I have said that it was the fate of epoch-makers to have their ideas promptly converted into something that they never meant. Kant was a cautious, or as he terms it, a “critical” thinker. He concerned himself with questions regarding the possibility of knowledge and the legitimacy of faith; and avoided so far as possible making positive assertions about the world. But his followers were fired with speculative zeal, and at once passed over from “criticism” to metaphysics.

There resulted the great Romantic and Idealistic movement that formed the main current of philosophical thought during the nineteenth century.

In the idealistic movement the Kantian theory of knowledge is united with a pantheistic tendency that may be traced continuously back even to Plato himself. According to this pantheistic view, nature and God are the same thing viewed differently. God, foreshortened shortened and taken in the limited perspectives defined by man’s earth-bound intelligence, is nature; nature, consummated, seen in its fullness and harmony, is God. For all we have power to see, is a straight staff bent in a pool; And the ear of man cannot hear, and the eye of man cannot see; But if we could see and hear, this Vision—were it not He?〖Tennyson, “The Higher Pantheism,” H. C., xlii, 1004.〗

Nature, on Kantian grounds, is the work of intelligence, and intelligence, in turn, obeys some deeper spiritual law. That law, when interpreted according to the Platonic-pantheistic tradition, is the perfection of the whole. There are many possible variations of the view. The perfection of the whole may be regarded as a moral perfection, the ideal of the moral will, as suggested by Kant, and more positively and constructively maintained by Fichte; or as the ideal of reason, as was maintained by Hegel and his followers; or as a general realization of all spiritual values, a perfection transcending moral and rational standards, and more nearly approached in the experience of beauty, or in flashes of mystical insight, as was proclaimed by the sentimentalists and romanticists. In the popular literary expressions of the view, these varieties have alternated, or have been indiscriminately mingled. But it is this view in some form that has inspired those English poets and essayists, such as Coleridge, Wordsworth, Carlyle, Emerson, Tennyson, and Browning, who so profoundly influenced the men of the last generation. There is thus a continuous current of thought from the closest philosophy of the sage of Königsberg to the popular incentives and consolations of to-day.

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