Hermeneutics and the Study of History

By Wilhelm Dilthey; Rudolf A. Makkreel et al. | Go to book overview

6
FRIEDRICH CHRISTOPH SCHLOSSER
AND THE PROBLEM OF UNIVERSAL
HISTORY (1862)1
TRANSLATED BY EPHRAIM FISCHOFF

2. THE FIRST PERIOD OF HIS HISTORIOGRAPHY
AND ITS PRACTICAL NATURE2

XI, 104

124

The period of Schlosser's development is reflected most reliably in his earlier works. He arrived at authorship rather late. Moreover, the slow growth of his philosophical-historical perspective on the inner coherence of spiritual life—a crystallization of his studies that did not begin until 1798—was repeatedly interrupted by a practical tendency. Yet it was the latter that from the outset had to give all his works direction and color. It made his writings a dialogue with his epoch. Through this practical bent the folios of medieval theologians, the manuscript letters of the Reformation era, and even the history of Byzantine emperors and monks received a palpable relationship to his own period.

In view of his experiences in Frankfurt at the time, can there be any doubt as to the direction in which this practical orientation was driving him? The serious Christian mood and the religious interest of that Frankfurt circle eminently suited his way of thinking and his own plans; then, too, this mood conformed to that complex of moral and religious ideas of the German Enlightenment in which he lived and that he was endeavoring to deepen through Kant, Plato,

____________________
1
This is a translation of secs. 2–4 of “Friedrich Christoph Schlosser, the third in a series of four essays entitled Deutsche Geschichtschreiber, published in GS XI, 124–64. We have added a reference to universal history in the English title, because that is the problem to which the last and longest section is devoted. Pagination in the margins refers to GS XI. The essay was originally published anonymously in 1862 in the Preussische Jahrbücher.
2
In sec. 1, entitled “Lehr- und Wanderjahre, Dilthey describes Schlosser's youth. We are told among other things that Schlosser was born on November 17, 1776, in Jever and studied at the University of Göttingen. He held several positions as tutor, the last of them in the house of Georg Meyer in Frankfurt. Then he accepted a position as assistant headmaster at a school in his hometown, but no longer feeling at home there he returned to the Frankfurt home of Meyer, whom he had since befriended. While there, Schlosser taught first at a Gymnasium and then was made a professor of history and the history of philosophy at the newly founded Frankfurter Lyzeum.

-279-

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