Professor of History of Christianity
at the University of Catania
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[Strumenti 14], Queriniana, Brescia 1980, pp. 436


F. D. E. Schleiermacher (1768-1834) is one of the greatest of protestant thinkers. Trained in the mystical spirituality and liturgy of the Community of Brothers in Herrnhut, he nevertheless took up the study of modern science in order to be able examine the religious experience in a scientific context. After writing the weighty Discourses on Religion (1799) and Monologues (1800), he later, as a university professor of philosophy and theology, first in Halles and later in Berlin, integrated his thinking in a systematic fashion. In lectures on dialectics, in contrast to Fichte and later Hagel, both colleagues of his at Berlin, Schleiermacher propounded a way of thinking empirically and hypothetically which is characterized by a high degree of theoretical and transcendental self consciousness.
Rational concepts are considered as heuristic and archetectonic structures of the cultivated mind. The search for truth is a continual dialectic. It is at once communication, effective discourse, and a collective search; it requires scientific methods and a continual, never ending, historical process.
In addition to his works on the dialectic, Schleiermacher also undertook philosophical research in ethics, history of philosophy, pedagogy, politics, psychology, and aesthetics. The complex world is examined as a living reality of language and symbol. It is viewed as an experience of creation and of values. Hand in hand with his philosophical work is the work of Schleiermacher, the academic theologian. Through the application of the criteria of dialectics, history, and philology to the religious experience, nature is plumbed to its farthest depths. The religious experience serves as his empirical subject while historical and philosophical reasoning serve as his method. This integral exercise of modern reasoning does not change the nature of the religious experience under scrutiny but rather causes its characteristics to emerge in a rational fashion. Thus Schleiermacher proposes a systematic theology complete in itself.
In addition to his teaching role as a philosopher and theologian, Schleiermacher, for a good forty years, served as a minister in the Reformed Church as his many published volumes of sermons can attest. A friend and colleague of such famous philosophers and philologists as F.A. Wolf, Schlegal and F.V. Savigny, he pursued the study of classical studies throughout his life. His translation of the dialogues of Plato bears witness to this continued interest. He was a member of the Academy of Science in Berlin and helped make it one of the greatest centers of historical study in the Prussian capital. The political liberalism and social consciousness of the time, and his fierce opposition to the dictatorship of Napoleon and to the politics of the Holy Alliance add the finishing touches to the portrait of this exceptional figure. This intellectual biography of Schleiermacher draws heavily upon his letters and publications in an attempt to render this great protagonists of modern European culture better known and understood. Many contemporary philosophical and religious issues such as the value of reason, the nature of intuition and feeling, individual creativity, symbolic communication, historical self-consciousness, the future of religion, the relationship of religion to politics, ecumenism, Biblical interpretation, the nature of dogma and morality have all been dealt with by Schleiermacher with a vigor, geniality, and originality which time has not obscured but rather rendered increasingly vivid and real.