University of Virginia Library

Search this document 
Dictionary of the History of Ideas

Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas

collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionIII. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionVII. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionVI. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionI. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionIV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionII. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionV. 
collapse sectionIV. 


Volksgeist (also Volksseele, Nationalgeist or Geist der
Nation, Volkscharakter,
and in English “national char-
acter”) is a term connoting the productive principle


of a spiritual or psychic character operating in different
national entities and manifesting itself in various crea-
tions like language, folklore, mores, and legal order.

Connotatively, the German word Geist is related in
meaning to the Hebrew ruah, to the Greek pneuma,
and to the Latin spiritus. Volksgeist is the spirit (Geist)
of a people expressing itself in certain articulated crea-
tions. The shift to spirit as against expression, follows
the shift from the letter of the law to the spirit of the
law as in Saint Paul (II Corinthians 3:6). To the extent
that the term is related to genius or to génie (as a
derivation from genius), it is associated with the Roman
idea of genius loci, the attendant spirit of a place,
household or city, e.g., genius urbis Romae. Along with
other parallel terms, the term Geist and Volksgeist,
however, connote a spirit not outside but inside a
certain entity.

1. Emergence of the Concept. The distinction intro-
duced by Leibniz between dead power and living
power (Vis viva)—the latter being understood also as
a directive power—became the philosophical basis for
the idea of a directive principle within historical
entities guiding their existence in time and expressing
itself in their creations. As a guiding principle the
living power is not a logical or rational principle and
could thus be connected with various concepts expres-
sing the irrational directive principle of human crea-
tions and evaluations as the French goût, the Italian
gusto, the German Geschmack, or the English taste.
Gusto has sometimes been associated with ingenio.

Volksgeist as a guiding principle of peoples and
nations appears in the context of investigations into
the historical existence of peoples. The formulation of
the concept goes along with the stress laid on history.
The emphasis of Vico on the genetic aspect of a peo-
ple's life is thus one of the sources of the concept:
“since each family had its own religion, language,
lands, nuptials, name, arms, government, etc.” Again,
the importance attached by Vico to “common sense
... judgment without reflection, shared by an entire
class, an entire people, an entire nation, the entire
human race” can also be interpreted in terms of this
concept (I. Berlin, E. Auerbach).

Edmund Burke rejected the a priori character of the
science concerned with the construction of a common-
wealth, and put forward the experimental and histori-
cal aspect of this science and of political life in general.
Burke's view served as one of the sources of the attempt
to disclose the historical character of peoples and the
factors shaping their historical course.

Montesquieu in his L'Esprit des lois explicitly uses
the term “general spirit of nations”: “Mankind is influ-
enced by various causes: by the climate, by the religion,
by the laws, by the maxims of government, by prece-
dents, morals and customs; whence is formed a general
spirit of nations.” Here the “general spirit of nations”
is actually a result of different causes, some of them
of a natural character like climate. Climatic conditions
are discussed extensively by Montesquieu and by many
other writers who subsequently used the term Volks-
Elsewhere it appears as a result of factors like
religion, laws, morals, and customs which were consid-
ered by many thinkers as expressions of the Volksgeist
proper. Yet Montesquieu says: “The Government most
conformable to nature is that which best agrees with
the humor and disposition of the people in whose favor
it is established.” He thus combines the principle of
nature as a norm with that of a people's genius as a
standard of government. Montesquieu's analysis of the
spirit of laws influenced a series of German thinkers
concerned with the spirit of the laws of the Teutschen
and inspired the concepts of a teutscher Nationalgeist,
teutsche Freiheit,
etc. Friedrich Carl von Moser in Von
dem Deutschen national-Geist
(1765), uses Montes-
quieu's concept and gives it a nationalistic and polemic

In Hume we find the concept “national character,”
a concept which recurs often in the nineteenth century.
In his description of this concept Hume stresses a
peculiar set of manners; the factors determining na-
tional character are partly “moral” (psychological) and
partly physical, the “moral” disposition being able to
alter even the natural one. In the context of this dis-
cussion Hume considers also the difference between
Negroes and whites, the former being, in his opinion,
naturally inferior to the latter; nature itself made an
original hierarchical distinction between these two
breeds of men. Here Hume's concept of national char-
acter goes beyond the domain of description and enters
the domain of evaluation.

Voltaire employs the term “genius of a people” in
his Philosophical Dictionary with a more general de-
scription of the term esprit. Speaking about different
cultural creations, he refers to the subtle spirit of the
“genius” of a nation. The study of manners (moeurs)
was one of the topics of Voltaire's reflections on history.
Climate, government, and religion are for him the
three factors influencing the human spirit.

The term “Nationalgeist” appears, possibly for the
first time, in the title of Carl Friedrich Moser's above-
mentioned book, Vom deutschen national-Geist (1765).
The concept has no specific meaning here; it connotes
merely the general patriotic ambiance. Moser is con-
cerned with certain political and social factors which
cause an artificial split among the Germans. He uses
this term also in a polemic with the Catholic Church
and its detrimental influence on Germany.

These ideas and their linguistic expressions found
their synthesis in the German term Volksgeist and its
derivations, Geist connoting—even in Kant's termi-


nology—not the intellectual or rational but the vital
directing factor in human life.

2. Formulation of the Concept. We can point to
three major steps taken towards the formulation of the
concept of Volksgeist, following which it became one
of the key notions of historical and literary movements.

J. G. von Herder does not use the term Volksgeist,
but only various expressions like Geist des Volkes, Geist
der Nation, Nationalgeist
(explicitly referring to
Moser), Genius des Volkes, and Nationalcharakter
(without mentioning Hume). In the line of the histori-
cal reflections mentioned above, Herder also stresses
the importance of climatic conditions for the shaping
of historical events and their direction. Yet in spite of
the absence of the term, the trend towards the formu-
lation of the characteristic features of the name of
Volksgeist” can be clearly discerned.

Herder refers also to “the spirit of the times” (Geist
der Zeiten
), which is close to the experience of past
times and which is impressed on the soul. The spirit
of the times can be best understood from its expression
in folklore and from daily experience; it expresses itself
in vernacular speech and in popular poetry. Hence
Herder's interest in the study of language and literature
as two branches of mankind's historical creativity. The
reference to the expressions of spirit replaces the direct
approach to the substance of spirit, since spirit as such
can neither be described nor painted. Spirit expresses
itself through words, movements, conflicts, forces, and
effects. As to the stability or destructiveness of the
national character, Herder oscillates between two
views: on the one hand, he describes it as an “innate
idea” (Descartes) and considers it as eternal and
indestructible; on the other hand, he speaks of his own
historical age as tending to blur the distinction between
various national traits. He then calls for an urgent
investigation of these expressions of national character
before they disappear.

Hegel coined the term Volksgeist in 1801 in speaking
about mores, laws, and constitutions as forming the
inner life or spirit of a people. From Hegel the term
apparently entered the vocabulary of different systems
and intellectual movements, although the ground had
been prepared gradually for this absorption through
the scattered ideas analyzed before. Hegel took
cognizance of Herder's work mainly in the area of
folk-poetry. He referred explicitly to Montesquieu
who, in Hegel's opinion, combined the true historical
view with a genuine philosophical position. According
to this view legislation—in general as well as in its
particular provisions—is to be treated not as something
isolated but rather as a subordinate component in a
whole. For Hegel, legal systems express a general atti-
tude of a people and therefore the Roman or German
concepts of laws are for him comprehensive systems
guided by certain principles which can be formulated.
Hegel's indebtedness to his predecessors comes to the
fore when, along with the characteristic features of a
nation's spirit whose investigation belongs to the natu-
ral philosophy of world history, he points to the natural
dispositions of the national spirit like the composition
of the body and the ways of life, whose study belongs
to the history of the nature of man. But Hegel's main
contribution to the formulation of the concept of
Volksgeist is the attribution of a historical character
to the concept. The spirit of a nation is one of the
manifestations of World Spirit (Weltgeist). That Spirit
is essentially alive and active throughout mankind's

Now, the spirit of a nation is an intermediate stage
of world history as the history of the World Spirit. The
World Spirit gives impetus to the realization of the
historical spirits of various nations (Volksgeister). The
spirits of individual nations are both the articulations
(Gliederungen) of an organization and its realization.
The spirits of individual nations represent a segment
of the World Spirit out of which emerges the unlimited
universal spirit. A comparison is introduced here be-
tween the status of an individual and that of a nation's
spirit. In the process of his formation the individual
undergoes various changes without, however, losing his
identity. As a part of world history, a nation—
exhibiting a certain trend expressed in its Volksgeist
plays its part in the total process of world history. But
once it contributes its share to world history it can
no longer play a role in the process of world history.
The submersion in the total process prevents a people's
cultural rebirth, because it has exhausted its creativity
in the historical growth of its guiding spirit. It is for
this reason that one of Hegel's disciples, Michelet,
considered the idea of a renaissance of the Jewish
people as philosophically impossible. The relations of
state to state are uncertain, and there is no imperial
Praetor available to adjust them. The only higher judge
is the universal absolute spirit, the World Spirit (Welt-
). In keeping with his general philosophical view
which stresses the actuality of spirit as a living expres-
sion of the World Spirit, Hegel identifies the spirit of
a people with its historical and cultural accom-
plishments, namely its religions, its mores, its consti-
tution, and its political laws. They are the work of a
people, they are the people.

Yet in spite of this view which confers, as it were,
an equal status on each accomplishment, Hegel tends
to give priority to the political constitution and to the
state. The actual state is inspired (beseelt) by the na-
tional spirit and this inspiration is expressed in the
various occurrences related to the state. The national


spirit has an intrinsic morality which expresses itself
in the confidence prevailing among the individuals
imbued with the same national spirit. In addition, all
elements of the population participate in the decisions
and actions of the government. Here again the national
spirit, though not identical with government, is related
to it. The principles of national spirits (Volksgeister)
are wholly restricted on account of their particularity
because, as existent individuals, they have their own
objective actuality and self-consciousness. Out of the
finitude of these minds arises the universal spirit, the
spirit of the world, free from all restriction, producing
itself as that which exercises its right, the highest right
of all, over the finite spirits in the history of the world,
which is the world's court of judgment. Hegel uses also
the term “genius of a nation,” following the termi-
nology found in the preceding discussions, as well as
the term “God of a people.” The identification of the
spirit of a people with God of the people is made
explicit, possibly under the influence of Hegel's histo-
rical speculations, by Nachman Krochmal, who distin-
guishes between the partial spiritual elements charac-
teristic of the people of the world, and “the absolute
spirit” identical with the monotheistic God and char-
acteristic of the Jewish people. Because of the absolute
character of this spiritual element it does not exhaust
itself in the limited span within the historical process,
but emerges time and again as the guiding principle
of the people in a cyclical process of rise and fall.

The third component which contributed to the for-
mation of the concept of Volksgeist is the Historical
School of Law where the issue of the relation between
the national spirit and the legal system became the
center of a lengthy controversy. F. K. von Savigny does
not use the concept of Volksgeist; this, however, ap-
pears in the works of G. F. Puchta. In Savigny we find
only terms like Volksbewusstsein or “the common
conviction of the people”; the loose terminology which
he uses conveys, however, the same meaning as the
term Volksgeist. Civil law has a definite character
which is the product of a people's specific character,
just as language, customs or constitution. These expres-
sions are linked into one whole by the people's com-
mon convictions, by the feeling of an inner necessity
which excludes all notions of an accidental or arbitrary
genesis of such expressions. Because of the historical
character of the legal system, the law must be
approached mainly as law based on a plurality of legal
systems (Gewohnheitsrecht). Savigny, however, has
some misgivings as to the accuracy of this definition.
The idea of customary law emerging from inner and
tacit forces must be juxtaposed to a legal system based
on the arbitrary decision of a lawgiver. The stress on
a law emerging from history enables Savigny to advo
cate the common German legal system. Just as there
is no Prussian and Bavarian language, so there is no
room and justification for a legal system based on the
political split then prevailing in Germany. Hence the
idea of Volksgeist ceased to be a mere descriptive
concept and became a political slogan. In spite of the
importance attached to the state, the interest of the
Historical School shifts from the state to the historical
people. This—as well as the absence of the idea of
a World Spirit—distinguishes the conceptions of the
Historical School from those of Hegel. The Historical
School faced a specific problem as to the justification
of a deliberate legislation. Savigny's view of this prob-
lem was moderate; for him the legislator must be the
representative of a people's common convictions and
feelings. Other thinkers of this School rejected the idea
of deliberate legislation altogether.

Echoing the seventeenth-century criticism of natural
science in the Middle Ages which was based on the
principle of hypotheses non fingo (“I do not frame
hypotheses”), some critics raised the objection that the
term Volksgeist expresses that which we do not know
or understand and reminds one of the primitive mind's
furnishing the world with spirits—the spirit of life, of
light, of fire. This criticism, however, does not diminish
the impact of the concept of Volksgeist on various
intellectual movements of the nineteenth and twentieth

3. The Impact. Indeed, the idea of Volksgeist as a
descriptive concept as well as a normative demand of
faithfulness to a given national genius and spirit influ-
enced various trends in political life, in historiography,
in literature, in legal and philosophical discussions, etc.

The various nationalist ideologies in Germany,
France, Italy, and Poland explicitly used the concept
of Volksgeist and of Volkstum; the description of the
latter pointed out a certain intellectual and spiritual
trend within peoplehood. The nationalist ideologies
based on the concept of Volkstum or Le Peuple are
related to this concept. Whether these ideologies have
been influenced directly by the masters of the notion
of Volksgeist or by more popular thinkers who enter-
tained the idea, like Justus Möser and Adam Müller
in Germany, or Madame de Staël in France, is of
secondary importance. Sometimes those who based
their ideological demands on the notion of Volksgeist
placed the political center of gravitation on the people
as against dynasties, assuming that only the people is
the authentic representative and transmitter of national

In the description of the subjects of the historical
processes historical research took advantage of this
concept. German historical literature, including the
opus of Leopold von Ranke, displays this influence. But


the same applies to a large extent to the contemporary
historical writings in France which had been influenced
by Herder and by the German romantic ideas. It is
interesting to point out that Madame de Staël, who
carried the German influence to France, took charac-
terization of peoples as a basic principle for the high
praise of the English people and its institutions.

In the literary sphere romanticism is closely related
to the concept of Volksgeist. The shift toward the folk
saga is due to the preference given to folkloric produc-
tions over individual creations. For Jakob Grimm the
community was the creative force; law and poetry are
closely related and have a common source. Wilhelm
von Humboldt speaks about national spirit when deal-
ing with Greek history; and in his philosophy of lan-
guage, while stressing the inner activity expressed in
language, he stresses along with the inner form of
language also its relation to Volksgeist. Though the
linguistic capacity is a characteristic feature of man
as man, the individual languages are manifestations of
the national spirits.

The Historical School of Law gave rise to a peculiar
controversy as to the extent to which Germanic law
may absorb elements of Roman law or whether it
should be purified from the intrusion of elements which
do not express the German mind. This controversy is
known as the controversy between Germanists and
Romanists; it centers to some extent around the prob-
lem known as the “reception” of Roman law into the
texture of Germanic law. Savigny advocated this
absorption, while those who took issue with him argued
against him and his followers on the basis of his own
ideas, pushed, as it were, to their decisive and ultimate
conclusion. For Otto von Gierke the Germanic legal
system is characterized by the preference given to
organic ties between individuals and is thus close to
the idea of the law of Genossenschaften. The Roman
tradition and its manifestations in natural law, in eco-
nomic liberalism, individualism and capitalism has a
destructive effect on the Germanic tradition. Von
Gierke took further the idea of Volksgeist as a slogan
for nationalistic attitudes and stated, during World War
I, that the Volksgeist amounts to a Common Ego
(Gesamt-Ich). The mythological interpretations of the
Volksgeist, the drawing of distinctions between Volks-
and race, confused by the Nazi ideology, followed
this line in their own way.

There is a close affinity between the application of
the idea of Volksgeist in the legal sphere and the appli-
cation of this idea or of some of its derivations in the
sphere of economic theory. The counterpart of the
rejection of the alleged individualism in the legal
sphere is the rejection of the isolated homo aeconom-
an idea allegedly characteristic of the English
economic theory as it is stated in the polemic which
accompany these discussions. The specific Volksgeist
exhibits its uniqueness also in the economic domain.
This idea was expressed by Friedrich List (1789-1846)
when he said that every people has its own political
economy, and every great nation has to strive to be
a whole for itself. The mission of political economy
is to furnish the economical education of the nation
and to prepare it for its proper place in the universal
association of the future.

4. The Polemic Aspect. In so far as the concept of
Volksgeist implies a demand of faithfulness to a people's
traditions and to its spiritual principles of creativity,
it implies pari passu the awareness of a distinction
between different peoples' characters and their tradi-
tions. In its turn this distinction may take a polemical
shape in adopting a critical attitude towards certain
traditions and in giving preference to others. This
polemical aspect in the concept of a people's or a
community spirit of peoples comes to the fore in the
Slavic domain. A. I. Herzen speaks specifically about
the Slav genius and about its incompatibility with
centralized government. Adam Mickiewicz spoke
about the Slav tribe as characterized by religiosity,
straightforwardness, and force. In connection with
religion as a characteristic feature of the Slavic peo-
ples, Herzen said that Russia will never be Protestant
nor will it be juste-milieu, and these two are inter-
related, since for him Protestantism was a bourgeois
religion. The Pan-Slavists followed the same line,
stressing the interest in religion characteristic of the
Russian people, an interest which is similar to that of
the ancient Jews. In contradistinction to the Germans,
the Poles, according to Mickiewicz, believe in the
power of great personalities and not in the opinions
of the masses; while Herzen points out that the droit
du seigneur
has never existed among Slav peoples.
Hence there exists a natural affinity between the Slavic
character and the inner disposition for communism.
The slogan of Volksgeist here takes a messianic direc-
tion at times.

In a different context, John Dewey points to the
abuse of the term in German philosophy which used
it to assume constancy where constancy was absent.

5. American Totality. This expression, taken from
Walt Whitman, can be understood as pointing in the
direction of the absorption of the concept into the
texture of the problematic ideology of the United
States. The problem presented by such an ideology
is clear in this context: the people of the United States
are not a traditional people in the European sense of
the term. Its institutions are based rather on the notion
of natural or rational law than on the legal system
which expresses an accepted historical tradition. Yet


in spite of this diversified background rooted in princi-
ples and based on theoretical considerations, we do find
traces of the concept of Volksgeist. Whitman refers
explicitly to Herder's idea of a national spirit, though
he places his reference in a reflection on the character
of poetry. Really great poetry, like the Homeric or
biblical canticles, he says, is the result of a national
spirit and not of the privileges of a polished and select
few. The idea seems to be that the national spirit is
an expression of a whole people and against the whole
people stand the privileged few. This identification of
a national spirit with folk elements is close to Grimm's
view of natural poetry as the poetry of the people and
artificial poetry as the poetry of individual poets. Again
this duality runs parallel to the duality between the
law of the people and the imposed law of the jurists.
The populist trend in Whitman finds its expression in
his rejection of the poetry of the Old World. Here the
polemic aspect of his national feeling emerges: as long
as the United States remains unsupplied with autoch-
thonous song the people lacks first-class nationality.

The influence of the German thinkers on the Ameri-
can version of the idea of Volksgeist is revealed in the
fact that two American thinkers, Francis Lieber and
Philip Schaff, who concerned themselves with this issue
(though their terminology differs), were of German
descent. Francis Lieber did not use the term Volksgeist;
but he was aware of his relation to the German ideol-
ogy and the use of the terms Volkstum and Volksgeist.
Lieber placed the emphasis on the consciousness of
unification of different peoples according to circum-
stances: either the consciousness of unity precedes the
political unification as is the case of Germany and Italy,
or the political unity precedes the ethnic and the
cultural unity as is the case of the United States,
Canada, and Australia. He spoke about races though
he gave to the concept a cultural and historical mean-
ing and not a biological one, and considered the
Anglican race which achieved guarantees to human
rights, civil liberties, and self-government superior to
the Teutonic one.

Philip Schaff's sketch of the character of the Ameri-
can people and its components is another instance of
German influence on American thinking. The concept
used by Schaff is national character and not Volksgeist;
but the two concepts are similar in their origin. When
Schaff says that all depends ultimately upon the char-
acter of the nation, he echoes the idea of Volksgeist.
His reference to history and his notion that every
nation has its peculiar calling is based on the connec-
tion put forward in German thinking between the
importance of history and the position of Volksgeist
as a principle operating in history. Schaff is aware of
the particular situation prevailing in America where,
in spite of the confused diversity, there resides, after
all, a higher unity and where, in a babel of peoples,
the traces of a specifically American national character
may be discerned. The impulse towards freedom and
the sense of law and order resting on moral basis are
features of this character. Thus ultimately the ideas
rooted in the conception of natural law and rational
morality are presented as expressions of the national
character. Here, too, a polemical note can be dis-
cerned: gloire is the motto of the Frenchman; “duty”
that of the Englishman. A similar idea is voiced by
Theodore Parker, and to some extent its echoes can
be heard in the notion of “manifest destiny” which,
though related to the physical expansion of the United
States to the Pacific, absorbed also the view that it
is God's design that each country should wear a pecu-
liar physiognomy—as Thomas Starr King and John
Fiske said. George Bancroft was in his own way influ-
enced by similar ideas.

6. Völkerpsychologie. The psychology of the nine-
teenth century gave birth to a discipline known as
Völkerpsychologie. The relation between this trend and
the concept of Volksgeist comes to the fore in the use
of this term by M. Lazarus (1824-1903), one of the
founders of the school. The spirit of the people is
inherent in the social constitution and in all that which
makes a state. Not only is the term Volksgeist used here,
but the relation between the formative Volksgeist and
statehood is also put forward. The importance of lan-
guage for expressing the spirit of a people also appears
in the school, mainly in the works of H. Steinthal. The
difference between the position of this school and the
thinkers discussed above seems to lie in the fact that
Volksgeist ceases to be an underlying principle expres-
sing itself in the historical reality of peoples, but now
becomes a product or a manifestation of the individuals
themselves. Volksgeist subsists in the products of the
minds of different peoples. From this point of view
we may say that Völkerpsychologie was concerned with
the subject matter created by individuals and not with
one preceding them. Lazarus oscillates between a view
which underlines the created and secondary character
of a people's psyche (Volksseele) and a view which
attributes to it an independent position of its own, in
spite of its secondary status. There are thus elements
and laws of the spiritual life of peoples and these have
to be investigated by a special branch of science.
Wilhelm Wundt took issue with the program of this
school as presented by Lazarus and Steinthal, arguing
that their program is based on a presupposition which
defies the fundamentals of Herbart's psychology since
it assumes a soul other than the individual one. Wundt
tried to arrive at a conclusion which takes the soul
of the people to be an outcome of individual elements


and experiences, to a greater extent than had been done
by Lazarus in the implicit reflections of the traditional
notion of Volksgeist. He stresses the genetic and causal
investigation of the facts underlying human society.
Volksseele is a result of individual souls which compose
the collective psyche, but the individual souls are no
less the results of the Volksseele in which they partici-
pate. Wundt distinguishes between the common
consciousness (Gesamtbewusstsein) which finds its
expression in language, myth, and customs, and the
common will (Gesamtwille) which finds its expression
in common decisions.

7. Morphology of Cultures. A scheme of types of
cultures was presented by Huizinga; this, however,
does not correspond to particular historical peoples and
their mind. The orbit of a certain type comprises more
than one people. The whole idea has, however, a con-
siderable affinity with the concept of Volksgeist.
Huizinga lists a Latin type of culture, an Anglo-Saxon
one, and expresses doubts as to the existence of a Slavic
type as well as of a Germanic type. In Huizinga's
opinion, the Germanic type does not comprise a
plurality of nations as the Latin or Anglo-Saxon type.
In any case, the types which he lists are, in a certain
sense, Volksgeister projected on groups of peoples and
thus transcending any particular people in uniqueness.

8. Wholes and Patterns. The theory of Volksgeist
was an attempt to understand cultures and civilizations
as wholes and to point to empirical data as interrelated
in these wholes. It was an attempt to identify the whole
with a historical people. In this sense it guided empiri-
cal and anthropological research. The direction of
recent anthropological research retains the idea of a
whole but replaces it with an idea of a whole as a
pattern or structure related to civilizations and not to
peoples; wholes are not principles operating in civili-
zations but structures of interrelated elements present
in them. This might be looked at as a turn away from
the mythological understanding of a whole to the sys-
tematic understanding of it. Still, the rejection of
“rationalism” in politics as advocated by Michael
Oakeshott and the acceptance of the “tradition” as the
guiding norm of politics, are echoes of the concept
of Volksgeist in its normative if not in its descriptive


M. Brasch, Die Philosophie der Gegenwart (Leipzig, 1888).
This volume includes the relevant material on M. Lazarus,
H. Steinthal, and W. Wundt. S. Brie, Der Volksgeist bei
Hegel und in der historischen Rechtsschule
(Berlin and
Leipzig, 1909). E. Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in
(London, 1790; several reprints available). R. G.
Collingwood, An Essay on Metaphysics (Oxford, 1940). O.
Gierke, “Die historische Rechtsschule und die German
isten,” Universitätsreden (Berlin, 1900-09). G. W. F. Hegel,
Phänomenologie des Geistes (1807), trans. J. B. Baillie as
Phenomenology of Mind (New York, 1964; also reprint);
idem, Encyklopädie der philosophischen Wissenschaften
(1817); idem, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts (1818),
trans. T. M. Knox as Philosophy of Right (Oxford, 1942);
idem, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Weltgeschichte
(1821), trans. J. Sibree as Lectures on the Philosophy of
(New York, reissue 1956). M. Heidegger, “Die Zeit
des Weltbildes,” Holzwege (Frankfurt a. M., 1950). J. G. von
Herder, Sämtliche Werke, ed. B. Suphan (Berlin, 1877-1913),
esp. Vols. V, IX, XII, XIII, XIV, XVII, XVIII, passim. A.
Herzen, From the Other Shore, trans. Moura Budberg
(London and New York, 1956). R. Hildebrand, Geist (Halle
a. Saale, 1926). D. Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, and
ed. T. H. Green, 2 vols. (London, 1875; London
and New York, 1963). K. Jaspers, Die geistige Situation der
(Berlin, 1932), trans. Eden and Cedar Paul as Man in
the Modern Age
(London, 1933); Vom Ursprung und Ziel
der Geschichte
(Zurich, 1949), trans. M. Bullock as Origin
and Goal of History
(New Haven, 1968). H. Kantorowicz,
“Savigny and the Historical School of Law,” Law Quarterly
53 (1937), 326ff. F. List, National System of Political
trans. G. A. Matile (Philadelphia, 1856). K.
Löwith, Von Hegel bis Nietzsche (Zurich, 1941), trans. as
From Hegel to Nietzsche: The Revolution in Nineteenth
Century Thought
(New York, 1964). M. de Montesquieu,
L'Esprit des lois (Geneva, 1748). F. C. von Moser, Von dem
deutschen national-Geist
(location uncertain, 1765?). J.-P.
Sartre, Critique de la raison dialectique (Paris, 1960). F. C.
von Savigny, Vom Beruf unserer Zeit für Gesetzgebung und
(Heidelberg, 1814). Philip Schaff,
America, A Sketch of Its Political, Social, and Religious
ed. P. Miller (Cambridge, Mass., 1961). Friedrich
Schiller, Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen
(1795), trans. R. Snell as On the Aesthetic Education of Man
(New York, 1965). G. Vico, Scienza nuova (1725), trans. Max
H. Fisch and Thoman S. Bergin as The New Science of
Giambattista Vico
(Ithaca, 1944; 1968). F. M. A. de Voltaire,
Essai sur les moeurs et l'esprit des nations (1756); Diction-
naire philosophique
(1764), esp. “Esprit”; trans. Peter Gay
as Philosophical Dictionary (New York, 1967). A. N. White-
head, Science and the Modern World (London and New York,
1925). Walt Whitman, Complete Prose Works (Boston, 1898);
idem, Leaves of Grass and Selected Prose, ed. S. Bradley
(New York, 1960).


[See also Environment; Language; Law, Ancient Roman;
Nationalism; Romanticism; State; Zeitgeist.]