The Year 1848

Political Events of 1848

Intellectual Currents in 1848

J.W. Burrow - The Crisis of Reason

  • Dresden Uprising of May 1849 was particularly intellectually symbolic, even though it was politically hopeless (1)
    • Both Richard Wagner and Mikhail Bakunin were in Dresden, and the two would influence the intellectual life of Europe for the latter half of the century
  • The 19th century is the century of the prophetic megalomaniac (e.g. Wagner, Berlioz, Hugo, Turner, Napoleon, Balzac) (2)
  • Exile and wandering were common features in the lives of intellectuals/revolutionaries at the time (4)
    • Paris was a relatively tolerant locale known for culture, politics, and revolutions
    • Berlin was an excellent educational choice (if one was interested in the philosophy of Hegel)
    • Belgium and Switzerland were also decent choices, especially if one had aroused enough local ire to be evicted from France or Germany!
  • The "Young German" movement (8)
    • A couple of the more famous authors included Georg Herwegh, Heinrich Laube
    • Preached a doctrine of humanism, free love, neo-Paganism, and universal brotherhood
    • Also influenced by the Saint-Simonians
    • Inspired “Young” movements in other countries
      • The presence of these movements testifies to what Burrow calls an “apocalyptic sense of renewal, of living at a critical historical juncture, whose redemption would have to come, and would come, from the new generation.”
  • Hegelianism (9)
    • Motto: “The real is rational, and the rational is real”
    • The rationality in history is only comprehended when it is already embodied in the real
      • Thus the purpose of philosophy is retrospective: to understand history, rather than to plan it
    • History is a sequence of contradictions and their resolutions, working itself out to completion by its own inner logic
      • Thesis + antithesis = synthesis
  • Marxist materialism (9-10)
    • Inspired by the beliefs of Feuerbach, also touched by Saint-Simonianism (who wasn't?)
    • The subject of history is man and “real, sensuous human activity”
    • “Religion is the archetype of all distorting, self-mystifying ideology, because it is philosophical, not social and historical, and thus not truly revolutionary”
    • All history is the history of class struggles (currently the two are capital and labor)
    • The ultimate outcome of history will be a violent social revolution resulting in the emancipation of the proletariat
  • French Socialism (11-12)
    • Flourished particularly in Paris; was introduced to Germany by Lorenz von Stein’s The Socialism and Communism of the Present-Day
    • Examples of socialist authors include: Saint-Simon, Charles Fourier, Étienne Cabet, Auguste Comte
    • Socialism might be defined as “utopian schemes for complete social reconstruction”
    • Features a basic belief in ultimate social harmony through peaceful social transformations (i.e. it is not particularly realistic)
    • Incorporated the ideas of brotherly love and the natural goodness of man
    • Prevalent in many flavors of socialism was a concept akin to Marx's proletariat: the cult of “the People,” a sentimentally-conceived “essence of humanity”
  • George Sand & her novels (13)
    • Sand's works were extraordinarily popular; Bakunin called her a prophetess of humanity and said that reading her made him feel a better man
  • In France the “apocalyptic utopian mentality” of the time was mixed with a sense of déjà vu, weariness, and cynicism (14)
    • Due to their constant recurrence and failure to bring much real change, French people increasingly viewed their revolutions as theatrical events
    • For a sense of the disillusionment, see the novels of Gustave Flaubert
  • England too experienced a sense of world weariness around the 1840s-50s (16-18)
    • Matthew Arnold, Arthur Hugh Clough, and James Anthony Froude for instance, chafed at the rigidity and oppressiveness of society and the university system (in this case the university was Oxford)
    • In England a good deal of conflict between the old and young was inspired by religion - the universities were tightly associated with the Church of England
      • David Friedrich Strauss’s scholarly critique of the New Testament, popular with the new generation, dismissed the miraculous elements in Christianity as mere popular legends (no wonder it was banned by university authorities!)
  • Bohemianism (19)
    • Featured a hatred of comfortable bourgeoisie values/lifestyle, rather celebrating the carefree existence of the student-and-artist
      • Tied to the renunciation of middle class values was the acceptance of copious amounts of both drinks and women
    • For most men however, Bohemianism was only a stage in life en route to later, adult responsibilities
  • Thomas Carlyle (22)
    • Intellectually a part of the 1st half of the century, but nevertheless very influential for the time in question
      • Inspired at one point or another Ruskin, William Morris, John Stuart Mill, Disraeli, Clough, and Froude
    • In Amours de Voyage Carlyle epitomizes the sense of rootlessness and lack of a sense of purpose of the leisured class
  • John Stuart Mill – Utilitarianism
    • “The greatest good for the greatest number of people”
  • Giuseppe Mazzini (23) & the Young Italy Movement
    • Core belief: love of humanity, with nationalism being but one part of this idea
    • Mazzini (curiously) called for a mix of both universal human emancipation as well as the maintenance of a priveleged small elite
    • In creating the Young Italy society, Mazzini was inspired by occult groups, particularly the Freemasons
  • In general European idealism declined after the 1840s (24)
    • Revolutionaries, particularly in Germany and Italy, recognized that they could either fight for a unified country under an autocrat, or they could fight for the emancipation of the working class and ignore nationalistic politics (but they couldn't do both)
    • After the 40s the philosophy of Schopenhauer, who taught renunciation from a world he viewed as entirely evil, began to replace utopian socialism
  • “For some, … the years 1848-9 marked a kind of watershed in their intellectual and sometimes their personal lives” (for examples, see page 26)
    • (In music this can be seen as the comparison of Wagner’s Feuerbachian character of Siegfried with the Schopenhauerian Wotan)
  • Charles Darwin, in 1848, discovered the existence of bisexualism in barnacles (30)

A.J.P. Taylor - "The Opening of an Era: 1848" (the introduction to The Opening of an Era: 1848, François Fejtö, editor)

  • "Movement, and a conviction that Utopia could be reached, were the essence of 1848: underlying these was a faith in the limitless goodness of human nature" (xv)
    • "Reason took the place of respect; and self interest the place of tradition"
  • The revolutions of 1848 were a mixture of new political and economic ideals
    • "The right to work was a protest as much against social inequality as against harsh living condition" (xvii)
    • The social revolutionaries of 1848 "took up economic grievances principally to add greater force to their political demands"
    • "Continental socialism, which had its origins in 1848, wrote off political democracy as bourgeois and accepted the doctrine that violence and intolerance were a small price to pay for social change"
  • Intellectually, the revolutionaries were children of the Enlightenment: confident in human nature and the natural goodness of man (xviii)
  • The assumption that reason alone was adequte as the guide for human affairs (xix)
  • A change in the view towards private property (from being essential for liberty to becoming the reason for oppression) between the years 1776 and 1848 (xx)
    • The bourgeoisie went from being the revolutionary class to being the conservative oppressors
  • Nationalism, born in the French Revolution, was first thought of as being unique to the French, as no other European state was a "nation" (guess who thought that!) (xx)
    • In the 19th century however, other countries used a variety of criteria to define themselves as "nations" (the Germans used language, the Poles and Magyars landed nobility, the French their birth, the Italians their culture, the Slavs ethnography and philology and a fear of Germany)
  • "The 1848 Revolutions dispelled the utopian dreams of the 18th century rationalists" (xxii)
  • "The liberals, the moderate men, shirked the problem of authority; it was faced by the radicals. They found a substitute for tradition in 'the religion of humanity,' just as their nationalism took the place of their decayed loyalty to kings. Above all they found a substitute for the hereditary governing class in themselves." (xxiii)
    • No great radical leader ever managed to get elected by popular consent
  • The original revolutionary outbreaks had no recognized, famous leaders; the true heroes of the revolutions were the masses (xxiv)
    • Ultimately the masses looked for a "superman" which would be an extension of themselves (e.g. Napoleon III, but even more so Hitler)
    • "The historic task of the intellectuals was to sever mankind from its roots and to launch it on its career of movement" (xxv)

Definitions of the "isms"


Capitalism is an economic system in which most means of production are privately owned, and goods, services, and income are distributed through markets. Capitalism is also called free-market or free-enterprise economy. Under laissez-faire capitalism, the state is separated from the economy just as it is from religion.

Proponents of capitalism believe that it can create social harmony through every individual's pursuit of self-interest. Theoretically, in allowing people and businesses to act unhampered by government regulations, capitalism causes wealth to be created in the most efficient manner possible, which ultimately raises the standard of living, increases economic opportunities, and makes available an ever-growing supply of products for everyone. In other words, as one person creates wealth for himself or herself, that person simultaneously creates wealth and opportunities for everyone else—as the rich become richer, the poor become richer too.

Detractors of capitalism contend that it exploits a large portion of society for the sake of a small minority of wealthy individuals. Supporters counter that a properly functioning capitalist system actually prevents exploitation and that in fact, government regulation of labor is what causes problems; it prevents individuals from living for their own sake. There should be no worker exploitation in a purely capitalist society, capitalists argue, because all workers are free to choose their employers. (It should be noted, however, that supporters of capitalism do not consider a job that does not completely satisfy a worker to be "exploitation"; in capitalist theory, exploitation only occurs when someone is physically forced to work against his or her will.) Moreover, in a capitalist regime, because employers are competing for workers, it is in the economic self-interest of employers to provide higher wages and better working conditions for their employees, lest they lose them to a competitor.

In a properly functioning free market, all businesses are competing with one another for profit, which should prevent any one of them from gaining power over the entire field. Only a business that was vastly better than its competition could win a monopoly for itself, and that would be an acceptable result of superior business skills. According to economist Adam Smith and other supporters of capitalism, coercive monopolies can only occur when the government grants special treatment to one business in the form of franchises, subsidies, or tariffs. One of capitalists' main criticisms of socialism is that the government controls all means of production and thus creates the ultimate form of monopoly.

Individual rights must always be upheld in order for capitalism to function effectively; that means that the majority must not be able to violate the rights of the minority. A constitutionally limited democracy, like that of the United States, is fairly effective at keeping a capitalist economic system working smoothly. Systems of government that concentrate power in the state at the expense of individual freedom, including communism, socialism, and fascism, are incompatible with laissez-faire capitalism.


A movement in Great Britain during the 1830s and 1840s, Chartism was the first independent working-class movement in the world. The political platform, called the People's Charter, included six demands: annual parliaments, universal male suffrage, elimination of the property qualification for members of the House of Commons, vote by secret ballot, equal electoral districts, and salaries for members of the British Parliament. All but annual parliaments were enacted into law.

Classical Liberalism

Liberalism is a political ideology based on support for civil rights, tolerance for social and political change, and the advocacy of government action to improve individuals' welfare.


Communism is an international political movement and a political and economic system that has its origins in the philosophy of Karl Marx. Also referred to as Marxism, it is a socialist philosophy that calls for an international revolt of workers against capitalism to bring about a workers' utopia. Communism has split into various ideologies, including the Marxist-Leninist philosophy behind the founding of the Soviet Union and the Maoist philosophy that served as the basis for the revolution in China. The Soviet Union was long the leader of the communist world. Now, the only remaining communist major power is the People's Republic of China, though some smaller nations maintain communist systems.

The term communism originated among secret revolutionary groups in Paris in the 1830s and referred both to a political movement of the working class in a capitalist society and to a projected form of society that would come into existence after the workers came to power through class struggle. Marx and Friedrich Engels brought these ideas to a wider audience in 1848 when they published a pamphlet called the Communist Manifesto. Marx did not invent the idea of communism, but he did give it new meaning. In a communist society, the community owns political and economic power, and the wealth is distributed among the people according to need. Marx went one step further. He said that communism was destined to take over the nations of the world based on his reading of history, and he called for the "workers of the world to unite" to overthrow their capitalistic enslavement. Marx's following was small at first but grew as the 19th century progressed.


Democracy refers to government by the people—of one person, one vote—rather than the rule of a single individual (monarchy) or a small group (aristocracy). The United States used a system of indirect, or representative, democracy rather than direct democracy.

N.B. For the purposes of the 1848 Revolutions, "democracy" was generally understood as more or less universal male suffrage.

The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment was a cultural and philosophical movement that grew out of new methods of inquiry. The basic premise of the Enlightenment was the superiority of reason. In their scientific reasoning, Enlightenment intellectuals challenged traditional Christianity by opposing the teachings and dogma of the Catholic Church. Enlightenment thinkers also contested the divine right of kings, and their writings inspired both the American Revolution and the French Revolution. In sum, many scholars consider the Enlightenment to be a liberation of the human mind.

The Enlightenment had its origins in England in the 17th century and moved to the European Continent during the 18th century. Although the Enlightenment was eventually centered in Paris, it was truly an international movement. Enlightenment thinkers believed that humans were good yet perfectible. They also advocated religious tolerance and equality before the law. In addition, they believed in social and scientific progress. Above all, they embraced people's power to reason. Questioning superstitious ignorance by using the new scientific methods implemented during the scientific revolution became the norm. This new world view soon gained followers through the literary output of Enlightenment authors, and those writers and followers helped to instigate radical developments in philosophy, art, and politics.

Enlightenment thought was rooted in classical antiquity: ancient Greek and Roman philosophers believed in rational order and natural laws. After Christianity began to spread throughout Europe, however, those ancient ideals faded into obscurity. The writings of Greek philosophers like Aristotle remained unknown to European scholars until the 12th century, when they began to be translated into Latin after European contact with the city of Constantinople. Church authorities, fearful of losing their power, tried to suppress the teachings of Greek philosophy through censorship, but they ultimately failed.


The feminist movement, also called the women's movement, describes a long period of activism on behalf of the rights and interests of women. The movement has been especially important in the past two centuries, when women around the world first began to join together to express their desires and needs for social changes to reach their goals. Feminists have campaigned for other movements as well, and they have viewed those changes to secure rights for others as victories for themselves. For example, the success of women in leadership roles in the abolition movement prepared men and women alike to see women as leaders, thinkers, and writers who deserve respect.

During the 1640s, Margaret Cavendish became one of the first women to criticize the treatment of women in England, and she laid the foundation for later feminists. Feminism since has frequently been divided by historians into two separate and distinct phases, which are labeled "waves." The first wave focused for the most part on political rights. One of the earliest movements for women's rights occurred during the French Revolution, when the women of Paris demonstrated in favor of issues of importance to them. Olympe de Gouges, in particular, published The Rights of Women (1791), a short work containing the Declaration of the Rights of Woman and of the Female Citizen. In England the following year, Mary Wollstonecraft also published an argument for political rights for women. Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman described the psychological and economic damage done to women by their forced dependence on men and their exclusion from public life.

Feminists continued from those beginnings to work on a variety of issues. The early feminists perceived the right to vote and participate in political affairs as the most pressing and obvious issue for women. Once they achieved political equality, they expected that other benefits would flow to them. Early women's rights advocates were largely upper- and middle-class women with liberal views. They joined other reformers in such issues as the abolition of the slave trade and temperance. Early British feminists especially supported the principles of Chartism, a political reform movement. Women soon began to assume more leadership roles in such movements, which prepared themselves and society for more women leaders. Their methods usually included public speeches, writing and distributing pamphlets, and lobbying efforts. In mid-19th-century Great Britain, for example, Josephine Butler campaigned against the Contagious Diseases Act, while Barbara Bodichon worked for a Married Women's Property Act. In Greece, Sappho Leontias pushed for education reforms because she believed that education would improve women's lives.

The Revolutions of 1848 in France provided a new forum for women thinkers to express their ideas. During the upheaval, feminists like writer and political activist Jeanne Deroin allied with socialists by tying the right to work to the right to vote. In Germany, novelist Louise Otto-Peters helped establish the country's feminist movement by writing about political emancipation for women. She also became active during the revolutions. Otto-Peters edited a radical newspaper and served as president of the first German women's organization. She preached moderation in women's demands during her later years but remained an inspirational figure for feminists in Germany.


Nationalism is generally regarded as a condition of loyalty to one's own nation and its interests. The term "nation" in this sense can mean a recognized nation-state or any people living within a definable, geographical area who share a common language and common aspirations for an independent state.

Oppression from a foreign state was often the deciding factor in uniting a nation, leading to the development of a nation-state. During the 1820s, the dominance of the Ottoman Empire helped provoke Greek nationalism through a shared history, language, and desire for freedom from the Ottoman Empire. The Greek War of Independence united the ancient peoples of Greece in a single nation-state for the first time. However, unification against a common enemy did not always remain a unifying factor after the establishment of a state. During the American Revolution, unification against Great Britain took precedence over the differences among the colonies, but soon after, separate national or regional identities emerged between the North and the South, resulting in the American Civil War.

The two largest nationalist movements of the early 19th century, in Italy and Germany, were based largely on the belief that a common language constituted a nation. After the Congress of Vienna reasserted the rule of the Austrian Habsburg dynasty over Italy, the desire for unification and the deposition of the Austrians resulted in several unsuccessful revolts during the 1820s and 1830s. The Italian's desire for the resurgence of their culture became known as risorgimento nationalism, exemplified by Giuseppe Mazzini's founding of Young Italy in 1831. Young Italy was intended to develop a sense of nationalism throughout the country, building on the Italians' enmity for Habsburg rule. However, like in the United States, regional conflict in Italy furthered the conflict of nation and state, as Massimo d'Azeglio, prime minister of Piedmont, supposedly stated: "We have made Italy: now we must make Italians." Although the concept of Italian nationality has been criticized for using language as the only common bond, a cultural link was established through identification with the history of ancient Rome, and Italian unification was completed in 1861.

As early as 1813, German philosopher Ernst Moritz Arndt called for the unification of the "whole of Germany as far and as wide as the German tongue is heard." The German Confederation was created in 1814 to unite the German-speaking people of Europe. The confederacy was an alliance of separate German nations, dominated by rivals Austria and Prussia. Complete German unification was interrupted by the Revolutions of 1848 and the political resistance of the Hungarian Magyars in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Under the leadership of Otto von Bismarck, Prussia defeated Austria in the Austro-Prussian War to bring the northern states under its control, and it defeated France in the Franco-Prussian War to bring the southern German states under its control. Prussia's victory over France created the German Empire in 1871 and fueled German nationalism.

N.B. In the latter 19th century nationality increasingly came to be viewed in terms of the concept of "race."

Young Italy

Young Italy was founded by Giuseppe Mazzini as a secret society to work for Italian unification. His goal was to spread the message of democratic nationalism among the Italian people. To do so, he believed that they needed education in what liberal democracy was and aid in developing a sense of nationalism. Young Italy successfully spread Mazzini's message throughout all of Italy and was instrumental as a basis for the unification of Italy in the next generation.


Socialism is a social and governmental system, based on equality and social and economic justice, that requires government intervention in economic affairs. The state, rather than individual or market forces, owns and controls the means of production, distribution, and exchange.

Socialism refers to both political doctrines and the political movement and system in which the doctrines are enacted. There are various forms of socialism, but all stress the need for revolutionary changes to redress what are believed to be moral flaws in capitalism. Socialists believe that capitalism was intended to satisfy people's needs and wants at a price, which along with paid interest and the profit motive, is immoral. Socialism stems from democracy, as the ideal of political equality is extended to economic equality. In theory, socialism is the first step toward communism. However, socialism differs from communism because it is based on democracy and ethical values and can allow for private ownership.

The roots of modern socialism are in revolutions in France and England. The French Revolution was the largest lower-class revolt in history, as the Third Estate, which included bourgeoisie and peasants, rebelled under the banner of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" against the established societal, economic, and political structure of the ancien régime. The revolution progressed into a struggle for political and economic equality, as the depressed state of the French economy spread misery equally among the peasants. The Industrial Revolution in England started with the hope that the increased industrial development of a nation would lead to economic equality but instead led to the exploitation of workers and the concentration of wealth in the industrial capitalists. Those factors led to the utopian socialist movements in France and Great Britain during the early 19th century.

For example, Henri de Saint-Simon believed that the social system of France before the French Revolution was not appropriate for the new age. Science had taken the place of the Catholic Church in the new era, and industry should take the place of lineage in determining social position. Saint-Simon's followers were among the first who viewed private property and capitalism as incompatible with the new system, and they argued against the hereditary transfer of wealth. Saint-Simon and his followers were influential on the early writing of Karl Marx.

Charles Fourier was another early philosopher of utopian socialism who advocated the reconstruction of society into cooperative communities where work was distributed on a rotating basis among all members. Fourier advocated a scientific view of society, and his economic ideas are considered to be the forerunners of the ideas of Marx. He explained his ideas when he published Theory of Social Organization in 1820, which inspired utopian communities, including Brook Farm in Massachusetts during the 1840s. Another utopian socialist, Robert Owen, believed that cooperative living could solve the problems of unemployment and poverty. He established New Harmony in 1825 as a utopian community based on the principles of shared work, complete equality, and communal property without a religious basis. New Harmony failed and was disbanded in 1827.

During the 1830s, Chartism appeared in Great Britain as the first working-class movement in the world. William Lovett drafted the Chartist People's petition (1838), which demanded reform for working conditions in Great Britain. At around the same time, Louis Blanc advocated radical social and political reforms in France. Blanc outlined his view for an ideal socialist state in The Organization of Labor, published in 1840. Later, Blanc became a leader in the socialist movement that led to the Revolutions of 1848. During this period, the anarchist movement emerged, led by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who supported some socialist principles by attacking the private property of the bourgeoisie.

Marx and Friedrich Engels published the Communist Manifesto (1848)—written before the Revolutions of 1848—which outlined Marxism and became the basis for communism, the most radical form of socialism, by arguing that class struggle was the dynamic force in history and that a proletarian revolution was imminent. The Revolutions of 1848 took on some characteristics of a socialist workers' revolution, as workers marched in the streets of Vienna and Paris demanding more rights and unemployment protection. The revolutions were prompted by economic depression, political discontent, and nationalism, but they caused a backlash among the conservative monarchs.

Although largely unsuccessful, the Revolutions of 1848 helped to inspire further workers' struggles during the late 19th century. In support of some aspects of Chartism and in response to the revolutions, many believed that the combination of equality and communality brought by socialism and the Christian principles of peace and love would produce an ideal society. However, Christian socialism was not as adamant as other forms of socialism because its leaders, Charles Kingsley and F. D. Maurice, were more intent on Christianizing socialism than socializing the world.

Main Ideas of Some Philosophers

Auguste Comte

Auguste Comte (1798–1857) is the founder of positivism, a philosophical and political movement which enjoyed a very wide diffusion in the second half of the nineteenth century. It sank into an almost complete oblivion during the twentieth, when it was eclipsed by neopositivism. However, Comte's decision to develop successively a philosophy of mathematics, a philosophy of physics, a philosophy of chemistry and a philosophy of biology, makes him the first philosopher of science in the modern sense, and his constant attention to the social dimension of science resonates in many respects with current points of view. His political philosophy, on the other hand, is even less known, because it differs substantially from the classical political philosophy we have inherited.

One quickly notices the gap between the meaning that ‘positivism’ had for Comte in the 19th century and the meaning that it has come to have in our times. Thus, contrary to what is usually thought, Comte's positivism is not a philosophy of science but a political philosophy. Or, if one prefers, Comte's positivism is a remarkable philosophy that doesn't separate philosophy of science from political philosophy. The title of what Comte always regarded as his seminal work (written in 1822 when he was only 24 years old) leaves no doubt as to the bond between science and politics: it is Plan for the Scientific Work Necessary to Reorganize Society, also called First System of Positive Polity. Its goal is the reorganization of society. Science gets involved only after politics, when Comte suggests calling in scientists to achieve that goal. So, while science plays a central role in positive polity, positivism is anything but a blind admiration for science. From 1847, positivism is placed under the ‘continuous dominance of the heart’ (la préponderance continue du coeur), and the motto ‘Order and Progress’ becomes ‘Love as principle, order as basis, progress as end’ (L'amour pour principe, l'ordre pour base et le progrès pour but). This turn, unexpected for many of his contemporaries, was in fact well motivated and is characteristic of the very dynamics of Comte's thought.

Ludwig Feuerbach

Ludwig Feuerbach, along with Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard, Marx, and Nietzsche, must be counted among those philosophical outsiders who rebelled against the academic philosophy of the 19th century and thought of themselves as reformers and prophets of a new culture. Although he began his career as an enthusiastic follower of Hegel, he emerged in the 1840s as a leader of a group of radicals called the Young Hegelians who, inspired by the revolutionary political spirit sweeping over Europe, employed the critical side of Hegel's philosophy to undermine the reactionary alliance of philosophy, State, and Christianity in Prussia. But confronted by censorship, the police, and reprisals against them in the universities they turned against Hegel's philosophy altogether. Expelled from the faculties for which they were trained, many of them became pamphleteers, journalists, revolutionaries, and independent scholars.

Feuerbach is best known for his criticism of Idealism and religion, especially Christianity, written in the early forties. He believed that any progress in human culture and civilization required the repudiation of both. His later writings were concerned with developing a materialistic humanism and an ethics of human solidarity. These writings have been more or less ignored until recently because most scholars have regarded him primarily as the bridge between Hegel and Marx. With the recent publication of a new critical edition of his works, however, a new generation of scholars have argued that his mature views are philosophically interesting in their own right.

Georg Hegel

Along with J. G. Fichte and F. W. J. von Schelling, Hegel (1770–1831) belongs to the period of “German idealism” in the decades following Kant. The most systematic of the post-Kantian idealists, Hegel attempted, throughout his published writings as well as in his lectures, to elaborate a comprehensive and systematic ontology from a “logical” starting point. He is perhaps most well-known for his teleological account of history, an account which was later taken over by Marx and “inverted” into a materialist theory of an historical development culminating in communism. For most of the twentieth century, the “logical” side of Hegel's thought had been largely forgotten, but his political and social philosophy continued to find interest and support. However, since the 1970s, a degree of more general philosophical interest in Hegel's systematic thought has also been revived.

Hegel's own pithy account of the nature of philosophy given in the “Preface” to his Elements of the Philosophy of Right captures a characteristic tension in his philosophical approach and, in particular, in his approach to the nature and limits of human cognition. “Philosophy,” he says there, “is its own time raised to the level of thought.”

On the one hand we can clearly see in the phrase “its own time” the suggestion of an historical or cultural conditionedness and variability which applies even to the highest form of human cognition, philosophy itself. The contents of philosophical knowledge, we might suspect, will come from the historically changing contents of its cultural context. On the other, there is the hint of such contents being “raised” to some higher level, presumably higher than other levels of cognitive functioning such as those based in everyday perceptual experience, for example, or those characteristic of other areas of culture such as art and religion. This higher level takes the form of conceptually articulated “thought,” a type of cognition commonly taken as capable of having “eternal” contents (think of Plato and Frege, for example).

John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), British philosopher, economist, moral and political theorist, and administrator, was the most influential English-speaking philosopher of the nineteenth century. His views are of continuing significance, and are generally recognized to be among the deepest and certainly the most effective defenses of empiricism and of a liberal political view of society and culture. The overall aim of his philosophy is to develop a positive view of the universe and the place of humans in it, one which contributes to the progress of human knowledge, individual freedom and human well-being. His views are not entirely original, having their roots in the British empiricism of John Locke, George Berkeley and David Hume, and in the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham. But he gave them a new depth, and his formulations were sufficiently articulate to gain for them a continuing influence among a broad public.

Throughout his major works and in his many essays, Mill argues that the moral worth of actions is to be judged in terms of the consequences of those actions. In this he contrasts his own view with that of those who appealed to moral intuitions. For some, these intuitions are just that, in which case they have little moral force indeed; they are simply the arbitrary feelings of approbation and disapprobation. But intuitions conflict, and we need some standard to decide which of these feelings is correct. Intuition does not supply that. There are some, however, such as William Whewell (here as in the philosophy of science his arch opponent) or Immanuel Kant, or, later, idealists such as T. H. Green, who claim that there are objective criteria for adjudicating conflicts. These philosophers support their intuitions by appeal to a moral order that pervades the universe, some sort of moral essence or objective demand from the noumenal or transcendental realm. However, given the basic argument that Mill offers for the relativity of all knowledge these claims do not amount to much; they are to be taken no more seriously than those who justify their moral judgments by appeal to “God said so”. These opponents all appeal to no more than their private sentiment: this is what I like or this is what I dislike. That fact that it appears as a moral authority gives it no superior authority.

For Mill government is not a matter of natural rights or social contract, as in many forms of liberalism. Forms of government are, rather, to be judged according to “utility in the largest sense, grounded on the permanent interest of man as a progressive being” (On Liberty, p. 224). By this he means that forms of government are to be evaluated in terms of their capacity to enable each person to exercise and develop in his or her own way their capacities for higher forms of human happiness. Such development will be an end for each individual, but also a means for society as whole to develop and to make life better for all.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Among 19th century philosophers, Arthur Schopenhauer was among the first to contend that at its core, the universe is not a rational place. Inspired by Plato and Kant, both of whom regarded the world as being more amenable to reason, Schopenhauer developed their philosophies into an instinct-recognizing and ultimately ascetic outlook, emphasizing that in the face of a world filled with endless strife, we ought to minimize our natural desires to achieve a more tranquil frame of mind and a disposition towards universal beneficence. Often considered to be a thoroughgoing pessimist, Schopenhauer in fact advocated ways — via artistic, moral and ascetic forms of awareness — to overcome a frustration-filled and fundamentally painful human condition. Since his death in 1860, his philosophy has had a special attraction for those who wonder about life's meaning, along with those engaged in music, literature, and the visual arts.

Weimar in 1848

  • Small - in 1843 it had about 11,800 citizens and 1,011 dwellings; 1859 there were 13,154 citizens and 1,055 dwellings (for perspective: current population of Tallahassee is about 151,000 citizens and 63,200 households -; 40,838 students at FSU; 16,968 students at ASU)
  • Weimar a cultural center of Germany (Goethe and Schiller [Goethe - writer, died in 1832; Schiller - Friedrich, poet, philsopher, etc., dies in 1805]; the Grand Duke Carl August, actually buried next to Schiller (skull controversy), Goethe was later placed there - 1757-1828 famous patron of the arts - writers, painters, thinkers); after Carl August died, the city went to the control of his son, Carl Friedrich; the city had some monetary struggles under CF, art sort of declined - probably best thing for the arts was that C.F. married Maria Pavlovna (sister of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia) in 1828, lots of money and a love of music and drama - sort-of patronage of the Grand Duchess
  • Walker claims that Liszt “saw in his Weimar appointment a historic opportunity not merely to revive the music of a flagging court but to regenerate cultural life of the old domains of Thuringia itself.” (Walker, Weimar Years, 7)
  • Walker calls Weimar a “museum which existed mainly to preserve history. The spirits of Goethe and Schiller still haunted the city.” (Ibid., 8)
  • So the families and supporters/promoters of these two greats still lived in Weimar, and were dedicated to preserving Weimar’s history, focus on plays; generally lived in the old part of the city, which was hence called “Old Weimar”
  • The Altenberg, however, was “New Weimar,” almost like a Mecca for students and admirers of Liszt; “they were mainly young, argumentative, boisterous, and bent on change” (Ibid., 9)
  • Liszt was center of this conflict; crossing the symbolic “dividing line” of the River Ilm every day to go to work at the theater (about a mile from the Altenberg, walking along what today is called the Schillerstrasse); supposedly calling Old Weimar the “posthumous party” (Ibid., 75)
  • Narrow cobbled streets; gabled houses; grand ducal palace (drawing from 18th c - Nicol Gromann), a large park, the river Ilm, Walker calls it “one of the most romantic cities in Central Europe” (Ibid., 91)
  • First railway line in the city was built in 1846, meaning Liszt could easily get to places across Germany - the Thuringian Railway
  • Catholic church that Liszt and the Princess attended was on Marienstrasse; in 1819 there were about 130 Catholics in Weimar, by 1853 there were about 400 - small pop.
  • The Hotel Erbprinz (Marktplatz picture c 1920, close to the Court Theater) was Liszt’s official residence beginning in the summer of 1848; when he moved into Altenberg with the Princess Wittgenstein, the Weimar Court continued to address anything to Liszt to the Hotel Erbprinz. Just pretend like it isn’t happening, I suppose.
    • There was a law in place in Weimar, since the time of Goethe, that adultery was punishable by imprisonment, so this caused some bitterness that neither Liszt nor the Princess were punished for living together
  • The Altenberg, on Altenberg hill just beyond the city’s limits, 6 acres of land, overlooking the river Ilm and the city (watercolor by Carl Hoffman)
    • Built in 1811 by the cavalry officer and Oberstallmeister (Master of the Horse) to the grand duke, Friedrich von Seebach; enlarged in 1817 when Seebach was promoted to major-general; he died in 1847 and after several months his widowed daughter, Helene von Rott, found the upkeep of the thirty-room house too much; sold to a broker in 1848, Ulysses Stock, who leased it to the Princess; eventually bought by the Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna (we’ll get to her) in 1851 after the couple experience trouble with the landlord, and she let them live in the house without rent (Ibid., 75)
  • The Court Theatre was where he was Court Kappellmeister, beginning in 1848; 35 piece regular orchestra, often brought in helper musicians if needed from towns nearby: Jena, Erfurt, Eisenach, Sondershausen all governed by the grand duchy of Weimar; (p. 174 - top left this lithograph is from around 1840; 210 - bottom, photograph ca. 1890) (SLIDES: anonymous drawing)
    • Less like a patronage and more like an artist accepting a fellowship or residence
    • There he produced Tannhauser, Lohengrin, the Flying Dutchman
    • Destroyed by a fire in 1907 (the German National Theater stands there now)