Eduard Spranger, the German philosopher and educator, was born in Grosslichterfelde, Berlin. He studied both mathematics and science at a Realschule and the humanities at a classical Gymnasium. At the University of Berlin he studied under Wilhelm Dilthey and Friedrich Paulsen and earned his right to lecture with Wilhelm von Humboldt und die Humanitätsidee (Berlin, 1909), a classic in the history of German humanism.
He was called to the University of Leipzig as professor of philosophy in 1911 and to Berlin as professor of philosophy and pedagogy in 1920. He spent the most creative years of his career and exercised his greatest influence on the Geisteswissenschaften and on all levels of German education while at Berlin.
In 1933 he submitted his resignation in protest against interference with university freedom by the new National Socialist government but was persuaded by many followers to retain his influential university position. In 1937/1938 he lectured in Japan. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1944 but was released upon the intercession of the Japanese ambassador.
|University of Berlin|
Appointed rector of the University of Berlin by the Allied military government in 1945, he found it impossible to accept interference by the East Berlin authorities and in 1946 accepted a professorship in philosophy at Tübingen, where he lectured until his retirement.
Spranger sought to further two projects begun by his teacher, Dilthey. One was an “understanding” (verstehende) psychology that would approach human life not with scientific abstractions but perceptively and with an appreciation of cultural values; the other was an attempt to provide a normative interpretation of the Geisteswissenschaften.
The interdependence of these two problems led Spranger to a Hegelian position (toward which Dilthey himself had begun to turn before his death), and he became a leading figure of the German neo-Hegelian revival of the 1920s.
|J. W. Pigors|
In his chief work, Die Lebensformen (Halle, 1914; translated by J. W. Pigors as Types of Men, Halle, 1928), Spranger undertook a typological analysis of personality through the use of the method of Verstehen. He held this method to be empirical in that it results in “an at least minimally categorialized after-experience.”
It is essentially an aesthetic perception of cultural forms in individual life and is motivated by a Platonic eros—a love for the personal values involved; this, Spranger insisted, does not interfere with its objectivity.
Six forms of value—all of which are objectively rooted in the historical and cultural order, and each of which may dominate a person’s life and evoke a reordering of the others in subordination to itself—determine six types of personality in modern culture—the theoretical, economic, aesthetic, social, political, and religious—which center, respectively, in the values of truth, utility, beauty, love; power, and, in religion, in the devotion to a vital totality of value. The moral is not a distinct type of value but enters into all valuations. Spranger schematized these types into an ideal order without denying individual freedom in value selection.
Spranger’s Psychologie des Jugendalters (Leipzig, 1924; 8th ed., 1926) applied his method and conclusions to the problems of youth. Four important attainments mark the sound growth of the adolescent: the discovery of self, the development of a life plan, the ordering of the self into the different spheres of human relations, and the awakening of the sexual life and eros. The six personality types developed in the Lebensformen can serve as a schema for comprehending the individual person in exploring these critical developments.
Spranger’s analysis of the Geisteswissenschaften found application in his discussions of the ethical bases of modern culture and education. It combined criticism of the historical philosophies of society and culture with the development of a modified Hegelian theory of objective spirit.
Subjective and objective spirit are in close interaction within every historically relative situation. To them Spranger added a third dimension of spirit, the normative. This, the relativized absolute spirit of G.W. F. Hegel, comprised the factors that serve a regulative role in history through art, religion, and philosophy.
|G.W. F. Hegel|
Responsibility for the actualization of the normative, however, lies in the individual; no cultural content becomes meaningful except “insofar as it is again and again created out of the attitude and the conscience of the individual soul.”
After World War II Spranger turned to religious themes, particularly in Die Magie der Seele (Tübingen, 1947). This “magic of the soul,” which is essential to the life of a culture, is constituted by the religious consciousness and serves not to meet immediate external goals but to augment the powers of the person himself. Faith is a “withdrawal into inwardness.”
Spranger’s work in the philosophy of education kept the classical humanistic ideal alive and exercised a liberating effect on all levels and dimensions of education. It found notable expression in classic studies of great figures in education—Wilhelm von Humboldt, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Froebel, Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
|Wilhelm von Humboldt|
Spranger was also involved in most of the ethical and cultural problems of German life, addressing himself to such challenges as labor education, vocational education, personal and vocational guidance, and juvenile delinquency.
The eloquence of Spranger’s lectures and writings, his personal warmth, felt by a wide circle of friends of all ages, and his combination of keen perception with deep moral concern made him one of the most admired and influential of German thinkers.
His deep sense of the German tragedy, and his long preoccupation with its moral and historical causes and the moral cost of redemption, won for him, before he died, the most distinguished honors that his country could bestow.
|Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi|