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The German Historicist Tradition$
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Frederick C. Beiser

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199691555

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199691555.001.0001

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Humboldt the Proteus

Humboldt the Proteus

(p.167) 4 Humboldt the Proteus
The German Historicist Tradition

Frederick C. Beiser

Oxford University Press

This chapter is a detailed examination of the intellectual development of Wilhelm von Humboldt's theory of history. It treats Humboldt's shifting intellectual interests as different approaches to the problems of history. Humboldt's classicism, anthropology and philosophy of language are examined insofar as they affect his view of history. The final section is an account of Humboldt's famous essay on the task of the historian. Humboldt is treated as a transitional figure insofar as he belongs to, yet sees beyond, the naturalistic tradition of anthropology.

Keywords:   Wilhelm von Humboldt, classicism, hermeneutics, natural law, philosophy of language, history, spirit of the age, individuality

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