Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Unamuno, Schleiermacher, Humboldt: A Question of Language

Academic journal article Hispanic Review

Unamuno, Schleiermacher, Humboldt: A Question of Language

Article excerpt

The impact of German philosophical traditions on modern Spain is well known. Two influences in particular have drawn the attention of scholars: that of Krausism on Spanish education, and that of Idealism on Ortega y Gasset. But the influence of German hermeneutics on Spanish thinkers and writers by and large remains to be studied. In the case of Miguel de Unamuno, much has been made of his reading of Hegel, and too little of some other German philosophers. One of these is Friedrich Schleiermacher (17681834), who was, strictly speaking, a theologian, but who is today regarded as the prime promoter of modern hermeneutics.1

Schleiermacher is mentioned a couple of times in passing in Del sentimiento tràgico de la vida, and there are a further dozen or so references to him in Unamuno's essays and private correspondence. These references go back to the early 1890s, and although they are not very specific - no single title is given - they do indicate that Unamuno came across Schleiermacher long before he started writing on religious philosophy. Unfortunately, Unamuno's library does not help; only two minor works by Schleiermacher are to be found there. But as Nelson Orringer has surmised in his Unamuno y los protestantes liberales, many books on Protestant theology (Luther, Calvin, etc.) that Unamuno must have read are not in the library. Unamuno was subjected during the 1940s and early 1950s to a sustained denunciation and denigration by the Archbishop of Salamanca, Enrique Pía y Deniel (later Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of the Church in Spain), by the Archbishop of the Canaries, Monsignor Pildain, by the Church hierarchy in general, and by the Church's vanguard troops, the Jesuits, and their magazine Razón y Fe. This campaign finally persuaded the Pope in 1957 to follow the example of Archbishop Pía y Deniel and place Del sentimiento tràgico de la vida and La agonía del cristianismo on the Roman Index (to the enormous delight of Razón y Fe). Given this relentless campaign, the disappearance of theology books from Unamuno's collection is no surprise.2 In their indispensable catalogue An Unamuno Source Book, Mario J. and Maria Elena Valdés estimated that fully one third of Unamuno's library disappeared some time after his death.

That Unamuno knew at least some of Schleiermacher's output is beyond doubt, but it would make a difference whether he read only his theological writings or his hermeneutics handbook as well. In the first case, the influence is more likely to be seen in Del sentimiento trágico de la vida and some religiously oriented essays, and would be more easily traceable, whereas the influence of Schleiermacher's hermeneutics would be far more insidious and be reflected much less obviously but much more widely.3 Now some of Unamuno's references to Schleiermacher in his correspondence situate the German thinker in a theological context, as when he says in a letter of 1901 or 1902 to Federico Urales, "a lo que realmente he vuelto es a cierto cristianismo sentimental, algo vago, al cristianismo llamado protestantismo liberal, al de los Baur, Harnack, Ritschl, y la tan simpática escuela francesa de Renan, Réville, los dos Sabatier, Stapfer, Menegoz, etc., a la dirección que marcó Schleiermacher" (Obras completas 9: 817). But some other references seem to suggest a wider context. As early as 1892 he is writing to his friend Pedro Mugica, "Me dice usted que acude a fuentes alemanas. Indudablemente. Aunque creo que Alemania está a menos altura de capacidad que en los gloriosos tiempos que corren entre Kant, Goethe, Schiller, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Schleiermacher, etc." (Cartas inéditas 168). Here we notice that Schleiermacher is mentioned alongside philosophers and imaginative writers, not theologians. And in 1900, in a letter to his young friend Bernardo González de Candamo, he writes, "Cada día estoy más satisfecho de los años que llevé estudiando metafísica y psicología, y de mis lecturas de todo género de ciencias . …

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