The basis for the unity of experience in the thought of Friedrich Hölderlin

History of European Ideas (forthcoming)
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Abstract

Friedrich Hölderlin argued that consciousness requires division and unity. Consciousness emerges through the fundamental distancing of the subject from its surroundings, without which the subject-object distinction would collapse and both objectivity and consciousness would be lost. Nevertheless, insofar as conscious knowledge is unitary, division demands a ground for unity. Hölderlin calls this ground ‘Being [Seyn].’ However, once Being is affirmed, the question of how it is accessed arises. Hölderlin’s scholars disagreed on this issue. This disagreement gave rise to two camps: those who deny that Hölderlin accepts the idea of direct access to Being and believe that he proves Being through an act of reflection (Henrich); and those who argue that for Hölderlin, ‘Being’ is directly accessed. Those who hold the latter position can be further divided into those who conceive of this direct access as knowledge (Frank) and those who argue that this access does not have a cognoscitive character, but rather an aesthetic one (Waibel). This article considers these positions and shows that the direct apprehension of ‘Being’ is part of Hölderlin’s argument aimed at solving a fundamental problem; an argument that differs both from the postulate of access to Being as knowledge of transcendence and from the affirmation of a purely aesthetic mode of access.

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