About Rudolf Christopher Eucken, Nobel Prize in Literature, 1908
Rudolf Christoph Eucken (5 January 1846 – 15 September 1926) was a German philosopher, and the winner of the 1908 Nobel Prize for Literature.
Eucken was born in Aurich, Kingdom of Hanover (now Lower Saxony). His father died when he was a child, and he was brought up by his mother. He was educated at Aurich, where one of his teachers was the classical philologist and philosopher Ludwig Wilhelm Maximilian Reuter (1803-1881). He studied at Göttingen University and Berlin University. In the latter place, Friedrich Adolf Trendelenburg was a professor whose ethical tendencies and historical treatment of philosophy greatly attracted him.
Eucken received his Ph.D. in in classical philology and ancient history at the Göttingen University in 1866, but the bent of his mind was definitely towards the philosophical side of theology. In 1871, after five years working as a school teacher, he was appointed Professor of Philosophy at the University of Basel, Switzerland. He stayed there until 1874 when he took up a similar position at the University of Jena, Germany in 1874. He stayed there until he retired in 1920. From 1913-1914 he served as guest lecturer at New York University.
Eucken's philosophical work is partly historical and partly constructive, the former side being predominant in his earlier, the latter in his later works. Their most striking feature is the close organic relationship between the two parts. The aim of the historical works is to show the necessary connexion between philosophical concepts and the age to which they belong; the same idea is at the root of his constructive speculation. All philosophy is philosophy of life, the development of a new culture, not mere intellectualism, but the application of a vital religious inspiration to the practical problems of society. This practical idealism Eucken described by the term “activism.” In accordance with this principle, Eucken gave considerable attention to social and educational problems.
He maintained that humans have souls, and that they are therefore at the junction between nature and spirit. He believed that people should overcome their non-spiritual nature by continuous efforts to achieve a spiritual life, another aspect of his ethical activism. “It seems as if man could never escape from himself, and yet, when shut in to the monotony of his own sphere, he is overwhelmed with a sense of emptiness. The only remedy here is radically to alter the conception of man himself, to distinguish within him the narrower and the larger life, the life that is straitened and finite and can never transcend itself, and an infinite life through which he enjoys communion with the immensity and the truth of the universe. Can man rise to this spiritual level? On the possibility of his doing so rests all our hope of supplying any meaning or value to life (R. C. Eucken, Der Sinn und Wert des Lebens, p. 81).”
He married in 1882 and had a daughter and two sons. His son Walter Eucken became a famous founder of neoliberal thought in economics.
Eucken died in Jena at the age of 80.
He was a prolific writer; his best-known works are:
* Die Lebensanschauungen der großen Denker (1890; 7th ed., 1907; Eng. trans., W. Hough and Boyce Gibson, The Problem of Human Life, 1909) (The Problem of Human Life as Viewed by the Great Thinkers) * Der Kampf um einen geistigen Lebensinhalt (1896) (The Struggle for a Spiritual Content of Life), * Der Wahrheitsgehalt der Religion (1901) (The Truth of Religion), * Grundlinien einer neuen Lebensanschauung (1907) (Life's Basis and Life's Ideal: The Fundamentals of a New Philosophy of Life), * Der Sinn und Wert des Lebens (1908) (The Meaning and Value of Life) * Geistige Strömungen der Gegenwart (1908; first appeared in 1878 as Die Grundbegriffe der Gegenwart; Eng. trans. by M. Stuart Phelps, New York, 1880) (Main Currents of Modern Thought) * Können wir noch Christen sein? (1911) (Can We Still Be Christians?). * Present Day Ethics in their Relation to the Spiritual Life (1913) (Deem Lectures given at New York University) * Der Sozialismus und seine Lebensgestaltung (1920) (Socialism: an Analysis)
Other notable works are:
* Die Methode der aristotelischen Forschung (1872) (The Aristotelian Method of Research) * Geschichte der philosophische Terminologie (1879) (History of Philosophical Terminology) * Prolegomena zu Forschungen über die Einheit des Geisteslebens (1885) (Prolegomena to Research on the Unity of the Spiritual Life) * Beiträge zur Geschichte der neueren Philosophie (1886, 1905) (Contributions to the History of the Newer Philosophies) * Die Einheit des Geisteslebens (1888) (The Unity of the Spiritual Life) * Thomas von Aquino und Kant (1901) (Thomas Aquinas and Kant) * Gesammelte Aufsätze zu Philosophische und Lebensanschauung (1903) (Collected Essays on Views of Philosophy and Life) * Philosophie der Geschichte (1907) (Philosophy of History) * Einführung in die Philosophie der Geisteslebens (1908; Eng. trans., The Life of the Spirit, F. L. Pogson, 1909, Crown Theological Library) (Introduction to the Philosophy of the Life of the Spirit) * Hauptprobleme der Religionsphilosophie der Gegenwart (1907) (Main Problems of the Current Philosophy of Religion)
Other English translations of his work include:
* Liberty in Teaching in the German Universities (1897) * Are the Germans still a Nation of Thinkers? (1898) * Progress of Philosophy in the 19th Century (1899) * The Finnish Question (1899) * The Present Status of Religion in Germany (1901)
He delivered lectures in England in 1911 and spent six months lecturing at Harvard University and elsewhere in the United States in 1912–1913.