Philo
Sophos
·org

philosophy is for everyone
and not just philosophers

philosophers should know lots
of things besides philosophy



PhiloSophos knowledge base

Philosophical Connections

Pathways to Philosophy programs

University of London BA

Pathways web sites

Philosophy lovers gallery

GVKlempner: complete videos

PhiloSophos home

Pathways to Philosophy

Philosophical Connections

Compiled by Anthony Harrison-Barbet


SCHLEIERMACHER

( 1768 — 1834)

 

MONISM

Friedrich Schleiermacher was born at Breslau. His father, a clergyman of the Reformed Church sent him to the Moravian Brothers for his schooling. He then studied theology at the University of Halle, where he also became interested in philosophy. He was ordained in 1790 and worked as a tutor before taking up pastoral posts in Landsberg and then Berlin in 1796. While there he was in close contact with Friedrich von Schlegel and other figures of the Romantic movement. He was appointed to a university chair at Halle in 1804, and in 1810 he became professor of theology at Berlin, lecturing also on ethics and hermeneutics.

 

PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION/ METAPHYSICS

[1] Schleiermacher is concerned with the relation between the totalities of thought or Spirit (the 'ideal') and its 'image', Being or Nature (the 'real'). Scientific knowledge, which involves perception and the empirical, deals primarily with Being; while ethical knowledge relates principally to thought. Nevertheless each kind of knowledge tends partially to the other (science attempts to discover the origin of consciousness in the organism; ethics considers the way the will controls the sensuous aspect of the organism). This 'dialectic of becoming', however, is incomplete. Indeed total knowledge — the identity of Being and thought — is achieved only in the infinite reality that Schleiermacher calls God [a]. We cannot grasp this identity of Nature and Spirit through reflective thinking or idealist metaphysical systems, but we can have an intuitive feeling of it. When we reflect on our own self or ego, we come to feel an 'immediate self-consciousness' as dependent on a totality which transcends all distinctions; this is the infinite Being [b]. This feeling of dependence on or 'communion' with the infinite identity is the basis of religion; Schleiermacher does not appeal to a 'religion of morality'. He thus clearly separates religious experience from metaphysics and theology. The task of metaphysics (more specifically philosophical theology) is to reconcile the notion of a God as a unity with the finite world [c] which is the totality of all oppositions and distinctions. He therefore thinks of the ideas of God and the world as interdependent, neither completely identical nor completely separate. The relation of God to the world is to be understood as that of a logical antecedent to consequent. God in Himself is beyond our conceptual grasp; and we cannot therefore apply to Him human attributes such as personality, goodness, and the like [d]. But Schleiermacher does regard God as active life which manifests itself in the finite world [e].

 

ETHICS

[2] As manifestations of God and ends in themselves finite individuals should seek to harmonize Spirit and Nature, reason and desire, so as to develop a fully integrated and moral personality and religious consciousness in the context of their unique properties and 'humanity' [a]. This is possible only in a community of other personalities who respect each other. This philosophical ethic coincides in content with the morality of Christianity, which Schleiermacher sees as the latest and highest revelation of an ideal expressed symbolically through dogmas but which we can never fully comprehend. Our consciousness of our dependence on God as the infinite identity, however, is central [b].

 

HERMENEUTICS

[3] Because ethics or practical reason cannot be separated from individual impulses, desires, and so on, it must for Schleiermacher be expressed in the historical dimension [a]. The object of ethics, he says, is "reason in history". So actions take place at a particular time and in a particular place. Moreover, they are conditioned by the forms through which individual agents in a community can interrelate, namely family, church, nation, and the like. Further, each individual differs inwardly from all others by virtue of what Schleiermacher calls his 'proprium' or own peculiarity (Eigentmlichkeit) [b], that is, the special organization in him that gives him his unique identity. Given the internal and external limitations on his actions and discourse — what he calls "the means for the sociality of thinking" and hence speaking, Schleiermacher rejects the possibility of attaining to any universal philosophy. We are also liable to misunderstand texts written at a different time from our own or in a different culture. As interpreters we tend to impose our own personal and cultural prejudices or presuppositions, and thereby miss or distort the meaning of the text. He therefore argues that the interpreter's aim should be to transcend these prejudices and attempt to discover, by a process of reconstruction from textual 'clues', what was in the mind of the author — in a sense to 'experience' what his intentions were [c]. He distinguishes between a 'grammatical' interpretation, which is concerned with the common language of the writer's culture, and a 'technical' or 'psychological' interpretation which seeks to uncover his subjective and unique genius. This latter can take on a 'divinatory' aspect. Implicit in his approach therefore is a distinction between scientific explanation or conceptual analysis and empathetic understanding (Verstehen) [d].

 

CRITICAL SUMMARY

The two central features of Schleiermacher's philosophy are (1) his clear separation between religion (as concerned with feeling/ intuition and dependence on God), and metaphysics and ethics (as being grounded in reason to conceptualize God and the world); and (2) his view that action and the ethical life are conditioned by historical-cultural factors and the 'peculiarity' of each individual. This latter feature was to be influential in the development of philosophies of culture and hermeneutics. These positions, however, lead to difficulties.

(1) There is a tension between the pantheistic tendencies of his thought and (a) the need for a distinction to be made between God and Nature, and (b) his emphasis on individuality and freedom in the sphere of action.

(2) His recognition of subjective factors in interpretation raises questions of cultural relativism and whether an 'objective' truth is attainable. Schleiermacher himself rules out the possibility of a universal philosophy because he sees all thought as conditioned.

 

READING

Schleiermacher: His philosophical ideas are largely implicit in or interspersed among his numerous theological and social writings. See especially Versuch einer Theorie des geselligen Betragens (1799) (Towards a Theory of Sociable Conduct, trans. and ed. R. D. Richardson — with Essays on Its Intellectual-Cultural Context) (1995); ber die Religion: Reden an die Gebildern unter ihren Verchtern (1799) (On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers, trans. and ed. R. Crouter; and the following manuscript notes|: Hermeneutik. Nach den Handschriften (Hermeneutics: The Handwritten Manuscripts, trans. and ed. J. Duke and J. Forstman); and Hermeneutik und Kritik (Hermeneutics and Criticism, trans. and ed. A. Bowie.

Studies

R. B. Brandt, The Philosophy of Friedrich Schleiermacher: The Development of His Theory of Scientific and Religious Knowledge.

R. Crouter, Friedrich Schleiermacher: From Enlightenment to Romanticism.

M. Redeker, Friedrich Schleiermacher: Life and Thought.

Collection of essays

J. María (ed)., The Cambridge Companion to Friedrich Schleiermacher.

 

 

CONNECTIONS

Schleiermacher

 

[1a; also 3d] Dialectic of scientific and ethical knowledge in relation to totalities of Spirit or thought and (its image), Being; identity complete only in God

   Plato

   Spinoza

   Kant

   Fichte

   Schelling

Dilthey

[2a c]

[2b]

[2d 3c 4a]

[1a 2a]

[1a]

[1f 2a b]

 

[1b; cf. 1d] The identity (God) beyond human reflective understanding; accessed through self-consciousness (intuitive feeling of dependence)

   Augustine

   Spinoza

   Kant

   Fichte

Hegel

   Schelling

[2c 3a]

[4b]

[10f]

[2a 5b]

[8d]

[3c 6e]

 

[1c] Religion distinct from metaphysics; former not religion of morality but concerned with 'communion' and dependence; metaphysics seeks to reconcile finite and infinite

   Spinoza

   Kant

   Fichte

   Schelling

   Scheler

[sec. 2]

[11a]

[1a 5a b]

[6e]

[3b]

 

[1d] Because God beyond understanding human attributes inapplicable — appeal to symbols

   Spinoza

   Kant

   Hegel

   Schelling

[2f]

[10f]

[8c]

[3c]

 

[1e; cf. 1a] God as 'active life' manifested in finite world

   Spinoza

   Fichte

[2e 3c]

[5a]

 

[2a; cf. 3b] Individual's purpose — develop 'humanity' (moral personality, religious consciousness) through harmonization of reason and desires; agents as ends in themselves

   Kant

   Herder

   Fichte

[6a b d 6f]

[2d]

[3b 3c]

 

[2b] Coincidence of philosophical ethic with morality of Christianity (highest revelation); consciousness of dependence on God is central

   Augustine

   Kant

[8a]

[11a]

 

[3a] Ethics inseparable from individual desires/impulses, and needs historical dimension

   Kant

   Herder

   Fichte

Dilthey

[6a b d]

[2d]

[3a]

[1a]

 

[3b; cf. 2a] Individual has unique properties (temperament, desires, etc.) [relevance to ethics]    Kant [6b d]

 

[3c] No universal philosophy possible; misunderstanding of texts from different times/ cultures; 'reconstruction' (to transcend prejudices, discover authors' intentions) as aim of interpretation

   Protagoras

   Herder

Dilthey

Gadamer

Ricoeur

[3a]

[1e]

[1d 3a]

[1b d 2c]

[2d]

 

[3d; cf. 1a] Distinction between explanation (conceptual analysis) and empathetic understanding (Verstehen)

   Vico

   Herder

Dilthey

Gadamer

[CSa]

[2e]

[2a b]

[3a]