‘A human being may be dishumanised’: Coleridge and Human Life

Andrea Timár (Eötvös Loránd University)


From his middle to his late career, Coleridge was convinced that there is a ‘wide chasm between man and the noblest animals of the brute creation, which no perceivable or conceivable difference of organization is sufficient to overbridge’ (SW 2 “Theory of Life501); most importantly because non-human creatures are governed by “external Influence”, while humans are endowed free Will, “having its Law within itself” (AR 98). However, despite his overall conviction of the “glaring difference” between Man and Beast (SW 2, “The Races of Men” 1410), he admits that a “human being may be dishumanised … by his own act” (OM, 11). This statement looks like a contradiction in terms. How can a human act dishumanise its human agent? And what becomes of humans if they are dishumanised?

The present essay takes as its starting point the notion of akrasia (Pfau), this “riddle of humanity”, which is, according to Coleridge, “to transgress [the principles of reason], but still to acknowledge [them]” (OM 9–10). Then, examining the difference between the human as a person having conscience and the human as a species, it traces down how “irritability”, “sensibility”, and “habit”, which are proper to humans and animals alike (cf: “Theory of Life” and “On the Passions”, and also: Webster, Timár) may dissever human “volition” from the “Will”, and thereby complicate Coleridge’s idea of human life.


Coleridge and the Formative Power: from Animal to Human, from Species to Person

From his middle years, Coleridge lays more and more emphasis on the idea of “cultivation”, which he defines as “the harmonious development of those qualities and faculties that characterise our humanity” (Ch & St. 42.) “Humanity” also turns out to be the most important prerequisite of citizenship: “We must be men in order to be citizens” (Ibid.) The point of departure of the present paper is Coleridge’s obsessive, as if performatively repetitive claim concerning the gap separating animals and humans: e.g. in Theory of Life, in various essays of The Friend, in his notes “On the Passions”, in On the Constitution of the Church and State, or in Opus Maximum. I suggest that being aware of the threats posed by the various pre-Darwinian theories of the classification of the species, and in order to secure and widen this gap between man and beast, Coleridge draws a sharp distinction between man as a species and man as a Person, and introduces the idea of cultivation to guide man from being merely part of the human species to becoming a human Person.

Animal and Human

In the first fragment of Opus Maximum, Coleridge recurs to one of the riddles that has occupied him throughout his life: the difference between animal and human nature, and the concomitant distinction between natural and moral necessity. In line with his characteristic arguments concerning the gap between nature and culture, science and morality, truth and ethics, in Opus Maximum, he establishes a distinction between the constative and the performative use of the term “must”, and underlines the impossibility for the human person to actually turn into a thing. However, he equally and provocatively notes that “a human being may [still] be dishumanized” (OM, 11). And, elaborating on this first known usage of the term “dishumanised” (preceding by half a century what the OED determines as the first use of the term “dehumanized”), he goes on to specify: the human being cannot be dehumanized by “calamities from without” (which may only “suspend” his humanity), but only “by his own act”. What does “to dishumanize” mean, and how can it happen then? How can a human lose or relinquish what makes him human, namely his agency or free will[1], by, paradoxically, an act?

Coleridge gives following the example: a man refuses “to relieve a deserving and afflicted parent”, and excuses himself by saying that a “young lion” does not “lessen his meal to feed the old dam” either. By making an “appeal to the beasts”, this man “disavow[s] the principles of reason”. In other words, explaining his sinful behaviour by offering parallels from the animal world, he confuses natural and moral necessity. Doing so, he both transgresses and disavows the principles of reason, and thereby, he dishumanizes himself. Does this mean that by dishumanizing himself, he actually turns into a beast? Of course, NOT. He is only like a beast, he behaves as if he was a beast. This “deliberate act of disavowal constitutes”, according to Coleridge, “the idea of the fiend” (OM 10). Meanwhile, what is eminently human is not the opposite: to acknowledge our humanity and always act accordingly merely represents the ideal of the human, or, as Coleridge puts it, something angelic. For Coleridge, what, indeed, constitutes the true “riddle” of our humanity, is to both “acknowledge” what divides us from animals, namely, practical reason, and still to “transgress” (OM, 9), to parallelly betray our humanity.

In Aids to Reflection, he calls another “contradiction” “the Riddle of Man.” (AR 350). Apart from alluding to the “mysterious diversity between the injunction of the mind and the election of the will” (AR 349), which he also elaborates in Opus Maximum, he evokes the co-existence of what “we have in common with perishable things” and what in nature has “the character of Permanence”, that is, the “Soul of Man”. That is, although Coleridge is famously “Convinced […] by the wide chasm between man and the noblest animals of the brute creation, which no perceivable or conceivable difference of organization is sufficient to overbridge—that [he has] a rational and responsible soul.” (Theory of Life), he equally points to the co-presence, in man, of properties that he shares with nature or the animal kingdom on the one hand and “properties peculiar to our Humanity” (AR 350) on the other.

In the poem entitled “Human Life, On the Denial of Immortality”, Coleridge explores the consequences of the negation of the “living (that is, self-subsisting) soul, a soul having a life in itself”, which is God’s higher gift to man. This self-subsisting soul is what elevates him above the animal world (AR 15). In the poem, the negation of Mind makes one similar to animals, a “drone-hive strange of phantom purposes!”, a mere “Surplus of Nature’s dread activity”, which has to embrace that his “being’s being is contradiction.” Previous commentators, such as, recently, Onita Vaz‐Hooper[2] or David Collings[3], considered the phrase “being’s being is contradiction” either as positive negation, a teaching Coleridge offers through negative example, or as irony. Indeed, at first sight, the “contradiction” phrased in the poem might not have much to do with the “riddle” of humanity that I referred to above, since this contradiction only seems to belong to men who negate their humanity, that is, their living soul. However, I suggest that we may equally interpret it as an allusion to Coleridge’s argument elaborated in both Aids to Reflection and Opus Maximum, namely, that even though there is an undeniable contradiction in the human being, what he calls the Riddle of Man, for man to live only in the constant psychological limbo induced by this contradiction, by this riddle, would be unbearable: Life without the constant the hope and/or the consciousness of some ultimate transcendence, of the “Character of Permanence” proper to the living human soul, would betray the truly human, it would constitute a disavowal of one’s humanity. For man, rather than being a mere “Surplus of Nature’s dread activity” is much rather an “addition”, the addition of “goodness” (i.e. morality) to “truth” (science), as he puts it in Opus Maximun.

The third riddle, that he keeps recurring to and that is intrinsically bound up with the previous ones just described, is the way in which Mind may, or may not, emerge from Life. As he ponders “The most general conception of Life in logical distinction from Mind – leaving it undetermined whether (or no) Life is capable of perfecting itself to Mind” (SWF II 1425) According to Coleridge, Life can be defined only within a given boundary, as distinguished from Mind: as Growth, Motivity and Sensibility, corresponding to the Vegetative, Insectile and Animal Life respectively. In the conclusion of his Theory of Life, he famously argues that “the constituent forces of life in the human living body are—first, the power of length, or REPRODUCTION [proper to species starting with the plants]; second, the power of surface (that is, length and breadth), or IRRITABILITY [proper to species starting with the insects]; third, the power of depth, or SENSIBILITY [proper to species starting with the higher animals, including man].” […] Meanwhile, typically opposing all static view of nature and man, he also emphasizes that “Life itself is not a thing […] but an act and process”. (SWF I. 557) This process, according to Coleridge, can be subsumed under the principle of “individuation”:

“By Life I everywhere mean the true Idea of Life, or that most general form under which Life manifests itself to us, which includes all its other forms. This I have stated to be the tendency to individuation, and the degrees or intensities of Life to consist in the progressive realization of this tendency (519). […] In the lowest forms of the vegetable and animal world we perceive totality dawning into individuation, while in man, as the highest of the class, the individuality is not only perfected in its corporeal sense, but begins a new series beyond the appropriate limits of physiology.” (516; last italics added)

For Coleridge, it is the question of the beginning of this “new series” that poses the greatest enigma, this is what he seeks to answer throughout his life. As he puts it in one of his lectures, “In Nature, we find a tendency, a striving toward a full solution of the Riddle, that is, of herself, but in man only is it found. But Man is therefore Man, because he is more than Nature, — because he knows & refers to God” (SWF 2. 1405).

How to trace this transit from nature to culture, from animal to human? In “On the Passions”, he writes: “Life has an ascension towards Mind and culminates in a form of Mind”. This ascension is also called a “transit from Sensibility” to “the form of Mind.” This “form of Mind”, however, is not yet Mind, but sensual understanding, the highest level Life can achieve without Mind by the full development of the function of sensibility.[4] Sensual understanding is also called Animal Mind, and provides, according to Coleridge, “the articulatory Link that connects the Impetites with the Passions”, and can “shape[…] itself into a Passion” (SWF 2. 1440). The notion of “Impetite” as a supposed (or rather broken) link between Appetites and Passions has been recently explored by Ewan Jones,[5] and the idea of the Animal Mind as a part of Man’s “Animal I” has been also outlined by Susan Webster. Indeed, Webster wonderfully summarizes what humans share with animals in Coleridge’s thinking (i.e. the reproductive, the instinctive and the sensible organs, and how sensibility is connected to sensible understanding, which is the first manifestation of understanding, though still in its animal form). Hence, I shall now turn to the passions, which, for Coleridge, already represent something eminently human, as if they marked the beginning of the “new series” Coleridge mentions in Theory of Life.

“By the passions […] we mean – A state of emotion, which tho’ they it may have its predisposing Cause in the Body, and its occasion in external Incidents or Appearances, is yet not immediately produced by the incidents themselves, but by the Person’s Thoughts and Reflections concerning them. Or more briefly, A Passion is a state of Emotion, having its immediate Cause not in Things, but in our Thoughts of the Things.” (SWF 2. 1423).

Reminiscent of Wordsworth’s definition of poetry as “emotion recollected in tranquillity”, Passions presuppose Thoughts and are predicated on the capacity of Reflection. As Coleridge writes, Passions cannot be “fully explained otherwise than in connection with Thought – but only that in the first instance the modifying influence of the mind will be taken for granted generally (SWF 2. 1443).

Clearly enough, so that Appetites and Impetites, which we share with Animals, can truly “shape” themselves into Passions, into something human, we need Thought and Reflection, that is, a human Mind always already present and at work. In other words, even though Coleridge’s fragment “On the Passions” sets out to determine, among other things, “whether (or no) Life is capable of perfecting itself to Mind” (1425), the riddle of the passage, the “transfer” from Life to Mind is far from being resolved.  As he puts it, “The most general conception of Life” remains “logical[ly] distinct[…] from Mind”.


Species and Person

But is there indeed, a God-created, unbridgeable gap between animals and humans, or the difference is, in fact, much smaller, and man may also be disturbingly close to the beast? We have seen Coleridge’s efforts to maintain this gap when he describes a man both behaving like an animal (a young lion who lets its parent die), and disavowing his humanity (making excuses with reference to the beasts). Here he argues that by dishumanizing himself, this man becomes more like a fiend than an animal. However, the fact that man can become similar to the beast is undeniable; what’s more, it seems that man is born, or is by nature, just like a beast. In Opus Maximum, he describes the predicament of a new-born deprived of the care of a human mother as follows:

“In vain the conditions, the possibility, of the human have been inlaid, were not the human, in its full development, already there to meet and protect it. Only by disproportion of the means to the ends will the babe [survive], abandoned from its birth and suckled in the Forest by the blind and kindly instincts of nature in the Goat or the Wolf. Its eye will remain glazed; its lips, the seat of expression for appetite and rage alone. The tongue will utter the sound of Ape; the very ear will be deaf to all but the inarticulate sounds of Nature. Even in its very first Week of Being, the holy quiet of its first days must be sustain’d by the warmth of the maternal bosom. The first dawnings of its humanity will break forth in the Eye that connects the Mother’s face with the warmth of the Mother’s bosom, the support of the Mother’s arms. […] Ere yet a conscious self exists, the love begins. [….] We have said that Man hath from Birth that which is common with the Animal, and that which is especially human. With the Beasts of the Field it possesses the senses, and the sensations, and the desires of self-preservation, and the impulse to pleasure from the pain of its absence. Beyond the beasts, yea, and above the nature of which they are the inmates, man possesses love, and Faith, and the sense of the permanent (OM, 122, italics added).

In fact, the innate difference between natural man and the beast has to be sustained by the warmth of the maternal bosom. Without it, what makes man eminently human (love, Faith and the sense of the permanent) will remain in a dormant state, and man will be like an animal. In the pages that follow the above passage, Coleridge describes at length the human child’s earliest bond with the human mother, up to the point when he “leaves the gentle teachings of his first home” and engages in the “austere discipline of the understanding” with the help of male educators (OM, 136). As I have argued elsewhere,[6] the mother serves as the first medium between God and the child, her pious face is first indicative of God’s presence: it is via the mother that the child experiences God (“That which the mother is to her child, a someone unseen and yet ever present is to all”, OM, 126) and finds an answer to the enigma of his existence.[7] Without the presence of the mother, the humanity of the child could not manifest itself, it would remain in a dormant state. In other words, what makes us human, “the properties peculiar to our Humanity” (AR, 349) would remain invisible without the caring presence of the Mother.

Meanwhile, however, Coleridge equally describes what happens if the mother alienates the love of the child, and directs it towards what is sensuous around him: in this case, “he may be made to exhibit the pride of the Horse, the rage of the Turkey, the Vanity of the Peocock,” etc, etc. In other words, without the loving guidance of the mother, he will only differ from the Animal in “that he has been made an Animal which he was not born” […] “And yet”, as he goes on to say, “in all this, to be indeed an animal is not permitted to him […]. The higher part of his Nature remains indissoluble”. (OM, 122-123) Despite this, the stakes placed on maternal care and, later, on education proper are clearly very high. Indeed, all that we know already about the stakes Coleridge places on education, most eminently, the shift from imagination to education in his later political writings, may also be explained by the fact that he notices the thinness of the boundary separating man form the animal.

In an age, when humans had often been presented, most eminently by Linnaeus, as part of the animal world, it might not be enough to emphasise again and again, repeatedly, as if to perform it into existence, the difference between man and beast. For even though Coleridge is convinced that “the higher part of his Nature remains indissoluble”, he often laments that man can easily sink or even remain in a state that makes him hardly distinguishable from the beast. As I will argue in what follows, this might be one of the reasons why he introduces the idea of education.

From his middle years, Coleridge already considers ‘the science of EDUCATION’ ‘the appointed PROTOPLAST of true humanity’ (F I., 494 italics added) and the ‘nisus formativus of social man’ (F I. 493). In the On the Constitution of the Church and State, he famously defines ‘NATIONAL EDUCATION’ as ‘the nisus formativus of the body politic, the shaping and informing spirit, which educing, i.e. eliciting, the latent man in all natives of the soil, trains them up to citizens of the country, free subjects of the realm’ (Ch & St, 48).  As is well known, the term “nisus formativus” is Coleridge’s own Latin translation of Johann Heinrich Blumenbach’s term Bildungstrieb (formative drive), which he renders as ‘vis plastic, or vis vitae formativus’ in the rifacciamento of The Friend (F I., 493n). Blumenbach’s Bildungstrieb partly informs Coleridge’s Theory of Life too, where, as we have seen, he describes life as an active, dynamic process leading from inorganic to organic nature, from the simplest to the most complex animals, and, with the beginning of a “new series”, to man.

Blumenbach influenced Coleridge in another respect as well, namely, in his thinking about species, race, and human varieties. Coleridge was convinced that all of the human races, described by Blumenbach, form one species: “Mankind is one Species, represented by the five Races, each comprising an indefinite number of Varieties” (SWF II 1388). The reason why the question of race is important is that it is not only the child that needs to be educated and directed towards the love of God. Coleridge, despite his conviction that the difference between animals and humans is a difference in kind, whereas the difference between the races is only a difference in degree, still tended to establish an equation between “the savage” (American Indians, Peruvian, and Mexican peoples), the “barbarian” (Africans), and the “animal” on the one hand, and “humanity” on the other. When in the Church and State, he calls for the necessity of “cultivation”, he writes that by cultivation, ‘[w]e do not mean those degrees of moral and intellectual cultivation which distinguish man from man in the same civilised society, much less those that separate the Christian from the this-worldian; but those that constitute civilized man in contra-distinction from the barbarian, the savage, and the animal’ (Ch & St, 74). Yet, despite this apparently racist equation between the savage, the barbarian and the animal, Coleridge does know that humanity forms one species: while animals can never be perfected into humans, the humanity of the “barbarian” and the “savage” exists in a dormant state, awaiting to be educed.

Hence, one has to thoroughly distinguish between Coleridge’s conception of the human as a species, and his conception of the human as a Person. In fact, as I will show, the task of education, this “nisus formativus” of the body politic and the individual alike is precisely to widen the gap between animals and humans by guiding “man” from being the member of the species to becoming a Person.

Peter Kitson describes how Blumenbach revised “Linnaeus’s classification of man as a mammal by introducing the further distinction of biped and bianous, quadrupeds and quadrumanous, separating humanity from the apes (an unclear boundary for Linnaeus)” (Kitson, 103.) In other words, Blumenbach already tried to widen the gap between man and apes, humans and animals, by showing more differences between them than Linnaeus had done. Coleridge also borrows the definition of the human species from Blumenbach, when he claims that

“all the prominent chinned, erect-walking, full-bottomed, tool-making, word-minting bimanous Bipeds of this Planet are of the one and the same Species – the points of difference, by which the several Varieties are interdistinguished, striking as they may be in themselves, shrink into insignificance when compared with the points of identity or close resemblance” (SWF II 1390).

It is against this background of the human as a species that one may consider Coleridge’s definition of human as a Person. As I’ve shown elsewhere, another one of the significant differences Coleridge finds between the animal and the human is that humans also have active agency whereas animals are merely naturally passive. Indeed, man shares with animals the property of Sense, that is, ‘whatever is passive in our being’, the ‘sensations, and impressions’ (F II., 104), but he is distinguished from them in equally possessing active faculties: ‘the faculty of thinking and forming judgements on the notices furnished by the Sense’, as well as ‘Practical Reason, […] the power by which we become possessed of Principles (the eternal verities of Plato and Descartes) and of Ideas, (N.B. not images) as the ideas of a point, a line, a circle in Mathematics; and of Justice, Holiness, Free-Will, &c. in Morals’ (F II., 104).

In another often-quoted passage, however, he uses an almost proto-Darwinian rhetoric of evolution as steady gradation, apparently going counter to his idea of the God-given, and “logical difference” between animals and humans:

“the Spontaneous rises into the Voluntary, and finally after various steps and a long Ascent, the Material and Animal Means and Conditions are prepared for the manifestation of a Free Will, having its Law within itself and its motive in the Law – and thus bound to originate its own Acts, not only without but even against alien Stimulants”. (AR, 98).

Although the difference cannot be clearer between animals and humans (as opposed to animals, humans are autonomous, and are governed by the Law within, which allows for them to act even against ‘alien stimulants’ and to counter the involuntary spontaneity that is, at the same time, equally proper to (their) nature ,AR, 98), Coleridge still speaks about a steady “rise”, a material basis “preparing for” the manifestation of the human, who is able to master both his own nature and “Circumstantial Nature” (cf. also: SWF 2. 1400.).

Indeed, even though he considers human kind as one species created by God on his own image, thereby rejecting the polygenetic theories of the time, one of the main distinction he establishes between the Caucasian as the Prime, Historical Race, and other races (a distinction he inherited from Blumenbach) to which this Historical Race is superior, is that other races adopt to their natural surroundings and circumstances instead of mastering them (SWF II 1401-1403). Meanwhile, there are also differences in kind among the members of the historical/central race itself: the English, for instance, were less destructive when colonizing North America than the Spaniards and the Portugese were when colonizing the South: these latter were idolatrous and degenerate (they thereby “dishumanized” themselves,), cruelly massacring the natives (1405).

As we have seen, the infant, without the guidance of the Mother is not able to actualise its potentials, indeed, it is first the mother who awakens his active faculties from their dormant state. There are still various gradations, however, between the Species and the Person, depending on their degree of cultivation or education.  Just like the average or “universal” child, the “barbarian” and the “savage” would remain what they are, the members of the sheer human species without proper education, by which Coleridge, in this context, understands both cultivation and civilisation. As he writes

“Of nations that have fallen by internal corruption, no possible force from without concurring, fallen from strength into impotence […] from civility into Barbarism, and from Knowledge into savage Ignorance, History supplies us with only too many instances; but of a tribe or nation at all approaching to the savagery of the native Brasilian, or even the barbarism of the Negro or Caffer that wholly unaided from what by Merchants, Conquerors or Missionaries had ever made a single progressive step toward Civilisation, the whole History of Man does not furnish even a solitary example.”   (SWF II. 1407, italics added).

Humanity as a species is perfectible in the sense of having a high ability to adapt to various natural circumstances and is also able to master nature as a tool-making biped endowed with Will. “Man capable of subsisting under a greater variety of circumstances – and with the least change or corresponsive Variety – and this change the most dependent on his will or the consequences and products of his Will – and with the greatest power of modifying his circumstances, & creating for himself those external influences which are necessary not only for his Being but his well-being. – I other words, Man alone is Lord & Master of Light, Air, Fire, Water & the Metals” (SWF II, 1391)

Man as a Person, however, needs to be educed from man, the member of the species, and needs, according to Coleridge, “educators” (such as merchants, conquerors, missionaries, or educators – ideally, the members of the clerisy, as he will argue in Church and State) in order to be able to perfect himself into a Person. This applies not only to the “barbarian” and the “savage”, but to every human child, and, indeed, to every human being who belongs to the human species by birth. In fact, even though the organic metaphors (such as Bildungstrieb, to educe, to cultivate) Coleridge uses to present the process of education may indicate that he believes that education is as ‘natural’ as Life itself, and our ‘humanity’ simply develops as flowers do, in Logic (compiled around 1825), he equally underlines not only the similarity, but also the difference between ‘nature’ that ‘educes’ and ‘man’ who, subsequently, ‘educates’ or ‘trains up’: “What Nature has educed, man educates, or trains up” (L, 9). In other words, the ‘natural’ growth of our ‘humanity’ needs to be induced and guided by the active, human power of education.[8]  As he claims in his 1828 Lecture: “Man is therefore Man, because he is more than Nature” (SWF, II, 1405.), and education consists in ‘educing […] the faculties of the Human Mind, and at the same time subordinating them to Reason and Conscience” (F II.,288)

Works Cited:

Cavarero, Adriana, Inclinations: A Critique of Rectitude. Stanford University Press, 2016.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Volume 4: The Friend (Two Volume Set). Ed. Rooke, Barbara E. Princeton University Press, 1969.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, The Collected Works Of Samuel Taylor Coleridge Volume Xv Opus Maximum, Ed Mcfarland, Thomas, Nicholas Halmi. Princeton University Press 2002

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Shorter Works And Fragments. Ed. Jackson And Jackson Princeton Univ Press, 2019. Print.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Volume 9: Aids To Reflection. Ed. Beer, John, Princeton University Press, 1993.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Volume 13: Logic. Edited by Robert, James De Jager Jackson. Princeton University Press, 1981.

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Collected Works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Volume 10: On The Constitution Of The Church And State. Ed. Colmer, John. Princeton University Press, 1976.

Collings, David. “Positive Negation: On Coleridge’s “Human Life””


Jones, Ewan. Coleridge And The Philosophy Of Poetic Form, Cambridge Up, 2014, 91-92. Webster, Susan, The Triple Ichkeit300-301

Kitson, Peter Romantic Literature, Race, And Colonial Encounter, Palgrave 2007

Onita Vaz‐Hooper (2009) “If Dead We Cease To Be”: The Logic Of Immortality In Coleridge’s “Human Life”, European Romantic Review, 20:4, 529-544, Doi: 10.1080/10509580903220636

Timár. Andrea. A Modern Coleridge. Cultivation, Addiction, Habits, Palgrave 2015

Webster, Suzanne E. “Coleridge, Contemplation, And The ‘Triple Ichheit’” In Coleridge And Contemplation. Ed. Cheyne Peter. Oxford University Press

[1] In Aids to Reflection, he typically describes the „rise” from the animal to the human as the gradual manifestation of free will: „the Spontaneous rises into the Voluntary, and finally after various steps and a long Ascent, the Material and Animal Means and Conditions are prepared for the manifestation of a Free Will, having its Law within itself and its motive in the Law – and thus bound to originate its own Acts” (AR, 98) Cf: Timár, A Modeern Coleridge, p. 6.

[2] Onita Vaz‐Hooper (2009) “If dead we cease to be”: the logic of immortality in Coleridge’s “Human Life”, European Romantic Review, 20:4, 529-544, DOI: 10.1080/10509580903220636

[3] Collings, David. Positive Negation: On Coleridge’s “Human Life”


[4] The Appetites and the Impetites (like Fear as an Affection of the Productivity or Vegetative Life, 1431, and Rage, as an Affection of the Irritability or Instinctivity, pertaining also to the Insects, and Sensibility, which commences in the Birds). This Third Power (Impetite) flowers into Sensual understanding is also called Animal Mind the “highest in the Class of Impetites is the articulatory Link that connects the Impetites with the Passions” (1440), and can “shape[…] itself into a Passion”

[5] Jones, Ewan. Coleridge and the Philosophy of Poetic Form, Cambridge UP, 2014, 91-92. Webster, Susan, The Triple Ichkeit300-301

[6] Timár, A Modern Coleridge, 125-127. Also, to fully appreciate the significance and originality of Coleridge’s emphasis on maternal care in the constitution of the human, see Adriana Cavarero’s recent outline of the way in which Western philosophy dismissed, erased and/or abjected the figure of the mother. E.g. In the chapter “Kant and the Newborn” she describes Kant’s “annoyance with mothers and children. They bother him because they are both borderline figures between the animal and human world: mothers because they pamper and care for human pups, and as such demonstrate an inclination that resembles the females of other species; children because, in essence, they still resemble animals.” Cavarero, Adriana. Inclinations, a Critique of Rectitude, Stanford Up, 2016. 27-28.

[7] Timár, Andrea. A Modern Coleridge. pp. 125-140.

[8] Coleridge has long established an etymological connection between the German idea of Bildungstrieb and the active, performative power of the human imagination, which is based on the aesthetic element involved in both the German Bild, and its derivative Einbildungskraft, that is, imagination, which he (mis)translates as the ‘faculty that forms the many into one, in einsBildung’ (N III., 4176). In the ‘Statesman’s Manual’ (1816), he also creates a conspicuous etymologico-metaphorical link between ‘educe’, ‘educt’, and imagination.

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