Friedrich Paulsen

Frank Thilly

DR. FRIEDRICH PAULSEN, professor of philosophy and pedagogy at the University of Berlin, died at his home in Steglitz on August 14. Professor Paulsen was born on July 16, 1846, at Langenhorn in Schleswig, the son of a prosperous peasant. He entered upon his academic studies in 1866, attending the universities of Erlangen, Bonn, and Berlin, and habilitated as a Privat-Docent at the University of Berlin in 1875. In 1878 he was made professor-extraordinary in the same institution, continuing in this position down to 1893, when he was appointed to the full professorship of philosophy and pedagogy. Most important of the books published by him are the following: " Versuch einer Entwicklungsgeschichte der kantischen Erkenntnisstheorie," Leipzig, 1875; " Geschichte des gelehrten Unterrichts auf den deutschen Schulen und Universitäten," Leipzig, 2 vols., 1885, second edition, 1896; " Das Realgymnasium und die humanistische Bildung," Berlin, 1889; " System der Ethik," Berlin, 1889, eighth edition, Stuttgart, 1906; " Einleitung in die Philosophie," Berlin, 1892, nineteenth edition, Stuttgart, 1907; " Immanuel. Kant, sein Leben und seine Werke," Leipzig, 1898, fourth edition, 1903; " Philosophia Militans. Gegen Klerikalismus und Naturalismus," Berlin, 1901, second edition, 1908; "Schopenhauer. Hamlet. Mephistopheles," Berlin, 1901; "Die deutschen Universitäten und das Universitätsstudium," Berlin, 1902; "Das deutsche Billungswesen,'' Leipzig, 1906; "Gesammelte Vorträge und Aufsätze," 2 vols., Berlin, 1906; "Moderne Erziehung und geschlechtliche Sittlichkeit," Berlin, 1908. The "Introduction to Philosophy," the "Ethics,"the "Kant,"the "German Universities," and the "German Educational Systems" have been translated into English, all but the last by American authors.

In the death of Professor Paulsen Germany loses not only one of her ablest and wisest teachers and writers, but one of the most lovable personalities that ever graced the professor's chair. For more than thirty years this gifted man has lectured to large numbers of students on philosophical and pedagogical subjects, and has suc-

( 506) -ceeded in arousing a vital interest in questions which are often regarded as lying beyond the horizon of all but specialists. His lectures and writings were remarkable for their clearness and sanity, and appealed not only to the " elect," but to wider circles of thinking men and women outside of the universities. Students from other departments and even persons not enrolled in the university flocked to his classes and all listened with profound attention to his magnificent presentations of difficult problems.

What particularly characterized Professor Paulsen's thinking was his fine mental balance and healthy common sense; his mind was Apollinic in its intellectual calm. He possessed a keen perception for philosophical extravagances and could not be deceived by spurious ideas, however brilliant they may have appeared on the surface. He could see right into the heart of a difficulty and set forth the meaning of a body of thoughts in simple and forceful language. His poise was the result of his deep love of truth, for which he eared more than for Schule; his clearness of vision and sagacity constituted the natural marks of a vigorous intellect. Al-though he was gentle and charitable in his judgments, displaying a beautiful hospitality of mind towards the opinions of others, he could be sharp and sarcastic when unjustly attacked or in dealing with pretentiousness and sham, and wielded the rapier with most con-summate skill. But his battles were never personal, his quarrel was with ideas, not with men. He was not fond of controversies; it did not seem to him that anything good ever came of them. " The gratifying thing about a war with arms," he once said, "is that it unequivocally decides who is the stronger, but a war with words has no end and is never decided; in Proteus-like transformations error always succeeds in eluding the toils. The wise man will therefore aim, first of all, to tell the truth and not to ensnare error merely in order to refute it. "His purpose, frequently expressed, was to see things as they are, and he felt that anger and abuse would neither make them different nor help one to see them in their truth.

Besides possessing a strong, healthy, and lucid mind, Professor Paulsen was endowed with indefatigable energy and a great capacity for work. Even during the last two years of his life, while suffering from an incurable disease, he could not be persuaded to abandon his post, and the articles and books which he published before his death show no abatement of his old-time intellectual power. His reading was wide and varied, as his writings show, extending beyond the confines of the subjects which it was his duty to teach. He had spent many years in preparing himself for his calling, but in making himself a specialist he did not lose his taste for liberal culture which had been developed in him in the humanistic gymnasium.

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Of his sound and careful scholarship he gave particular proof in his two works on Kant and in his history of higher education in Germany, books which ought to silence the critics who do not seem to understand that clearness of thought and speech are not incompatible with learning.

The fundamental motive of Professor Paulsen's activity, how-ever, was practical and ethical. Knowledge, he insisted, has value for the individual only in so far as it does something for him, in so far as it helps him to solve the practical problems of life, or assists him in his philosophical reflections, in other words, makes him wiser and more prudent. Knowledge that does not make him more efficient in his calling or give him a deeper insight into the nature and meaning of things has no value. It was impossible for him to pursue philosophy merely as a clever intellectual game. His chief desire was to endow it with a vital human interest, to aid the youths of his nation to reach profounder conceptions of life and the world, to convince them that their salvation and the salvation of the race lay in governing their lives by an ideal. He deplored the lack of well-defined aspirations in the age, but his optimism was great and he had an abiding faith in the triumph of the good. It was this ethical idealism of his which shone through all he said and wrote, and which together with his intellectual gifts and personal charm attracted so many young men to him and made him such a power for good in Germany. And no teacher of philosophy succeeded better than Professor Paulsen in making philosophy a living subject with a large part of the thinking public and in removing the suspicion under which it had fallen during the reign of natural science.

The men who came under the influence of Professor Paulsen's instruction not only admired him as a thinker, but loved him as a man. There was a personal charm about him which one could not resist. He rang true. One carried away from his lecture room not only light, but warmth. The man not only presented thoughts, but exemplified virtues. A course of lectures with him was an ethical education in itself. Without attempting it, he made those who came within the spell of his personality love modesty, simplicity, self-control, equanimity, courage, patience, justice, truthfulness, charity, and lave of neighbor. And those who were brought into closer personal touch with him found that a deeper insight into his nature but intensified their affection for him. His modesty and sweet reasonableness, his calmness and gentleness, his honesty, his fairness, his considerateness, his freedom from vanity, envy, and all false ideals, were so conspicuous as to make companionship with him a thing never to be forgotten. In the sorrow over the loss of such a man as Friedrich Paulsen, it is a blessed consolation to know that

( 508) his name will be held in grateful remembrance by thousands of men and women whom he inspired with a love for higher things and who will endeavor, each in his own way, to transmit to the coming generation the precious heritage of the past.



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