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Ernst Troeltsch's History of the Philosophy of History ROBERT J. RUBANOWICE WHEN ERNSTTROELTSCHDIEDin Berlin in 1923 he left behind a considerable amount of suggestive material on the nature and objectives of the philosophy of history. Unfortunately for his readers, Troeltsch never assembled these suggestions into a coherent system . At his untimely death at age fifty-seven he was still in the process of articulating and refining his thoughts on the subject. Nevertheless, although his scholarly work overall remained incomplete, in what he did produce one can clearly detect the dominant outlines of the philosophical scheme he had in mind.2 One might not necessarily agree with Kurt Kesseler's appraisal that "Troeltsch was the greatest German philosopher of history since the days of Hegel," but Troeltsch's stature is remarkable, and his thought--though perhaps not of genius proportions--is eminently typical of turn-of-the-century German philosophy of history.3 Troeltsch is an extremely representative figure of early twentiethcentury European intellectual life in other areas as well: in church history, theology, the sociology of religion, historicism, and pofitical analysis. In the secondary literature on Troeltseh's philosophy of history, the subject before us now, I have observed at least three different perspectives or approaches, frequently in combination. I would like to suggest a fourth possibility here. First, attention has been given to the genesis of Troeltsch's mature philosophy of history out of his earlier writings as a theologian, church historian, and sociologist of religion. Troeltsch's Berlin colleague, Friedrich Meinecke, believed that "the theologian in him was never completely extinct as a philosopher of history.''4 Walter Bodenstein referred to Troeltsch as "a frustrated theologian in philosopher's disguise," and further remarked that "Troeltsch's philosophy of culture is nothing else than a secularized form of the theology of his preceding perltd . ''5 Sound evidence is available for this view. After all, before 1915 when joining the 1 The substance of this paper is a portion of a more extended work in progress amounting to an intellectual biography of Troeltsch. 2 See, for example, Wilhelm Schenk, "Ernst Troeltsch's Conception of History," Dublin Review , CCXlV (1944), 25-34; K. T. Henderson, "Troeltseh's Philosophy of History," Australasian Journal of Psychology, III (1925), 254--264;E. W. Lyman, "Ernst Troeltsch's Philosophy of History ," Philosophical Review, XLI (1932), 443-465; W. E. Fort, Jr., "Troeltsch's Theory of History ," The Personalist, XXVIII (1947), 59-71; Otto Hintze, "Troeltsch und die Probleme des Historismus" (1927), in Soziologie und Geschichte, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, II (G/Sttingen, 1964), 323-373; and the recent longer treatment by Eckhard Lessing, Die Geschichtsphilosophie Ernst Troeltschs (Hamburg, 1965). a "Ernst Troeltsch als Geschichtsphilosoph," Monatsschrift fiir h6here Schulen, XXIII. J., 3.-4. Heft (Mtlrz-April, 1924), 87. 4 "Ernst Troeltsch und das Problem des Historismus" (1923), in Zur Theorie und Philosophic der Geschichte, Werke, IV (Stuttgart, 1959), 369. 5 Neige des Historismus (Berlin, 1959), pp. 207, 187. [79] 80 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY Philosophical Faculty at the University of Berlin, where he came to preoccupy himself with problems in the philosophy of history, Troeltsch had taught and written voluminously for twenty years on the Theological Faculty at the University of Heidelberg.6 Second, attention has been focused directly on Troeltsch's mature philosophy of history itself, scrutinizing principally its two major divisions, which Troeltsch himself labeled the "formal logic of history" and the "material philosophy of history.''7 The former was a guide to the nature of historical thinking and contained elevens principal categories of historical logic, the most important of which were "individuality" and "development .''s Sometimes technically called critical philosophy of history,~ here Troeltsch heavily emphasized the need for making explicit one's controlling assumptions in understanding historical analysis. The material philosophy of history combined Troeltsch's views on Europeanism, axiology, historical periodization, the nature of universal history, and the need for a contemporary cultural synthesis. Largely speculative in nature, the ultimate aim of his material philosophy of history was to be in effect a guide for a perplexed , troubled, turn-of-the-century world undergoing a severe crisis in values. No extant philosophy of history, incidentally, had yet met all of Troeltsch's requirements...


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