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German Historicism and Its Crisis Author(s): Colin T. Loader Source: The Journal of Modern History, Vol.

48, No. 3, On Demand Supplement (Sep., 1976), pp. 85-119 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1878811 . Accessed: 09/09/2013 10:09
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German Historicism Colin T. Loader

and Its

Crisis

University In 1924, announced following

of Nevada, a young his

Las Vegas immigrant named Karl Mannheim the

Hungarian

advocacy

of German Historicism

with

statement:

into an intellectual Historicism has developed force of it epitomizes our Weltextra-ordinary significance; The Historicist not only organizes anschauung. principle like an invisible hand, the work of the cultural sciences but also permeates (Geisteswissenschaften), everyday in everyday thinking...For life too we apply concepts with Historicist overtones, for example, "capitalism," "social movement," "cultural process," etc. These forces are grasped and understood as potentialities, constantly in flux, moving from some point in time to another; on the level of everyday already reflection, we seek to the position determine of our present within a temporal to tell framework, by the cosmic clock of history what time it is.2 Why did Mannheim praise best that able only to meet Historicism of deal the as the times? world His view was it

the needs could could

answer in flux;

Historicism which

with

a world of

was a philosophy moving that

make sense

"forces... He believed a system German came at

from some point could

in time provide

to another."

Historicism (Sinn)

a Weltanschauung, for the chaotic

of meaning scene.

and valuation, Mannheim's

However,

optimistic

statement

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a time very had

when

the

future

of

the

doctrine even

of

Historicism Historicists, provide This stemmed history body the of other of crisis a

was

much begun of

uncertain. to doubt for

Many people, whether the Historicism Germany will of

some could

system

values which belief,

1924.

of

Historicism, from more that tural But the than history, sciences, this belief

my essay voiced

examine, that

directly provided data culvalues. --

by Mannheim, method with and

an academic together provided (which the

a certain and

philosophy view,

a world made history

a system

Historicism) the doctrine in other

was of Hisby

accompanied toricism the of that doubt valuation. lay at was

by

realization

that

essentially science It the was

relativistic, could the of actually

words, some

that

provide of of

standard then,

relativization the I crisis

values,

heart

Historicism.

Georg characteristics normativitgt," normative

Iggers of the terms.

has

written

that

one

of

the

main was of "Antiin

German rejection He means

historical of that the

thought concept

thinking the

Historicism

denied

possibility thus making


by

of universal the
any

and eternal of any part


part. This which

values

for

mankind,

values
other

of mankind
rejection could of be history.

unchalpotentially avoided When

lengeable entailed only by

a radical a faith in

relativism, the

meaningfulness

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this

faith

broke Iggers' Ernst

down,

the

crisis

of Historicism follows that that

reof the

sulted.3 Historicist Historicism essence flow

interpretation Troeltsch, from the itself... in the

who wrote internal .Here

the

crisis (Gang)

of and

itarises

movement

of history

we see and ever past

everything

in the

of becoming, in the

endless

new individualand in the answer of faith to

ization, direction this

determination

by the

of an unknown future."4 relativism of history.5 of Iggers

Troeltsch's

temporal

was a restoration

in the

meaning fulness

The interpretation cally refute their out correct, it. and the However,

and Troeltsch essay is

is not

basito which with-

purpose is not

of this

there does

an important satisfactorily why did Since the the

question answer crisis problem of of

interpretation some modification, occur

namely, did?

Historicism relativism ginning, the early

when it

was inherent why did 1920's?

in Historicism not all,

from the

very

beuntil each

Historicists After

perceive

a crisis that

Ranke had written relativistic

epoch

was immediate

to God, a blatantly Treitschke

statement. similar that herent the

And men like concerns.6 crisis arose doctrine the

and Droysen above

had is infrom the real

The answer not

to the

questions problems

from theoretical

in the of

of Historicism, for solving

but rather the very

inadequacy

doctrine

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problems and the another cists' set

arisina

from Germany's

collapse

in World War One Or put Histori-

establishmeint way, inability the crisis

of the Weimar Republic. arose not the because existence of their of values the

of the

to guarantee but rather existence 1920's. crisis

of a universal inability for the to German

of values, the

because of a unity

guarantee nation expressed dissolution crisis to

in the their

Thus,

although

Historicists in terms of history, of the the

in temDoral truths

terms, flow

of eternal

in the resulting

was in fact pluralistic

spatial,

from their was not

antipathy an in

a truly

Germany,

one which

organic regards

community to universal it

of values. history was not

While

Antinormativitgt

was an important that factor, concept feelings

ingredient the a defined

of Historicism, intense limited dedication space the

but rather within

to a normative lay behind of I will the

that

of uncertainty. and "spatial" are what

Since important

categories

"temporal" attempt relationship entities

to my essay,

to make clear is

I mean by them. different different different units units units

A temporal of time, of time, of time.

one between within

between

existing

or between

entities of

representing "ancients

Thus the notions gap" refer relationships,

and moderns" temporal exist

and "the

generation Spatial within

to essentially however, of

relationships. objects

between

a shared

cross-section

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time.

The

notions

of

"balance

of

power"

and

"class

con-

flict"

point

to

spatial

relationships. elements war)

Of course, (e.g. the

spatial

relationships process the leading

have

temporal

temporal (e.g.

up to a civil of the but

and vice-versa involved elements

shared

space

generations secondary

in generado not

tional define

conflict), the basic

these

relationship. in which a spatial relationship I will obtains, call the in

The field other "spatial words,

a cross-section This term,

of time, however, spatial his

realm."

must be qualified. realm," the spatial valinot be, of

Here I refer field dation. identical. the

to the

"meaningful expects fields

in which

a person

values

to find

The two spatial In the case the

can be,

but need

of the more optimistic two were the identical; these

thinkers men science, "believed in the

Enlightenment, that values,

assumed

like

laws

of physical

were universal. universal cause ends

Such men, wrote common to all

Troeltsch, -rules

mankind

in Humanity, of Nature."7

of Natural

Law, and the moral reacting of

The German Historicists, advocated the restriction nations

to the

Enlightenment, realm

the meaningful (V8lker),

spatial

to individual reflected
cept of

or peoples

a restriction conthe

in their
Zeitgeist

replacement
with that of

of the more universal


Volkseist._8

However,

fact

that

the meaningful

spatial

realmi was not

conceived

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to include

all

of the

spatial

realm, with

that those

the

values

of the

German Volk might V8lker, did not

be in conflict a crisis

of other among early stated: "I write

trigger

of values

Historicists. Conly7 for

As Heinrich Germans."9

von Treitschke

The Historicists realm, the

perceived

their

meaningful not only

spatial in its but

German nation, to the for

to be organic, process in its

relationship

historical this essay,

as a whole, own internal realm

more importantly organization. an organic individual cists ated stood with

The meaningful indivisible units whole

spatial rather In this

was viewed

as

than belief,

as a mere sum of the HistoriassociFor the theory, the

or parts.

opposed the English

to the mechanistic and French

philosophy

Enlightenment. contract

mechanistic basic spatial basic unit

view, was the

epitomized autonomous

by the

individual.

To understand what the

relationships, unit, the the

one first

had to discover about, of these the whole

individual,

was all

and then individuals in terms was perceived this chaotic. passage by the of the

determine with parts. described

causal

relationships One understood

one another. Further,

the

relationship

of the laws; it

parts

in terms unique. view

of universal

was not

as something mechanistic This rejection

The Historicists

rejected

as abstract

and potentially in the following

can be seen

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Historicist school

Georg von Below, Romantic reaction

who traced to the

the

origins

of his

to the

Enlightenment.

of the Enlightenment If the historians without exception operated with the actions of individuals, then the movement which they essentially had in mind was like the reciprocal collisions and forces of atoms. The Romantic, on the other hand, envisions the personality as being singularly distinct, the individual state, the individual epoch not as a sum of atoms, but as a true Individuality His goal is above all0understanding (Individualitht). in terms of the whole (aus dem Ganzen). The concept of Individuality, is crucial on which Below placed so

much importance, toricism. concept than of

to the understanding correct

of Histhe

Below was undoubtedly to the idealism of the

in tracing

German Romantics Hegelian of the

rather concept

to the more logical

and systematic use

Individuality.11

The Romantic

term was also as by the

emphasized

by Troeltsch, embodiment whether

who defined from time

an Individuality to time assumed

"the particular Divine Spirit,

in individual

persons life."

or in the 12 Perhaps

superpersonal further description most

organizations of the form of state.

of community concept

clarification of the the

can come from Ranke's with that which he was

Individuality Ranke admitted i.e.

concerned,

certain aristocracy, he of

general

and analytic could that value. to me... aspects. this

categories,

monarchy, state. analysis

democracy, believed limited

be applied "formal"

to the type of

However,

was only

It seems and real

between formal that we must determine The formal aspect only covers

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covers the real generalities, the living peculiarities, of constitution, forms Certain elements. particularly of personal those a limitation stipulating powers and the definition of class relationships, may be necessary to all states. But they do not constitute the source of life which alone gives content to all forms. There is an element which makes a state not a subdivision of general categories, but a living thing, an individual, an unique The primary self.... is the unique fact... spiritual existence of the individual state, its principle,...its inner life.13 Individualities einheiten) terized by of then history, were to organic use "basic unities" term, and (Grundcharacoriginality

Troeltsch's (Einmaligkeit)

their

uniqueness

(Ursprunglichkeit)
division.14 unities quantified. shunned the could causal could Thus not This

and not
the be did

susceptible
nature or mean causally, the that

to meaningful
of these

sub-

essential exactly, not

spiritual or

explained Historicists they qualified they of

that

analyses, effectiveness.

but

simply Causal

latterst

analyses, the only essence be

felt, an through Eduard

not

penetrate This

all

the

way

to

Individuality. understanding Spranger wrote

essence and historical

could

grasped

(Verstehen) of the

intuition method:

(Ahnen).

It is a matter of... a reproduction (Nachbilden), consummated the powers of imagination, through of external life-forms of the past. and internal And this power of not an abstract, imagination is... intellectual shell, but rather a complete consciousness of life in which the totality of all spiritual acts, forms of experience and manners of reaction demonstrate the same interplay as they do in life itself. That is the organ with which we grasp history.15

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If

Individualities' the

essences

could for their of

never

be exactly

exwith or in any of such HisHe

plained,

same was true The relationship

relationships to

one another. an epoch, logical all

a person not

a state

Individualities, way. was based world's In fact, largely basic

could the

be grasped

or exact

understanding faith

a relationship toricist believed degree variety in the that but not

on the

of the

harmony and meaning. perceivable existed to some behind

a spiritual exactly

unity,

demonstrable, of historical and the integral moments. age of the

the

and finiteness The lack

Individualities. potential parts relativism of

of exactness were

historical even written lay in its that

knowledge most the

of Historicism, Rothacker has

optimistic golden

Erich

German cultural that each itself

sciences nation and to

between focal

Herder's point

statement of its

in 1774

had the Ranke's

happiness that each

within epoch

statement value

in 1854 rested a union Historical

was immediate The union

God and its two principles, concept spiritual teenth temporal challenged fact, aided

upon itself.16 which Rothacker

of these basic entire nineand

saw as the of the the

of the

School

and indeed

development century,

of German learning a combination this

during

was really

of spatial never

relativism. the that basic faith,

However, faith

relativism

in the unity

of history the need for

and, the

in

by eliminating

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organic

unity

to be actualized of the in the

in universal

form or laws

as some thinkers This process writings centuries. faith

Enlighternment organic unity

had demanded.17 of the historical

continued throughout

in the the

mainstream nineteenth the the discipline course

of Historicist and early twentieth became there

Even though during that

of history of that unity period, integrated of the

more specialized was always specialized century, their eyes a belief

an organic At the

research.18 there

beginning that

twentieth had closed

were complaints larger belief organic that

specialists but

to the by the if

picture, the organic

this

was continued

accompanied to exist

unity

even

it

was neglected.19 important question: in the above, of the crucial the the why 1920's? we hisrelation-

But again should this

we come to the be challenged

faith this

so strongly indicated view of the

To answer

question,

as I have Historicists' to that

must move away from the torical ship person It process between

in general of

two forms

Individuality, spatial realm, view

individual German nation. latter

and the meaningful when the proved that a real camp. led

was only

Historicist to be untenable sense

of this

relationship Republic Historicist ;relationship

during

the Weimar in the organi relation-

of crisis of

appeared this

The questioning to a questioning

basic organic

of all

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ships

and to a questioning process.

of the unity

of the whole

historical

The Historicist relationship, by two types be equated often finds while

conception always

of this

limited

spatial

organic, These

can be characterized types, however, Indeed, cannot one

of organicism. with both camps within types present

the movement. within certain it other spatial the the

same thinker's as bethat

writings. longing type

When I characterize to one of the two types, than the

thinkers simply within

means that their

was more dominant The first type

works. which I of

of limited emphasized realm

organicism, political point that

will

call

corporate, spatial

character the state spirit. prethe

the meaningful was viewed For the dominated,

to the

as the

prime

expression

of the this

national type

Historicists men like

in whose Ranke,

writings

Treitschke

and Below, While person

state these an

was the most thinkers

important that their that state. "All is,

Individuality. the individual emphasis

none of

denied

was also

Individuality, as a citizen, ality" of the

prime

was on the in the frame in

individual "person-

as a participant It was in this that count

of mind that and make of

Ranke wrote: themselves their


own...

states

the world tendencies nature,

felt

are motivated are

by special

[which] of all

of a spiritual

and the nay in-

personalities

citizens

are determined,

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eradically

molded

by them.'20

Treitschke

added:

in the Juridical The state has a personality, primarily in the political In state moral sense... and secondly it is the will of the state which is expressed, treaties not the personal of the individuals desires who conclude them.... Roman law was not fortunate in its develcpment of the conception of legal personality, for...[it] assumes that a person in the legal sense must be merely an individual citizen. That is crude materialism.21 Below meant School in the correctly that noted that this emphasis on the state Prussian views. Dove's of man's historians as too relationThe out(the And

Ranke and the members of Treitschke's than separated in their

were more united same spirit, that the

Below state

cited

approvingly

Alfred

contention cultural disapproved materialistic ship, their

was the most

important

products.22 of the use

Even though of

some of these analogy

a biological the just identity of the

in describing views approached his

state-individual such an analogy.

individual side nation,

who defined

in terms larger

of goals

of or contrary the state)

to those

organism

was considered type of limited

cancerous. spatial organicism is, was

The second much like This type, the

larger

temporal writings

view,

that

monadic. Wilhelm emphasized realm von the

found Spranger, character

in the

of men like and Meinecke, spatial the

Humboldt, cultural the

Troeltsch of

the meaningful especially Individuality.

and saw and

creative

individual, prime

scientist

artist,

as the

As Helmut Schelsky

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has noted, existed sense believed activity.23

these

men assumed the meaningful were

that

a basic

normative

harmony

within their that

spatial

realm,

and in this however, they

views this It is

definitely

organic;

harmony was achieved not surprising then to the

tnrough that

individual

many of these of the the

men made important German theory cultural full

contributions

development

of education

(Bildunp),

which

emphasized

personality

and the

development

of the

individual's

potential.

Humboldt wrote:

True reason can desire no other condition for man than one in which not only does every individual enjoy the most unlimited freedom to develop himself in his particularity but also does physical nature receive no other form from human hands but what every individual, limited only by his force and his right, gives to it from his own free will to the standard according of his need and inclination.24 Troeltsch echoed this sentiment in writing:

What German Bildun seeks is...basically nothing other than...UaQ concentration and simplification by means of a collection around a distinct focal point and a greater proximity to the elementary and instinctive features of our own self. It is not a question of the strengthening of national feeling or the creation of a political sense.25 Thus the monadic was individualistic. early Humboldt, with none the type, in contrast However, with to the the corporate type, of the

exception

of the monadic of the

thinkers to the

was greatly development

concerned of the organicist

threat

state This

individual's view

potential. of the meaningful

was due to their realm, their

spatial

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faith of that

in the realm

basic

harmony between "subjective light, their

the Geist,"

"objective the soul

Geist" of the

and the In this

individual.26 was very liberal the state

monadic

individualism of Western threat of

different thinkers, to the of this organicism

from the

individualism the

who emphasized individual. group of

potential

In fact,

the monadic to

indithe it was

vidualism corporate to classical idealist

of thinkers the other

was closer Historicists

than organicist

Western premises

liberalism types

due to the

of both opposed the

of Historicism. saw to be the to basic his

Both types Western type --

what

they

individual

who sought

satisfy

own material calculus practicing

needs

and who operated and pain. 27 but

according Such a person rather

to Bentham's was not

of pleasure true

individualism, championed since

mere subjectivism. was not and ideal a true unity

The individual Individuality which

by Manchesterism the organic

he lacked such the

characterized like

an entity.

Instead

he was a mere "economic centuries, abstract man." this

abstraction, In the realm late

classical and early

economists' twentieth

nineteenth

of material

interests

and increasingly by the of society term for

relationships most damning was its lack

was designated characteristic of organic

"society." the

The

Historicists

unity.

Treitschke

wrote: the state, unlike and we will,

Anyone can see is intangible..

for himself .Society...

that society, has no single

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have no duties to fulfill towards it....Society is composed of all manner of warring interests, which if left to themselves would soon lead to a bellutr, omnium contra omnes, for its natural is toward conflict tendency and no suggestion of any aspiration after unity is to be found in it. 28 Thus in the actually chaos with eyes of most Historicists, as an autonomous seeking to give
of values physical

society, entity, would material

were be a

it

to exist of individuals

to fulfill

interests

no organic

bonds
The

them meaning
the for marketplace men than

and ethical
was was fact, society but no more pushthroughcould simply

orientation. able pull out not as to of this be provide the

push-pull

adequate of

the

objects

science. believed that

In

period, taken as of

Historicists a complete human and

distinct of of these

entity, ethical

an aspect

relationships, totality meaningful Georg

mutuality

(Gemeinsamkeit).29 the basis observed was based organic in the that unity sphere the of

The the of

relationships, realm, correctly sociology of had its

spatial Simmel

Geist.

Historicist conception wrote:

antagonism of society

toward (the

on this Simmel

object

sociology).

we hear, Existence, is an exclusive of indiattribute viduals (Individuen), their qualities and experiences. by contrast, "Society, is an abstraction. Although indispensable for practical purposes and certainly very useful for a rough and preliminary survey of the phenomena that surround us, it is no real object. It does not exist outside and in addition to the individuals and the processes (Einzelwesen) among them. After each of these is investigated individuals in his natural and historical characteristics, is left nothing by way of matter for a particular science.30 subject

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Historicists actual which Gustav continue classes organized scientific national political of state entity stood

feared would behind

that

the

perception organic

of society spiritual agreed sociology of parties interests play a role

as an unity with would and were in the of

weaken it.31

the

Most Historicists this abstract teachings material never

Schmoller to play (those

that a role bodies

while

in the in which it world.

and promoted), and learned economy science"

could

Even the

discipline

(Volkswirtschaftlehre) with a historical

had to be a "moraland ethical conception

and society.32 1919, with that the Historicist movement individualistic did not view as a

Before the true conflict crisis,

mechanistic is, Rather

thought

as a breakdown this challenge even

of the basic was seen given the

premises as an credibility was spatial

of Historicism. external force.

Marxism was not academic had arisen

of a legitimate something realm. men, not cultural successfully it but that came not also that

philosophy, outside spoke for

and positivism of the meaningful Frenchmen

Comte and Buckle for Germans. i.e.

and Englishthe German were since realm, was

Movements that of the

from within Viennese serious

sphere,

Menger, challenge, spatial itself,

isolated. only

The most

from within the

the meaningful profession

from within

historical which

of Karl

Lamprecht,

was a resounding

failure.

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Indeed,

the

Lamprechtstreit thinking

demonstrated rather II than

a solidarity a crisis.

in

German historical

At the his that tified


the

turn

of the

century,

Schmoller of the

proclaimed

in

inaugural

address

as rector scientific

University

of Berlin

Marxism had no real the


grounds

validity; from the


be the good

and he jusuniversity on

exclusion
that could as they do the

of Marxists
could not

scientists.33 and what its was good

Schmoller elite science, spatial stood

this

because

university of the

unchallenged what was

authority good within

and

indeed

meaningful

realm.34 In Weimar
Germany,

this

authority With the

in

questions of

of Germany

validity
in

no

longer

existed.35 the

defeat of the

World

War One and organic The advent

establishment seemed Republic

Republic with dis-

the

postulated

unity of the

threatened saw the

solution.

institution-

alization
the

of pluralism

in Germany,

at least

in the
for them the

view
meant

of

Historicists. democracy." institutions

Parliamentary Their formed formula to realize

democracy was the simple:

"party were

parties interests

material

of specific
of the chaotic

social
social

groups;
sphere

these

interests
of the

were

the

product
sphere

and not

organic

of Geist. action

Hence,

a state

which

was based subordinated

on the the

intersphere of

of parties

was one which

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Geist

to

the

sphere unity

of to

material chaos. the that

interests,

one

which

subordinated This was the party, Marxist, described terests. merely

antipathy by party reformist word.

toward the at fact the in

pluralism the Social of

of

the

Republic were This that which inis,

reinforced strongest while in

Democrats the Republic.

beginning deed,

remained was a world in terms the

radical, view of

And Marxism and its

society For reflected by the

meaning Marxist,

material of Geist was the philosophy

orthodox the the

sphere

socio-economic conflict amounted of to

sphere, interests. a mechanistic

which For

characterized Historicists, of chaos. Both ideas the of

Marxism

Marxism Historicism.

and

party The realm unity who

democracy Historicists was was

rejected believed

the

elitist that of since shared

meaningful and

spatial since the the that elite

an organic provided by the spatial relegated

unity the values

values, of Geist,

sphere of

then for

interpreted

Geist Marxist the and, to

spoke

entire other

meaningful hand, of

realm. this elite group elite to

theory, of

on the

role

representative held the entire that

a specific claims of spatial

interest the academic realm

therefore, speak for and

any

meaningful

were

spurious

ideological.

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The demise had been of the cultural dominated. deal with charged

of the with naturally

traditional the defense caused

political of the uneasy Historicist Historicism which crisis.

elite, spiritual

which unity

nation, elite,

feelings world

among the view preto

among whom the first time,

For the

was forced rejected its

a socio-political Here was the not all root

reality of the

premises. Still, the the 1920's. internal

Historicists perception

perceived consisted doctrine

a "crisis"

in of and,

This

of a recognition of Historicism its basic did

weaknesses

in the

at the premises. not

same time,

an unwillingness of Historicists,

to abandon the group,

One group36 the to

largest, the that

perceive

weaknesses. the

A second crucial

smallest, history

was willing was an ethical realm effect formed ceased to

abandon concept

premises, the meaningf'ul

and that unity

spatial This they group in

an organic

of valuation. (even though It is

to be Historicists the historical call of this the "crisis

remained group,

committed

method).

the

third

whom I shall focal their point

Historicists," However, briefly before discuss

who are the examining the other

section.

problems,

we must first

two groups. The first Weimar democracy this group of Historicists their remained lives. as hostile spoke to for

throughout

Below

group when he denounced

democracy

"the devastation

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and waste Its

of the

nation" the in the

(volksverheerend problems doctrine that

und -verzehrend).37 were not to an

members believed

of Historicism itself, could

due to a weakness attack from without, the

but rather be repelled.

an attack in the

They viewed England

Republic the war --

same way as they foreign to

viewed the or-

during

as something

German spirit. ganicism, around politic poem, reflects

They advocated for flag rallying

a corporate, traditional to cleanse it.

statist elements the

a program a monarchist of democratic

in order

body

forces

infecting

The following in 1920,

delivered these

before views.

an academic

audience

Let not Bismarck die within yout Don't give it up, the banner attainedl Will yourself, German landt Will yourself, master misfortunel Bismarck was dead, is no longer deadt In your soul, which awakes, 38 He arises for you, returns and lives! Thus there torical which All was no feeling of the need the theory to reformulate of valuation, doctrine.39 the Resurhis-

problems,

to rethink a part

was so important

of the

Historicist for

one could of the Thinkers

do was simply Bismarckian of the denied of the the second the iron

hope state. group,

and wait

rection

men like

Max Weber and to those they of not the

Otto golden only

Hintze, days rejected

possibility chancellor. statist

of returning However, organicism

corporate

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first message

group,

but

the monadic

type

of organicism. famous address, is spheres each

Their t"Science in

was contained

in Weber's

as a Vocation:' principle stand While toricist kind this because

"'Scientific' the various conflict

pleading value with quite in that

meaningless

of tne world other."40 (by Histhat some

in irreconcilable Hintze's position

was not

as radical he held

standards) of cultural conviction

as Weber's syntnesis

was possible, an extent that

he qualified he removed that himself

to

such

from the should it

Historicist try to

camp. "overcome the task

He wrote itself," which -the

Historicism words, the of a stanHintze that

not

in other had precipitated establishment spatial

should

abandon first for

crisis

in the

place

dard of values wrote:

the meaningful

realm.

Only the ethical will can overcome Historicism, and as soon as we are forced to deal with the ethical will, we are forced to consider the problem of value as well, a problem we have tried to exclude from our methodological discussion up to this point.... In the interests of a clear methodology, I should prefer to conceive of Historicism as nothing more than another mode of thought. another set of methodological categories.41 This group, while were highly essentially respected by their within fellow the academics, univer-

nonetheless sity

outsiders

community.42 The third group, the the first "crisis two. Historicists," Like occupied

a position

between

the Weber group,

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they

realized the

that

the

Second statist

Reich

was

gone

forever

and wrote by the disci-

rejected in 1918:

corporate

position. will one as be

Meinecke accompanied as the

"Further

socialization the also But very while

further other."43 pline were believe nation. of not

democratization, They were

inescapable to

sympathetic the they crisis did unity

sociology.44 political in the

Historicists continue of the to German

reactionaries, intellectual-spiritual wrote:

Spranger

The most interesting of the structure of the aspect of history is the coalescence of scientific philosophy of values; objectivity with a lively affirmation a state in opposition of affairs to Max Weber's which, attempt to prune sciences' role in valuation, away the cultural showed even more strongly that such a role was at the very roots of the cultural sciences. Here we agree with Ernst Troeltsch, who, in his "Historicism," called special attention to this reciprocity between historical consciousness and a living standard of values.45 Despite (either members in in their these their from of democratic the heart or convictions, simply the from which reason) Historicists view. in the they with shared the continued The problem German them aristocracy democracy....The to to refine be carried it and people all. is

Weber's

group, and

crisis world instill

idealist men's eyes

organicist how the to values and with

was of

a new Again

consciousness Meinecke:

which spiritual

united

"Intellectual

by no means values into protect the it of

incompatible our spiritual

political

aristocracy...have in order

political against

democracy, degeneration."46

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The crisis if allowed

Historicists to its

assumed full the

that

the

personality, would auto-

to develop be in accord Essentially

potential, objective

matically nation.

with they

Geist

of the between to

envisioned

a relationship life the

socio-political that sibility meaningful learning

and cultural-intellectual Germany, in which organic on the

similar prime

of pre-Bismarckian for

respon-

the maintenance realm

of the fall

unity shoulders of the

of the of

spatial and culture their

would

rather spatial

than idealist

on those

state.

Accordingly, rather than

organicism of the

was monadic personality

corporate,

and the

rescue

from materialist main themes during

and v8lkisch the

collectivism

was one of their

Republic.47 of histcry of the was assigned an

Naturally, important of history, of for the role

the

discipline rescue

in the

personality.

The task

wrote

Troeltsch, Geist, making. the values

was to awaken a consciousness to prepare the German people to provide

German national

modern decision between

It was necessary of the would past

continuity modern True,

end the new one. was

setting. the discipline within

History's needed its ranks, in the

role the

be a synthetic which specialization

specialization this

increasing always Since itself,

however, framework with not the follow

had to occur history the

of a larger problems the

perspective.

was concerned historian could

of life of the

example

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natural of to his

scientist research.

and There a new

retreat would of

into have history

the to

specific be and a new

problems dedication in the replace such

synthesis, as

union

philosophy for would

a manner entire the It old was

would

provide

a new Weltanschauuing This new world been this found new view to

German

people.48 which

Historicism, the the divisions crisis of

had

be wanting. that pro-

blocking Historicism.

synthesis

voked

Meinecke

lamented:

of individual This endless which we are pluralism values .is discovering now in our everywhere.. able, especia'lly to again us into thrust gloomy position, confusion and us helpless. is Individuality leave Everything following its own laws, is flux... How are we to emerge everything from this of values? From Historicism, anarchy how does one again come to a science of values?49 Meinecke's identify The of of crisis an age value, the statement problem is of revealing value asked to such in relativism themselves an eternal was man. that he as continued a temporal the to one. values

Historicists were or traceable whether

whether unchanging at best

sphere a thing-inSpranger,

a sphere

itself,

unknowable

by historical

An Eduard

an Ernst take ever, organic notion

Robert

Curtius positions

and an Ernst concerning the meaningful They would

Troeltsch this

would

all How.was an

different all

question. realm

assurmed that spiritual unity.

spatial not

entertain as they

the main-

of

spatial

relativism. organicist the

And as long conception between

tamned their ful spatial

monadic realm,

of the meaningthat realm and

relationship

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the just

entire as The it

flow always great they

of

history had been for

could for the the

remain Historicists. crisis

a matter

of

faith

--

problem defended of the of

Historicists political were unwilling

was and to within of their on the Rather

that, social grant the

while

pluralistic they

structure the existence

Republic, competing realm. v8lkisch were

Weltanschauungen The main theories true victory irrationality In other world of thrust was

meaningful

spatial and

attacks denial they

on Marxism that were these seen interests organic as

based

theories the or

views. individual at words, as the than the the

temporary of total sphere.

material of sis ment the

expense the cri-

spiritual interpreted essential

Historicists of the

their

crisis rather

abandonas its

spiritual Their and the solution

unity

fractionalization. of the individual so to did not that his proper give

remained of his

education

realization interests The to Geist, the the

spiritual be subordin-

essence ated then might

material place.50

could crisis

their not be

Historicists that might there be other whose

credence

conLention that there spatial to

an objective within was the of

Weltanschauungen claim to validity to

meaningful strength

realm

equal of

theirs. Geist, a unity

Chained

concept

an objective

of meaning
they charged

and values
science

for
with

the meaningful
the task of

spatial
discovering

realm,
what that

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objective

Geist Historicists

was.

Unwilling and reject

to

follow

the

corporate

statist

democratic

institutions,

but

also

unwilling
task of

to follow
science and

Weber's
the organic

group

and reject
of

the

ethical

unity

values,51

they
to to

remained
--

in a quandary.
to purity to the the to isolate of

The options
the university

that

appeared
from on with its society

open

them

either the or

preserve

scientific lines of might were

decisions communication reassert

validity,52 society leadership both only spatial of its refused one so

improve

that of

university

spiritual since be

nation53--

equally that for

pathetic, there the could meaningful be the the value-

abandon

the

premise

"scientific" realm and that In the

Weltanschauuni the refusing nation, the university to the

should

judge

validity. within to -never interpret of finding

recognize crisis as one world with

pluralism tinued tivism thus Despite Historicism never really

Historicists of temporal view the for

conrelathe age,

problem organic grips

a new coming that to

really belief when did.

problem. the old they relation-

their

they

could the discussions

"overcome" new synthesis, about

they All

discovered their

the

ship the total the

of

a new cultural of the of history, of relativism

synthesis present

with cultural

the

old unity

one, with

or about the

relationship stream problem

were useless within

since

they

skirted spatial

the meaningful

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realm. Since organicist to the crisis premises, large premises of segments of of the nation the were rejected proposed always the basic

Historicism, which pipedreams.

solutions based on

Historicism, were mere

these

The monadic

organi-

cist,
as

cultural
obsolete as

solution
the

of the

crisis

Historicists
statist

was just
solution

corporate

organicist,

of

their

fellow

historians. this paper,

The perceptive quickly

Karl

Mannheim, the
of His-

with
futility

whom I opened
of his Within admitted the

came to realize
on the future of

optimistic five years

statements of his failure would views the fail) which

toricism. he new would conflict gies modern the had

advocacy

Historicism, developed it. social ideolothe discipline, socially multimeaningful multiof lay Hisin This its tablets He a

doctrine's also

and had to succeed

discipline regard (the or utopias, world.

(which those ideal both His of

world of

transcended as "unmasking" on group, either in

Historicists) for

destined would and which

hopes

now rest a new

a new the the the of that

sociology

knowledge,

unattached plicity spatial plicity toricism, the belief idea has of

intelligentsia, Weltanschauunqen The Historicist

incorporated within

competing rejection

realm. was

abandoned.54 Becker,

As an earlier wrote: or "The value

antagonist of history

Carl of

a factual been

transcendental it will never

objectivity. return,

shattered;

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have past.

been "55

broken

to pieces...

.The

age of Historicism

is

112

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I was

aided

in

my research

for

this

essay

by

a fellow-

ship

from the

Deutscher

Akademischer

Austauschdienst

(DAAD).

view of the mainI mean the world 1By "Historicism," and in the nineteenth thought of German historical stream by Friedrich has been described which centuries, twentietn Georg Iggers. and more recently, Ernst Troeltsch, Meinecke, of "Historicism," Karl Miannheim, ed. Paul Kecskemeti Knowledge, G. Iggers, 1968), 2 in the Sociology Essays p. 8L4. 1968), (TLondon, of History Die

3Georg (Niddletown,

The German Conception 270. 125-127, pp. M-9,

Troeltsch, 4Ernst vol. neue Rundschau, 5Ibid., 6See especially p. 590.

des Historismus," "Die Krisis 1 (1922), p. 573. 33, pt.

Gustav Johann p. 182. "The in to

Droysen,

Historik

(Darmstadt,

1974),

7Troeltscn, World Politics," OL Society,1500 p. 209. 19)0), and

in Law and Humanity of Natural Ideas Law and the Theory iiatural Otto Gierke, (Boston, ernest barker 1&00, trans. Louis Wirth

8See Mannheim, Edward Shils

trans. Ideolo and Utopia, nd), p. 27L. (New York, History Eden and

9Heinrich Nineteenth vol. 1919),

von Treitschke, trans. Cet ur, 5, p. 611.

of Germany in the Cedar Paul (London, von 1916),

10 Georg von Below, den Befreiungskriegen p. 11. 11For Hegel, of Geist realm the individual.

Geschichtschreibung Die deutsche Tagen bis zu unseren (Leipzig, a moment entity, conceiving

was "Individuality" and not a historical against He warned

of the universal the particular, it in this

latter

way in his

Phenomenology

of Mind,

trans.

J.B.

But the Historicists p. 333. 19b7), (New York, Baillie against. warned what Hegel seem to have done just themselves was philosophy of Hegelian one of the criticisms Indeed, Die von Ranke, See Leopold it was too abstract. that 2 of Aus Werk und Nachvol. der neueren Geschichte, Epochen and and Helmut Schieder (Munich ed. Theodor lass, Berding of the differences For an account p. 63. 1971), Vienna, see Erich School, and the Historical Hegel between

113

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in die Einleit,un Rothacker, stadt, pp. 62-7L. 1972), Troeltsch, "Natural

Geisteswissenschaften p. 211.

(Darm-

Law and Humanity,t"

on Politics," 13Ranke, "A Dialogue Laue, Leonold Ranke: The Formative p. 162. Der Historismus 14Troeltsch, P Buch: Das Logische Ti Ibingen, 1922), P. 36.

in Theodore H. von Years (Princeton, 1950), Probleme; Erstes

und seine

und "Allgemeine Kulturgeschichte 15Eduard Spranger, Archir fir KulturEr5ffnungsbericht," ?iethodenlehre: vol. 9 (1911), p. 366. geschichte, 16Rothacker, Loyik schaften (Darmstadt, und Systematik p. 114. 1970), des Geisteswissen-

J.G. 17Hayden White makes this argument concerning in NineThe Historical Ima ination Herder in M4etahistory: 1973), pp. 70-74. teenth-Century Europe (Baltimore, is on this question 18The classic statement deutscher "Drei Generationen Gelehrtenpolitik," vol. 125 (1922), Zeitschrift, pp. 248-283. p. 19See, 66. 20Ranke,
p. 10.

Meinecke, Historische

lor

example, "Dialogue

Below,

Deutsche

Geschichtschreiben,

on Politics," ed.

p. 168. 1963), 84.

21Treitschke, 22Below,

Politics,

Hans Kohn (New York, pp. 54-56,

Deutsche

Geschichtschreiben,

23Helmut Schelsky, und Freiheit: Einsamkeit der deutschen und inrer Gestalt Universitgt second edition (Ddsseldorf, 1971) , p. 64. 24Quoted in Leonard Krieger, p. 488. (Boston, 1957),

Idee und Heformen, of Freedom

The German Idea

in Alexander von "Deutsche Bildung,," 25Troeltsch, Weltanschauung (ed.), Der Leuchter; Gleichen-Russwurm p. 200. (Darmstadt, 1919), Lebensgestaltung

und

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der Gegenwart Die deutsche 26See Spranger, Bildungsideal in gesenichtsphilosophischer Beleuchtung (Leipzig, 192b), P. 64. 27For an extreme statement of this denunciation of the Western type, see Werner Sombart, Hgndler und Helden: Patriotische Besinnungen (lviunich, pp. 9-16. 1915), Ernst Rober't Curti-s, 28Treitschke, Politics, p. 26. the kind of excessive arguing in 1932 against nationalism which Treitschke had represented and in favor of a cultural used basically internationalism based on the classics, the of society same conception that Treitschke See did. Curtius, Deutscher Geist in Gefahr (Stuttgart and Berlin, 1932), pp. bO-9b. One could say that this view was typologized by Ferdinand T8nnies' book, Communitv and und Gesellschaft) Soc (Gemeinschaft in which the latter term characterized atomistic, materialistic, abstract relationships. This is especially true if one accepts Rene K8nigts interpretation that T8nnies viewed the Gesellschaft as nothing more than the absence of Gemeinschaft. See K8ni, "Die Begriffe Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft bei Ferdinand T8nnies," K8lner Zeitschrift fMr Soziologie und vol. 7 (1955), SozialDsychologle, p. 407. Tdnnies believed tnat the highest form of Gemeinschaft was founded on the unity of Geist. The disintegration of the spiritual organic Gemeinschaft into the materialistic, mechanistic Gesellschaft was exactly what historicists feared. It would be to insinuate unfair that T8nnies' view was nationalistic (he saw the nation as a form of Gesellschaft), but many of the book's admirers did draw nationalistic conclusions from it. 29Dietrich Die deutsche Geschichtswissenshaft Fischer, von J.G. Droysen bis 0. Hintze in ihrem Verhgltnis zur Even earlier, (Kbln, 1966), Soziologie Ranke PP. 30-31. the same view. had basically See Rudolf Vierhaus, Ranke und die soziale Welt (Mdnster, pp. 99-104. 1957), 30Georg Simmel, The Sociology of Georg Simmel, trans. and ed. Kurt H. Wolf (1~ew York 9. This was the argument made by Below in his well-known exactly polemic against sociology, Soziologie als Lehrfach, Ein kritischer zur Hochschulreform. Beitrag (Miunich and Leipzig, 1920), especially PP. 49-57. 31See for example Spranger, Deutsche pp. 60-61. Also, Below, Die Entstehung (Jena, 1928), p. 23. Bildunasideal, der Soziologie

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32 Gustav "Wechselnde Theorien und feststehende Schmoller, Wahrheiten im Gebiete der Staatsund Sozialwissenschaften und die heutige deutsche Volkswirtschaftslehre." Schmollers vol. 21 (1897), Jahrbuch, pp. 1395-101, 1L04-1407. This did not mean that Schmoller and the Verein fdr Sozialpolitik, which he headed, were total reactionaries who the modern world. completely rejected In fact, they were reformers. But while could Schmoller accept industrialism and crusade for imDroved factory conditions, he could never accept social ss something conflict inherent in the nation. Reforms were designed to preserve the organic to whole, maintain harmony, to bring the workers into tune with the rest of the nation. Schmoller always believed that some higher unity should prevail over the divisive material interests of bourgeois and proletarians. See Dieter Lindenlaub, im Verein RichtungskfmDfe fIr Sozialpolitik (Wiesbaden, pp. 3, 90.-_ 19-67), 33Ibid. 34The social, institutional and intellectual basis of this position of moral authority is presented in Fritz K. Ringer, The Decline of the German Mandarins: The German Academic Community, 1690-1933 (Cambridge, Mass., 1969), especially chapters one and two. I am much indebted to Ringer's book, which is crucial to an understanding of the period. 35Charles McClelland writes that the historians correctly are perhaps the best reflection of intellectual trends in nineteenth century Germany. The German Historians and A Stud'r in Nineteenth-Century England; Views (Cambridge, 1971 ), p. 6. Tlhis was no longer true during the Weimar Republic, a fact that most Historicists could not admit to themselves. This lack of touch with the social and political reality of Weimar Germany was an important theme in Carl Becker's pamphlet calling for reforms in the university. See Becker, Gedanken zur Hochschulreform (Leipzig, pp. 9-14. 1920), Becker's attack caused great concern in Historicist circles. 36The categorizing that the Historicists groupings. 37Below, Die (ed.), darstellungen, 38Quoted of groups themselves is my own. I do not claim were conscious of these

Autobiographical sketch in Sigfrid Steinberg Geschichtswissenschaft der Gegenwart in Selbstvol. 1 (Leipzig, p. LO. 1925-1926), in Ringer, German Mandarins, p. 227.

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Krill, Die Rankerenaissance: 39See for example, Hans-Heinz Marcks 1962), p. 197. Max Lenz und Erich (Berlin, From Max Weber, ed. 40Max Weber, "Science as a Vocation," Mills (New York, and C. Wright 1958), and trans. H.H. Gerth "'Science as a p. 147. Also see Friedrich H. Tenbruck, and R. H3rstel (eds.), Vocation' in E. Forsthoff Revisited," Standorte im Zeitstrom: Festschrift fif'r Arnold Gehlen (Frankfurt, 1974). of Histori"Troeltsch Hintze, and the Problems 41Otto of Otto The Historical Essays cism: Critical Studies," Gilbert ed. Felix pp. Hintze, (New York, 1975), 407, 373. 42See Gilbert's "Drei Generationen introduction deutscher to Ibid. Also Gelehrtenpolitik," Meinecke, p. 282. Welt Einzelund

der Geschichtlichen Die Bedeutung 43Meinecke, der ftir die Bildung des Geschichtsunterrichts personlichkeit Berlin, 1918), p. 33.

with 4AThis Meinecke cited apparent sympathy varied. of sociology in 1916 Alfred Dove's denunciation approval as a "Wortmaskenverleihinstitut." See "Alfred Dove," Historische 116 (1916), 96. During Zeitschrift, vol. p. the disciDline Weimar, Meinecke seems to have accepted Troeltsch, "from reason," much as he did the republic. for the work of showed tre other hand, great sympathy own work can be called sociologists, and some of his sociological. 5Spranger, L6Quoted in Deutsche Ringer, Bildungsideal, German Mandarins, Deutscher "Neinecke's Thinking," Medieval
p.

on

11. p. 212.

47See for example Curtius, N. Anderson, see Eugene Also in Historical and the Crisis and Eugene N. Anderson (eds.),

Geist, pp. 16, 96. Ideengeschichte in James Lea Cate and Historiographi-

cal ESsays in Honor of James Westfall Thom'so Chicago, In fact, looking back on the 1938), pp. 367, 3d7-3d5. entire crisis and the resulting Nazi Tyranny Meinecke still See The German opted for this monadic cultural solution.
Catastroohe,
11 b.

trans.

Sidney des

B.

Fay

(Boston, pp.

19647,

pp. 115-

* Troeltsch,"Krisis

Historismus,"

584-589.
des pp. Histor223-224.

49Meinecke, und das "Ernst Troeltsch ismus," Schaffender (Stuttgart, Spiegel

problem 1948),

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50 Their emphasis was on the education of the elite rather than the whole populace. They saw the masses as the place where materialism and irrationality won their easiest victories. The masses were like Schiller's Naturmensch, material unbalanced toward natural needs at the expense of the spiritual. Thus while the crisis hoped to Historicists provide some degree of Bildung for the masses, their main concern was for those who would provide leaderspiritual ship for the masses. These leaders would instill in the masses the only valid world view for the new meaningful spatial realm. See, for example, Alfred Weber, "Die Bedeutung der geistigen Fihrer in Deutschland," Die neue Rundschau, vol. 29 (1918), pp. 1262-1268. 51This was especially difficult for Troeltsch, who was a friend and great admirer of Weber. However much Weber's ideas influenced Troeltsch's the latter writings, could not bring himself to accept the concept of a value-free science. Troeltsch defended Weber during this staunchly period of crisis, but only up to a certain Doint. See Troeltsch, "Die Revolution in der Wissenschaft," Gesammelte Schriften, vol. 4 (Tibingen, 1925), p. 673. 2 This was the position of Curtius in Deutscher Geist in Gefahr, especially pp. 73-78. 53Friedrich von der Leyden suggested that educational institutes be set up in conjunction with the university to promote the German ideal and create a German politics out of the total Gerrman Geist. "Gedanken 7ur Hochschulreform," Deutsche vcl. Rundschau, 1b4 (1920), p. 253. Histcricists n general hoped to harness the active youth movement to promote a new spiritual synthesis. The importance of establishing spiritual leadership for the vounger generation was the theme of Spranger's colleague Aloys Fischer in the inaugural volume of the Dedagogical journal they founded for this very purpose. TUnsere Zeit und die Mission der PHdagogik," Die Erziehung, vol. 1 (1926), pp. 1-7. 5L0f course many Historicists did not follow Mannheim and continued to interDret the crisis as a temporal one. Karl Heussi's contribution in 1932, although providing some fine specific insights concerning methodology, is nothing more than a re-statement of Troeltsch's position. Heussi frequently cited Mannheim's earlier essay, "Historicism," but not the later Ideology and Utonia. See Heussi, Die Krisis des Historismus (Tdbingen, 1932), especially pp. 6577.

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"Der Wandel1 irm geschichtlichen 55Carl H. Becker, Die neue Rundsctiau, vol. Bewusstsein," 38, pt. 1 (1927), pp. 113-114.

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