Fritz Mauthner

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Portrait of Fritz Mauthner

Fritz Mauthner (born November 22, 1849 in Horschitz , Bohemia , Austrian Empire ; † June 29, 1923 in Meersburg , Baden , German Empire ) was a German-speaking philosopher , writer ( fiction writer , essayist ) and publicist .


Fritz Mauthner was born in Horschitz in the Königgrätzer Kreis as the fourth of six children of the Jewish cloth manufacturer Emmanuel Mauthner and his wife Amalie. When Fritz was six years old, the family moved to Prague . Mauthner studied law in Prague with Adolf Merkel , Antonín Randa and Jožef Krajnc , among others , but dropped out.

The acquaintance with Ernst Mach is considered particularly important for Mauthner's worldview . He taught experimental physics in Prague from 1867 to 1875 . At the turn of the century Mauthner wrote in a letter to Mach that he had given him the impetus to “eliminate the latent metaphysical foundations from science”.

In 1871 he wrote the cycle of sonnets, The Great Revolution , which almost brought him an indictment of high treason and insulting legally recognized denominations. In 1873 Mauthner worked in a law firm. In the same year the first version of the Critique of Language was written (now lost). During this phase Mauthner wrote his first stories and feature sections . On May 23, 1873, the premiere of his play Anna took place at the German Royal State Theater in Prague .

Collaboration with the Berliner Tageblatt

Portrait of Mauthner by Kasia von Szadurska (1916)

In 1876 Mauthner went to Berlin to write for Rudolf Mosses Berliner Tageblatt (founded in 1871), where he confidently applied for a job with a "romantic-genius" attitude and worked as an editor and author for around 45 years with interruptions . Two years later he married the Jewish pianist Jenny Ehrenberg, from which his only child, a daughter, emerged. Mauthner's wife died in 1896. From 1878 he published parodies of contemporary authors such as Gustav Freytag , Paul Heyse and Arno Holz in the German Monday newspaper . The parodies later appeared in book editions. The effect on the readers of the time is described as sensational. By 1902, the complete edition of the parodies had reached 30 editions.

Mauthner was one of the founding members of the casual society in 1880 , which included Otto Brahm , Max Halbe , Maximilian Harden , Otto Erich Hartleben and Gerhart Hauptmann , among others . In addition to his work at the Berliner Tageblatt , Mauthner wrote several novels and parodies, some of which reflected his - for him frustrating - experiences as an editor. The new Ahasver was published in 1882, and in 1887 the German national novel The Last German of Blatna . He described everyday life at the Tageblatt in 1888 in the second part of his Berlin W. trilogy in the autobiographical novel Die Fanfare . There, his employer Rudolf Mosse (in the novel Gottlieb Mettmann ) is described as extremely enterprising, but ignorant and unscrupulous. The publicist Siegfried Jacobsohn wrote about this satire: “(...) Gottlieb Mettmann is not a photograph of you, Rudolf Mosse. It's a cartoon, of course. Her way of acting was nowhere, her essence struck everywhere. ”In the same year Mauthner published his press satire Schmock or the literary career of the present , in which he also denounced opportunism and the lack of education of journalists with caustic irony. In a 47-page manuscript about his time as the Tageblatt editor, Mauthner left “no good hair” with the editor-in-chief Arthur Levysohn and the people responsible for the feature pages. Nonetheless, his personal and professional relationship with Mosse remained surprisingly untroubled. Since October 1889 Mauthner was editor of the magazine Germany . He published a total of twelve novels from 1882 to 1897, as well as short stories and poetry. Mauthner's fiction was received favorably by the readers , while the literary critics reacted mostly negatively.

Berlin and Freiburg im Breisgau

In 1892 he moved with his family to Berlin-Grunewald . Here he began to write his contributions to a critique of language . Mauthner intensified his language critical work, but had to interrupt all work in 1898 because he was in danger of going blind. Then he worked with Gustav Landauer . The first and second volumes of the articles appeared in 1901, and the third followed a year later. The rejection of his criticism of the language from academic circles deeply disappointed Mauthner. In 1905 he tried to relieve his depression by staying in the Canary Islands . After his daughter got married, Mauthner moved to Freiburg im Breisgau at the end of 1905 . There he joined the Kant Society and met Martin Buber in 1906 .

Glaserhäusle in Meersburg

The Glaserhäusle seen from Lake Constance
Home of Fritz Mauthner and Harriet Straub, the so-called Glaserhäusle in Meersburg on Lake Constance
Gravestone of Fritz Mauthner and Hedwig Mauthner ( Harriet Straub ) in the cemetery in Meersburg (inscription: "Redeemed from being human")

In 1907 Mauthner met Harriet Straub (1872–1945). He moved with her to Meersburg on Lake Constance in 1909 , where they both married soon afterwards and lived in the "Glaserhäusle", Glaserhäusleweg 7. At this time he wrote the monograph Die Sprache, inspired by Martin Buber and dedicated to Gustav Landauer, and then devoted himself to the dictionary of philosophy , which appeared in two volumes in 1910 (and a second, revised version from 1923–1924). In 1912 he finished the philosophical parable The Last Death of Gautama Buddha.

With the beginning of the World War in 1914, arguments began with his friend Gustav Landauer. While Landauer generally disapproved of a war, Mauthner wrote propaganda articles for the war in the Berliner Tageblatt from 1915 onwards . After the German defeat in World War I , which was a disaster for him, Mauthner reconciled with Landauer. The final break, however, came when Landauer took part in the Munich Soviet Republic shortly afterwards in 1919 . Mauthner became an honorary citizen of Meersburg in the same year . From 1920 to 1923, Atheism and its History in the West was published in four volumes. Shortly before his death on June 29, 1923, Mauthner worked on Drei Bilder der Welt , which appeared posthumously.

Honorary grave in Meersburg

His grave of honor is in the cemetery in Meersburg in the middle of the east-west axis, as seen from the Hochkreuz. The grave inscription on the joint grave with Harriet Straub reads “Redeemed from being human”. Fritz Mauthner's death mask was removed in 1923 by the Meersburg sculptor Joseph Ehinger (1889–1955). It is exhibited in the Meersburg City Museum.

Language criticism

Quote: “Language makes us hate and laugh at scornfulness through its inherent insolence. She cheekily betrayed us; now we know her. And in the bright moments of this terrible insight we rage against language as well as against the next person who has cheated us of our faith, our love, our hope. "

( Contributions to a Critique of Language I, The Silence )

Mauthner received the special foundations for his later work from his teacher Ernst Mach in Prague. As a physicist, philosopher and scientific theorist, Ernst Mach was a versatile scientist who also included sensory physiology and psychology in his considerations and, even before Albert Einstein, called for the four-dimensional space-time continuum. Mach is also considered one of the pioneers of psychological Gestalt theory .

His student Fritz Mauthner was just as interested in a wide range of subjects and dealt with the current results of psychology in scientific-theoretical considerations. Mauthner took over from Mach the unification of the spatial dimensions and the time dimension in the four-dimensional continuum. While Einstein applied this view to the entire cosmos, Mauthner linked this modern view with psychophysiological considerations that assume a spatiotemporal order in memory.

Quote: “We will get to know time as the fourth dimension of reality. In connection with this, it will become clear to us all the more quickly that our sense of memory localizes individual past ideas, the so-called memories, in time just as our sense of sight localizes its ideas in the three dimensions of space. And just as the point of intersection of the coordinate system for our eyes goes through our brain, the zero point for the extension of time is always our presence; the zero point stays with us while we continue to live in time as the coordinate system of space moves with us. The conceptual difficulty would only lie in the fact that memory first generates the time into which it projects the data of the other senses. "

Mauthner took a mental path here that brought the temporal aspect of the “correlation theory of brain research”, our “working cycle in consciousness”, into focus.

Quote: “And so I think it is a useful hypothesis that, however, only one idea ever passes the eye of the needle of our consciousness, because in this sense only what is most present, that is, what assimilates in the mental stomach, what is instantly the brain Doing work - that this alone captivates the attention (of course, because the present as time is only the point of the needle between past and future, so the world of reality at any moment cannot be wider than the thread thinness of this moment, as the eye of a needle), but that at the same time the memory, that is, the unconscious registry of the brain, probably has all of our knowledge at its disposal, everything with the idea of ​​the moment already has relatives in readiness, so that the brain has in its memory the broad horizon that the world of experience or the world The past and the world of possibilities or the future. ”(Consciousness / Time and As association)

Memory is of central importance in Mauthner's philosophy of language. Quotes:

"My conviction is that the riddles of language can be solved with the key word memory, or rather that the riddles which the essence and origin of language gives us can be pushed back to the essence of human memory."

“In normal people, factual and verbal memory are closely linked. Indeed, this connection is a mere tautology, if I am right in claiming that a person's language or vocabulary is nothing other than his individual memory for his experience. Language is nothing but memory because it cannot be anything else. "(Memory and Language)

For Mauthner, memory, consciousness and language are different words for the holistic context of world knowledge from individual memory images.

“Memory is a fact of consciousness and consciousness is a fact for us only as memory. One could juggle even further with these words and yet would not even arrive at a fixed definition of the two terms in the skeptical sense of language criticism. We suspect, however, that a fact of consciousness ascertained through self-observation is not the abstraction of memory, but only the series of individual memory images; we suspect that the word consciousness actually means nothing other than the context of memory images "

( Conscious memory )

Inspired by gestalt theory, Mauthner placed the concept of " similarity " at the center of his epistemological and linguistic considerations.

Quotes: “The similarity is likely to play the most important role in psychology. Perhaps up to now the similarity has been instinctively neglected because otherwise one would have had to see too early how deeply our logical or linguistic knowledge is below our scientific demands, how far our concept formation is from mathematical accuracy; because our language concepts are based on similarity, the mathematical formulas on equality. "

“Absolute equality is an abstraction of mathematical thinking. In the real world there is only similarity. Equality is strong similarity, is a relative term. "

“All classification or language is based on similarity, not on equality, on similarity, not on equality, all our judgments or the application of language. But all logic , including the algebra of logic, is based on the mathematical concept of equality and is therefore a dangerous science. In order not to digress too far, it should only be mentioned briefly that the concept or the feeling of continuity also arises from the feeling of similarity alone. "

According to Mauthner, language is well suited for communication, but not for knowledge of truth or reality. With names and figures, people only get to know the " Mayan veil ", but not the reality hidden behind it.

Mauthner's criticism of language was largely ignored by the philosophy that followed. He is mentioned, albeit in a defensive sense, in the Tractatus logico-philosophicus by Ludwig Wittgenstein , where it says under point 4.0031: “All philosophy is 'language criticism'. (But not in the sense of Mauthner.) "


Novels, short stories, short stories, satires

  • After famous patterns , satire, 1878 (2nd edition 1889, complete edition 1897)
  • Lonely Rides , 1879
  • From poor Franischko , story, 1879
  • The Baroness Sundays , 1881
  • The new Ahasver , 1882
  • Dilettante Spiegel , Satire, 1883
  • Countess Salamanca , 1884
  • Xanthippe , 1884
  • Berlin W. (novel trilogy): Quartet , 1886; The Fanfare , 1888; The villa courtyard , 1890
  • The last German from Blatna , Roman, 1887
  • The Fanfare , Berlin 1888
  • Schmock or the career of the present , satire, Berlin 1888
  • The Pegasus , 1889
  • The first bank , Berlin 1889
  • Ten stories , 1891
  • Luck at Play , 1891
  • Hypatia , 1892
  • Lügenohr , 1892 (also under the title: From the fairy tale book of truth , 1899)
  • Kraft , novel, 1894
  • The Ghost Seers , novel 1894
  • The Colorful Series , 1896
  • The stone giant , novella, 1896
  • The Bohemian Manuscript , novella, 1897
  • The Wild Jockey and Others , 1897
  • The last death of Gautama Buddha , novel, 1913
  • The golden bow. Two novels from Bohemia. Cover design by Kasia von Szadurska . Publishing house Reuss & Itta, Konstanz 1917.

Volumes of poetry

  • The great revolution , 1872 (sonnet cycle)


  • Anna , 1874

Essays and theoretical writings

  • Little War , 1879
  • Creed , 1886
  • From basement to Zola. Critical essays , Berlin 1887
  • Dead symbols , 1892
  • On the argument about the stage , 1893
  • Talks of the dead , 1906
  • Conversations in Heaven and Other Heresies , 1914 (feature articles 1895–1913, mostly from the "Berliner Tageblatt")

Works of philosophy of language and cultural history


Editorial activity

  • Germany. Weekly for art and literature , 1889–1890
  • The magazine for national and international literature , 1891–1892
  • Library of Philosophers , from 1911
  • Group, Otto Friedrich: Antäus. An exchange of letters on speculative philosophy in its conflict with science and language. Berlin 1831. Ed. By Fritz Mauthner (introduction pp. V – XXXV). Müller, Munich 1914
    • in addition: Fritz Mauthner: Otto Friedrich Group. In: The future. Volume 85, 1913, pp. 314-325.

Collective editions

  • Selected writings (fiction selection from Mauthner's works), 6 vols., Dva, Stuttgart 1919


  • Fritz Mauthner - Gustav Landauer Correspondence 1890–1919 . Edited by Hanna Delf, Beck, Munich 1994.
  • Memories. Volume 1: Prague Youth. Autobiography, Munich 1918, (no more published).
  • Autobiography. In: Philosophy of the present in self-portrayals. Leipzig 1922, volume 3.

Editing of Mauthner's works by others

  • The unconscious Ahasuerus or: the thing-in-itself as will and idea. Stage pain festival in three acts by Fritz Mauthner. Arrangement, direction and all roles spoken by Stephan Reimertz . Deutschlandsender Kultur , April 13, 1993,

Audio book


  • Andreas Berlage: Sensation, I and language around 1900. Ernst Mach, Hermann Bahr and Fritz Mauthner in connection. Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1994, (= Europäische Hochschulschriften; Series 20: Philosophy; 414), ISBN 3-631-45792-8 .
  • Manfred Bosch : Liberation from dogmas. Pastor Jakobus Weidenmann and his 1923 speech on the "unbound God-seeker" Fritz Mauthner. In: Writings of the Association for the History of Lake Constance and its Surroundings. 129th year 2011, pp. 235–245 (digitized version )
  • Walter Eschenbacher: Fritz Mauthner and German literature around 1900. An investigation into the language crisis at the turn of the century . Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1977, (= European university publications; series 1; German language and literature; 163), ISBN 3-261-02044-X .
  • Lars Gustafsson : Language and Lies. Three language-philosophical extremists: Friedrich Nietzsche, Alexander Bryan Johnson, Fritz Mauthner. Hanser, Munich et al. 1980, ISBN 3-446-12951-0 .
  • Rudolf Haller:  Mauthner, Fritz. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 16, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-428-00197-4 , pp. 450-452 ( digitized version ).
  • Susanne Blumesberger, Michael Doppelhofer, Gabriele Mauthe: Handbook of Austrian authors of Jewish origin from the 18th to the 20th century. Volume 2: J-R. Edited by the Austrian National Library. Saur, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-598-11545-8 .
  • Gerald Hartung (Ed.): At the limits of language criticism. Fritz Mauthner's contributions to language and cultural theory. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2013, ISBN 978-3-8260-4943-9 .
  • Helmut Henne , Christine Kaiser (ed.): Fritz Mauthner - language, literature, criticism. Ceremony and symposium for his 150th birthday . Niemeyer, Tübingen 2000, (= Series German Linguistics; 224), ISBN 3-484-31224-6 .
  • Joachim Kühn : Failed language criticism. Fritz Mauthner's life and work . Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 1975, ISBN 3-11-005833-2 .
  • Martin Kurzreiter: Language criticism as ideology criticism with Fritz Mauthner . Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1993, (= European university publications; series 1; German language and literature; 1361), ISBN 3-631-45522-4 .
  • Elisabeth Leinfellner, Jörg Thunecke (Ed.): Building bridges between the disciplines. Fritz Mauthner as a writer, critic and cultural theorist. Arco-Verlag, Wuppertal 2004, ISBN 3-9808410-5-7 .
  • Elisabeth Leinfellner (Ed.): Fritz Mauthner. The work of a critical thinker . Böhlau, Vienna et al. 1995, ISBN 3-205-98433-1 .
  • Jacques Le Rider : Fritz Mauthner: scepticisme linguistique et modernité; une intellectual biography. Bartillat, Paris 2012, ISBN 978-2-84100-501-7 .
  • Michael Thalken: A flexible army of metaphors. Critical speaking with Friedrich Nietzsche, Gustav Gerber, Fritz Mauthner and Karl Kraus . Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1999, (= literature as language; 12), ISBN 3-631-34415-5 .
  • Bettina Ullmann: Fritz Mauthner's art and cultural presentations. Between traditionality and modernity . Lang, Frankfurt am Main et al. 2000, (= Hamburg contributions to German studies; 29), ISBN 3-631-35793-1 .
  • Almut Vierhufe: Parody and language criticism. Investigations into Fritz Mauthner's "According to Famous Patterns" . Niemeyer, Tübingen 1999, (= Series German Linguistics; 209), ISBN 3-484-31209-2 .
  • Veronika Jičínská: Bohemian themes with Fritz Mauthner and Auguste Hauschner . Czech Republic / Ústí nad Labem 2014, (= Acta Universitatis Purkynianae, Facultatis Philosophicae Studia Germanica, Series Monographica 3), ISBN 978-80-7414-692-3 .

Web links

Wikisource: Fritz Mauthner  - Sources and full texts
Commons : Fritz Mauthner  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

supporting documents

  1. ^ Franz Brümmer: Lexicon of German poets and prose writers from the beginning of the 19th century to the present. 6th edition. Leipzig 1913, Volume 4, p. 396.
  2. ^ Joachim Kühn: Failed language criticism: Fritz Mauthner's life and work, with a Fritz Mauthner bibliography. P. 151.
  3. ^ Siegfried Jacobsohn: Cry for the censor. Writings 1909–1915. Göttingen 2005, p. 266.
  4. ^ Elisabeth Krauss: The Mosse family: German-Jewish bourgeoisie in the 19th and 20th centuries. Munich 1999, p. 195.
  5. With Georg Müller in Leipzig and Munich, see Volume 1 in 11910 and Volume 2 in 21910
  6. See at Zeno
  7. Mauthner's tombstone in Meersburg at
  8. Stadtmuseum Meersburg, Mauthner / Straub area