Ernst Kapp

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Ernst Kapp

Ernst Christian Kapp (born October 15, 1808 in Ludwigsstadt , Upper Franconia ; † January 30, 1896 in Düsseldorf ) was a pedagogue , geographer and philosopher . With his work Basics of a Philosophy of Technology from 1877 he is considered one of the founders of the modern philosophy of technology .


Ernst Kapp was born as the last of 12 children in Ludwigsstadt in Upper Franconia. His father, a magistrate, died when the son was six years old. He then grew up with relatives and sometimes with strangers, as his mother also died early. From 1824 to 1828 Ernst Kapp studied classical philology at the Royal Prussian University of Bonn and was initially a high school teacher in Hamm . In 1830 he received his doctorate in history with the dissertation De re navali Atheniensium . From 1830 to 1849 Kapp was a teacher of history and geography at the grammar school in Minden . Here he excelled with didactic works that demand a consideration of geography from historical and history from geographical aspects. “As a ripe result of many years of reflection” (according to Viktor Hantzsch in the Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie ), these preliminary considerations finally culminated in the Comparative General Geography of 1845.

As a self- confessed liberal - see Constituirte Despotismus und die constitutionelle Freiheit (1849) - Kapp felt himself forced to emigrate to America in 1849 when he threatened to lose his position . His wife and five children followed him in 1850, as did his brother Alexander Kapp, a high school teacher in Soest , and his nephew Friedrich Kapp , who later emerged as a historian and parliamentarian .

Ernst Kapp "swapped the pen for the spade" (Victor Hantsch), he and his family founded Sisterdale in Kendall County , Texas , which is also known as a " Latin Settlement ", and settled there as cotton farmers . Kapp also developed a number of activities: He was elected president of the “Verein frei Männer”, a freethinkers ' association, and took part in the publication of the German-language San Antonio newspaper . When he took a stand for the liberation of slaves in the Civil War , he aroused nuisance in Texas, which forced him to sell the newspaper.

In 1865, Kapp returned to Germany with his family in poor health and settled in Düsseldorf as a private lecturer . Here he got the second improved edition of his comparative general geography (1868) and wrote the basics of a philosophy of technology. On the history of the origins of culture from new points of view (1877).

On January 30, 1896, Kapp died in Düsseldorf at the age of 87.


With his comparative general geography of 1845, Kapp proved to be a student of Carl Ritter , the founder of modern scientific geography, as well as Hegel's cultural anthropological and universal historical lectures on the philosophy of history (1832-1845). Kapp's specific developmental thinking emerged, emphasizing the mutual dependency of the material prerequisites of the human environment and the spirit. In doing so, Kapp remained committed to the Hegelian a priori of the spirit. The book also contains reflections on biogeography , anthropogeography and cultural geography , which were later elaborated by Friedrich Ratzel , and on the relationship between land, sea, culture and history, as they were later similar to in Oswald Spengler's Der Untergang des Abendlandes (1923) and in Carl Schmitt geopolitical considerations in Land und Meer (1942).

Kapp distinguished between three political and geographical cultures :

  • the "Potamian-Oriental"
  • the "Thalassian-classical"
  • as well as the "oceanic-Germanic".

He always saw the water as the determining and structuring factor.

The basic lines of a philosophy of technology from 1877 represent perhaps the first genuinely modern work of the philosophy of technology, because it completely reversed the Cartesian metaphoric of the organic as something merely mechanical, which had prevailed up to that point, and because it turned the technical behavior of man into a specifically modern anthropology of deficiencies Embeds people, as can be found first in the writings of Johann Gottfried Herder and later more clearly in Arnold Gehlen .

The second chapter of the basic lines of a philosophy of technology - "Die Organprojektion" (1877, p. 29 ff.) - can still be found today in many anthologies on the philosophy of technology and anthropology . The central thesis of the work is that all technical artifacts are ultimately to be understood as organ projections. A hammer is to be understood as a fist and Karl Culmann's crane as a human thigh bone, a saw depicts the incisors , a telescope unconsciously reproduces the inner structure of the eye . The development of the book follows the increasing complexity of the technical equipment, from the telegraphy that emerged at the time , which was understood as a nervous system , to the state as a reflection of the human organism as a whole. The technical development as the motor of cultural development is always an emphasis on something that is already organically and spiritually laid out in the human being, in order to challenge and promote its intellectual development at the same moment as its concretion.


  • De re navali Atheniensium Bonn 1830 (dissertation).
  • Contribution to the establishment of a safe course in history and geography lessons with special consideration for the lower secondary school level in Minden 1831.
  • The unity of the historical and geographical school lessons in Minden 1833.
  • Guide to first school lessons in the history and geography of Minden 1833. Seven editions until 1870.
  • Hellas. Historical pictures for youth classes in Minden 1833.
  • De incrementis quae ratio docendae in scholis historiae et geographiae cepit Minden 1836.
  • Philosophical or comparative general geography as a scientific representation of the earth's conditions and human life in their inner context. 2 volumes. Brunswick 1845.
  • Constituent despotism and constitutional freedom. Hamburg 1849.
  • Comparative general geography in a scientific presentation. 2nd improved edition, Braunschweig 1868.
  • Basics of a philosophy of technology. On the history of the origins of culture from new points of view. Georg Westermann, Braunschweig 1877 ( online text in the Virtual Laboratory of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science ).
    • Basics of a philosophy of technology. On the history of the origins of culture from new perspectives. With an introduction by Hans-Martin Sass. Düsseldorf: VDI-Verlag 1978 (photomechanical reprint of the edition from 1877).
    • Basics of a philosophy of technology. On the history of the origins of culture from new perspectives. With an introduction by Stefan Rieger, ed. by Christian A. Bachmann and Sylvia Kokot. Berlin 2015 (study edition).
    • Basics of a philosophy of technology. On the history of the origins of culture from new perspectives. Ed. With an introduction by Harun Maye and Leander Scholz. Felix Meiner, Hamburg 2015 (study edition with new spelling, with references, a detailed introduction as well as name and subject indexes).


  • Viktor HantzschKapp, Ernst . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 51, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1906, pp. 31-33.
  • Kurt Klotzbach : Ernst Kapp, the founder of the "Latin Colony" Sisterdale . In: Mitteilungen des Mindener Geschichtsverein , No. 54; Mindener Geschichtsverein, Minden 1982. pp. 21-51, ISSN  0340-188X .
  • Eduard Korte: Philosophy of Culture and Anthropology, on the intellectual historical background of Ernst Kapps. Kovač, Hamburg 1992, ISBN 3-8606-4012-7 .
  • Harald Leinenbach: The physicality of technology. On the organ projection thesis of Ernst Kapps. Essen 1990, ISBN 3-8920-6333-8 .
  • Harun Maye and Leander Scholz (eds.): Ernst Kapp and the anthropology of the media . Kadmos, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-86599-380-9
  • Hans-Martin Sass: Man and His Environment: Ernst Kapp's Pioneering Experience and His Philosophy of Technology and Environment . In: Essays from the Southwest Symposium 1978 - German Culture in Texas: A Free Earth , ed. Glen E. Lich and Dona B. Reeves-Marquardt Boston, 1980, ISBN 0-8057-8415-2 ( English ).
  • Leander Scholz : The world spirit in Texas. Culture and technology with Ernst Kapp , in: Journal for Media and Culture Research ZMK , edited by Lorenz Engell and Bernhard Siegert, year 2013, issue 1, pp. 171–190, Meiner, Hamburg 2013, ISBN 3-7873-2465-8 .

Web links


  1. ^ Karl-Eugen Kurrer : The History of the Theory of Structures. Searching for Equilibrium . Berlin: Ernst & Sohn 2018, pp. 145f., ISBN 978-3-433-03229-9