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an intellectual milieu which was already pulling in radically different
directions, a strain which was often if not usually replicated within the
work of individual thinkers. Most of these trends enter into Coleridge™s
work in ways which are extremely dif¬cult to trace, though admirable
scholarly efforts in the past have managed to map this area in ways
which it would be redundant for the present study to rehearse.· My
principal object is to explore the play of knowledge and indifference in
two of Coleridge™s major prose works from his middle period, namely
Biographia Literaria and the ±± edition of The Friend, a play which is
conditioned by a triangular contest between Kantian foundationalism,
Schelling™s para-philosophy of intuition and dialectic, and an ironism
which resisted any philosophical appropriation of its numinous aesthetic.
The key shift in Coleridge™s thought occurs between the collapse of the
Biographia™s transcendental method of enquiring into ˜the knowledge of
the conditions that render experience itself possible™ and the emergence
in The Friend of a discourse of dialectic which eschews any such attempt
to ˜ground™ knowledge. Both methods, it will be seen, place Coleridge™s
early hopes for an autonomous domain of aesthetic freedom under pres-
sure. Indeed, the tension between serpent and logos proves the undoing
of the Biographia Literaria. Like his description of Shakespeare™s poetry,
in Coleridge™s thought ˜the creative power, and the intellectual energy
wrestle as in a war embrace™, despite “ or more accurately, because of “
his efforts to demonstrate their indifference. As will be seen in the fol-
lowing chapter, this strain recurs in his later endeavour in the ±±“±
Lectures to harmonize apodeictic philosophy with a voluntaristic religious
faith and acceptance, or ˜the love of wisdom with the wisdom of love™,
and yet again in Aids to Re¬‚ection™s attempt to reconcile founded knowing
with a metaphysics of absolute Will through a process of dialectic.
In some respects the foregoing recapitulates a by now familiar debate
between those, such as Thomas McFarland, who read Coleridge as a
misunderstood metaphysical system-builder, and those such as Wheeler
who see him as rejecting wholesale the values of positivist philosophy,
± Knowledge and Indifference in English Romantic Prose
and foundational epistemology in particular, in favour of a rhetoric of
decentred ironism. The truth, one may aver without excessive anxiety of
Coleridgean in¬‚uence, lies in an ungenial middle ground between these
two positions.±° It is true that Coleridge engages with the post-Kantian
marginalization of knowledge, moreover, that he is present at the begin-
ning of this process. With Wittgenstein, Heidegger and Cavell, he agrees
that knowledge is not something about which one has opinions, much
less a theory, but that it is a ˜form of life™, and even then only one form of
life. From this perspective, it is a greater journey in time than in thought
from Coleridge™s ±± claim ˜that intelligence and being are reciprocally
each other™s Substrate™,±± to Heidegger™s assertion in ±· that ˜[w]e pre-
suppose truth because “we”, being in the kind of Being which Dasein
possesses, are “in the truth” ™.± But it is also true that he retained a ner-
vousness that scepticism could not merely be set aside in this way, and
that Hume™s challenge demanded an answer. Consequently in his Logic
manuscript, he strove to extend Kant™s epistemology into the propaedeu-
tic for a philosophy of the Will-grounded unity of ˜reality in nature and
the reality of reason™.± Philosophy is thus alternately attacked and re-
centred in Coleridge™s writing as he seeks to moderate the centrifugal
tendency of his belief that truth is made, not found, with the centripetal
pull of synthetic a priori foundations. The ¬rst major attempt at this rec-
onciliation is made in Biographia Literaria.

« ® ®¤   ¦ ¦    ®   ©   °©©
Before turning to the Biographia, it is worth assessing how signi¬cant
Coleridge™s early intervention is, since Kant™s new agenda for philosophy
effectively tied the continuing autonomy and primacy of epistemology to
the fate of the synthetic a priori for the next two centuries. In particular,
Coleridge™s oscillation between a transcendental defence of synthetic
a priori foundations on one hand, and, on the other, para-philosophical
and anti-philosophical modes of epistemic indifference based on the
common paradigm of creativity, touches what have since been the prin-
cipal points of the debate. Coleridge™s con¬dence that Kant™s theory
of knowledge formed the necessary propaedeutic to a total philosophy
which encompassed creative freedom indicates that, far from sensing
any tension between these accounts, he saw them as co-dependent.
In order to appreciate how this came about, it is necessary to take a
moment to examine the peculiarities of Kant™s own exposition in more
detail.
±
Coleridge and the new foundationalism
In his Introduction to the ¬rst Critique, Kant draws three distinctions
with regard to propositions: a priori vs. empirical, necessary vs. contingent,
and analytic vs. synthetic. For Kant, the ¬rst, epistemological distinction
runs perfectly parallel to the second, logical distinction. That is to say,
all propositions which are known to be true a priori or regardless of
experience are necessarily true (and vice versa), just as all propositions
which are empirical or only veri¬ed by experience are contingently true
(and vice versa). The third distinction, however, cuts across the other two.
Where Leibniz had assumed that all analytic truths were necessary and
a priori, and Hume that all synthetic truths were contingent and empiri-
cal, Kant argued that mathematics, geometry and, more contentiously,
metaphysics, contained propositions which, if true, were true in a way
which was both metaphysically synthetic and epistemologically a priori
(therefore necessary).
Despite their powerful effect upon western philosophy, Kant™s de¬ni-
tions have come in for a great deal of criticism. The surprisingly short
account in the Critique of Pure Reason characterizes analytic and synthetic
propositions as ˜judgements of clari¬cation™ and ˜judgements of ampli¬cation™
respectively, according to the way in which they either explicate what
was already ˜contained™ within a concept, or add new information to
it.± Thus, ˜all bachelors are unmarried™ is analytic because it merely
unpacks or explicates ˜bachelor™. On the other hand, ˜all bachelors are
happy™ (whether true or not) is synthetic, as it adds something new to
the concept. This is all rather vague, and since Frege philosophers have
generally agreed that among other things Kant fails to free himself com-
pletely from the Lockean equation of psychological causation with justi¬-
cation. For example, in Prolegomena to any Future Metaphysics he argues that
the proposition ˜[a]ll bodies are extended™ is analytically true because
the predicate concept is already thought of as contained in the subject
concept. Yet he also claims that it is analytically true because one cannot
deny the proposition without self-contradiction: ˜For since the predicate
of an af¬rmative analytic judgement is already thought beforehand in
the concept of the subject, it cannot be denied of that subject without
contradiction [ . . .]™.±µ These are two different kinds of explanation; one
being psychological, the other logical. As Frege cautioned a century later,
˜[a] proposition may be thought, and again it may be true; let us never
confuse these two things™.± Crucially, however, it was Kant™s psychologis-
tic framing of synthetic a priori propositions that encouraged Coleridge in
the belief that their possibility underwrote his radical ideas about human
creativity.
±µ° Knowledge and Indifference in English Romantic Prose
The point of defending synthetic a priori knowledge in the ¬rst Critique
was, in part, to resolve Hume™s fork in knowledge between necessary
relations of ideas and contingent matters of fact. If it could be demon-
strated that certain facts (synthetic propositions) were cognizable a priori,
then Hume™s sceptical regress might be halted by foundational, necessary
facts about human nature. Uncovering such truths in order to defeat the
sceptic would be the business of transcendental argument, demonstrat-
ing that ˜the entire ¬nal aim of our speculative a priori cognition rests on
such synthetic, i.e., ampliative principles [ . . .].™±· At this point, however,
Kant™s psychologistic account of the foundations of knowledge assumes
a new signi¬cance. His introspective defence of synthesis a priori gave
rise to a thesis of transcendental psychology whereby the mind became
creative; or rather, a co-author, with nature, of phenomenal reality.
This came about in the following way. First, by treating the difference
between synthetic and analytic as a matter of what seemed to occur in
the process of thinking, Kant became convinced that what distinguished
synthetic propositions was that they could only connect two concepts
through the mediation of an intuition. For example, in geometry, the
proposition that a straight line between two points is the shortest possible
is synthetic by virtue of the fact that no amount of analysis of the concepts
˜straight line™ and ˜point™ could produce it. Nor could one determine
its truth by empirical investigation of observable instances in nature: this
would only permit a contingent rule, not the necessary law required by
geometry. Instead, Kant argues, one must construct an image or spatial
intuition. Thus, ˜it is manifest that the predicate certainly adheres to those
concepts necessarily, though not as thought in the concept itself, but by
means of an intuition that must be added to the concept™.± But how could
a made-up intuition ground a necessary proposition? For Kant, this could
only be explained by the fact that our knowledge was, at least in part,
self-created. The question, how is nature itself possible? thus becomes
subject to the basic principle of Kant™s ˜Copernican revolution™, namely,
that ˜understanding does not draw its (a priori) laws from nature, but prescribes them
to it™.±
Notoriously however, Kant™s price for a transcendental psychology of
creative knowing is transcendental idealism, or his thesis that we only
have knowledge of ˜phenomena™, or reality-as-appearance. The object as
it is in itself, the ˜noumenon™, is inaccessible to us precisely because what
is ˜given™ to the senses as the raw material of sensation cannot become
experience without the mediation of the a priori forms of intuition and
concepts of understanding. Kant™s theory of epistemic creation, then, is
±µ±
Coleridge and the new foundationalism
also one of epistemic limitation, supported by his view of knowledge as
correspondence. It is at this point that the disjunction between Kant™s
epistemological Copernicanism and Coleridge™s anti-foundational cre-
ationism becomes apparent. There is a tone of puzzled disappointment
to Coleridge™s claim in Biographia that he could ˜never believe, it was
possible for him [i.e. Kant] to have meant no more by his Noumenon,
or T© ®§ ©® I  ¬¦, than his mere words express [ . . .]™.° Ultimately,
this dissatisfaction re¬‚ects the fact that while Kant remained, at heart,
a representationalist about knowledge, Coleridge was divided between
his attraction to Kant™s transcendentalism as a bulwark against scep-
ticism, and his aspiration towards a way of thinking about experience
and reality which bypassed the very discourse within which scepticism
arose. Throughout the three Critiques, Kant™s objectives are epistemologi-
cal and foundational, seeking to establish an end for knowledge. Many
of the ideas which Coleridge shared with other Romantics, meanwhile,
such as the notion that in all spheres of life man was ˜his own creator™,
connoted no less than the end of knowledge.±
In many ways, the struggle which takes place within Coleridge™s
thought pre¬gures a major faultline within recent Anglo-American phil-
osophy. For the story of English-language philosophy over the last century
in particular can be narrated as a contest between, on one hand,
the undoing of the Kantian scheme for foundational knowledge by
the progressive dismantling of the synthetic a priori cell, and on the
other, the continued defence of both. This process began in the
nineteenth century with Frege™s elision of Kant™s psychologistic concept-
containment version of the analytic/synthetic distinction, and his recast-
ing of mathematical truth as fundamentally analytic, leaving the domain
of synthetic a priori propositions to geometry and metaphysics alone. His
account of analyticity as based solely ˜on general logical laws and de¬ni-
tions™, in turn brought about the ˜linguistic turn™ in philosophy by which
logical positivists like Carnap, Schlick and Ayer collapsed the synthetic
a priori, which they perceived to be sponsoring the ˜meaningless™ claims of
metaphysics and Phenomenology, into an exhaustive analytic/synthetic
division of truth, thereby refashioning philosophy as ˜a department of
logic™. However, the ambitious attempt, by the aggressive application
of Hume™s fork to questions of meaning, to resuscitate epistemology as
concerned only with that branch of knowledge containing the necessary
relations of ideas, fell foul of certain relations, including analyticity, which
seemed to resist reduction to logical rule. Most notably Wittgenstein,
initially troubled by the problem of how ˜atomic™ propositions such as
±µ Knowledge and Indifference in English Romantic Prose
˜x is red™ and ˜x is green™ could be incompatible without being logically
contradictory, was led to the conclusion that meaning is produced by
words or language-games, not logic.
The logical positivists™ idea of a foundation of intensional, necessary
propositions, that is, of propositions which were true simply by virtue
of their meaning, was further undermined by Quine™s attack on the
analytic/synthetic distinction. Carnap had proposed that the exhaustive
conversion of analytical but non-logical statements such as ˜all bachelors
are unmarried™ into logical formulae could be achieved by the process of
substituting the original terms for logical synonyms guided by ˜meaning
postulates™. Quine, however, argued that far from explaining the notion
of truth by virtue of meaning, synonymy itself presupposed the idea of
analyticity. In reality, he claimed, any substitution of terms or translation
of language was infected by a systematic indeterminacy. The logical posi-
tivist™s project of translating all natural language into a formalized, logical
˜sub-basement of conceptualization™µ Quine saw as the last failed quest
for a foundational Holy Grail, driven by ˜a metaphysical article of faith™;
namely the distinction between analytic and synthetic propositions.
Between them, Wittgenstein and Quine pared epistemology down
into, respectively, a form of philosophical therapy and a branch of nat-
ural science or empirical psychology.· Despite their differences then,
both alternatives represent a turn towards pragmatism and naturalism
and a corresponding rejection of the foundationalism of Kant™s succes-
sors. What has been suggested here, moreover, is that insofar as these
strategies are ways of coping with Hume™s fork by deciding not to cope
with it “ that is, by setting aside the division of analytic and synthetic,
conceptual and factual truths, and indeed, of fact and value “ they effect a
similar shift in thought to that which the Romantics enacted through their
indifference to epistemology and their emphasis on creation rather than
knowledge. And just as, despite this, the Romantic pursuit of Truth per-
sisted in recursive tropes of empirical veri¬cation “ or in Coleridge™s case,
within the Kantian grid of the synthetic a priori “ so recent trends in epis-
temology suggest that what Hazlitt termed philosophy™s ˜dry romance™
with the metaphysics of certainty is far from over. Michael Williams for
one has noted the rise of ˜“New Scepticism”™, a reaction against neo-
pragmatist and post-Wittgensteinian attempts to dismiss scepticism as
a muddled consequence of language gone astray. Philosophers such as
Barry Stroud and Peter Strawson see scepticism as intuitive, and foun-
dationalism and other theories as ˜reactions to the threat of scepticism, not
the sources from which the threat arises™. Foundationalism itself continues
±µ
Coleridge and the new foundationalism
to receive support in various forms from philosophers such as Chisholm
and Sosa, and even those who are con¬rmed coherentists about justi-
¬cation such as Lawrence Bonjour and Donald Davidson still main-
tain, albeit in carefully hedged ways, that ultimately ˜there is no real
alternative to the standard and commonsensical conception of truth
as, roughly, correspondence or agreement with independent reality
[ . . .]™. Epistemological realists such as Jerrold Katz, meanwhile, have
called for the rolling back of naturalism and the rehabilitation of Kant™s
synthetic a priori principles in order to reinstall epistemology, together
with a realist ontology, as ˜a foundational discipline of foundational disci-
plines [ . . .]™.° In this light, the struggles within Coleridge™s prose appear
less like antique philosophical puzzles, and more as obstinate question-
ings which compulsively recur. The Romantics themselves had an insight
into this phenomenon. As Friedrich Schlegel observed, ˜[m]any of the
complex disputed questions of modern philosophy are like the tales and
the Gods of ancient literature. They return in every system, but always
transformed.™±

°©¬ ° ™ µ ©® ¤ ·  : ©§°© ¬©©
Biographia Literaria, indeed, often seems to parade its self-conscious
ambivalence between knowledge and epistemic indifference, even as it
attempts to open up a para-philosophical third way for re¬‚ective thought.
In the self-addressed ˜letter™ which brings to an abrupt end the thirteenth
chapter (and with it, the ¬rst volume) of Biographia Literaria, Coleridge
likens his argument to ˜the fragments of the winding steps of an old ruined
tower™. The suggestion of intellectual ascent in this is revealing, and
echoed a few years later by his explanation of the pedagogical func-
tion of the ˜Landing-Places™ between the essays in the ±± Friend. The
underlying idea, as so often with Coleridge, is akin to that of an exer-
cise in intellectual and spiritual mountaineering, by which the thinker,
having established a safe base camp in ¬xed ¬rst principles, gradually
ascends to higher truths. These truths are at the same time taken to
be foundational; that is, truths which form the ground of the whole pro-
cess. The logical return here is what Coleridge elsewhere explains as
the ˜seeming argumentum in circulo, incident to all spiritual Truths™.
But is this argumentum in circulo merely an appearance? Coleridge sug-
gests that it is an unavoidable one in human knowledge, but his work
remains caught between two paradigms of thought: the circular and
the foundational or linear, or between the self-consuming serpent and
±µ Knowledge and Indifference in English Romantic Prose
the ascending steps to Truth. In Biographia™s image of the ruined spiral
staircase, the process of simultaneous rotation and ascension remains
notoriously incomplete, deferred for the projected but never completed
˜great book on the ®  µ  ©  ° © ¬  ° ™.µ Thus, the procedure
initiated in the philosophical theses of chapter ± having been arrested,
the project of chapter ±, ˜in which the results [of the theses] will be
applied to the deduction of the imagination, and with it the princi-
ples of production and genial criticism in the ¬ne arts™ is left as a frag-
mentary exposition in the hugely in¬‚uential but attenuated and gnomic
sequence of distinctions between primary and secondary imagination,
and fancy.
As a consequence, students of Coleridge have been left to puzzle over
the ˜missing™ argument for themselves and explain why Coleridge seems
to give up at this point. At least since Thomas McFarland™s Coleridge and
the Pantheist Tradition, it has been accepted that a signi¬cant part of the
problem lies with the ˜counter-pull™ exerted upon Coleridge™s thought at
this point in time between Kant and Schelling (or, as McFarland sees it,
between Kant and Schelling/Spinoza); in other words, between a system
in which free will is preserved at the price of being declared noumenal,
and one in which free will is imperilled, but set against the goal of a
system of total and undivided philosophy at ease with the in¬nite.· The
difference between the methodologies of Kant and Schelling in this,
Gian Orsini claims, is the product of their contrasting ¬rst postulates,
or philosophical starting-points: for while Kant sets out from the episte-
mological problem of to what extent objects can be said to conform to
human knowledge, Schelling asks: ˜do we deduce Mind from Nature or
Nature from Mind?™ In a broader sense, however, the contest between
these positions is one which concerns the status of argument itself, and
the possibility of a philosophy based upon any kind of ˜deduction™.
Biographia™s problems have provoked a diverse range of critical respon-
ses over the years. Among these, however, there is a more or less settled
opinion that Coleridge™s failure at this stage to come to terms with the
Kant/Schelling debate merely added to the dif¬culty of a work which,
having begun its life as a reply to and a rebuttal of Wordsworth™s empiri-
cal and associative de¬nition of imagination as set out in the Preface to
his ±±µ Poems, had already far exceeded its initial plan, both in scope and
size. As the statement of his poetic principles and critique of Wordsworth
had turned into a literary life, and this into a broader exploration of his
developing views on epistemology, religion, and the history of language,
the Preface to the Sibylline Leaves (as it had originally been conceived) now
±µµ
Coleridge and the new foundationalism
dwarfed that work. The printer™s decision to produce Biographia in two
volumes only served to emphasize the break between its ˜philosophical™
and literary-critical planes, and underscore the failure of Coleridge™s de-
clared intention to apply the rules of art, ˜deduced from philosophical principles,
to poetry and criticism™.°
Yet there was always something rather curious about this deductive
project. This might be expressed as the query: why, if the question ˜What
is poetry? is so nearly the same question with, what is a poet?™ was there
any need to establish rules of art, outside those which genius creatively
legislated for itself ? ± More crucially, why need such rules be dictated
by, or ˜deduced from™ a ¬rst philosophy, when, as Coleridge himself
elsewhere claims, they are themselves just another form of life?:
Could a rule be given from without, poetry would cease to be poetry, and sink
into mechanical art. It would be m»rjωsiv, not po hsiv [a fashioning, not a
creation]. The rules of the ©§©®  © ® are themselves the very powers of
growth and production. The words, to which they are reducible, present only
the outlines and external appearance of the fruit.

What is evident here, in fact, is the tension between three positions
which Coleridge attempted, unsuccessfully, to reconcile in Biographia
Literaria. In general terms, these were, on one hand, a conception of
art as an autonomous domain which might communicate, through the
creative power of genius, a feeling for an ineffable Absolute; the notion of
a ˜total and undivided philosophy™ which might present this Absolute in
intellectual intuition; and a Kantian, foundational epistemology which
would ground the former and proscribe the latter. The main ambiva-
lence lurking within Coleridge™s main deductive effort in Biographia, then,
becomes clearer if one considers that work as an attempt to use ¬rst
principles of philosophy in order to deduce a conception of art whose
principal guiding thought was that it escaped such principles. Thomas
Pfau touches on the same paradox when he writes that any account of
the Biographia™s overdetermination by German idealism would need to
explain ˜how a tangential, ¬‚eeting, and sharply demarcated moment of
intellectual contact™ with Schelling would enable Coleridge to ˜reinvest
the principal debt “ i.e., a metaphysical “grounding” of the imagination “
in a highly detailed and materially sensitive analysis of the ¬nite verbal
art of Wordsworth™s early Romanticism™.
Coleridge™s position in the Biographia, nonetheless, is famously close to
that of Schelling in the ±°° System, with one crucial exception. The dif-
ference is that Coleridge is more, not less inclined to ground the aesthetic
±µ Knowledge and Indifference in English Romantic Prose
(here, Wordsworth™s ˜¬nite verbal art™) in philosophical principle. One of
the main objectives of the Biographia was to rescue foundational philoso-
phy from French disrepute, and to rebut Humean/Burkean scepticism
regarding the role of ˜¬xed principles™ in ordinary human life. Indeed,
whereas Schelling was moving to a position in the System whereby art
alone ˜achieves the impossible, namely to resolve an in¬nite opposi-
tion in a ¬nite product™, Coleridge remained wedded to the Kantian
belief that without a foundational staple in the chain, aesthetic ¬guration
remained exiled from knowledge as such.µ
But the nature of knowledge was itself changing. Coleridge™s reluctance
to install art as an autonomous mode of knowing the world, and the way in
which the notions of will and dialectic in the Biographia vacillate between
the epistemically therapeutic and the outright non-epistemic, testify to
this. The Schelling of the Positive Philosophy would later re¬‚ect upon
the inevitable alienation brought on “ alike in Jacobi™s anti-philosophy,
his own earlier philosophy of identity, and of course Hegel™s ˜negative
philosophy™ “ by the casting of knowledge as a neutral and stable ground.
In this way, he observes, Jacobi™s salto mortale, ˜instead of really attacking
the knowledge which displeases it, completely gives way to it, by with-
drawing into not-knowing, with the assurance that only in not-knowing
does salvation lie. From this it follows, then, that it considers that merely
substantial knowledge which [ . . .] dominates in rationalism, itself to be
the only possible real (echt) and true knowledge [ . . .].™ From this per-
spective, Coleridge™s attempt to bridge Hume™s duality of fact and value
(or as he puts it, knowing and being) in Biographia is constantly stymied by
the fact that his sense of knowing is that of Kant rather than that of the
later Schelling or Nietzsche; in other words, that which inheres in a priori
conditions demonstrable by transcendental argument. While Coleridge™s
voluntarism drew him closer to Schelling™s later view of philosophy as
a symptom of fact/value alienation, his foundationalism continued to see
grounded knowledge as salvation from this alienation.·
Thus, Coleridge™s thought perpetuates the Romantic oscillation be-
tween knowledge and indifference. To refute the sceptic on his own
territory, he needed the synthetic a priori foundationalism of Kant™s
epistemology. At the same time, he feared the march of the unfettered
intellect or French ˜understanding™ suf¬ciently to cultivate the aesthetic
as an autonomous and decentred sphere of human experience. As these
desiderata came into con¬‚ict, he gradually developed both a form of
dialectic which, while putting knowledge in its place, threatened to end
±µ·
Coleridge and the new foundationalism
rather than preserve difference within a system in which reality was logi-
cally contained, together with a countervailing voluntaristic praxis which
stressed the importance of faith and will but which imperilled the very
notion of knowledge he sought to ground.
This, however, is to anticipate the subject of the next chapter.
My present purpose is to show how Coleridge perpetuates English

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