Ludwig Klages

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Ludwig Klages
BirthplaceHanover, Germany
Philosopher, psychologist, graphologist
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Of the latter only Ludwig Klages' vitalistic and anti-rationalistic characterology was widely acclaimed.
In the 1930s Ludwig Klages, a German graphologist, philosopher, and psychologist determined that every human movement, which includes the handwriting motion, is an expressive movement from which the distinctive personality makeup of the author can be ascertained.
In the finest tradition of writing a history of ideas, Gray traces the development of such early physiognomic approaches in the works of Schopenhauer, Ludwig Klages, Rudolf Kassner, and Oswald Spengler, among others, right down to Husserl's phenomenology, thereby revealing plenty of correspondences and mutual dependencies between the various thinkers.
The works of the other members belonging to the so-called Kosmische Runde (such as Ludwig Derleth, Karl Wolfskehl, and Ludwig Klages, associated with the circle around Stefan George) have all been made available in editions of varying critical quality and comprehensiveness.
Roland Dollinger aptly locates Berge Meere and Giganten within a debate about the destructiveness of Western rationality that extended from Expressionists such as Bernhard Kellermann via radical conservatives (Ludwig Klages, Ernst Junger) to proto-Fascist doom-merchants in the mould of Oswald Spengler.