Rosenkranz, Johann Karl Friedrich (1805–1879)

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Johann Karl Friedrich Rosenkranz, the German Hegelian philosopher, was born in Magdeburg. He entered the University of Berlin in 1824. Although he was to become G. W. F. Hegel's most devoted disciple, Rosenkranz was first drawn to Friedrich Schleiermacher; he heard only an occasional lecture by Hegel and was unimpressed. He began reading Hegel as a student at Halle in 1826 and the following year came under the influence of Karl Daub (17651836), a Hegelian theologian at Heidelberg. As a Privatdozent and extraordinary professor at Halle, Rosenkranz participated actively in the Hegelian circle there. Called to Berlin, he struck up a friendship with Hegel and joined his birthday celebration a few weeks before Hegel died of cholera in 1831. Rosenkranz himself was stricken almost fatally with the disease, reflecting, as he later reported, that this was carrying discipleship entirely too far. In 1833 he succeeded Johann Friedrich Herbart as professor of philosophy at the University of Königsberg, where he remained until his death except for a brief political career in Berlin during the revolutionary crisis of 1848/1849.

Rosenkranz wrote over forty substantial works, on systematic philosophy, aesthetics, theology, logic, psychology, literary history, pedagogics, philosophical history and biography, and political and social theory. He also composed poetry and contributed articles on current issues to the newspapers.

Rosenkranz defended the Hegelian system as the authentic expression of the German spirit and the fulfillment of German philosophy. He attacked the "one-sidedness" of the Hegelian left-wing and denied that there was any irreconcilable conflict between Hegel and other major German thinkers, such as Schleiermacher and Immanuel Kant. Other Hegelians charged that Rosenkranz had interpreted Hegel in a Kantian way, maintaining the duality between thought and being and between the ideal and the actual. Certainly in his view the ideal was always in tension with existing conditions, although it constituted their telos and guiding norm. In practice, for example, he held that the church should be independent of the state; because Christianity embodies the highest ideal, the church must be free to hold before the culture its most ideal possibilities. He argued on similar grounds for the freedom of the university from political control.

Underlying religious, political, and intellectual life alike, however, was the Volksgeist ("spirit of a people"), interpreted more romantically than in Hegel. It is not the result of the cultural process but the distinctive psychic root of a particular people that gives the people unity as a nation and seeks expression in a total cultural life. A people is free to the extent that it fully embodies this spirit; genuine "public opinion" is the self-understanding of a free people. As a consequence, although Rosenkranz gave humankind precedence over the nation in principle and affirmed the Kantian vision of universal peace, he opposed the supranationalism of the left-wing Hegelians; moreover, he regarded their revolutionary aims as empty abstractions, without relevance to "realities" or to the concrete aspirations of any people, and productive only of despotism. He advocated German unification, under a constitutional monarchy and through Prussian initiative, but only under a constitution that would express the German spirit. Although he vigorously opposed revolutionary change in the Prussian form of government, he just as vigorously, and at personal risk, attacked the repressive policies of its administration. For example, he defended the freedom of the press as the organ of "public opinion"; the local press, in turn, hailed him as "the most popular and liberal man in Königsberg."

See also Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich; Hegelianism; Herbart, Johann Friedrich; Kant, Immanuel; Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst.


works by rosenkranz

Encyklopädie der theologischen Wissenschaften. Halle, 1831.

Kritik der Schleiermacherschen Glaubenslehre. Königsberg, 1836.

Psychologie. Königsberg: Gebrüder Bornträger, 1837.

Studien. 5 vols. Berlin and Leipzig: Jonas Verlagsbuchhandlung, 18391848.

Kritische Erläuterungen des Hegelschen Systems. Leipzig: Gebrüder Bornträger, 1840.

Geschichte der Kantischen Philosophie. Leipzig, 1840. Vol. XII of Kant's Werke, edited by Rosenkranz and Schubert.

Schelling. Danzig: F.S. Gerhard, 1843.

G. W. F. Hegels Leben. Berlin: Duncker and Humblot, 1844. Supplement to Hegel's Werken.

System der Wissenschaft: Ein philosophisches Enchiridion. Königsberg: Gebrüder Bornträger, 1850.

Aesthetik des Hässlichen. Königsberg: Gebrüder Bornträger, 1853.

Wissenschaft der logischen Idee. 2 vols. Königsberg: Gebrüder Bornträger, 18581859.

Hegel als deutscher Nationalphilosoph. Leipzig: Duncker and Humblot, 1870.

Neue Studien. 4 vols. Leipzig, 18751878.

Politische Briefe und Aufsatze 18481856, edited by Paul Herre. Leipzig: Dieterich, 1919.

Die Hegelsche Rechte, edited by Hermann Lübbe. Stuttgart and Bad Cannstatt, 1962. Contains several essays, mostly political, and complete bibliography.

works on rosenkranz

Esau, Lotte. Karl Rosenkranz als Politiker. Halle: M. Niemeyer, 1935.

Jonas, Richard. Karl Rosenkranz. Stuttgart: Weicher, 1906.

Metzke, Erwin. Karl Rosenkranz und Hegel. Leipzig: Heims, 1929.

Stephen D. Crites (1967)

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Rosenkranz, Johann Karl Friedrich (1805–1879)

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