Johann Joachim Spalding and "the Bestimmung des Menschen": Philosophy (and Religion) as a Way of Life in the German EnlightenmentLaura Anna Macor
Online Lecture: Johann Joachim Spalding and "the Bestimmung des Menschen": Philosophy (and Religion) as a Way of Life in the German Enlightenment
In 1748 the still unknown would-be pastor Johann Joachim Spalding (1714–1804) published a small work entitled Betrachtung über die Bestimmung des Menschen, wherein a fictional I embarks on a monologue with a view to discovering the aim of human existence and the behavior required in order to fulfil this aim. Spalding adopted a quite peculiar perspective for a future exponent of the Lutheran clergy – omitting any reference to the Bible, yet including explicit quotations from the Classics. In so doing, he opened the path for what turned out to be a new way of looking at religion, philosophy and their mutual relationship, and this is to be seen as the main reason for the immense success of the text across ten further enlarged and updated editions as well as a number of clandestine reprints and translations over the whole of the second half of the eighteenth century. Spalding’s little treatise crucially contributed to reshaping not only religion – well beyond the erudite and dogmatic controversies following the Reformation – but also philosophy – leading to the well-known popular trends of the late German Enlightenment, and finally to Kant’s primacy of practical reason.
It is the purpose of this paper to reconstruct the genesis and sources of this unconventional approach, as well as vindicate it as a hitherto unacknowledged contribution to the long-standing and well-established tradition of “philosophy as a way of life”.
March 24, 2021, 7:45pm CET
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