Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Neo-Kantianism refers to a cluster of academic philosophical trends that dominated German universities in the Wilhelminian era (1870–1918). The founding of the German state came with a crisis of orientation. An initial wave of liberal university appointments gave way to repression of Catholics, laws against socialists, and political anti-Semitism. In this atmosphere, a return to Kant represented recourse to an Enlightenment philosopher who was both unassailably German and deeply humanistic, whose thought had earlier given rise to Prussian institutions of military and educational reform, and who promised a genuine intellectual alternative to the then regnant “world-views” of materialism and pessimism. Issued at a time of cultural and political malaise (Bismarck's Germany alienated many and inspired few), the call for philosophy to return “back to Kant” (so formulated by O. Liebmann) was initially quite vague, but the brief spell of liberal university appointments produced several vibrant intellectual centers that exerted far-reaching ...