Aesthetica Preprint, 28 (June 1990)

Eduard Spranger, The aesthetic man

A pupil of Dilthey, from whom he distanced himself because of his immanentism, Eduard Spranger carried out his research in various fields: from pedagogics to psychology and philosophy. He was a professor first in Leipzig and then in Berlin, where he had a great influence on several generations of students. After collaborating on the cultural policy of the Republic of Weimar, he resigned in order to protest against the intimidatory climate which had risen in the University with the advent of Nazism. Obliged by various circumstances to withdraw his resignation, he lived for twelve years in a kind of "interior exile", only interrupted by an important cultural trip to Japan (1936-37). When the war was finished, after a short period in which he was rector in Berlin, he went to the University of Tübingen, where he lived till his death (1963) and where he started again an intense cultural activity, concerning mainly ethicalreligious problems.
Trained in a largely aesthetic neohumanistic climate (as his important studies on Humboldt and Goethe show), after the First World War he approached a socialcultural conception of "Bildung", which is less linked to individual imagination and finally an ethicalreligious philosophy concerning the problem of the metaphysical rebirth of "Gewissen". The pages here translated are taken from Lebensformen (1921), his bestknown philosophical work, in which a typology of life forms (economic, theoretic, aesthetic, social, political, religious) is elaborated and based on a structural psychology completely free from natural science methods. Once the prevailing life form is identified, the relations with the coexistent, but subordinate values are analysed. The aesthetic man, here conceived on the classicistic model, follows the interior form law, that he forms himself aesthetically, and assimilates interiorly the impressions of life in order to express them later in his work or in the imagination sphere; he animates things in order to enjoy his empathic relationships with them, aesthetically. As is underlined in the Introduction, by examining this life form in detail, Spranger describes the situation of "Erlebnisbunst" at the beginning of the twentieth century in a charming way.
He comes to work out a theory of the aesthetic that would be very advanced if it did not fall in under the condemnation of not being essential, typical of the ethical judgement.