On German Philosophy

In his famous chapter called “Of the Pathetic Fallacy” in the third volume of Modern Painters, Ruskin takes on German metaphysics, for which he has great disdain, refuting their conception of “objective” and “subjective” realities. He adds a delicious footnote mocking the style of these writers (Works, V, 203).

    In fact (for I may as well, for once, meet our German friends in their own style), all that has been objected to us on the subject seems subject to this great objection; that the subjection of all things (subject to no exceptions) to senses which are, in us, both subject and object, and objects of perpetual contempt, cannot but make it our ultimate object to subject ourselves to the senses, and to remove whatever objections existed to such subjection. So that, finally, that which is the subject of examination or object of attention, uniting thus in itself the characters of subness and obness (so that, that which has no obness in it should be called sub-subjective, or a sub-subject, and that which has no subness in it should be called upper or ober-objective, or an ob-object); and we also, who suppose ourselves the objects of every arrangement, and are certainly the subjects of every sensual impression, thus uniting in ourselves, in an obverse or adverse manner, the characters of obness and subness, must both become metaphysically dejected or rejected, nothing remaining in us objective, but subjectivity, and the very objectivity of the object being lost in the abyss of this subjectivity of the Human.

    There is, however, some meaning in the above sentence, if the reader cares to make it out; but in a pure German sentence of the highest style there is often none whatever.


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