The German Genius PDF ✓ The German eBook Õ
Why do we read and write, you and I? Partly it's because we want to better ourselves This is what people do or what the kind of people you and I want to know do, anyway we learn new instruments and languages, we travel, we try new things (Or we like to think we do.)But why do we do this? The answer may seem selfevident: who doesn't want to be "better", whatever that means? Who doesn't want to belike the people they admire, andliked by them? Or maybe you feel you have an inner drive: if you didn't try all these new things, you'd go crazy.But have you ever stopped to think about the context for this behaviour? Whether people everywhere do it, and always have?That is the concern of the first half of Peter Watson's The German Genius or, as I like to think of it: After God, "Aargh, modernity!" Or, evenfacetiously: Why we blog.Watson tells us that the drive for selfimprovement originated largely in preunified Germany, born out of the speculative philosophy of such titans as Kant and Hegel that arose to fill the growing hole left by declining Christianity and its message of "Do this, because I say so".Why in Germany? Religion in Germany had beeninward anyway, as a result of Luther's protestantism returning religion to the people from the control of the church (see the novel Q, ostensibly but not really written by a former AC Milan footballer named Luther Blissett) Plus, it was the German Wilhelm von Humboldt who essentially invented the modern university, with the idea that scholars should conduct original research, and, owing to the support of Friedrich Wilhelm III, there were faruniversities, and muchliteracy, in Germany than places like France or Great Britain.Kant, Hegel et al posited that in the absence of an afterlife or divinity, the purpose of life must be to better oneself, a concept that came to be known as bildung Also, by bettering oneself, one also bettered those around oneself in one's community.Thus, the next 100 years or so gave rise to such cultural colossi as Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart, Schubert and Wagner, whose music differed from that of Handel and Bach in expressing inner concepts related to the life of man, rather than religious ones, plus Goethe, creator of the Bildungsroman, in which improvement (in the eyes of God or of man) comes only through effort on the part of the individual.Thanks, Germany!But then come modernity and alienation, and the second half of Watson's book, which addresses the question of whether German idealism had to lead to authoritarianism.As Watson makes clear (borrowing on the work of others, as he's quick to point out the whole book heavily does), the idea of evolution did not originate with Darwin Bildung is itself evolution applied to one's own character, for example But Darwin accounted for evolution scientifically, realising it comes from overpopulation and struggle to survive and reproduce Thus (broadly) was born the age of science.Over the next generation or so, we have the dawn of organic chemistry and the age of cellular and molecular biology, so many of the discoveries coming from German universities and institutes We mechanise and urbanise We have massproduction.Then comes the FrancoPrussian war and German unification.Scientification continues Education becomes less humanistic Alongside this we have Nietzsche, telling us nothing matters any.Then World War I, partly a war of nowstruggling German kultur vs British mercantilism and mere civility We have mechanised, indiscriminate killing on a scale never seen before Germany and kultur are dealt a terrible blow, although nobody really wins.Then Weimar and the rise of lowbrow culture, followed by Einstein's relativity, Pauli's uncertainty, Godel's revelation that there are things that can never be known, atonalism in music, expressionism in art, cultural pessimism and economic plight.Then National Socialists, with their incoherent but powerful message that everything had gone wrong and a return to classical culture was needed, and their racism, their belief that others were responsible for the way things were and that these were people who could never be truly cultured, as only true Germans could.And what came next, which you already know.And then the aftermath: a slow coming to terms, Heidegger and reassessment, Habermas and what now in the age of ongoing alienation and environmental profligacy.I haven't done justice to The German Genius there, obviously It's 365,000 words, and an awful lot of concepts that were entirely new to me It's a lot to get your head around.At times it reads like an encyclopaedia, and could perhaps have done with being a bit trimmer But part of its point is that there is so muchto Germany that the Nazis, despite what British TV schedulers might think, hence there's a lot of chronicling of German achievement even when it's not essential to the narrative.TGG is monumental in every sense, and probably the most informative and enlightening book I've ever read I'd read it again, if only it wasn't so big Bloody overachieving Germans, nicking all the sunloungers What an enormous book 850 pages of accounts of German intellectuals Took methan three months to read But its enormous for a reason Its a book with a huge agenda to bring to light the great German thinkers (from Goethe to Habermas) who lie at the heart of so much of modern thought and, partly because of the Nazis and partly because of AngloAmericancentrism have been unjustly overlooked Having said that the book also charted where German thought began to go wrong at first very slowly but on a very deep level beginning in the failed revolution of 1848 and eventually leading to the collapse of the Weimar Republic in 1933 and its eventual revival in the 1968 to 1989 period. I went for a long trip to Germany in 2013 and wanted to get a bit of backstory on the place (asides from what we're all told about all that unpleasantness in the early part of last century) This isn't a book about redemption, or about citing Germany's previous contributions to industry, medicine, and the arts Watson could attempt to dissect Germany's troubled legacy, or how the nation is viewed, but such a discussion would be outside the book's focus (and would be arguably as long and detailed a read as the book is) What it instead does is sets Germany's importance in contributing towards civilisation as a whole in a variety of areas The book starts somewhere in the formation of the first modern universities waaay back in the day, and continues through until nearly modern times This is an excellent read, wellwritten, cogent and making great points all over the place For me it was an excellent background into the industrial and scientific formation of modern Germany, something that is often overlooked However, don't think it helps to namedrop any choice bits once you get to Germany I met a girl from the town that Zeiss, this awesome lensmaker was from, and she didn't know a thing about it 10/10 book for the read, 1/10 for any tidbits to impress tidy German girls with. This was perhaps the best reading surprise I have had in recent years A work of startling erudition, it attempts and in my opinion succeeds in describing the spirit and achievements of an entire culture across its full breadth And what a culture! Directed at the warobsessed Englishspeaking readership, it does not dodge the question of how the world's perhaps most advanced culture of the time gave birth to Nazism but tries to trace the differences and proclivities that made this, of all places, the birthplace.The author treats of music, painting, architecture, literature, biology, physics, engineering, mathematics, economics and philosophy This list is probably not exhaustive and Watson seems to speak with authority wherever I myself have the knowledge to judge In virtually all these fields, Germans have made decisive contributions and often enough led the field It was said by Churchill's secretary that the allies won the Second World War because we had better German scientists than the Germans did He was not exaggerating, and I would only add that very many were German Jews.At any rate, the rise of Nazism led to a prolific diaspora of German speakers, products of the most advanced university system of the 19th Century, as the regime sought to sanitise artistic and political discourse, rid music of "degeneracy" and to move against the Jews who had played so great a role in the advances of the previous century The result was catastrophic for the regime's chances of beating the combined resources of the British Empire and Asian Russia backed up by their own nation's brains, but it has shaped our own mindsdeeply than many would admit Just to name a couple of examples, the Chicago School of economics and the entire field of psychoanalysis are almost entirely shaped by German minds.The question that will probably never lose its hold on British in large part ancestrally germanic readers is, "What about the war?" Well, both wars And one World Cup (Doodah, doodah.) This account should firstly make clear the narrowness and puerility of this obsession The book does not settle on a single, definitive explanation, but it highlights a set of circumstances that render Germany arguably unique, and which may comprise a predisposition: The spirit of Prussia's Iron Kingdom is part of it, with its cherishing of the martial spirit and pride in "entrepreneurialism" over contempt for Englishspeaking mercantilism The Romantic dream of the isolated figure in an empty, native landscape is another factor, as it brought the soil to "blood and soil" nationalism As Popper argued at length, historicism, a strong feature of German philosophy, contributed to both Nazism and Marxism a product of yet another German mind The Nietzschean conception of the moral "superman" fits into the picture And of course the Weimar Republic saw the rise of a vicious conservatism that birthed a yearning to "get our country back" and to purify art of modernist "degeneracy" German classical scholarship is visible in the neoclassical brutality of Nazi architecture, its primacy in cinema and communications technology must have played a role in Nazi mastery of mass propaganda, expertise in mythography and Germanic sagas and fables contributed to the incoherent blend of Christianity and pagan heroism which Hitler concocted to provide a purely Aryan form of state religion This amounts to a complex and hardtofalsify picture, but what can one expect? The demonic energy of fascism is a true puzzle in the land of Goethe, Freud, Mozart and Einstein, and these answers seem to me to create a convincing whole.A work of genius about a genius. The German Genius is a virtuoso cultural history of German ideas and influence, from 1750 to the present day, by acclaimed historian Peter Watson (Making of the Modern Mind, Ideas) From Bach, Goethe, and Schopenhauer to Nietzsche, Freud, and Einstein, from the arts and humanities to science and philosophy, The German Genius is a lively and accessible review of over 250 years of German intellectual history In the process, it explains the devastating effects of World War II, which transformed a vibrant and brilliantly artistic culture into a vehicle of warfare and destruction, and it shows how the German culture advanced in the war’s aftermath. Should have been titled "The Unchecked German Genius." Watson sets out to correct what he views as an error to define Germany simply by the thirteen years of the Third Reich As he so well demonstrates in painstaking detail, Germans of the 19th Century led the world in nearly everything, from science to math to music, chemistry, industry and, most notably, philosophy As he does so, he carefully lays out how that philosophy, culture and political view of itself very much provided the foundation that brought on the Third Reich, the Holocaust and two world wars that changed history It really was the Germans and not just a circumstance of history And, most surprising, Hitler really had no new ideas He just brought bits and pieces of old ones to fruition Ironically, as Watson describes the German genius, he also proves up the reason why Germans deserve very much to be defined by those thirteen years Now, if the Greeks are correct, and Germany is again taking over Europe, these 800 pages may be a good way of understanding just why Germans do what they do, this time hopefully without the evil goofballs that brought it to ruination the last time around. Somewhere along the line after writing the introduction and title, Watson forgot his mission to explain how Germany became a dominant economic European country after 1945 Chapter 1 starts with year 1747 Not to be deterred, I waded through 713 pages to get to postWWII I took note of priests, architects, musicians and scientists The changes in thought leading up to 1938 are useful, and answered lots of questions for me Watson is an English journalist with an academic bent hoping to educate allhe writes beautifully This was recommended to me by a German architect Once I gave up my desire to learn about government, industry, culture and changes in Germany over the last 50 years, I really enjoyed this book. This was an amazing whirlwind tour of, well, German genius from the death of Bach in 1750 to the present: not only the artists, writers, historians, and philosophers that typically people the pages of cultural histories, but also scientists, engineers, businessmen, and doctors If it has a fault, it's that Watson tries to cover as many people as possible, so occasionally it feels a bit like you're reading one encyclopedia entry after another But that'sthan outweighed by the overall arc of the book, which not only gives a great refresher course on philosophers like Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Habermas (which sticks well in the brain because Watson is so successful in anchoring them in general Western cultural development), but also highlights largescale traits particularly characteristic of 19C and early 20C Germany, notably a welleducated middle class, supported by firstrate research institutions, inclinedto Innerlichkeit ("inwardness") than to political activism, and devoted to a holistic approach to educational selfbetterment, i.e Bildung The way he describes it, the entire country sounds like it would be an INTJ in a MyersBriggs test, which is no doubt one reason the book appealed to me so much He also does a convincing job of showing how all this led to the catastrophe of the Nazis One of those Hydralike books that leaves you with a much longer toread list than you started out with You won't find overmuch politics here What you will find is German culture Uber alles A huge, fascinating book. This is a work of love, in the double sense of trying to be thorough regarding accomplishments of people of german origin, and in the call for a deeper look to the german contribution to the present world that's hidden behind a historical curtain caused by recent events.Is Watson successful in this undertaking? I think he is, even considering the compromise of breadth and deepness over the different subjects that is always a characteristic of these books I kept wanting to knowabout this or that character/subject, and I will, as Watson enticed me And that's the main point of the book: let you know how little you know, and then acting accordingly.