1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Lazarus, Moritz

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LAZARUS, MORITZ (1824–1903), German philosopher, was born on the 15th of September 1824 at Filehne, Posen. The son of a rabbinical scholar, he was educated in Hebrew literature and history, and subsequently in law and philosophy at the university of Berlin. From 1860 to 1866 he was professor in the university of Berne, and subsequently returned to Berlin as professor of philosophy in the kriegsakademie (1868) and later in the university of Berlin (1873). On the occasion of his seventieth birthday he was honoured with the title of Geheimrath. The fundamental principle of his philosophy was that truth must be sought not in metaphysical or a priori abstractions but in psychological investigation, and further that this investigation cannot confine itself successfully to the individual consciousness, but must be devoted primarily to society as a whole. The psychologist must study mankind from the historical or comparative standpoint, analysing the elements which constitute the fabric of society, with its customs, its conventions and the main tendencies of its evolution. This Völkerpsychologie (folk- or comparative psychology) is one of the chief developments of the Herbartian theory of philosophy; it is a protest not only against the so-called scientific standpoint of natural philosophers, but also against the individualism of the positivists. In support of his theory he founded, in combination with H. Steinthal, the Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie und Sprachwissenschaft (1859). His own contributions to this periodical were numerous and important. His chief work was Das Leben der Seele (Berlin, 1855–1857; 3rd edition, 1883). Other philosophical works were:—Ueber den Ursprung der Sitten (1860 and 1867), Ueber die Ideen in der Geschichte (1865 and 1872); Zur Lehre von den Sinnestäuschungen (1867); Ideale Fragen (1875 and 1885), Erziehung und Geschichte (1881); Unser Standpunkt (1881); Ueber die Reize des Spiels (1883). Apart from the great interest of his philosophical work, Lazarus was pre-eminent among the Jews of the so-called Semitic domination in Germany. Like Heine, Auerbach and Steinthal, he rose superior to the narrower ideals of the German Jews, and took a leading place in German literature and thought. He protested against the violent anti-Semitism of the time, and, in spite of the moderate tone of his publications, drew upon himself unqualified censure. He wrote in this connexion a number of articles collected in 1887 under the title Treu und Frei. Reden und Vorträge über Juden und Judenthum. In 1869 and 1871 he was president of the first and second Jewish Synods at Leipzig and Augsburg.

See R. Flint, The Philosophy of History in Europe; M. Brasch, Gesammelte Essays und Characterköpfe zur neuen Philos. und Literatur; E. Berliner, Lazarus und die öffentliche Meinung; M. Brasch, “Der Begründer de Völkerpsychologie,” in Nord et Sud, (September 1894).