Klages, Ludwig

Klages, Ludwig


Born Dec. 10, 1870, in Hanover; died July 29, 1956, in Kilchberg. German psychologist and irrationalist philospher.

Klages was a chemist by training. He lived in Munich, where, beginning in 1905, he led a seminar on problems of expression. In 1919 he took up residence in Kilchberg, near Zürich. He became widely known for his work in characterology and graphology, at the basis of which lay his doctrine of expression, derived from his conception of man as a unity of body and soul —that is, that the dynamics of the body is a “phenomenon” of soul, that soul is the “meaning” of the living body, and that expressive movements are the forms taken by “impulses of the soul,” or emotion. Klages interpreted the doctrine of expression as a kind of universal “cosmic physiognomy.” In the tradition of the natural-philosophical constructions of German romanticism (E. G. Carus) and the ideas of J. Bachofen and F. Nietzsche, Klages developed a unique and original variant of vitalism that regarded “spirit” as an “acosmic” force that retards and destroys the spontaneous integrity of the life of the soul and its unconscious cosmic rhythm (Spirit as Antagonist of Soul, vols. 1–3, 1929–32). A consequence of this irrationalist position was his extremely pessimistic view of civilization as a life-destroying reign of spirit.


Sämtliche Werke (in ten volumes), vol. 1. Bonn, 1964-.
Vom kosmogonischen Eros, 6th ed. Bonn, 1963.
Die Sprache als Quelle der Seelenkunde. Zürich, 1948.
Der Geist als Widersacher der Seele, 4th ed., vols. 1–3. Munich, 1960.
Die Grundlagen der Charakterkunde, 12th ed. Bonn, 1964.
Handschrift und Charakter, 25th ed. Bonn, 1965.
Ausdrucksbewegung und Gestaltungskraft [8th ed.]. Munich, 1968.


Khiubsher, A. Mysliteli nashego vremeni. Moscow, 1962. Pages 162–66.
Bense, M. Anti-Klages. Berlin, 1937.
Hager, W. L. Klages in memoriam. Munich, 1957. (Bibliography.)
Kasdorff, H. L. Klages: Werk und Wirkung. Einführung und kommentierte Bibliographie. Bonn, 1969.


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