Baumgardt, David

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BAUMGARDT, DAVID (1890–1963), philosopher. In 1924 he was appointed lecturer in philosophy at the University of Berlin where he later was professor (1932–35). In 1935 he was visiting professor at the University of Madrid where he lectured on Maimonides at the congress organized by the Spanish government to commemorate the eighth centenary of Maimonides' birth. From 1935 Baumgardt taught at Birmingham (England) and from 1939 at Pendle Hill, Wallingford, Pennsylvania. From 1941 to 1954 he was consultant on philosophy to the Library of Congress in Washington, d.c. Baumgardt, a Zionist from his early youth, conceived the idea of founding a Hebrew philosophical journal. In his earlier works (particularly in his Das Moeglichkeitsproblem der Kritik der reinen Vernunft, der modernen Phaenomenologie und der Gegenstandstheorie, 1920) he treated the modalities (possibility, reality, and necessity) in the philosophy of Kant, Husserl, and Meinong (the late 14th-century German philosopher). He then turned his attention to historical studies, particularly to the history of philosophical romanticism in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. This culminated in the publication of his book on Franz von Baader and philosophical romanticism (1929). Another work of Baumgardt is devoted to an investigation of the relations between Mendelssohn and Spinoza (1932). In Der Kampf um den Lebenssinn unter den Vorlaeufern der modernen Ethik (1933) he related the systematic study of ethics to the study of history. In this book he undertook a penetrating critique of Kant's system of ethics, showing that Kant's ethical system was derived from the basic idea of a Higher Unity pervading all human striving but that this derivation is merely a formal one, devoid of content. Baumgardt examined Hermann Cohen's attempt to rescue Kant's ethics but even here he arrived at negative conclusions. He likewise examined the attempts, undertaken by thinkers at the end of the 18th century (Herder, Hemsterhuis, Jacobi), to create a system of ethics possessed of content. In opposition to Kant, Herder extolled Hebrew ethics because they preserve man's unity. In connection with this investigation, Baumgardt assembled the literary material relevant to the relations between Herder and Spinoza. His search for ethical fundamentals possessing content led him to become particularly interested in Bentham's ethical system, to which he devoted a large volume on Bentham and the Ethics of Today (1952). In 1961 Baumgardt published Great Western Mystics; Their Lasting Significance. He sought a reconciliation of the ethics of force and the ethics of love.


J. Frank, et al., Horizons of a Philosopher: Essays in Honor of David Baumgardt (1963); ylbi, 10 (1965), 239–65.

[Samuel Hugo Bergman]