THE celebrated words of Fichte in the Erste Einleitung in die Wissenschaftslehre: 'The kind of philosophy a man chooses depends upon the kind of man he is', holds good, not only for individuals, but also for peoples. A people does not 'decide' for a given line of thinking any more than an individual 'chooses' his philosophy. It is born in them:
Und keine Zeit und keine Macht zerstückelt Geprägte Form, die lebend sich entwickelt.
To use Goethe's word, this is their 'Daimon'. But a people does not merely choose a philosophy as a whole: it chooses also, according to its national character, the particular viewpoints from which it will consider that whole. Such viewpoints are: the relationship of the mind with the outer world (Epistemology, Erkenntnistheorie); relationship with the origin and the meaning of Being (Metaphysics); relationship with Nature as the creative and created Force (Natural Philosophy); relationship with the reflection of life in Art (Æsthetics); relationship with acts of willing (Ethics); relationship with the community (Philosophy of the State). Formal Logic, Psychology, and Pedagogy, being practical and auxiliary sciences, are the least affected by national bias.
Of all these sections of philosophy, metaphysics has had the stronges attraction for German thought. Not that it has neglected the others -- natural philosophy least of all; but it has often approached them in such a manner that they have been to some extent restricted, as it were, to becoming facets of the greater metaphysical crystal. This is especially true for Ethics, as treatment of this subject by Kant and even more by Fichte, Schelling, Hegel and Schopenhauer shows quite clearly. This does not mean that the practical aspect of Ethics, Moral Science, has been overlooked in German thought, but it is not one of its characteristic features. Characteristic is rather the apodictic way of the acceptance of