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Otto, Rudolf


Protestant theologian and scholar; b. Peine, Germany, Sept. 25, 1869; d. Marburg an der Lahn, March 6,1937. He was a professor at Göttingen (18971914), at Breslau (19141917), and at Marburg (19171929). Otto was influenced especially by Kant, J. F. Fries, (17731843), and F. D. E. schleiermacher, and became prominent as a philosopher of religion. As opposed to Neo-Kantian ideas, he developed his concept of "the Holy," as a religious a priori, in his own independent attitude toward the good, the true, the beautiful. His book, Das Heilige (The Holy) appeared (Breslau 1917) at the so-called turning point in the philosophy of religion in Germany that is associated especially with the name of M. scheler (18741928). The latter was one of the first to recognize the importance of Otto's work. In his analysis, which now has a permanent place in the science of religion, Otto defined the Holy as "the Numinous," which expresses itself in feeling or consciousness as the "contrasting harmony" of the fascinans (the attracting element) and the tremendum (the awe-inspiring element). On the epistemological side, however, he was not able ultimately to win conviction for his position.

His chief works are Das Heilige (Breslau 1917; 35th ed. Munich 1963); English translation, The Idea of the Holy, tr. J. W. Harvey (New York 1958); Aufsätze, das Numinose betreffend (Stuttgart 1923; 4th ed. 1929); West-Oestliche Mystik (Gotha 1926); Die Gnadenreligion Indiens und das Christentum (Gotha 1930); and Das Gefühl des Ueberweltlichen (Munich 1932).

See Also: sacred and profane.

Bibliography: g. wÜnsch, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Tübingen 195765) 4:174950 with bibliog. j. hessen, Religionsphilosophie, 2 v. (2d ed. Munich 1955) 1:269297. r. f. davidson, Rudolf Otto's Interpretation of Religion (Princeton 1947). f. k. feigel, Das Heilige: Kritische Abhandlung über Rudolf Ottos gleichnamiges Buch (2d ed. Tübingen 1948).

[a. holl]

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