A contribution to the sixth installment of the Common Knowledge symposium “Apology for Quietism,” this article argues that a strong strain of quietism runs through German intellectual history, from medieval mystics such as Eckhart to the main line of modern philosophers, including Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Wittgenstein, and Heidegger. Magee treats each of these in turn, establishing case by case that the relation of the individual to the universal is the central issue of German thought, as it is of quietist thinking generally. The identity of the universal varies; sometimes it is said to be God, sometimes the moral law, and sometimes reason (whether human reason or an objective reason inherent in the nature of the world). The process of grappling with how human beings must orient themselves toward the universal very often issues in conclusions that are quietistic: we are enjoined to acquiesce to the universal, and to accept the world as its manifestation. And such, Magee argues, is the case throughout the mainstream German intellectual tradition.

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