Georg Simmel

Georg Simmel ( born March 1, 1858 in Berlin, † September 26, 1918 in Strasbourg ) was a German philosopher and sociologist. He made important contributions to the philosophy of culture, was the founder of the " formal sociology " and the conflict sociology. Simmel stood in the tradition of the philosophy of life, but also of neo-Kantianism.

Life and work

Simmel was born on March 1, 1858 in Berlin, the youngest of seven children in a converted to Christianity from Judaism merchant family. When his father died in 1874, the music publisher Julius Friedländer ( 1827-1882 ), was determined a family friend to his guardian. This later adopted him and left him a fortune, which made him financially independent. After graduating from high school Friedrichswerder in Berlin, he studied at the Friedrich- Wilhelms- University of Berlin history, folk psychology, philosophy and art history and Old Italian in the subsidiary subjects. In 1881 he received his doctorate, in 1885 he received his habilitation. From 1885 he was a lecturer in Philosophy at the Friedrich- Wilhelms- University of Berlin.

He married in 1890 the painter and writer Gertrud Kinel. Their common house in Charlottenburg -Westend became a place of intellectual exchange, where met, for example, Rainer Maria Rilke, Edmund Husserl, Reinhold Lepsius and Sabine Lepsius, Heinrich Rickert, Marianne and Max Weber. Some of these influential friends dedicated to ensuring that Simmel was to receive a chair, which sought to prevent both the German academic establishment and the prevailing anti-Semitism. It was not until 1900 Simmel received an appointment to the University of Berlin, but only for an unpaid associate professor of philosophy. A professor at the University of Heidelberg in 1908 he was due to an anti-Semitic opinion of the historian Dietrich Schäfer, despite the intercession of Max Weber, do not accept.

His lectures on problems of logic, ethics, aesthetics, religion, sociology, social psychology and sociology were very popular. They were even announced in newspapers and sometimes came to social events. Simmel's influence went far beyond the academic disciplines represented by him; Kurt Tucholsky, Siegfried Kracauer, or even, just to name Ernst Bloch some have appreciated it.

Simmel is one of the philosophers who go out of predetermined conceptual categories of knowledge that proceed through the selection of evolution, also developed as a consequence of the individual. However, a person can by mere thinking does not capture the totality of life.

In one of his major works, the Philosophy of Money, Simmel developed in 1900 very clearly the argument that the money get more and more influence on society, politics and the individual. The spread of the money economy has brought many advantages to humans, such as overcoming of feudalism and the development of modern democracies. However, it should become more and more an end in itself in modernity the money. Even the self-esteem of the people and their attitudes towards life would be determined by money.

His statement: Money is God, by going as an absolute means to an absolute purpose, Simmel illustrated by a striking example: the banks are now bigger and more powerful than the churches. They have become the center of the cities. All world of the senses has to do with money. However, the man has the freedom to strive for dimensions that are more than money. This can be done through the formation of solidary communities that deal with the spiritual life. Through action, the power of money, for example, in the culture, be restricted. So an artist not only because of money, but works to achieve in his work mentally itself.

Parallel to Leopold von Wiese Simmel was a co-founder of formal sociology. The formal sociology aims zurückzubeziehen total social phenomena to as few forms. Here is the content attributed less importance. It deals in particular with social connections and relationships, such as hierarchies in different social structures such as family, state, etc.

By 1903 published essay The Metropolis and Mental Life, Simmel was the founder of urban sociology. His essay was initially not particularly perceived in Germany, however, had a direct influence on the sociology in the United States.

Individual books Simmel were translated during his lifetime into Italian, Russian, Polish and French. In Germany he had a significant influence on young academics, inter alia on Georg Lukács, Martin Buber, Max Scheler, Karl Mannheim and Leopold von Wiese, also some later members of the Frankfurt School. With the young Ernst Bloch Simmel was a friend. Bloch was also the changing position of the late Simmel criticized for patriotism during the First World War.

Together with Ferdinand Tönnies, Max Weber and Werner Sombart in 1909 he founded the German Sociological Association (DGS ).

Simmel was looking for a new way as a social scientist. He was both a sociological theory of organicism with Auguste Comte and Herbert Spencer away and the idiographic history in the wake of about Leopold von Ranke.

A consistent philosophical or sociological system he not left behind, no school. Latest from the ground up, having a reputation as a full professor in Strasbourg in 1914 and was so up to this point did not have permission, even take off promotions or habilitation. Only Betty Heimann (1888-1926) and Gottfried Salomon ( - Delatour ) ( 1892-1964 ) was in 1916 a PhD with him yet, from the habilitation law, he could make no further use. For Simmel provided many ideas and inspiration for future generations of researchers. He has published more than 15 works great as well as 200 articles in professional journals and newspapers. In addition to the urban sociology Simmel adopted many elements of the later role sociology anticipated without using even the concept of " social role " explicitly. The chapter The dispute from his Sociology ( 1908) was of significant importance for the later conflict sociology ( Lewis Coser, and others).

As a philosopher Simmel is often attributed to the circle of life philosophy. Other prominent representatives of this trend were for example the Frenchman Henri Bergson, whose works were transferred to Simmel's suggestion to the German, or the Spaniards José Ortega y Gasset. Simmel published not continuous as a sociologist. Thus, published 1908-1917, no major sociological works, but treatises on Main Problems of Philosophy (1910 ), on Goethe (1913) and Rembrandt ( 1916).

1911 Honorary Doctorate in Political Science at the Albert -Ludwigs- University of Freiburg, he was awarded on the basis of his contributions to the development of knowledge of economics and in recognition of his performance as one of the founders of sociology. It was not until 1914 he was an ordinary chair of philosophy at the Kaiser-Wilhelm- University of Strasbourg. In Strasbourg Simmel died on September 26, 1918 from liver cancer.

Simmel's theory of knowledge

Simmel's epistemology leans in to the epistemology of Immanuel Kant and developed them further. Although he admits that man is not able to grasp the truth and all back because it was too complex. But the human notion of truth but was not arbitrary: if two theories are available, ultimately would survive the one that allow better access to the real. His position is thus attributable to evolutionary epistemology. At the same Simmel positioned between relativism and positivism and realism has returned as a theory of knowledge, but without devote herself to skepticism. Example: After Simmel exist notions of " knowing subject " always made ​​a conscious and a subconscious part, which eventually also affects the value that is attributed to an object. This value is therefore not necessarily " true," but he must often be checked against reality, when it comes, for example, to an exchange of goods. With a price negotiation in a market, the value is " objectified ".

Simmel's sociology

Sociology is according to Simmel - unlike his first sociological predecessor Tönnies - an eclectic science. That is with him: She does not own specific object, but only used the material provided by other sciences, in order to extract new syntheses and a new point of view. She works with the results of historical research, anthropology, statistics, psychology, and many other subjects. They do not use the original material of these sciences, but also creates new syntheses of what is already Synthesis; a science second power so to speak.

As an object of sociology, he considers the description of the forms of cohabitation of people and the discovery of rules by which behaves the individual. But since neither the concept of " society" still in the process of " individual" one last clue can be found, of the basic concept and thus the object of sociology could be made, so stay a no choice, as the fluidity of the " interactions " through which the society as the individual to lose yourself in schemes to declare specific - unspecific object.

In his first work: "On the Social Differentiation" designs Simmel the central thesis that forming stronger with increasing development and differentiation of society the individuality of the individual. At the same time then the possibility of a rapprochement with other people outside of the existing group would take place. The formation of individuality hang with the dwindling binding force by the social group together (village versus city). The degree of a society is the network of social interactions and linkages to read, the increase in the extent and complicate itself, in which the differentiation is growing. Widens the circle within which we operate and are subject to our interests, as it grows, the scope for the development of our individuality.

At the end of Simmel then describes the social differentiation / specialization as an evolutionary law of force savings. The differentiation is an evolutionary advantage, every being is perfect to the extent in which it is the same object with a smaller force Quantum reached ( technological progress, division of labor, bureaucracy ). The price of progress though Simmel sees then in the gain and compression of an extensive network of social dependencies among the system gain constant interventions in the life world of the individual.

To facilitate the exchange is the money necessary. In the money, the value of things reflects. In him the world of values ​​and the concrete things come together: "The money is the spider that weaves the social network. " It is also symbol as cause of Vergleichgültigung and externalization. By now it can be replaced with any because it produces an identical measure of value, at the same time there will be a approximation ( leveling ), which knows no qualitative differences more. The victory of money is one of quantity over quality, the means of the purpose. It is only valuable, which has a monetary value.

Thus, a reversal takes place. At the end of the money dictates our needs, it controls us, rather than to relieve and simplify. By his paleness and indifference to raise the money to the common denominator of all values ​​, and it hollows out the core of things, from their incomparability. At the end of the modern individual faces the dilemma that the objectification of life has indeed released from old ties that it is but the newfound freedom does not know to enjoy.

Similar to previous religions, security, sense of life and promise for the future have given the money economy can be termed as a new religion in the modern world that touches all social and individual relationships and also dominates the human emotions. As an alternative lifestyles beyond dogmatic powerful traditional religion and money relations he saw those of ancient needs- poor Cynic Diogenes and the Medieval - once rich, living in voluntary poverty - St. Francis of Assisi.

Simmel's aesthetics

In addition to its characterized by artistic and historical essays about Rembrandt van Rijn, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Auguste Rodin Simmel also implicitly formulated and its cultural- theoretical writings, an aesthetic theory. A given by Hannes Böhringer Note the following, the cultural theorist Oliver Schwerdt has shown that Simmel's Philosophy of Money can be systematically applied to an analysis of artistic works of Dadaism. The indifference generated by the modern money economy dominated world of the things is so experienced in documents relativistic Art in aesthetically precise sense.