From Infinite Rapprochement to the Open. From Kant to Hölderlin

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For Hölderlin, Kant is the starting point of his thinking. However, religion
for Hölderlin is not primarily inscribed in the matrix of practical philosophy, but
contains essential impulses from its relation to aesthetics. Hölderlin wants to move from “philosophy to poetry and religion” without taking the path via practical philosophy. In the “Fragment of Philosophical Letters” Hölderlin concludes: “Thus all religion would be poetic in its essence.” While Kant opens up ethically based religion to aesthetic categories only in selected places, Hölderlin places the latter at the centre. This is particularly evident in his reference to God in poetry from 1800 onwards, which borrows essential motifs developed by Kant in the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment. For Kant, beauty has to do with the “feeling of freedom in the play of our cognitive faculties” (KdU § 45), which of course does not mean lack of rules. The creative and free character of the imagination is expressed in the fact that it produces an abundance of ideas for given concepts, which accompany those concepts but escape their regulation (cf. KdU § 49). This open moment, which Kant allows but does not develop further, provides a key to the peculiarity of Hölderlin's writing. His poems always have a concept, an idea, a theological object (the question of God) as their theme. This concept is enriched with new ideas in an unfinishable process of revising the poems. Newer versions of the texts usually do not erase the older ones, but rather fan the linear textual design into a variety that is no longer entirely controllable. This process of multiplication of ideas is particularly intense where God is concerned.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-67
Number of pages12
JournalProceedings of the European Society for Aesthetics
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Austrian Fields of Science 2012

  • 603206 Fundamental theology


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