Academic Illusions in the Field of Letters and the Arts: A Survey, a Criticism, a New Approach, and a Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Study of Letters and Arts

By Martin Schütze | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE NATURALISTIC REACTION AGAINST
DIALECTIC ABSOLUTISM

Subjective naturalism. The English forerunners. Rousseau. Hamann. The German Storm-and-Stress. Scientific naturalism. Herder. Goethe. Schiller. The "classic synthesis."

During the sixth and seventh decades of the eighteenth century, just about the time that Kant was elaborating his modification of the rationalistic system, there culminated the historic reaction against rationalism which had been developing for nearly a century. This movement is usually named "individualism," or the cult of "emotion," "Gefühl," or "imagination," or "romanticism." In this essay, the term "vitalistic naturalism" or simply "naturalism" will be chiefly used. The term "romanticism," especially in German literature, is misleading because, as we shall see, the romantic movement proper, which did not begin until about 1795, is different from the "Storm-and-Stress," the historic expression of German vitalistic naturalism, in fundamental respects.

The naturalistic movement had its fundamental motive in the conviction that the formal "reason" of dialectic absolutism is inadequate as the exclusive agent of rationality. It extended rationality, or intelligence, or understanding, to all the mental functions of human personality, particularly the senses or the world of "Sinnlichkeit," the emotions, the passions, the imagination, the will, conscience, taste, and so forth.

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