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Solger, Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand (1780–1819)


Karl Wilhelm Ferdinand Solger, the German romantic philosopher, was born in Schwedt. He studied jurisprudence, philology, and philosophy at the University of Halle and at Jena, where he heard Friedrich von Schelling lecture. After some time in the Prussian civil service, he lectured on philosophy at the University of Frankfurt an der Oder (1809), where he met Ludwig Tieck, the writer. From 1811 until his death he was a professor at the University of Berlin.

Like many romantics, Solger was preoccupied with the polarity of the finite and the infinite. Man is finite but filled with a desire for the infinite. The world in which he finds himself is fragmented. Grasping splinters of reality, common understanding operates in terms of polaritiesconcrete and universal, appearance and concept, body and soul, individual and nature. Only in the infinite Idea are polarities reconciled. Common understanding is tied to the finite. Man must escape from its rule if he is to recognize the infinite Idea. God made a sacrifice of himself to create the finite, and man must sacrifice himself and the phenomenal to return to the infinite. In this annihilation the Godhead reveals itself. The reconciliation of the finite and the infinite is the goal of the philosopher when he tries to capture truth in his systems; it is the duty of the moral man who confronts it as a task; it is achieved by the artist who, in creating the beautiful, reveals the Idea in the phenomenal.

The philosophy of art was at the center of Solger's philosophical program. Enthusiasm and irony are the two mainsprings of artistic creation. Enthusiasm, like Plato's Eros, ties man to the reality in which he has his ground. The enthusiast is possessed by the Idea. Irony recognizes the negativity of phenomenal reality and negates it. Thus it pushes away the veil that normally hides the Idea from us.

For Solger, as for Plato, philosophy is fundamentally conversation. It is a joint struggle for something that is dimly apprehended and yet escapes adequate articulation. Truth is never a possession; it only reveals itself in the process of striving for it. Thus, the most adequate vehicle for the expression of philosophical thought is the dialogue.

See also Plato; Romanticism; Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von.


works by solger

Erwin, Vier Gespräche über das Schöne und die Kunst. 2 vols. Berlin: In der Realschulbuchhandlung, 1815.

Philosophische Gespräche. Berlin, 1817.

Nachgelassene Schriften und Briefwechsel, edited by L. Tieck and F. von Raumer. Leipzig, 1826.

Vorlesungen über Aesthetik, edited by K. W. L. Heyse. Leipzig, 1829.

The Complete Correspondence (between Solger and Ludwig Tieck). Edited by P. Matenko. New York: Westermann, 1932.

works on solger

Allemann, Beda. Ironie und Dichtung. Pfullingen, Germany: Neske, 1956.

Boucher, Maurice. K. W. F. Solger, ésthetique et philosophie de la présence. Paris: Stock, 1934.

Hartmann, Hans. Kunst und Religion bei Wackenroder, Tieck und Solger. Erlangen, 1916. A dissertation.

Hegel, G. W. F. Sämmtliche Werke. Vol. XII, pp. 100106, 221; Vol. XX, pp. 132202. Stuttgart, 19271930.

Heller, J. E. Solgers Philosophie der ironischen Dialektik. Berlin, 1928.

Kierkegaard, Søren. "Om Begrebet Ironi." Samlede Vaerker, 15 vols. Vol. XIII, pp. 376387. Copenhagen, 19011906.

Müller, Gustav. "Solger's AestheticsA Key to Hegel." Corona, Studies in Celebration of the 80th Birthday of Samuel Singer. Durham, NC, 1941.

Schönebeck, Erich. Tieck und Solger. Berlin: H. Blanke's Spezial-druckerei für Dissertationen, 1910. A dissertation.

Walzel, Oskar. "'Allgemeines' und 'Besonderes.'" Deutsche Vierteljahrsschrift 17 (1939): 152182.

Wildbolz, Rudolf. Der philosophische Dialog als literarisches Kunstwerk. Bern and Stuttgart, 1952.

Karsten Harries (1967)

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