Theodor Lessing's Philosophy of History in Its Time


Author: Herman Simissen
This study – the first full-length monograph in English on the subject – discusses the genesis of Theodor Lessing’s philosophy of history as mainly expressed in his books Geschichte als Sinngebung des Sinnlosen (1919 and 1927), as well as its philosophical implications. Lessing on the one hand vehemently denies that historians can know the past as it actually happened. On the other hand, and rather surprisingly, he emphasizes the exceptional importance of history within a culture, because of what he calls its religious function. His penetrating analysis of history is remarkably relevant for ongoing debates on the very nature of history.

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Herman Simissen, Ph.D. (2018, Open Universiteit Nederland), is assistant-professor of cultural sciences at that university. As editor of the Dutch language journal Streven he published on a variety of subjects in history, philosophy, contemporary Dutch literature, and classical music.

1 Introduction
 1 A Philosopher and His Reputation
 2 Historiography
 3 Approach and Aims

2 ‘Ein Aus Eignem Blut Gereiften Weltsystem’
 1 Childhood and Schooldays
 2 Wandering Years, and Back to Hanover
 3 Turning for Philosophy
 4 Philosophy of Need: Notes towards a Reconstruction

3 ‘Et Si Omnes, Non Ego’
 1 “The Spirit of 1914”
 2 German Intellectuals and the “Spirit of 1914”
 3 Justifying the War Historically
 4 Theodor Lessing on the Great War

4 ‘Aber Wir Benötigen Geschichte, Um Geschichte Zu Machen’
 1 Preliminary Observations on History
 2 Lessing’s Critique of Historical Reason
 3 Epistemological Questions
 4 Psychological Questions
 5 History as an Ideal
 6 Conclusion

5 ‘Den Früheren Auflagen Gegenüber Ein Völlig Neues Werk’
 1 What is History?
 2 Historian of Hanover
 3 Reply to His Critics
 4 A New Light on His Own Writings
 5 Pre-logical Reflections
 6 Logical Reflections
 7 Para-logical Reflections

6 ‘Es Wird Zum Denken Anregen’
 1 Geschichte als Sinngebung des Sinnlosen Reviewed
 2 Lessing’s Philosophy of History Discussed


All interested in philosophy of history, and anyone concerned with the political and cultural history of Germany in the first half of the twentieth century.