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Spengler, Oswald


German philosopher of history; b. Blankenburg (Harz), May 29, 1880; d. Munich, May 8, 1936. Spengler studied mathematics and philosophy at Halle, Munich, and Berlin. His main work, Der Untergang des Abendlandes (2 v. Munich 191822; tr. C. F. Atkinson, New York 192628), is an allinclusive, cyclical philosophy of history that is presented also as the authentic philosophy of the West. In Spengler's view, the prime forms of history are the great cultures, each lasting 1,000 years. Cultures are organisms that have their childhood, youth, manhood, and old age. The destiny idea governs every phase of a culture with absolute necessity; there is no freedom but the "freedom" to affirm the inevitable. Cultural phenomena, including philosophy and religion, are relative expressions of the basic idea, or soul, of a culture. There are no eternal truths. A comparative morphology of great cultures lays bare the primitive culture form that underlies them all.

Spengler writes with prophetic power, reminiscent of F. W. nietzsche. Brilliant insights occur amid dubious generalizations. His cyclical theory is naturalistic, relativistic, and fatalistic; but it compels reflection on the inadequacies of rationalistic or positivistic views of history.

Bibliography: a. hilckman, Enciclopedia filosofica 4:865867. h. s. hughes, Oswald Spengler: A Critical Estimate (rev. ed. New York 1962). r. t. flewelling, The Survival of Western Culture (New York 1943). g. mÜller, "Oswald Spenglers Bedeutung für die Geschichtswissenschaft," Saeculum 13 (1962) 380393.

[p. l. hug]

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