|Afrikan Alexandrovich Spir|
Afrikan Alexandrovich Spir, the Russian metaphysician was born in Elizavetgrad (present-day Kirovohrad) in the Ukraine, the son of a Russian doctor and a mother of Greek descent. Spir became interested in philosophy when, at the age of sixteen, he read Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason, a work that was to have a profound influence on him.
He received no formal education in philosophy, however, and consequently never gained entry into philosophical circles, either in his native country or in Germany, where he settled in 1867. Spir attended a naval cadet school.
He received both the Order of St. George and the Order of St. Andrew for his services as a naval officer. Before leaving Russia, he freed all his serfs and gave them land and lodging. He also gave away most of his money and lived on the income from the remainder.
In 1869 Spir wrote that only two human activities have real worth—socially useful work and intimate discourse among people who think alike, yet in his lifetime Spir was denied both of these; indeed, few philosophers have been so isolated or ignored.
During the fifteen years Spir lived in Germany he published many articles and several books, including his major philosophical work, Denken und Wirklichkeit, but notices and reviews were few. Bad health cut him off even further from the world.
Hoping for a more receptive audience among French-speaking readers, Spir moved to Switzerland in 1882, but his work remained unknown and his views not understood. He died in Geneva, a Swiss citizen, just as his writing was beginning to attract attention.
Spir’s later writings are on the whole restatements and clarifications of the metaphysical views presented in Denken und Wirklichkeit, which he felt might have been neglected because of its difficulty.
In Denken und Wirklichkeit Spir argued that the task of philosophy is to seek absolutely true knowledge. In order to carry out this task, two immediately certain facts must be recognized: consciousness and the supreme law of thought, the principle of identity.
|principle of identity|
This principle is the expression of a norm, of the a priori concept of the unconditioned, that is, of an object that is its own essence and is self-identical. To deny this concept is to deny that it can be conceived and, hence, that it can be denied. The principle of identity is seen to be the one synthetic a priori principle.
To the subjective necessity of this norm is added an objective proof: All our experience disagrees with it and, therefore, it cannot be a mere generalization from experience. Finally, the principle of identity adds something to experience: All phenomena are organized as if they were self-identical; therefore the principle of identity is the condition of all the regularity of experience.
|Denken und Wirklichkeit|
The unconditioned is, then, the norm, true essence, or God. The unconditioned, however, is not the source or ground of the conditioned: The norm cannot be the source of the abnormal, which contains elements of falsity foreign to the absolute. The relation of the absolute to the phenomenal can best be described analogously, as the relation of an object to its false idea.
Having no relation to true being, the phenomenal world simply cannot be explained, its principle can only be thought of as its very abnormality, as its nonself-identity, as becoming. Hence the phenomenal world has no beginning and no end.
At the same time, since it is conditioned by becoming, it strives for and evolves to what it is not, the normal. In man, empirical nature has evolved to consciousness, to the awareness of its abnormality.
In this awareness man recognizes a norm. Thus he rises above empirical nature and sees the law of his true being as the law not of nature but of the norm, as the laws of morality and logic. Thus morality rises above natural science and, since the moral law is the norm, morality becomes religion.
|laws of morality|