Isaac Iselin

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Isaac Iselin

Isaak Iselin (born March 7, 1728 in Basel ; † July 15, 1782 ibid) was a Swiss philosopher of history who was active in various journalistic roles during the Enlightenment .


Iselin statue in Basel
Isaak Iselin (1728–1782) philosopher of history, councilor, founder.  Epitaphs (grave tablets) in the Gothic double cloister (15th century) of the Basel Minster.
Isaak Iselin (1728–1782) epitaphs (grave tablets) in the Gothic double cloister (15th century) in the Basel Minster .

His father was the businessman and silk ribbon manufacturer Christoph Iselin (1699–1748), who died in Basel in 1748. From 1742 Isaak Iselin studied philosophy in Basel and completed this course as a Magister Artium . Then he began to study law , again in Basel . In 1747 he moved to the law faculty of the University of Göttingen . 1751 Iselin was following a stay in Paris in his hometown of Basel on "Observationes Historicae miscellaneae" the Doctor iuris utriusque doctorate .

After Iselin's efforts to secure a state office or a professorship failed, Iselin increasingly shifted his professional activity to the journalistic sector. In 1755 the philosophical and patriotic dreams of a philanthropist appeared , which gave Iselin first recognition as a writer.

In 1756 Iselin was appointed council clerk of the city of Basel, which office he held with a short interruption from 1758 to 1760 until his death. In this capacity he corresponded with a large number of prominent personalities of his time.

Iselin also continued his socio-political and educational literary activities: in 1764 his large-scale History of Humanity was published . From 1767 he worked at the General German Library Friedrich Nicolais . In 1776 Iselin published the dreams of a philanthropist . As a publicist , he was a philanthropist and physiocrat . Against the ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau , this enlightener saw history as a linear progress towards humanity . From 1776 to 1778 and from 1780 to 1782 he was editor of the Ephemeris of Mankind . Iselin is listed as an affiliate of the Illuminati Order. He was a friend and sponsor of Johann Heinrich Pestalozzis .

In 1761 Iselin was one of the founders of the Helvetic Society , which he presided over in 1764. In 1777 he was Hauptinitiant and founding member of the Society for the encouragement and promotion of good and charitable , short -profit company or GGG called.

Iselin achieved its importance, which extends far beyond his hometown, as the founder of the speculative, universalistic philosophy of history in the German-speaking area. This was the first time that history could be understood philosophically.

Together with his wife Helena Forcart (1740-1810) Isaak Iselin had a total of nine children, the second daughter was the teacher Anna Maria Preiswerk-Iselin .


  • Philosophical guesswork about the history of mankind. (2 volumes, Frankfurt and Leipzig; first published anonymously in 1764, 2nd edition Zurich 1768)
    • Volume 2 contained a "chart of humanity".
  • Mixed fonts. 2 volumes, Zurich 1770.



  • Ulrich in the yard : Isaak Iselin. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . 2007.
  • August BernoulliIselin, Isaak . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 23, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1886, pp. 772-776.
  • Ulrich Im Hof:  Iselin, Isaak. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 10, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1974, ISBN 3-428-00191-5 , p. 188 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Florian Gelzer (ed.): New perspectives on Isaak Iselin = Nouvelles perspectives on Isaak Iselin . Schwabe, Basel 2014, ISBN 978-3-7965-3341-9 .
  • Lucas Marco Gisi, Wolfgang Rother (ed.): Isaak Iselin and the philosophy of history of the European Enlightenment (= studies on the history of the sciences in Basel. New series, vol. 6). Schwabe, Basel 2011, ISBN 978-3-7965-2597-1 .
  • Béla Kapossy: Iselin contra Rousseau: Sociable Patriotism and the History of Mankind. Schwabe, Basel 2006, ISBN 3-7965-2215-7 .
  • Sigrid-Ursula Follmann: Image of society, education and gender order with Isaak Iselin in the late Enlightenment. Lit, Münster 2002, ISBN 3-8258-6432-4 .
  • Andreas Urs Sommer : History as a consolation. Isaak Iselin's philosophy of history (= Schwabe horizons ). Schwabe, Basel 2002, ISBN 3-7965-1940-7 .
  • Holger Jacob-Friesen (Ed.): Profiles of the Enlightenment, Friedrich Nicolai - Isaak Iselin, Correspondence (1767–1782). Edition, analysis, comment. Haupt, Bern / Stuttgart / Vienna 1997 (dissertation, University of Basel, 1997).
  • Holger Jacob-Friesen: Isaak Iselin as a political thinker. In: Basler Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Altertumskunde . Vol. 100, 2000, pp. 41-51. ( )
  • Ulrich Im Hof: Isaak Iselin and the Late Enlightenment. Francke, Bern / Munich 1967.
  • Ulrich in the yard: Isaak Iselin. His life and the development of his thinking up to the writing of the “History of Mankind” from 1764. 2 parts. Schwabe, Basel 1947 (dissertation, University of Basel, 1944).
  • August von Miaskowski : Isaak Iselin. A contribution to the history of the economic, social and political aspirations of Switzerland in the 18th century. H. Georg, Basel 1876.

Web links

Commons : Isaak Iselin  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Tomb tablet of Isaac Iselin-Forcart