Rintelen, Fritz-Joachim von (1898–1979)

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Fritz-Joachim von Rintelen, the German philosopher of value, was born in Stettin. He received a doctorate in philosophy in 1924 from the University of Munich, where he began to lecture in 1928. Von Rintelen was appointed professor at the University of Bonn in 1933 and at Munich in 1936, but he was suspended on political grounds in 1941. In 1947 von Rintelen became professor of philosophy, psychology, and pedagogy at the University of Mainz. He was a visiting professor at the Universidad Nacional de Córdoba, Argentina, from 1951 to 1952 and at the University of Southern California in 1957.

Von Rintelen gave both a systematic and a detailed historical interpretation of the problem of value. Prior to his dismissal from his professorship at Munich, he had explicated in detail a theory of value (Wert ) and of meaning (Sinn ) and had built a philosophical anthropology upon it. After World War II he applied this theory to an analysis and penetrating criticism of the irrationalistic, nihilistic, and pessimistic currents in contemporary European philosophy and literature, showing how the theory resolves the conflicts and paradoxes that he reveals in these currents.

His doctrine of values and of personality is rooted in the realistic tradition of Platonism and Scholasticism but also shows the influence of German idealism. The chief direction of his thought was set in his two academic dissertations, a criticism of the pessimistic philosophy of religion of Eduard von Hartmann and an attempt to extend Ernst Troeltsch's efforts, in the later years of his life, to overcome historical relativism through a theory of values and their operation in history.

Two points in von Rintelen's criticism are particularly salient. The first is his attack upon all dualisms of intellect and will or of mind and life (Max Scheler), all subordination of the rational to a more inclusive irrational, and every combination of an idealistic theory of scientific knowledge with a realism in metaphysics. To these distinctions he opposes an ontological interpretation of value by which these dualistic tensions can be resolved. He rejects von Hartmann's teleology of self-destruction as an ontological impossibility and an aesthetic misreading of the tragedy of our culture; this tragedy cannot be denied, but it implies a transcendent normative meaning to be attained through the reflective transformation of our actions. Thus, there is an inclusive ontological meaning, not attainable through scientific logic but through the value experiences of life, which sustains the human spirit and human life.

Von Rintelen's ontological theory of real value (Realwert ) was constructed in opposition to psychological, positivistic, and phenomenological definitions. Real value is an objective context of meaning that can be particularized and made concrete through conscious or unconscious strivings. Each actualized value possesses an intrinsic worth varying in intensity with its degree of meaning and a relational worth by virtue of which it enters into a wider order of values. Thus every real value is vertically capable of degrees of normative validity and historically capable of individualization within larger contexts of culture and of personal action. Values are individualized in two spheres corresponding to life and mind in man. In the sphere of nature, objects are primarily existent and only secondarily valued; in that of mind or personality, objects are primarily mental and only secondarily grounded in concrete existence. From this viewpoint human history can be understood as a continually renewed effort to actualize values in terms of a personal regulative ideal of the highest possible fulfillment and in relation to an ultimate summum bonum, God, the unique, autonomous, and inclusive real value.

In 1932 von Rintelen published the first volume (ancient and medieval) of a historical study in which the development of this theory of value was to be traced in European thought. This work was left incomplete but was supplemented by specialized historical and systematic articles.

In his later critiques of existentialism and other contemporary intellectual currents, von Rintelen analyzed the plight of man as portrayed in modern philosophy and literature and, by correcting the subjectivism and finitism implicit in this portrayal through his own doctrine of value transcendence, points out the way to "a rewon security of spirit." Outstanding among these works are Philosophie der Endlichkeit (1951), which includes analyses of Martin Heidegger, Rainer Maria Rilke, Gabriel Marcel, and Jean-Paul Sartre, and Der Rang des Geistes (1955), a thorough and distinguished study of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as philosopher, in which the inner tensions or polarities of the poet's thought are examined and Goethe's movement from an eclecticism to a rationally justified theism and an operative human ideal of rational freedom and love is portrayed. In these books von Rintelen shows himself not merely as a constructive philosopher but also as an able critic of literature and culture.

Von Rintelen's thought may thus be considered as a reconstruction of the Christian intellectual tradition in which the inevitable tragedy that inheres in the polarities of human existence may be overcome through a transcendent order of values in which meaning and impulse are harmonized.

See also Existentialism; Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von; Hartmann, Eduard von; Heidegger, Martin; Idealism; Intrinsic Value; Marcel, Gabriel; Philosophical Anthropology; Platonism and the Platonic Tradition; Rilke, Rainer Maria (René); Sartre, Jean-Paul; Scheler, Max; Troeltsch, Ernst; Value and Valuation.


Works by von Rintelen include Pessimistische Religionsphilosophie der Gegenwart: Untersuchung zur religionsphilosophischen Problemstellung bei Eduard von Hartmann und ihre erkenntnistheo-retischmetaphysischen Grundlagen (Munich, 1924); "Der Versuch einer Überwindung des Hitstorismus bei Ernst Troeltsch," in Vierteljahresschrift für Literaturwissenschaft und Geistesgeschichte 8 (1930): 324372; Der Wertgedanke in der europäischen Geistesentwicklung, Part I, Altertum und Mittelalter (Halle, 1932); Dämonie des Willens (Wiesbaden, 1948); Von Dionysos zu Appollon. Der Aufstieg im Geiste (Wiesbaden, 1948): Philosophie der Endlichkeit als Spiegel der Gegenwart (Meisenheim am Glan, Germany: Hain, 1951), partly translated by Hilda Graf as Beyond Existentialism (London: Allen and Unwin, 1963); and Der Rang des Geistes. Goethes Weltverständnis (Tübingen, 1955).

Other works by von Rintelen are Der Aufstieg im Geiste, 2nd ed. (Frankfurt: Metopen-Verlag. 1968); Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Sinnerfahrung und Daseinsdeutung (Munich: E. Reinhardt, 1968); Contemporary German Philosophy and Its Background (Bonn: Bouvier, 1970); Values in European Thought (Pamplona: Universidad de Navarra, 1972); Philosophie des lebendigen Geistes in der Krise der Gegenwart: Selbstdarst (Frankfurt [Main]: Musterschmidt, 1977); Beyond Existentialism (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978).

For further bibliography and evaluation, see Richard Wisser, "Wertwirklichkeit und Sinnverständnis. Gedanken zur Philosophie von Fritz-Joachim von Rintelen," in Sinn und Sein: Ein philosophisches Symposion F. J. v. Rintelen gewidmet, edited by Richard Wisser (Tübingen: Niemeyer, 1960), pp. 611708.

L. E. Loemker (1967)

Bibliography updated by Michael J. Farmer (2005)