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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: August 2006

14 - Schleiermacher and the state

from Part III - Culture, Society, and Religion


On Christmas Day 1808 Friedrich Schleiermacher looked forward to his appointment as pastor of Trinity Church in Berlin, a chair in theology when the new University of Berlin opened, and his wedding. He wrote to his fiancée, “If I also came into any activity on behalf of the state, even if merely temporary, then I would really not know how to wish for more.” Schleiermacher's personal correspondence and journals are full of references to the importance for him of the state, Prussia, Germany, and politics. Wilhelm Dilthey writes of Schleiermacher, “he belongs to those great men who first found a way from their private circumstances to live for the state without an official position, without ambition for political adventure, in the sure self-confidence of the citizen. Without this self-confidence life does not appear to us to be worth living any more. And yet it is not more than a half century since these men struggled and acquired it.” Through his academic lectures and his sermons he became what we might call today a public intellectual. Schleiermacher lived in the era of the construction of the modern nation. To discuss Schleiermacher and the state means to go beyond Schleiermacher on church-state relations, and beyond the political context and implications of his theology. It means also to take up his role in envisioning a modern Prussia and a modern Germany.

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The Cambridge Companion to Friedrich Schleiermacher
  • Online ISBN: 9781139000796
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