Philosophy of Culture

Philosophy of Culture


(in German, Kulturphilosophie), a branch of philosophy that studies the essence and meaning of culture. The term was first used in the early 19th century by the German romanticist A. Müller. Philosophy of culture must be distinguished both from philosophy of history—inasmuch as the process by which mankind creates culture does not match the pace of historical evolution—and from sociology of culture, which is the study of culture within a given system of social relations.

Philosophy of culture was first recognized as a field of inquiry by the Sophists, who formulated the antinomy of the natural and the moral (the latter to be identified with culture): thus, according to Hippias, such human institutions as customs and laws “often force us to go against nature” (as quoted by T. Gomperz in Grecheskie mysliteli, vol. 1, St. Petersburg, 1913, p. 346). The opposition between the natural and the moral was further developed by the Cynics (for example, Diogenes of Sinope and Antisthenes), who reached the conclusion that what was needed was a return to nature—that is, to the simplicity of primitive human existence. The Cynics can thus be seen as among the earliest critics of culture. Their criticism, directed against the artificial and depraved state of society, was adopted in a modified form by the Stoics; it subsequently became an integral element of the spiritual atmosphere of early Christian social thought and its “theology of culture.”

In modern times, questions of philosophy of culture and cultural criticism have been explored in particular by G. Vico, J.-J. Rousseau, F. Schiller (with his concept of “naive” and “sentimental” poetry as the two phases of cultural development), J. G. Herder, and the romanticists of Jena (with their idea of the uniqueness of individual national cultures and their concept of distinct historical stages of cultural development). Philosophy of culture—narrowly defined as a philosophical conception of the various stages of evolving human culture—can be said to date back to F. Nietzsche and in part to the Russian Slavophiles. The central issue was now the opposition between culture as an organic whole and civilization, regarded as the manifestation of a mechanical and utilitarian relationship to life. This view was shared by G. Simmel, O. Spengler, L. Klages, H. Keyserling, J. Ortega y Gasset, and other followers of the school of Lebensphilosophie (philosophy of life), as well as by the Russians K. N. Leon’tev, N. Ia. Danilevskii, and N. A. Berdiaev. Dani-levskii and Spengler furthermore conceived of individual cultures, whether national or historical, as being absolutely locked into themselves and mutually impermeable; a corollary of this view was the denial of the unity of human culture. A. Toynbee, who sought to rise above relativism and skepticism in his interpretation of culture, brought about a revival of Augustine’s religious and philosophical ideas. Finally, S. L. Frank represented culture and civilization as two distinct, contemporaneous, and necessary levels in the development of culture.

From the Marxist point of view, historical materialism provides the frame of reference for all questions pertaining to culture, such as the relationship between society and nature, the successive development of various forms of social consciousness, and the correlation between nonmaterial and material production. According to Marxism, culture is the historically determined level of social and human development. Being common to all mankind, on the one hand, culture is a class phenomenon; on the other hand, socioeconomic changes result in the formation of new types of cultures. At the same time, each new culture assimilates and elaborates the achievements of the preceding one.


References in periodicals archive ?
provided that the content of this question is mainly related to Philosophy of Culture and not to Politics.
1992) "Old Gods, New Worlds," In My Father's House: African Philosophy in the Philosophy of Culture, Appiah, K.
The first section is devoted to ontology, subsequent sections are devoted to epistemology, the philosophy of science, the philosophy of language, the history of philosophy, and the philosophy of culture.
Among the topics are Kalkowski in the West and in Poland, his philosophy of culture, Nietzschean traits in his work, the universalism of John Paul II and Kalakowski, and the renewal of his PhD at the University of Warsaw.
Incarnational Humanism: A Philosophy of Culture for the Church in the World.
In essence, Senghor is cast as the product and occasionally the victim of his French intellectual training, constantly striving through countless essays to erect negritude into a coherent philosophy of culture, whereas Cesaire and Damas (the other main architects of negritude) remained content to play on the allusive symbolic power of the concept in their poetry.
By bringing Husserl's mature approach into cooperation with the systematic concerns of German idealism, the Marburg school's philosophy of culture, and twentieth-century hermeneutics, Luft's work, at his most ambitious, outlines a prolegomenon to a future transcend-dental philosophy.
However, there is an often-overlooked philosopher from Eastern Europe who has systematically developed the philosophy of culture in a way that has very fertile application to interreligious dialogue.
Abdrasulov is an expert in the field of ontology, the history of philosophy, the philosophy of culture and legal philosophy.
Skidelsky's book, which opens with this momentous event, is both an intellectual biography of Cassirer (1874-1945) and a reflection on the limits and weaknesses of the philosophy of culture elaborated in Germany by Goethe, Humboldt and Kant, which was adopted by a sector of Germany's middle class and was particularly popular in the German-Jewish community.
I believe Newbigin may have responded to this proposal in a way similar to the remark he made upon hearing that a Dutch philosopher had written a paper entitled "Newbigin's Philosophy of Culture": "I became rather alarmed because I didn't know I had a philosophy of culture.
Anthony Appiah (In My Father's House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture, 1992).

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