from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Allegorical figures "Zeitgeist" by Richard Kissling , Luzern station

The Zeitgeist is the way of thinking and feeling ( mentality ) of an age . The term describes the peculiarity of a certain epoch or the attempt to visualize it. The German word Zeitgeist has been adopted as a loan word from English in numerous other languages. The English adjective zeitgeisty is also derived from it.

Concept history

The creator of the term is the poet and philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder , who first wrote about the "Zeitgeist" in his book Critical Forests or Considerations, which was published in Riga in 1769, in relation to the science and art of the beautiful . In this work Herder polemicized against the philologist Christian Adolph Klotz and his work genius seculi , which was published in Altenburg around 1760 . In his work, Klotz had endeavored to develop time-spanning instruments and measurement criteria in order to track down the peculiarities of a particular epoch. The phrase genius saeculi ("spirit of the age / century") was - in contrast to genius loci ("spirit of the place") - unknown in antiquity, but it was already established in the early modern period and can be found long before Klotz. In this respect, the term Zeitgeist is also considered a German borrowing from Latin.

Even with Herder, the concept of the zeitgeist has something restrictive, oppressive, “leaden”: Even emancipated people freed from religious ties often submit to it voluntarily and forego the freedom of thought. The zeitgeist rules where traditional normative orientations and behavioral standards are missing. But it also tends to exclude non-conformist thinking, because it also contains normative “assumptions, behavioral expectations, moral concepts, taboos and beliefs” that regulate the behavior of the individual, but are also “supported by him”.

The phrase “Spirit of the Times” and the combination “Zeitgeist” became popular after the French Revolution in 1789 and especially in the period of March 1830–1848.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe left Faust in the early 19th century . To paraphrase the “spirit of the times” in the first part of Faust tragedy (Faust I: 575-577):

What you call the spirit of the times,
That is fundamentally the masters own spirit,
in which the times are reflected.

Goethe describes the zeitgeist as a social preponderance, as a dominance or hegemonic relationship.

“When one side now particularly stands out, takes hold of the crowd and triumphs to the extent that the opposite side has to retreat into the corner and hide in silence for the moment, then that preponderance is called the spirit of the times, which for a while is its essence drives. "

- Goethe

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel sees in the zeitgeist the objective spirit unfolding in history (see epoch (philosophy) ).

Wilhelm Dilthey understands the “spirit of time” as the (necessary) “limitation in which people of a time live with regard to their thinking, feeling and willing. [...] Inevitables rule over the individual here. ”With this definition Dilthey takes up certain aspects of the concept of ideology . However, the notion of the zeitgeist in this escalation does not allow the question raised by Karl Mannheim and Emil Lederer as to why the people of an era do not always think and understand the same thing. Lederer blames intellectual competition for the fact that there is no unified zeitgeist. Mannheim sees the reason for this in the multitude of determinants of thought, in its specific “being-boundness”.

The intellectual situation of the time is the title that Karl Jaspers chose in 1932 for his cultural criticism , in which a zeitgeist does not determine the situation, but the prehistory of the present he is looking at explains the spirit of this time. Enzensberger adds to the demand to understand the present situation of the time from the past:

“There is nothing more narrow-minded than the zeitgeist. Anyone who only knows the present must be stupid. "

It is only a small step from this position to the general skepticism about permanent intellectual innovation:

“Anyone who completely subscribes to the zeitgeist is a poor man. There is something castrating about the constant avant-garde's addiction to innovation. "

- Hans Magnus Enzensberger

Zeitgeist and law

The “world views” prevailing in different social systems and cultures and the associated cultural guiding ideas are constantly changing and, in their regional and temporal characteristics, form the “zeitgeist” of a culture. This is usually determined by the traditional religious ideas and social structures and finds a binding form, especially in the ideas of justice of the respective legal system . This zeitgeist and the values ​​that live in it not only serve as an interpretation model for the events, but also act as motivation for action and thus gain practical importance for the formation of the state and law. Max Weber described the influence of religious ideas and social models on social structures and economic development. So under the pressure of changing ideas , the law also changes . For example, in 17th century England in particular, the idea of ​​individual responsibility gained ground not only in the religious sphere, but also in the field of politics. This changed the traditional legitimation of government: the kingship “ by God's grace ” became a “kingship legitimized by the people ”. Even below the constitution , the law is continuously adapted to changes in the zeitgeist, i.e. H. to the majority of consensual ideas about the legitimate state and social order. This happens not only through formal legislation , but also through a change in the interpretation of the law , that is, through a "change of meaning" in the laws.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Zeitgeist  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Sentence based on Lemma Zeitgeist. In: Mackensen German Dictionary. 11th edition. Südwest Verlag, Munich 1986.
  2. a b c d e sentence based on Hermann Joseph Hiery: Der Historiker und der Zeitgeist , undated , uni-bayreuth.de , accessed on July 28, 2009.
  3. Wiktionary: zeitgeisty (English)
  4. a b sentence after winged words. 2nd Edition. VEB Bibliographisches Institut, Leipzig 1982, pp. 303 and 304.
  5. Heitmann 2015, p. 11.
  6. So also Hermann Joseph Hiery in the foreword to: The Zeitgeist and the History. Dettelbach 2001.
  7. Heitmann 2015, p. 14.
  8. a b Zeitgeist. In: Georgi Schischkoff (Hrsg.): Philosophical dictionary. 14th edition. Alfred-Kröner, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-520-01321-5 , p. 768.
  9. ^ Wilhelm Dilthey: Collected writings. Vol. 7: The structure of the historical world in the humanities. Stuttgart / Göttingen 1992, p. 187.
  10. Thomas Jung: The being-boundness of thinking: Karl Mannheim and the foundation of a sociology of thought. Berlin 2007.
  11. Karl Jaspers: The spiritual situation of the time. 1932, e.g. B. ISBN 3-11-016400-0 (The little book can also serve as an example of a framework for contemporary cultural criticism.)
  12. Quoted from Heitmann 2015, p. 13.
  13. Trap doors in terror. Interview with Enzensberger, Der Spiegel , March 17, 2003.
  14. Reinhold Zippelius : The importance of culture-specific guiding ideas for the formation of the state and the law , Akademieabhandlung Mainz, 1987
  15. Reinhold Zippelius: Philosophy of Law , 6th edition 2011, § 21 II, III; On the other hand: valuation problems in the system of fundamental rights , 1962, §§ 27 ff.
  16. Max Weber: Collected essays on the sociology of religion , 7th edition 1978
  17. Reinhold Zippelius: Weltanschauung und Rechtsgestaltung In: Law and Justice in the Open Society , 2nd edition 1996, pp. 171 f., 175