Arthur Oncken Lovejoy

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Arthur Schauffler Oncken Lovejoy (born October 10, 1873 in Berlin  , † December 30, 1962 in Baltimore , Maryland ) was an American historian and literary scholar . Lovejoy is considered to be the founder of the history of ideas .


Lovejoy's parents Sarah Oncken and Wallace Lovejoy

Arthur Schauffler Lovejoy was born as the son of the Boston (USA) physician Wallace William Lovejoy and his German wife Sarah Agnes. She was the youngest daughter of Johann Gerhard Onckens (1800–1884), who is considered the founding father of German and continental European Baptism . Lovejoy's father had traveled to Germany to do postgraduate studies in Berlin . On his arrival in the Port of Hamburg he met Oncken and met his future wife in his house, whom he married on September 24, 1872 and with whom he then moved to Berlin. Arthur Lovejoy was born there a year later. His middle name Schaufflergoes back to the married name of his aunt Margaret Anna Oncken, who was married to the Baptist preacher Carl Schauffler and was already widowed at the time of Arthur's birth. In May 1874, Wallace Lovejoy returned to Boston with his family. Arthur Lovejoy's mother died there on April 26, 1875 from an overdose of a sleeping pill obtained from the plant genus Gelsemium . It is unclear whether she took the drug accidentally or with suicidal intent, incidentally without her husband's knowledge . As a result of these events, Lovejoy's father was no longer able to care for his son. He placed him in the care of relatives who took him to Germany. It was not until 1878 that Arthur Lovejoy returned to his father in Boston. In the meantime he had given up his medical profession and after theological studies had become pastor of the Episcopal Church. In 1881 he married Emmeline Dunton, who then took care of Arthur Lovejoy's upbringing as a stepmother. The family often changed their place of residence in the following years. She lived for a short time in Irontown ( Ohio ), later in Germantown, Palmyra (New Jersey), Trenton ( New Jersey ) and from 1891 in Oakland ( California ). Around 1890 Arthur Lovejoy took the birth name of his birth mother and called himself (omitting his original middle name) from then on Arthur O (ncken) Lovejoy .

After his school education Arthur Oncken Lovejoy studied from 1891 to 1895 at the University of California, Berkeley languages ​​and philosophy. One of his professors here was George Holmes Howison (1834-1916), who dealt with the conflict between human freedom on the one hand and the omnipresence and omniscience of God on the other. In the fall of 1895 Lovejoy enrolled at Harvard University , where he heard lectures by Professors Josiah Royce , Hugo Munsterberg , George Herbert Palmer (1842-1933) and George Santayana , among others .

As a history professor at Johns Hopkins University from 1910 to 1939, Lovejoy founded the University's History of Ideas Club , which he also headed for decades. This was a meeting place for eminent historians and literary critics.

From 1935 Lovejoy worked together with George Boas (1891-1980) in Baltimore on a history of ideas of primitivism in European intellectual history .

In 1936 his main work The Great Chain of Being , based on his William James Lectures in 1933 at Harvard University , was published.

In 1940 he founded the journal " Journal of the History of Ideas ". Since 1932 he was a member of the American Philosophical Society .

Works (selection)

  • Arthur O. Lovejoy: The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea , Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1936, 1961, 1970 (German: The Great Chain of Being: History of a Thought . Frankfurt a. M .: Suhrkamp. 2nd ed. 1993. (Suhrkamp pocket book science. ISBN 3-518-28704-4 .)
  • Arthur O. Lovejoy: Essays in the History of Ideas , including The Supposed Primitvism of Rousseau's Discourse on Inequalitiy , Baltimore 1948
  • Arthur O. Lovejoy and Georg Boas: Primitivism and Related Ideas in Antiquity , New York 1965 (1953)

Literature (selection)

  • Daniel J. Wilson: Arthur O. Lovejoy and the Quest for Intelligibility , The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill 1980.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. For the biographical information in this section, see (unless otherwise stated) Philip B. Dematteis, Leemon B. McHenry (Ed.): American Philosophers Before 1950 , in: Dictionary of Literary Biography , Vol. 270, Detroit 2004, pp. 213f ; Hans Luckey : Johann Gerhard Oncken and the beginnings of German Baptism , Kassel 1934, p. 290
  2. ^ Bärbel Küster: Matisse and Picasso as cultural travelers. Primitivism and anthropology around 1900. Berlin 2003, p. 13 ff., ISBN 3-05-003850-0 .
  3. ^ Member History: Arthur O. Lovejoy. American Philosophical Society, accessed January 6, 2019 .