Coleridge's Philosophy: The Logos as Unifying Principle

Coleridge's Philosophy: The Logos as Unifying Principle

Coleridge's Philosophy: The Logos as Unifying Principle

Coleridge's Philosophy: The Logos as Unifying Principle


Mary Anne Perkins re-examines Coleridge's claim to have developed a "logosophic" system which attempted "to reduce all knowledges into harmony." She pays particular attention to his later writings, some of which are still unpublished. She suggests that the accusations of plagiarism and of muddled, abstruse metaphysics which have been levelled at him may be challenged by a thorough reading of his work in which its unifying principle is revealed. She explores the various meanings of the term "logos," a recurrent theme in every area of Coleridge's thought--philosophy, religion, natural science, history, political and social criticism, literary theory, and psychology. Coleridge was responding to the concerns of his own time, a revolutionary age in which increasing intellectual and moral fragmentation and confusion seemed to him to threaten both individuals and society. Drawing on the whole of Western intellectual history, he offered a ground for philosophy which was relational rather than mechanistic. He is one of those few thinkers whose work appears to become more interesting and his perceptions more acute as the historical gulf widens. This book is a contribution to the reassessment that he deserves.


Life and language are alike sacred. Homicide and verbicide-- that is, violent treatment of a word with fatal results to its legitimate meaning, which is its life--are alike forbidden.

(Oliver Wendell Holmes)

'In the beginning was the Word' (John 1: 1). This first declaration of the Fourth Gospel is the focus of Coleridge's 'logosophic' system. He constantly echoed and explored it from the time of his full adoption of a Trinitarian faith (circa 1805). That he found 'Word' (Logos) to be a supremely fitting analogy to communicate the reality of the Idea of God is consistent with his own character, interests, and talents. His fascination with words was lifelong. In his childhood he was, by his own admission, 'a playless Daydreamer, an Helluo Librorum' (N Fo, fo. 91), and in his youth, a 'library-cormorant' (CL i. 260). Although his reading was at first indiscriminate, he developed a keen sense of the power of words and of the significance of their use or misuse in all forms of human discourse. Increasingly, not only that which the words conveyed, but also words themselves, their history, and their relationship to thought and things, attracted his attention.

Coleridge, in 1805, accepted WORD as a living God-given power: 'the profoundest and most comprehensive Energy of the human Mind' (CN ii, § 2445). From this time on, he had no hesitation in identifying this energy of intellect as having its source in the divine Logos. He described the 'sublime metaphor (plusquam metaphora) of "THE WORD": the representation by which of the Son of God is the sublimest Thought that ever entered the Soul of man, the purest Form of Intuition--"eine mehr als geometrischen [sic] Anschauung [a more than geometrical insight]"' (CM i. 568). This metaphor perfectly represented 'the Divine Alterity, the Deus Alter et idem [God Other and the same] of Philo . . .

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