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Title: Georg Simmel on Rembrandt: Understanding the Human beyond Naturalism and Conventionalism
Contributor(s): Scott, Alan  (author)orcid ; Staubmann, Helmutt (author)
Publication Date: 2005
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Abstract: 'Rembrandt: An Essay in the Philosophy of Art' was Georg Simmel's last monograph. The first edition appeared in 1916, two years before Simmel's death. Although it was published in the midst of the First World War, the work was a great success and had the highest circulation of any of Simmel's works during his lifetime. After this study on Rembrandt, Simmel published, in 1917, a slim volume called 'Grundfragen der Soziologie' (Basic questions of sociology), which later became known as his "little sociology," and he prepared one more book for publication, a collection of essays he called 'Lebensanschauung: Vier metaphysische Kapitel' (Life-view: four metaphysical chapters). The latter appeared in 1918, but only after his death in September of that year. All of these publications reflect a fundamental shift in Simmel's thinking, which began with 'Goethe', a lengthy study on the German classical writer and poet, published in 1913. The changes within Simmel's thinking are associated with the Lebensphilosophie movement, which had a strong impact on him, and which he in turn influenced significantly. It was wrestling with issues in the theory of art that paved Simmel's way to this new theoretical movement. "By the detour of reflections on the essence of art," Simmel wrote in a letter to his friend the philosopher Heinrich Rickert, he gained several of his general theoretical insights, which he then incorporated into his so-called formal sociology, into his general theory of culture, and into a number of other fields (see Gassen and Landmann 1958, 101). This shift was also reflected in his lectures on education at the University of Strasbourg, and in essays on the theory of history, especially "Vom Wesen des historischen Verstehens" (On the nature of historical understanding). On another occasion, borrowing a formulation by the poet Friedrich Schiller, Simmel indicated that he used his intellectual engagement with art as a sort of treasure trove for his theoretical concerns: "Through the morning door of beauty you entered the land of knowledge" (Simmel 1989 [1892], 369).' The art of Rembrandt was one such "morning door of beauty" leading Simmel to a new approach to the "land of knowledge" in the field of the sociocultural sciences.
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Rembrandt: An Essay in the Philosophy of Art, p. xi-xix
Publisher: Routledge
Place of Publication: London, United Kingdom
ISBN: 9780415926690
Field of Research (FOR): 160806 Social Theory
Socio-Economic Outcome Codes: 970122 Expanding Knowledge in Philosophy and Religious Studies
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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