Spengler, Oswald

born May 29, 1880, Blankenburg, Ger.
died May 8, 1936, Munich

German philosopher.

A schoolmaster before he turned to writing, Spengler is remembered for his influential The Decline of the West, 2 vol. (1918–22), a study in the philosophy of history. He contended that civilizations pass through a life cycle, blossoming and decaying like natural organisms, and that Western culture is irreversibly past its creative stage and headed into eclipse. Though acclaimed by a public disillusioned in the wake of World War I, his work was criticized by both professional scholars and the Nazi Party, despite some affinities with its dogma.

Spengler, pencil drawing by K. Grossmann, 1920; in a private collection

Deutsche Fotothek, Dresden

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▪ German philosopher
born May 29, 1880, Blankenburg, Ger.
died May 8, 1936, Munich

      German philosopher whose reputation rests entirely on his influential study Der Untergang des Abendlandes, 2 vol. (1918–22; The Decline of the West), a major contribution to social theory.

      After taking his doctorate at the University of Halle (1904), Spengler worked as a schoolmaster until 1911, when he went to live in Munich on a small inheritance and began work on Der Untergang. The first volume, published in 1918, won him immediate acclaim from the general public. The second volume followed in 1922, and a revised edition of the first a year later. From 1919 onward, Spengler tried to turn his reputation to account as a political commentator, but he met with little success.

      Der Untergang is a study in the philosophy of history (history, philosophy of). Spengler contended that because most civilizations must pass through a life cycle, not only can the historian reconstruct the past but he can predict “the spiritual forms, duration, rhythm, meaning and product of the still unaccomplished stages of our Western history.” Unlike Arnold Toynbee, who later held that cultures are usually “apparented” to older cultures, Spengler contended that the spirit of a culture can never be transferred to another culture. He believed that the West had already passed through the creative stage of “culture” into that of reflection and material comfort (“civilization” proper, in his terminology) and that the future could only be a period of irreversible decline. Nor was there any prospect of reversing the process, for civilizations blossomed and decayed like natural organisms, and true rejuvenation was as impossible in the one case as the other.

      Spengler's work won scant approval from professional scholars, who were scandalized by his unorthodox methods and contemptuous of his errors of fact. He was also criticized by the National Socialist Party, despite some affinity between his political ideas and Nazi dogma, and, after Adolf Hitler's rise to power in 1933, Spengler lived in isolation until his death.

      Among his other works, Der Mensch und die Technik (1931; Man and Technics) stands out.

Additional Reading
H. Stuart Hughes, Oswald Spengler (1952, reprinted with a new introduction, 1992).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Spengler, Oswald — (1880 1936)    cultural philosopher; famous for the portentous metaphysical essay Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West), he was deemed the philosopher of pessimism (he rejected the label). Born to a middle class home (his father …   Historical dictionary of Weimar Republik

  • Spengler, Oswald — ► (1880 1936) Escritor y filósofo alemán. Autor de La decadencia de Occidente. * * * (29 may. 1880, Blankenburg, Alemania 8 may. 1936, Munich). Filósofo alemán. Fue profesor antes de dedicarse a escribir. Spengler es recordado por su influyente… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Spengler, Oswald — (1880–1936) German historian and philosopher of history. Spengler was educated at various universities, and gained his doctorate with a thesis on Heraclitus . His fame depends entirely on Der Untergang des Abendlandes (1918, trs. as The Decline… …   Philosophy dictionary

  • Spengler,Oswald — Speng·ler (spĕngʹlər, glər, shpĕngʹ ), Oswald. 1880 1936. German philosopher who argued that civilizations and cultures are subject to the same cycle of growth and decay as humans. His major work is The Decline of the West (1918 1922). * * * …   Universalium

  • SPENGLER, Oswald — (1880 1936)    German historian and philosopher whose influential work The Decline of the West (1914 1922) helped set the tone for modern intellectual pessimism and EXISTENTIALIST PHILOSOPHY …   Concise dictionary of Religion

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  • Oswald Spengler — Oswald Arnold Gottfried Spengler (* 29. Mai 1880 in Blankenburg, Harz; † 8. Mai 1936 in München) war ein deutscher Geschichtsphilosoph, Kulturhistoriker und antidem …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Oswald Spengler — Oswald Manuel Arnold Gottfried Spengler (29 May 1880 – 8 May 1936) was a German historian and philosopher whose interests also included mathematics, science, and art. He is best known for his book The Decline of the West (Der Untergang de …   Wikipedia

  • Oswald Spengler — Oswald Spengler. Oswald Spengler (* Blankenburg, 29 de mayo de 1880 † Múnich, 8 de mayo de 1936) fue un filósofo y matemático alemán …   Wikipedia Español

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