The literary movement of moral studies has spread from the Italian court culture to Western Europe since the Renaissance . Examples of important representatives of moral studies are Machiavelli and Castiglione in Italy, Montaigne and La Rochefoucauld in France, Francis Bacon and Thomas Browne in England, Quevedo and Baltasar Gracián in Spain or Thomasius and Knigge in Germany.
The philosophical origins of moral studies can be found in the ethics of antiquity and in humanism . The basic realization of the moralists is that humans need not only legal and ethical norms but also social norms of behavior. The latter are crucial for the success and reputation of the individual in their environment. The first moralists were politically involved in the aristocratic court culture. They collected and commented on their interpersonal experiences and observations, initially mainly in essays or aphorisms . The findings could be used as guidelines for “polite” behavior, although the moralists neither systematically analyzed society nor developed behavioral norms for specific life situations. Various ideal types of the determined, yet autonomously thinking aristocrat were developed. For example, these were the “ gentleman ” in England or the “ honnête homme ” in France. Central subject areas that have been taken up again and again in the history of moral studies are, for example, the autonomy of thought, the nature of people, integrity and reason, happiness and transience, social isolation and the general ability of people to relate to one another, for example in marriage or friendship. With the Enlightenment , however, the harsh criticism of society increasingly became the focus of moralism. Various moralists even propagated the detachment from social constraints and the pursuit of success and reputation.
In the 19th and 20th, well-known philosophers such as Schopenhauer or Nietzsche made use of moralistic forms of expression and approaches. However, they can no longer be seen as moralists in the original sense. Rather, they had turned their attention to other areas of philosophy and only practiced the moralistic tradition on the side.
The French moralists
English Enlightenment Morality
In England , it was not until the middle of the 17th century that more and more scholars turned to the new philosophy of moral studies. In the beginning, they too mainly used the form of the essay for the normative description of social processes. Francis Bacon and Thomas Browne , in particular , achieved great prestige for addressing core moralistic issues and are still among the best-known representatives of English literary history.
In 1688 England began to dissolve the absolutist structures earlier than in the continental European countries. As a direct or indirect consequence of the introduction of basic democratic forms, both the consumption and the production of moralistic writings expanded from the closed court culture to large parts of the bourgeoisie . With the establishment of coffee houses and debating clubs, there were also new platforms for the exchange of views between the moralists of the early 18th century. During this time of social disorientation, moral studies experienced a change of direction. Although the core questions discussed from French and early English moral studies remained in the focus of the authors, the variety of media they used expanded. The goal was increasingly to make the knowledge gained accessible to the largest possible audience. New narrative forms were developed or existing ones were adapted for moralistics. As a result, moralistic novels , dramas , poems , travel reports and magazines (so-called periodical essays) were created. Relevant examples of this replacement of "classical" moralistic forms of expression are, for example, Jonathan Swift's novel Gulliver's Travels or the magazine essays by Richard Steele and Joseph Addison in the Tatler and the Spectator . The reflections and stories were increasingly embellished with fictional elements or satirical social criticism. William Hogarth even processed core moralistic themes in paintings and copperplate engravings, thus laying the foundations for today's caricature . In fact, the newly created works hit the nerve of the times and are still very popular with the readership to this day.
- Hans Peter Balmer : Condicio humana or What human being means. Moralistic Perspectives on Practical Philosophy. readbox unipress, Münster 2018, ISBN 978-3-95925-067-2 .
- Hans Peter Balmer: Philosophy of Human Things. European moral studies. Francke, Bern / Munich 1981, ISBN 3-7720-1510-7 .
- Hans Peter Balmer: Nietzsche's development of European moral studies. In: Perspektiven der Philosophie, New Yearbook. 7, 1981, pp. 9-24.
- Hans Peter Balmer: Liveliness and conditionality. The moralistic factor in practical philosophy. In: Freiburg journal for philosophy and theology . 32, 1985, pp. 491-507.
- Hans Peter Balmer: Wisdom of the Inconsolable Comforter. The discourse of the moralists. In: Aleida Assmann (Ed.): Wisdom. Fink, Munich 1991, ISBN 978-3-7705-2655-0 , pp. 525-536.
- Hans Peter Balmer: Moralistic Ethics. In: Annemarie Pieper (Ed.): History of the newer ethics. Volume 1. Francke, Tübingen 1992, ISBN 978-3-8252-1701-3 , pp. 1-25.
- Hans Peter Balmer: aphorism, essay writing, moralistic. In: Hans Vilmar Geppert & Hubert Zapf (ed.): Theories of Literature. Basics and perspectives. Volume 3. Francke, Tübingen 2007, ISBN 978-3-7720-8222-1 , pp. 191-211.
- Brendan Donnellan: Nietzsche and the French moralists. Bouvier, Bonn 1982, ISBN 978-3-416-01667-4 .
- Paul Geyer: On the dialectic of the paradox in French moral studies. In the S. & Roland Hagenbüchle (ed.): The paradox. A challenge to western thought. Stauffenburg-Verlag, Tübingen 1992, ISBN 978-3-923721-78-8 , pp. 385-407.
- Karl-Heinz Göttert : Art of the sentence grinding. On Nietzsche's recourse to European moral studies. In: German quarterly for literary studies and intellectual history . Vol. 67, 1993, pp. 717-728.
- Margot Kruse : Contributions to French moral studies. Edited by Joachim Küpper . de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2003, ISBN 3-11-017827-3 .
- Andreas Luckner: The ethics of wisdom. In: Marcus Düwell, Christoph Hübenthal & Micha H. Werner (Eds.): Handbook Ethics. 3rd updated edition. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2011, ISBN 978-3-476-02388-9 , pp. 206-217.
- Fritz Schalk (ed.): French moralists . Diogenes, Zurich 1995, ISBN 3-257-22791-4 (A collection of texts; different editions with possibly changing authors, see the lit. in the Lemma French Moralists).
- Herrad Schmidt: The diversité from Montaigne to Montesquieu. French moralists in the field of tension between observation, reflected perception of reality and language . V&R unipress, Göttingen 2016, ISBN 978-3-8471-0609-8 doi: 10.14220 / 9783737006095
- Caroline Sommerfeld-Lethen : How to Become Moral? Kant's moralistic ethics. Alber, Freiburg / Munich 2005, ISBN 978-3-495-48128-8 .
- Jürgen von Stackelberg (ed.): French moral studies in a European context (= results of research. 172). Scientific book society WBG, Darmstadt 1982, ISBN 3-534-04966-7 .
- Christoph Strosetzki: Moralistics and social norm. In: Peter Brockmeier & Hermann H. Wetzel (eds.): French literature in individual representations. Volume 1: From Rabelais to Diderot. Metzler, Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 978-3-476-00473-4 , pp. 177-223.
- Peter Werle: moral studies. In: Harald Fricke (Hrsg.): Reallexikon der Deutschen Literaturwissenschaft . Volume 2: HO. de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2000, ISBN 978-3-11-015663-8 , pp. 633-636.
- Robert Zimmer : The European moralists as an introduction . Junius, Hamburg 1999, ISBN 3-88506-998-9 .