History of Literature









German literature


 

CONTENTS:

Origins and Middle Ages

Late Middle Ages and early Renaissance


The 18th century

The 19th century

The 19th century. Fin de siecle movements

The 20th century





 


German literature
 


The 19th century. Fin de siecle movements
 


Friedrich Nietzsche

"Thus Spoke Zarathustra"

Hugo von Hofmannsthal

"Poems"

Stefan George
Arthur Schnitzler

Thomas Mann
Heinrich Mann

Arthur Schopenhauer
"Essays"

Rainer Maria Rilke

"Duino Elegies"

Hermann Hesse
"Siddhartha"

Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué
"Undine"

Gustav Theodor Fechner
Ludwig Feuerbach
Rudolf Hermann Lotze
Karl Marx
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Albert Lange
Wilhelm Wundt
Wilhelm Dilthey
Franz Brentano
Rudolf Christoph Eucken
Wilhelm Windelband
Alexius Meinong
Edmund Husserl

 





Fin de siècle movements



Friedrich Nietzsche

Writing at the same time as the later realists and the naturalist writers but forming a bridge to German Modernism,
Friedrich Nietzsche developed a philosophy that understood art as the result of a fundamental conflict between two opposing forces—the Apollonian, or the desire for Classical form and serenity, and the Dionysian, or the ecstatic and quasi-religious search for liberation from formal constraints. His Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (1872; The Birth of Tragedy) was a significant influence on 20th-century literature and aesthetic theory. Nietzsche’s later works combined cultural pessimism with a vitalistic philosophy that called for the development of the “superman,” or titanic personality, capable of providing a new and more forceful type of cultural leadership. Rejecting mediocrity, Nietzsche believed that the ideal personality was in a constant state of development, affirming its identity by continually enlarging its sphere of experience. Also sprach Zarathustra (1883–85; Thus Spoke Zarathustra) and Jenseits von Gut und Böse (1886; Beyond Good and Evil) proclaimed the new ideals. In these works, Nietzsche also questioned the value of truth and knowledge, espousing the view that “facts are precisely what there is not, only interpretations.” Nietzsche’s perspectivism, reflected in the composition of some of his works as an assemblage of aphorisms and essays, and his insistence that objectivity is a fiction provided an important basis for Modernist presentations of reality.
 


Friedrich Nietzsche

"Thus Spoke Zarathustra"



 

German philosopher

born Oct. 15, 1844, Röcken, Saxony, Prussia [now in Germany]
died Aug. 25, 1900, Weimar, Thuringian States

Main
German classical scholar, philosopher, and critic of culture, who became one of the most influential of all modern thinkers. His attempts to unmask the motives that underlie traditional Western religion, morality, and philosophy deeply affected generations of theologians, philosophers, psychologists, poets, novelists, and playwrights. He thought through the consequences of the triumph of the Enlightenment’s secularism, expressed in his observation that “God is dead,” in a way that determined the agenda for many of Europe’s most celebrated intellectuals after his death. Although he was an ardent foe of nationalism, anti-Semitism, and power politics, his name was later invoked by Fascists to advance the very things he loathed.

The early years
Nietzsche’s home was a stronghold of Lutheran piety. His paternal grandfather had published books defending Protestantism and had achieved the ecclesiastical position of superintendent; his maternal grandfather was a country parson; his father, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche, was appointed pastor at Röcken by order of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia, after whom Friedrich Nietzsche was named. His father died in 1849, before Nietzsche’s fifth birthday, and he spent most of his early life in a household consisting of five women: his mother Franziska, his younger sister Elisabeth, his maternal grandmother, and two maiden aunts.
In 1850 the family moved to Naumburg on the Saale River, where Nietzsche attended a private preparatory school, the Domgymnasium. In 1858 he earned a scholarship to Schulpforta, Germany’s leading Protestant boarding school. He excelled academically at Pforta, received an outstanding classical education there, and, having graduated in 1864, went to the University of Bonn to study theology and classical philology. Despite efforts to take part in the university’s social life, the two semesters at Bonn were a failure, owing chiefly to acrimonious quarrels between his two leading classics professors, Otto Jahn and Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl. Nietzsche sought refuge in music, writing a number of compositions strongly influenced by Robert Schumann, the German Romantic composer. In 1865 he transferred to the University of Leipzig, joining Ritschl, who had accepted an appointment there.
Nietzsche prospered under Ritschl’s tutelage in Leipzig. He became the only student ever to publish in Ritschl’s journal, Rheinisches Museum (“Rhenish Museum”). He began military service in October 1867 in the cavalry company of an artillery regiment, sustained a serious chest injury while mounting a horse in March 1868, and resumed his studies in Leipzig in October 1868 while on extended sick leave from the military. During the years in Leipzig, Nietzsche discovered Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy, met the great operatic composer Richard Wagner, and began his lifelong friendship with fellow classicist Erwin Rohde (author of Psyche).

The Basel years (1869–79)
When a professorship in classical philology fell vacant in 1869 in Basel, Switz., Ritschl recommended Nietzsche with unparalleled praise. He had completed neither his doctoral thesis nor the additional dissertation required for a German degree; yet Ritschl assured the University of Basel that he had never seen anyone like Nietzsche in 40 years of teaching and that his talents were limitless. In 1869 the University of Leipzig conferred the doctorate without examination or dissertation on the strength of his published writings, and the University of Basel appointed him extraordinary professor of classical philology. The following year Nietzsche became a Swiss citizen and was promoted to ordinary professor.
Nietzsche obtained a leave to serve as a volunteer medical orderly in August 1870, after the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War. Within a month, while accompanying a transport of wounded, he contracted dysentery and diphtheria, which ruined his health permanently. He returned to Basel in October to resume a heavy teaching load, but as early as 1871 ill health prompted him to seek relief from the stultifying chores of a professor of classical philology; he applied for the vacant chair of philosophy and proposed Rohde as his successor, all to no avail.
During these early Basel years Nietzsche’s ambivalent friendship with Wagner ripened, and he seized every opportunity to visit Richard and his wife, Cosima. Wagner appreciated Nietzsche as a brilliant professorial apostle, but Wagner’s increasing exploitation of Christian motifs, as in Parsifal, coupled with his chauvinism and anti-Semitism proved to be more than Nietzsche could bear. By 1878 the breach between the two men had become final.
Nietzsche’s first book, Die Geburt der Tragödie aus dem Geiste der Musik (1872; The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music), marked his emancipation from the trappings of classical scholarship. A speculative rather than exegetical work, it argued that Greek tragedy arose out of the fusion of what he termed Apollonian and Dionysian elements—the former representing measure, restraint, harmony, and the latter representing unbridled passion—and that Socratic rationalism and optimism spelled the death of Greek tragedy. The final 10 sections of the book are a rhapsody about the rebirth of tragedy from the spirit of Wagner’s music. Greeted by stony silence at first, it became the object of heated controversy on the part of those who mistook it for a conventional work of classical scholarship. It was undoubtedly “a work of profound imaginative insight, which left the scholarship of a generation toiling in the rear,” as the British classicist F.M. Cornford wrote in 1912. It remains a classic in the history of aesthetics to this day.
By October 1876 Nietzsche requested and received a year’s sick leave. In 1877 he set up house with his sister and Peter Gast, and in 1878 his aphoristic Menschliches, Allzumenschliches (Human, All-Too-Human) appeared. Because his health deteriorated steadily he resigned his professorial chair on June 14, 1879, and was granted a pension of 3,000 Swiss francs per year for six years.

Decade of isolation and creativity (1879–89)
Apart from the books Nietzsche wrote between 1879 and 1889, it is doubtful that his life held any intrinsic interest. Seriously ill, half-blind, in virtually unrelenting pain, he lived in boarding houses in Switzerland, the French Riviera, and Italy, with only limited human contact. His friendship with Paul Rée was undermined by 1882 by their mutual if unacknowledged affection for Lou Salomé (author, later the wife of the Orientalist F.C. Andreas, mistress of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, and confidant of Sigmund Freud) as well as by Elisabeth Nietzsche’s jealous meddling.
Nietzsche’s acknowledged literary and philosophical masterpiece in biblical narrative form, Also sprach Zarathustra (Thus Spoke Zarathustra), was published between 1883 and 1885 in four parts, the last part a private printing at his own expense. As with most of his works it received little attention. His attempts to set forth his philosophy in more direct prose, in the publications in 1886 of Jenseits von Gut und Böse (Beyond Good and Evil) and in 1887 of Zur Genealogie der Moral (On the Genealogy of Morals), also failed to win a proper audience.
Nietzsche’s final lucid year, 1888, was a period of supreme productivity. He wrote and published Der Fall Wagner (The Case of Wagner) and wrote a synopsis of his philosophy, Die Götzen-Dämmerung (Twilight of the Idols), Der Antichrist (The Antichrist), Nietzsche contra Wagner (Eng. trans., Nietzsche contra Wagner), and Ecce Homo (Eng. trans., Ecce Homo), a reflection on his own works and significance. Twilight of the Idols appeared in 1889, Der Antichrist and Nietzsche contra Wagner were not published until 1895, the former mistakenly as book one of The Will to Power, and Ecce Homo was withheld from publication until 1908, 20 years after its composition.

Collapse and misuse
Nietzsche collapsed in the streets of Turin, Italy, in January 1889, having lost control of his mental faculties completely. Bizarre but meaningful notes he sent immediately after his collapse brought Franz Overbeck to Italy to return Nietzsche to Basel. Nietzsche spent the last 11 years of his life in total mental darkness, first in a Basel asylum, then in Naumburg under his mother’s care and, after her death in 1897, in Weimar in his sister’s care. He died in 1900. Informed opinion favours a diagnosis of atypical general paralysis caused by dormant tertiary syphilis.
The association of Nietzsche’s name with Adolf Hitler and Fascism owes much to the use made of his works by his sister Elisabeth. She had married a leading chauvinist and anti-Semite, Bernhard Förster, and after his suicide in 1889 she worked diligently to refashion Nietzsche in Förster’s image. Elisabeth maintained ruthless control over Nietzsche’s literary estate and, dominated by greed, produced collections of his “works” consisting of discarded notes, such as Der Wille zur Macht (1901; The Will to Power). She also committed petty forgeries. Generations of commentators were misled. Equally important, her enthusiasm for Hitler linked Nietzsche’s name with that of the dictator in the public mind.

Nietzsche’s mature philosophy
Nietzsche’s writings fall into three well-defined periods. The early works, The Birth of Tragedy and the four Unzeitgemässe Betrachtungen (1873; Untimely Meditations), are dominated by a Romantic perspective influenced by Schopenhauer and Wagner. The middle period, from Human, All-Too-Human up to The Gay Science, reflects the tradition of French aphorists. It extols reason and science, experiments with literary genres, and expresses Nietzsche’s emancipation from his earlier Romanticism and from Schopenhauer and Wagner. Nietzsche’s mature philosophy emerged after The Gay Science.
In his mature writings Nietzsche was preoccupied by the origin and function of values in human life. If, as he believed, life neither possesses nor lacks intrinsic value and yet is always being evaluated, then such evaluations can usefully be read as symptoms of the condition of the evaluator. He was especially interested, therefore, in a probing analysis and evaluation of the fundamental cultural values of Western philosophy, religion, and morality, which he characterized as expressions of the ascetic ideal.
The ascetic ideal is born when suffering becomes endowed with ultimate significance. According to Nietzsche the Judeo-Christian tradition, for example, made suffering tolerable by interpreting it as God’s intention and as an occasion for atonement. Christianity, accordingly, owed its triumph to the flattering doctrine of personal immortality, that is, to the conceit that each individual’s life and death have cosmic significance. Similarly, traditional philosophy expressed the ascetic ideal when it privileged soul over body, mind over senses, duty over desire, reality over appearance, the timeless over the temporal. While Christianity promised salvation for the sinner who repents, philosophy held out hope for salvation, albeit secular, for its sages. Common to traditional religion and philosophy was the unstated but powerful motivating assumption that existence requires explanation, justification, or expiation. Both denigrated experience in favour of some other, “true” world. Both may be read as symptoms of a declining life, or life in distress.
Nietzsche’s critique of traditional morality centred on the typology of “master” and “slave” morality. By examining the etymology of the German words gut (“good”), schlecht (“bad”), and böse (“evil”), Nietzsche maintained that the distinction between good and bad was originally descriptive, that is, a nonmoral reference to those who were privileged, the masters, as opposed to those who were base, the slaves. The good/evil contrast arose when slaves avenged themselves by converting attributes of mastery into vices. If the favoured, the “good,” were powerful, it was said that the meek would inherit the earth. Pride became sin. Charity, humility, and obedience replaced competition, pride, and autonomy. Crucial to the triumph of slave morality was its claim to being the only true morality. This insistence on absoluteness is as essential to philosophical as to religious ethics. Although Nietzsche gave a historical genealogy of master and slave morality, he maintained that it was an ahistorical typology of traits present in everyone.
“Nihilism” was the term Nietzsche used to describe the devaluation of the highest values posited by the ascetic ideal. He thought of the age in which he lived as one of passive nihilism, that is, as an age that was not yet aware that religious and philosophical absolutes had dissolved in the emergence of 19th-century Positivism. With the collapse of metaphysical and theological foundations and sanctions for traditional morality only a pervasive sense of purposelessness and meaninglessness would remain. And the triumph of meaninglessness is the triumph of nihilism: “God is dead.” Nietzsche thought, however, that most men could not accept the eclipse of the ascetic ideal and the intrinsic meaninglessness of existence but would seek supplanting absolutes to invest life with meaning. He thought the emerging nationalism of his day represented one such ominous surrogate god, in which the nation-state would be invested with transcendent value and purpose. And just as absoluteness of doctrine had found expression in philosophy and religion, absoluteness would become attached to the nation-state with missionary fervour. The slaughter of rivals and the conquest of the earth would proceed under banners of universal brotherhood, democracy, and socialism. Nietzsche’s prescience here was particularly poignant, and the use later made of him especially repellent. For example, two books were standard issue for the rucksacks of German soldiers during World War I, Thus Spoke Zarathustra and The Gospel According to St. John. It is difficult to say which author was more compromised by this gesture.
Nietzsche often thought of his writings as struggles with nihilism, and apart from his critiques of religion, philosophy, and morality he developed original theses that have commanded attention, especially perspectivism, will to power, eternal recurrence, and the superman.
Perspectivism is a concept which holds that knowledge is always perspectival, that there are no immaculate perceptions, and that knowledge from no point of view is as incoherent a notion as seeing from no particular vantage point. Perspectivism also denies the possibility of an all-inclusive perspective, which could contain all others and, hence, make reality available as it is in itself. The concept of such an all-inclusive perspective is as incoherent as the concept of seeing an object from every possible vantage point simultaneously.
Nietzsche’s perspectivism has sometimes been mistakenly identified with relativism and skepticism. Nonetheless, it raises the question of how one is to understand Nietzsche’s own theses, for example, that the dominant values of the common heritage have been underwritten by an ascetic ideal. Is this thesis true absolutely or only from a certain perspective? It may also be asked whether perspectivism can be asserted consistently without self-contradiction, since perspectivism must presumably be true in an absolute, that is a nonperspectival sense. Concerns such as these have generated much fruitful Nietzsche commentary as well as useful work in the theory of knowledge.
Nietzsche often identified life itself with “will to power,” that is, with an instinct for growth and durability. This concept provides yet another way of interpreting the ascetic ideal, since it is Nietzsche’s contention “that all the supreme values of mankind lack this will—that values which are symptomatic of decline, nihilistic values, are lording it under the holiest names.” Thus, traditional philosophy, religion, and morality have been so many masks a deficient will to power wears. The sustaining values of Western civilization have been sublimated products of decadence in that the ascetic ideal endorses existence as pain and suffering. Some commentators have attempted to extend Nietzsche’s concept of the will to power from human life to the organic and inorganic realms, ascribing a metaphysics of will to power to him. Such interpretations, however, cannot be sustained by reference to his published works.
The doctrine of eternal recurrence, the basic conception of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, asks the question “How well disposed would a person have to become to himself and to life to crave nothing more fervently than the infinite repetition, without alteration, of each and every moment?” Presumably most men would, or should, find such a thought shattering because they should always find it possible to prefer the eternal repetition of their lives in an edited version rather than to crave nothing more fervently than the eternal recurrence of each of its horrors. The person who could accept recurrence without self-deception or evasion would be a superhuman being (Übermensch), a superman whose distance from the ordinary man is greater than the distance between man and ape, Nietzsche says. Commentators still disagree whether there are specific character traits that define the person who embraces eternal recurrence.

Nietzsche’s influence
Nietzsche once wrote that some men are born posthumously, and this is certainly true in his case. The history of 20th-century philosophy, theology, and psychology are unintelligible without him. The German philosophers Max Scheler, Karl Jaspers, and Martin Heidegger laboured in his debt, for example, as did the French philosophers Albert Camus, Jacques Derrida, and Michel Foucault. Existentialism and deconstructionism, a movement in philosophy and literary criticism, owe much to him. The theologians Paul Tillich and Lev Shestov acknowledged their debt as did the “God is dead” theologian Thomas J.J. Altizer; Martin Buber, Judaism’s greatest 20th-century thinker, counted Nietzsche among the three most important influences in his life and translated the first part of Zarathustra into Polish. The psychologists Alfred Adler and Carl Jung were deeply influenced, as was Sigmund Freud, who said of Nietzsche that he had a more penetrating understanding of himself than any man who ever lived or was ever likely to live. Novelists like Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse, André Malraux, André Gide, and John Gardner were inspired by him and wrote about him, as did the poets and playwrights George Bernard Shaw, Rainer Maria Rilke, Stefan George, and William Butler Yeats, among others. Nietzsche is certainly one of the most influential philosophers who ever lived; and this is due not only to his originality but also to the fact that he was the German language’s most brilliant prose writer.
Bernd Magnus




Aestheticism

In the final decades of the 19th century the literary scene was divided between naturalism and its opposites, variously collected under terms such as Neoromanticism, Impressionism, Jugendstil, and Decadence. Aestheticism—the belief that the work of art need have no moral or political use beyond its existence as a beautiful object—may prove to be the most appropriate overarching term for this period. In a series of essays written between 1890 and 1904, the Austrian critic and playwright Hermann Bahr explained the unsettling effects of Impressionism, which appeared to dissolve the boundaries of objects and make even the perceiving subject little more than a fluctuating angle of vision.
Hugo von Hofmannsthal presented a fictional analysis of the Impressionist philosophy in his influential essay Ein Brief (1902; “A Letter,” commonly known as “Chandos-Brief,” Eng. trans. The Lord Chandos Letter), a fictive missive from Lord Chandos to Sir Francis Bacon. In the Letter, Chandos describes an experience akin to sickness or paralysis. Language, he feels, has become a depleted and meaningless medium. He feels himself pulled into a whirlpool of words that have lost all coherence. At the end of the Letter, Chandos expresses his longing for a new language that has no words as such, a language “in which dumb things will speak to me.” Sometimes regarded as a personal testimony to the “crisis of language” that accompanied the Aestheticist movement, Ein Brief is in fact a diagnosis and critique of that crisis. It became a central document that initiated some of the most important experiments of German literary Modernism.

A number of specialized periodicals, published in Berlin, Munich, Vienna, and Prague, led to a wide dissemination of Aestheticist writing. Magazines such as Pan and Die weissen Blatter (“White Pages”) welcomed short texts by young authors experimenting with what was regarded at the time as the “modern” style; and the annual Inselalmanach (“Insel Yearbook”) featured new writing by authors in the then-Aestheticist Insel Publishing House. Stefan George’s early lyric poetry, together with Hofmannsthal’s poems and lyrical dramas and Arthur Schnitzler’s dramas and short stories, set the tone for the Aestheticist movement in the 1890s. The influence of French Symbolism is especially evident in the poetry of George and Hofmannsthal.


A novel by
Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks (1901; subtitled Verfall einer Famille, or “The Decline of a Family,” Eng. trans. Buddenbrooks), links aesthetic decadence with social and moral decline. Arthur Schopenhauer’s philosophy of the will and Nietzsche’s cultural pessimism are important ingredients in Mann’s engagement with Aestheticism. His early stories, for example Tonio Kröger (1903) and the novella Der Tod in Venedig (1912; Death in Venice), turn upon a simultaneous fascination with and critique of the Aestheticist impulse. His preoccupation with the figure of the artist, perennially longing to participate in the active and robust life of bourgeois society but perennially condemned to decadence, illness, and an inability to cope with practical realities, is a characteristic theme of Aestheticism. Rainer Maria Rilke and Hermann Hesse also explore this problematic relation between the artist and real life. Rilke’s early poetry belongs to the Aestheticist movement, and even his later, more boldly experimental works, Duineser Elegien (1923; Duino Elegies) and Sonette an Orpheus (1923; Sonnets to Orpheus), bear clear traces of his Aestheticist origins. The early stories of Franz Kafka also owe much to Aestheticism.
 


Hugo von Hofmannsthal

"Poems"




 

Austrian author

born Feb. 1, 1874, Vienna
died July 15, 1929, Rodaun, a suburb of Vienna

Main
Austrian poet, dramatist, and essayist. He made his reputation with his lyrical poems and plays and became internationally famous for his collaboration with the German operatic composer Richard Strauss.

The only child of a bank director, Hofmannsthal studied law at Vienna. At 16 he published his first poems, under the pseudonym Loris. They created a stir in Vienna and in Germany with their lyrical beauty, magic evocativeness of language, and dreamlike quality. Their anticipation of mature experience and formal virtuosity seem incredible in one so young. After his year of compulsory military service, he studied Romance philology with a view to an academic career but in 1901 married and became a free-lance writer.

Between 1891 and 1899 Hofmannsthal wrote a number of short verse plays, influenced by the static dramas of the Belgian writer Maurice Maeterlinck, the dramatic monologues of the English Romantic poet Robert Browning, and the proverbes dramatiques of the French poet Alfred de Musset. These plays include Gestern (1891; “Yesterday”), Der Tod des Tizian (1892; The Death of Titian, 1913), Der Tor und der Tod (1893; Death and the Fool, 1913), Das kleine Welttheater (1897; “The Little Theatre of the World”), Der Weisse Fächer (1898; partially translated as The White Fan, 1909), Die Frau im Fenster (1898; Madonna Dianora, 1916), Der Abenteurer und die Sängerin (1899; The Adventurer and the Singer, 1917–18), and Die Hochzeit der Sobeide (1899; The Marriage of Sobeide, 1961). Of the same exquisite beauty as the poems, these playlets are lyric reflections on appearance and reality, transience and timelessness, and continuity and change within the human personality—themes constantly recurring in his later works. After the turn of the century, however, Hofmannsthal renounced purely lyrical forms in his essay “Ein Brief” (also called “Chandos Brief,” 1902). This essay was more than the revelation of a personal predicament; it has come to be recognized as symptomatic of the crisis that undermined the esthetic Symbolist movement of the end of the century.

During a period of reorientation and transition Hofmannsthal experimented with Elizabethan and classical tragic forms, adapting Thomas Otway’s Venice Preserv’d (1682) as Das gerettete Venedig (1904) and writing Elektra (1903), later set to music by Strauss. At the same time he began his novel, Andreas (1932; The United, 1936), which he never completed. The theatre increasingly became his medium. To the end of his life he collaborated with Strauss, writing the librettos for the operas Der Rosenkavalier (performed 1911; “The Cavalier of the Rose”), Ariadne auf Naxos (1912), Die Frau ohne Schatten (1919; “The Woman Without a Shadow”), Die ägyptische Helena (1928; Helen in Egypt, 1963), and Arabella (performed 1933).

After World War I, with the theatrical producer and designer Max Reinhardt, he founded the Salzburg Festival, at which performances have regularly been given of his Jedermann (1911; “Everyman”) and Das Salzburger grosse Welttheater (1922; The Great Salzburg Theatre of the World, 1963). His comedies, Cristinas Heimreise (1910; Christina’s Journey Home, 1916), Der Schwierige (1921; The Difficult Man, 1963), and Der Unbestechliche (performed 1923, published 1956; “The Incorruptible”), are written in Viennese dialect and set in contemporary Austrian society; concerned with moral issues, they blend realism with concealed symbolism.

Hofmannsthal’s reflections on the crisis and disintegration of European civilization after World War I found expression in his political drama Der Turm (1925; The Tower, 1963) and in several essays that were prophetic of the future of Western culture. He responded to the collapse of the Habsburg empire by an increased awareness of his Austrian heritage, at the same time committing himself to the European tradition. His art continued to develop, and he always maintained the delicate grace and sense of transcendent beauty typical of his earliest works, but he was unable to accommodate himself to the 20th century.
 

 

 


Stefan George



 

born July 12, 1868, Büdesheim, near Bingen, Hesse [Germany]
died Dec. 4, 1933, Minusio, near Locarno, Switz.


lyric poet responsible in part for the emergence of Aestheticism in German poetry at the close of the 19th century.

After attending a Gymnasium in Darmstadt, George traveled to England, Switzerland, and France. He studied philosophy and the history of art in Paris, becoming associated with the poet Stéphane Mallarmé and others in the Symbolist movement. Returning to Germany, where he divided his time between Berlin, Munich, and Heidelberg, he founded a literary school of his own, the George-Kreis, held together by the force of his personality. Many well-known writers (e.g., Friedrich Gundolf, Karl Wolfskehl, and Georg Simmel) belonged to it or contributed to its journal, Blätter für die Kunst, published from 1892 to 1919. The chief aim of the journal was to revitalize the German literary language.

George aimed for new aesthetic forms in German poetry, avoiding impure rhymes and metrical irregularities. Vowels and consonants were arranged with precision to achieve harmony. The resulting symbolic poem was intended to evoke a sense of intoxication. These poetic ideals were a protest not only against the debasement of the language but also against materialism and naturalism, to which George opposed an austerity of life and a standard of poetic excellence. He advocated a humanism inspired by Friedrich Hölderlin, which he hoped would be realized in a new society. His ideas, and the affectations into which they led some of his disciples, his claim of superiority, and his obsession with power were ridiculed, attacked, and misused by those who misunderstood them. But George himself was strongly opposed to the political developments—above all, the rise of Nazism—which his ideas are sometimes thought to reflect. When the Nazi government offered him money and honours, he refused them and went into exile.

George’s collected works fill 18 volumes (Gesamtausgabe, 1927–34), including five of translations and one of prose sketches. His collections of poetry, of which Hymnen (1890), Pilgerfahrten (1891), Algabal (1892), Das Jahr der Seele (1897), Der Teppich des Lebens (1899), Der siebente Ring (1907), Der Stern des Bundes (1914), and Das neue Reich (1928) are the most important, show his poetic and spiritual development from early doubts and searching self-examination to confidence in his role as a seer and as leader of the new society he projected.

Personally, and spiritually, he found the fulfillment of his striving for significance in “Maximin” (Maximilian Kronberger [1888–1904]), a beautiful and gifted youth whom he met in Munich in 1902. After the boy’s death George claimed that he had been a god, glorifying him in his later poetry and explaining his attitude to him in Maximin, ein Gedenkbuch (privately published, 1906).

 

 


Arthur Schnitzler



 

born May 15, 1862, Vienna, Austria
died Oct. 21, 1931, Vienna


Austrian playwright and novelist known for his psychological dramas that dissect turn-of-the-century Viennese bourgeois life.

Schnitzler, the son of a well-known Jewish physician, took a medical degree and practiced medicine for much of his life, interesting himself particularly in psychiatry. He made his name as a writer with Anatol (1893), a series of seven one-act plays depicting the casual amours of a wealthy young Viennese man-about-town. Although these plays were much less probing than his later works, they revealed a gift of characterization, a power to evoke moods, and a detached, often melancholic, humour.

Schnitzler’s Reigen (1897; Merry-Go-Round), a cycle of 10 dramatic dialogues, depicts the heartlessness of men and women in the grip of lust. Though it gave rise to scandal even in 1920, when it was finally performed, in 1950 it was made into a successful French film, La Ronde, by Max Ophüls. Schnitzler was adept at creating a single, precisely shaded mood in a one-act play or short story. He often evoked the atmosphere of corrupt self-deception he saw in the last years of the Habsburg empire. He explored human psychology, portraying egotism in love, fear of death, the complexities of the erotic life, and the morbidity of spirit induced by a weary introspection. He depicted the hollowness of the Austrian military code of honour in the plays Liebelei (1896; Playing with Love) and Freiwild (1896; “Free Game”). His most successful novel, Leutnant Gustl (1901; None but the Brave), dealing with a similar theme, was the first European masterpiece written as an interior monologue. In Flucht in die Finsternis (1931; Flight into Darkness) he showed the onset of madness, stage by stage. In the play Professor Bernhardi (1912) and the novel Der Weg ins Freie (1908; The Road to the Open) he analyzed the position of the Jews in Austria. His other works include plays, novels, collections of stories, and several medical tracts.

 

 

 


Thomas Mann



 

German author

born June 6, 1875, Lübeck, Ger.
died Aug. 12, 1955, near Zürich, Switz.

Main
German novelist and essayist whose early novels—Buddenbrooks (1900), Der Tod in Venedig (1912; Death in Venice), and Der Zauberberg (1924; The Magic Mountain)—earned him the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929.

Early literary endeavours
Mann’s father died in 1891, and Mann moved to Munich, a centre of art and literature, where he lived until 1933. After perfunctory work in an insurance office and on the editorial staff of Simplicissimus, a satirical weekly, he devoted himself to writing, as his elder brother Heinrich had already done. His early tales, collected as Der kleine Herr Friedemann (1898), reflect the aestheticism of the 1890s but are given depth by the influence of the philosophers Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and the composer Wagner, to all of whom Mann was always to acknowledge a deep, if ambiguous, debt. Most of Mann’s first stories centre in the problem of the creative artist, who in his devotion to form contests the meaninglessness of existence, an antithesis that Mann enlarged into that between spirit (Geist) and life (Leben). But while he showed sympathy for the artistic misfits he described, Mann was also aware that the world of imagination is a world of make-believe, and the closeness of the artist to the charlatan was already becoming a theme. At the same time, a certain nostalgia for ordinary, unproblematical life appeared in his work.

This ambivalence found full expression in his first novel, Buddenbrooks, which Mann had at first intended to be a novella in which the experience of the transcendental realities of Wagner’s music would extinguish the will to live in the son of a bourgeois family. On this beginning, the novel builds the story of the family and its business house over four generations, showing how an artistic streak not only unfits the family’s later members for the practicalities of business life but undermines their vitality as well. But, almost against his will, in Buddenbrooks Mann wrote a tender elegy for the old bourgeois virtues.

In 1905 Mann married Katja Pringsheim. There were six children of the marriage, which was a happy one. It was this happiness, perhaps, that led Mann, in Royal Highness, to provide a fairy-tale reconciliation of “form” and “life,” of degenerate feudal authority and the vigour of modern American capitalism. In 1912, however, he returned to the tragic dilemma of the artist with Death in Venice, a sombre masterpiece. In this story, the main character, a distinguished writer whose nervous and “decadent” sensibility is controlled by the discipline of style and composition, seeks relaxation from overstrain in Venice, where, as disease creeps over the city, he succumbs to an infatuation and the wish for death. Symbols of eros and death weave a subtle pattern in the sensuous opulence of this tale, which closes an epoch in Mann’s work.


World War I and political crisis
The outbreak of World War I evoked Mann’s ardent patriotism and awoke, too, an awareness of the artist’s social commitment. His brother Heinrich was one of the few German writers to question German war aims, and his criticism of German authoritarianism stung Thomas to a bitter attack on cosmopolitan litterateurs. In 1918 he published a large political treatise, Reflections of an Unpolitical Man, in which all his ingenuity of mind was summoned to justify the authoritarian state as against democracy, creative irrationalism as against “flat” rationalism, and inward culture as against moralistic civilization. This work belongs to the tradition of “revolutionary conservatism” that leads from the 19th-century German nationalistic and antidemocratic thinkers Paul Anton de Lagarde and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, the apostle of the superiority of the “Germanic” race, toward National Socialism; and Mann later was to repudiate these ideas.

With the establishment of the German (Weimar) Republic in 1919, Mann slowly revised his outlook; the essays “Goethe und Tolstoi” and “Von deutscher Republik” (“The German Republic”) show his somewhat hesitant espousal of democratic principles. His new position was clarified in the novel The Magic Mountain. Its theme grows out of an earlier motif: a young engineer, Hans Castorp, visiting a cousin in a sanatorium in Davos, abandons practical life to submit to the rich seductions of disease, inwardness, and death. But the sanatorium comes to be the spiritual reflection of the possibilities and dangers of the actual world. In the end, somewhat skeptically but humanely, Castorp decides for life and service to his people: a decision Mann calls “a leave-taking from many a perilous sympathy, enchantment, and temptation, to which the European soul had been inclined.” In this great work Mann formulates with remarkable insight the fateful choices facing Europe.


World War II and exile
From this time onward Mann’s imaginative effort was directed to the novel, scarcely interrupted by the charming personal novella Early Sorrow or by Mario and the Magician, a novella that, in the person of a seedy illusionist, symbolizes the character of Fascism. His literary and cultural essays began to play an ever-growing part in elucidating and communicating his awareness of the fragility of humaneness, tolerance, and reason in the face of political crisis. His essays on Freud (1929) and Wagner (1933) are concerned with this, as are those on Goethe (1932), who more and more became for Mann an exemplary figure in his wisdom and balance. The various essays on Nietzsche document with particular poignancy Mann’s struggle against attitudes once dear to him. In 1930 he gave a courageous address in Berlin, “Ein Appell an die Vernunft” (“An Appeal to Reason”), appealing for the formation of a common front of the cultured bourgeoisie and the Socialist working class against the inhuman fanaticism of the National Socialists. In essays and on lecture tours in Germany, to Paris, Vienna, Warsaw, Amsterdam, and elsewhere during the 1930s, Mann, while steadfastly attacking Nazi policy, often expressed sympathy with socialist and communist principles in the very general sense that they were the guarantee of humanism and freedom.

When Hitler became chancellor early in 1933, Mann and his wife, on holiday in Switzerland, were warned by their son and daughter in Munich not to return. For some years his home was in Switzerland, near Zürich, but he traveled widely, visiting the United States on lecture tours and finally, in 1938, settling there, first at Princeton, and from 1941 to 1952 in southern California. In 1936 he was deprived of his German citizenship; in the same year the University of Bonn took away the honorary doctorate it had bestowed in 1919 (it was restored in 1949). From 1936 to 1944 Mann was a citizen of Czechoslovakia. In 1944 he became a U.S. citizen.

After the war, Mann visited both East Germany and West Germany several times and received many public honours, but he refused to return to Germany to live. In 1952 he settled again near Zürich. His last major essays—on Goethe (1949), Chekhov (1954), and Schiller (1955)—are impressive evocations of the moral and social responsibilities of writers.


Later novels
The novels on which Mann was working throughout this period reflect variously the cultural crisis of his times. In 1933 he published The Tales of Jacob (U.S. title, Joseph and His Brothers), the first part of his four-part novel on the biblical Joseph, continued the following year in The Young Joseph and two years later with Joseph in Egypt, and completed with Joseph the Provider in 1943. In the complete work, published as Joseph and His Brothers, Mann reinterpreted the biblical story as the emergence of mobile, responsible individuality out of the tribal collective, of history out of myth, and of a human God out of the unknowable. In the first volume a timeless myth seems to be reenacted in the lives of the Hebrews. Joseph, however, though sustained by the belief that his life too is the reenactment of a myth, is thrown out of the “timeless collective” into Egypt, the world of change and history, and there learns the management of events, ideas, and himself. Though based on wide and scholarly study of history, the work is not a historical novel, and the “history” is full of irony and humour, of conscious modernization. Mann’s concern is to provide a myth for his own times, capable of sustaining and directing his generation and of restoring a belief in the power of humane reason.

Mann took time off from this work to write, in the same spirit, his Lotte in Weimar (U.S. title, The Beloved Returns). Lotte Kestner, the heroine of Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, his semi-autobiographical story of unrequited love and romantic despair, visits Weimar in old age to see once again her old lover, now famous, and win some acknowledgment from him. But Goethe remains distant and refuses to reenter the past; she learns from him that true reverence for man means also acceptance of and reverence for change, intelligent activity directed to the “demand of the day.” In this, as in the Joseph novels, in settings so distant from his own time, Mann was seeking to define the essential principles of humane civilization; their spacious and often humorous serenity of tone implicitly challenges the inhuman irrationalism of the Nazis.

In Doktor Faustus, begun in 1943 at the darkest period of the war, Mann wrote the most directly political of his novels. It is the life story of a German composer, Adrian Leverkühn, born in 1885, who dies in 1940 after 10 years of mental alienation. A solitary, estranged figure, he “speaks” the experience of his times in his music, and the story of Leverkühn’s compositions is that of German culture in the two decades before 1930—more specifically of the collapse of traditional humanism and the victory of the mixture of sophisticated nihilism and barbaric primitivism that undermine it. With imaginative insight Mann interpreted the new musical forms and themes of Leverkühn’s compositions up to the final work, a setting of the lament of Doctor Faustus in the 16th-century version of the Faust legend, who once, in hope, had made a pact with the Devil, but in the end is reduced to hopelessness. The one gleam of hope in this sombre work, however, in which the personal tragedy of Leverkühn is subtly related to Germany’s destruction in the war through the comments of the fictitious narrator, Zeitblom, lies in its very grief.

The composition of the novel was fully documented by Mann in 1949 in The Genesis of a Novel. Doktor Faustus exhausted him as no other work of his had done, and The Holy Sinner and The Black Swan, published in 1951 and 1953, respectively, show a relaxation of intensity in spite of their accomplished, even virtuoso style. Mann rounded off his imaginative work in 1954 with The Confessions of Felix Krull, Confidence Man, the light, often uproariously funny story of a confidence man who wins the favour and love of others by enacting the roles they desire of him.

Mann’s style is finely wrought and full of resources, enriched by humour, irony, and parody; his composition is subtle and many-layered, brilliantly realistic on one level and yet reaching to deeper levels of symbolism. His works lack simplicity, and his tendency to set his characters at a distance by his own ironical view of them has sometimes laid him open to the charge of lack of heart. He was, however, aware that simplicity and sentiment lend themselves to manipulation by ideological and political powers, and the sometimes elaborate sophistication of his works cannot hide from the discerning reader his underlying impassioned and tender solicitude for mankind.


Assessment
Mann was the greatest German novelist of the 20th century, and by the end of his life his works had acquired the status of classics both within and without Germany. His subtly structured novels and shorter stories constitute a persistent and imaginative enquiry into the nature of Western bourgeois culture, in which a haunting awareness of its precariousness and threatened disintegration is balanced by an appreciation of and tender concern for its spiritual achievements. Round this central theme cluster a group of related problems that recur in different forms—the relation of thought to reality and of the artist to society, the complexity of reality and of time, the seductions of spirituality, eros, and death. Mann’s imaginative and practical involvement in the social and political catastrophes of his time provided him with fresh insights that make his work rich and varied. His finely wrought essays, notably those on Tolstoy, Goethe, Freud, and Nietzsche, record the intellectual struggles through which he reached the ethical commitment that shapes the major imaginative works.

Roy Pascal

 

 


Arthur Schopenhauer


"Essays"


German philosopher

born Feb. 22, 1788, Danzig, Prussia [now Gdańsk, Pol.]
died Sept. 21, 1860, Frankfurt am Main

Main
German philosopher, often called the “philosopher of pessimism,” who was primarily important as the exponent of a metaphysical doctrine of the will in immediate reaction against Hegelian idealism. His writings influenced later existential philosophy and Freudian psychology.

Early life and education.
Schopenhauer was the son of a wealthy merchant, Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, and his wife, Johanna, who later became famous for her novels, essays, and travelogues. In 1793, when Danzig came under Prussian sovereignty, they moved to the free city of Hamburg. Arthur enjoyed a gentlemanly private education. He then attended a private business school, where he became acquainted with the spirit of the Enlightenment and was exposed to a Pietistic attitude sensitive to the plight of man. In 1803 he accompanied his parents for a year on an extensive journey through Belgium, England, France, Switzerland, and Austria.
The sudden death of his father in April 1805 precipitated a decisive change in his life. His mother and his young sister Adele moved to Weimar, where his mother succeeded in joining the social circle of the poets J.W. von Goethe and Christoph Martin Wieland (often called the German Voltaire). Arthur himself had to remain in Hamburg for more than a year, yet with more freedom to engage in the arts and sciences. In May 1807 he was finally able to leave Hamburg. During the next two years, spent in Gotha and Weimar, he acquired the necessary academic preparation for attendance at a university.
In the fall of 1809 he matriculated as a student of medicine at the University of Göttingen and mainly attended lectures on the natural sciences. As early as his second semester, however, he transferred to the humanities, concentrating first on the study of Plato and Immanuel Kant. From 1811 to 1813 he attended the University of Berlin (where he heard such philosophers as J.G. Fichte and Friedrich Schleiermacher, with little appreciation); and in Rudolstadt, during the summer of 1813, he finished his dissertation, which earned him the doctor of philosophy degree from the University of Jena.

Active maturity.
The following winter (1813–14) he spent in Weimar, in intimate association with Goethe, with whom he discussed various philosophical topics. In that same winter the Orientalist Friedrich Majer, a disciple of Johann Gottfried Herder, introduced him to the teachings of Indian antiquity—the philosophy of Vedānta and the mysticism of the Vedas (Hindu scriptures). Later, Schopenhauer considered that the Upaniṣads (philosophic Vedas), together with Plato and Kant, constituted the foundation on which he erected his own philosophical system.
In May 1814 he left his beloved Weimar after a quarrel with his mother over her frivolous way of life, of which he disapproved. He then lived in Dresden until 1818, associating occasionally with a group of writers for the Dresdener Abendzeitung (“Dresden Evening Newspaper”). Schopenhauer finished his trea tise Über das Sehn und die Farben (1816; “On Vision and Colours”), supporting Goethe against Isaac Newton.
His next three years were dedicated exclusively to the preparation and composition of his main work, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung (1819; The World as Will and Idea). The fundamental idea of this work—which is condensed into a short formula in the title itself—is developed in four books composed of two comprehensive series of reflections that include successively the theory of knowledge and the philosophy of nature, aesthetics, and ethics.
The first book begins with Kant. The world is my representation, says Schopenhauer. It is only comprehensible with the aid of the constructs of man’s intellect—space, time, and causality. But these constructs show the world only as appearance, as a multiplicity of things next to and following one another—not as the thing in itself, which Kant considered to be unknowable. The second book advances to a consideration of the essences of the concepts presented. Of all the things in the world, only one is presented to a person in two ways: he knows himself externally as body or as appearance, and he knows himself internally as part of the primary essence of all things, as will. The will is the thing in itself; it is unitary, unfathomable, unchangeable, beyond space and time, without causes and purposes. In the world of appearances, it is reflected in an ascending series of realizations. From the blind impulses in the forces of inorganic nature, through organic nature (plants and animals) to the rationally guided actions of men, an enormous chain of restless desires, agitations, and drives stretch forth—a continual struggle of the higher forms against the lower, an eternally aimless and insatiable striving, inseparably united with misery and misfortune. At the end, however, stands death, the great reproof that the will-to-live receives, posing the question to each single person: Have you had enough?
Whereas the first two books present the will in an affirmative mode, the last two, dealing with aesthetics and ethics, surpass them by pointing to the negation of the will as a possible liberation. Evoking as their leading figures the genius and the saint, who illustrate this negation, these books present the “pessimistic” world view that values nonbeing more highly than being. The arts summon man to a will-less way of viewing things, in which the play of the passions ceases. To the succession of levels achieved by the realizations of the will corresponds a gradation of levels in the arts, from the lowest—the art of building (architecture)—through the art of poetry to the highest of arts—music. But the arts liberate a person only momentarily from the service of the will. A genuine liberation results only from breaking through the bounds of individuality imposed by the ego. Whoever feels acts of compassion, selflessness, and human kindness and feels the suffering of other beings as his own is on the way to the abnegation of the will to life, achieved by the saints of all peoples and times in asceticism. Schopenhauer’s anthropology and sociology do not, in the manner of Hegel, commence with the state or with the community; they focus upon man—patient, suffering man who toils by himself—and show him certain possibilities of standing his ground and of living together with others.
The book marked the summit of Schopenhauer’s thought. In the many years thereafter, no further development of his philosophy occurred, no inner struggles or changes, no critical reorganization of basic thoughts. From then onward, his work consisted merely of more detailed exposition, clarification, and affirmation.
In March 1820, after a lengthy first tour of Italy and a triumphant dispute with Hegel, he qualified to lecture at the University of Berlin. Though he remained a member of the university for 24 semesters, only his first lecture was actually held; for he had scheduled (and continued to schedule) his lectures at the same hour when Hegel lectured to a large and ever-growing audience. Clearly, he could not successfully challenge a persistently advancing philosophy. Even his book received scant attention. For a second time Schopenhauer went on a year-long trip to Italy, and this was followed by a year of illness in Munich. In May 1825 he made one last attempt in Berlin, but in vain. He now occupied himself with secondary works, primarily translations.

Scholarly retirement in Frankfurt.
During his remaining 28 years, he lived in Frankfurt, which he felt to be free from the threat of cholera, and left the city only for brief interludes. He had finally renounced his career as a university professor and lived henceforth as a recluse, totally absorbed in his studies (especially in the natural sciences) and his writings. His life now took on the shape that posterity first came to know: the measured uniformity of the days; the strict, ascetic lifestyle modeled after Kant; the old-fashioned attire; the tendency to gesticulative soliloquy.
His leisure, though, was not idle. In 1836, after 19 years of “silent indignation,” he published his short treatise Über den Willen in der Natur (On the Will in Nature), which skillfully employed the queries and findings of the rapidly expanding natural sciences in support of his theory of the will. The preface for the first time openly expressed his devastating verdict on the “charlatan” Hegel and his clique. He also published essays.
The second edition of The World as Will and Idea (1844) included an additional volume but failed to break what he called “the resistance of a dull world.” The little weight that Schopenhauer’s name carried became evident when three publishers rejected his latest work. Finally, a rather obscure Berlin bookseller accepted the manuscript without remuneration. In this book, which brought the beginning of worldwide recognition, Schopenhauer turned to significant topics hitherto not treated individually within the framework of his writings: the work of six years yielded the essays and comments compiled in two volumes under the title Parerga und Paralipomena (1851). The Parerga (“Minor Works”) include fragments concerning the history of philosophy; the famous treatise “Über die Universitäts-Philosophie”; the enigmatically profound “Transzendente Spekulation über die anscheinende Absichtlichkeit im Schicksale des Einzelnen” (“Transcendent Speculation on the Apparent Premeditation in Personal Fate”); the “Versuch über das Geistersehn und was damit zusammenhängt” (“Essay on Ghost-seeing and Its Related Aspects”)—the first investigation, classification, and critical reflection concerning parapsychology; and the “Aphorismen zur Lebensweisheit” (“Aphorisms on Practical Wisdom”), a serene and brilliant account garnered from his long life. The Paralipomena (“Remnants”), or as Schopenhauer called them “separate, yet systematically ordered thoughts on various subjects,” included essays on writing and style, on women, on education, on noise and sound, and on numerous other topics.
During the last years of his life, he added the finishing touches to most of his works. Even a third edition of The World as Will and Idea, containing an exultant preface, appeared in 1859 and, in 1860, a second edition of his Ethics. Soon after Schopenhauer’s sudden and painless death, Julius Frauenstädt published new and enlarged editions, with many handwritten additions, of the Parerga and Paralipomena (1862), On the Fourfold Root (1864), the essay On the Will in Nature (1867), the treatise on colours (1870), and finally even a fourth edition of his main work (1873). Later that same year Frauenstädt published the first complete edition of his works in six volumes.

Influence.
During this time, the actual impact and influence of Schopenhauer began to spread. By turning away from spirit and reason to the powers of intuition, creativity, and the irrational, his thought has affected—partly via Nietzsche—the ideas and methods of vitalism, of life philosophy, of existential philosophy, and of anthropology. Through his disciple Julius Bahnsen and through Eduard von Hartmann’s philosophy of the unconscious, the connection to modern psychology and to Sigmund Freud and his school can be established. The philosophy of history of Jacob Burckhardt, a Swiss cultural historian, also proceeds from Schopenhauer. Within the German cultural realm, Schopenhauer’s influence on music and literature brings to mind such diverse names as Richard Wagner, Hans Pfitzner, Wilhelm Busch, Gerhart Hauptmann, Frank Wedekind, and Thomas Mann. Since 1911 the Schopenhauer Society in Frankfurt am Main has been dedicated to the study, exposition, and dissemination of Schopenhauer’s philosophy.
Arthur Hübscher

 

 


Rainer Maria Rilke


"Duino Elegies"




 

original name René Maria Rilke

born Dec. 4, 1875, Prague, Bohemia, Austria-Hungary [now in Czech Republic]
died Dec. 29, 1926, Valmont, Switz.

Austro-German poet who became internationally famous with such works as Duino Elegies and Sonnets to Orpheus.

Early life.
Rilke was the only son of a not-too-happy marriage. His father, Josef, a civil servant, was a man frustrated in his career; his mother, the daughter of an upper-middle-class merchant and imperial councillor, was a difficult woman, who felt that she had married beneath her. She left her husband in 1884 and moved to Vienna so as to be close to the imperial court.

Rilke’s education was ill planned and fragmentary. It had been decided that he was to become an officer to assure him the social standing barred to his father. Consequently, after some years at a rather select school run by the Piarist brothers of Prague, he was enrolled in the military lower Realschule of Sankt Pölten (Austria) and four years later entered the military upper Realschule at Mährisch-Weisskirchen (Bohemia). These two schools were completely at variance with the needs of this highly sensitive boy, and he finally was forced to leave the school prematurely because of poor health. In later life he called these years a time of merciless affliction, a “primer of horror.” After another futile year spent at the Academy of Business Administration at Linz (1891–92), Rilke, with the energetic help of a paternal uncle, was able to straighten out his misguided educational career. In the summer of 1895, he completed the course of studies at the German Gymnasium (a school designed to prepare for the university) of the Prague suburb of Neustadt.

By the time he left school, Rilke had already published a volume of poetry (1894), and he had no doubt that he would pursue a literary career. Matriculating at Prague’s Charles University in 1895, he enrolled in courses in German literature and art history and, to appease his family, read one semester of law. But he could not become really involved in his studies, and so in 1896 he left school and went to Munich, a city whose artistic and cosmopolitan atmosphere held a strong appeal. Thus began his mature life, of the restless travels of a man driven by inner needs, and of the artist who managed to persuade others of the validity of his vision. The European continent in all its breadth and variety—Russia, France, Spain, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy—was to be the physical setting of that life.


Maturity.
In May 1897 Rilke met Lou Andreas-Salomé, who shortly became his mistress. Lou, 36 years of age, was from St. Petersburg, the daughter of a Russian general and a German mother. In her youth she had been wooed by, and refused, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche; 10 years before her meeting with Rilke she had married a German professor. Rilke’s affair with Lou was a turning point in his life. More than mistress, she was surrogate mother, the leading influence in his éducation sentimentale, and, above all, the person who introduced Russia to him. Even after their affair ended, Lou remained his close friend and confidante. In late 1897 he followed her to Berlin to take part in her life as far as possible.

Russia was a milestone in Rilke’s life. It was the first and most incisive of a series of “elective homelands,” leaving a deeper mark than any of his subsequent discoveries, with the possible exception of Paris. He and Lou visited Russia first in the spring of 1899 and then in the summer of 1900. There he found an external reality that he saw as the ideal symbol of his feelings, his inner reality. Russia for him was imbued with an amorphous, elemental, almost religiously moving quality—a harmonious, powerful constellation of “God,” “human community,” and “nature”—the distillation of the “cosmic” spirit of being.

Russia evoked in him a poetic response that he later said marked the true beginning of his serious work: a long three-part cycle of poems written between 1899 and 1903, Das Stunden-Buch (1905). Here the poetic “I” presents himself to the reader in the guise of a young monk who circles his god with swarms of prayers, a god conceived as the incarnation of “life,” as the numinous quality of the innerworldly diversity of “things.” The language and motifs of the work are largely those of Europe of the 1890s: Art Nouveau, moods inspired by the dramas of Henrik Ibsen and Maurice Maeterlinck, the enthusiasm for art of John Ruskin and Walter Pater, and, above all, the emphasis on “life” of Nietzsche’s philosophy. Yet, the self-celebratory fervour of these devotional exercises, with their rhythmic, suggestive power and flowing musicality, contained a completely new element. In them, a poet of unique stature had found his voice.

Soon after his second trip to Russia, Rilke joined the artists’ colony of Worpswede, near Bremen, where he hoped to settle down among congenial artists experimenting with developing a new life-style. In April 1901 he married Clara Westhoff, a young sculptor from Bremen who had studied with Auguste Rodin. The couple set up housekeeping in a farm cottage in nearby Westerwede. There Rilke worked on the second part of the Stunden-Buch and also wrote a book about the Worpswede colony. In December 1901 Clara gave birth to a daughter, and soon afterward the two decided on a friendly separation so as to be free to pursue their separate careers.

Rilke was commissioned by a German publisher to write a book about Rodin and went to Paris, where the sculptor lived, in 1902. For the next 12 years Paris was the geographic centre of Rilke’s life. He frequently left the city for visits to other cities and countries, beginning in the spring of 1903, when, to recover from what seemed to him the indifferent life of Paris, he went to Viareggio, Italy. There he wrote the third part of the Stunden-Buch. He also worked in Rome (1903–04), in Sweden (1904), and repeatedly in Capri (1906–08); he travelled to the south of France, Spain, Tunisia, and Egypt and frequently visited friends in Germany and Austria. Yet Paris was his second elective home, no less important than Russia, for both its historic, human, “scenic” qualities and its intellectual challenge.

Rilke’s Paris was not the belle époque capital steeped in luxury and eroticism; it was a city of abysmal, dehumanizing misery, of the faceless and the dispossessed, and of the aged, sick, and dying. It was the capital of fear, poverty, and death. His preoccupation with these phenomena combined with a second one: his growing awareness of new approaches to art and creativity, an awareness gained through his association with Rodin. Their friendship lasted until the spring of 1906. Rodin taught him his personal art ethic of unremitting work, which stood in sharp contrast to the traditional idea of artistic inspiration. Rodin’s method was one of dedication to detail and nuance and of unswerving search for “form” in the sense of concentration and objectivization. Rodin also gave Rilke new insight into the treasures of the Louvre, the Cathedral of Chartres, and the forms and shapes of Paris. Of the literary models, the poet Charles Baudelaire impressed him the most.

During those Paris years Rilke developed a new style of lyrical poetry, the so-called Ding-Gedicht (“object poem”), which attempts to capture the plastic essence of a physical object. Some of the most successful of these poems are imaginative verbal translations of certain works of the visual arts. Other poems deal with landscapes, portraits, and biblical and mythological themes as a painter would depict them. These Neue Gedichte (1907–08) represented a departure from traditional German lyric poetry. Rilke forced his language to such extremes of subtlety and refinement that it may be characterized as a distinct art among other arts and a language distinct from existing languages. The worldly elegance of these poems cannot obscure their inherent emotional and moral engagement. When Rilke, in letters about Paul Cézanne written in the autumn of 1907, defines the painter’s method as a “using up of love in anonymous labour,” he doubtless was also speaking of himself. In a letter to Lou Salomé written in July 1903, he had defined his method with this formulation: “making objects out of fear.”

Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge (1910; The Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge, 1930), on which he began work in Rome in 1904, is a prose counterpart to the Neue Gedichte. That which hovered in the background in the poems, behind the perfection of style, is in the foreground of the prose work: the subjective, personal problems of the lonely occupant of a Paris hotel room, the “fear” that is the inspiration for the creation of “the objects.” If the poems seem like a glorious affirmation of the Symbolists’ idea of “pure poetry,” the Aufzeichnungen reads like a brilliant early example of Existentialist writing. It is an artfully assembled suite of descriptive, reminiscent, and meditative parts, supposedly written by Malte, a young Danish expatriate in Paris who refuses to abide by the traditional chronology of narrative exposition but, instead, presents his themes as “simultaneous” occurrences set against a background of an all-encompassing “spatial time.” Here are found all of Rilke’s major themes: love, death, the fears of childhood, the idolization of woman, and, finally, the matter of “God,” which is treated simply as a “tendency of the heart.” The work must be seen as the description of the disintegration of a soul—but a disintegration not devoid of a dialectic mental reservation: “Only a step,” writes Malte, “and my deepest misery could turn into bliss.”

The price Rilke paid for these masterpieces was a writing block and depression so severe that it led him to toy with the idea of giving up writing. Aside from a short poetry cycle, Das Marienleben (1913), he did not publish anything for 13 years. The first works in which he transcended even his Neue Gedichte were written early in 1912—two long poems in the style of elegies. He did not undertake their immediate publication, however, because they promised to become part of a new cycle. He wrote these two poems while staying at Duino Castle, near Trieste.

At the outbreak of World War I Rilke was in Munich, where he decided to remain, spending most of the war there. In December 1915 he was called up for military service with the Austrian army at Vienna, but by June 1916 he had returned to civilian life. The social climate of these years was inimical to his way of life and to his poetry, and when the war ended he felt almost completely paralyzed. He had only one relatively productive phase: the fall of 1915, when, in addition to a series of new poems, he wrote the “Fourth Duino Elegy.”


Late life.
Rilke spent the next seven years in Switzerland, the last of his series of elective homes. He once more came into full command of his creative gifts. In the summer of 1921 he took up residence at the Château de Muzot, a castle in the Rhône Valley, as the guest of a Swiss patron. In February 1922, within the space of a few days of obsessive productivity, he completed the Duino cycle begun years earlier and, unexpectedly and almost effortlessly, another superb cycle of 55 poems, in mood and theme closely related to the Elegies—his Sonette an Orpheus (Sonnets to Orpheus).

The Duineser Elegien (Duino Elegies) are the culmination of the development of Rilke’s poetry. That which in the Stunden-Buch had begun as a naively uncertain celebration of “life,” as a devotional exercise of mystical worship of God, and which in Malte led him to assert that “this life suspended over an abyss is in fact impossible” in the Elegies sounds an affirmative note, in panegyric justification of life as an entity: “The affirmation of life and death prove to be identical in the Elegies,” wrote Rilke in 1925. These poems can be seen as a new myth that reflects the condition of “modern” man, the condition of an emancipated, “disinherited” consciousness maintaining itself as a counterpart to the traditional cosmic image of Christianity. Like Nietzsche, Rilke opposes the Christian dualism of immanence and transcendence. Instead, he speaks out for an emphatic monism of the “cosmic inner space,” gathering life and death, earth and space, and all dimensions of time into one all-encompassing unity. This Rilkean myth is articulated in an image-laden cosmology that, analogous to medieval models, sees all of reality—from animal to “angel”—as a hierarchical order. This cosmology in turn results in a systematic, consistent doctrine of life and being in which man is assigned the task of transforming everything that is visible into the invisible through the power of his sensory perceptions: “We are the bees of the invisible.” And this ultimate fate of man is concretized in the activity that alternately is called “saying,” “singing,” “extolling,” or “praising.” Thus the poet is turned into the protagonist of humanity, its representative “before the Angel” (the pseudonym of God), as in the “Ninth Elegy,” and even more strikingly in the Sonnets to Orpheus. This message of the late Rilke has been celebrated by some as a new religion of “life” and rejected by others as the expression of an unbridled aestheticism and an attempt on the part of the poet at “self-redemption” by virtue of his personal gift.

The triumphant breakthrough of February 1922 was Rilke’s last major contribution, yet both thematically and stylistically some of his late poems go beyond even the Elegies and the Sonnets in their experimentation with forms that no longer seem at all related to the nature of the poetic language of the 1920s. In addition to these late works he also wrote a number of simple, almost songlike poems, some short cycles, and four collections in French, in which he pays homage to the landscape of Valais.

Muzot remained his home, but he continued his travels, mostly within Switzerland, devoting himself to his friends and his vast, superbly articulate correspondence. Early in 1925 he again went to Paris, with whose literary life he had remained in close touch. He was royally received by such old friends as André Gide and Paul Valéry as well as by new admirers; for the first and only time in his life he was at the centre of a literary season in a European metropolis. But the strain of this visit proved too much for his frail health. On August 18, unannounced, he slipped out of Paris. He had been ill since 1923, but the cause of his debility, a rare form of incurable leukemia, was not diagnosed until a few weeks before his death in 1926. He died at a sanatorium above Territet, on Lake Geneva.

Hans Egon Holthusen

 

 


Hermann Hesse

"Siddhartha"




 

German writer

born July 2, 1877, Calw, Ger.
died Aug. 9, 1962, Montagnola, Switz.

Main
German novelist, poet, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946, whose main theme deals with man’s breaking out of the established modes of civilization to find his essential spirit. With his appeal for self-realization and his celebration of Eastern mysticism, Hesse posthumously became a cult figure to young people in the English-speaking world.

At the behest of his father, Hesse entered the Maulbronn seminary. Though a model student, he was unable to adapt, so he was apprenticed in a Calw tower-clock factory and later in a Tübingen bookstore. His disgust with conventional schooling was expressed in the novel Unterm Rad (1906; Beneath the Wheel), in which an overly diligent student is driven to self-destruction.

Hesse remained in the bookselling business until 1904, when he became a free-lance writer and brought out his first novel, Peter Camenzind, about a failed and dissipated writer. The inward and outward search of the artist is further explored in Gertrud (1910) and Rosshalde (1914). A visit to India in these years was later reflected in Siddhartha (1922), a lyric novel based on the early life of Buddha.

During World War I, Hesse lived in neutral Switzerland, wrote denunciations of militarism and nationalism, and edited a journal for German war prisoners and internees. He became a permanent resident of Switzerland in 1919 and a citizen in 1923, settling in Montagnola.

A deepening sense of personal crisis led Hesse to psychoanalysis with J.B. Lang, a disciple of Carl Gustav Jung. The influence of analysis appears in Demian (1919), an examination of the achievement of self-awareness by a troubled adolescent. This novel had a pervasive effect on a troubled Germany and made its author famous. Hesse’s later work shows his interest in Jungian concepts of introversion and extroversion, the collective unconscious, idealism, and symbols. The duality of man’s nature preoccupied Hesse throughout the rest of his career.

Der Steppenwolf (1927; Steppenwolf ) describes the conflict between bourgeois acceptance and spiritual self-realization in a middle-aged man. In Narziss und Goldmund (1930; Narcissus and Goldmund), an intellectual ascetic who is content with established religious faith is contrasted with an artistic sensualist pursuing his own form of salvation. In his last and longest novel, Das Glasperlenspiel (1943; English titles The Glass Bead Game, or Magister Ludi), Hesse again explores the dualism of the contemplative and the active life, this time through the figure of a supremely gifted intellectual.

Additional Reading
Soul of the Age, ed. by Theodore Ziolkowski (1991), contains an extensive selection of Hesse’s letters in translation. Biography and criticism may be found in G.W. Field, Hermann Hesse (1970); Joseph Mileck, Hermann Hesse: Biography and Bibliography, 2 vol. (1977), Hermann Hesse: Life and Art (1978); and Ralph Freedman, Hermann Hesse, Pilgrim of Crisis: A Biography (1978, reissued 1997).
 

 

 

APPENDIX

 

 


Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué

"Undine"

 


born Feb. 12, 1777, Brandenburg
died Jan. 23, 1843, Berlin

German novelist and playwright remembered chiefly as the author of the popular fairy tale Undine (1811).

Fouqué was a descendant of French aristocrats, an eager reader of English and Scandinavian literature and Greek and Norse myths, and a military officer. He became a serious writer after he met scholar and critic August Wilhelm Schlegel. In his writings Fouqué expressed heroic ideals of chivalry designed to arouse a sense of German tradition and national character in his contemporaries during the Napoleonic era. His ideas, based on the view of linguistic development first conceived by the philosopher J.G. Fichte, stressed the influence of the mother tongue in shaping the mind.

A prolific writer, Fouqué gathered much of his material from Scandinavian sagas and myths. His dramatic trilogy, Der Held des Nordens (1808–10; “Hero of the North”), is the first modern dramatic treatment of the Nibelung story and a precedent for the later dramas of Friedrich Hebbel and the operas of Richard Wagner. His most lasting success, however, has been the story of Undine, a water sprite who marries the knight Hildebrand to acquire a soul and thus become human but who later loses this love to the treacheries of her uncle Kuhleborn and the lady Berthulda. Although Fouqué’s works were at first enthusiastically received, after 1820 they rapidly passed out of fashion. Fouqué died in poverty after belated recognition by Frederick William IV.

 

 

 


Gustav Theodor Fechner


born April 19, 1801, Gross Särchen, near Muskau, Lusatia [Germany]
died Nov. 18, 1887, Leipzig, Ger.

German physicist and philosopher who was a key figure in the founding of psychophysics, the science concerned with quantitative relations between sensations and the stimuli producing them.

Although he was educated in biological science, Fechner turned to mathematics and physics. In 1834 he was appointed professor of physics at the University of Leipzig. His health broke down several years later; his partial blindness and painful sensitivity to light in all likelihood developed as a result of his gazing at the Sun during the study of visual afterimages (1839–40).

Pensioned modestly by the university in 1844, he began delving more deeply into philosophy and conceived of a highly animistic universe with God as its soul. He discussed his idea of a universal consciousness at length in a work containing his plan of psychophysics, Zend-Avesta: oder über die Dinge des Himmels und des Jenseits (1851; Zend-Avesta: On the Things of Heaven and the Hereafter).

Fechner’s Elemente der Psychophysik, 2 vol. (1860; Elements of Psychophysics), established his lasting importance in psychology. In this work he postulated that mind and body, though appearing to be separate entities, are actually different sides of one reality. He also developed experimental procedures, still useful in experimental psychology, for measuring sensations in relation to the physical magnitude of stimuli. Most important, he devised an equation to express the theory of the just-noticeable difference, advanced earlier by Ernst Heinrich Weber. This theory concerns the sensory ability to discriminate when two stimuli (e.g., two weights) are just noticeably different from each other. Later research has shown, however, that Fechner’s equation is applicable within the midrange of stimulus intensity and then holds only approximately true.

From about 1865 he delved into experimental aesthetics and sought to determine by actual measurements which shapes and dimensions are most aesthetically pleasing.
 

 

 

 


Ludwig Feuerbach


born July 28, 1804, Landshut, Bavaria [now in Germany]
died Sept. 13, 1872, Rechenberg, Ger.


German philosopher and moralist remembered for his influence on Karl Marx and for his humanistic theologizing.

The fourth son of the eminent jurist Paul von Feuerbach, Ludwig Feuerbach abandoned theological studies to become a student of philosophy under G.W.F. Hegel for two years at Berlin. In 1828 he went to Erlangen to study natural science, and two years later his first book, Gedanken über Tod und Unsterblichkeit (“Thoughts on Death and Immortality”), was published anonymously. In this work Feuerbach attacked the concept of personal immortality and proposed a type of immortality by which human qualities are reabsorbed into nature. His Abälard und Heloise (1834) and Pierre Bayle (1838) were followed by Über Philosophie und Christentum (1839; “On Philosophy and Christianity”), in which he claimed “that Christianity has in fact long vanished not only from the reason but from the life of mankind, that it is nothing more than a fixed idea.” Continuing this view in his most important work, Das Wesen des Christentums (1841; The Essence of Christianity), Feuerbach posited the notion that man is to himself his own object of thought and religion nothing more than a consciousness of the infinite. The result of this view is the notion that God is merely the outward projection of man’s inward nature. In the first part of his book, which strongly influenced Marx, Feuerbach analyzed the “true or anthropological essence of religion.” Discussing God’s aspects “as a being of the understanding,” “as a moral being or law,” “as love,” and others, he argued that they correspond to different needs in human nature. In the second section he analyzed the “false or theological essence of religion,” contending that the view that God has an existence independent of human existence leads to a belief in revelation and sacraments, which are items of an undesirable religious materialism.

Although Feuerbach denied that he was an atheist, he nevertheless contended that the God of Christianity is an illusion. As he expanded his discussion to other disciplines, including philosophy, he came to see Hegel’s principles as quasi-religious and embraced instead a form of materialism that Marx subsequently criticized in his Thesen über Feuerbach (written 1845). Attacking religious orthodoxy during the politically turbulent years of 1848–49, Feuerbach was seen as a hero by many of the revolutionaries. His influence was greatest on such anti-Christian publicists as David Friedrich Strauss, author of the skeptical Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet (1835–36; The Life of Jesus Critically Examined), and Bruno Bauer, who, like Feuerbach, had abandoned Hegelianism for naturalism. Some of Feuerbach’s views were later endorsed by extremists in the struggle between church and state in Germany and by those who, like Marx, led the revolt of labour against capitalism. Among his other works are Theogonie (1857) and Gottheit, Freiheit, und Unsterblichkeit (1866; “God, Freedom, and Immortality”).

 

 

 


Rudolf Hermann Lotze




born May 21, 1817, Bautzen, Saxony [Germany]
died July 1, 1881, Berlin

German philosopher who bridged the gap between classical German philosophy and 20th-century idealism and founded Theistic Idealism.

While studying for doctorates in medicine and philosophy at the University of Leipzig (1834–38), he began interpreting physical processes as essentially mechanistic. After a short medical practice, he concentrated his efforts on philosophy by teaching at Leipzig (1842–44) and becoming professor of philosophy at the universities of Göttingen (1844–80) and Berlin (1881).

He first became known as a physiologist in his polemic against vitalism. Although he regarded physical and psychic sciences equally, he espoused a natural order to the creation of the universe as determined by a supreme being. His religious philosophy affected modern thought by emphasizing the problem of delineating value from existence. The foundation for his theories is documented in Logik (1843), Mikrokosmos, 3 vol. (1856–64), and Metaphysik (1879).
 

 

 

 


Karl Marx




German philosopher
in full Karl Heinrich Marx

born May 5, 1818, Trier, Rhine province, Prussia [Germany]
died March 14, 1883, London

Main
revolutionary, sociologist, historian, and economist. He published (with Friedrich Engels) Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (1848), commonly known as The Communist Manifesto, the most celebrated pamphlet in the history of the socialist movement. He also was the author of the movement’s most important book, Das Kapital. These writings and others by Marx and Engels form the basis of the body of thought and belief known as Marxism.

See the articles socialism and Communism for full treatment of those ideologies.

Early years
Karl Heinrich Marx was the oldest surviving boy of nine children. His father, Heinrich, a successful lawyer, was a man of the Enlightenment, devoted to Kant and Voltaire, who took part in agitations for a constitution in Prussia. His mother, born Henrietta Pressburg, was from Holland. Both parents were Jewish and were descended from a long line of rabbis, but, a year or so before Karl was born, his father—probably because his professional career required it—was baptized in the Evangelical Established Church. Karl was baptized when he was six years old. Although as a youth Karl was influenced less by religion than by the critical, sometimes radical social policies of the Enlightenment, his Jewish background exposed him to prejudice and discrimination that may have led him to question the role of religion in society and contributed to his desire for social change.

Marx was educated from 1830 to 1835 at the high school in Trier. Suspected of harbouring liberal teachers and pupils, the school was under police surveillance. Marx’s writings during this period exhibited a spirit of Christian devotion and a longing for self-sacrifice on behalf of humanity. In October 1835 he matriculated at the University of Bonn. The courses he attended were exclusively in the humanities, in such subjects as Greek and Roman mythology and the history of art. He participated in customary student activities, fought a duel, and spent a day in jail for being drunk and disorderly. He presided at the Tavern Club, which was at odds with the more aristocratic student associations, and joined a poets’ club that included some political activists. A politically rebellious student culture was, indeed, part of life at Bonn. Many students had been arrested; some were still being expelled in Marx’s time, particularly as a result of an effort by students to disrupt a session of the Federal Diet at Frankfurt. Marx, however, left Bonn after a year and in October 1836 enrolled at the University of Berlin to study law and philosophy.

Marx’s crucial experience at Berlin was his introduction to Hegel’s philosophy, regnant there, and his adherence to the Young Hegelians. At first he felt a repugnance toward Hegel’s doctrines; when Marx fell sick it was partially, as he wrote his father, “from intense vexation at having to make an idol of a view I detested.” The Hegelian pressure in the revolutionary student culture was powerful, however, and Marx joined a society called the Doctor Club, whose members were intensely involved in the new literary and philosophical movement. Their chief figure was Bruno Bauer, a young lecturer in theology, who was developing the idea that the Christian Gospels were a record not of history but of human fantasies arising from emotional needs and that Jesus had not been a historical person. Marx enrolled in a course of lectures given by Bauer on the prophet Isaiah. Bauer taught that a new social catastrophe “more tremendous” than that of the advent of Christianity was in the making. The Young Hegelians began moving rapidly toward atheism and also talked vaguely of political action.

The Prussian government, fearful of the subversion latent in the Young Hegelians, soon undertook to drive them from the universities. Bauer was dismissed from his post in 1839. Marx’s “most intimate friend” of this period, Adolph Rutenberg, an older journalist who had served a prison sentence for his political radicalism, pressed for a deeper social involvement. By 1841 the Young Hegelians had become left republicans. Marx’s studies, meanwhile, were lagging. Urged by his friends, he submitted a doctoral dissertation to the university at Jena, which was known to be lax in its academic requirements, and received his degree in April 1841. His thesis analyzed in a Hegelian fashion the difference between the natural philosophies of Democritus and Epicurus. More distinctively, it sounded a note of Promethean defiance:

Philosophy makes no secret of it. Prometheus’ admission: “In sooth all gods I hate,” is its own admission, its own motto against all gods, . . . Prometheus is the noblest saint and martyr in the calendar of philosophy.

In 1841 Marx, together with other Young Hegelians, was much influenced by the publication of Das Wesen des Christentums (1841; The Essence of Christianity) by Ludwig Feuerbach. Its author, to Marx’s mind, successfully criticized Hegel, an idealist who believed that matter or existence was inferior to and dependent upon mind or spirit, from the opposite, or materialist, standpoint, showing how the “Absolute Spirit” was a projection of “the real man standing on the foundation of nature.” Henceforth Marx’s philosophical efforts were toward a combination of Hegel’s dialectic—the idea that all things are in a continual process of change resulting from the conflicts between their contradictory aspects—with Feuerbach’s materialism, which placed material conditions above ideas.

In January 1842 Marx began contributing to a newspaper newly founded in Cologne, the Rheinische Zeitung. It was the liberal democratic organ of a group of young merchants, bankers, and industrialists; Cologne was the centre of the most industrially advanced section of Prussia. To this stage of Marx’s life belongs an essay on the freedom of the press. Since he then took for granted the existence of absolute moral standards and universal principles of ethics, he condemned censorship as a moral evil that entailed spying into people’s minds and hearts and assigned to weak and malevolent mortals powers that presupposed an omniscient mind. He believed that censorship could have only evil consequences.

On Oct. 15, 1842, Marx became editor of the Rheinische Zeitung. As such, he was obliged to write editorials on a variety of social and economic issues, ranging from the housing of the Berlin poor and the theft by peasants of wood from the forests to the new phenomenon of communism. He found Hegelian idealism of little use in these matters. At the same time he was becoming estranged from his Hegelian friends for whom shocking the bourgeois was a sufficient mode of social activity. Marx, friendly at this time to the “liberal-minded practical men” who were “struggling step-by-step for freedom within constitutional limits,” succeeded in trebling his newspaper’s circulation and making it a leading journal in Prussia. Nevertheless, Prussian authorities suspended it for being too outspoken, and Marx agreed to coedit with the liberal Hegelian Arnold Ruge a new review, the Deutsch-französische Jahrbücher (“German-French Yearbooks”), which was to be published in Paris.

First, however, in June 1843 Marx, after an engagement of seven years, married Jenny von Westphalen. Jenny was an attractive, intelligent, and much-admired woman, four years older than Karl; she came of a family of military and administrative distinction. Her half-brother later became a highly reactionary Prussian minister of the interior. Her father, a follower of the French socialist Saint-Simon, was fond of Karl, though others in her family opposed the marriage. Marx’s father also feared that Jenny was destined to become a sacrifice to the demon that possessed his son.

Four months after their marriage, the young couple moved to Paris, which was then the centre of socialist thought and of the more extreme sects that went under the name of communism. There, Marx first became a revolutionary and a communist and began to associate with communist societies of French and German workingmen. Their ideas were, in his view, “utterly crude and unintelligent,” but their character moved him: “The brotherhood of man is no mere phrase with them, but a fact of life, and the nobility of man shines upon us from their work-hardened bodies,” he wrote in his so-called “Ökonomisch-philosophische Manuskripte aus dem Jahre 1844” (written in 1844; Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 [1959]). (These manuscripts were not published for some 100 years, but they are influential because they show the humanist background to Marx’s later historical and economic theories.)

The “German-French Yearbooks” proved short-lived, but through their publication Marx befriended Friedrich Engels, a contributor who was to become his lifelong collaborator, and in their pages appeared Marx’s article “Zur Kritik der Hegelschen Rechtsphilosophie” (“Toward the Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right”) with its oft-quoted assertion that religion is the “opium of the people.” It was there, too, that he first raised the call for an “uprising of the proletariat” to realize the conceptions of philosophy. Once more, however, the Prussian government intervened against Marx. He was expelled from France and left for Brussels—followed by Engels—in February 1845. That year in Belgium he renounced his Prussian nationality.


Brussels period
The next two years in Brussels saw the deepening of Marx’s collaboration with Engels. Engels had seen at firsthand in Manchester, Eng., where a branch factory of his father’s textile firm was located, all the depressing aspects of the Industrial Revolution. He had also been a Young Hegelian and had been converted to communism by Moses Hess, who was called the “communist rabbi.” In England he associated with the followers of Robert Owen. Now he and Marx, finding that they shared the same views, combined their intellectual resources and published Die heilige Familie (1845; The Holy Family), a prolix criticism of the Hegelian idealism of the theologian Bruno Bauer. Their next work, Die deutsche Ideologie (written 1845–46, published 1932; The German Ideology), contained the fullest exposition of their important materialistic conception of history, which set out to show how, historically, societies had been structured to promote the interests of the economically dominant class. But it found no publisher and remained unknown during its authors’ lifetimes.

During his Brussels years, Marx developed his views and, through confrontations with the chief leaders of the working-class movement, established his intellectual standing. In 1846 he publicly excoriated the German leader Wilhelm Weitling for his moralistic appeals. Marx insisted that the stage of bourgeois society could not be skipped over; the proletariat could not just leap into communism; the workers’ movement required a scientific basis, not moralistic phrases. He also polemicized against the French socialist thinker Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in Misère de la philosophie (1847; The Poverty of Philosophy), a mordant attack on Proudhon’s book subtitled Philosophie de la misère (1846; The Philosophy of Poverty). Proudhon wanted to unite the best features of such contraries as competition and monopoly; he hoped to save the good features in economic institutions while eliminating the bad. Marx, however, declared that no equilibrium was possible between the antagonisms in any given economic system. Social structures were transient historic forms determined by the productive forces: “The handmill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steammill, society with the industrial capitalist.” Proudhon’s mode of reasoning, Marx wrote, was typical of the petty bourgeois, who failed to see the underlying laws of history.

An unusual sequence of events led Marx and Engels to write their pamphlet The Communist Manifesto. In June 1847 a secret society, the League of the Just, composed mainly of emigrant German handicraftsmen, met in London and decided to formulate a political program. They sent a representative to Marx to ask him to join the league; Marx overcame his doubts and, with Engels, joined the organization, which thereupon changed its name to the Communist League and enacted a democratic constitution. Entrusted with the task of composing their program, Marx and Engels worked from the middle of December 1847 to the end of January 1848. The London Communists were already impatiently threatening Marx with disciplinary action when he sent them the manuscript; they promptly adopted it as their manifesto. It enunciated the proposition that all history had hitherto been a history of class struggles, summarized in pithy form the materialist conception of history worked out in The German Ideology, and asserted that the forthcoming victory of the proletariat would put an end to class society forever. It mercilessly criticized all forms of socialism founded on philosophical “cobwebs” such as “alienation.” It rejected the avenue of “social Utopias,” small experiments in community, as deadening the class struggle and therefore as being “reactionary sects.” It set forth 10 immediate measures as first steps toward communism, ranging from a progressive income tax and the abolition of inheritances to free education for all children. It closed with the words, “The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!”

Revolution suddenly erupted in Europe in the first months of 1848, in France, Italy, and Austria. Marx had been invited to Paris by a member of the provisional government just in time to avoid expulsion by the Belgian government. As the revolution gained in Austria and Germany, Marx returned to the Rhineland. In Cologne he advocated a policy of coalition between the working class and the democratic bourgeoisie, opposing for this reason the nomination of independent workers’ candidates for the Frankfurt Assembly and arguing strenuously against the program for proletarian revolution advocated by the leaders of the Workers’ Union. He concurred in Engels’ judgment that The Communist Manifesto should be shelved and the Communist League disbanded. Marx pressed his policy through the pages of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, newly founded in June 1849, urging a constitutional democracy and war with Russia. When the more revolutionary leader of the Workers’ Union, Andreas Gottschalk, was arrested, Marx supplanted him and organized the first Rhineland Democratic Congress in August 1848. When the king of Prussia dissolved the Prussian Assembly in Berlin, Marx called for arms and men to help the resistance. Bourgeois liberals withdrew their support from Marx’s newspaper, and he himself was indicted on several charges, including advocacy of the nonpayment of taxes. In his trial he defended himself with the argument that the crown was engaged in making an unlawful counterrevolution. The jury acquitted him unanimously and with thanks. Nevertheless, as the last hopeless fighting flared in Dresden and Baden, Marx was ordered banished as an alien on May 16, 1849. The final issue of his newspaper, printed in red, caused a great sensation.


Early years in London
Expelled once more from Paris, Marx went to London in August 1849. It was to be his home for the rest of his life. Chagrined by the failure of his own tactics of collaboration with the liberal bourgeoisie, he rejoined the Communist League in London and for about a year advocated a bolder revolutionary policy. An “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League,” written with Engels in March 1850, urged that in future revolutionary situations they struggle to make the revolution “permanent” by avoiding subservience to the bourgeois party and by setting up “their own revolutionary workers’ governments” alongside any new bourgeois one. Marx hoped that the economic crisis would shortly lead to a revival of the revolutionary movement; when this hope faded, he came into conflict once more with those whom he called “the alchemists of the revolution,” such as August von Willich, a communist who proposed to hasten the advent of revolution by undertaking direct revolutionary ventures. Such persons, Marx wrote in September 1850, substitute “idealism for materialism” and regard

pure will as the motive power of revolution instead of actual conditions. While we say to the workers: “You have got to go through fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and national wars not merely in order to change your conditions but in order to change yourselves and become qualified for political power,” you on the contrary tell them, “We must achieve power immediately.”

The militant faction in turn ridiculed Marx for being a revolutionary who limited his activity to lectures on political economy to the Communist Workers’ Educational Union. The upshot was that Marx gradually stopped attending meetings of the London Communists. In 1852 he devoted himself intensely to working for the defense of 11 communists arrested and tried in Cologne on charges of revolutionary conspiracy and wrote a pamphlet on their behalf. The same year he also published, in a German-American periodical, his essay “Der Achtzehnte Brumaire des Louis Napoleon” (The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte), with its acute analysis of the formation of a bureaucratic absolutist state with the support of the peasant class. In other respects the next 12 years were, in Marx’s words, years of “isolation” both for him and for Engels in his Manchester factory.

From 1850 to 1864 Marx lived in material misery and spiritual pain. His funds were gone, and except on one occasion he could not bring himself to seek paid employment. In March 1850 he and his wife and four small children were evicted and their belongings seized. Several of his children died—including a son Guido, “a sacrifice to bourgeois misery,” and a daughter Franziska, for whom his wife rushed about frantically trying to borrow money for a coffin. For six years the family lived in two small rooms in Soho, often subsisting on bread and potatoes. The children learned to lie to the creditors: “Mr. Marx ain’t upstairs.” Once he had to escape them by fleeing to Manchester. His wife suffered breakdowns.

During all these years Engels loyally contributed to Marx’s financial support. The sums were not large at first, for Engels was only a clerk in the firm of Ermen and Engels at Manchester. Later, however, in 1864, when he became a partner, his subventions were generous. Marx was proud of Engels’ friendship and would tolerate no criticism of him. Bequests from the relatives of Marx’s wife and from Marx’s friend Wilhelm Wolff also helped to alleviate their economic distress.

Marx had one relatively steady source of earned income in the United States. On the invitation of Charles A. Dana, managing editor of The New York Tribune, he became in 1851 its European correspondent. The newspaper, edited by Horace Greeley, had sympathies for Fourierism, a Utopian socialist system developed by the French theorist Charles Fourier. From 1851 to 1862 Marx contributed close to 500 articles and editorials (Engels providing about a fourth of them). He ranged over the whole political universe, analyzing social movements and agitations from India and China to Britain and Spain.

In 1859 Marx published his first book on economic theory, Zur Kritik der politischen Ökonomie (A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy). In its preface he again summarized his materialistic conception of history, his theory that the course of history is dependent on economic developments. At this time, however, Marx regarded his studies in economic and social history at the British Museum as his main task. He was busy producing the drafts of his magnum opus, which was to be published later as Das Kapital. Some of these drafts, including the Outlines and the Theories of Surplus Value, are important in their own right and were published after Marx’s death.


Role in the First International
Marx’s political isolation ended in 1864 with the founding of the International Working Men’s Association. Although he was neither its founder nor its head, he soon became its leading spirit. Its first public meeting, called by English trade union leaders and French workers’ representatives, took place at St. Martin’s Hall in London on Sept. 28, 1864. Marx, who had been invited through a French intermediary to attend as a representative of the German workers, sat silently on the platform. A committee was set up to produce a program and a constitution for the new organization. After various drafts had been submitted that were felt to be unsatisfactory, Marx, serving on a subcommittee, drew upon his immense journalistic experience. His “Address and the Provisional Rules of the International Working Men’s Association,” unlike his other writings, stressed the positive achievements of the cooperative movement and of parliamentary legislation; the gradual conquest of political power would enable the British proletariat to extend these achievements on a national scale.

As a member of the organization’s General Council, and corresponding secretary for Germany, Marx was henceforth assiduous in attendance at its meetings, which were sometimes held several times a week. For several years he showed a rare diplomatic tact in composing differences among various parties, factions, and tendencies. The International grew in prestige and membership, its numbers reaching perhaps 800,000 in 1869. It was successful in several interventions on behalf of European trade unions engaged in struggles with employers.

In 1870, however, Marx was still unknown as a European political personality; it was the Paris Commune that made him into an international figure, “the best calumniated and most menaced man of London,” as he wrote. When the Franco-German War broke out in 1870, Marx and Engels disagreed with followers in Germany who refused to vote in the Reichstag in favour of the war. The General Council declared that “on the German side the war was a war of defence.” After the defeat of the French armies, however, they felt that the German terms amounted to aggrandizement at the expense of the French people. When an insurrection broke out in Paris and the Paris Commune was proclaimed, Marx gave it his unswerving support. On May 30, 1871, after the Commune had been crushed, he hailed it in a famous address entitled Civil War in France:

History has no comparable example of such greatness. . . . Its martyrs are enshrined forever in the great heart of the working class.

In Engels’ judgment, the Paris Commune was history’s first example of the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Marx’s name, as the leader of The First International and author of the notorious Civil War, became synonymous throughout Europe with the revolutionary spirit symbolized by the Paris Commune.

The advent of the Commune, however, exacerbated the antagonisms within the International Working Men’s Association and thus brought about its downfall. English trade unionists such as George Odger, former president of the General Council, opposed Marx’s support of the Paris Commune. The Reform Bill of 1867, which had enfranchised the British working class, had opened vast opportunities for political action by the trade unions. English labour leaders found they could make many practical advances by cooperating with the Liberal Party and, regarding Marx’s rhetoric as an encumbrance, resented his charge that they had “sold themselves” to the Liberals.

A left opposition also developed under the leadership of the famed Russian revolutionary Mikhail Alexandrovich Bakunin. A veteran of tsarist prisons and Siberian exile, Bakunin could move men by his oratory, which one listener compared to “a raging storm with lightning, flashes and thunderclaps, and a roaring as of lions.” Bakunin admired Marx’s intellect but could hardly forget that Marx had published a report in 1848 charging him with being a Russian agent. He felt that Marx was a German authoritarian and an arrogant Jew who wanted to transform the General Council into a personal dictatorship over the workers. He strongly opposed several of Marx’s theories, especially Marx’s support of the centralized structure of the International, Marx’s view that the proletariat class should act as a political party against prevailing parties but within the existing parliamentary system, and Marx’s belief that the proletariat, after it had overthrown the bourgeois state, should establish its own regime. To Bakunin, the mission of the revolutionary was destruction; he looked to the Russian peasantry, with its propensities for violence and its uncurbed revolutionary instincts, rather than to the effete, civilized workers of the industrial countries. The students, he hoped, would be the officers of the revolution. He acquired followers, mostly young men, in Italy, Switzerland, and France, and he organized a secret society, the International Alliance of Social Democracy, which in 1869 challenged the hegemony of the General Council at the congress in Basel, Switz. Marx, however, had already succeeded in preventing its admission as an organized body into the International.

To the Bakuninists, the Paris Commune was a model of revolutionary direct action and a refutation of what they considered to be Marx’s “authoritarian communism.” Bakunin began organizing sections of the International for an attack on the alleged dictatorship of Marx and the General Council. Marx in reply publicized Bakunin’s embroilment with an unscrupulous Russian student leader, Sergey Gennadiyevich Nechayev, who had practiced blackmail and murder.

Without a supporting right wing and with the anarchist left against him, Marx feared losing control of the International to Bakunin. He also wanted to return to his studies and to finish Das Kapital. At the congress of the International at The Hague in 1872, the only one he ever attended, Marx managed to defeat the Bakuninists. Then, to the consternation of the delegates, Engels moved that the seat of the General Council be transferred from London to New York City. The Bakuninists were expelled, but the International languished and was finally disbanded in Philadelphia in 1876.


Last years
During the next and last decade of his life, Marx’s creative energies declined. He was beset by what he called “chronic mental depression,” and his life turned inward toward his family. He was unable to complete any substantial work, though he still read widely and undertook to learn Russian. He became crotchety in his political opinions. When his own followers and those of the German revolutionary Ferdinand Lassalle, a rival who believed that socialist goals should be achieved through cooperation with the state, coalesced in 1875 to found the German Social Democratic Party, Marx wrote a caustic criticism of their program (the so-called Gotha Program), claiming that it made too many compromises with the status quo. The German leaders put his objections aside and tried to mollify him personally. Increasingly, he looked to a European war for the overthrow of Russian tsarism, the mainstay of reaction, hoping that this would revive the political energies of the working classes. He was moved by what he considered to be the selfless courage of the Russian terrorists who assassinated the tsar, Alexander II, in 1881; he felt this to be “a historically inevitable means of action.”

Despite Marx’s withdrawal from active politics, he still retained what Engels called his “peculiar influence” on the leaders of working-class and socialist movements. In 1879, when the French Socialist Workers’ Federation was founded, its leader Jules Guesde went to London to consult with Marx, who dictated the preamble of its program and shaped much of its content. In 1881 Henry Mayers Hyndman in his England for All drew heavily on his conversations with Marx but angered him by being afraid to acknowledge him by name.

During his last years Marx spent much time at health resorts and even traveled to Algiers. He was broken by the death of his wife on Dec. 2, 1881, and of his eldest daughter, Jenny Longuet, on Jan. 11, 1883. He died in London, evidently of a lung abscess, in the following year.


Character and significance
At Marx’s funeral in Highgate Cemetery, Engels declared that Marx had made two great discoveries, the law of development of human history and the law of motion of bourgeois society. But “Marx was before all else a revolutionist.” He was “the best-hated and most-calumniated man of his time,” yet he also died “beloved, revered and mourned by millions of revolutionary fellow-workers.”

The contradictory emotions Marx engendered are reflected in the sometimes conflicting aspects of his character. Marx was a combination of the Promethean rebel and the rigorous intellectual. He gave most persons an impression of intellectual arrogance. A Russian writer, Pavel Annenkov, who observed Marx in debate in 1846 recalled that “he spoke only in the imperative, brooking no contradiction,” and seemed to be “the personification of a democratic dictator such as might appear before one in moments of fantasy.” But Marx obviously felt uneasy before mass audiences and avoided the atmosphere of factional controversies at congresses. He went to no demonstrations, his wife remarked, and rarely spoke at public meetings. He kept away from the congresses of the International where the rival socialist groups debated important resolutions. He was a “small groups” man, most at home in the atmosphere of the General Council or on the staff of a newspaper, where his character could impress itself forcefully on a small body of coworkers. At the same time he avoided meeting distinguished scholars with whom he might have discussed questions of economics and sociology on a footing of intellectual equality. Despite his broad intellectual sweep, he was prey to obsessive ideas such as that the British foreign minister, Lord Palmerston, was an agent of the Russian government. He was determined not to let bourgeois society make “a money-making machine” out of him, yet he submitted to living on the largess of Engels and the bequests of relatives. He remained the eternal student in his personal habits and way of life, even to the point of joining two friends in a students’ prank during which they systematically broke four or five streetlamps in a London street and then fled from the police. He was a great reader of novels, especially those of Sir Walter Scott and Balzac; and the family made a cult of Shakespeare. He was an affectionate father, saying that he admired Jesus for his love of children, but sacrificed the lives and health of his own. Of his seven children, three daughters grew to maturity. His favourite daughter, Eleanor, worried him with her nervous, brooding, emotional character and her desire to be an actress. Another shadow was cast on Marx’s domestic life by the birth to their loyal servant, Helene Demuth, of an illegitimate son, Frederick; Engels as he was dying disclosed to Eleanor that Marx had been the father. Above all, Marx was a fighter, willing to sacrifice anything in the battle for his conception of a better society. He regarded struggle as the law of life and existence.

The influence of Marx’s ideas has been enormous. Marx’s masterpiece, Das Kapital, the “Bible of the working class,” as it was officially described in a resolution of the International Working Men’s Association, was published in 1867 in Berlin and received a second edition in 1873. Only the first volume was completed and published in Marx’s lifetime. The second and third volumes, unfinished by Marx, were edited by Engels and published in 1885 and 1894. The economic categories he employed were those of the classical British economics of David Ricardo; but Marx used them in accordance with his dialectical method to argue that bourgeois society, like every social organism, must follow its inevitable path of development. Through the working of such immanent tendencies as the declining rate of profit, capitalism would die and be replaced by another, higher, society. The most memorable pages in Das Kapital are the descriptive passages, culled from Parliamentary Blue Books, on the misery of the English working class. Marx believed that this misery would increase, while at the same time the monopoly of capital would become a fetter upon production until finally “the knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.”

Marx never claimed to have discovered the existence of classes and class struggles in modern society. “Bourgeois” historians, he acknowledged, had described them long before he had. He did claim, however, to have proved that each phase in the development of production was associated with a corresponding class structure and that the struggle of classes led necessarily to the dictatorship of the proletariat, ushering in the advent of a classless society. Marx took up the very different versions of socialism current in the early 19th century and welded them together into a doctrine that continued to be the dominant version of socialism for half a century after his death. His emphasis on the influence of economic structure on historical development has proved to be of lasting significance.

Although Marx stressed economic issues in his writings, his major impact has been in the fields of sociology and history. Marx’s most important contribution to sociological theory was his general mode of analysis, the “dialectical” model, which regards every social system as having within it immanent forces that give rise to “contradictions” (disequilibria) that can be resolved only by a new social system. Neo-Marxists, who no longer accept the economic reasoning in Das Kapital, are still guided by this model in their approach to capitalist society. In this sense, Marx’s mode of analysis, like those of Thomas Malthus, Herbert Spencer, or Vilfredo Pareto, has become one of the theoretical structures that are the heritage of the social scientist.

Lewis S. Feuer
David T. McLellan

 

 

 


Friedrich Engels



German philosopher

born November 28, 1820, Barmen, Rhine Province, Prussia
died August 5, 1895, London

Main
German Socialist philosopher, the closest collaborator of Karl Marx in the foundation of modern Communism. They co-authored the Communist Manifesto (1848), and Engels edited the second and third volumes of Das Kapital after Marx’s death.

Early life
Engels grew up in the environment of a family marked by moderately liberal political views, a steadfast loyalty to Prussia, and a pronounced Protestant faith. His father was the owner of a textile factory in Barmen and also a partner in the Ermen & Engels cotton plant in Manchester, Eng. Even after Engels openly pursued the revolutionary goals that threatened the traditional values of the family, he usually could count on financial aid from home. The influence of his mother, to whom he was devoted, may have been a factor in preserving the tie between father and son.

Aside from such disciplinary actions as the father considered necessary in rearing a gifted but somewhat rebellious son, the only instance in which his father forced his will on Engels was in deciding upon a career for him. Engels did attend a Gymnasium (secondary school), but he dropped out a year before graduation, probably because his father felt that his plans for the future were too undefined. Engels showed some skill in writing poetry, but his father insisted that he go to work in the expanding business. Engels, accordingly, spent the next three years (1838–41) in Bremen acquiring practical business experience in the offices of an export firm.

In Bremen, Engels began to show the capacity for living the double life that characterized his middle years. During regular hours, he operated effectively as a business apprentice. An outgoing person, he joined a choral society, frequented the famed Ratskeller, became an expert swimmer, and practiced fencing and riding (he outrode most Englishmen in the fox hunts). Engels also cultivated his capacity for learning languages; he boasted to his sister that he knew 24. In private, however, he developed an interest in liberal and revolutionary works, notably the banned writings of “Young German” authors such as Ludwig Börne, Karl Gutzkow, and Heinrich Heine. But he soon rejected them as undisciplined and inconclusive in favour of the more systematic and all embracing philosophy of Hegel as expounded by the “Young Hegelians,” a group of leftist intellectuals, including the theologian and historian Bruno Bauer and the anarchist Max Stirner. They accepted the Hegelian dialectic—basically that rational progress and historical change result from the conflict of opposing views, ending in a new synthesis. The Young Hegelians were bent on accelerating the process by criticizing all that they considered irrational, outmoded, and repressive. As their first assault was directed against the foundations of Christianity, they helped convert an agnostic Engels into a militant atheist, a relatively easy task since by this time Engels’ revolutionary convictions made him ready to strike out in almost any direction.

In Bremen, Engels also demonstrated his talent for journalism by publishing articles under the pseudonym of Friedrich Oswald, perhaps to spare the feelings of his family. He possessed pungent critical abilities and a clear style, qualities that were utilized later by Marx in articulating their revolutionary goals.

After returning to Barmen in 1841, the question of a future career was shelved temporarily when Engels enlisted as a one-year volunteer in an artillery regiment in Berlin. No antimilitarist disposition prevented him from serving commendably as a recruit; in fact, military matters later became one of his specialties. In the future, friends would often address him as “the general.” Military service allowed Engels time for more compelling interests in Berlin. Though he lacked the formal requirements, he attended lectures at the university. His Friedrich Oswald articles gained him entrée into the Young Hegelian circle of The Free, formerly the Doctors Club frequented by Karl Marx. There he gained recognition as a formidable protagonist in the philosophical battles, mainly directed against religion.


Conversion to communism
After his discharge in 1842, Engels met Moses Hess, the man who converted him to communism. Hess, the son of wealthy Jewish parents and a promoter of radical causes and publications, demonstrated to Engels that the logical consequence of the Hegelian philosophy and dialectic was communism. Hess also stressed the role that England, with its advanced industry, burgeoning proletariat, and portents of class conflict, was destined to play in future upheavals. Engels eagerly seized the opportunity to go to England, ostensibly to continue his business training in the family firm in Manchester.

In England (1842–44), Engels again functioned successfully in business. After hours, however, he pursued his real interests: writing articles on communism for continental and English journals, reading books and parliamentary reports on economic and political conditions in England, mingling with workers, meeting radical leaders, and gathering materials for a projected history of England that would stress the rise of industry and the wretched position of the workers.

In Manchester, Engels established an enduring attachment to Mary Burns, an uneducated Irish working girl, and, though he rejected the institution of marriage, they lived together as husband and wife. In fact, the one serious strain in the Marx–Engels friendship occurred when Mary died in 1863 and Engels thought that Marx responded a little too casually to the news of her death. In the future, however, Marx made a point of being more considerate, and, when Engels later lived with Mary’s sister Lizzy, on similar terms, Marx always carefully closed his letters with greetings to “Mrs. Lizzy” or “Mrs. Burns.” Engels finally married Lizzy, but only as a deathbed concession to her.

In 1844 Engels contributed two articles to the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher (“German-French Yearbooks”), which were edited by Marx in Paris. In them Engels put forth an early version of the principles of scientific socialism. He revealed what he regarded as the contradictions in liberal economic doctrine and set out to prove that the existing system based on private property was leading to a world made up of “millionaires and paupers.” The revolution that would follow would lead to the elimination of private property and to a “reconciliation of humanity with nature and itself.”


Partnership with Marx
On his way to Barmen, Engels went to Paris for a 10-day visit with Marx, whom he had earlier met in Cologne. This visit resulted in a permanent partnership to promote the socialist movement. Back in Barmen, Engels published Die Lage der arbeitenden Klasse in England (1845; The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844, 1887), a classic in a field that later became Marx’s specialty. Their first major joint work was Die deutsche Ideologie (1845; The German Ideology), which, however, was not published until more than 80 years later. It was a highly polemical critique that denounced and ridiculed certain of their earlier Young Hegelian associates and then proceeded to attack various German socialists who rejected the need for revolution. Marx’s and Engels’ own constructive ideas were inserted here and there, always in a fragmentary manner and only as corrective responses to the views they were condemning.

Upon rejoining Marx in Brussels in 1845, Engels endorsed his newly formulated economic, or materialistic, interpretation of history, which assumed an eventual communist triumph. That summer he escorted Marx on a tour of England. Thereafter he spent much time in Paris, where his social engagements did not interfere significantly with his major purpose, that of attempting to convert various émigré German worker groups—among them a socialist secret society, the League of the Just—as well as leading French socialists to his and Marx’s views. When the league held its first congress in London in June 1847, Engels helped bring about its transformation into the Communist League.

Marx and he together persuaded a second Communist Congress in London to adopt their views. The two men were authorized to draft a statement of communist principles and policies, which appeared in 1848 as the Manifest der kommunistischen Partei (commonly called the Communist Manifesto). It included much of the preliminary definition of views prepared earlier by Engels in the Grundsätze des Kommunismus (1847; Principles of Communism) but was primarily the work of Marx.

The Revolution of 1848, which was precipitated by the attempt of the German states to throw off an authoritarian, almost feudal, political system and replace it with a constitutional, representative form of government, was a momentous event in the lives of Marx and Engels. It was their only opportunity to participate directly in a revolution and to demonstrate their flexibility as revolutionary tacticians with the aim of turning the revolution into a communist victory. Their major tool was the newspaper Neue Rheinische Zeitung, which Marx edited in Cologne with the able assistance of Engels. Such a party organ, then appearing in a democratic guise, was of prime importance for their purposes; with it they could furnish daily guidelines and incitement in the face of shifting events, together with a sustained criticism of governments, parties, policies, and politicians.

After the failure of the revolution, Engels and Marx were reunited in London, where they reorganized the Communist League and drafted tactical directives for the communists in the belief that another revolution would soon take place. But how to replace his depleted income soon became Engels’ main problem. To support both himself and Marx, he accepted a subordinate position in the offices of Ermen & Engels in Manchester, eventually becoming a full-fledged partner in the concern. He again functioned successfully as a businessman, never allowing his communist principles and criticism of capitalist ways to interfere with the profitable operations of his firm. Hence he was able to send money to Marx constantly, often in the form of £5 notes, but later in far higher figures. When Engels sold his partnership in the business in 1869, he received enough for it to live comfortably until his death in 1895 and to provide Marx with an annual grant of £350, with the promise of more to cover all contingencies.

Engels, who was forced to live in Manchester, corresponded constantly with Marx in London and frequently wrote newspaper articles for him; he wrote the articles that appeared in the New York Tribune (1851–52) under Marx’s name and that were later published under Engels’ name as Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany in 1848 (1896). In the informal division of labour that the two protagonists of communism had established, Engels was the specialist in nationality questions, military matters, to some extent in international affairs, and in the sciences. Marx also turned to him repeatedly for clarification of economic questions, notably for information on business practices and industrial operations.

Marx’s Das Kapital (Capital), his most important work, bears in part a made-in-Manchester stamp. Marx similarly called on Engels’ writing facility to help “popularize” their joint views. While Marx was the brilliant theoretician of the pair, it was Engels, as the apt salesman of Marxism directing attention to Das Kapital through his reviews of the book, who implanted the thought that it was their “bible.” Engels almost alone wrote Herrn Eugen Dührings Umwälzung der Wissenschaft (1878; Herr Eugen Dühring’s Revolution in Science [Anti-Dühring]), the book that probably did most to promote Marxian thought. It destroyed the influence of Karl Eugen Dühring, a Berlin professor who threatened to supplant Marx’s position among German Social Democrats.


Last years
After Marx’s death (1883), Engels served as the foremost authority on Marx and Marxism. Aside from occasional writings on a variety of subjects and introductions to new editions of Marx’s works, Engels completed volumes 2 and 3 of Das Kapital (1885 and 1894) on the basis of Marx’s uncompleted manuscripts and rough notes. Engels’ other two late publications were the books Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigenthums und des Staats (1884; The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State) and Ludwig Feuerbach und der Ausgang der klassischen deutschen Philosophie (1888; Ludwig Feuerbach and the Outcome of Classical German Philosophy). All the while he corresponded extensively with German Social Democrats and followers everywhere, so as to perpetuate the image of Marx and to foster some degree of conformity among the “faithful.” His work was interrupted when he was stricken with cancer; he died of the disease not long after.

During his lifetime, Engels experienced, in a milder form, the same attacks and veneration that fell upon Marx. An urbane individual with the demeanour of an English gentleman, Engels customarily was a gay and witty associate with a great zest for living. He had a code of honour that responded quickly to an insult, even to the point of violence. As the hatchetman of the “partnership,” he could be most offensive and ruthless, so much so that in 1848 various friends attempted unsuccessfully to persuade Marx to disavow him.

Except for the communist countries, where Engels has received due recognition, posterity has generally lumped him together with Marx without adequately clarifying Engels’ significant role. The attention Engels does receive is likely to be in the form of a close scrutiny of his works to discover what differences existed between him and Marx. As a result, some scholars have concluded that Engels’ writings and influence are responsible for certain deviations from, or distortions of, “true Marxism” as they see it. Yet scholars in general acknowledge that Marx himself apparently was unaware of any essential divergence of ideas and opinions. The Marx-Engels correspondence, which reveals a close cooperation in formulating Marxist policies, bears out that view.

Oscar J. Hammen

 

 

 


Friedrich Albert Lange



German philosopher

born Sept. 28, 1828, Wald, near Solingen, Prussia
died Nov. 21, 1875, Marburg, Ger.

Main
German philosopher and Socialist, important for his refutation of materialism and for establishing a lasting tradition of Neo-Kantianism at the University of Marburg.

Lange was the son of theologian Johann Peter Lange and was educated at Cologne, Bonn, and Duisburg. In 1861 he became involved in politics. Among his best known works are Die Leibesübungen (1863; “On Physical Exercise”); Die Arbeiterfrage (1865; “The Worker Question”); Die Grundlagen der mathematischen Psychologie (1865; “The Foundation of Mathematical Psychology”); Geschichte des Materialismus und Kritik seiner Bedeutung in der Gegenwart (1866; History of Materialism); J. St. Mill’s Ansichten über die soziale Frage (1866; “John Stuart Mill’s Theories About the Social Question”). Lange left Germany in 1866 and moved to Winterthur, near Zürich, to write for a democratic newspaper. He also wrote the Neue Beiträge zur Geschichte des Materialismus (1867; “A New Contribution on the History of Materialism”) and in 1870 became professor of philosophy at the University of Zürich, resigning his post in 1872 because of the pro-French sympathies of the Swiss in the Franco-German War. He then accepted the chair of philosophy at the University of Marburg and was largely responsible for a Kantian revival there. His Logische Studien (“Studies in Logic”) was published in 1877, after his death.

 

 

 


Wilhelm Wundt

born , Aug. 16, 1832, Neckarau, near Mannheim, Baden [Germany]
died Aug. 31, 1920, Grossbothen, Ger.

German physiologist and psychologist who is generally acknowledged as the founder of experimental psychology.

Wundt earned a medical degree at the University of Heidelberg in 1856. After studying briefly with Johannes Müller, he was appointed lecturer in physiology at the University of Heidelberg, where in 1858 he became an assistant to the physicist and physiologist Wilhelm von Helmholtz. There he wrote Beiträge zur Theorie der Sinneswahrnehmung (1858–62; “Contributions to the Theory of Sense Perception”).

It was during this period, in 1862, that Wundt offered the first course ever taught in scientific psychology. Until then, psychology had been regarded as a branch of philosophy and, hence, to be conducted primarily by rational analysis. Wundt instead stressed the use of experimental methods drawn from the natural sciences. His lectures on psychology were published as Vorlesungen über die Menschen und Thierseele (1863; “Lectures on the Mind of Humans and Animals”). He was promoted to assistant professor of physiology in 1864.

Bypassed in 1871 for the appointment to succeed Helmholtz, Wundt then applied himself to writing a work that came to be one of the most important in the history of psychology, Grundzüge der physiologischen Psychologie, 2 vol. (1873–74; 3 vol., 6th ed., 1908–11; Principles of Physiological Psychology). The Grundzüge advanced a system of psychology that sought to investigate the immediate experiences of consciousness, including sensations, feelings, volitions, and ideas; it also contained the concept of apperception, or conscious perception. The methodology prescribed was introspection, or conscious examination of conscious experience.

In 1874 Wundt went to the University of Zürich for a year before embarking on the most productive phase of his career, as professor at the University of Leipzig (1875–1917). There, in 1879, he established the first psychological laboratory in the world, and two years later he founded the first journal of psychology, Philosophische Studien (“Philosophical Studies”). Wundt’s most important later works include Grundriss der Psychologie (1896; “Outline of Psychology”) and Völkerpsychologie, 10 vol. (1900–20; “Ethnic Psychology”).
 

 

 

 


Wilhelm Dilthey



born Nov. 19, 1833, Biebrich, near Wiesbaden, Nassau
died Oct. 1, 1911, Seis am Schlern, near Bozen, South Tirol, Austria-Hungary

German philosopher who made important contributions to a methodology of the humanities and other human sciences. He objected to the pervasive influence of the natural sciences and developed a philosophy of life that perceived man in his historical contingency and changeability. Dilthey established a comprehensive treatment of history from the cultural viewpoint that has been of great consequence, particularly to the study of literature.

Dilthey was the son of a Reformed Church theologian. After he finished grammar school in Wiesbaden, he began to study theology, first at Heidelberg, then at Berlin, where he soon transferred to philosophy. After completing exams in theology and philosophy, he taught for some time at secondary schools in Berlin but soon abandoned this to dedicate himself fully to scholarly endeavours.

During these years he was bursting with energy, and his investigations led him into diverse directions. In addition to extensive studies on the history of early Christianity and on the history of philosophy and literature, he had a strong interest in music, and he was eager to absorb everything that was being discovered in the unfolding empirical sciences of man: sociology and ethnology, psychology and physiology. Hundreds of reviews and essays testify to an almost inexhaustible productivity.

In 1864 he took his doctorate at Berlin and obtained the right to lecture. He was appointed to a chair at the University of Basel in 1866; appointments to Kiel, in 1868, and Breslau, in 1871, followed. In 1882 he succeeded R.H. Lotze at the University of Berlin, where he spent the remainder of his life.

During these years Dilthey led the quiet life of a scholar, devoid of great external excitement and in total dedication to his work. He searched for the philosophical foundation of what he first and rather vaguely summarized as the “sciences of man, of society, and the state,” which he later called Geisteswissenschaften (“human sciences”)—a term that eventually gained general recognition to collectively denote the fields of history, philosophy, religion, psychology, art, literature, law, politics, and economics. In 1883, as a result of these studies, the first volume of his Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften (“Introduction to Human Sciences”) appeared. The second volume, on which he worked continually, never did appear. This introductory work yielded a series of important essays; one of these—his “Ideen über eine beschreibende und zergliedernde Psychologie” (1894; “Ideas Concerning a Descriptive and Analytical Psychology”)—instigated the formation of a cognitive (Verstehen), or structural, psychology. During the last years of his life, Dilthey resumed this work on a new level in his treatise Der Aufbau der geschichtlichen Welt in den Geisteswissenschaften (1910; “The Structure of the Historical World in the Human Sciences”), which was also left unfinished.

Opposed to the trend in the historical and social sciences to approximate the methodological ideal of the natural sciences, Dilthey tried to establish the humanities as interpretative sciences in their own right. In the course of this work he broke new philosophical ground by his study of the relations between personal experience, its realization in creative expression, and the reflective understanding of this experience; the interdependence of self-knowledge and knowledge of other persons; and, finally, the logical development from these to the understanding of social groups and historical processes. The subject matter of the historical and social sciences is the human mind, not as it is enjoyed in immediate experience nor as it is analyzed in psychological theory, but as it manifests or “objectifies” itself in languages and literatures, actions, and institutions. Dilthey emphasized that the essence of human beings cannot be grasped by introspection but only from a knowledge of all of history; this understanding, however, can never be final because history itself never is: “The prototype ‘man’ disintegrates during the process of history.” For this reason, his philosophical works were closely connected to his historical studies. From these works later arose the encompassing scheme of his Studien zur Geschichte des deutschen Geistes (“Studies Concerning the History of the German Mind”); the notes for this work make up a complete coherent manuscript, but only parts have been published.

Dilthey held that historical consciousness—i.e., the consciousness of the historical relativity of all ideas, attitudes, and institutions—is the most characteristic and challenging fact in the intellectual life of the modern world. It shakes all belief in absolute principles, but it thereby sets people free to understand and appreciate all the diverse possibilities of human experience. Dilthey did not have the ability for definitive formulation; he was suspicious of rationally constructed systems and preferred to leave questions unsettled, realizing that they involved complexity. For a long time, therefore, he was regarded primarily as a sensitive cultural historian who lacked the power of systematic thought. Only posthumously, through the editorial and interpretative work of his disciples, did the significance of the methodology of his historical philosophy of life emerge.

Otto Friedrich Bollnow
 

 

 

 


Franz Brentano



German philosopher
in full Franz Clemens Brentano

born January 16, 1838, Marienberg, Hesse-Nassau [Germany]
died March 17, 1917, Zürich, Switzerland

Main
German philosopher generally regarded as the founder of act psychology, or intentionalism, which concerns itself with the acts of the mind rather than with the contents of the mind. He was a nephew of the poet Clemens Brentano.

Brentano was ordained a Roman Catholic priest (1864) and was appointed Privatdozent (unsalaried lecturer) in philosophy (1866) and professor (1872) at the University of Würzburg. Religious doubts, exacerbated by the doctrine of papal infallibility (1870), led to his resignation from his post and the priesthood (1873).

Brentano then began writing one of his best-known and most influential works, Psychologie vom empirischen Standpunkte (1874; “Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint”), in which he tried to present a systematic psychology that would be a science of the soul.

Concerned with mental processes, or acts, he revived and modernized the scholastic philosophical theory of “intentional existence,” or, as he called it, “immanent objectivity”; in psychical phenomena, he held, there is a “direction of the mind to an object” (e.g., one sees something). The object seen is said to “inexist” within the act of seeing or to have “immanent objectivity.” He suggested that, fundamentally, the mind can refer to objects by perception and ideation, including sensing and imagining; by judgment, including acts of acknowledgment, rejection, and recall; and by loving or hating, which take into account desires, intentions, wishes, and feelings. The ideas expressed in the Psychologie formed the credo of his followers and became the starting point of their work.

In 1874 Brentano was appointed professor at the University of Vienna. His decision to marry in 1880 was blocked by Austrian authorities, who refused to accept his resignation from the priesthood and, considering him still a cleric, denied him permission to marry. He was forced to resign his professorship, and he moved with his wife to Leipzig. The following year he was allowed to return to the University of Vienna as a Privatdozent, and he remained there until 1895. He enjoyed wide popularity with his students, among whom were psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, psychologist Carl Stumpf, philosopher Edmund Husserl, and Tomáš Masaryk, the founder of modern Czechoslovakia. Another major work of Brentano’s, Untersuchungen zur Sinnespsychologie (“Inquiry into Sense Psychology”), appeared in 1907. Completing his early masterwork was Von der Klassifikation der psychischen Phänomene (1911; “On the Classification of Psychological Phenomena”).

 

 

 


Rudolf Christoph Eucken




born Jan. 5, 1846, Aurich, East Friesland [now in Germany]
died Sept. 14, 1926, Jena, Ger.

German Idealist philosopher, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1908), interpreter of Aristotle, and author of works in ethics and religion.

Eucken studied at the University of Göttingen under the German thinker Rudolf Hermann Lotze, a teleological Idealist, and at Berlin under Friedrich Adolf Trendelenburg, a German philosopher whose ethical concerns and historical treatment of philosophy attracted him. Appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Basel, Switz., in 1871, Eucken left in 1874 to become professor of philosophy at the University of Jena, a position he held until 1920.

Distrusting abstract intellectualism and systematics, Eucken centred his philosophy upon actual human experience. He maintained that man is the meeting place of nature and spirit and that it is his duty and his privilege to overcome his nonspiritual nature by incessant active striving after the spiritual life. This pursuit, sometimes termed ethical activism, involves all of man’s faculties but especially requires efforts of the will and intuition.

A strident critic of naturalist philosophy, Eucken held that man’s soul differentiated him from the rest of the natural world and that the soul could not be explained only by reference to natural processes. His criticisms are particularly evident in Individual and Society (1923) and Der Sozialismus und seine Lebensgestaltung (1920; Socialism: An Analysis, 1921). The second work attacked Socialism as a system that limits human freedom and denigrates spiritual and cultural aspects of life.

Eucken’s Nobel Prize diploma referred to the “warmth and strength in presentation with which in his numerous works he has vindicated and developed an idealist philosophy of life.” His other works include Der Sinn und Wert des Lebens (1908; The Meaning and Value of Life, 1909) and Können wir noch Christen sein? (1911; Can We Still Be Christians?, 1914).

 

 

 


Wilhelm Windelband



Wilhelm Windelband (W. Windelband) (May 11, 1848 – October 22, 1915) was a German philosopher of the Baden School.

Born in Potsdam, he is now mainly remembered for the terms nomothetic and idiographic, which he introduced. These have currency in psychology and other areas, though not necessarily in line with his original meanings. Windelband was a neo-Kantian who protested other neo-Kantians of his time and maintained that "to understand Kant rightly means to go beyond him". Against his positivist contemporaries, Windelband argued that philosophy should engage in humanistic dialogue with the natural sciences rather than uncritically appropriating its methodologies. His interests in psychology and cultural sciences represented an opposition to psychologism and historicism schools by a critical philosophic system.

Windelband relied in his effort to reach beyond Kant on such philosophers as Hegel, Herbart and Lotze. Closely associated with Windelband was Heinrich Rickert. Windelband's disciples were not only noted philosophers, but sociologists like Max Weber and theologians like Ernst Troeltsch and Albert Schweitzer.
 

 

 

 


Alexius Meinong



Austrian philosopher and psychologist

born July 17, 1853, Lemberg, Galicia, Austrian Empire [now Lviv, Ukraine]
died Nov. 27, 1920, Graz, Austria

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Austrian philosopher and psychologist remembered for his contributions to axiology, or theory of values, and for his Gegenstandstheorie, or theory of objects.

After studying under the philosophical psychologist Franz Brentano from 1875 to 1878 in Vienna, he joined the faculty of philosophy at the University of Graz, where he remained as a professor from 1889 until his death. With Brentano he helped promote the Austrian school of values but eventually dissented from Brentano’s views on epistemology.

In his major work, Über Annahmen (1902; “On Assumptions”), Meinong discussed the assumptions men make in believing they know or do not know a particular truth. Like Brentano, Meinong considered intentionality, or the direction of attention to objects, to be the basic feature of mental states. Yet he drew his own distinction between two elements in every experience of the objective world: “content,” which differentiates one object from another, and “act,” by which the experience approaches its object.

Anticipating the work of the Phenomenologists, Meinong maintained that objects remain objects and have a definite character and definite properties (Sosein) even if they have no being (Sein). Thus, “golden mountain” is an object existing as a concept, even though no golden mountains exist in the world of sense experience. Bertrand Russell was among those influenced by this aspect of Meinong’s thought. Like every other type of object knowable by different mental states, values could also be classified as objects existing independently of the experience of values and of the world of sense experience. Two examples of value feeling are Seinsfreude, the experience of joy in the existence of a particular object, and Seinsleid, the experience of sadness at the object’s existence.

Meinong’s Gegenstandstheorie is discussed in his Gesammelte Abhandlungen, 2 vol. (1913–14; “Collected Treatises”), and in John N. Findlay, Meinong’s Theory of Objects (1933). His other important writings include Über Möglichkeit und Wahrscheinlichkeit (1915; “On Possibility and Probability”) and Über emotionale Präsentation (1917).

 

 

 

 


Edmund Husserl




German philosopher

born April 8, 1859, Prossnitz, Moravia, Austrian Empire [now Prostějov, Czech Republic]
died April 27, 1938, Freiburg im Breisgau, Ger.

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German philosopher, the founder of Phenomenology, a method for the description and analysis of consciousness through which philosophy attempts to gain the character of a strict science. The method reflects an effort to resolve the opposition between Empiricism, which stresses observation, and Rationalism, which stresses reason and theory, by indicating the origin of all philosophical and scientific systems and developments of theory in the interests and structures of the experiential life. (See phenomenology.)

Education and early life.
Husserl was born into a Jewish family and completed his qualifying examinations in 1876 at the German public gymnasium in the neighbouring city of Olmütz (Olomouc). He then studied physics, mathematics, astronomy, and philosophy at the universities of Leipzig, Berlin, and Vienna. In Vienna he received his doctor of philosophy degree in 1882 with a dissertation entitled Beiträge zur Theorie der Variationsrechnung (“Contributions to the Theory of the Calculus of Variations”). In the autumn of 1883, Husserl moved to Vienna to study with the philosopher and psychologist Franz Brentano. Brentano’s critique of any psychology oriented purely along scientific and psychophysical lines and his claim that he had grounded philosophy on his new descriptive psychology had a widespread influence.

Husserl received a decisive impetus from Brentano and from his circle of students. The spirit of the Enlightenment, with its religious tolerance and its quest for a rational philosophy, was very much alive in this circle. Husserl’s striving for a more strictly rational foundation found its corroboration here. From the outset, such a foundation meant for him not only a theoretical act but the moral meaning of responsibility in the sense of ethical autonomy. In Vienna Husserl converted to the Evangelical Lutheran faith, and one year later, in 1887, he married Malvine Steinschneider, the daughter of a secondary-school professor from Prossnitz. As his energetic and skilled wife, she was his indispensable support, until his death, in all the things of their daily life.


Lecturer at Halle.
In 1886 Husserl went—with a recommendation from Brentano—to Carl Stumpf, the oldest of Brentano’s students, who had further developed his psychology and who was professor of philosophy and psychology at the University of Halle. In 1887 Husserl qualified as a lecturer in the university (Habilitation). He had become a close friend of Stumpf, and he was indebted to Stumpf for many suggestions in the formation of his own descriptive concepts. The theme of Husserl’s Habilitation thesis, Über den Begriff der Zahl: Psychologische Analysen (“On the Concept of Number: Psychological Analyses”), already showed Husserl in the transition from his mathematical research to a reflection upon the psychological source of the basic concepts of mathematics. These investigations were an earlier draft of his Philosophie der Arithmetik: Psychologische und logische Untersuchungen, the first volume of which appeared in 1891.

The title of his inaugural lecture in Halle was “Über die Ziele und Aufgaben der Metaphysik” (“On the Goals and Problems of Metaphysics”). In the traditional sense metaphysics is the study of Being. Though the text is lost, it is clear that Husserl already understood his method of the analysis of consciousness to be the way to a new universal philosophy and metaphysics, which he hoped would lay all previous schemes of metaphysics to rest.

The years of his teaching in Halle (1887–1901) were later seen by Husserl to have been his most difficult. He often doubted his ability as a philosopher and believed he would have to give up his occupation. The problem of uniting a psychological analysis of consciousness with a philosophical grounding of formal mathematics and logic seemed insoluble. But from this crisis there emerged the insight that the philosophical grounding of logic and mathematics must commence with an analysis of the experience that lies before all formal thinking. It demanded an intensive study of the British Empiricists (such as John Locke, George Berkeley, David Hume, and John Stuart Mill) and a coming to terms with the logic and semantics stemming from this tradition—especially the logic of Mill—and with the attempts at a “psycho-logic” grounding of logic then being made in Germany.

The fruits of this interaction were presented in the Logische Untersuchungen (1900–01; “Logical Investigations”), which employed a method of analysis that Husserl now designated as “phenomenological.” The revolutionary significance of this work was only gradually recognized, for its method could not be subsumed under any of the philosophical orientations well known at that time. Bertrand Russell, in a retrospective glance at the Logische Untersuchungen, spoke of them as constituting one of the monumental works of the present philosophical epoch.


Influence as a teacher.
After the publication of the Logische Untersuchungen, Husserl was called, at the instigation of David Hilbert, a Formalist mathematician, to the position of ausserordentlicher Professor (university lecturer) by the University of Göttingen. Husserl’s time of teaching in Göttingen, from 1901 to 1916, was important as the source of the Phenomenological movement and marked the formation of a school reaching out to many lands and branching out in numerous directions.

The phenomenological analysis of experienced reality—i.e., of reality as it immediately presents itself to consciousness—drew not only the German students who were unsatisfied with the Neo-Kantianism that then prevailed in Germany but also many young foreign philosophers who came from the traditions of Empiricism and Pragmatism. From about 1905, Husserl’s students formed themselves into a group with a common style of life and work. Standing in close personal contact with their teacher, they always spoke of him as the “master” and often accompanied him, philosophizing, on his walks. They understood Phenomenology as the way to the reform of the spiritual life.

This group was not a school, however, in any sense of swearing by every word of the master; Husserl gave each of his students the freedom to pursue suggestions in an independent way. He wanted his teaching to be not a transmission of finished results but rather the preparation for a responsible setting of the problem. Thus, he understood Phenomenology as a field to be worked over by the coming generations of philosophers and claimed for himself only the role of the “beginner.” In view of this freedom of his teaching, the fact that Phenomenology soon branched off in many directions is understandable, and it explains its rapid international expansion.

Husserl himself had developed an individual style of working: all of his thoughts were conceived in writing—the minutes, so to speak, of the movement of his thought. During his life he produced more than 40,000 pages written in Gabelberger stenographic script.

Husserl was still at Göttingen when Max Scheler, who was at that time a Privatdozent (unsalaried university lecturer) in Jena and who later became an important Phenomenologist, came in contact with Husserl (1910–11). Husserl’s friendship with Wilhelm Dilthey, a pioneering theoretician of the human sciences, also falls within the Göttingen period. Dilthey saw the publication of the Logische Untersuchungen as a new encouragement to the further development of his own philosophical theory of the human sciences; and Husserl himself later acknowledged that his encounter with Dilthey had turned his attention to the historical life out of which all of the sciences originated and that, in so doing, it had opened for him the dimension of history as the foundation of every theory of knowledge.


Phenomenology as the universal science.
In the Göttingen years, Husserl drafted the outline of Phenomenology as a universal philosophical science. Its fundamental methodological principle was what Husserl called the phenomenological reduction. It focuses the philosopher’s attention on uninterpreted basic experience and the quest, thereby, for the essences of things. In this sense, it is “eidetic” reduction. On the other hand, it is also the reflection on the functions by which essences become conscious. As such, the reduction reveals the ego for which everything has meaning. Hence, Phenomenology took on the character of a new style of transcendental philosophy, which repeats and improves Kant’s mediation between Empiricism and Rationalism in a modern way. Husserl presented its program and its systematic outline in the Ideen zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und phänomenologischen Philosophie (1913; Ideas; General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology), of which, however, only the first part was completed. (Completion of the second part was hindered by the outbreak of World War I.) With this work, Husserl wanted to give his students a manual. The result, however, was just the opposite: most of his students took Husserl’s turn to transcendental philosophy as a lapse back into the old system of thought and therefore rejected it. Because of this turn, as well as the war, the phenomenological school fell apart.

In contrast to the esteem that Husserl enjoyed from his students, his position among his colleagues in Göttingen was always difficult. His appointment to Persönlichen Ordinarius (full professor) in 1906 had resulted from the decision of the minister of education against the will of the faculty. The representatives of the humanities faculty had predominantly philological and historical interests and had little appreciation for philosophy, whereas the natural scientists were disappointed that, with the division of the philosophical faculty, Husserl did not go over to the new faculty of natural sciences.


Phenomenology and the renewal of spiritual life.
Thus his call in 1916 to the position of ordentlicher Professor (university professor) at the University of Freiburg meant a new beginning for Husserl in every respect. His inaugural lecture on “Die reine Phänomenologie, ihr Forschungsgebiet und ihre Methode” (“Pure Phenomenology, Its Area of Research and Its Method”) circumscribed his program of work. He had understood World War I as the collapse of the old European world, in which spiritual culture, science, and philosophy had held an incontestable position. In this situation, the epistemological grounding that he had previously provided for Phenomenology no longer satisfied him; after this, his reflections were directed with special emphasis upon philosophy’s task in the renewal of life.

In this sense he had set forth in his lectures on Erste Philosophie (1923–24; “First Philosophy”) the thesis that Phenomenology, with its method of reduction, is the way to the absolute vindication of life—i.e., to the realization of the ethical autonomy of man. Upon this basis, he continued his clarification of the relation between a psychological and a phenomenological analysis of consciousness and his research into the grounding of logic, which he published as the Formale und transzendentale Logik: Versuch einer Kritik der logischen Vernunft (1929; Formal and Transcendental Logic, 1969).

Husserl’s teaching, in this last period of his life, assumed a different style from that at Göttingen. It did not lead to the founding of a new school. Husserl was so intent upon completing his work that his thinking and teaching assumed more the character of a monologue. At the same time, however, his influence upon his listeners and the members of his seminar was not diminished, and he placed his intellectual stamp upon many of them. Numerous foreign guests usually took part in his seminar. For a period, Rudolf Carnap, a leading figure in the Vienna Circle, where Logical Positivism was born, also studied under Husserl.

Recognition from without was not wanting. In 1919 the law faculty of the University of Bonn bestowed upon Husserl the title of Dr. jur. honoris causa. He was the first German scholar after the war to be invited to lecture at the University of London (1922). He turned down a prestigious call to the University of Berlin as the successor to Ernst Troeltsch in order to devote his energies to Phenomenology without interruption. An invitation followed to give some lectures at the University of Amsterdam and later, in 1930, at the Sorbonne—lectures that furnished the occasion for preparing a new systematic presentation of Phenomenology, which then appeared in a French translation under the title of Méditations cartésiennes (1931).

When he retired in 1928, Martin Heidegger, who was destined to become a leading Existentialist and one of Germany’s foremost philosophers, became his successor. Husserl had looked upon him as his legitimate heir. Only later did he see that Heidegger’s chief work, Sein und Zeit (1927; Being and Time, 1962), had given Phenomenology a turn that would lead down an entirely different path. Husserl’s disappointment led to a cooling of their relationship after 1930.


Later years.
Adolf Hitler’s seizure of power in 1933 did not break Husserl’s ability to work. Rather, the experience of this upheaval was, for him, the occasion for concentrating more than ever upon Phenomenology’s task of preserving the freedom of the mind. He was excluded from the university; but the loneliness of his study was broken through his daily philosophical walks with his research assistant, Eugen Fink, through his friendships with a few colleagues who belonged to the circles of the resistance and the “Denominational Church,” and through numerous visits by foreign philosophers and scholars. Condemned to silence in Germany, he received, in the spring of 1935, an invitation to address the Cultural Society in Vienna. There he spoke freely for two and one-half hours on “Die Philosophie in der Krisis der europäischen Menschheit” (“Philosophy in the Crisis of European Mankind”) and repeated the lecture two days later.

During this time, the Cercle Philosophique de Prague made it possible through a Rockefeller grant for Ludwig Landgrebe, a Dozent (lecturer) at the German University in Prague and Husserl’s former assistant, to begin the classification and transcription of Husserl’s unpublished manuscripts. Through the Cercle, Husserl received an invitation to address the German and Czechoslovakian University in Prague in the fall of 1935, after which many discussions took place in the smaller circles. Thus, in a place which already stood under the threat of Hitler, the voice of free philosophy was once again audible through Husserl. The impression of his absolute sovereignty over all of the confusions of this time was overpowering for his listeners.

Out of these lectures came Husserl’s last work, Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transzendentale Phänomenologie: Eine Einleitung in die phänomenologische Philosophie (1936; The Crisis of European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology, 1970), of which only the first part could appear, in a periodical for emigrants. The following period until the summer of 1937 was entirely devoted to the continuation of this work, in which Husserl developed for the first time his concept of the Lebenswelt (“life-world”).

In the summer of 1937, the illness that made it impossible for him to continue his work set in. From the beginning of 1938 he saw only one remaining task: to be able to die in a way worthy of a philosopher. Not committed to a particular church creed, he had respect for all authentic religious belief, just as his philosophy demanded the recognition of each authentic experience as such. His concept of absolute philosophical self-responsibility stood close to the Protestant concept of the freedom of man in his immediate relationship with God. In fact, it is evident that Husserl characterized the maintenance of the phenomenological reduction not only as a method of but also as a kind of religious conversion. Thus, on the one hand, he could refuse spiritual help at his death—“I have lived as a philosopher,” he said, “and I want to die as a philosopher”—yet, on the other hand, he could explain a few days before his death: “God has in grace received me and allowed me to die.” He died in April 1938, and his ashes were buried in the cemetery in Günterstal near Freiburg.

Ludwig M. Landgrebe
 

 

 
 
 
 

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