Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Alexander Schlutz

Committee Members

Alan Vardy

Peter Hitchcock

Subject Categories

Aesthetics | Comparative Philosophy | Continental Philosophy | Epistemology | German Literature | History of Philosophy | Literature in English, British Isles | Metaphysics | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion


Coleridge, philosophy, German, epistemology, British, method


Coleridge’s prose works, published and unpublished, demonstrate a thorough and critical testing and understanding of British and German philosophical responses to skepticism and the ability of philosophy to progress by maintaining a double-minded and conflicted suture of both the practical or imaginative eclipse of knowledge and theorizing the hypothetical epistemological absolute that explains the relativity of facticity. Any inadequate method of inquiry stagnates within attempting a purely figurative or purely demonstrative solution to skepticism. Thus, the appropriate way to approach Coleridge’s understanding of philosophy is the struggle to make inquiry adequate though progression. Coleridge’s methodological impulse originates explicitly in a response to William Wordsworth, a poet theorizing poetry and exemplifying that poetry cannot speak for itself. In Coleridge’s mature thought, the role of poetry transitions from a philosophical problem (maintained in Coleridge’s early prose works) to the animus of a kind of philosophy that counteracts scientific reasoning and evinces philosophy as a seeking after and love for knowledge–never completely pragmatic but requiring a non-scientific, sublime, and necessarily pretentious imagining of knowledge’s absolute ground in order to make analysis grounded. In practice, Coleridge’s methodological understanding of philosophy shows within the bulk of his later prose—the early prose of the Biographia, Statesman’s Manual, and the Essays on Method in the 1818 Friend are sites of epistemological and methodological conflict—being dedicated to either correcting individual philosophical methods for which the absolute or its impossibility has become science (thus eroding the practical and theoretical distinction) or imaginatively illustrating practical and theoretical convergence, most notably in the often misunderstood (by being delegated to theosophic doctrine) writing on noetic logic, the good and evil will, the logos, and trinity or tetractys. Within the British context, from Francis Bacon to empiricism, and within the German context, from Jacobi and Kant to Hegel, I show Coleridge’s pattern of critical digestion is well-informed and progresses through the methodological options—historically highlighted in Hume and Jacobi—he sees repeating within the history of philosophy, such that explicitly distinct thinkers like Bacon and Plato map the same ground but are distorted and made different by reigning methodologies. Most notably, Coleridge’s criticism of Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel’s philosophical methods displays an intense engagement with and unique outcome but not solution to a desire for a system of philosophy. I contrast Coleridge’s method with Friedrich Schlegel’s to note Coleridge’s difference from what has been called the Romantic response to idealism. Coleridge is persistently attuned to what are the methodological errors and doctrinal half-truths of any singular method: the form of argumentation is the substance of Coleridge’s prose.