Haeckel and the Importance of Monism

Author: Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919) was born in Prussia and was educated in several different fields including philosophy, biology, natural history, and medicine. He is credited with the discovery of thousands of new species and promoted the works of Charles Darwin in Germany.
Context: The Confession of Faith of a Man of Science was written in 1892, a period in which many biologists were rethinking their understanding of the relationship between God and nature.
Language: The language used in Haeckel’s Confession was forceful and persuasive. Haeckel seemed to be urging his audience to recognize the beauty in a monistic view toward God and nature.
Audience: Haeckel writes that he “crave[s] the permission of this assembly” to confess his faith, indicating that he was orating his Confession to a congregation of other scientists in his field.
Intent: Haeckel’s intent was to persuade his audience of the existence of a unity between God and nature.
Message: Haeckel implored his fellow scientists to embrace the monistic unity of all things. He emphasized the compatibility of God and the scientific knowledge of the time, as well as the presence of a divine spirit in nature. He also quoted the Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno, who opined that “no body is so small that it does not contain a part of the divine substance whereby it is animated.” Haeckel concluded his speech with a representation of monism as “truly beatific union of religion and science”, stressing the influence monism will have on the ideas of the coming century.

Wilhelm, Bismarck, and Fichte on Austria

Fichte, Wilhelm and Bismark all had similar ideas regarding the unification of Germany; their ideas of why and how to do that varied, however. Fichte wrote about how Germany was divided by foreign imperialists who failed to see and value the unity of the German people under one state. He believed that the primary reason to seek German unification was to unify the German people, not to bolster the power of the German Empire or that of Prussia. He simply wanted to unify the German people. He wrote,“it is not because men dwell between certain mountains and rivers that they are a people, but, on the contrary, men dwell together-and, if their luck has so arranged it, are protected by rivers and mountains-because they were a people already by a law of nature which is much higher.” The German people had been divided and needed to be reunited according to a higher power.

Wilhelm had different reasoning for why he wanted to go to war with Austria and reunite Germany. He wanted to wage war in order to unite Austria with the German Empire, to the dismay of Bismarck. Wilhelm initially wanted to unite the German people under his crown by peaceful means: “And may God grant that We and our successors on the imperial throne may at all times increase the wealth of the German Empire, not by military conquests, but by the blessings and the gifts of peace, in the realm of national prosperity, liberty, and morality.” Once he began to gain power, however, he sought a less peaceful means to an end. The acquisition of land was not even the primary motive; Wilhelm and his generals primarily wanted Austria to submit to German hegemony. Bismarck feared “that the king and his advisors would be intoxicated by the brilliant victory over Austria and would wish to press on, and perhaps lose much in the end.”

Putting An End To Feudal Strife

The unification of Russian lands around Moscow and putting an end to the feudal strife was the key to finally vanquishing the Mongol yoke in 1480. The desire of Russian princes to boost Russian economy in a centralized state is reflected in the new codes of law. Both the Novgorod Judicial Charter and the Moscovite Sudebnik of 1497 provide the foundation for land ownership and the legal guide to protect it in the court of law.  This is a big leap forward compared to The Iaroslav’s Statute and Pravda Russkaia which mostly concentrated on judging most common crimes, as well as violations of moral and family values. The new documents describe in detail the structure of the court procedures to determine a person’s right to land. The figure of the judge appears, but still remains a passive force during court. The parties fighting for land have to assume the active role, produce written documents and witnesses , while the judges act as supervisors hoping that the decision would become obvious in the course of the trial. A flaw from the standpoint of contemporary litigation, this was still a great step forward in developing the legal structure of Russian society. An accent on the role of written documents presented as evidence and certifying the right to land is also an important new development. Reducing the freedom of peasants by binding them to land is a controversial measure that reduced their freedom, but at that point of time it seems to have positively contributed to developing the economy of the Russian state in post- Mongol time.