THE ROLE OF ETHICS
Of all areas of philosophy, ethics was perhaps the most important for Schleiermacher. Throughout his career he remained devoted to the subject. One of his first endeavors was a translation of Books 8 and 9 of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. It was his main interest in the early Halle and Schlobitten years, when he wrote essays on such topics as the meaning of responsibility, the highest good, and the purpose of life. The romantic writings of his early Berlin period (1796-1802) - the Monologen, Athenäumsfragmente, and Vertraute Briefe - were manifestos for “a moral revolution.” Schleiermacher's first published treatise in philosophy, his 1803 Grundlinien einer Kritik der bisherigen Sittenlehre, was a thorough going critique of past ethics. Once his academic career began, ethics remained at the center of his agenda. In Halle and Berlin he would lecture on philosophical ethics eight times.
Any student of Schleiermacher’s ethics immediately confronts a formidable obstacle. For all the importance he gave to the subject, Schleiermacher never published his own system of ethics. He had long nurtured plans for a system, but they never came to fruition. The Grundlinien was only a critical preparation for his system.
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