A German-Jewish WW1
- I was looking up a few things in connection with Herman Cohen whilst reading Steiner's account of his thought in Riddles of Philosophy when I came across the work of a friend of Cohen's, Franz Rosenzweig. His life and work is described in the book 'Rosenzweig and Heidegger: between Judaism and German philosophy' By Peter Eli Gordon here: http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=MkPEmXU3v_cC&pg=PA71&lpg=PA71&dq=walter+kinkel+cohen&source=bl&ots=tcs-NpVgNU&sig=5gxkPlHR6tTfGIsbKSsFgFj0AGs&hl=en&ei=a1HVTsaMLYKi8QPpoPmDAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=walter%20kinkel%20cohen&f=false.
In that book I came across an interesting account of Rosenzweig's response to the first world war. Rosenzweig composed his doctoral dissertation, 'Hegel and the state', in 1913 under the influence of the idealism of Cohen's famous school at Marburg. After his experience of trench warfare during WW1 he had this to say of his work: 'Scholarship survives even where the German life it once knew does not'. As Gordon elaborates: 'The war had rendered the book's doctrines and hopes obsolete; it was little more than a record of "spirit of the prewar years" while in 1919 one could no longer speak of "spirit" at all. It was therefore his "nevermore" book'.
Gordon continues: 'The change of perspective was indeed dramatic. When he had commenced his research Rosenzweig had shared the widespread belief of his generation that a coming war could server as a theatre for the *triumph of German ideals* [my emphasis]. Like his Doktor-Vater Meinecke, he had trusted in the path from thought to action. This was the sentiment of Holderlin's poem "An Die Deutschen", which Rosenzweig appended as an epigraph to the cover of his book:
But shall there come, like rays from the cloud,
out of thoughts, perhaps, the Deed, ripe and full of spirit?
From the written word, as dark pages from the bough;
does there follow golden fruit?'
As background to his life, it may help to observe that Rosenzweig was a slightly observant Jew who had a mystical experience and became an orthodox member of his faith before the war. Wiki has more on Rosenzweig here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Franz_Rosenzweig.
I think that we can all recognise this expression 'the triumph of German ideals' as the same criticism that Der Staudi has been wheeling out for years against Steiner and his approach to WW1. This was not how Steiner saw WW1, which was always as the tragedy of materialism and certainly nothing that could be a triumph of any kind. But how remarkable to find this sentiment in the thought of Rosenzweig. Truly another example of Stephan Zweig's 'World of yesterday', that Frank mentioned in SCR.