Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Jacobi, Friedrich Heinrich


Born Jan. 25, 1743, in Düsseldorf; died Mar. 10, 1819, in Munich. German writer and idealist philosopher; a proponent of the philosophy of feeling and faith.

Jacobi, a friend of J. W. von Goethe and C. M. Wieland, was the author of the philosophical novels Edward Allwill’s Collected Letters (1775–76) and Woldemar (1779). He was president of the Bavarian Academy of Science from 1807 to 1812. In a dispute with M. Mendelssohn about B. Spinoza’s pantheism (1785), Jacobi opposed the “discursive” rationalism of the Enlightenment—of which, in his judgment, Spinozism was the classic example. According to Jacobi, “rational thought” is incapable of revealing the original and indisputable source of man’s individuality and its inherent freedom, and it leads inevitably either to naturalism, atheism, and determinism—as in Spinoza—or to Kant’s subjective idealism. Criticizing Kant, Jacobi revealed the basic contradiction in the latter’s theory: without the assumption of the thing-in-itself one cannot understand Kant’s philosophy, but one cannot retain this assumption and remain a Kantian.

Following D. Hume, Jacobi assumed that the actual existence of things is immediately given to man’s consciousness. The terms he used for this immediate authenticity were “faith,” “revelation,” and “feeling,” as well as “reason,” which he contrasted to “rationality.” For Jacobi, faith consisted of both the reality of the sensate world of earthly things and the reality of the absolute and eternal, where man feels that he is absorbed in the absolute and at the same time succeeds in retaining his original subjectivity.

To the Kantian categorical imperative, Jacobi opposed the individual’s moral autonomy rising above the rigorousness of moral commandments. He criticized J. G. Fichte, F. W. von Schelling, and G. Hegel, perceiving in the development of post-Kantian idealism certain tendencies toward pantheism and “nihilism” (a term that Jacobi himself introduced). Jacobi’s irrationalist philosophy anticipated many of the themes of the philosophy of life and of existentialism.


Neue Gesamtausgabe der Werke, des Nachlasses und des Briefwechsels (in 14 volumes). Darmstadt, 1968—.
In Russian translation:
“O transtsendental’nom idealizme.” In Novye idei v filosofii, sb. 12. St. Petersburg, 1914.


Kozhevnikov, V. A. Filosofiia chuvstva i very, part 1. Moscow, 1897.
Asmus, V. F. Problema intuitsii v filosofii i matematike, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1965.
Feuerbach, L. “Iakobi i filosofiia ego vremeni.” In his Istoriia filosofii, vol. 2. Moscow, 1967.
Lévy-Bruhl, L. La Philosophie de Jacobi. Paris, 1894.
Bollnow, O. F. Die Lebensphilosophie F. H. Jacobis. Stuttgart-Berlin, 1966.
Baum, G. Vernunft und Erkenntnis: Die Philosophie F. H. Jacobis. Bonn, 1969.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
English translation: F. H. Jacobi, The Main Philosophical Writings and Thee Novel Allwill, trans.