Morality, Metaphysics, And Religion

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In his second speech to the literary salon of Henrietta Herz, Friedrich Schleiermacher dismantles the perception of religion as a blending together of morality and metaphysics. He argues that such a hybrid can never truly function as religion and that to attack such a false construct is to fight against a shadow, rather than to engage the true subject (21). Morality, metaphysics, and religion all address the same subject matter—the relationship of humanity to the universe—but religion must be differentiated from the others. For Schleiermacher, religion distinguishes itself by identifying each individual as a finite and particular portion of the infinite. He
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Morality recognizes freedom within humanity (the ability to make free decisions over against a sense of determinism) and seeks to “extend freedom’s realm to infinity and make everything subservient to it” (23). Morality’s primary domain is action and its principle concern is determining those deeds that must be performed and proscribed. Metaphysics, similarly, is a system that seeks to understand and determine the universe from a human perspective. It proceeds from human experience and observation toward defining the essence of the universe and how the cosmos can, and must, function. This system classifies and divides nature, determines the reason for the existence of each element, and—most startling—accomplishes all of this by “spinning the reality of the world and its laws out of itself” (20). Like morality, metaphysics begins with human experience and moves outward, seeking to delimit the whole based upon its own partial perspective of existing within that same whole.
In Speeches, Schleiermacher counters the common perception of his audience that religion is simply an amalgam of morality and metaphysics. He argues, rather, that true religion is much more than an “unseemly form” produced by comingling a knowledge of how the universe functions with a list of rules as to how humanity must relate to it (19). What is often cited as religion is
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