The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Schleiermacher, Friedrich Ernst Daniel

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
The Encyclopedia Americana
Schleiermacher, Friedrich Ernst Daniel
Edition of 1920. See also Friedrich Schleiermacher on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

SCHLEIERMACHER, shlī'ĕr-mäk'ėr, Friedrich Ernst Daniel, German theologian and philosopher: b. Breslau, 21 Nov. 1768; d. Berlin, 12 Feb. 1834. He was educated by the Moravian Brethren at Niesky. In 1787 he began at Barby the study of theology, which he continued at Halle. In 1794 he was ordained and appointed assistant preacher at Landsberg on the Warthe. From 1796 to 1802 he was chaplain in the Charité-Haus at Berlin. During this period he translated some of Plato's Dialogues, contributed to the Athenæum conducted by the two Schlegels, and wrote the ‘Discourses on Religion,’ the ‘Monologues’ and ‘Letters of a Minister out of Berlin.’ In 1802 he published his first collection of sermons, which was followed by two others. In 1802 he removed to Stolpe, where he wrote his ‘Critical View of Ethics.’ In 1804 he was appointed extraordinary professor of theology at Halle. In 1807, when Halle was separated from Prussia, he went to Berlin and lectured there as well as preached. In 1809 he was appointed preacher at the Trinity Church in Berlin. With Fichte and W. von Humboldt he took a prominent part in the founding of the University of Berlin (1810) and remained, until his death, one of its most distinguished and successful professors. In 1811 he was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences and in 1814 secretary of the philosophical class. His liberal political activity and also his advocacy of doctrinal liberty as a basis of union between the Lutheran and Reformed churches procured him the disfavor of the Prussian government. As a preacher and writer he attracted a large and influential following, especially among the cultured classes, through the eloquent beauty of his style, through his broad interest in the intellectual and artistic movements of his time and through a rare combination of deep religious feeling with critical freedom toward traditional dogmas and conventional morality.

His ‘Discourses on Religion, addressed to the educated among its despisers’ (1799), show him under the influence both of Spinoza's pantheism and of Kant's criticism. Dissatisfied with the popular rationalistic theology of his times no less than with Kant's moralistic interpretation of religion, he assigns to religion a special province of the human soul, conceiving it to differ essentially from the intellectual and ethical sphere of our mind. Religion, therefore, is neither knowledge nor practice, but a state of feeling, an elevating tone of the whole mind. One of the main characteristics of religious experience is the feeling of being one with the All, the sentiment of an all-embracing and all-absorbing life. This “intuition (Anschauung) and feeling of the universe” does not imply any specific religious creed, not even the belief in a personal God or in the immortality of the soul. It merely establishes an emotional relation of oneness between the individual and the All; the finite self feels its absolute dependence upon the infinite. But this cosmic emotion constitutes, according to Schleiermacher, only one manifestation of religious sentiment; its equally important counterpart is the “self-intuition” and “self-determination” of a man's own “eternal self.” Thus he reasserts the value of human personality, which had been somewhat neglected in Kant's system.

In his ‘Monologues’ (1800) he assimilates, from the monadology of Leibniz, the idea that each individual is an independent mirror of mankind as a whole and is destined to realize within itself the common ideal in an individual example. Each one should represent mankind in his own way, that is the first principle of morality. But the individual comes to life only in the whole. Thus Schleiermacher, contrary to Kant's ethical formalism, attaches great importance to the actual contents and results of morality, to existing institutions of culture and morality such as the family, society, church, state, arts, sciences, historical religions. The establishment of a higher order of things through the combined individual effort of human beings in human society becomes the central idea of his religious ethics. In his later writings, especially in his ‘Christian Morality’ and ‘Christian faith’ the free philosophical religiousness of his ‘Discourse’ and ‘Monologues’ gave way to a more definite appreciation of the historical or “positive” religions and their consummation in Christianity. He finds in the person of its founder a living presentation of the endless process at the end of which appears the union of the divine and the human. By such interpretation he is enabled to adopt the Christian Church as a gradual realization in practice of the divine order of things, of the Civitas Dei. All positive affirmations with reference to the Deity he held to be figurative and anthropomorphic. In his ‘Life of Jesus,’ which anticipated that of D. F. Strauss in important respects, he appears as one of the first representatives of the critical school of Biblical research. His ‘Dialektik’ assumes the identity of thinking and being as the indispensable presupposition of all knowledge. His works on psychology, on æsthetics, on pedagogy have recently won renewed attention. Schleiermacher occupies a unique position as a representative alike of philosophy and theology. Practically all the modern endeavors to investigate the function of religion in the life of the human soul can be traced back to Schleiermacher. He is generally regarded as the greatest theologian of the Protestant Church since the time of the Reformation. His works have been published in three series entitled ‘Theology’ (11 vols.), ‘Sermons’ (10 vols.), ‘Philosophical and miscellaneous writings’ (9 vols.), Berlin 1836-65. Otto Braun edited an excellent critical selection from his works in four volumes (1910-13). The ‘Discourses’ and the ‘Monologues’ have been published in separate editions. Consult Dilthey, ‘Leben Schleiermachers’ (1870); ‘Schleiermacher's Life, as unfolded in his Autobiography and Letters’ (tr. by T. Rowan, London 1860, 2 vols.); Bender, W., ‘Schleiermachers' Theologie’ (2 vols., 1876-78); Lichtenberger, ‘History of German Theology in the 19th Century’ (1889); Pfleiderer, ‘Protestant Theology in Germany since Kant’ (1890); Troeltsch et al., ‘Schleiermacher, der Philosoph des Glaubens’ (1910); Cramaussel, ‘La philosophie religieuse de Schleiermacher’ (1908); Siegmund-Schultze, ‘Schleiermacher's Psychologie’ (1913).

Traugott Böhme.