Cosmopolitanism and the German Enlightenment

Franz Leander Fillafer and Jürgen Osterhammel

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern German History

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199237395
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Cosmopolitanism and the German Enlightenment


The European Enlightenment has long been regarded as a host of disembodied, self-perpetuating ideas typically emanating from France and inspiring apprentices at the various European peripheries. This article focuses on the idea of cosmopolitanism in the context of the German Enlightenment. There clearly was a set of overarching purposes of emancipation and improvement, but elaborating and pursuing ‘the Enlightenment’ also involved a ‘sense of place’. The Enlightenment maintained that human reason was able to understand nature unaided by divine revelation, but attuned to its truths; many Enlighteners agreed that God, like Newton's divine clockmaker, had created the universe, but thereafter intervened no more. John Locke's critique of primordialism challenged the existence of innate ideas and original sin. This article moves on to explain notions of religion, empire, and commerce, as well as the laws of nation. Transitions in the German society in the nineteenth century and after that are explained in details in this article.

Keywords: European Enlightenment; cosmopolitanism; German Enlightenment; sense of place; divine revelation

Article.  12097 words. 

Subjects: History ; European History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribeRecommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »