Deutsch Philosophie – German Philosophy

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013

(GERMAN PHILOSOPHY)
  
‘Die Eule der Minerva beginnt erst mit der einbrechenden Dämmerung ihren Flug.’

(The owl of Minerva first begins her flight with the onset of dusk.)
German philosophy is undoubtedly the most influential of all philosophical traditions.
Immanuel Kant

In 1781, Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) published his ‘Kritik der reinen Vernunft’ (Critique of Pure Reason), in which he attempted to determine what we can and cannot know through the use of reason independent of all experience.

Briefly, he came to the conclusion that we could come to know an external world through experience, but that what we could know about it was limited by the limited terms in which the mind can think: for example – if we can only comprehend things in terms of cause and effect, then we can only know causes and effects.
It follows from this that we can know the form of all possible experience independent of all experience, but nothing else, but we can never know the world from the “standpoint of nowhere” and therefore we can never know the world in its entirety, neither via reason nor experience.
Since the publication of his ‘Critique’, Immanuel Kant has been considered one of the greatest influences in all of western philosophy. In the late 18th and early 19th century, one direct line of influence from Kant is ‘Deutsch Idealismus’ (German Idealism).

Deutsch Idealismus

Friedrich Schelling
Johann Gottlieb Fichte

German idealism is a speculative philosophical movement that emerged in Germany in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

It reacted against Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and was closely linked with both ‘Romantik’ (Romanticism) and the revolutionary politics of the Enlightenment.
The best-known thinkers in the movement were Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, while Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, Gottlob Ernst Schulze, Karl Leonhard Reinhold, and Friedrich Schleiermacher were also major contributors.

The word “idealism” has more than one meaning.
The philosophical meaning of idealism here is that the properties we discover in objects depend on the way that those objects appear to us as perceiving subjects, and not something they possess “in themselves“, apart from our experience of them.
The very notion of a ‘Ding an sich’ – (thing in itself) should be understood as an option of a set of functions for an operating mind, such that we consider something that appears without respect to the specific manner in which it appears.
The question of what properties a thing might have “independently of the mind” is thus incoherent for Idealism.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Kant’s work purported to bridge the two dominant philosophical schools in the 18th century: 1) rationalism, which held that knowledge could be attained by reason alone ‘a priori’ (prior to experience), and 2) empiricism, which held that knowledge could be arrived at only through the senses ‘a posteriori‘ (after experience).

Kant’s solution was to propose that while we could know particular facts about the world only via sensory experience, we could know the form they must take prior to any experience.

That is, we cannot know what objects we will encounter, but we can know how we will encounter them.

Kant called his mode of philosophising ‘kritischen Philosophie’ – (critical philosophy), in that it is less concerned with setting out positive doctrine than with critiquing the limits to the theories we can set out.

The conclusion he presented, as above, he called transzendentalen Idealismus’ – (transcendental idealism).

This distinguished it from earlier “idealism“, such as George Berkeley’s, which held that external objects have actual being or real existence only when they are perceived by an observer.
Kant said that there are ‘Dinge an sich selbst’ (things-in-themselves), – ‘noumena‘, – that is, things that exist other than being merely sensations and ideas in our minds.
Kant held in the ‘Critique of Pure Reason’ that the world of appearances (phenomena) is empirically real and transcendentally ideal.
The mind plays a central role in influencing the way that the world is experienced: we perceive phenomena through time, space and the categories of the understanding.
It is this notion that was taken to heart by Kant’s philosophical successors.

Arthur Schopenhauer

At the other end of the movement, Arthur Schopenhauer, however, considered himself to be a ‘transzendentale Idealist’ (transcendental idealist).

In his major work ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (The World as Will and Representation) he discusses his indebtedness to Kant, and the work includes Schopenhauer’s extensive analysis of the ‘Critique’.
The ‘Junghegelianer’ (Young Hegelians), a number of philosophers who developed Hegel’s work in various directions, were in some cases idealists.
Kant’s transcendental idealism consisted of taking a point of view outside of and above oneself (transcendentally), and understanding that the mind directly knows only phenomena or ideas. Whatever exists other than mental phenomena, or ideas that appear to the mind, is a ‘Ding an sich’ (thing-in-itself), and cannot be directly and immediately known.
Kant had criticized pure reason.
He wanted to restrict reasoning, judging, and speaking only to objects of possible experience. The main German Idealists reacted against Kant’s stringent limits.

Hegel


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (August 27, 1770 – November 14, 1831) was undoubtedly one of the most influential of  German philosophers, and a major figure in German Idealism.
His historicist and idealist account of reality revolutionized German and European philosophy.
Hegel developed a comprehensive philosophical framework, or “system”, of Absolute Idealism to account in an integrated and developmental way for the relation of mind and nature, the subject and object of knowledge, psychology, the state, history, art, religion, and philosophy. In particular, he developed the concept that mind or spirit manifested itself in a set of contradictions and oppositions that it ultimately integrated and united, without eliminating either pole or reducing one to the other.
Examples of such contradictions include those between nature and freedom, and between immanence and transcendence.
Hegel influenced writers of widely varying positions, including both his admirers (Strauss, Bauer, Feuerbach, T. H. Green, Baur, F. H. Bradley, Croce) and his detractors (Schopenhauer, Herbart, Schelling,  Stirner and  Nietzsche).
His influential conceptions are of speculative logic or “dialectic“, “absolute idealism“, “Spirit“, negativity, sublation (Aufhebung in German), the “Master/Slave” dialectic, “ethical life” and the importance of history.

Childhood


Hegel’s Birthplace
Stuttgart

Hegel was born on August 27, 1770 in Stuttgart, in the Duchy Württemberg in southwestern Germany.

Christened Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, he was known as Wilhelm to his close family.
His father, Georg Ludwig, was Rentkammersekretär (secretary to the revenue office) at the court of Karl Eugen, Duke of Württemberg.
Hegel’s mother, Maria Magdalena Louisa (née Fromm), was the daughter of a lawyer at the High Court of Justice at the Württemberg court. 
She died of a “bilious fever” (Gallenfieber) when Hegel was thirteen.
Hegel and his father also caught the disease but narrowly survived.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock

Hegel had a sister, Christiane Luise (1773–1832), and a brother, Georg Ludwig (1776–1812), who was to perish as an officer in Napoleon’s Russian campaign of 1812.

At age three Hegel went to the “German School”.
When he entered the “Latin School” aged five, he already knew the first declension, having been taught it by his mother.
In 1776 Hegel entered Stuttgart’s Gymnasium Illustre.
During his adolescence Hegel read voraciously, copying lengthy extracts in his diary.
Authors he read include the poet Klopstock and writers associated with the Enlightenment such as Christian Garve and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing.

Tübingen (1788-93)


Tübinger Stift
At the age of eighteen Hegel entered the Tübinger Stift (a Protestant seminary attached to the University of Tübingen), where two fellow students were to become vital to his development—his exact contemporary, the poet Friedrich Hölderlin, and the younger philosopher-to-be Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling
Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (27 January 1775 – 20 August 1854), later von Schelling, was a German philosopher. Standard histories of philosophy make him the midpoint in the development of German Idealism, situating him between Fichte, his mentor in his early years, and Hegel, his former university roommate, early friend, and later rival. Interpreting Schelling’s philosophy is regarded as difficult because of its apparently ever-changing nature.
Schelling’s thought in the large has been neglected, especially in the English-speaking world, as has been his later work on mythology and revelation, much of which remains untranslated. An important factor was the ascendancy of Hegel, whose mature works portray Schelling as a mere footnote in the development of idealism. Schelling’s ‘Naturphilosophie‘ also has been attacked by scientists for its analogizing tendency and lack of empirical orientation.

Sharing a dislike for what they regarded as the restrictive environment of the Seminary, the three became close friends and mutually influenced each other’s ideas.
They watched the unfolding of the French Revolution with shared enthusiasm.
Schelling and Hölderlin immersed themselves in theoretical debates on Kantian philosophy, from which Hegel remained aloof.
Hegel at this time envisaged his future as that of a Popularphilosoph, i.e., a “man of letters” who serves to make the abstruse ideas of philosophers accessible to a wider public; his own felt need to engage critically with the central ideas of Kantianism did not come until 1800.

Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin

Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (20 March 1770 – 7 June 1843) was a major German lyric poet, commonly associated with the artistic movement known as Romanticism. Hölderlin was also an important thinker in the development of German Idealism, particularly his early association with and philosophical influence on his seminary roommates and fellow Swabians Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling.

The poetry of Hölderlin, widely recognized today as one of the highest points of German literature, was little known or understood during his lifetime, and slipped into obscurity shortly after his death; his illness and reclusion made him fade from his contemporaries’ consciousness – and, even though selections of his work were published by his friends during his lifetime, it was largely ignored for the rest of the 19th century.

‘Hyperions Schicksalslied’
Like Goethe and Schiller, his older contemporaries, Hölderlin was a fervent admirer of ancient Greek culture, but his understanding of it was very personal. Much later, Friedrich Nietzsche would recognize in him the poet who first acknowledged the Orphic and Dionysian Greece of the mysteries. For Hölderlin, the Greek gods were not the plaster figures of conventional classicism, but living, actual presences, wonderfully life-giving though, at the same time, terrifying. He understood and sympathized with the Greek idea of the tragic fall, which he expressed movingly in the last stanza of his “Hyperions Schicksalslied” (“Hyperion’s Song of Destiny“).
The emotional upheaval caused by the end of the impossible liaison had a detrimental effect on his health. In 1800, after his disillusionment with philosophy that led him to abandon any plans to find an academic position, he spent a year recovering in Switzerland and decided to devote the rest of his life to writing poetry. In 1802, his condition worsened although treatment enabled him to continue writing at intervals while working as a librarian in Homburg until 1807 when he became insane (though harmless). 

Bern (1793–96) and Frankfurt (1797–1801)


Having received his theological certificate (Konsistorialexamen) from the Tübingen Seminary, Hegel became Hofmeister (house tutor) to an aristocratic family in Bern (1793–96).
His relations with his employers becoming strained, Hegel accepted an offer mediated by Hölderlin to take up a similar position with a wine merchant’s family in Frankfurt, where he moved in 1797.
Here Hölderlin exerted an important influence on Hegel’s thought.
While in Frankfurt Hegel composed the essay “Fragments on Religion and Love”.

Jena, Bamberg and Nuremberg: 1801–1816


In 1801 Hegel came to Jena with the encouragement of his old friend Schelling, who held the position of Extraordinary Professor at the University there.
Hegel secured a position at the University as a Privatdozent (unsalaried lecturer) after submitting a Habilitationsschrift (dissertation) on the orbits of the planets.
Later in the year Hegel’s first book, ‘The Difference Between Fichte’s and Schelling’s Systems of Philosophy’, appeared.
He lectured on “Logic and Metaphysics” and, with Schelling, gave joint lectures on an “Introduction to the Idea and Limits of True Philosophy” and held a “Philosophical Disputorium”. In 1802 Schelling and Hegel founded a journal, the ‘Kritische Journal der Philosophie’ (“Critical Journal of Philosophy”) to which they each contributed pieces until the collaboration was ended by Schelling’s departure for Würzburg in 1803.
In 1805 the University promoted Hegel to the position of Extraordinary Professor (unsalaried), after Hegel wrote a letter to the poet and minister of culture Johann Wolfgang von Goethe protesting at the promotion of his philosophical adversary Jakob Friedrich Fries ahead of him.

Battle of Jena – 1806
Hegel attempted to enlist the help of the poet and translator Johann Heinrich Voß to obtain a post at the newly renascent University of Heidelberg, but failed; to his chagrin, Fries was later in the same year made Ordinary Professor (salaried) there.
His finances drying up quickly, Hegel was now under great pressure to deliver his book, the long-promised introduction to his System.
Hegel was putting the finishing touches to this book, the ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’, as Napoleon engaged Prussian troops on October 14, 1806, in the Battle of Jena on a plateau outside the city.

Napoleon Bonaparte
Hegel and Napoleon – Jena 1806

On the day before the battle, Napoleon entered the city of Jena.

Hegel recounted his impressions in a letter to his friend Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer:
I saw the Emperor – this world-soul – riding out of the city on reconnaissance. It is indeed a wonderful sensation to see such an individual, who, concentrated here at a single point, astride a horse, reaches out over the world and masters it . . . this extraordinary man, whom it is impossible not to admire.’

Napoleon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) was a French military and political leader who rose to prominence during the latter stages of the French Revolution and its associated wars in Europe.
As Napoleon I, he was Emperor of the French from 1804 to 1815. His legal reform, the ‘Napoleonic Code’, has been a major influence on many civil law jurisdictions worldwide, but he is best remembered for his role in the wars led against France by a series of coalitions, the so-called ‘Napoleonic Wars’. He established hegemony over most of continental Europe and sought to spread the ideals of the French Revolution, while consolidating an imperial monarchy which restored aspects of the deposed ‘Ancien Régime’. Due to his success in these wars, often against numerically superior enemies, he is generally regarded as one of the greatest military commanders of all time, and his campaigns are studied at military academies worldwide.

Although Napoleon chose not to close down Jena as he had other universities, the city was devastated and students deserted the university in droves, making Hegel’s financial prospects even worse.
The following February Hegel’s landlady Christiana Burkhardt (who had been abandoned by her husband) gave birth to their son Georg Ludwig Friedrich Fischer (1807–31).
In March 1807, aged 37, Hegel moved to Bamberg, where Niethammer had declined and passed on to Hegel an offer to become editor of a newspaper, the ‘Bamberger Zeitung‘.
Hegel, unable to find more suitable employment, reluctantly accepted. Ludwig Fischer and his mother (whom Hegel may have offered to marry following the death of her husband) stayed behind in Jena.
He was then, in November 1808, again through Niethammer, appointed headmaster of a Gymnasium in Nuremberg, a post he held until 1816.
While in Nuremberg Hegel adapted his recently published ‘Phenomenology of Spirit‘ for use in the classroom.
Part of his remit being to teach a class called “Introduction to Knowledge of the Universal Coherence of the Sciences“, Hegel developed the idea of an encyclopedia of the philosophical sciences, falling into three parts (logic, philosophy of nature, and philosophy of spirit).
Hegel married Marie Helena Susanna von Tucher (1791–1855), the eldest daughter of a Senator, in 1811.
This period saw the publication of his second major work, the ‘Science of Logic’ (‘Wissenschaft der Logik’; 3 vols., 1812, 1813, 1816), and the birth of his two legitimate sons, Karl Friedrich Wilhelm (1813–1901) and Immanuel Thomas Christian (1814–1891).

Thought

Hegel’s thinking can be understood as a constructive development within the broad tradition that includes Plato and Kant.
To this list one could add Proclus, Meister Eckhart, Leibniz, Plotinus, Jakob Boehme, and Rousseau.
What all these thinkers share, which distinguishes them from materialists like Epicurus, the Stoics, and Thomas Hobbes, and from empiricists like David Hume, is that they regard freedom or self-determination both as real and as having important ontological implications, for soul or mind or divinity.

Aristotle
Plato

This focus on freedom is what generates Plato’s notion (in the ‘Phaedo’, ‘Republic’, and ‘Timaeus’) of the soul as having a higher or fuller kind of reality than inanimate objects possess.

Kant imports Plato’s high esteem of individual sovereignty to his considerations of moral and noumenal freedom, as well as to God. 
In his discussion of ‘Geist’ (Spirit) in his ‘Encyclopedia’, Hegel praises Aristotle’s ‘On the Soul’ as “by far the most admirable, perhaps even the sole, work of philosophical value on this topic“.
In his ‘Phänomenologie des Geistes‘,(Phenomenology of Spirit) and his ‘Wissenschaft der Logik‘, (Science of Logic), Hegel’s concern with Kantian topics such as freedom and morality, and with their ontological implications, is pervasive.

Emanuel Kant

Rather than simply rejecting Kant’s dualism of freedom versus nature, Hegel aims to subsume it within “true infinity”, the “Concept” (or “Notion”: Begriff), “Geist”, and “ethical life” in such a way that the Kantian duality is rendered intelligible, rather than remaining a brute “given.”

The reason why this subsumption takes place in a series of concepts is that Hegel’s method, in his ‘Wissenschaft der Logik‘ and his ‘Encyclopedia‘, is to begin with basic concepts like Being and Nothing, and to develop these through a long sequence of elaborations, including those already mentioned.
In this manner, a solution that is reached, in principle, in the account of “true infinity” in the Science of Logic’s chapter on “Quality“, is repeated in new guises at later stages, all the way to “Geist” and “ethical life“, in the third volume of the ‘Encyclopedia’.
In this way, Hegel intends to defend the germ of truth in Kantian dualism against reductive or eliminative programs like those of materialism and empiricism.
Like Plato, with his dualism of soul versus bodily appetites, Kant pursues the mind’s ability to question its felt inclinations, or appetites, and to come up with a standard of “duty” (or, in Plato’s case, “good“) which transcends bodily restrictiveness.
Hegel preserves this essential Platonic and Kantian concern in the form of infinity going beyond the finite (a process that Hegel in fact relates to “freedom” and the “ought“), the universal going beyond the particular (in the Concept), and Geist going beyond Nature.
And Hegel renders these dualities intelligible by (ultimately) his argument in the “Quality” chapter of the “Science of Logic.
The finite has to become infinite in order to achieve reality.
The idea of the absolute excludes multiplicity so the subjective and objective must achieve synthesis to become whole.
This is because, as Hegel suggests by his introduction of the concept of “reality“, what determines itself—rather than depending on its relations to other things for its essential character—is more fully “real” (following the Latin etymology of “real”: more “thing-like“) than what does not.
Finite things don’t determine themselves, because, as “finite” things, their essential character is determined by their boundaries, over against other finite things.
So, in order to become “real“, they must go beyond their finitude (“finitude is only as a transcending of itself“).
The result of this argument is that finite and infinite—and, by extension, particular and universal, nature and freedom—don’t face one another as two independent realities, but instead the latter (in each case) is the self-transcending of the former.
Rather than stress the distinct singularity of each factor that complements and conflicts with others—without explanation—the relationship between finite and infinite (and particular and universal, and nature and freedom) becomes intelligible as a progressively developing and self-perfecting whole.

‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’


‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’

‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’ (1807) is one of G.W.F. Hegel’s most important philosophical works.


It is translated as ‘The Phenomenology of Spirit’.
The book’s working title, which also appeared in the first edition, was ‘Science of the Experience of Consciousness’.
On its initial publication, it was identified as Part One of a projected “System of Science”, of which the Science of Logic was the second part.
A smaller work, titled Philosophy of Spirit (also translated as “Philosophy of Mind”), appears in Hegel’s Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, and recounts in briefer and somewhat altered form the major themes of the original Phenomenology.
It formed the basis of Hegel’s later philosophy and marked a significant development in German idealism after Kant.
Focusing on topics in metaphysics, epistemology, physics, ethics, history, religion, perception, consciousness, and political philosophy, ‘The Phenomenology’ is where Hegel develops his concepts of dialectic (including the Master-slave dialectic), absolute idealism, ethical life, and Aufhebung.
The book had a profound effect in Western philosophy.
In ‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’ , Hegel takes the readers through the evolution of consciousness.
In the work, the mind experiences different stages of consciousness.
It begins with the lower levels of consciousness and concludes with the higher levels of consciousness.

The Preface

The Preface to the Phenomenology, all by itself, is considered one of Hegel’s major works, and a major text in the history of philosophy, because in it he sets out the core of his philosophical method, and what distinguishes it from that of any previous philosophy, especially that of his German Idealist predecessors (Kant, Fichte, and Schelling).
Hegel’s approach, referred to as the ‘Hegelian method‘, consists of actually ‘examining consciousness’ experience of both itself and of its objects, and eliciting the contradictions and dynamic movement that come to light in looking at this experience.
Hegel uses the phrase ‘reines Zusehen‘ (pure watching or perception) to describe this method.
If consciousness just pays attention to what is actually present in itself and its relation to its objects, it will see that what looks like stable and fixed forms dissolve into a dialectical movement.
René Descartes
Thus philosophy, according to Hegel, cannot just set out arguments based on a flow of deductive reasoning.
Rather, it must look at actual consciousness, as it really exists.
Hegel also argues strongly against the epistemological emphasis of modern philosophy from Descartes through Kant, which he describes as having to first establish the nature and criteria of knowledge prior to actually knowing anything, because this would imply an infinite regress, a foundationalism that Hegel maintains is self-contradictory and impossible.

René Descartes  Latinized: Renatus Cartesius; adjectival form: “Cartesian”; 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the ‘Father of Modern Philosophy’, and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day. In particular, his ‘Meditations on First Philosophy’ continues to be a standard text at most university philosophy departments. Descartes’ influence in mathematics is equally apparent; the Cartesian coordinate system — allowing reference to a point in space as a set of numbers, and allowing algebraic equations to be expressed as geometric shapes in a two-dimensional coordinate system (and conversely, shapes to be described as equations) — was named after him. He is credited as the father of analytical geometry, the bridge between algebra and geometry, crucial to the discovery of infinitesimal calculus and analysis. Descartes was also one of the key figures in the Scientific Revolution and has been described as an example of genius

Epistemology – from Greek ἐπιστήμη – epistēmē, meaning “knowledge, understanding”, and λόγος – logos, meaning “study of”) is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and scope of knowledge.
It questions what knowledge is, how it is acquired, and the possible extent to which a given subject or entity can be known.
Much of the debate in this field has focused on analyzing the nature of knowledge and how it relates to connected notions such as truth, belief, and justification.
The field is sometimes referred to as the theory of knowledge.

Rather, he maintains, we must examine actual knowing as it occurs in real knowledge processes.
This is why Hegel uses the term “phenomenology“.
Phenomenology” comes from the Greek word for “to appear“, and the phenomenology of mind is thus the study of how consciousness or mind appears to itself.
In Hegel’s dynamic system, it is the study of the successive appearances of the mind to itself, because on examination each one dissolves into a later, more comprehensive and integrated form or structure of mind.

Introduction to ‘Phänomenologie des Geistes’

Whereas the ‘Preface’ was written after Hegel completed the ‘Phenomenology’, the ‘Introduction’ was written beforehand. It covers much of the same ground, but from a somewhat different perspective.
In the ‘Introduction’, Hegel addresses the seeming paradox that we cannot evaluate our faculty of knowledge in terms of its ability to know the Absolute without first having a criterion for what the Absolute is, one that is superior to our knowledge of the Absolute.
Yet, we could only have such a criterion if we already had the improved knowledge that we seek.
To resolve this paradox, Hegel adopts a method whereby the knowing that is characteristic of a particular stage of consciousness is evaluated using the criterion presupposed by consciousness itself.
At each stage, consciousness knows something, and at the same time distinguishes the object of that knowledge as different from what it knows.
Hegel and his readers will simply “look on” while consciousness compares its actual knowledge of the object—what the object is “for consciousness“—with its criterion for what the object must be “in itself“.
One would expect that, when consciousness finds that its knowledge does not agree with its object, consciousness would adjust its knowledge to conform to its object, however, in a characteristic reversal, Hegel explains that under his method, the opposite occurs.
As just noted, consciousness’ criterion for what the object should be is not supplied externally, rather it is supplied by consciousness itself.
Therefore, like its knowledge, the “object” that consciousness distinguishes from its knowledge is really just the object “for consciousness” – it is the object as envisioned by that stage of consciousness.
Thus, in attempting to resolve the discord between knowledge and object, consciousness inevitably alters the object as well. In fact, the new “object” for consciousness is developed from consciousness’ inadequate knowledge of the previous “object.”
Thus, what consciousness really does is to modify its “object” to conform to its knowledge. Then the cycle begins anew as consciousness attempts to examine what it knows about this new “object“.
The reason for this reversal is that, for Hegel, the separation between consciousness and its object is no more real than consciousness’ inadequate knowledge of that object.
The knowledge is inadequate only because of that separation.
At the end of the process, when the object has been fully “spiritualized” by successive cycles of consciousness’ experience, consciousness will fully know the object and at the same time fully recognize that the object is none other than itself.
At each stage of development, Hegel, adds, “we” (Hegel and his readers) see this development of the new object out of the knowledge of the previous one, but the consciousness that we are observing does not.
As far as it is concerned, it experiences the dissolution of its knowledge in a mass of contradictions, and the emergence of a new object for knowledge, without understanding how that new object has been born.

Consciousness

Consciousness is divided into three chapters: “Sense-Certainty“, “Perception“, and “Force and the Understanding.

Self-Consciousness

Self-Consciousness contains a preliminary discussion of ‘Life’ and ‘Desire’, followed by two subsections: “Independent and Dependent Self-Consciousness: Lordship and Bondage” and “Freedom of Self-Consciousness: Stoicism, Skepticism, and the Unhappy Consciousness.” Notable is the presence of the discussion of the dialectic of the lord and bondsman.

Reason

Reason is divided into three chapters: “Observing Reason,” “Actualization of Self-Consciousness,” and “Individuality Real In and For Itself.”

Geist (Spirit)

Spirit is divided into three chapters: “The Ethical Order,” “Culture,” and “Morality.
Now, because the systematic statement of the mind’s experience embraces merely its ways of appearing, it may well seem that the advance from that to the science of ultimate truth in the form of truth is merely negative; and we might readily be content to dispense with the negative process as something altogether false, and might ask to be taken straight to the truth at once: why meddle with what is false at all?
The point formerly raised, that we should have begun with science at once, may be answered here by considering the character of negativity in general regarded as something false.
The usual ideas on this subject particularly obstruct the approach to the truth.
The consideration of this point will give us an opportunity to speak about mathematical knowledge, which non-philosophical knowledge looks upon as the ideal which philosophy ought to try to attain, but has so far striven in vain to reach.
Truth and falsehood as commonly understood belong to those sharply defined ideas which claim a completely fixed nature of their own, one standing in solid isolation on this side, the other on that, without any community between them.
Against that view it must be pointed out, that truth is not like stamped coin that is issued ready from the mint and so can be taken up and used.
Nor, again, is there something false, any more than there is something evil.
Evil and falsehood are indeed not so bad as the devil, for in the form of the devil they get the length of being particular subjects; qua false and evil they are merely universals, though they have a nature of their own with reference to one another.
Falsity (that is what we are dealing with here) would be otherness, the negative aspect of the substance, which [substance], qua content of knowledge, is truth.
But the substance is itself essentially the negative element, partly as involving distinction and determination of content, partly as being a process of distinguishing pure and simple, i.e. as being self and knowledge in general. Doubtless we can know in a way that is false.
To know something falsely means that knowledge is not adequate to, is not on equal terms with, its substance.
Yet this very dissimilarity is the process of distinction in general, the essential moment in knowing.
It is, in fact, out of this active distinction that its harmonious unity arises, and this identity, when arrived at, is truth.
But it is not truth in a sense which would involve the rejection of the discordance, the diversity, like dross from pure metal; nor, again, does truth remain detached from diversity, like a finished article from the instrument that shapes it.
Difference itself continues to be an immediate element within truth as such, in the form of the principle of negation, in the form of the activity of Self.

Geist‘ is a German word and depending on context it can be translated as the English words mind, spirit, or ghost, covering the semantic field of these three English nouns.
Some English translators resort to using “spirit/mind” or “spirit (mind)” to help convey the meaning of the term.
Analogous terms in other languages include the Greek word πνεύμα (pneuma), the Latin animus and anima, the French esprit, however, geist is a German word that can never be satisfactorily translated.
Geist is a central concept in Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit (Phänomenologie des Geistes).

According to Hegel, the Weltgeist (“World Spirit“) is not an actual thing one might come upon or a God-like thing beyond, but a means of philosophizing about history.
The Weltgeist is effected in history through the mediation of various Volksgeister (“Racial Spirits“), and the great men of history, such as Napoleon, are the “concrete universal“.
This has led some to claim that Hegel favored the ‘great man theory‘, although his philosophy of history, in particular concerning the role of the “universal state” (Universal Stand, which means as well “order” or “statute” than “state“), and of an “End of History” is much more complex.
For Hegel, the great hero is unwittingly utilized by Geist or Absolute Spirit, by a “ruse of Reason” as Hegel puts it, and is irrelevant to history once his historic mission is accomplished; he is thus submitted to the teleological principle of history, a principle which allows Hegel to re-read all the history of philosophy as culminating in his philosophy of history.
The Weltgeist, the ‘world spirit concept’, designates an idealistic principle of world explanation, which can be found from the beginnings of philosophy up to more recent time.
In the early philosophy of Greek antiquity, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle all paid homage, amongst other things, to the concept of world spirit.
Hegel later based his philosophy of history on it.

Religion

Religion is divided into three chapters: “Natural Religion,” “Religion in the Form of Art,” and “The Revealed Religion.”

Arthur Schopenhauer
Criticism

Arthur Schopenhauer criticized ‘Phenomenology of Spirit’ as being characteristic of the vacuous verbiage he 
(wrongly) attributed to Hegel.

Hegelian Dialectic

Hegelian dialectic, usually presented in a threefold manner, was stated by Heinrich Moritz Chalybäus as comprising three dialectical stages of development: a thesis, giving rise to its reaction, an antithesis, which contradicts or negates the thesis, and the tension between the two being resolved by means of a synthesis.
Although this model is often named after Hegel, he himself never used that specific formulation. Hegel ascribed that terminology to Kant.
Carrying on Kant’s work, Fichte greatly elaborated on the synthesis model, and popularized it.
On the other hand, Hegel did use a three-valued logical model that is very similar to the antithesis model, but Hegel’s most usual terms were: Abstract-Negative-Concrete.
Hegel used this writing model as a backbone to accompany his points in many of his works.
The formula, thesis-antithesis-synthesis, does not explain why the thesis requires an Antithesis, however, the formula, abstract-negative-concrete, suggests a flaw, or perhaps an incomplete-ness, in any initial thesis—it is too abstract and lacks the negative of trial, error and experience.
For Hegel, the concrete, the synthesis, the absolute, must always pass through the phase of the negative, in the journey to completion, that is, mediation.
This is the actual essence of what is popularly called Hegelian Dialectics.
To describe the activity of overcoming the negative, Hegel also often used the term ‘Aufhebung’, variously translated into English as “sublation” or “overcoming,” to conceive of the working of the dialectic.
Roughly, the term indicates preserving the useful portion of an idea, thing, society, etc., while moving beyond its limitations.
In the ‘Logic‘, for instance, Hegel describes a dialectic of existence: first, existence must be posited as pure Being (Sein); but pure Being, upon examination, is found to be indistinguishable from Nothing (Nichts).
When it is realized that what is coming into being is, at the same time, also returning to nothing (in life, for example, one’s living is also a dying), both Being and Nothing are united as Becoming.
As in the Socratic dialectic, Hegel claimed to proceed by making implicit contradictions explicit: each stage of the process is the product of contradictions inherent or implicit in the preceding stage.
For Hegel, the whole of history is one tremendous dialectic, major stages of which chart a progression from self-alienation as slavery to self-unification and realization as the rational, constitutional state of free and equal citizens.
The Hegelian dialectic cannot be mechanically applied for any chosen thesis.
Critics argue that the selection of any antithesis, other than the logical negation of the thesis, is subjective.
Then, if the logical negation is used as the antithesis, there is no rigorous way to derive a synthesis.
In practice, when an antithesis is selected to suit the user’s subjective purpose, the resulting “contradictions” are rhetorical, not logical, and the resulting synthesis is not rigorously defensible against a multitude of other possible syntheses.
The problem with the Fichtean “Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis” model is that it implies that contradictions or negations come from outside of things.
Hegel’s point is that they are inherent in and internal to things.
This conception of dialectics derives ultimately from Heraclitus.
Hegel has outlined that the purpose of dialectics is “to study things in their own being and movement and thus to demonstrate the finitude of the partial categories of understanding
One important dialectical principle for Hegel is the transition from quantity to quality, which he terms the Measure.
The measure is the qualitative quantum, the quantum is the existence of quantity.
The identity between quantity and quality, which is found in Measure, is at first only implicit, and not yet explicitly realised. In other words, these two categories, which unite in Measure, each claim an independent authority. On the one hand, the quantitative features of existence may be altered, without affecting its quality. On the other hand, this increase and diminution, immaterial though it be, has its limit, by exceeding which the quality suffers change. But if the quantity present in measure exceeds a certain limit, the quality corresponding to it is also put in abeyance. This however is not a negation of quality altogether, but only of this definite quality, the place of which is at once occupied by another. This process of measure, which appears alternately as a mere change in quantity, and then as a sudden revulsion of quantity into quality, may be envisaged under the figure of a nodal (knotted) line”.
As an example, Hegel mentions the states of aggregation of water:
Thus the temperature of water is, in the first place, a point of no consequence in respect of its liquidity: still with the increase or diminution of the temperature of the liquid water, there comes a point where this state of cohesion suffers a qualitative change, and the water is converted into steam or ice“.
Another important principle for Hegel is the negation of the negation, which he also terms Aufhebung (sublation): Something is only what it is in its relation to another, but by the negation of the negation this something incorporates the other into itself.
The dialectical movement involves two moments that negate each other, something and its other.
As a result of the negation of the negation, “something becomes its other; this other is itself something; therefore it likewise becomes an other, and so on ad infinitum“.
Something in its passage into other only joins with itself, it is self-related.
In becoming there are two moments: coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be: by sublation, i.e., negation of the negation, being passes over into nothing, it ceases to be, but something new shows up, is coming to be.

The Grave of
Georg Hegel
What is sublated (aufgehoben) on the one hand ceases to be, and is put to an end, but on the other hand it is preserved and maintained.
In dialectics, a totality transforms itself; it is self-related, then self-forgetfulrelieving the original tension.

To summarise – Hegelian Dialectics is based upon four concepts:
Everything is transient and finite, existing in the medium of time.
Everything is composed of contradictions (opposing forces).
Gradual changes lead to crises, turning points when one force overcomes its opponent force (quantitative change leads to qualitative change).
Change is helical (spiral), not circular (negation of the negation).

The concept of dialectic existed in the philosophy of Heraclitus of Ephesus, who proposed that everything is in constant change, as a result of inner strife and opposition.
Hence, the history of the dialectical method is the history of philosophy.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer

Arthur Schopenhauer (22 February 1788 – 21 September 1860) was a German philosopher best known for his book, ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ (The World as Will and Representation), in which he claimed that our world is driven by a continually dissatisfied will, continually seeking satisfaction.
At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, ‘On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason’, which examined the four distinct aspects of experience in the phenomenal world; consequently, he has been influential in the history of phenomenology.
He has influenced a long list of thinkers, including Friedrich Nietzsche, (see below) Richard Wagner, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Erwin Schrödinger, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Otto Rank, Carl Jung, Thomas Mann, and , of course, Adolf Hitler, who carried a copy of ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’ with him throughout the First World War.

Brief Biography

Arthur Schopenhauer was born in the city of Danzig (Gdańsk), on Heiligegeistgasse (known in the present day as Św. Ducha 47), the son of Johanna Schopenhauer (née Trosiener) and Heinrich Floris Schopenhauer, both descendants of wealthy German Patrician families.
When the Kingdom of Prussia annexed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth city of Danzig in 1793, Schopenhauer’s family moved to Hamburg.
In 1805, Schopenhauer’s father may have committed suicide.
Shortly thereafter, Schopenhauer’s mother Johanna moved to Weimar, then the centre of German literature, to pursue her writing career.
After one year, Schopenhauer left the family business in Hamburg to join her.
As early as 1799, he started playing the flute.
He became a student at the University of Göttingen in 1809.
There he studied metaphysics and psychology under Gottlob Ernst Schulze, the author of Aenesidemus, who advised him to concentrate on Plato and Immanuel Kant.
In Berlin, from 1811 to 1812, he had attended lectures by the prominent post-Kantian philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte and the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher.
In 1814, Schopenhauer began his seminal work ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung’.
He finished it in 1818 and published it the following year.
In 1820, Schopenhauer became a lecturer at the University of Berlin.
He scheduled his lectures to coincide with those of the famous philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, whom Schopenhauer described as a “clumsy charlatan.”
However, only five students turned up to Schopenhauer’s lectures, and he dropped out of academia.
In 1821, he fell in love with nineteen-year old opera singer, Caroline Richter (called Medon), and had a relationship with her for several years.
He discarded marriage plans, however, writing, “Marrying means to halve one’s rights and double one’s duties,” and “Marrying means to grasp blindfolded into a sack hoping to find an eel amongst an assembly of snakes.”
When he was forty-three years old, seventeen-year old Flora Weiss recorded rejecting him in her diary.
Schopenhauer had a notably strained relationship with his mother Johanna Schopenhauer. After his father’s death, Arthur Schopenhauer endured two long years of drudgery as a merchant, in honor of his dead father.
Then his mother retired to Weimar, and Arthur Schopenhauer dedicated himself wholly to studies in the gymnasium of Gotha.
He left it in disgust after seeing one of the masters lampooned, and went to live with his mother. But by that time she had already opened her famous salon, and Arthur was not compatible with the vain, ceremonious ways of the salon.
He was also disgusted by the ease with which Johanna Schopenhauer had forgotten his father’s memory.
Consequently, he attempted university life.
There, he wrote his first book, ‘Über die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde’ (On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason).
His mother informed him that the book was incomprehensible and it was unlikely that anyone would ever buy a copy. In a fit of temper Arthur Schopenhauer told her that his work would be read long after the “rubbish” she wrote would have been totally forgotten.
In 1831, a cholera epidemic broke out in Berlin and Schopenhauer left the city.
Schopenhauer settled permanently in Frankfurt in 1833, where he remained for the next twenty-seven years, living alone except for a succession of pet poodles named Atman and Butz.
The numerous notes that he made during these years, amongst others on aging, were published posthumously under the title Senilia.

Schopenhauer had a robust constitution, but in 1860 his health began to deteriorate.
He died of heart failure on 21 September 1860, while sitting on his couch with his cat at home. He was 72.

Philosophy of the “Will”


A key focus of Schopenhauer was his investigation of individual motivation.
Before Schopenhauer, Hegel had popularized the concept of ‘Zeitgeist’, the idea that society consisted of a collective consciousness which moved in a distinct direction, dictating the actions of its members.
Schopenhauer, a reader of both Kant and Hegel, criticized their logical optimism and the belief that individual morality could be determined by society and reason. 
Schopenhauer believed that humans were motivated by only their own basic desires, or Wille zum Leben (“Will to Live”), which directed all of mankind.
For Schopenhauer, human desire was futile, illogical, directionless, and, by extension, so was all human action in the world.
He wrote “Man can indeed do what he wants, but he cannot will what he wants”. 
In this sense, he adhered to the Fichtean principle of idealism: “the world is for a subject”.
This idealism so presented, immediately commits it to an ethical attitude, unlike the purely epistemological concerns of Descartes and Berkeley.
To Schopenhauer, the Will is a metaphysical existence which controls not only the actions of individual, intelligent agents, but ultimately all observable phenomena.
He is credited with one of the most famous opening lines of philosophy: “The world is my representation”. Will, for Schopenhauer, is what Kant called the ‘thing-in-itself.’ (see above). Nietzsche (see below) was greatly influenced by this idea of Will.


Friedrich Nietzsche

“Behind your thoughts and feelings there stands a mighty ruler, an unknown sage – whose name is Self. In your body he dwells. He is your body.”

                                                                                                                        Friedrich Nietzsche 

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) was a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist.

He wrote critical texts on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy and science, displaying a fondness for metaphor, irony and aphorism.

Nietzsche’s influence remains substantial within and beyond philosophy, notably in existentialism, nihilism, and postmodernism.
His style and radical questioning of the value and objectivity of truth have resulted in much commentary and interpretation, mostly in the continental tradition.
His key ideas include the death of God, perspectivism, the Übermensch, the eternal recurrence, and the ‘will to power‘.
Central to his philosophy is the idea of “life-affirmation”, which involves an honest questioning of all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially prevalent those views might be.

Nietzsche began his career as a classical philologist before turning to philosophy.
At the age of 24 he was appointed to the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel (the youngest individual to have held this position), but resigned in 1879 due to health problems that plagued him most of his life.
In 1889 he became mentally ill, possibly due to atypical general paralysis attributed to tertiary syphilis.
He lived his remaining years in the care of his mother until her death in 1897, then under the care of his sister until his death in 1900.


Röcken Lutherischen Kirche
Nietzsches Geburtshaus

Born on October 15, 1844, Nietzsche grew up in the small town of Röcken, near Leipzig, in the Prussian Province of Saxony.

He was named after King Frederick William IV of Prussia, who turned 49 on the day of Nietzsche’s birth. (Nietzsche later dropped his given middle name, “Wilhelm”.)


Röcken Dorf

Nietzsche’s parents, Carl Ludwig Nietzsche (1813–1849), a Lutheran pastor and former teacher, and Franziska Oehler (1826–1897), married in 1843, the year before their son’s birth, and had two other children: a daughter, Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, born in 1846, and a second son, Ludwig Joseph, born in 1848. Nietzsche’s father died from a brain ailment in 1849; his younger brother died in 1850.

The family then moved to Naumburg, where they lived with Nietzsche’s paternal grandmother and his father’s two unmarried sisters.
After the death of Nietzsche’s grandmother in 1856, the family moved into their own house.
Nietzsche attended a boys’ school and then later a private school, where he became friends with Gustav Krug, Rudolf Wagner and Wilhelm Pinder, all of whom came from very respected families.

Paul Deussen

In 1854, he began to attend Pforta in Naumburg, but after he showed particular talents in music and language, the internationally recognised Schulpforta admitted him as a pupil, and there he continued his studies from 1858 to 1864.

Here he became friends with Paul Deussen (see right) and Carl von Gersdorff.
He also found time to work on poems and musical compositions.





Schulpforta

At Schulpforta (see left), Nietzsche received an important introduction to literature, particularly that of the ancient Greeks and Romans, and for the first time experienced a distance from his family life in a small-town Christian environment.
After graduation in 1864 Nietzsche commenced studies in theology and classical philology at the University of Bonn.

For a short time he and Deussen became members of the Burschenschaft Frankonia.
After one semester (and to the anger of his mother) he stopped his theological studies and lost his faith.
David Strauss
This may have happened in part because of his reading around this time of David Strauss’s (see right) ‘Life of Jesus’, which had a profound effect on the young Nietzsche, though in an essay entitled ‘Fate and History’ written in 1862, Nietzsche had already argued that historical research had discredited the central teachings of Christianity.
Nietzsche then concentrated on studying philology under Professor Friedrich Wilhelm Ritschl, whom he followed to the University of Leipzig the next year.

There he became close friends with fellow-student Erwin Rohde. Nietzsche’s first philological publications appeared soon after.

In 1865 Nietzsche thoroughly studied the works of Arthur Schopenhauer (see left).
He owed the awakening of his philosophical interest to reading his ‘Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung‘ (The World as Will and Representation) and later admitted that he was one of the few thinkers that he respected, dedicating to him his essay ‘Schopenhauer als Erzieher’ (Schopenhauer as Educator), one of his ‘Untimely Meditations’.

In 1866 he read Friedrich Albert Lange’s (see left below) ‘History of Materialism’.

Schopenhauer and Lange influenced him. Schopenhauer was especially significant in the development of Nietzsche’s later thought.

Lange’s descriptions of Kant’s anti-materialistic philosophy, the rise of European Materialism, Europe’s increased concern with science, Darwin’s theory, and the general rebellion against tradition and authority greatly intrigued Nietzsche.
Richard Wagner


The cultural environment encouraged him to expand his horizons beyond philology and to continue his study of philosophy.
In 1867 Nietzsche signed up for one year of voluntary service with the Prussian artillery division in Naumburg. However, a riding accident in March 1868 left him unfit for service.
Consequently Nietzsche turned his attention to his studies again, completing them and first meeting with Richard Wagner (see right) later that year.
With the publication of ‘Menschliches, Allzumenschliches’ – (Human, All Too Human) – in 1878 (a book of aphorisms on subjects ranging from metaphysics to morality and from religion to the sexes) Nietzsche’s reaction against the pessimistic philosophy of Wagner and Schopenhauer became evident.
Nietzsche’s friendship with Deussen and Rohde cooled as well.
In 1879, after a significant decline in health, Nietzsche had to resign his position at Basel.

(Since his childhood, various disruptive illnesses had plagued him, including moments of short-sightedness that left him nearly blind, migraine headaches, and violent indigestion. The 1868 riding accident and diseases in 1870 may have aggravated these persistent conditions, which continued to affect him through his years at Basel, forcing him to take longer and longer holidays until regular work became impractical.)

Because his illness drove him to find climates more conducive to his health, Nietzsche traveled frequently, and lived until 1889 as an independent author in different cities.


Nietzsche the Man


Although Nietzsche is widely known as the ‘creator’ of the ‘Übermensch’ he was hardly the firm heroic ‘superman’ of his writings.

However, Nietzsche was capable of macho activity when it was required.
In 1867, as he approached the age of 23, Nietzsche entered his required military service and was assigned to an equestrian field artillery regiment close to Naumburg, during which time he lived at home with his mother (?).
While attempting to leap-mount into the saddle, he suffered a serious chest injury and was put on sick leave after his chest wound refused to heal.
While his military career was cut short, so was his academic career cut short, as a result of his later poor health.
Fortunately, however, for Nietzsche, he was provided with a more than adequate pension, although he always complained that he was short of money.
He was not poor, however, as he was well able to travel widely round Europe, living for most of the time in hotels and guest-houses.
In fact he spent most of his life ‘on holiday‘, apparently searching for the perfect climate for his health: filling his time with socializing, reading and writing.
As an indication that he was not poor, he had a nasty habit of releasing his writings, which for most of his life were ignored, in a series of short volumes, at ridiculously high prices, which had the effect of ensuring that only his most fervent followers were prepared to pay the exorbitant prices in order to discover the nature of Nietzsche’s latest insights..
He spent many summers in Sils Maria, near St. Moritz in Switzerland, and many winters in the Italian cities of Genoa, Rapallo and Turin and in the French city of Nice.
In 1881, when France occupied Tunisia, he planned to travel to Tunis to view Europe from the outside, but later abandoned that idea (probably for health reasons).
His favourite area in Europe was the Engadin.

The Engadin 

The Engadin or Engadine (German: Engadin, Italian: Engadina, Romansh: Engiadina; tr: garden of the Inn) is a long valley in the Swiss Alps located in the canton of Graubünden in southeast Switzerland. It follows the route of the Inn River from its headwaters at Maloja Pass running northeast until the Inn flows into Austria, one hundred kilometers downstream. The Engadin is protected by high mountains on all sides and is famous for its sunny climate, beautiful landscapes, and outdoor activities.

Although he championed the ‘Übermensch’, who was often interpreted as a boisterous ‘yea sayer’, almost everyone who met Nietzsche was surprised by, and remarked upon his exquisite manners, his soft, gentle, well modulated voice, and his subtle sense of humour.


Nietzsche’s Health 


Nietzsche’s headaches began when he was 9 years old.
These headaches were usually very severe and had a major impact on his daily life and later on his professional activities.
They were almost always located on the right side, mostly frontal and above the right eye, but also at the right hemicranium, and were typically associated with gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea and vomiting.
Because of these headaches, he sometimes also kept his eyes closed to lessen the discomfort experienced from external light, suggesting photophobia, and he avoided physical activities and went to bed.
The headaches usually persisted for several hours or even days.
Often Nietzsche would have symptoms two or three times a week, but such outbreaks were usually associated with the sort of problems which were of particular concern to Nietzsche.
Such problems included dull, cloudy or wet weather, Cold weather or hot weather, delays in contacts with his publishers and printers, and even problems relating to his frequent travelling arrangements, such as an inability to find a porter or carriage for his bags, or missing a train connection.

Nietzsche’s visual problems also started at young age.
He mentioned them for the first time in 1856, when he was 12 years old.
As a child Nietzsche often complained about “bad light”, “tiredness of the eyes” and “episodes of eye weakness with altered vision”.
Nietzsche underwent repeated examinations by different ophtalmologists.

In 1882, Nietzsche began to show depressive symptoms with suicidal ideas.
These symptoms recurred intermittently and in 1887 Nietzsche described his mood as a persistent depression.
This depressive mood had a clear impact on his social and professional life. 
On several occasions Nietzsche expressed bizarre ideas that reflected delusions.
In 1883, he labelled his own mental state for the first time as madness and in several letters he expressed his worries about suffering from madness.

Nietzsche occasionally returned to Naumburg to visit his family, and, especially during this time, he and his sister (see left – Elizabeth Nietzsche) had repeated periods of conflict and reconciliation.
He lived on his pension from Basel, but also received aid from friends.
A past student of his, Peter Gast (born Heinrich Köselitz – see right), became a sort of private secretary to Nietzsche.
To the end of his life, Gast and Overbeck remained consistently faithful friends.
Malwida von Meysenbug remained like a motherly patron even outside the Wagner circle.

‘Peter Gast’ – Johann Heinrich Köselitz (10 January 1854–15 August 1918) was a German author and composer. He is known for his long-time friendship with Friedrich Nietzsche, who gave him the pseudonym ‘Peter Gast’. Gast was born in Annaberg, Saxony to Gustav Hermann Köselitz (1822–1910), the vice mayor (Vizebürgermeister), and his wife Caroline (1819–1900), a native of Vienna. 
From 1872, Gast studied music with Ernst Friedrich Richter at the University of Leipzig. He transferred in 1875 to the University of Basel, where he attended the lectures of Jacob Burckhardt, Franz Overbeck, and Friedrich Nietzsche. In Basel, a friendship developed between Gast and Nietzsche. Gast read for Nietzsche during the latter’s intermittent spells of near blindness, and also took dictation. Gast was instrumental in the preparation of all of Nietzsche’s works after 1876, reviewing the printer’s manuscript and sometimes intervening to finalize the text formatting. Nietzsche’s break with Wagner and his search for a ‘southern’ aesthetic with which he could immunize himself from the gloomy German north led him to over-appreciate Gast as a musician. As an amanuensis, however, Gast was invaluable; writing apropos ‘Menschliches, Allzumenschliches’  Nietzsche claimed that Gast ‘wrote and also corrected: fundamentally, he was really the writer whereas I was merely the author‘. All the while, Köselitz worshipped his teacher, assisting him to the point of self-denial. Gast was financed by his father, and also intermittently supported by Nietzsche’s friend Paul Rée. In addition to being a musician and the editor of Nietzsche’s writings and letters, he worked as a writer under various pseudonyms, including: Ludwig Mürner, Peter Schlemihl, Petrus Eremitus.

Franz Camille Overbeck (16 November 1837 – 26 June 1905) was a German Protestant theologian. In Anglo-American discourse, he is perhaps best known in regard to his friendship with Friedrich Nietzsche; while in German theological circles, Overbeck remains discussed for his own contributions. Franz Overbeck was born in Saint Petersburg as a German citizen to Franz Heinrich Herrmann Overbeck, a German-British merchant, and his wife, Jeanne Camille Cerclet, who was born in Saint Petersburg to a French family. Consequently, his upbringing was European and humanistic: first taking place in Saint Petersburg, then in Paris from 1846 until the February Revolution of 1848, once again in Saint Petersburg, and after 1850 in Dresden. From 1856 until 1864, Overbeck studied theology in Leipzig, Göttingen, Berlin, and Jena. In 1859, he received his doctorate degree, after which he worked on his Habilitation on Hippolytus until 1864. After 1864, he taught as a Privatdozent in Jena. During his student time in Leipzig, he became close friends with Heinrich von Treitschke. After Nietzsche left Basel in 1879, he and Overbeck continued a personal friendship through regular correspondence. At the beginning of January 1889, Nietzsche sent letters to friends that exhibited symptoms of a mental collapse. After Overbeck received such a letter, he travelled to Turin the same day to retrieve the sick Nietzsche and his manuscripts. He continued to visit Nietzsche until the latter’s death in 1900.

Malwida von Meysenbug (28 October 1816 – 23 April 1903) was a German writer, who was a friend of Friedrich Nietzsche and Richard Wagner. She also met the French writer Romain Rolland in Rome in 1890, and is the author of ‘Memories of an Idealist’. She published the first volume anonymously in 1869. Von Meysenbug was born at Kassel, Hesse. Her father Carl Rivalier descended from a family of French Huguenots, and received the title of Baron of Meysenbug from William I of Hesse-Kassel. The ninth of ten children, she broke with her family because of her political convictions. Von Meysenbug introduced Nietzsche to several of his friends, including Helene von Druskowitz. She invited Paul Rée and Nietzsche to Sorrento, a town which overlooks the bay of Naples, in the autumn of 1876. There, Rée wrote The Origins of Moral Sensations, and Nietzsche began Human, All Too Human.

Malwida von Meysenburg died in Rome in 1903 and is buried in the Protestant Cemetery in the city.

Soon Nietzsche made contact with the music-critic Carl Fuchs.


NIietzsche’s Writings


Nietzsche stood at the beginning of his most productive period.
Beginning with ‘Menschliches, Allzumenschliches’ in 1878, Nietzsche would publish one book (or major section of a book) each year until 1888, his last year of writing, during which he completed five.


In 1882 Nietzsche published the first part of ‘Die fröhliche Wissenschaft’ ** – (The Joyful Science).

Lou Andreas Salomé

That year he also met Lou Andreas Salomé, (see right) through Malwida von Meysenbug and Paul Rée.
Nietzsche and Salomé spent the summer together in Tautenburg in Thuringia, often with Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth as a chaperone.

Nietzsche, however, regarded Salomé less as an equal partner than as a gifted student.
Salomé reports that he asked her to marry him, and that she refused, though the reliability of her reports of events has come into question.
Nietzsche’s relationship with Rée and Salomé broke up in the winter of 1882/1883, partially because of intrigues conducted by Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth.
Amidst renewed bouts of illness, living in near isolation after a falling-out with his mother and sister regarding Salomé, Nietzsche fled to Rapallo.

Lou Andreas-Salomé (born Louise von Salomé or Luíza Gustavovna Salomé, Russian: Луиза Густавовна Саломе; 12 February 1861 – 5 January 1937) was a Russian-born psychoanalyst and author. Her diverse intellectual interests led to friendships with a broad array of distinguished western luminaries, including Nietzsche, Freud, and Rilke. Lou Salomé was born in St. Petersburg to an army general and his wife. Salomé was their only daughter; she had five brothers. Salomé’s mother took her to Rome, Italy when she was 21. At a literary salon in the city, Salomé became acquainted with Paul Rée, an author. After two months, the two became partners. On 13 May 1882, Rée’s friend Friedrich Nietzsche joined the duo. Salomé would later (1894) write a study, ‘Friedrich Nietzsche in seinen Werken’, of Nietzsche’s personality and philosophy. The three travelled with Salomé’s mother through Italy. Arriving in Leipzig in October, Salomé and Rée separated from Nietzsche after a falling-out between Nietzsche and Salomé, in which Salomé believed that Nietzsche was desperately in love with her.  A fictional account of Salomé’s relationship with Nietzsche is described in Irvin Yalom’s novel, ‘When Nietzsche Wept’. A biography in Swedish on Lou Salomé, which also covers her relationship with Paul Rée, Rainer Maria Rilke, Friedrich Nietzsche and Sigmund Freud was edited in 2008 on Mita bokförlag by the Swedish author Mirjam Tapper. The title of the book is “Den blonda besten hos Nietzsche – Lou Salomé”.

Here he wrote the first part of ‘Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen’ (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) *** in only ten days.


After severing his philosophical ties with Schopenhauer and his social ties with Wagner, Nietzsche had few remaining friends.


Now, with the new style of ‘Zarathustra’, his work became even more alienating and the market received it only to the degree required by politeness.


Nietzsche recognized this and maintained his solitude, though he often complained about it.
His books remained largely unsold.

In 1885 he printed only 40 copies of the fourth part of ‘Zarathustra’, and distributed only a fraction of these among close friends, including Helene von Druskowitz.
In 1883 he tried and failed to obtain a lecturing post at the University of Leipzig.
It was made clear to him that, in view of the attitude towards Christianity and the concept of God expressed in ‘Zarathustra’, he had become in effect unemployable at any German University.


The subsequent “feelings of revenge and resentment” embittered him. “And hence my rage since I have grasped in the broadest possible sense what wretched means (the depreciation of my good name, my character and my aims) suffice to take from me the trust of, and therewith the possibility of obtaining, pupils.”
In 1886 Nietzsche broke with his editor, Ernst Schmeitzner.

He then printed ‘Beyond Good and Evil’ at his own expense, and issued in 1886–1887 second editions of his earlier works (‘The Birth of Tragedy’, ‘Human, All Too Human’, ‘The Dawn’, and ‘The  Joyful Science), accompanied by new prefaces in which he reconsidered his earlier works. Thereafter, he saw his work as completed for a time and hoped that soon a readership would develop.
In fact, interest in Nietzsche’s thought did increase at this time, if rather slowly and in a way hardly perceived by him.

Bernhard Förster

During these years Nietzsche met Meta von Salis, Carl Spitteler, and also Gottfried Keller.
In 1886 his sister Elisabeth married Bernhard Förster (see left) and traveled to Paraguay to found Nueva Germania, a “Germanic” colony.
Through correspondence, Nietzsche’s relationship with Elisabeth continued on the path of conflict and reconciliation, but they would meet again only after his collapse.
He continued to have frequent and painful attacks of illness, which made prolonged work impossible. In 1887 Nietzsche wrote the polemic ‘On the Genealogy of Morals’.
During the same year Nietzsche encountered the work of Fyodor Dostoevsky, with whom he felt an immediate kinship.

He also exchanged letters with Hippolyte Taine, and then also with Georg Brandes.
Brandes, who had started to teach the philosophy of Søren Kierkegaard in the 1870s, wrote to Nietzsche asking him to read Kierkegaard, to which Nietzsche replied that he would come to Copenhagen and read Kierkegaard with him.
However, before fulfilling this undertaking, he slipped too far into sickness.
In the beginning of 1888, in Copenhagen, Brandes delivered one of the first lectures on Nietzsche’s philosophy.

Although Nietzsche had in 1886 announced (at the end of ‘On The Genealogy of Morality’) a new work with the title ‘The Will to Power: Attempt at a Revaluation of All Values’, he eventually seems to have abandoned this particular approach and instead used some of the draft passages to compose ‘Götzen-Dämmerung, oder, Wie man mit dem Hammer philosophiert’ (Twilight of the Idols) and ‘Der Antichrist’ (The Antichrist) – both written in 1888.
His health seemed to improve, and he spent the summer in high spirits.
In the fall of 1888 his writings and letters began to reveal a higher estimation of his own status and “fate.”
He overestimated the increasing response to his writings, especially to the recent polemic, ‘Der Fall Wagner’ – (The Case of Wagner).
On his 44th birthday, after completing  ‘Götzen-Dämmerung’  and  ‘Der Antichrist’, he decided to write the autobiography ‘Ecce Homo’.
In the preface to this work—which suggests Nietzsche was well aware of the interpretive difficulties his work would generate—he declares, “Hear me! For I am such and such a person. Above all, do not mistake me for someone else.”
In December, Nietzsche began a correspondence with August Strindberg, and thought that, short of an international breakthrough, he would attempt to buy back his older writings from the publisher and have them translated into other European languages.
Moreover, he planned the publication of the compilation ‘Nietzsche Contra Wagner’ and of the poems that composed his collection ‘Dionysian-Dithyrambs’.

Mental Collapse and Death


On January 3, 1889, Nietzsche suffered a mental collapse.
Two policemen approached him after he caused a public disturbance in the streets of Turin. What actually happened remains unknown, but an often-repeated tale states that Nietzsche witnessed the whipping of a horse at the other end of the Piazza Carlo Alberto, ran to the horse, threw his arms up around its neck to protect the horse, and then collapsed to the ground.

In the following few days, Nietzsche sent short writings—known as the ‘Wahnbriefe’ (Madness Letters)—to a number of friends (including Cosima Wagner and Jacob Burckhardt).
To his former colleague Burckhardt, Nietzsche wrote: “I have had Caiaphas put in fetters. Also, last year I was crucified by the German doctors in a very drawn-out manner. Wilhelm, Bismarck, and all anti-Semites abolished.”
Additionally, he commanded the German emperor to go to Rome to be shot, and summoned the European powers to take military action against Germany.
On January 6, 1889 Burckhardt showed the letter he had received from Nietzsche to Overbeck. The following day Overbeck received a similarly revealing letter, and decided that Nietzsche’s friends had to bring him back to Basel.
Overbeck traveled to Turin and brought Nietzsche to a psychiatric clinic in Basel.
By that time Nietzsche appeared fully in the grip of a serious mental illness, and his mother Franziska decided to transfer him to a clinic in Jena under the direction of Otto Binswanger. From November 1889 to February 1890 the art historian Julius Langbehn attempted to cure Nietzsche, claiming that the methods of the medical doctors were ineffective in treating Nietzsche’s condition.
Langbehn assumed progressively greater control of Nietzsche until his secretiveness discredited him.

In March 1890 Franziska removed Nietzsche from the clinic, and in May 1890 brought him to her home in Naumburg.

During this process Overbeck and Gast contemplated what to do with Nietzsche’s unpublished works.
In January 1889 they proceeded with the planned release of  ‘Götzen-Dämmerung’, by that time already printed and bound.
In February they ordered a fifty copy private edition of ‘Nietzsche contra Wagner’, but the publisher C. G. Naumann secretly printed one hundred.
Overbeck and Gast decided to withhold publishing ‘Der Antichrist’ and ‘Ecce Homo’ because of their more radical content.
Nietzsche’s reception and recognition enjoyed their first surge.

In 1893 Nietzsche’s sister Elisabeth returned from Nueva Germania (in Paraguay) following the suicide of her husband.
She read and studied Nietzsche’s works, and piece by piece took control of them and of their publication.
Overbeck eventually suffered dismissal, and Gast finally cooperated.
After the death of Franziska in 1897 Nietzsche lived in Weimar, where Elisabeth cared for him and allowed people, including Rudolf Steiner (who in 1895 had written one of the first books praising Nietzsche – see right)) to visit her uncommunicative brother.
Elisabeth at one point went so far as to employ Steiner – at a time when he was still an ardent fighter against any mysticism – as a tutor to help her to understand her brother’s philosophy.
Nietzsche’s mental illness was originally diagnosed as tertiary syphilis, in accordance with a prevailing medical paradigm of the time.
Although most commentators regard his breakdown as unrelated to his philosophy Georges Bataille drops dark hints (“‘man incarnate’ must also go mad”) and René Girard’s postmortem psychoanalysis posits a worshipful rivalry with Richard Wagner.
The diagnosis of syphilis was challenged, and manic-depressive illness with periodic psychosis, followed by vascular dementia was put forward by Cybulska.
In 1898 and 1899 Nietzsche suffered at least two strokes, which partially paralysed him and left him unable to speak or walk.
After contracting pneumonia in mid-August 1900 he had another stroke during the night of August 24 / August 25, and died about noon on August 25.

Elisabeth had him buried beside his father at the church in Röcken bei Lützen.




His friend, Peter Gast (see right), gave his funeral oration, proclaiming: “Holy be your name to all future generations!

Nietzsche had written in ‘Ecce Homo’ (at the time of the funeral still unpublished) of his fear that one day his name would be regarded as “holy”.
Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche

Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche
Therese Elisabeth Alexandra Förster-Nietzsche (July 10, 1846, Röcken, Prussia – November 8, 1935, Weimar, Germany), who went by her second name, was the sister of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and the creator of the Nietzsche Archive in 1894.
Förster-Nietzsche was two years younger than her brother.
Both were children of a Lutheran pastor in the German village of Röcken bei Lützen.
The two children were close during their childhood and early adult years.
There has been speculation that the relationship between Elizabeth and Fritz was so close that it was almost ‘incestuous’.
Nietzsche himself only ever had one romantic relationship with a woman – Lou Andreas Salomé, and it is significant that Elizabeth did everything in her power to bring the relationship to an end.
An early believer in the superiority of the Teutonic races, she married a Volkisch philosopher, Bernhard Förster.
In the 1880s they went to Paraguay and founded Nueva Germania, a  pure Aryan colony, but the enterprise failed, and Förster committed suicide.
She next served as Nietzsche’s guardian at Weimar after his mental breakdown in 1889.
On his death (1900) she secured the rights to his manuscripts and renamed her family home the ‘Nietzsche-Archiv’. 

Adolf Hitler and Elizabeth Förster Nietzsche
at the Nietzsche-Archiv
While Elisabeth gained a wide audience for her writings, in an effort to preserve her brother’s reputation, she withheld Nietzsche’s self-interpretation, ‘Ecce Homo’, until 1908.
Meanwhile, she collected many of his notes under the title ‘Der Wille zur Macht’ (“The Will to Power”) and presented this work, first as part of her three-volume biography (1895–1904), then in a one-volume edition (1901), and finally in a two-volume edition (1906) that was widely considered Nietzsche’s magnum opus.
Elisabeth was a supporter of the NSDAP; her funeral in 1935 was attended by Adolf Hitler and other members of the Government of the Third Reich.
Nietzsche’s Work

Nietzsche’s works remain controversial, and there is widespread disagreement about their interpretation and significance.
Part of the difficulty in interpreting Nietzsche arises from the uniquely provocative style of his philosophical writing.
Nietzsche frequently delivered trenchant critiques of Christianity in the most offensive and blasphemous terms possible given the context of 19th century Europe.
These aspects of Nietzsche’s style run counter to traditional values in philosophical writing, and they alienated him from the academic establishment both in his time and, to a lesser extent, today.
A few of the themes that Nietzsche scholars have devoted the most attention to include Nietzsche’s views on morality, his view that “God is dead” (and along with it any sort of God’s-eye view on the world thus leading to perspectivism), his notions of the ‘will to power‘ and ‘Übermensch‘, and his suggestion of ‘eternal recurrence‘.

‘Der Wille zur Macht’


A basic element in Nietzsche’s philosophical outlook is ‘der Wille zur Macht’ – (the will to power), which provides a basis for understanding human behavior. In a wide sense of a term, the will to power is a more important element than pressure for adaptation or survival.
According to Nietzsche, only in limited situations is the drive for conservation precedent over the will to power.
The natural condition of life, according to him, is one of profusion.
In its later forms Nietzsche’s concept of the will to power applies to all living things, suggesting that adaptation and the struggle to survive is a secondary drive in the evolution of animals, less important than the desire to expand one’s power.
Nietzsche eventually took this concept further still, and speculated that it may apply to inorganic nature as well.
He transformed the idea of matter as centers of force into matter as centers of will to power. Nietzsche wanted to dispense with the atomistic theory of matter, a theory which he viewed as a relic of the metaphysics of substance.
One study of Nietzsche defines his fully developed concept of the will to power as “the element from which derive both the quantitative difference of related forces and the quality that devolves into each force in this relation” revealing the will to power as “the principle of the synthesis of forces.
Nietzsche’s notion of the will to power can also be viewed as a response to Schopenhauer’s “Will.”

Writing a generation before Nietzsche, Schopenhauer had regarded the entire universe and everything in it as driven by a primordial ‘Will’, thus resulting in all creatures’ desire to avoid death and to procreate.
Nietzsche, however, challenges Schopenhauer’s account and suggests that people and animals really want power; living in itself appears only as a subsidiary aim—something necessary to promote one’s power.
Defending his view, Nietzsche describes instances where people and animals willingly risk their lives to gain power—most notably in instances like competitive fighting and warfare.
Once again, Nietzsche seems to take part of his inspiration from the ancient Homeric Greek texts he knew well: Greek heroes and aristocrats or “masters” did not desire mere living (they often died quite young and risked their lives in battle) but wanted power, glory, and greatness.
In this regard he often mentions the common Greek theme of ‘agon’ or contest.
In addition to Schopenhauer’s psychological views, Nietzsche contrasts his notion of the will to power with many of the other most popular psychological views of his day, such as that of utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism—a philosophy mainly promoted, in Nietzsche’s days and before, by British thinkers such as Bentham and Stuart Mill—claims that all people fundamentally want to be happy. But this conception of happiness found in utilitarianism Nietzsche rejected as something limited to, and characteristic of, English society only.
Also Platonism and Christian neo-Platonism–which claim that people ultimately want to achieve unity with ‘The Good’ or with ‘God’ – are philosophies he criticizes.
In each case, Nietzsche argues that the “will to power” provides a more useful and general explanation of human behavior.

Übermensch

Another concept important to an understanding of Nietzsche’s thought is the Übermensch.
While interpretations of Nietzsche’s Übermensch vary wildly, here is one of his quotations from  ‘Also sprach Zarathustra’ – (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) (Prologue, §§3–4):

“I teach you the superman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him? … All beings so far have created something beyond themselves; and do you want to be the ebb of this great flood, and even go back to the beasts rather than overcome man?
What is ape to man? A laughing stock or painful embarrassment. And man shall be that to superman: a laughingstock or painful embarrassment. You have made your way from worm to man, and much in you is still worm. Once you were apes, and even now, too, man is more ape than any ape…. The superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the superman shall be the meaning of the earth…. Man is a rope, tied between beast and the superman—a rope over an abyss … what is great in man is that he is a bridge, and not an end.”

© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Oswald Spengler   
‘Preußentum und Sozialismus’

Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler (29 May 1880 – 8 May 1936) was a German historian and philosopher of history whose interests included mathematics, science, and art.

He is best known for his book ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ – (The Decline of the West), published in 1918 and 1922, covering all of world history.
He proposed a new theory, according to which the lifespan of civilizations is limited and ultimately they decay.
He wrote extensively throughout World War I and the interwar period, and supported German hegemony in Europe.
As a precursor of National Socialism, in 1920 Spengler produced ‘Preußentum und Sozialismus’ (Prussia and Socialism), which argued for an organic, nationalist version of socialism and authoritarianism.

Biography
Blankenburg
Oswald Spengler
(29 May 1880 – 8 May 1936)

Oswald Spengler was born in 1880 in Blankenburg the eldest of four children, and the only boy.
His family was conservative German of the petite bourgeoisie.

His father, originally a mining technician, who came from a long line of mine-workers, was a post office bureaucrat.
His childhood home was emotionally reserved, and the young Spengler turned to books and the great cultural personalities for succor.
He had imperfect health, and suffered throughout his life from migraine headaches and from an anxiety complex.
At the age of ten, his family moved to the university city of Halle.
Halle Marktplatz

Here Spengler received a classical education at the local Gymnasium (academically oriented secondary school), studying Greek, Latin, mathematics and sciences.

Here, too, he developed his affinity for the arts – especially poetry, drama, and music – and came under the influence of the ideas of Goethe and Nietzsche.

Nietzsche
After his father’s death in 1901 Spengler attended several universities (Munich, Berlin, and Halle) as a private scholar, taking courses in a wide range of subjects. His private studies were undirected.
In 1904 he received his Ph.D.
He briefly served as a teacher in Saarbrücken and then in Düsseldorf.

Realgymnasium – Hamburg
From 1908 to 1911 he worked at a grammar school (Realgymnasium) in Hamburg, where he taught science, German history, and mathematics.
In 1911 he moved to Munich, where he would live until his death in 1936.
He lived as a cloistered scholar, supported by his modest inheritance.
He began work on the first volume of ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ intending at first to focus on Germany within Europe, but the Agadir Crisis affected him deeply, and he widened the scope of his study.
The book was completed in 1914, but publishing was delayed by World War I.
Due to a congenital heart problem, he was not called up for military service.

‘The Decline of the West’ is a two-volume work by Oswald Spengler, the first volume of which was published in the summer of 1918.
Spengler revised this volume in 1922 and published the second volume, subtitled ‘Perspektiven der Weltgeschichte’ – (Perspectives of World History), in 1923.
The book introduces itself as a “Copernican overturning”, and rejects the Euro-centric view of history, especially the division of history into the linear “ancient-medieval-modern” rubric.
According to Spengler, the meaningful units for history are not epochs but whole cultures which evolve as organisms.
He recognizes eight high cultures: Babylonian, Egyptian, Chinese, Indian, Mexican (Mayan/Aztec), Classical (Greek/Roman), Arabian, Western or “European-American.”
Cultures have a lifespan of about a thousand years.
The final stage of each culture is, in his word use, a ‘civilization’.
The book also presents the idea of Muslims, Jews and Christians, as well as their Persian and Semitic forebears, being Magian; Mediterranean cultures of the antiquity such as Ancient Greece and Rome being Apollonian; and the modern Westerners being Faustian.
According to the theory, the Western world is actually ending and we are witnessing the last season – ‘Winterzeit’ – (winter time) — of the Faustian civilization.
In Spengler’s depiction, Western Man is a proud but tragic figure because, while he strives and creates, he secretly knows the actual goal will never be reached.

General Context

Spengler relates that he conceived the book sometime in 1911 and spent three years in writing the first draft.
At the start of World War I he began revising it and completed the first volume in 1917.
It was published the following year when Spengler was 38, and was his first work, apart from his doctoral thesis on Heraclitus.

Heraclitus of Ephesus

Heraclitus of Ephesus (Ἡράκλειτος ὁ Ἐφέσιος—Hērákleitos ho Ephésios; c. 535 – c. 475 BCE) was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor.
Heraclitus is famous for his insistence on ever-present change in the universe, as stated in the famous saying, “No man ever steps in the same river twice”. He believed in the unity of opposites, stating that “the path up and down are one and the same”, all existing entities being characterized by pairs of contrary properties.

The second volume was published in 1922.
The first volume is subtitled ‘Form und Aktualität’ – (Form and Actuality), the second volume is ‘Perspektiven der Weltgeschichte’ – (Perspectives of World-history).
Spengler’s own view of the aims and intentions of the work are sketched in the Prefaces and occasionally at other places.

The book received unfavorable reviews from most interested scholars even before the release of the second volume.
Spengler’s veering toward right-wing views in the second volume confirmed this reception, and the stream of criticisms continued for decades.
Nevertheless in Germany the book enjoyed popular success: by 1926 some 100,000 copies were sold.
A 1928 ‘Time’ magazine review of the second volume of ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ described the immense influence and controversy Spengler’s ideas enjoyed in the 1920s:
When the first volume of The Decline of the West appeared in Germany a few years ago, thousands of copies were sold. Cultivated European discourse quickly became Spengler-saturated. Spenglerism spurted from the pens of countless disciples. It was imperative to read Spengler, to sympathize or revolt. It still remains so.”
Spengler presented a worldview that resonated with the post-WWI German mood  – a view of democracy as the type of government of the declining civilization.
He argued that democracy is driven by money-breeding, and therefore easily corruptible. Spengler supported the rise of a right wing, authoritarian government as the next phase after the failure of democracy.

Oswald Spengler – The Final years

When ‘Der Untergang des Abendlandes’ was published in the summer of 1918 it became a wild success.

Treaty of Versailles 
Treaty of Versailles 

The perceived national humiliation of the ‘Treaty of Versailles’ (1919) and later the economic depression around 1923 fueled by hyperinflation seemed to prove Spengler right.
It comforted Germans because it seemingly rationalized their downfall as part of larger world-historical processes.
The book met with wide success outside of Germany as well, and by 1919 had been translated into several other languages.

Max Weber
Thomas Mann

Spengler rejected a subsequent offer to become Professor of Philosophy at the University of Göttingen, saying he needed time to focus on writing.
The book was widely discussed, even by those who had not read it.
Thomas Mann compared reading Spengler’s book to reading Schopenhauer for the first time. Academics gave it a mixed reception.
Max Weber described Spengler as a “very ingenious and learned dilettante”, while Karl Popper, not surprisingly, described the thesis as “pointless“.
In 1931, he published ‘Der Mensch und die Technik’ – (Man and Technics), which warned against the dangers of technology and industrialism to culture.
The principle idea in this work is that many of the Western world’s great achievements may soon become spectacles for our descendants to marvel at, as we do with the pyramids of Egypt or the baths of Rome.
In Spengler’s mind, our culture will be destroyed from within by materialism, and destroyed by others through economic competition and warfare.

Adolf Hitler and Paul von Hindenburg

He especially pointed to the tendency of Western technology to spread to hostile “Colored races” which would then use the weapons against the West.

This book contains the well-known Spengler quote ‘Optimismus ist Feigheit’ – (Optimism is cowardice).
Spengler voted for Hitler over Hindenburg in 1932, and met Hitler in 1933, and he became a member of the German Academy in the course of the year.
Spengler spent his final years in Munich, listening to Beethoven, reading Molière and Shakespeare, buying several thousand books, and collecting ancient Turkish, Persian and Hindu weapons.
He made occasional trips to the Harz mountains, and to Italy.
He died of a heart attack on May 8, 1936 in Munich, three weeks before his 56th birthday.


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