- Klages, Ludwig
- (1872-1956)cultural theorist; a member of the George Circle for whom "research into the unconscious became worship of the uncon-scious" (Pachter). Born in Hanover, he studied physics and philosophy before taking a doctorate in 1901 in chemistry. Despite what he called a "practical" approach to education, his humanistic bent led him to coedit Blatter fur die Kunst during 1892-1904 with Stefan George.* In 1903 he founded a "Psycho-diagnostic Seminar," an enterprise that relocated to Switzerland during World War I. He gradually became the leading figure in a psychological movement, sometimes called "vitalism," in which pseudosciences were explored to gain insight into character types.Klages exemplified the romantic intellectual dedicated to the repudiation of reason in the name of instinct. Impugning "civilization" in favor of "Kultur," his ideology paralleled that of Oswald Spengler* and unintentionally provided part of the intellectual framework for Nazism. He argued that the ability to think and will distinguished humans from animals. This difference was the source of man's estrangement from the world and the cause of his psychic illnesses; by dissolving the individual ego and recapturing one's animal consciousness, a man's natural impulses would triumph. His magnum opus, the three-volume Der Geist als Widersacher der Seele (Intellect as antagonist of the soul), published during 1929-1931, denounced scientific rationality on behalf of the irrational. Although Klages lectured throughout Germany and was much honored in his homeland—he received the Nietzsche Prize in 1923 and the Goethe Medal in 1932 and was elected Senator of Munich's German Academy in 1933—he chose to remain in Switzerland.REFERENCES:EP, vol. 4; Herf, Reactionary Modernism; NDB, vol. 11; Pachter, Weimar Etudes.
A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. C. Paul Vincent.