Swedenborg’s Hidden Influence on Kant
by Gottlieb Florschütz
Striking series of parallels between Kant and Swedenborg on the soul, life after death, and the metaphysical importance of moral goodness.
Understand the way these philosophical greats wrestled with the fascinating depths of the human mind and its predicaments.
“In a book that will interest Swedenborgians and Kantians—but also those who are concerned with Schopenhauer and metaphysics generally—Gottlieb Florschütz has given us a careful tracing of the Sage of Königsberg’s changing attitude toward the famous Seer of the North. By analyzing passages from Kant’s early letters, his polemical Dreams of a Spirit-Seer, the Critique of Pure Reason, and Kant’s lectures on rational psychology, Dr. Florschütz discloses the conflicts in Kant’s mind over parapsychological phenomena that manifest themselves in the inconsistencies in Kant’s critical metaphysics. Inconsistency is made especially clear when it comes to the moral requirement of human freedom in the context of Kant’s restrictive epistemology. Hidden Influence contains a most striking series of parallels between Kant and Swedenborg on the soul, life after death, and the metaphysical importance of moral goodness.
This intriguing book ends by showing how Kant’s system could benefit from Schopenhauer’s metaphysics, yet through a four point critique, Florschütz makes clear that such a repair would still leave problems to solve. At a time when criticisms of naturalism, developments in science, and postmodern exploration of marginalized topics have opened once again the question of the nature of reality, consciousness, and the paranormal, Hidden Influence will help the reader understand the way these philosophical greats wrestled with the fascinating depths of the human mind and its predicaments.”
—Dan A. Synnestvedt, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bryn Athyn College.
“In actual fact, in the 1780s the critical spokesman of the Enlightenment turns anew to the Nordic seer with an astonishing expression of appreciation for his person and doctrine, as is explicitly evident from the notes on Kant’s college lectures on rational psychology published by K. H. L von Pölitz (contained in the lectures on metaphysics).”
—Author Dr. Gottlieb Florschütz
“This dissertation adds a new dimension to the age-old discussion of Swedenborg’s impact on Immanuel Kant, not so much in the sense of bringing to light new evidence, but rather of introducing a new focus upon existing documents, with a chronologically sensitive arrangement and illuminating analysis. Particularly pertinent is the examination of Kant’s hitherto little noted late lectures on rational psychology (circa 1790), never published.
Gottlieb Florschütz, born in Passau March 5th 1962, graduated from the Gymnasium at Kiel in May 1981, subsequently taking up the study of Philosophy at the Christian-Albrechts-Universität in that city. He obtained his master’s degree in 1988 and went right on to his doctorate in 1992, magna cum laude.
Florschütz’ aim does not appear to be personally to align himself with either of two philosophical standpoints, but rather to contrast the concepts they harbor, pungently demonstrating the important phases of Kant’s development, his vacillations and self-contradictions in cognitive paradigm—and his eventual reconciliation with Swedenborg. The dissertation also touches on the motivational duplicity in Kant’s attitude toward Swedenborg as evidenced in communications with some of his contemporaries.
Florschütz outlines the “große Linien” of his presentation at the end of section I.2, “Parallels between Kant and Swedenborg”:
Summarizing the foregoing, the following agreements logically emerge between Kant’s and Swedenborg’s metaphysical convictions, as also advanced by Carl du Prel:
There exists another world than that which is apparent to the senses.
There exists a transcendental being.
This being exists simultaneously with the earthly person. These points logically entail:
- The inadequacy of self-awareness for the knowledge of our being.
- The only partial involvement of our being in the material world.
The pre-existence of the soul.
The immortality of the soul.
Birth as the incarnation of a transcendental being.
Material existence as the exception, transcendental existence as the rule.
The need for a rational psychology for proving the soul’s existence.
The voice of conscience as the voice of the transcendental being.
The ‘Beyond’ as simply what lies on the other side of the threshold of perception.
It was my pleasure to meet Gottlieb Florschütz at the Wolfenbüttel Swedenborg Symposium in 1988, and to introduce him to the Swedenborg Scientific Association, which has sponsored this translation. It has also been my privilege to share with Rev. Kurt Nemitz the task of translating Swedenborg’s Hidden Influence on Kant (Swedenborgs verborgene Wirkung auf Kant) into English.
All in all, Dr. Florschütz leaves me impressed with a fine document that does indeed further expose the hidden, but in the last analysis unquestionable, influence of Swedenborg on Immanuel Kant, who, as Florschütz emphasizes, had long been preoccupied with the concept and intrigued by the possibility of human glimpses into the world of mind—the intelligible Welt.”
—J. Durban Odhner, PhD
About the Author
Author Dr. Gottlieb Florschütz, born at Passau in Germany in 1962, is a German philosopher living in Kiel, Germany, who wrote this dissertation on Kant and Swedenborg. He is currently working at the University of Kiel giving courses in philosophy and film, and writes esoteric philosophic books.