other beings it encounters, the ego is led to the idea of an absolute, unconditioned principle upon which it and all other creatures and organizations are dependent. This principle is God, or Essence, whose nature is grasped in a spiritual intuition (geistigen Schauen ), an immediately certain vision that is the foundation for all subsequent knowledge. God is primordial being (Orwesen ), the being without contrareity; he is the unity of all that exists. Though he contains the world, he is nevertheless other than and superior to it. The distinction between God and the world is that of whole and part. Krause expressed this by speaking of God as in himself Contrabeing (Gegenwesen ) and Unified Being (Vereinwesen ), while as himself, or qua Primordial Being, he is absolute identity.

The existence of the world follows from an inner opposition in God's actuality (Wesenheit ). Reason and Nature are two subordinate beings distinguished from, and yet lying within, God. Humanity is a synthesis of these. Humanity and the world, along with numerous basic human institutions, are organisms through which the divine life expresses itself. Thus, every being or group of beings is godlike in essence. Mind and body are integrated in the particular unified being that is man, reflecting the compresence of Reason and Nature in all things. Nature composes all individuals into a single whole. It is a mistake to view nature as a blind, mechanical system without consciousness; for its infinite perpetual activity, which is a pure self-determination, is free. Nature is a divine work of art; at the same time it is itself the artist, fashioning itself. The recognition of this divine character gives meaning and value to life.

Individual human minds together constitute the realm of Reason throughout which mind is organically distributed. But mind does not exist only in man and his institutions. Nature and Reason interpenetrate so fully that even animals are a unification of the two. Among animals, however, the career of each is fixed inexorably, according to the hierarchy of living forms. Man is the supreme unification of Reason and Nature, for he possesses the highest sort of mind joined to the highest sort of body. The individual souls that make up humanity are eternal, uncreated, immortal. Their number can neither be increased nor diminished. Humanity is thus complete at every moment.

What men should strive for is the imitation of the divine life in their own inner lives and in their social organizations. God is good, and men should participate in this goodness. The inner union with God (Gottesinnigkeit ), or fervor for the divine, is the foundation of ethics, and ethics is the heart of religion. But individuals cannot achieve the moral life alone, since they are what they are only as parts of the whole. The community and its various institutions are thus indispensable.

Ideally, the community is governed by Right, which Krause defined as the organic whole of all of the internal and external conditions necessary for the completion of life that are dependent on freedom. This supernational law is grounded in the nature of the divine; it expresses the right of Humanity, not simply the right of individual human beings. The rights of individuals, groups, and nations can be recognized, but only as subordinate to the right of Humanity as a whole. Humanity is divided into a series of social organisms. There are, Krause speculated, human inhabitants in many cosmic systems. These human beings are subdivided into nations, races, communities, families, and so forth. There is an aesthetic community, a scientific community, a religious community, and a moral community. Each community has rights, although the right of Humanity takes precedence.

Men are all citizens of the universe, which is an infinite divine government. Because he revered the individual as a partial embodiment of the divine, Krause argued against the death penalty and maintained that punishment can be justified only as educative and reformatory. Only a republican form of government, he believed, is entirely compatible with the ideal of justice.

According to Krause's philosophy of history, the development of humanity is the temporal unfolding of a moral ideal. History follows a three-stage pattern, which is mirrored in every individual life as well. The development is not, however, purely progressive. There are two orders, one "ascending" and one "descending," so that the divine life may be presented again and again in the infinitely repeated epochs of history. The three steps in the ascending order are Wholeness, Selfhood, and Wholly-unified-selfhood. In the stage of Wholeness, each individual or higher organism exists germinally in the larger whole to which it belongs. In Selfhood, it enters into a free opposition to that whole and strives to develop its unique character. Evil appears as the individual organism tears itself loose from the harmony of the whole. Finally, the organism achieves a loving reunion with other beings (man, for example, becomes reunited with Nature, Reason, Humanity, and God), and with this rediscovery of harmony, all evil is negated. Afterward, however, the historical path leads downward, to a final involution that is both the ending of a career and the birth of a new life. Since the transition is gradual, an older age may survive for a time in a newer age. Each development, nevertheless, exhibits genuine, unforeseeable novelty.

Following this order, the individual man enters the world, proceeds through the stages of embryonic life, boyhood, and youth, and becomes increasingly independent, until he finally achieves the maturity of manhood, from which point he descends in a reverse series. Every human institution and organization pursues the same course of evolution, reflecting the basic laws of the divine organic life. In history, the first stage is marked by polytheism, slavery, caste systems, despotic governments, and a state of war between peoples. In the second period, the age of growth, men recognize the divine as an infinite being standing above all that is finite. This is monotheism, which Krause accuses of fostering theocracy, religious censorship of science and art, and contempt for the world. Finally, in the third stage (to which Krause's own philosophy is supposed to inspire men), humanity comes of age, the finite is reunited with the infinite, and world citizenship, philanthropy, and tolerance become the rule. According to Krause, the transition to this stage began with Benedict de Spinoza's discovery of the nature of being, and his own system was to be the development of that theory. He envisaged humanity as arriving at an organic completeness that represents the maturity of the race, and with visionary eloquence he depicted the unification of all humankind, as all men and all associations of men enter into a common life.

Krause's philosophy, while not very influential in Germany, found considerable support in Spain, where, for a time, "Krausism" flourished. This was largely due to the efforts of Julian Sanz del Rio, the minister of culture, who visited Germany and Belgium in 1844 and came into contact with a number of Krause's disciples, notably Heinrich Ahrens in Brussels and Hermann von Leonhardi in Heidelberg.

See also Consciousness; Fichte, Johann Gottlieb; Pantheism; Philosophy of History; Reason; Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von; Spinoza, Benedict (Baruch) de.


Krause's most important work is Das Urbild der Menschheit (Dresden, 1812), translated into Spanish by Sanz del Rio as El ideal de la humanidad (Madrid, 1860). Included among his other works are System der Sittenlehre (Leipzig, 1810); Vorlesungen über das System der Philosophie (Göttingen, 1828); and the short Abriss des Systems der Rechtsphilosophie (Göttingen, 1828).

For Krause's influence in Spain, see Sanz del Rio, K. C. F. Krause: lecciones sobre el sistema de la filosofia analitica (Madrid, 1850) and Juan Lopez Morillas, El Krausismo español (Mexico City, 1956). See also Hans Flasche, "Studie zu K. C. F. Krauses Philosophie in Spanien," in Deutsche Vierteljarsschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 14 (1936): 382397. Flasche mentions the "left" and "right" wing of Krausism in Spain and, to account for Krause's success in Spain, tries to show (with a tenuous argument) the compatibility of Krause's views with Catholicism. Sharply critical of Krause is Eduard von Hartmann, "Krause's Aesthetik," in Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik 86 (1) (1885): 112130. Sympathetic accounts of Krause are to be found in Paul Hohfeld, Die Krause'sche Philosophie (Jena: H. Costenoble, 1879) and Rudolf Eucken, Zur Erinnerung an K. Ch. Krause (Leipzig, 1881). (Hohfeld edited a number of Krause's works, and Eucken studied with a student of Krause.) Clay Macauley, K. C. F. Krause, Heroic Pioneer for Thought and Life (Berkeley, CA, 1925) is a eulogistic pamphlet.

Arnulf Zweig (1967)

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Krause, Karl Christian Friedrich (1781–1832)

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