Between “Bildung” and “Wissenschaft”: The 19th-Century German Ideal of Scientific Education
Without a doubt, the most influential concept in German university history is that of the “unity of teaching and research”.
By Dr. Bas van Bommel
Lecturer in Literary History
Prior to the 19th century, poetry, rhetoric, historiography and moral philosophy were considered particularly valuable to humane education, as they transmitted knowledge of beauty, goodness and truth. These so-called “fine sciences” (“schöne Wissenschaften”) were discredited by Immanuel Kant, who no longer recognised values as objects of scientific knowledge. Kant advanced an ideal of “rigorous science” entailing a novel concept of “scientific education” (“wissenschaftliche Bildung”): through methodically exploring the harmonious totality of human knowledge, the human mind would take on a correspondingly harmonious form. In the course of the 19th century, the disciplinary differentiation and specialisation that resulted from the new concept of rigorous science proved ever more difficult to reconcile with the educational ideal that had once been its motivating force.
Mathematics and the natural sciences have worked their way up to unsuspected heights, and … acquired a classicism that can almost compete with the aesthetic classicism of ancient literature.
Without a doubt, the most influential concept in German university history is that of the “unity of teaching and research” (“Einheit von Lehre und Forschung“). From the late 19th century onwards, university foundations and reforms both in and outside of fEurope have been inspired by the – originally German – idea that universities should not only aim at transmitting knowledge by means of education, but also at increasing it by way of scientific research. In our time, the integration of teaching and research within institutions for higher education is still widely pursued and commonly regarded as the central legacy of the German university.
The conceptual integration of teaching and research is well known to have been ultimately accomplished by Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767–1835), who was the leading executive of the Prussian university reform in 1809/1810.2 Humboldt aimed to give research a permanent place at the university, not only because he considered it a constitutive part of scientific practice, but also, and more importantly, because he regarded research as being of vital importance to achieve the highest end of all education: “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”).3 This Humboldtian belief in the close connection between science (Wissenschaft) and education (Bildung) was based on three different principles.4 Firstly, like the major philosophers of his time – e.g. Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1762–1814), Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling (1775–1854) Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831), Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834) and Henrich Steffens (1773–1845) – Humboldt postulated the “unity of science” (“Einheit der Wissenschaft“). He conceived of ariscience as the internally coherent totality of human knowledge, in which all subareas were assigned their proper place.5 Secondly, Humboldt argued that since the totality of human knowledge was anything but fully explored, science must be understood as a “noch nicht ganz Gefundenes und nie ganz Aufzufindendes” (“something not yet completely discovered, and never to be completely discovered”), thus underlining scientific research as an integral part of academic practice (“Wissenschaft als Forschung“).6 Thirdly, Humboldt believed that the human mind, by being initiated through scientific research into the harmonious coherence of human knowledge, was supposed to take on a proportionally harmonious and equally coherent form, which he called “wahre … Bildung” (“true science”). In this sense, Humboldt regarded science as ultimately aiming at “the highest, generally-human” (“das höchst allgemein Menschliche“), which he called the “focal point” (“Brennpunkt“) of academic education.7
This early 19th century concept of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) had a profound impact on the history of the German university. At an institutional level, its most obvious consequence was the reorganisation of the philosophical faculty, which can be seen throughout the German states in the 19th century. Setting themselves the task to represent the “unity of science”, the philosophical faculties developed ambitious curricula of encyclopaedic breadth, encompassing both the humanities and the natural sciences. No longer being mere appendages to the higher faculties, they were reconceptualised as the pre-eminent loci of research and Bildung (education): it was here that scholars and students were offered scope to educate their minds by exploring the harmonious and coherent totality of human knowledge through disinterested research. Nearly everywhere in Germany, the reorganised philosophical faculties succeeded in maintaining their newly acquired dominance for a very long time. It was only in the late 19th and early 20th century that new faculties gradually began to dissociate themselves from their unifying grip.
Yet, for all their durability, it is far from clear whether education at the reorganised philosophical faculties actually had the expected effect of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) as understood by Humboldt.8 For all scholarly interest in the external conditions that prevented the 19th-century ideal of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) from being successfully implemented, the ideal itself has attracted little critical attention. Humboldt and his fellow reformers are usually very positively assessed for having granted Bildung (education) a central place on Prussia’s academic and social agenda.9 Yet, at least up to the 1860s, the new concept of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) encountered serious competition from the still dominant classical ideal of education that had been inherited, ultimately, from Renaissance humanism. Throughout the 19th century, many educationalists stuck to the traditional opinion that humane education should primarily focus, not on the acquisition of new knowledge by means of scientific research, but on a canonical body of exemplary texts that offered aesthetic and ethical models worthy of imitation. In their view, the new model of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) was so abstractly conceived that it was unlikely to sort much effect in educational practice. The relevance of this criticism would emerge ever more clearly in the course of the late 19th century, when increasing numbers of scholars remained faithful to the concept of “science as research” while abandoning the educational ideal that had once been its motivating force. By examining its tense interplay with the traditional ideal of classical education, we may get a grip on the intrinsic causes why the new ideal of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) proved so difficult to realise and why it ultimately created the very conditions of its own decline.
Bildung in the Late 18th Century: Schöne Wissenschaften
Up to the early 19th century, only a limited number of sciences was assigned with a potential of humane education (Bildung). In late 18th century Germany, these sciences were usually named “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”), an interesting term that originated in the 17th century and reached the peak of its popularity between 1750 and 1780.10 Negatively, the “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) distinguished themselves from the “faculty sciences” (“Fakultätswissenschaften“) – theology, law and medicine – as well as from other “higher sciences” (“höhere Wissenschaften“), such as mathematics and physics.11 Positively, the “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) could be described as aesthetic disciplines, that is, disciplines in which beauty of form plays an essential role: poetry, architecture, painting, music, dance, etc.12
Within educational contexts, the “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) usually referred only to literary genres: poetry, oratory, historiography and, to a lesser extent, philosophy.13 As the classical Greeks and Romans were widely considered to have brought these literary genres to matchless heights the “fine sciences” were often equated with classical literature, which took pride of place in classical Gymnasium education as well as at the philosophical faculties of the universities.14 Apart from classical literature itself, however, the “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) also comprised disciplines that were needed for a full understanding and appreciation of classical texts, such as history, mythology, antiquities and geography.15 Although in these ancillary disciplines, beauty itself did not play a central role, they could be grouped amongst the “fine sciences” because they ultimately contributed to the understanding and appreciation of beautiful, classical literature. As far as education was concerned, then, the term “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) took on a meaning very similar to that of classical studies. It comprised both the literary texts that formed the main subject of classical education and the ancillary disciplines needed to explain them.16
From the concept of “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) we can learn that classical literature was considered of essential importance to education because it excelled in beauty, or, more precisely, in perfect form.17 As Johann Gottfried Herder (1744–1803) explained in an essay on the relation between the “schöne” and the “höhere Wissenschaften” (“fine” and “higher sciences”), beauty was of fundamental importance to humane education as the “sensory faculties” of the human mind must be cultivated before the more abstract, intellectual faculties.18 Children could best study beauty, he argued, because beauty was a concrete phenomenon that could be taught by means of “easy rules and good examples”. Thus, an intensive training in perfect form was dictated by the “nature and order of the human soul”.19
Yet, although beauty was classical education’s central point of focus, it was by no means its only objective. Like most classical school teachers of his time Herder believed that beauty was intimately connected to virtue and truth. Once having acquired “accuracy” and “precision” by the intensive study of perfect form, he argued, children could reasonably be expected to translate these virtues into moral behaviour.20 Moreover, as “beauty is just the outer shape of truth”, the intensive study of beauty would have an immediate effect on children’s sense of veracity. Herder adhered to the widespread view that “everything beautiful can only lead to the true and the good”.21 In his view, the ultimate purpose of classical education was to imprint upon the youthful soul “the eternal, inviolable rule of the true, the good and the beautiful”.22
Herder’s appeal to this “Platonic triad” is of crucial importance to understand the relation between “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) and Bildung (education). In Herder’s view, the “fine sciences” were indispensable to cultivating the three properties that above all make a human being a human being: the sense of beauty, the sense of virtue and the sense of truth. As these properties are pre-eminently human, Herder described the “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) as “sciences and exercises that cultivate [our] sense of humanity (Humanität)”.23 To him, the “fine sciences” belonged to the age-old tradition of humane learning that had been passed down from classical antiquity and the Renaissance. “The ancients”, he wrote, “called the schöne Wissenschaften artes, quae ad humanitatem pertinent, ad humanitatem informant, that is, sciences, which make us human, which educate (bilden) us to human beings. For that reason it is … best to call them ‘educational sciences’ (bildende Wissenschaften)”.24
For our present investigation it is of central importance that underlying the late 18th-century ideal of Bildung (education) with its focus on the beautiful, the good and the true, was a concept of science that did not exclude values. On the contrary, the very term “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) testifies to the fact that values were seen, not just as involved in a substantial number of sciences, but as their central point of focus. The element “Wissenschaft” (“science”) in “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) denoted a certain disposition: both the knowledge of the rules that must be observed to produce something beautiful and the capacity to put this knowledge into practice.25 Poetry, for example, was seen both as the science (knowledge) of the rules that must be applied to compose a beautiful poem and as the capacity to write such a poem.26 In the late 18th century, beauty, far from being dispelled to the realm of subjective judgment, was seen as a worthy object of scientific knowledge. Although it was generally agreed that knowledge of the beautiful could not lay claim to the same degree of certainty as the higher sciences,27 it was nevertheless recognised as a science in its own right.28
At an institutional level, the concept of “schöne” or “bildende Wissenschaften” (“fine” and “higher sciences”) was reflected in the traditional preponderance of classical literature both at the Latin schools and at the philosophical faculties, i.e., in institutions for general (non-vocational) education. Bildung (education), far from being associated with the “totality” of human knowledge, was believed to be attainable only by studying those scientific disciplines in which humane values played a central role. Only after the acquisition of Bildung (education) one would continue to the “higher” or “faculty sciences”, to which no specific educational value was assigned. This firm distinction between the “schöne” and the “höhere Wissenschaften” (“fine” and “higher sciences”) would only be shaken when under the influence of the philosophy of Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) values were gradually discredited as a suitable object of scientific knowledge.
The Kantian Turn
With his Critique of Judgment (1790), Immanuel Kant launched a trenchant and seminally influential critique on the concept of “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”), which he considered an “absurdity” (“Unding“). He was convinced that there was “neither a science of the beautiful, but only a critique [of the beautiful], nor schöne Wissenschaft, but only schöne Kunst“.29 Kant’s critique sprang from an attempt to narrow down and solidify the concept of science, which up to then had been used in a variety of meanings. Although Kant did not yet develop a consistent concept of science himself, he insisted that true science deal exclusively with knowledge that was obtainable by the application of strict methods and therefore determinable with complete certainty. “True science”, he wrote, is “only that [science], whose certainty is apodictic”.30 Thus, if the concept of “schöne Wissenschaft” (“fine sciences”) would be viable,
it should be possible to establish in a scientific way (wissenschaftlich), that is, by means of arguments (Beweisgründe), whether something should be considered beautiful or not; therefore, the judgment on the beautiful, if it were to be attributed to science, would not be a judgment of taste31
which, to Kant, was “not to be determined by arguments at all”.32 To Kant, however, it was a judgment of taste, as there seemed to be no objective concepts on the basis of which it could be decided why certain things are considered beautiful whereas others are not.33
This “subjectification” of aesthetics by Kant was of profound influence on the philosophical way of reflecting on science.34 After Kant, the concept of “fine sciences” declined rapidly. As early as 1801, August Wilhelm Schlegel (1767–1845) called the expression “almost obsolete”.35 A few years later, Hegel wrote that the term “schöne Wissenschaft” (“fine sciences”) was no longer in use.36 Meanwhile, the ideal of rigorous science experienced a spectacular upsurge. A.W. Schlegel wrote that “all science is rigorous by nature; the appearance of play and freedom, which plays an essential role with everything beautiful, is entirely excluded [from science]”.37 In his Geschmackslehre oder Ästhetik (1818), the philosopher Wilhelm Traugott Krug (1770–1842) wrote: “Art we call ‘fine’ inasmuch as it is concerned with production or presentation of the aesthetically-pleasing; science is never concerned with that, but only with the production, or rather the discovery of truth.”38 By this dissociation between science and art, realised in the wake of the Kantian turn, a wedge was driven between the elements of knowledge and values, which for long had been successfully combined in the concept of “fine sciences”.
This paradigm shift in the philosophical way of reflecting on science deeply influenced ideas on humane education (Bildung). The widespread study of classical literature, with its major focus on aesthetic and ethical values, was increasingly at risk of not being acknowledged as a true science and therefore of being discarded as frivolous.39 Therefore, defenders of classical education endeavoured to transform classical studies in such a way as to make it meet the new demands of science. Aiming to reduce the traditional focus on aesthetic and other humane values, they highlighted that aspect of classical studies which was the most strictly methodical and therefore best fitted the Kantian view: philology.
Classical Philology as “Pure Science”: Friedrich August Wolf
From the 1790s onwards, a group of leading academic philologists undertook to apply the changing demands of science to classical philology. The central aim of these scholars was to conceive of classical philology as a clearly ordered system of knowledge in which interdependent subdisciplines were all assigned their proper place and task.40 The most famous and influential of these attempts was made by Friedrich August Wolf (1759–1824) in his Darstellung der Alterthumswissenschaft (1807).41 With this work, Wolf aimed to “elevate everything that belonged to the full knowledge of … antiquity to the value of a well-ordered philosophical-historical science”.42 His aim was to produce an
encyclopaedia of philology in which, after the entire circle of … subjects covered by ancient literature would have been passed through, the scope, the content, the [mutual] linkages, the utility, the tools [and] finally the correct and fruitful treatment of each one of the individual disciplines [were] explained.43
Wolf’s aim to transform the study of antiquity into a systematically ordered whole showed the influence of Immanuel Kant, who wrote that “each doctrine (Lehre) is called science (Wissenschaft) when it is a whole of knowledge that is ordered according to principles”.44
In Darstellung der Alterthumswissenschaft, Wolf gave substance to this objective by subdividing classical studies into 24 subdisciplines, ranging from “fundamental” disciplines (grammar, hermeneutics and criticism), to specialist ones such as mythology, numismatics and epigraphy.45 Because he emphatically wanted these interdependent disciplines to form a systematic whole, he chose to denote the study of antiquity by a name that was expressive of the intended order: “Alterthumswissenschaft” (antiquity studies).46 His quest for conceptual clarity was accompanied by a quest for solid, certain knowledge. Wolf expected the knowledge yielded by a properly operated science of antiquity to possess a degree of certainty that would “often not be less” than that yielded by “the mathematical calculus”.47 He clearly modelled his concept of “Alterthumswissenschaft” (science of antiquity) on the example provided by what he called the “exact” or “more precise” (“genauere“) sciences.48 Also in this respect, Wolf’s concept of science closely resembled that of Immanuel Kant, a resemblance that earned him the reputation of being the “Kant of philology”.49
As order and coherence were amongst Wolf’s main concerns, he was highly critical of the conceptual obscurity that characterised classical studies up to his day. He strongly disapproved of the fact that the various subdisciplines of the study of antiquity were plagued by “fluctuating boundaries and an indeterminate scope”.50 Therefore, right at the beginning of his treatise, he expressed his discomfort with the conceptual and terminological confusion surrounding classical learning. Above all, the term “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) aroused his disapproval, which he described as “wholly unsuitable” to capture the nature of classical studies. Antiquity, Wolf argued, had various “sides that plainly attract by everything else than by beauté“.51 To Wolf, the ultimate objective of the true scholar of antiquity (Alterthumsgelehrte) was not to value the quality of perfect form, but “to raise one’s view to the purely-scientific” (“dem rein Wissenschaftlichen“).52
Nothing illustrates with more clarity the shift in thinking about classical studies than Wolf’s attempt to replace the concept of “fine sciences” by a new concept of “pure science”. “It would be to adversely narrow down the scope of classical studies,” he wrote,
if, as happens … by most people studying the ancient works of art, one would highlight with false disgust only the classical and the beautiful, leaving everything else to the so-called antiquity-mongers.53
Wolf complemented the traditional, exemplary perspective on the ancient world with a historical perspective, which he even considered superior to the traditional view:
The point of view focusing on the classicality (Classizität) of individual writers and works of their kind should prevail less in the true expert on antiquity than the purely historical [perspective].54
In Wolf’s view, the primary aim of classical studies was no longer to appreciate classical texts for their exemplary qualities, but to gain “historical and philosophical knowledge, by which we can get to know the nations of the ancient world … in all possible respects through their remaining works”.55
Bildung Transformed: Classical Philology as an Educational Science
The transformation of classical philology initiated by Friedrich August Wolf posed a major challenge to the late 18th-century ideal of humane education (Bildung). As the concept of “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) was discredited by the Kantian turn, educationalists faced increasing difficulties in justifying the traditional focus on classical literature as a storehouse of humane values. Yet, Wolf, like most contemporary academic philologists, did not himself consider scientific philology and humane values to be mutually exclusive. On the contrary, Wolf explicitly motivated his transformation of classical studies in normative terms. It was because he considered classical antiquity a world of rare significance and beauty that he recommended it as an excellent object of scientific study. In the introduction to Darstellung der Alterthumswissenschaft, Wolf celebrated antiquity as “the inner sanctum of the … arts of the Muses”, harbouring the “eternal sources of beauty”.56 Yet, Wolf departed from tradition by giving up on the idea that beauty can only be found in concretely demonstrable and imitable aesthetic exempla. Wolf was amongst the first philologists to conceive of the classical world at large as a beautifully structured work of art. Seeing antiquity as an “organic unity” (“organisches Ganze“) and an “animated whole” (“belebtes Ganze“), Wolf held that the “mediocrity” of many remains of the ancient world “still had a nobler stamp than modern mediocrity”, as all remnants of the ancient world were infused by a sacred “spirit that unite[d] everything individual to a harmonious whole”.57 This concept of classical antiquity as an organically structured unity in which all individual components have a proper and meaningful place was widely shared amongst contemporary academic philologists.58
This early 19th-century concept of classical antiquity as a beautifully structured unity is of essential importance to understand why the concept of rigorous science was integrated into the ideal of classical education. In Friedrich August Wolf’s view, getting sight of the “organic unity” underlying the ancient Greek and Roman world would only be possible by subjecting this world to conscientious methodical research. Only a Wissenschaft (science) that would explore all aspects of antiquity in detail and conjunction would be able to fully expose its beautiful “inner coherence”. By transforming classical studies, Wolf aimed to create a science of antiquity that was as harmoniously organised as antiquity itself. Yet, Wolf left not the slightest doubt that the ultimate purpose of unravelling antiquity’s inner coherence was to see its beauty and value. Scientific philology would ultimately generate an inspirational “Epoptie” (“epopty”) of “ancient humankind itself”, an uplifting “vision of the sacred”.59 And it was precisely this nearly mystical vision that granted scientific philology its humane educational value. It was because it confronted people with an edifying “image of a more divine humanity”60 that “Altertumswissenschaft” (“science of antiquity”) contributed more “perfectly” than any other science to “the harmonious development of the [human] mind”.61
Wolf’s transformation of the ideal of classical education testifies to the implementation of the novel, Humboldtian concept of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) in classical philology.62 Just as Humboldt expected research into the harmonious totality of human knowledge to bestow “wahre Bildung” (“true science”) upon the human mind, Wolf believed the philologist’s mind to be harmoniously educated, not by studying concrete exempla of the beautiful, the true and the good, but by exploring the organic unity underlying the classical world at large. It was this abstraction of the ideal of humane education from its traditional connection to concretely demonstrable and imitable values that created a new standard of reflection on the relation between Wissenschaft and Bildung (science and education). After Wolf’s implementation of the concept of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) in classical philology, educational value was no longer the prerogative of the humane sciences, but could be claimed by each scientific discipline that aimed to unveil a part of the harmonious totality of human knowledge. Thus the path was cleared for many more sciences than ever before to gradually enter the canon of the educational sciences.
The Educational Value of the Natural Sciences
From the 1820s onwards, the educational value of the natural sciences began to be defended in a fashion that would have been unthinkable without the Wolfian model. Karl von Raumer (1783–1865), a well-known geologist, deduced the educational value of his discipline from the geologist’s task to uncover the mathematical structure underlying geological formations by means of rigorous science.63 Geology had recently acquired the status of a true “science” when it was discovered that geological structures obey a “comprehensive, strict, mathematical law”, so that “what previously was based only on empirical measurements, … acquired rigorous, scientific certainty”.64 It was precisely this mathematical, scientifically researchable order that granted geology a claim to humane education. For this order, being of an unmistakable, magnificent beauty, pointed to a higher, non-material reality. The “admirable, beautiful … mathematical ratio” that was “revealed” in geological formations, Raumer wrote, would make students wonder at the “unfathomable depths of God’s wisdom”.65 By scientifically exposing the systematic order underlying geological formations, students would develop a sense for the beauty and magnificence of the creative order.66
Moritz Drobisch (1802–1896), professor of mathematics and philosophy at the University of Leipzig, welcomed the recent exposure of the “mathematical fundament” of many sciences, as it put students in the position to “awe at the teleological coherence” and “recognise a superhuman, ordering wisdom whose purposes … [they] will gradually understand”.67 Astronomy could justly lay claim to humane educational value because
the harmonious order, in which the celestial bodies describe their orbits, the eternally consistent regularity, touches a deep sounding string within us and elevates us – far from just letting the dead mechanism of chance unwind before us – to the notion of the supreme wise being.68
By directing the student’s attention towards a spiritual reality behind the world of nature, astronomy could impossibly be denied “a powerful moral and religious influence”.69
Also mathematics was increasingly praised for its humane educational potential. According to the philosopher and theologian Moritz Erdmann Engel (1767–1836), the “indisputable certainty” of mathematical knowledge would have a moralising influence on human beings.70 Mathematical structures are “instructive and delightful creations” (“belehrende und entzückende Schöpfungen“) that point to “an invisible realm of spiritual and emotional refinement”.71 Therefore, mathematics “like no other science” fulfilled humane education’s task to bring people closer to “the realm of morality”.72
In the early 19th century, scholars from widely different disciplines subscribed to the idea that the systematic structure underlying the various fields of human knowledge pointed to a higher, spiritual reality. Much like Wolf, who expected the positive results of scientific philology to yield a mystical vision of “ancient humankind itself”, natural scientists believed that the exposure of nature’s mathematical foundations would generate insight into the splendour and greatness of creation.73 This widespread belief that by means of rigorous science one could get insight into the spiritual world underlying the various fields of human knowledge was of essential importance to early 19th-century ideas on the educational value of science. Precisely the combination of “the marvellous and the scientifically exact” lay at the heart of the early 19th-century concept of scientific education.74
The Institutional Impact of the German Concept of Scientific Education
The institutional impact of the above described ideal of scientific education can be measured by a number of reorganisations affecting the philosophical faculties of most 19th-century German universities. Firstly, as the ideal of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) was based on the concept of the totality and unity of human knowledge, the philosophical faculties began to develop curricula of encyclopaedic breadth that included both the humanities and the natural sciences. In order to achieve this, they integrated numerous disciplines that had previously been accommodated elsewhere, for example botany, zoology, mineralogy and chemistry, which traditionally had the status of ancillary disciplines at the medical faculty.75 The first university to adopt this integration was that of Berlin, followed by other ones such as Munich (re-founded in 1826), Giessen, Kiel, Göttingen and Heidelberg.76 The unity of the philosophical faculty and of science in general was also expressed by the standardisation of the doctorate of philosophy as the highest degree in both arts and sciences, a circumstance that persists to the present day (see “dr.” sc. “doctor philosophiae,” = “PhD” or “DPhil”).77
Secondly, as the concept of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) was intrinsically bound up with an ideal of scientific research, the philosophical faculties considered it their specific task, not only to provide general education, but also to expand the existing body of human knowledge.78 The integration of teaching (Lehre) and research (Forschung) was most obvious at the seminars (Seminare), institutes (Institute) and laboratoria that were founded in great number at the philosophical faculties of most German universities. Here students were given the opportunity to acquire scientific education by actively partaking in advanced, inquiry-based learning under the guidance of a scientific specialist.79 Despite the ongoing process of specialisation and disciplinary differentiation that these institutions put in motion, the unity of science was given central importance for a very long time.80 Firstly, many seminars were initially led by a collective directorate, which gave expression to the unity of the disciplines that were taught.81 Secondly, until the last third of the 19th century, the natural sciences received little autonomous funding, which indicates that they were conceptualised as part of a broader curriculum of general education, rather than being judged on their own merits. Thirdly, well into the late 19th century, it was common for German scholars to justify scientific research by stressing its educational potential. Specialisation within a small subdiscipline was widely considered suitable to harmoniously educate the mind because the systematic structure underlying the various subfields of human knowledge reflected the overall structure of the whole.82
Thirdly, the influence of the new ideal of scientific education is testified by the fact that at most universities, the philosophical faculty lost its traditional status of subordination to the other faculties. Studying at the philosophical faculty was no longer seen as a way of gathering preparatory knowledge required for entering the higher, professional faculties, but, on the contrary, as the pre-eminent formative stage of the development of a true scientist (Wissenschaftler).83 Nearly everywhere in Germany, the philosophical faculties were conceptualised as embodying the “fullness” of science for a very long time. Only when mathematical and natural-scientific faculties began to emancipate themselves in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the philosophical faculties gradually gave up their claim of being the pre-eminent faculties to provide students with scientific education.84
Scientific Education Abroad
The 19th-century German ideal of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) was also a major influence outside of Germany. Although a German “model” was not known as such, many European countries copied various aspects of the German university system that closely related to the German concept of scientific education.85 In 1837, five years after Greece’s independence from the Ottoman Empire, the University of Athens was founded along the lines of the model provided by the University of Berlin. The first official regulation of studies, put into effect on April 26th 1837, was prepared by Christian August Brandis (1790–1867), a German professor of philosophy who worked as a consultant for the young Bavarian King Otto I (1815–1867), who ascended the Greek throne in 1832. In accordance with the Prussian model, Brandis accommodated the natural sciences at the philosophical faculty, against earlier proposals to equip them with a faculty of their own. Apart from thus making the philosophical faculty represent the “unity of science”, he also successfully introduced the typically German institution of “outside lecturers” (Privatdozenten): privately paid university teachers who distinguished themselves by scientific research and thus contributed to spreading an integrative concept of Forschung and Lehre (research and teaching).86
Russian 19th-century university foundations and reforms also took place along the lines of German models, most notably that of Göttingen and Berlin. The foundation and refoundation of six universities under Alexander I (1777–1825) in 1802 to 1804 – Dorpat, Kazan, Moscow, Vilnius, Kharkov and St. Petersburg – led to the establishment of a three-year curriculum of general scientific education that preceded higher, professional training. At nearly all of them, numerous eminent German scholars were employed, whose academic status helped spread the German ideal of science and research. These German-inspired achievements were remarkably preserved during subsequent university reforms (in 1835 and 1863), despite the significant political changes brought by time.87
In the Low Countries, German influence was most noticeable in the last quarter of the 19th century. In 1876, the Dutch parliament justified a decision to preserve theology’s position at the state’s universities – against proposals to remove it from them in view of the radical separation of church and state prescribed by the Constitution of 1848 – by appealing to the celebrated German principle of the unity of science, which was even called “sacred” in one of the parliamentary debates. Moreover, the first article of the 1876 Law on Higher Education mentioned scientific research as one the university’s central tasks, whereas before, universities were primarily seen as teaching institutions. Comparable developments took place in Belgiumfrom the 1890s onwards, with German universities serving as examples.88
In Romanic countries, the influence of German ideas on scientific education was considerably smaller. Since the French Revolution, the French system of higher education was in many ways diametrically opposed to that of Germany.89 The idea of the “unity of science” could hardly take root in a country that had abolished the universities (i.e. as overarching corps de facultés) in 1793 to make way for independently operating, specialised faculties for vocational training. Secondly, in the French faculties of letters, as in that of most other Romanic countries, a traditional, humanistic approach remained dominant throughout the 19th century. This approach centred not on the ideal of rigorous science, but on elegant, empathetic text explanation intended for a wide audience.90 Thirdly, research in France for long remained the specialty of specific institutions, such as the Collège de France, the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle, and above all the famous École Pratique des Hautes Études, founded in 1863 by minister of education Victor Duruy (1811–1894). The sharp separation between faculty education on the one hand and scientific research on the other proves that the typically German integration of teaching and research did hardly materialise in France.
Despite its limited institutional influence, however, German science and the German university played a central role in French debates on higher education in the second half of the 19th century. Firstly, leading educational reformers such as Victor Duruy, Gaston Paris (1839–1903) and Michel Bréal (1832–1915) were profoundly influenced by German ideas about university education. Duruy for example encouraged young academics to study in Germany or to examine German educational institutions. Most of these academics agreed that German science was superior to French science and that German universities widely surpassed the French faculties.91 Secondly, the German concept of rigorous science exerted a strong influence, not only on the French natural sciences but also on the humanities, which were gradually professionalised by the foundation of scientific journals.92 In the century’s last decades, ever more French educationalists became convinced that the task of the university was not only education but also scientific research.93 Even though the German university model was not concretely incorporated into the French system of higher education, then, German ideas about science and scientific education nevertheless succeeded in informing the French debates on higher education to a remarkable extent.
Of all European countries, England was probably most immune to German influences. Throughout the 19th century, the universities of Oxford and Cambridge were mostly attended by students from the upper middle class, gentry and nobility, who saw a classical education as part of their gentlemanly upbringing and who harboured little interest in the novel German ideal of rigorous science. Moreover, in England, the concept of “science” never took on the comprehensive and pretentious meaning that the term “Wissenschaft” obtained in Germany. Furthermore, state-directed, centralised reforms such as took place in Germany could hardly be implemented in a country like England where universities and colleges were still autonomous corporations that were largely independent from ministerial bureaucracy. Nonetheless, German specialised research and education enjoyed a positive reputation in England in the late 19th century. The foundation of technical colleges and the promotion of subsidised research was often legitimised with reference to German examples. The influence of a specific “model” of science or of scientific education, however, can hardly be observed.94
The Conflict between Science and Education
Despite the profound influence that the new ideal of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) exercised both in and outside of Germany, it would not withstand the test of time. The major disciplinary differentiation and specialisation that began at most German universities from the Vormärz period onwards, put severe pressure on the original ideal of the “unity of science” as well as on the closely related idea of the moral and educational value of scientific research. This pressure would be only increased by the final institutional subdivision of the philosophical faculty into independent smaller faculties from the late 19th century onwards. In the 20th century, of the three constitutive characteristics of the German ideal of scientific education – which have been discussed in the introduction – only the research ideal remained. This was a highly ironical fact, as the concept of the unity and the educational value of science had initially played a key role in legitimising the accommodation of research at the university. The founders of the “Wissenschaftsideologie” (“ideology of science”) believed in the educational potential of scientific research because they considered it ideally suited to educate the human mind in conformity with the unity of knowledge. In the course of the 19th century, however, the proliferation of scientific research created a degree of differentiation and specialisation that proved ever harder to reconcile with the educational ideal endorsed by the research ideal’s early advocates. At the turn of the 20th century it had become clear that the German ideal of scientific education had created the very conditions of its own decline.95
This paradoxical development is best explained by comparing the ideal of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) with the traditional, classical ideal of humane education. Prior to the 19th century, the humane value of education was usually searched for at a very concrete level. The classical texts that formed the primary focus of the schöne or bildende Wissenschaften (“fine sciences”) were full of aesthetic and moral exempla that students were encouraged to study and imitate. As the ideal of humane education was abstracted from this traditional connection to demonstrable exempla, this concreteness could no longer be maintained. The beautiful “organic unity” that Friedrich August Wolf aimed to get sight of by the scientific study of antiquity could not be concretely exposed, explained or imitated, but only be sensed. Although Wolf considered this unified view the ultimate outcome of scientific philology, it could not itself be analysed in scientific terms.96 It is not coincidental that Wolf described scientific philology in terms of an initiation into a mystery that would finally yield a sacred “vision” of ancient humankind. He was sharply aware of the tense relation between his concept of rigorous science and the spiritual insight that it was supposed to evoke.97
This same tension was felt in the natural sciences. For although it could well be assumed that the scientific study of geology, astronomy or mathematics would imbue students with reverence for the majestic beauty of the creative order, this beauty was fundamentally beyond grasp of the scientific apparatus that should effectuate its appreciation. Beauty or divine wisdom might well be believed to underlie the eternal laws of nature, but they could not possibly be explained or analysed in scientific terms.
In the course of the 19th century, the idea of “organic unity” that was assumed to underlie human knowledge was abstracted to such an extent that its relationship with the practice of education in the end became almost completely obscure.98 Already in the early 19th century, the fundamental gap between the modern concept of science and the humane values to which it laid claim was widely recognised, not only by people who contested the novel ideal of rigorous science but also, tellingly, by scholars who advocated it.99 Friedrich August Wolf was acutely aware that to average students, “much of the material from the encyclopaedia of knowledge designed here” (i.e., in his Darstellung der Alterthumswissenschaft) was “not more useful to the cultivation of humane Bildung than our admirable exact sciences”.100 Realising that the mystical vision of “ancient humankind itself” would only be accessible to a handful of initiates, he maintained that “propaedeutic education … for literary careers” should be confined to the traditional humanistic curriculum, which aimed at the acquisition of “knowledge of … beautiful and classical works”.101 Advocates of natural science education also often showed themselves aware of the frequent inability of the natural sciences to realise their humanistic claims. August Spilleke (1778–1841), one of Germany’s foremost advocates of education in the natural sciences, acknowledged the danger that by this type of education pupils would entirely lose sight of the spiritual world.102 Karl Scheibert (1803–1898), a particularly inspired defender of science education, acknowledged that civil servants (Staatsbeamte), who had gone through the humanistic curriculum at the classical Gymnasium had “a position much more ideal, more pure and more secured against egoism than the höhere Bürgerstand” which had enjoyed science education at the höhere Bürgerschule (secondary school).103 August Beger (1802–1859), director of a secondary school in Dresden-Neustadt, even considered it the task of science education to counterbalance its natural “practical tendency” by the “power of ideas and ideals”.104 Even its staunchest defenders, then, acknowledged that the rigorous sciences, by the absence of a direct correspondence between their subject matter and the humane values to which they laid claim, were inherently at risk of failing on their humanistic objectives.
As a result of this inherent problem, in the course of the 19th century the gap between the positive results of rigorous science and its humanistic motivation gradually deepened. Eventually, it would become so wide as to compel many scholars to give up on the humanistic ideal of education and to replace it by a novel ideal of “objective” science. Within classical philology, this step would be taken by Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff (1848–1931), who expressly aimed to altogether abandon the traditional, exemplary perspective on the ancient world and replace it by a concept of pure, self-contained Wissenschaft (science).105 Outside of classical philology, one of the first scientists to adopt a patently hostile attitude towards the classical ideal of humane education was the Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach (1838–1916). Not seeing the point of “sacrificing a decennium” of one’s life to “studying the ancient models”, Mach promoted an ideal of “objective” science: in his view, future scholars should not aim to cultivate their taste and other values, but to learn “to simply present the facts and the truth unconcealed”.106
For our argument it is crucial to understand that the final abandonment of the classical ideal of humane education in the late 19th century and early 20th century – an abandonment that is observable throughout Europe – was the ultimate result of its early 19th-century transformation. As we have seen, the novel concept of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) did initially not curtail, but broaden the ideal of humane education. As humane studies were separated from their traditional relation to concretely demonstrable exempla, more sciences than ever before could lay claim to humane values. Eventually, however, this separation turned out to thwart the very humanistic purpose that it was supposed to serve. The gap between the positive results of rigorous science and its humanistic objectives finally grew so wide as to compel many scientists to stop believing in their connection. Contrary to its initial tendency, then, the concept of “wissenschaftliche Bildung” (“scientific education”) turned out not to invigorate, but to challenge the ideal of humane education.
In our time, the tension between the concept of rigorous science on the one hand and the ideal of humane education on the other is still widely felt. In more than one way, the crisis in the modern humanities is heir to the conflict between science and education that originated in the 19th century. The legitimacy of the humanities (Geisteswissenschaften) is nowadays widely questioned because it is often insufficiently clear whether and how the humane values to which they lay claim materialise in practice. One of the difficulties scholars face in explaining this is that their concept of science does not allow them to recognise humane values as anything more than a desirable side effect of scientific practice. As most modern scholars adhere to the post-Kantian view that there can be no true “science” of values, they are a priori unable to acknowledge the study and transmission of values as one of the humanities’ core tasks. Yet as we have seen, the Kantian view of the mutual exclusivity of values and science has anything but intrinsic validity. For many centuries before Kant, scholars did not only look upon values as a worthy object of scientific knowledge, but considered their cultivation and transmission the primary duty of the humane sciences. One way to positively inform the debate on the modern humanities might therefore be to reconnect the concept of “Bildung” (education) to its pre-19th-century roots. By re-establishing more direct relations between their humanistic objectives and the actual content of their work scholars might become more successful in parrying the critique that the modern humanities have lost sight of their true objectives.
- Drobisch, Philologie 1832, p. 27. “Mathematik und Naturwissenschaften [haben sich] zu einer früher ungeahnten Höhe emporgearbeitet, und … eine … Classicität erlangt, die sich mit der ästhetischen Classiciät der alten Literatur wohl messen kann.” All quotations here and in the following passages have been translated from German into English by the author.
- See above all Humboldt’s Über die innere und äußere Organisation der höheren wissenschaftlichen Anstalten in Berlin (Humboldt, Werke 1964, pp. 255–266) and Ideen zu einer Instruktion für die wissenschaftliche Deputation bei der Sektion des öffentlichen Unterrichts (Humboldt, Werke 1964, pp. 201–209). – Humboldt was not the first to advocate the integration of teaching and research. The year 1751 saw the joint founding of the University and the Academy in Göttingen, based on the programmatic writings of Albrecht von Haller (1708–1777). Furthermore the texts appearing in the intellectual circles of Jena around 1800, which defined the role and function of a university, played a decisive role in bringing forth an integrative concept of teaching and research. See Ziche / Van Driel, Science 2011. The first university to explicitly adopt this integrative concept was the Berlin University (Berliner Universität), founded in 1810. For a good discussion of the foundation of the Berliner Universität, see Tenorth, Geschichte 2013 and Ash, Mythos 1999.
- Humboldt, Werke 1964, p. 202.
- Peter Lundgreen (Mythos Humboldt 1999, p. 147) has made the important observation that the famous formula of “Einheit von Lehre und Forschung” is not found in any text by Humboldt.
- Humboldt, Werke 1964, p. 170.
- Humboldt, Werke 1964, p. 257. For comparable insights, see Humboldt, Werke 1964, p. 170, p. 191, p. 256.
- Humboldt, Werke 1964, p. 202. The close tie between scientific study and humane education was also emphasised by other scholars who were involved in the Prussian educational reforms of 1809–1819. See e.g. Fichte (Werke 1971, p. 333): “Der Gelehrte … soll der sittliche beste Mensch seines Zeitalters seyn; er soll die höchste Stufe der bis auf ihn möglichen sittlichen Ausbildung in sich darstellen”. Cf. Schelling, Vorlesungen 1990, p. 32: “Die Wissenschaft richtet gleich unmittelbar den Sinn auf diejenige Anschauung, die, eine dauernde Selbstgestaltung, unmittelbar zu der Identität mit sich und dadurch zu einem wahrhaft seligen Leben führt.”
- In recent decades, several scholars have demonstrated that by the late 19th century, radical specialisation and vocational orientation had assumed such proportions, often within the philosophical faculties, that they largely swept away the Humboldtian ideal of “allgemein-menschliche Bildung” (“general humane education”). See Ash, Mythos 1999. Other scholars have pointed out that the image of the “classical German university” of the 19th century is largely a 20th-century construct that has been projected back on to the past. Seen from this perspective, Humboldt’s legacy is rather a deliberately maintained, modern “myth” than a concrete, historical reality. See Schubring, Einsamkeit 1991, p. 309; Hermann, Bildung 1999, Paletschek, Humboldt’sches Modell 2001, pp. 75–77; van Bommel, Classical Humanism 2015, pp. 105–109. Tellingly, the Humboldt University in Berlin only acquired its present name after the Second World War in 1949. From 1828 to 1946, it was called the Friedrich Wilhelms-Universität, named after the famous king Friedrich Wilhelm III (ruling from 1797 until 1840). From 1810 to 1828, it was called the Berliner Universität. Only in the ideological, progressive climate after the Second World War it was decided that the Berlin University must be named, not after the restorative king Friedrich Wilhelm III, but after Wilhelm von Humboldt, whose utopian educational ideals well suited post-war predilections.
- See e.g. Menze, Die Bildungsreform 1975; Blankertz, Die Geschichte 1982, pp. 101–104; Kraul, Das deutsche Gymnasium 1984, pp. 28–34; Landfester, Humanismus 1988, pp. 33f.; Hamann, Geschichte 1993, pp. 108–111.
- For a minute account of this term’s complicated history, see Strube, Die Geschichte 1990, pp. 136–216.
- Strube, Die Geschichte 1990, p. 149. Although mathematics and physics were taught at the philosophical faculty, they did not count as “faculty sciences”, as this term was reserved for subjects with a faculty of their own.
- Strube, Die Geschichte 1990, pp. 138.
- These were the only literary genres in which perfect form was believed to play a central role. See Strube, Die Geschichte 1990, pp. 147–152.
- According to Friedrich August Wolf (Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 11), the terms schöne Wissenschaften and “ancient literature” were used interchangeably. Cf. Bertram, Summarische Einleitung 1725.
- During the 18th and 19th century, these topics were usually not taught independently at the Gymnasien, but were integrated into the study of classical literature.
- In Campe’s Wörterbuch zur Erklärung und Verdeutschung der unserer Sprache aufgedrungenen fremden Ausdrücke (Wörterbuch 1813, p. 355), the humaniora were defined as “the schöne Wissenschaften, to the extent they are understood … as the ancient languages and the auxiliary sciences necessary to the understanding of the ancients”. Cf. Strube, Die Geschichte 1990, p. 150f.
- The ancients’ competence in matters of form was usually described as a competence in “Darstellung“, an interesting term that could best be translated periphrastically as “to transmit into palpable and appropriate forms”. In the late 18th century, the ancients were widely admired, not just for their ideas and moral values, but above all for having transmitted them in an unrivalled idiom of appropriate forms. The term “Darstellung” or “schöne Darstellung” pervaded literature on classical education throughout the period 1770–1860. It also figured prominently in the lemmata relating to classical education in the Encyklopädie des gesammten Erziehungs- und Unterrichtswesens, edited by Karl Adolf Schmid from 1859 to 1878. Hauber (Bildung 1859, S. 677), in the lemma Bildung, stated that more important than the formal educational value of classical literature was the fact that ancient culture excelled in “shaping” (“Ausgestaltung“), that in the ancient works of literature “the human has emerged from the depths” and “the bottom of the spirit and the heart … has entered into clear forms. That is what is really formative (das real Bildende) about [learning] classics for young people – the plastic forms of a beautiful humanness”. Karl Adolf Schmid (Composition 1859, S. 834), in the lemma Composition, wrote that by education in verse composition, students learned “to know the higher laws of Darstellungand to value the perfect form (Formvollendung) of a classical writer”. Schmid therefore described classical education as a “practical course in aesthetics”. For other references to the educational importance of classical “Darstellung” see e.g. Pauly, Versuch 1785, vol. I, pp. 189–201; Rizhaub, Ist das Studium 1791, pp. 454–458; Barby, Encyklopädie 1805, p. 22; Humboldt, Werke 2002, p. 66; Hegel, Werke 2008, p. 318; Rauchenstein, Bemerkungen 1825, pp. 7–18; Weber, Über den Werth 1831, pp. 164f.; Richter, Über den Werth 1849; Herbst, Das classische Alterthum 1852, p. 148. For entire works devoted to illustrating classical literature’s quality of “Darstellung” see e.g. Snell, Über frühe Bildung 1782; Borheck, Magazin 1784–1785; Nitsch, Vorlesungen 1792–1793; Jenisch, Vorlesungen 1803; Fuhrmann, Handbuch 1804–1810; in many works, discussions of classical “Darstellung” had a place next to discussions of modern literature. See e.g. Dusch, Briefe 1764–1773; Sulzer, Allgemeine Theorie 1786; Garve, Sammlung 1779; Groddeck, Über die Vergleichung 1788; Hottinger, Versuch 1789; Dyk, Charaktere 1792–1808; Schiller, Über naive und sentimentalische Dichtung 1795; Delbrück, Das Schöne 1800.
- Herder, Sämmtliche Werke 1893, p. 296. The essay was called Über den Einfluß der schönen in die höheren Wissenschaften (Sämmtliche Werke 1893, pp. 289–306). Herder also set out his views on classical studies as “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) in Vom Begriff der schönen Wissenschaften, insonderheit für die Jugend (1782, dating uncertain) and Vom echten Begriff der schönen Wissenschaften und von ihrem Umfang unter den Schulstudien (1788). The last two texts belong to the school addresses (Schulreden) that Herder delivered as a teacher and later as headmaster of the Weimar Gymnasium between 1765 and his death in 1803. See Herder, Schulreden 1962, pp. 35–42, pp. 70–78.
- Herder, Sämmtliche Werke 1893, p. 296.
- Herder, Schulreden 1962, pp. 73f. – Herder’s view on the close relation between aesthetics and ethics was widely shared. See e.g. Niemeyer, Grundsätze 1805, p. 154: “A human being in whose soul good taste” (explained as “sense of order, harmony” and “contempt of the disordered and ugly”) “has been fully developed, is more moderate, pleasant and graceful in his way of thinking and acting than other people”; Snell, Über frühe Bildung 1782, p. 13: “Humanness and virtue have always been side effects of good taste”; Snell, Über frühe Bildung 1782, p. 23: “A child, used to what is ugly and what is beautiful, to what is natural, moving and elevated, will be taught love of virtue and hate of slander and wicked deeds without much effort.” Cf. Johann Sulzer (Allgemeine Theorie 1786, p. ix), who described the aim of the fine arts (schöne Künste) as cultivating a “vivid sense of the beautiful and good and an aversion of the ugly and evil” (cf. Sulzer, Gedanken 1765, p. 6). To Bergk (Die Kunst 1799, p. 170), a person who did not love the “regularities” of the fine arts, was capable of “the lowest debauchery”. Daniel Jenisch (Vorlesungen 1803, p. 88) regarded the mood effectuated by the contemplation of beauty in art, “equanimity, tranquillity [and] being at peace with oneself”, as beneficial to morality.
- Herder, Schulreden 1962, p. 40. Cf. Herder, Schulreden 1962, p. 38: “What cultivates our mental faculties, is beautiful.”
- Herder, Schulreden 1962, p. 139.
- Herder, Sämmtliche Werke 1893, p. 304.
- Herder, Schulreden 1962, p. 38.
- Strube, Die Geschichte 1990, p. 139–141. This last meaning brings “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) very close to “schöne Künste” (“fine arts”), terms which were often used interchangeably up to the early 18th century. See Strube, Die Geschichte 1990, p. 162f.
- Strube, Die Geschichte 1990, p. 139. In the second place, the term “Wissenschaft” (“science”) was also used to refer to the aesthetic disciplines themselves: e.g. poetry, oratory etc. (Strube, Die Geschichte 1990, p. 139).
- See e.g. J.F. Bertram’s words in his Summarische Einleitung in die so genannte Schöne Wissenschafften oder litteras humaniores (1725): “The kind of knowledge [of the schöne Wissenschaften] is not as demonstrable as the mathematical or as another [kind of knowledge], but both languages and historical sciences are largely concerned with fides humana (human faith) and probabilities, which not uncommonly reach a degree of certainty little inferior to that of a demonstrable truth.” (Quoted from Strube, Die Geschichte 1990, p. 149).
- The reason beauty was seen as an objective phenomenon was that it was widely believed to root in universal principles. See e.g. Sulzer (Allgemeine Theorie 1786, p. 75), who described the “principles of taste” as “the same for all times, because they are based on the immutable qualities of the mind”. Charles Rollin (Anweisung 1770, p. 44) spoke of “the immutable rules … of the beautiful”. Ferdinand Delbrück (Das Schöne 1800, p. 10) stated that “with regard to beauty, … everyone lays claim to [the] universal validity of his judgments”. Nonetheless, taste was often divided in “general” and “specific” taste, the last of which could change over time, see e.g. Purmann, Zufällige Gedanken 1778, p. 137; Snell, Über frühe Bildung 1782, p. 6.
- Kant, Kritik 1959, p. 157. For Kant’s view on the concept of “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”), see also Strube, Die Geschichte 1990, pp. 204f.
- Kant, Gesammelte Schriften 1911, p. 467.
- Kant, Kritik 1959, p. 157.
- Kant, Kritik 1959, p. 133.
- However, Kant did not exclude all disciplines traditionally ranged amongst the “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) from the domain of “Wissenschaft“. He accepted the ancillary disciplines needed for the interpretation of classical texts (such as language study, history, antiquities etc.) as fully scientific (calling them “historical sciences”). Their inclusion in the fine sciences, however, he attributed to a condemnable “terminological confusion” (“Wortverwechslung“). See Kant, Kritik 1959, p. 157.
- Gadamer, Wahrheit 1990, p. 48–87.
- Schlegel, Kunstlehre 1963, p. 9.
- Hegel, Werke 1986, p. 557.
- Schlegel, Kunstlehre 1963, p. 9.
- Krug, System 1818, p. 11f. For Kant’s influence on the obsolescence of the term “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”), see also Strube, Die Geschichte 1990, p. 211–216.
- Well before Kant, educationalists had been concerned that the contemporary interest in concepts such as taste and “schöne Wissenschaften” (“fine sciences”) would provoke amateurism and superficiality. Heinze (Zu der geneigten Anhörung 1777, p. 3f.) feared that the “tasteful” young man would lose his interest in textual explanation altogether; Herder (cf. Schulreden 1962, p. 74) wanted to prevent the “humaniora” from degenerating into what he polemically called “galantiora” (cf. Schulreden 1962, p. 37f.; Herder, Sämmtliche Werke 1893, p. 291–293); Gibbon (Versuch 1792, p. iv) lamented that the abundance of “men of taste” was paralleled by a shortage of “men of letters”. Comparable views are found in Sulzer, Allgemeine Theorie 1786, p. ix–x; Gedike, Aristoteles 1779, p. 191; Nösselt, Anweisung 1786, p. xiv–xvii, p. 4 and Nicolai, Briefe 1894, p. 9.
- One of the first of those works was the Encyklopädie aller philologischen Wissenschaften (1793) by Erduin Julius Koch. Koch’s initiative was followed by a whole series of subsequent publications, prominent amongst which were Fülleborn, Encyclopaedia Philologica 1798; Barby, Encyklopädie 1805; Schaaff, Enzyklopädie 1806–1808; Creuzer, Das Akademische Studium 1807; Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985; Ast, Grundriss 1808; Ficker, Anleitung 1821–1825; Matthiä, Enyzklopädie 1835. Before the 1790s, there had been endeavours to capture the humanities in an encyclopaedic overview, see e.g. Sulzer, Kurzer Begriff 1745; Gesner, Primae Lineae 1774–1775; Meinecke, Synopsis 1783. These works, however, did not focus on classical philology alone. For secondary literature on the transformation of classical studies to Altertumswissenschaft, see e.g. Reinhardt, Die Klassische Philologie 1972; Pfeiffer, The History 1976; Horstmann, Die “Klassische Philologie” 1978, pp. 51–70; Horstmann, Die Forschung 1978, pp. 27–57; Grafton, Polyhistor 1983, pp. 159–192; Flashar, Philologie 1979–1983; Most, Disciplining classics 2002. For an extensive bibliography, see Calder, An introductory bibliography 1992, and Calder, A supplementary bibliography 2000.
- Wolf also lectured for many years on the Encyclopädie der Alterthumswissenschaft. See Stockmann, Encyclopädie 1845.
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 5.
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 6.
- Kant, Gesammelte Schriften 1911, p. 467.
- The 24 disciplines were 1) philosophical linguistics, 2/3) grammar of Greek and Latin, 4) hermeneutics, 5) textual criticism, 6) theory of style and metrics, 7) geography and uranography, 8) general ancient history, 9) chronology and historical criticism, 10) Greek antiquities, 11) Roman antiquities, 12) mythology, 13) Greek literary history, 14) Roman literary history, 15) history of the Greek oratorical arts and sciences, 16) history of the Roman oratorical arts and sciences, 17) history of the mimetic arts of the Greeks and Romans, 18) archaeology, 19) principles of the visual arts, 20) general history of ancient art, 21) history of ancient architecture, 22) numismatics, 23) epigraphy, 24) history of Greek and Latin philology. – In his Encyclopädie, Wolf undertook even further subdivisions, e.g. into curious disciplines such as Cälatographie (the doctrine of the art of engravings) and Toreumatographie (the doctrine of reliefs). See Stockmann, Encyclopädie 1845, p. 18. Comparable subdivisions are found in Creuzer, Das Akademische Studium 1807, pp. 125–129.
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 30. – Wolf did not invent the term, which surfaced occasionally in the time before, see e.g. Koch, Encyklopädie 1795, p. 19; Barby, Encyklopädie 1805, p. 5. – For all Wolf’s efforts to make the study of antiquity meet the new demands of science, it should be realised that the concept of science in general and that of antiquity studies in particular was still very unsteady in the early 19th century. Wolf (Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 6) therefore emphatically described his project of transformation as work in progress: “Understandably, the content and treatment of the subject changed and developed with each repetition of (my) presentation.”
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 40f.
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 40. Wolf credited the results of textual criticism with a degree of probability “no less convincing than that of which the exact sciences rightly boast” (Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 40).
- Words by Christian Garve (1742–1798), see Horstmann, Die “Klassische Philologie” 1978, p. 62. – On Kant and the applicability of mathematical models, see Kant, Gesammelte Schriften 1911, p. 470.
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 11.
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 11.
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 53.
- “Alterthums-Krämer” (Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 34). With this term, Wolf referred to the tradition of antiquarianism, in which great learning had been associated with enthusiastic, amateur collectors. On antiquarianism, see Momigliano, Ancient History 1950, pp. 285–315; Momigliano, The Rise 1990, pp. 54–79.
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 109.
- Stockmann, Encyclopädie 1845, p. 13. Cf. Wolf, Kleine Schriften 1869, pp. 210f.: “Tota quaestio nostra historica et critica est, non de optabili re, sed de re facta. … Amandae sunt artes, at reverenda est historia!” (“Our research is entirely historical and critical. It does not deal with ideals, but with facts. The arts are charming, but history is venerable!”; transl. by the author).
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. v.
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 5, p. 33, p. 141.
- Friedrich Ast described Greek antiquity as a “perfectly organised and beautifully shaped body”, in which “everything individual has the character of general, humane Bildung, because in everything [individual] the spirit of the whole is reflected” (Ast, Über den Geist 1962, p. 16). Friedrich Jacobs stated that “if we consider antiquity in its most dignified form as a closed world of the noblest and most beautiful that has been formed by the human mind, … as a world in which everything that can elevate, purify and fertilise the human mind reveals itself in the most varied and perfect of forms, then we cannot be indifferent to anything filling this sacred circle…. Then the entire inner coherence of the ancient world … is worth our most careful attention” (Jacobs, Zweck 1962, p. 38).
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, pp. 124f.
- Words by Creuzer, Das Akademische Studium 1807, pp. 19f.
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 9. – Wolf’s belief in the use of antiquity studies to “the harmonious development of the mind” has often been taken to point to Wolf’s adoption of the concept of “formale Bildung” (“formal education”). Wolf indeed frequently availed himself of this popular term, which had been greatly promoted by the Prussian philologist and pedagogue Friedrich Gedike (1754–1803) in an attempt to defend classical education against frequent accusations of usefulness. (On Gedike and the concept of “formale Bildung” (“formal education”), see Fritsch, Zwischen Philanthropinismus 2006, and van Bommel, Classical Humanism 2015, pp. 153– 155. Yet, it is essential to realise that Gedike’s and Wolf’s concept of “formale Bildung” (formal education) was still imbued with their normative perspective on the ancient world. To formally educate the student’s mind by classical studies meant to shape his mental faculties after the example of the most beautiful civilisation that had ever been. To be formally educated by classical studies was not to be provided with a daily portion of mental gymnastics – which could be achieved by any other (difficult) subject – but to be enabled to make one’s mind acquire its highest possible human form by working towards an ideal. This integration of the normative perspective on the ancient world into the novel concept of “formale Bildung” (“formal education”) is poignantly expressed by Wolf’s conviction that classical philology was eminently suited to “educate and discipline one’s faculties …, to sharpen one’s sense of truth and beauty, to refine one’s judgment on the beautiful, to tailor and regulate one’s imagination, to awaken and bring to equilibrium all the faculties of the soul” (Wolf, Alterthumswissenschaft 1985, p. 139f.; cf. Wolf, Alterthumswissenschaft 1985, pp. 125–127; also p. 130: scientific philology should provide “new occasions … for the increased perfection of all the faculties of our mind and heart”, NB: the quotation is from p. 130).
- Although Wolf’s and Humboldt’s ideas on classical education were not identical, they were similar enough to be discussed in combination. Wolf and Humboldt were bound by a close friendship and corresponded by letters during the major part of their professional lives. Both men were intimately involved in the foundation of the Berliner Universität in 1810. See Mattson, Wilhelm von Humboldt 1990.
- See Raumer, Über den Unterricht 1823.
- Raumer, Über den Unterricht 1823, p. 15. Only two decades before, Raumer’s teacher Friedrich Schelling had exclaimed that “in geology a [F.A.] Wolf is yet to be expected, who analyses the earth just as [F.A. Wolf analysed] Homer, and shows its composition” (Schelling, Vorlesungen 1990, p. 41).
- Raumer, Über den Unterricht 1823, p. 15f.
- In some ways, Raumer’s argument was very similar to the age-old concept of “natural theology”. Raumer (Über den Unterricht 1823, p. 65) described nature as “the second Holy Scripture” and looked upon mathematical thoughts as being “revealed” (Raumer, Über den Unterricht 1823, p. 16) in geological formations. Yet, his emphasis on the importance of rigorous science marks Raumer’s view as the product of the 19th century. Scientifically penetrating into (a part of) the creative order would enable geologists, not to feel “fear or holy shudder” in the face of the immense, but to enter into “communion … with the mind of the Creator” (Raumer, Über den Unterricht 1823, p. 11).
- See Drobisch, Philologie 1832, pp. 24f.
- Drobisch, Philologie 1832, p. 22.
- Drobisch, Philologie 1832, p. 23. In a comparable manner, Drobisch pleaded for the educational value of other “mathematical-physical sciences”: mathematics, experimental physics, chemistry, physiology, anatomy, zoology, botany, mineralogy, geology, medicine and psychology. (Drobisch, Philologie 1832, p. 1).
- Engel, Welchen Einfluß 1820, p. 10. The attribution of this book to Moritz Erdmann Engel is not entirely certain.
- Engel, Welchen Einfluß 1820, p. 11.
- Engel, Welchen Einfluß 1820, p. 11. For comparable pleas for the humane educational value of the natural sciences, see e.g. Schulz, Die Naturgeschichte 1837; Fries, Sind die Naturwissenschaften 1844. See also Spilleke, Über das Wesen 1822, esp. p. 72; Nagel, Die Idee 1840, esp. p. 92; Freese, Das Deutsche Gymnasium 1845, esp. p. 57; Beger, Die Idee des Realgymnasiums 1845, esp. p. 11. Cf. van Bommel, Classical Humanism 2015, pp. 155–158.
- Of course, there were also differences between Wolf and his younger colleagues. Wolf, for example, described the “spirit” of antiquity in abstract, nearly mystical terms: as a “sacred”, “organic unity” that represented the essence of “ancient humankind itself”. Raumer, Drobisch and Engel, on the other hand, explicitly traced back the mathematical order underlying the world of nature to the work of a divine Creator. This increased emphasis on (positive) religious values was typical of the Restoration period, when religion was widely promoted as a means to restore political order. On the (re)integration of religious values into the classical ideal of humane education during the Restoration, see van Bommel (Classical Humanism 2015, pp. 183–203).
- “Wunderbares und wissenschaftlich Klares” (Raumer, Über den Unterricht 1823, p. 16). Cf. Raumer, Über den Unterricht 1823: “die Schönheit und Gesetzmäßigkeit der [natürlichen] Gestalten”.
- See Ziche / Van Driel, Science 2011.
- Cf. Paletschek, Humboldt’sches Modell 2001, p. 84.
- For an extensive discussion of the history of the doctorate in philosophy, see Clark, Academic Charisma 2006, pp. 183–238.
- The statutes of the Berlin University of 1838 declared that the objective of the philosophical faculty was not only to establish “allgemeinwissenschaftliche Bildung” (“general scientific education”) but also “to further the sciences” (quoted by Schubring, Einsamkeit 1991, p. 311).
- Of pioneering importance were the philological seminars, most of which (e.g. Königsberg 1810, Breslau 1812, Bonn 1819, Greifswald 1822) were modelled on the philological seminar founded by August Böckh in 1812 at the University of Berlin. The latter’s statutes declared that the objective of seminar-education was to “sustain, propagate and expand” the science of antiquity (Altertumwissenschaft). (See Schubring, Einsamkeit 1991, p. 312). Natural-scientific institutes, which often originated as service facilities to support teaching (collections, cabinets etc.) contributed to the philosophical faculty’s research objective from the moment they were transformed into “Praktika” (“internships”), where students were actively engaged in inquiry-based learning. The earliest example is the famous chemical laboratory of Justus Liebig in Gießen (1825). For a discussion, see Holmes, The Complementarity 1989.
- Disciplinary differentiation is clearly perceptible from the Vormärz period onwards. For a general introduction, see Stichweh, Zur Entstehung 1984, pp. 7–93.
- The famous Bonn seminar for natural sciences (1825), for example, had five co-directors: for physics, chemistry, mineralogy, botany and zoology. It was only abolished in 1887, when it merged into a number of independent institutions.
- See e.g. the words of August Böckh in his celebratory speech at the University of Berlin in October 1855: “Jeder [Gelehrte soll], wie er sich auch beschränke, in seinem beschränkten Gegenstand der Tiefe nach die Idee des Ganzen mikrokosmisch erkennen. Im Geistes dieser Durchdringung der Idee … die Wissenschaft zu üben und zu lehren, ist … auf der jetztigen Bildungsstufe … ganz vorzüglich der Beruf der Universitätslehrer” (Böckh, Gesammelte Kleine Schriften 1859, p. 128).
- This increased appreciation of the philosophical faculty was already suggested by Immanuel Kant in his text on the Streit der Facultäten (Conflict of the Faculties) of 1798. It was also advocated by all authors of the programmatic writings underlying the foundation of the Berlin University in 1810. See e.g. Schleiermacher (Pädagogische Schriften 1957, pp. 111f.): “In dieser einen (Fakultät) ist daher allein die ganze natürliche Organisation der Wissenschaft enthalten. … Jene drei Fakultäten hingegen haben ihre Einheit nicht in der Erkenntniss unmittelbar, sondern in einem äußeren Geschäft”. Cf. Fichte (Arnich, Die Idee 1964, p. 157): “Die drei sogenannten höhern Fakultäten würden schon früher wohl getan haben, wenn sie sich, in Absicht ihres wahren Wesens, in dem ganzen Zusammenhange des Wissens deutlich erkannt und sich darum nicht, pochend auf ihre praktische Unentbehrlichkeit und ihre Gültigkeit beim Haufen, als ein abgesondertes und vornehmeres Wesen hingestellt, sondern lieber jenem Zusammenhange sich untergeordnet und mit schuldiger Demut ihre Abhängigkeit erkannt hätten.”
- In Tübingen, an autonomous faculty for mathematics and natural sciences was founded in 1863, in Heidelberg in 1890, in Freiburg in 1910, in Bern only in 1921.
- For extensive studies of the export of the German university model in the 19th and 20th centuries, see Schubring, Einsamkeit 1991, and Schwinges, Humboldt International 2001.
- See Zormbala, Die Gründung 1991.
- See Flynn, Russia’s ‘University Question’ 1988.
- See Wachelder, The German University Model 2001, esp. p. 180, pp. 200–203. For similar developments in Hungary, see Szögi, Das System 2001; for Austria, see Höflechner, Humboldt in Europa 2001, p. 266–269.
- Gert Schubring (Einsamkeit 1991, p. 278) has shown that educationalists such as Humboldt and Schleiermacher explicitly opposed the French example when preparing the foundation of the Berlin University in 1810.
- See Rüegg, Humboldt in Frankreich 2001, p. 257.
- See Weisz, The emergence 1983, p. 61.
- See Rüegg, Humboldt in Frankreich 2001, p. 253.
- See e.g. a 1880 report by the Parisian law section of the Société de l’Enseignement Supérieur: “The dignity of our higher education demands, moreover, that our faculties not be simply professional schools that open up access to diverse judicial careers, but also, in a reasonable and practical measure, centers of original research and disinterested science.” (Quoted by Weisz, The emergence 1983, p. 79).
- See Schalenberg, Humboldt in Großbritannien 2001.
- Cf. Turner, The Prussian Universities 1980, pp. 83f.
- As Axel Horstmann (Die Forschung 1978, pp. 34f.) put it, the “organic unity” that Wolf perceived in the ancient world was not guaranteed “by a particular method of knowledge, but (only) by the object of research itself, by Greco-Roman antiquity, which was … a prioriidentified as an organic whole” (Italics added by the author).
- The gap that separated scientific philology from the mystical “vision” of ancient humankind is also expressed by the fact that Friedrich August Wolf, like Friedrich Creuzer, distinguished between a “lower” and a “higher” form of textual criticism. In its lower form, both scholars argued, critical judgment was formed by deduction on the basis of “historical evidence”, usually consisting of “handwritten documents”. (Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 106, p. 40). Creuzer (Das Akademische Studium 1807, p. 38f.) spoke of “documentary (i.e. grammatical and historical) aids” („urkundlichen (grammatischen und historischen) Hülfsmittel“; transl. by the author). In its higher form, critical judgment must do without such palpable evidence and was formed entirely by “inner arguments” (“Innere Beweisgründe“; Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 40), accessible to the initiate alone. Higher criticism required no less than a “genial vision” of “the nature of things” itself (Creuzer, Das Akademische Studium 1807, p. 38). Being an “art” (“Kunst“) in the full sense of the word, it could not dispense with “lively imagination”, “ingenuity and profundity” and “feeling” (Wolf, quoted from Horstmann, Die Forschung 1978, p. 38). It was “divinatory” by nature, enabling one, not to logically reconstruct, but to “sense the original” (italics added by author) (“Das Ursprüngliche ahnen“; Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 108). Creuzer (Das Akademische Studium 1807, p. 57) spoke of restoring the classical works to their original form with the aid of a “religious sense”.
- August Böckh (Gesammelte Kleine Schriften 1859, p. 128) conceived of the “organic unity” underlying human knowledge as being graspable, not by individual scientists, but only by the totality of the scholarly estate: “[K]ann der Einzelne auch bei der größten Begabung nicht das Ganze in der Ausdehnung umfassen, so wird doch … der Zweck der Wissenschaft von der Gesammtheit des Gelehrtenstaates vollbracht”.
- For critics of the new science, see e.g. Diesterweg, Die Lebensfrage 1836; Mayerhoff, Die deutschen insbesondere die preußischen Hochschulen 1836; Bischoff, Einiges 1842–1848.
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 81. Cf. Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 141: “But the Wissenschaft designed here is helped no more by such promotion of humanistic knowledge than is philosophy by the popular treatment of wisdom.” Cf. Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 48.
- Wolf, Alterthumwissenschaft 1985, p. 79f., p. 125.
- Spilleke, Über das Wesen 1822, p. 118.
- Scheibert, Das Wesen 1848, p. 67.
- Beger, Die Idee des Realgymnasiums 1845, p. 48. – Snell (1834) describes tuition in the natural sciences as “the only way” to counteract children’s “craving for the real” (see Beger, Die Idee des Realgymnasiums 1845, p. 109).
- Wilamowitz, Philologie und Schulreform 1892, pp. 108f. Wilamowitz strongly disapproved of the traditional predicate “classical” which he thought should have no place in scientific philology. See Horstmann, Die Forschung 1978, pp. 53f.; Baumbach, Lehrer oder Gelehrter 2002, pp. 132ff.
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