German new humanism

Humanism refers to the revival of the ( literary ) humanist movement starting around 1750 in Germany. The term was coined by the historian Friedrich Paulsen school (1885 ).


Several currents contributed to the emergence in:

  • Significant classicists published innovative insights and new interpretations in archeology: Johann Matthias Gesner in Göttingen, Johann August Ernesti in Leipzig, Christian Gottlob Heyne both local and Friedrich August Wolf in Halle and Berlin ( Homeric question ).
  • The ancient art history and archeology were inspired by Johann Joachim Winckelmann's new idealistic view of Greek art (1755 ).
  • The idea of ​​" humanity " has become the central concern of German classicism, which on the Rousseau again sparked search for the human "nature" back to antiquity and especially the Greeks ( philhellenism ) met: Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Johann Gottfried Herder, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller and Friedrich Hölderlin.
  • Friedrich Gedike founded in Prussia in the classical languages ​​teaching with a new alignment at the Friedrich Werder Gymnasium on Berlinischen high school to the Grey Abbey.
  • Wilhelm von Humboldt developed a new view of the Greek language and culture as a way to pattern liable humanity ( "On the study of antiquity and Greek in particular, " 1793).
  • Parallels in the German bourgeoisie recognized in neohumanism an opportunity for social emancipation on the path of personal education.

Already the classical humanism of the late Middle Ages ( Petrarch ) and the Renaissance was in the intensive involvement with the Roman and Greek literature, which had to be partially rediscovered, characterized ( studia humaniora ). The Antiquity, especially the Roman (Cicero ) were perceived as a classic pattern and human ideal ( humanitas ): The language separating humans from animals, the language formed by the barbarians, and create access to the sphere of the spiritual and the divine. Both the Protestant grammar school who wanted to provide access to the Bible in the original text ( Melanchthon ), and in the Catholic Jesuit high school determined the christian interpreted classics reading the educational program. The Latin enjoyed it clear priority.

However, reduced the progressive conscious awareness the relevant importance of antiquity clearly in favor of modern science and literature. Linguistically, this expressed itself in the increasing predominance of French in Western Europe. In the German school pedagogy ( philanthropy ) criticism of the unilateral dominance of the ancient languages ​​as well as their use to adolescent development has been practiced and changed the school cannon in the direction of usefulness and present orientation. In part, this was aimed directly at a stand and vocational education.


The classical scholar Friedrich August Wolf formulated the neo-humanist ideal: " Studia humanitatis ... include everything by which purely human formation and increase of all mental and emotional forces to a beautiful harmony of the inner and outer man is conveyed. " ( Representation of Alterthumswissenschaften, Issue 1832, p 45)

It moved to the political collapse of the Holy Roman Empire, the theologian Friedrich Immanuel Niethammer in Bavaria (1808 ) and Wilhelm von Humboldt in Prussia consequences for reorientation of education. The spiritual father of German liberalism was in the wake of the Prussian reforms in 1809 for 16 months Head of the Department of Culture and Education and designed his concept in Königsberg and the Lithuanian school plan. Thus, the " grammar school ", the regulated significantly in the 19th century the university entrance was. Humboldt founded in 1810 for the continuation of the course and as a model for a new conception of science, the Berlin University, also to learn the new profession of " high school teacher " ( introduction of exam per facultate docendi 1810, the forerunner of today's state exam ) through the study of classical philology had. At Humboldt neuhumanistisch minded colleagues included, in addition to the employee Johann Wilhelm Süvern also the headmaster August Ferdinand Bernhardi, Reinhold Bernhard Jachmann and the theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher, the members of the " Scientific Deputation " were, but on individual questions were also organizationally different ideas.

Against the ( common ) benefit of Enlightenment pedagogy of humanism put the value of the individuality of every individual who must be trained in the school education regardless of social and current needs. The language is regarded as the center of human existence, so the human being passes through a formal language education to itself Learning the ancient languages ​​, especially of Greek, serve this purpose excellently because they could represent the structures of language pure. It follows for Humboldt, that they learn also the future carpenter doing well, but this remained largely a theoretical postulate in the wider school history. In addition, each learner receives just about the Greek language a physical access to a interpreted as ideal culture, which stand as a source of spiritual inspiration, in contrast to torn, vulnerable, anti-human presence. The path to freedom and ability to the merely can mentally withstand current, run on humanistic education. Any professional training should not take place until later for Humboldt, man properly formed will but to society more can do more with his energy in working life. In grammar school, therefore, the ancient languages ​​are completely in the foreground, albeit against Humboldt's intentions from school practical needs soon Latin was preceded by the Greek again ( Süvernsche reform 1816/19 ).

Effects and criticism

The grammar school was able to maintain his high prestige in part, to the present day, despite its distance from the modern world in Germany. At the same classical education also kept the rest of Europe their recognized position, even if they fell more in the school system. Is highlighted particularly positive - from different ideological viewpoints - the ability to look at the ancient texts of her own time from a critical distance and perspective in their standards.

Many neo-humanistic intentions of the fathers, however, were lost in the 19th century in the implementation in the practical school policy, especially as state and parents to put their less idealistic claims ( subservience, nationalism, cost reduction, usefulness ). The classical scholar and philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche criticized this early. Many students saw the school as pedantic, unrealistic crammer who opposed the reform of education in the 20th century alternatives. In the fiercely contested abolition of the Latin school essay in 1890, Emperor Wilhelm II personally influence and thus corresponded to the widespread feeling to end an anachronism. The access monopoly of the grammar school to all university courses fell in Prussia until 1900 away, as well as graduates of the secondary school and upper secondary school with little or no Latin class received a generally recognized high school diploma.

The new humanism is also fundamental criticism because of the aristocratic elite train, the de facto for many young people did not provide for secondary school away its formation to the external distinguishing feature compared to the "masses " made ​​and thus increased their social exclusion. The educational theory orientation to a missed also interpreted antiquity, whose image has been radically revised in archeology, no longer fit into the industrial age, it seemed real and practical value for the hard to hold, nor life, especially for the natural sciences. From the ranks of science, therefore, were the harshest critics, if not exactly a Major of the guild as Planck, Heisenberg and Weizsäcker took the diametrically opposite view. Were challenged was also the literalism, focusing on the linguistic side of the people, and the formal education believes that represent the language as a center of spiritual activity towards the encounter with realities and the active communication at the center. This also became a problem area, which eventually covered the Renaissancismus and also finished. The lecturers in teaching methods of the ancient languages ​​Friedrich Maier has sparked a controversy when he questioned the educational impact of humanistic schools in the Nazi state partially.