Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Beginning of Historicism: Chladenius & Möser

Johann Martin Chladenius and Justus Möser are two names that one does not hear in many households (especially the ones inhabited by Anglo-Americans).  However, in Beiser's new book on the German Historicist tradition, he makes the claim that these two are the grandfathers of Historicism. This is important because most  begin with Herder.

So what is so significant about both of them?  They both begin to look at history outside of simple confessional history or the history of the elite.  They also notice the importance of context and perspective in viewing the past. Because of their attention to history some may place them outside of the eighteenth century Enlightenment and see them as forerunners of nineteenth century movements.

Möser especially deserves mention here because he rejects Wolffian rationalism for its emphasis on reason and turns to the action and emotions of real historical actors. Chladenius seems to turn away from the relativism and perspectivism that may form from a historicist understanding of history because of his orthodox Lutheranism.  All in all, they are both pioneers in asking critical, modern questions about history.

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