Romantic Anthropology

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Historical definition

Anthropology, the study of humanity, a discipline dealing with the physical and spiritual nature of humans. Recently, anthropology has been seen as the natural history of man and has become separated from man’s natural history proper. Anthropology can show two very different faces, depending on whether one is considering the physical or spiritual side of man, or attempting to reconcile the two; further, depending on the particular point of view and purpose from which or to which man is observed. As man must be examined from three points of view: – 1) according to his physical nature; 2) according to his spiritual nature; 3) according to that which he makes out of himself as a being of free-will – thus we have, firstly, somatic or physiological anthropology (which, as it is dedicated mostly to the curing of diseases , has been termed medical anthropology); further, psychological anthropology (q.v. psychology) and comparative or unspecified anthropology; although this is more usually considered to be a philosophical discipline. The latter type of anthropology is concerned primarily with the collection of knowledge about humanity and leads to a true knowledge of human nature (q.v.) . However, this branch is, relatively speaking, the least developed to date. Hartmann, Heinroth, v. Berger and Hillebrand all attempted this task. Cf.: G. E. Schulze, "Psychische Anthropologie" (3rd ed., Göttingen, 1826) and D. Choulant's "Anthropologie für Nichtärzte" (Dresden 1828, 2 vols.)

Allgemeine deutsche Real-Encyklopädie für die gebildeten Stände. Vol 1. Reutlingen 1830, p 319.


A modern definition

Anthropology [Greek] - the study of man, especially with relation to biological, philosophical, educational and theological aspects.

Especially in the English use of the word, anthropology as an empirical science also covers the manifestations of cultural and social life, i.e. sociology, social psychology, ethnology, folklore, and parts of linguistics, prehistory and archaeology. In the USA cultural anthropology – which is effectively ethnology – is considered as a special subdivision of anthropology.

Biological Anthropology

Biological anthropology is the sub-discipline of biology which deals with the human as an organism. Primarily, it is concerned with the phylogenesis (evolution) of man and the geographical variations exhibited by modern humans (q.v. human races) as well as ontogenesis (individual development), growth and the human constitution.

[...] Biological anthropology gained a firm basis with the flourishing of the natural sciences, especially biology, medicine and anatomy. Of fundamental importance was C. von Linne's incorporation of the human species into his classification system for animals – in the 12th edition of his Systema naturae, he placed mankind among the primates along with the chimpanzees. J. F. Blumenbach is considered to be the founder of modern anthropology - his system for the classification of races of 1775 is still of considerable relevance today. I. Kant recognised the dominant role of inheritance in phylogenesis and intraspecial variations. The 19th century saw the inclusion of mankind within the new theory of the evolution of all organic beings (C. Darwin, E. Haeckel, T. Huxley). The idea of a close family relationship between humans and the primates, especially the great apes, had been gaining weight for some time (J. B. Lamarck, W. Lawrence), and was strengthened by numerous fossil finds in the 20th century.

[...] The historical development of anthropology was paralleled by the foundation of diverse scientific societies and academic bodies. The foundation of the "Societé d'Anthropologie de Paris" by P. Broca (1859), that of the "École d'Anthropologie" (1876) and of other similar organisations in many countries (1860-90) heralded the heyday of Anthropology – a golden age made possible by close co-operation between anthropologists, anatomists, prehistorians, archaeologists, ethnologists and others. In 1886, the first Chair of Anthropology (J. Ranke) was set up in Munich.

Philosophical Anthropology

In its broadest sense, philosophical anthropology covers the history of human self-interpretation from the ancient Greeks up to modern times. The term "anthropology" was first used by Otto Casmann (1562-1607) in his Psychologia anthropologica sive animae humanae doctrina (1594). In the antique world and in the middle ages, the search for the "essence" of man had been an integral part of ontology and metaphysics . The modern period, however, saw a radical shift of interest to the "subject", influenced by R. Descartes and I. Kant – first to the "transcendental subject" which dominated the epistemological theories of German Idealism, and later those of New Kantianism and of E. Husserl; then to the "corporeal subject" or to "existence" beginning with L. Feuerbach, S. A. Kierkegaard, M. Stirner and F. Nietzsche, and continuing into "Lebensphilosophie" (philosophy of life) and "Existenzphilosophie" (philosophy of existence) as well as the neo-Marxist and structuralist schools.

As Kant, during his lectures on logic, reformulated the three central philosophical questions "What can I know?", "What should I do?" and "What may I hope?" into the fundamental question "What is man?", he expressed for the first time the task of philosophical anthropology - albeit without directly tackling it (just as the philosophers of German Idealism had not). Feuerbach was the first to complete the "anthropological shift " in direct opposition to G.W.F. Hegel´s philosophy of the absolute spirit, when he replaced theology with anthropology. K. Marx later followed him in this. Still more radically, Stirner turned to the individual ("Einziger"), Kierkegaard to individual existence. Nietzsche and the life philosophers W. Dilthey, H. Bergson and L. Klages concentrated on bodily life and experience, which they considered more fundamental than the purely intellectual mind.

Philosophical anthropology in the more narrow sense of a philosophical discipline first arose at the end of the 1920s.

Educational anthropology

Educational or pedagogical anthropology is concerned with the destination and the self-interpretation of human existence from the pedagogical point of view.

Theological anthropology

One of the foundations of Christian theological anthropology is Genesis 1.26, where man is described as having been created in God's likeness (q.v. Imago Dei): the gift of mind made man capable of recognising truth and of taking upon himself the moral responsibility for his actions. According to Catholic teaching, sin (traditionally speaking: "original sin") has impaired (>wounded<) man's intended capacity to live in this way; in Protestant teaching this capacity is thought to have been greatly damaged or even completely destroyed. This has consequences for the question of whether it is possible, difficult or even impossible for humans to know God or to develop a universal system of morals.

Brockhaus - die Enzyklopädie : in 24 Vol. - 19. Edition, Vol. 1. Mannheim 1986.




This page was designed by Uli Wunderlich, and translated by Adam Lawrence. Update: Manfred Engel. Please contact Prof. Dr. Manfred Engel if you have any questions.

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Last update:  2003-07-26 (me)