The inwardness of the outside

On the rehabilitation of a discredited reality

Author: Dr. Dr. Klaus von Ploetz
One of the most important guiding differences of our culture is inside-outside. The path of culture has so far been primarily a path to inwardness. This is expressed in many works of philosophy and religion from early times until today. Always the inside was the essential. The author consequently sees in our time the possibility of rehabilitating the outside and reopening the inner world of the subject. For the feeling and sensitivity of the body we unquestionably need the outside. This is how we become more complete beings.



If 63 million people in Germany went online regularly in 2018 according to a study by ARD and ZDF, the following question might arise: Where exactly do they go? From which place did they start and where might they finally have arrived?

54 million people used the Internet daily in 2018, with what intention?

Statistically, this means an average media usage of about nine hours per day. These findings, which also affect children and young people, are of concern not least to Marlene Mortler, the Federal Drug Commissioner, and the psychiatric and psychosomatic clinics in which those affected occasionally find themselves as patients.

In Germany, this information pressure from the outside must lead to the question of what this means for the former German cult concept of “inwardness”? Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock described inwardness in his Elegies (1771) and in the songs of the “Messiah”. The invention of inwardness thus became an extremely far-reaching concept for classical German poetry.

Inwardness is here  a very individual space of purest feeling and self-discovery, demarcated against a raw outside. Already the old church father Augustine had formulated in his writing “De vera religione”:

“Do not go outside, enter into yourself; in the inner man dwells the truth.”

This presented a demarcation against the demanding and pressing outside.


Zur Rehabilitierung einer diskreditierten WirklichkeitOn the rehabilitation of a discredited reality© Adobe Photostock


Georg Lukács, in a 1916 contribution to the “Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft” (Journal of Aesthetics and General Art Studies), reintroduced the concept of interiority. He furthermore incorporated it into his theory of the novel. In this elitist concern, he is quite close to Friedrich Schelling’s philosophy of nature, delivered in his inaugural lecture in Jena in 1798.

For Lukács, inwardness becomes the space into which a subject disturbed by the alienated outside world withdraws.

In his novel, the poet alone can restore the intrinsic value of interiority. He does that by using the lost totality as a regulative idea in Kant’s sense. Among the admirers of this text, later characterized by Lukács himself as a writing filled with deep pessimism, were Thomas Mann and Max Weber. Theodor W. Adorno saw in it a standard for his own philosophical aesthetics.

The firm fortress of inwardness was to experience and try to weather several storms from the increasing pressure of the outside in the following social developments of the further 20th century.



In the last lectures in 1984, Foucault speaks about the “courage to truth” as an inevitable emergence of unchangeable interiority, a will to interiority. He draws this unmanageable inwardness on the one hand from ancient Greece. Though he alsways does that with a contemporary view.

The risk to say what even has to be said only at the risk of one’s life, establishes a philosophy for the life of the hitherto unheard.

And he explains with numerous examples the Greek tradition of parrhesia. The courageous “speaking the truth”. Parrhesia becomes the verbal activity in which a speaker allows his personal relationship to truth to emerge. Thus the speaker does because he recognizes speaking the truth as a duty. In parrhesia, the speaker uses his freedom and chooses openness over persuasion, truth over lies or silence.

The discourse about inwardness to the outside already laid down thinking as the mediation of the outside and the inside, originating in late antiquity. When Klopstock bleakly speaks of inwardness, he has secretly left pure thinking without naming it. He wants to give expression and form to the mostly unheard sensation. Thinking goes inward, it wants to be energetically filled by this moment.

Ludwig Feuerbach is another possible dialogue partner. In this ongoing discourse about the inwardness of the outside and the outwardness of the inside he contributes a lot. In his “Principles of the Philosophy of the Future,” published in 1843, he states that the new philosophy is nothing other “than the essence of sensation raised to consciousness – it affirms only in and with reason what every human being – the real human being – confesses in the heart. It is the heart brought to understanding.”



The inwardness as a place of other authenticity always refers to the body itself. The body, however, stands in a different relation to its temporal existence. There thinking is always concerned about the past and the possible future. The body always seems to be concerned only with homeostasis, the momentary balance.

The body itself abstains from the unforeseeable, it directs to balance. In contrast to pure thinking, the body does not allow itself to be seduced into other times, it insists on the currently perceptible and the now existential.


Zur Rehabilitierung einer diskreditierten WirklichkeitOn the rehabilitation of a discredited reality© Adobe Photostock

Nonetheless, the palpable and inwardly existential has a symbiosis with the external and the sensible. This other intermittent experience we find in the phenomenon of “emergence.” Emergence means a time-limited appearance of a sensible inner being. In this moment, one’s own aliveness can be authentically experienced; the moment becomes something extended, yet passing. Emergence is not mindfulness. Mindfulness aims too strongly at a mental level, it wants to abstract to an observing that is distant from the body.


Der Autor Dr. Dr. Klaus von PloetzAbout the author

Klaus von Ploetz, studied medicine, philosophy, politics, history and art in Tübingen (student of Ernst Bloch), Aachen, Heidelberg and Berlin. Residency in neurology and psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and psychotherapeutic medicine. Psychotherapeutic training in transactional analysis, systemic family therapy and psychoanalysis. Collaboration in the Freeclinic Heidelberg, physician with the Flying Doctors of South-Australia. Since September 2017 head physician of the Psychosomatic Tidal House Clinic Schloss Wendgräben.


This article appeared originally on the German Homepage of Tattva Viveka: Die Innerlichkeit des Außen

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