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necessary that the will be guided by reason? Kant™s separation of practi-
cal reason (will) and theoretical reason made sense within transcendental
method. Coleridge™s disjunction of the two, however, in view of his com-
mitment to the identity of reason and will in Absolute Will, stems from a
theology of human will as fallen. Philosophically, the distinction between
the spontaneity of human spirit, or ˜the essential character by which ·© ¬ ¬
is opposed to Nature, as Spirit, and raised above Nature as self-determining
Spirit™, in that ˜it is a power of originating an act or state™, and the rational
spirit, or the ˜capacity of acknowledging the Moral Law™, has already
become blurred. Thus, Coleridge™s claim that a perfectly rational will
works in ˜free obedience of the Law™, appears as a tautology, and echoes
Schelling™s absolute identi¬cation of freedom and necessity. The law
known by reason is at once ˜the Law of the Spirit, the Law of Freedom,
[and] the Divine Will [. . .]™.µ
This voluntaristic/logical friction in Coleridge™s thought is echoed in
his own view of his role as philosopher and teacher. Coleridge frequently
expressed the Jacobian view that no one could come to a comprehension
of the central truths of the theosophy without an act of faith born of will. In
Aids to Re¬‚ection, though he insists that ˜[w]hatever is against right reason,
±·
Coleridge and theosophy
that no faith can oblige us to believe™, the aphoristic structure “ indeed,
the title itself “ tells of this voluntaristic outlook. The author acts as
guide, rather than instructor or interpreter. Similarly, in the ±± Friend,
he had protested that his wish was ˜to convey not instruction merely, but
fundamental instruction; not so much to shew my Reader this or that
fact, as to kindle his own torch for him, and leave it to himself to chuse
the particular objects, which he might wish to examine by its light™.·
Nonetheless, Coleridge continues to display some uncertainty about the
precise extent to which truth is to be reached by an effort of will, or
a rational grasp of principle. For example, in the Statesman™s Manual, he
had argued that ˜W (that is, the human race) ¬©    ¦ ©  ™, and that
faith ˜is scarcely less than identical with its own being. Implicit`, it is the
e
C° µ ¬ “ it contains the possibility “ of every position, to which there
exists any correspondence in reality. It is itself, therefore, the realizing
principle, the spiritual substratum of the whole complex body of truths.™
In The Friend, however, he maintains that ˜a man™s principles, on which
he grounds his Hope and his Faith, are the life of his life™, and that
˜faith without principles is but a ¬‚attering phrase for wilful positiveness,
or fanatical bodily sensation [. . .]™. Later, he attempts to resolve the
problem by asking ˜what is faith, but the personal realization of the
reason by its union with the will?™°
The dilemma for Coleridge, then, is not whether reason might be
assisted or ˜aided™ by will, or vice versa, but whether the two might be
uni¬ed in a productive (that is, creative) way. Can faith know its own pur-
pose completely and still be faith? In a fragment on ¬rst postulates in
philosophy dated between ±± and ±±, he wonders: ˜Is Intelligence
the same as the Will?™, only to answer ˜No “ yet one with it, & involved in
the Idea “ .™± In an associated fragment on the will, however, he sees the
possibility of a vicious circularity looming. If Will in general is de¬ned,
as Coleridge de¬nes it, as ˜[t]hat which is essentially causative of reality™,
then the question arises that if the very de¬nition of cause presupposes
Will, how can the Will be de¬ned as self-causing? For Coleridge, this
means that ˜the Will is neither abstracted from intelligence [but] nor can
Intelligence be conceived of as not grounded and involved in the Will
[. . .]™. Coleridge™s discomfort at this point, however, is evident, as he real-
izes that a demonstration of such a distinction-within-indifference would be
just as question-begging on behalf of reason as the strategy of referring
the matter to faith would be on the part of Will. The result is a dualism
of ˜two kinds of reality™; namely, that level of being which has a sym-
biotic relationship with Will, in which the two are mutually implicated
± Knowledge and Indifference in English Romantic Prose
(for example, God); and that level which is conditional upon Will, but
which Will does not itself presuppose (for example, time). However,
˜between these two there must needs be [. . .] a transitional state™ and
the possibility of ˜a change or contingent alterity™. This transitional state
or contingent alterity is in turn used by Coleridge to explain how human
reason may share common ground with the Will, for given that ˜whatever
is a law of the adequate solution of a part must be an organ of invention
for other parts™, then reasoning itself becomes a witness to the principle
of the indifference of knowledge and the creativity of human will in that
˜there can be no invention without discovery[,] no discovery which does
not contain the germ of an invention™[.] From another perspective,
however, the notion of contingent alterity perfectly expresses Coleridge™s
dilemma at this point. Because he is trained to think of knowledge and
reality foundationally, that is, in terms of ˜grounds™, he is forever strug-
gling to reign back pure will within the bounds of knowledge, even when
his commitment to faith demands that will should exceed it.
Thus, in the ±± Friend, and later in Aids to Re¬‚ection, reason is bifur-
cated in such a way as not only to establish its superiority to understand-
ing, but to preserve the unity or indifference which was fundamental
to its distinctness from Will. However, amidst all the conceptual acro-
batics, reason begins to show the strain of the different demands being
placed upon it. In The Friend, Coleridge concurs with Jacobi that rea-
son must have ˜the same relation to spiritual objects, the Universal, the
Eternal, and the Necessary, as the eye bears to material and contingent
ph¦nomena™ “ adding that ˜it is an organ identical with its appropriate
[super-sensuous] objects [. . .]™. In this sense, reason is completely at
one with Will: it is, as he characterizes it in Aids to Re¬‚ection, ˜the practical
Reason™; ˜the fountain of Ideas and the Light of the Conscience [. . .]™.
Reason has an alternate application, however, and with that, different
objects of attention. Thus Coleridge notes that ˜[c]ontemplated distinc-
tively in reference to formal (or abstract) truth, it is the speculative Reason
[. . .]™.µ This appears to correspond to the second sense which Coleridge
discusses in The Friend as ˜arising out of the former [i.e. practical reason]
indeed, but less de¬nite, and more exposed to misconception™. What he
intends by this is essentially the idea of the understanding working under
logical rule, or ˜the understanding considered as using the Reason, so
far as by the organ of Reason only we possess the ideas of the Necessary
and the Universal [. . .]™. Accordingly, reason comes to re-enact the
role of imagination in Biographia in that it faces in two directions at once:
assuming a simultaneously practical and theoretical view on the world.
±
Coleridge and theosophy
And like that faculty, it testi¬es to Coleridge™s simultaneous indifference
to, and intense preoccupation with knowledge.
The anxiety which Coleridge™s carefully honed epistemological indif-
ference attempts to settle is one which betrays a darker undercurrent
in Coleridge™s own thought, one which was later to disclose itself with
less inhibition in Schopenhauer™s philosophy. Relinquishing entirely the
idealist™s totem of a grounding for thought, a stable staple in the chain
of knowledge, Schopenhauer af¬rmed, meant embracing the corollaries
of a will which was nothing but pure activity. As such, just as it had no
ground, will had no purpose or goal, other than its own movement. An
invisible, universal force, it was not so much something to be revered,
as that to which one must be resigned. In the post-Kantian concept
of dynamic will Coleridge was swimming into a disturbing stream of
Romantic thought; the idea of a power which was blind to morality and
teleology and which would not, as Schopenhauer insisted, be settled into
an easy partnership with reason. For Schopenhauer, accepting the con-
tradictions in human life meant resigning oneself to the fact that ˜only a
blind, not a seeing, will could put itself in the position in which we ¬nd
ourselves™.·
There are countless examples of Coleridge elevating reason or intel-
ligence above will, only to reassert the primacy of will a few moments
later, or vice versa. The paradoxes inherent in his attempt to recon-
cile foundational epistemology with an ontology of Absolute Will were,
indeed, considerable, but this did not deter him. Here, as so often, his
relationship to Kant is pivotal. In the Preface to the second edition of
the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant had argued that ˜even the assumption [. . .]
of God, freedom, and immortality is not permissible unless at the same time
speculative reason be deprived of its pretensions to transcendent insight
[. . .]™. Thus, he claimed, he had ˜found it necessary to deny knowledge, in
order to make room for faith™. Indeed, it has been observed that it is
precisely this aspect of Kant™s teaching; the argument for morality and
the existence of God from the standpoint of practical reason, to which
Coleridge returns in the post-Biographia philosophy. In the Philosophical
Lectures of ±±“±, he asserts that what entitles Kant to the title of a
philosopher is not his analysis of mind, but his claim in the ¬rst Critique
that the will is a higher constituent of man™s being, and the fact that
˜from this he deduced a direct moral necessity for the belief, or the faith
of reason™ in God. And yet despite this, Coleridge still does not seem to
have understood the signi¬cance or conditions of Kant™s sense of prac-
tical reason. Soon after that comment he is misattributing to the same
°° Knowledge and Indifference in English Romantic Prose
thinker a de¬nition of philosophy which is entirely of his own making,
and which is based upon a version of his own identi¬cation of will and
reason in ˜wisdom™. Knowledge, he explains,

may be well comprized in two terms. The one <is> philology, that is to say all
the pursuits in which the intellect of man is concerned, in which he has a desire
of arriving at that which the Logos or intellectual power can communicate; the
other is philosophy, or that which comprises the Logos, and including it, at the
same time subordinates it to the Will, and thus combining <with> the other, is
philosophy, the love of wisdom with the wisdom of love.±°°

This is Coleridge™s, not Kant™s, divided vision of knowledge, a knowl-
edge which fears alienation from love, or the lived experience of human
value, and yet needs the parental epistemic authority of the foundational
logos, all the while subordinating this to a domesticated ˜Will™. What is
signi¬cant here is how despite all his efforts Coleridge invariably falls
back on dualisms. Like English Romantic prose in general, Coleridge™s
writing insists on indifference (or as he might put it, distinction without
division) at the very point where difference and division is most clearly
betrayed, and at its deepest this division is between ˜the love of wisdom
and the wisdom of love™, or the view of knowledge as foundational to
existence, and that of knowledge as itself just another ˜form of life™. Yet
the two were not happy companions.
This ambivalence in Coleridge™s position, even in the later writing,
demonstrates how far from Kant he remained: the withdrawal of his sup-
port from Schelling in the face of what he perceived to be the Spinozan
threat of the Identity Philosophy did not change this. In fact, what
Coleridge was doing in the later part of the second decade was cast-
ing around for a means of justifying his own voluntaristic absolutism. In
a notebook entry of ±µ, re¬‚ecting upon the de¬ciencies of Schelling™s
account of polarity within original consciousness, he writes: ˜How in-
comparably more simple to begin with the Will.™±°± Yet the question
then became: begin what? and how? Certainly not a transcendental
argument: Kant™s practical reason, while it guaranteed the sovereignty
of religious or spiritual experience, was the product of an unacceptable
transcendental idealism. Coleridge came to believe instead that if vol-
untarism was to be philosophically but non-reductively explicable then
some kind of dialectical procedure had to be invoked. Here the concept of
˜alterity within indifference™ reveals a further dimension to Coleridge™s
theosophy: one which complicates his thought still further, and draws
him closer to Hegel.±°
°±
Coleridge and theosophy

¤ ©¬  ©   ® ¤   ˜© ® ¦ ¦¬  ® ™
In his effort to explain the nature of the progressiveness of reality and
the creativeness of the Absolute within a conceptual framework supplied
by philosophy, many commentators have noticed shared characteristics
between Coleridge and Hegel. J. H. Muirhead argued that Coleridge™s
adoption of a new ˜triadic logic™, which attempted ˜to carry the dialectic
of Kant™s thought a step farther and turn criticism against the Critic™,
meant that Hegel™s system ˜had far more points of agreement than of
con¬‚ict with his own™ “ though Coleridge himself seems to have had
little interest in the philosopher.±° More recently, both Gerald McNiece
and Mary Anne Perkins have made the same connection.±° But it is
Kathleen Wheeler who has argued most powerfully on behalf of the
view of Coleridge™s thought as part of a general tide in philosophy which
allies him with Hegelianism. His opposition to dualisms of any kind; his
concern with the organic growth and progress of ˜uni¬ed knowing and
being™ over and above exhaustive explanations of the world qua object;
his rejection of noumenal reality, and thus any notion of a metaphysi-
cal ˜given™; and his pioneering use of the immanent logic of dialectical
method, it is claimed, all mark out Coleridge as a fellow-traveller of
Hegel.±°µ
Others, however, have denied that Coleridge ever managed to break
free from the Kantian orbit; or that, if he did, he consistently lapsed
into muddle and contradiction. Most famously, Ren´ Wellek criticized
e
Coleridge™s failure to see ˜that nothing of the Kantian epistemology can
be preserved in a new system™,±° and claimed that as a consequence,
Coleridge™s dialectics amount to nothing more than ˜an empty mysti-
cism of numbers™.±°· Lovejoy, meanwhile, maintained that Coleridge™s
˜quasi-Hegelian™ streak was ˜hopelessly at variance with his doctrine of
individual freedom [. . .]™.±° Nonetheless, the tendency of Coleridge
scholarship over the past thirty years or so has been to assume a more
or less defensive posture in its analysis of the tensions in his thought.±°
However, the criticisms of those such as Wellek and Lovejoy can be
seen as responding to a real ambivalence in Coleridge™s thought, one
which represents the contradictory legacy of Hume and post-Kantian
philosophy. The dilemma which Kant left philosophy was whether, on
one hand, to accept the transcendental critique, with its division of phe-
nomena and noumena, and perhaps to enlist art to provide a symbolic,
though negative and asymptotic representation of the creative Absolute,
or, on the other, to erase the distinction and accept that philosophy as a
° Knowledge and Indifference in English Romantic Prose
universal organon could encompass, either in intellectual intuition (as in,
for example, the Schelling of the ±°° System), or through a conceptual
process of dialectical analysis (as in Hegel), the absolute idea, or reality
in its completeness.±±° At the same time, another strand of thought, run-
ning through Jacobi, Schopenhauer and the later, ˜Positivist™ Schelling,
saw no getting round Hume™s scepticism on epistemology™s own terms,
and sought instead to move the discussion on to questions of how life
should be lived, of how we might deal with faith and desire and the
impossibility of happiness in a way which was indifferent to the problem
of the ˜grounds of knowledge™, treating it as a dead question. Coleridge™s
thought at different times occupies each of these perspectives in his on-
going endeavour to reconcile religion and philosophy non-reductively
through the voluntaristic absolutism of the Logos, whereby creative will
and human knowledge or reason were brought together under the au-
thority of Absolute Will. Coleridge™s complex philosophical (or rather,
theosophical) method, then, is instructive with regard to the tensions
he encountered between attempting to ¬t the ˜faith of reason™ into the
˜concrete universal™, and resisting the temptation to do so.
Even though the existence of the Logic alone demonstrates Coleridge™s
commitment to epistemological foundationalism and the need for
˜grounds™ to knowledge, he was always uncomfortable with the tradi-
tional picture of experience as a kind of confrontation between inert
data and an active mind. From his very ¬rst reading of Kant, Coleridge
expressed dissatisfaction with the manner in which (as he saw it) Kant
proposed that the matter of perception was partly ˜given™ to experience
by the manifold of sensation. In a marginal note on the ¬rst page of his
copy of the Critique of Pure Reason, he registers, among the ˜[s]truggles
felt, not arguments objected™, some doubt as to ˜[h]ow can that be called
ein mannigfaltiges ˜ÉlŸ™ [“a confused manifold”±±± ], which yet contains in
itself the ground, why I apply one category to it rather than another? [. . .]
The mind does not resemble an Eolian Harp [. . .] but rather, as far as
Objects are concerned, a violin [. . .] played on by a musician of Genius™.
In a note on the second page, apparently written some time later, he
repeats the same point, which by this time has become much more of an
objection of principle. Thus, he asks Kant:
What do you mean by a fact, an empiric Reality, which alone can give solidity
(Inhalt) to our Conceptions? “ It seems from many passages, that this indispens-
able Test is itself previously manufactured by this very conceptive Power “ and
that the whole not of our own making is the mere sensation of a mere Manifold “
in short, mere in¬‚ux of motion, to use a physical metaphor. “ I apply the
Categorical forms to a Tree “ well! but ¬rst what is this tree?±±
°
Coleridge and theosophy
Given Kant™s own psychological rendering of his transcendental argu-
ment, Coleridge can scarcely be faulted for ¬nding the causal paradoxes
of his account rather dif¬cult to swallow. Besides, Kant™s discussion of
the sensory manifold already made too great a concession to empiricism,
and ran contrary to Coleridge™s own remedy: that of demonstrating the
unity of subject and object. As he puts it in his Logic, itself supposedly an
exposition of the critical philosophy: ˜it is, a demonstrable truth, that the
human mind is the compass in which the laws of all outward things are
revealed as the dips and declinations [. . .]™.±±
The view of knowledge as a relation between things, shaped by ˜phys-
ical metaphor™, meant that the compulsion towards certainty became a
search for a communicable Absolute. Thus, Coleridge™s chief concern
at this point, as has been seen, was to animate Schelling™s indifferent or
self-identical Absolute consciousness by uncovering within it a principle
of growth and differentiation which remained prior to being itself, and
thereby a transition from the Absolute Will to the communicative logos,
or from divine to human knowing. Such a principle, however, demanded
a corresponding method. One possibility in this respect, of which
Coleridge would have been aware, was the procedure of Fichte, who,
by endeavouring to explain the progress of the ˜I™ towards self-identity,
had converted Kant™s antinomies of reason into an alternating process
which involved both the ˜antithetic procedure; commonly described as
the analytical™ (or the method of ¬nding opposition in equation) and
the ˜synthetic procedure™ (or the discovery in opposites of the respect in
which they are alike). These two procedures were, Fichte found, logi-
cally co-dependent, and led to a dialectical movement of discovering
opposition by analysis, and synthesizing it, until irreconcilable opposites
were reached, taking the enquiry beyond the realms of the theoretical
and into the practical.±± Though Coleridge remained unhappy with the
separation of these realms, Fichte™s description of the ˜antithetic™ proce-
dure coincided with his view of the manner in which reality developed
from the self-differentiating, creative potential of the pre-dialectical
Absolute. This became the structure of the logos, the initiative or begin-
ning word, which, in turn, informed Coleridge™s thesis of desynonymy:
the theory that the natural growth and progression of language, and
therefore knowledge, was determined by the discovery of difference
in terms which were previously considered synonymous.±±µ
However, though this provided Coleridge with a metaphysical appa-
ratus for explaining the progress of the Absolute out of pre-existence
and into particularity, it did not quite do the necessary work in terms of
accounting for how the Absolute set being and knowledge into motion; a
° Knowledge and Indifference in English Romantic Prose
task which at one point in his career had led Schelling to an uncom-
fortable view of the Absolute as at once uni¬ed, divided, and the indif-
ference of unity and division.±± And yet Coleridge needed a justi¬cation
of his providential theology of of knowledge, and thus a broader meta-
physical context for his claim in the ±± Friend that knowledge grew,
(and therefore changed) but in a law-like way, and that consequently
˜all Method supposes  ° ©®  ©°¬   ¦ µ®©   · ©   °§    ©  ®
[. . .]™.±±· It was this problem which brings him to extend the Biographia™s
nascent concern with polarity into a more comprehensive involvement
with dialectical method.
In a notebook entry of ±±, for instance, Coleridge proposes that
˜Receptivity [. . .] at one pole, and Agency [. . .] at the other, are the
opposite states in which the one Activity [. . .] which is the Substance
of both, and their identity, reveals itself.™ These twin opposites he calls
˜the Poles [. . .] in which   O®  reveals its Being in two opposite yet
correlative Modes of Existence [. . .]™. Meanwhile, the ˜O® ™ itself, ˜which
is the sole reality of Both, and in both is presupposed, I call the Prothesis
[. . .] or the Identity, or the Radical [. . .]™.±± He makes the same point
rather more lucidly three years later in an annotation to Kant™s ±°°
Logic, in which he argues that ˜[o]pposites must be one in a suppositum “
or a Thesis = Antithesis in the Prothesis. Two terms, that have no equa-
tion in a common Root, cannot stand in opposition to each other.™±±
The ˜Prothetic™ philosophy could overcome the theoretical limitations
of Fichte™s practical, antithetical method, while resisting the collapse
into Schelling™s imponderable Identity. Yet despite his conviction that
polar logic would enable him to escape from the Spinozism he saw
lurking in the Schellingian system, it did not really constitute an advance
on Schelling™s own assertion of the different ˜potences™ of the Identical
Absolute. What was required was an explanation of the logic of the
progress of the indifferent diversity of the Absolute into contingent being.
One of Coleridge™s most sophisticated attempts at presenting such a
schema is outlined in Aids to Re¬‚ection, a work which holds in a kind of
torsion the competing claims of his foundationalism and epistemolog-
ical indifference, as well as the dialectical para-philosophy designed to
overcome the gulf between these. As has been seen, in the ˜Aphorisms on
that which is indeed Spiritual Religion™, Coleridge repeats his conviction
that theoretical reason can only have a ˜negative voice™ in truth, and that
accordingly ˜it must be the Practical Reason of Man, comprehending the
Will, the Conscience, the Moral Being with its inseparable Interests and
Affections “ that Reason, namely, which is the Organ of Wisdom, and
°µ
Coleridge and theosophy
(as far as Man is concerned) the Source of living and actual Truths™ which
constitutes the true theosophy.±° At the same time, he constructs an elab-
orate schematism for the different moments of the Absolute, whereby,
as well as the basic Prothesis/Thesis/Antithesis triad, the notion of the
˜Mesothesis™, or Idea, is included as the productive point between Thesis
and Antithesis; and ˜Synthesis™, as the ¬fth element of actual creation
in the world.±± Together, these moments constitute the ˜Noetic Pentad™,
the source of which “ the ˜Identity™ or Prothesis “ he takes, after the
Pythagorean geometry, as a point ˜transcendent to all production, which
it caused but did not partake in [. . .]. This was the Punctum invisibile,
et presuppositum: and in this way the Pythagoreans guarded against the
error of Pantheism [. . .].™ ˜Taken absolutely™, he continues, ˜this ¬nds its
application in the Supreme Being alone, the Pythagorean     ;
the © ® ¦¦ ¬ ® , to which no Image dare be attached™, but
which might be generalized, in relative terms, under Thesis, Mesothesis,
Antithesis and Synthesis.±
But the gulf between ineffability and dialectic was a dif¬cult one for
philosophy to bridge. In particular, it meant the absence of any logic or
principle of movement between each metaphysical moment in the ˜pentad™.
In the Phenomenology, Hegel himself had stated (thus far, in agreement with
Coleridge) that ˜the triadic form must not be regarded as scienti¬c when
it is reduced to a lifeless schema™, as it was in Kant.± Yet this of course
meant that all postulated essences had to be overcome by dialectic:
Science dare only organize itself by the life of the Notion itself. The determin-
ateness, which is taken from the schema and externally attached to an existent
thing, is, in Science, the self-moving soul of the realized content. The movement
of a being that immediately is, consists partly in becoming an other than itself,
and thus becoming its own immanent content; partly in taking back into itself
this unfolding [of its content] or this existence of it, i.e. in making itself into
a moment, and simplifying itself into something determinate. In the former
movement, negativity is the differentiating and positing of existence; in this return
into self, it is the becoming of the determinate simplicity.±
In consequence, existence just is ˜self-identical determinateness™.±µ It
is entirely relational, a product of the notion™s estrangement, and return
to itself. This is the method which Schelling saw as giving a merely
negative account of the world, ignoring the irreducible positiveness of
being. Coleridge™s scheme, however, lacks even the negative dynamic of
alienation and return of the Hegelian triad because of his postulation
of an Absolute prior to articulated existence. Instead, it is organized
according to his own idea of grammatical completeness, which itself
° Knowledge and Indifference in English Romantic Prose
stems from his theory of the unity of language and being in the logos.
Thus, the Prothesis corresponds to the in¬nite ˜I am™; the Thesis to the
˜thing™, or object; the Antithesis to ˜I act™; the Mesothesis to ˜to act™, and
Synthesis to ˜acting™.±
The reasons for this tension in Coleridge™s logic stem directly from his
attempt to harmonize a trinity of post-Kantian philosophical models:
epistemological foundationalism, voluntaristic absolutism and dialectical
idealism. This division of commitments has troubling consequences for
his dialectical metaphysics. Like Schelling, Coleridge moves from, rather
than, like Hegel, towards an Absolute ground, thereby immediately raising
the question of how absoluteness can be creative (and therefore, simulta-

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