The liberal temper in classical German philosophy: Freedom of thought and expression

Abstract

Consideration of the German philosophy and political history of the past century might well give the impression, and often does give foreign observers the impression, that liberalism, including in particular commitment to the ideal of free thought and expression, is only skin-deep in Germany. Were not Heidegger's disgust at Gerede (which of course really meant the free speech of the Weimar Republic) and Gadamer's defense of "prejudice" and "tradition" more reflective of the true instincts of German philosophy than, say, the Frankfurt School's heavily Anglophone-influenced championing of free thought and expression? Were not the Kaiser and Nazism more telling of Germany's real political nature than the liberalism of the Weimar Republic (a desperate, ephemeral experiment undertaken in reaction to Germany's disastrous defeat in World War I) or the liberalism of (West) Germany since 1945 (in effect forced on the country by the victorious Allies after World War II)?

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