Fries, Jacob Friederich
Fries, Jacob Friederich an eminent German philosopher, was born at Barby August 23, 1773. He was at first private tutor in Switzerland, became professor of philosophy in 1804, then successively professor of mathematics at Heidelberg in 1805, and of theoretical philosophy at Jena in 1816. In 1819 he was deposed for political reasons, but restored in 1824 as professor of natural philosophy and mathematics, and died there August 10th, 1843. The personal religious life of Fries was not a happy one. His father was a Moravian, but died when the son was only five years old. The school education to which he was subjected seems to have estranged him from Christianity when quite young. While yet a young man, he wrote: "The lectures of Garve on imagination and superstition have changed my religious sentiments. All the religious system in which I was bred has been overthrown; but this causes me no uneasiness. It was easy for me to throw the atonement overboard; I have never had any dread of God; the thought of the Holy One has always been to me a thought of peace." In 1799, when his mother died, he wrote: "The belief in a reunion I leave to others; I am not ephantast enough to hold it." Yet in 1806 he wrote to a Moravian brother: "My peace cannot compare with yours; the deserted: Penates will probably punish me for a long time yet." A sketch of his life has recently appeared, by E.L.D. Henke,
J.F. Fries aus seinem handschriftlichen Nachlasse dargestellt (Leipzig, 1867, 8vo) .
The professed aim of Fries in philosophy was to give a firmer basis to Kant's system than that philosopher himself had laid down. "He found two faults with Kant: 1st. The vicious logical arrangement of his doctrine, by which he makes the value of his categories to depend on transcendental proofs, and that of his ideas on moral proofs, instead of rising, without any proof, to the immediate knowledge of reason. On this point Fries approaches the views of Jacobi. 2d. The confounding of psychological ideas with philosophy, properly so called, and not properly distinguishing the aids that psychology furnish to metaphysics from metaphysics themselves. He regarded the life and independence of Kant's practical philosophy as the most beautiful part of his system. Fries maintains that he has remedied the errors of Kant, and that he has placed the doctrine of faith, which is the focus of all philosophical conviction, on a solid basis. And he asserts that he has effected this by means of researches carried on in the spirit of Kant himself. Fries, as well as Kant, makes the limits of science his starting-point; hence he arrives at pure faith of reason in that which is eternal, a faith that is strengthened by presentiment (Ahnung) Knowledge, or science, is only concerned with sensuous phenomena; the true essence of things is the object of faith; we are led by feeling to anticipate, even amidst appearances, the value of belief, which is the offspring of the limitation itself of knowledge. Here again, in placing feeling and presentiment (Ahnung) above science, Fries approaches the doctrine of Jacobi. His labors in connection with philosophical anthropology, which he regards as the fundamental science of all philosophy, are of great interest. They contain particular theories on spiritual life, and particularly on the three fundamental faculties of the mind-cognition, feeling (Gemuth, the faculty of being interested), and the. faculty of action, which is supposed to precede the two former. Afterwards follow theories on the three degrees of development — sense, habit, understanding (as the power of self-command and self-formation); on the degrees of thought, qualitative and quantitative abstractions of the imagination, mathematical intuition, attention, the difference between the understanding and the reason, etc. His anthropological logic contains also some excellent views on the subject of reasoning, method, and system. He regards practical philosophy as the theory of the value and end of human life and of the world, or the theory of human wisdom. It is there that you find the last goal of all philosophical research; it is divided into a moral theory and a religious theory (theory of the final goal of the universe). The former may be also subdivided into general ethics, or theory of the value and end of human actions, theory of virtue, and theory of the state" (Tennemann, Manual Hist. Philos., revised by Morell, § 422).
Fries "called his system Philosophical Anthropology," since he made all further philosophical knowledge dependent on man's self-knowledge. He distinguished three grades of Erkenntniss; we know (wissen) the phenomena of our subjective thinking; this is the realm of philosophy. We believe (glauben) that there are appearances — Erscheinungen — out of the mind that all is not a mere subjective creation. We have a feeling, a presentiment (ahnen), that there is a reality, a substance behind these appearances; here Fries places all that pertains to God, the existence of the soul and immortality. De Wette had much conversation with Fries, first at Jena, then at Heidelberg, and to him he essentially owed his transition from the dry Kantian rationalism to the method which may be most simply named the ideal-believing. After listening to this system, De Wette says that he gathered up, as by magic, his previously scattered knowledge and convictions into a well-ordered and beautiful whole. The philosophy of Fries seemed to commend itself in this, that it preserved the formal, logical reflection of Kant, without sharing in the metaphysical insipidity, yea, emptiness of the contents of that philosophy. (Edwards, in Bibliotheca Sacra, 1850, page 780).
His principal writings are: Reinhold, Fichte au. Schelling (Lpz. 1803): — Philosophische Rechtslehre (Jena, 1804): — System der Philosophie (Lpz. 1804): — Wissen, Glauben und Ahnung (Lpz. 1805): — Neue Kritik der Vernunft (Heidelberg, 1807, 3 volumes; 2d edit. 1830): — System d. Logik (Lpz. 1811; 3d edit. 1837): — Populare Vorles. uber d. Sternkunde (Lpz. 1813; 2d edit. 1833): — Ueber d. Gefahrdung d. Wohlstandes u. Charakters d. Deutschen durch d. Juden (Lpz. 1816): —Vom Dentuschen Bunde, etc. (Lpz. 1817): — Handbuch der praktischen Philosophie (Lpz. 1817-32, 2 volumes): — Handbuch d. psychischen Anthropologie (Jena, 1820; 2d edit. 1837-39, 2 vols.): — Die mathematische Naturphilosophie (Jena, 1822): — Julius U. Evagoras (a philosophical novel) (Jena, 1822): — Die Lehre d. Liebe, d. Glaubens, u. d. Hoffnung (Jena, 1823): — Systeme d. Metaphysik (Jena, 1824): — Polemische Schriften (Halle, 1824): — Die Gesch. der Philosophie, etc. (Halle, 1837-40, 2 volumes). In connection, with Schmid and Schroter, he published the Oppositionschrift
f. Theologie u. Philosophie. — Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Gener. 18:876 sq.; Herzog, Real-Encyklopadie, 7:355 sq.; Morell, Modern Philosophy, part 2, chapter 7.