Volume 10, 2007
Ancient and Modern Philosophy
Hölderlin and Novalis
Reappropriating the Reflection Model of Self-Consciousness
This paper draws upon my research into the posthumously published fragmentary remains of Hölderlin and Novalis's philosophical reflections to describe how their explanations of the possibility of self-consciousness are far more convincing than those provided by their philosophical contemporaries, and still have much to contribute to contemporary debates concerning the nature of 'consciousness' and 'selfhood.' The paper begins by sketching the background to their accounts of self-consciousness, that is, Fichte's critique of Kant's 'reflection model' of self-consciousness and the subsequent critique of Fichte's 'solution' to this problem by more orthodox Kantians (such as F. I . Niethammer). I shall then present an account of how Hölderlin and Novalis may be said to enact a 'synthesis' of the opposed Kantian and Fichtean positions, to formulate an account of self-consciousness that on one hand acknowledges the power of—in Henrich's words—Fichtes ursprüngliche Einsicht into the inadequacy of the Kantian 'reflection model,' whilst, on the other hand, re-appropriating such a 'reflection model.' They thus argue that I am only aware of myself as T by means of a reflective act (in which I in some sense become my own intentional object), whilst at the same time arguing that such awareness nevertheless involves a non-reflective 'dimension.' For Hölderlin and Novalis, therefore, consciousness is always intentionally directed, and yet in being intentionally directed, it is also non-reflectively related to itself or "self-luminous" sea conception of consciousness which has similarities with Sartre's conception of the 'pre-reflective cogito.'