Friedrich Albert Lange - Biography
Friedrich Albert Lange (September 28, 1828 - November 23, 1875) was a German philosopher and sociologist as well as the originator of neo-Kantianism. His major work, History of Materialism, was used as a standard introduction and history of philosophy well into the twentieth century. Lange was born in Wald near Soligen, Germany. His father was a protestant theologian and worked not only as a pastor but also as a professor which led the family to move to take up positions as they came about. The first move was to Langenberg and then to Duisberg in 1832 where Lange attended elementary and began high school, completing courses in Zurich after the family moved again in 1841 so his father could take up a professorship in theology. A note of interest is that Lange's father took the space of Professor of Theology after David Friedrich Strauss was booted from the university due to his controversial The Life of Jesus. In Zurich, Lange was exposed to Hegel and Herbart. The introduction to Herbart especially motivated him to explore issues of pedagogy and education theory as well as brought him solidly back to Kant. He attended the University of Bonn and studied philology as well as philosophy among other topics including classical German literature and geometry. He was awarded his doctorate in 1851 and did a turn in the military service before taking his first teacher position in 1852 as an assistant high school teacher.
Lange went on to make his living mostly by his teaching career after receiving qualification as a university lecturer at his alma mater. also at the University of Bonn he became the Privatdozent of Philosophy and Pedagogy in 1855 and gave lectures on psychology and pedagogy. It was in 1857 when Lange began to lecture on the topic of materialism and its history that would lead him to write his famous tome. In addition he had given lectures on the relationship between educational systems and their place in the worldviews of their respective times as well as the popular view of "Moralstatistik" on the correlations between rates of morally significant behavior during different times. Lange was unable to move beyond Privatdozent in Bonn so he returned to Duisburg Gymnasium to teach classes on Greek, Latin, German and philosophy there from 1858-62. It was during this time that he became increasingly involved with politics as the German civil society began to emerge. He was especially concerned with how the merchant traders were exploiting the working class by offering low-quality goods for extravagant prices. This activism as well as his involvement with the Deutsche Nationalverein let him to resign his teaching post as school authorities gravely discouraged teachers' participation in politics.
Lange felt that to be an effective teacher, one had to be a fully active citizen and tried to engage the authorities in debate over the matter, but left in 1862 to continue his political engagement in the form of co-editing the Rhein- und Ruhrzeitung which was a paper that highly criticized Bismarck's right-wing policies. Lange at this time also continued to try to reach a working class by publishing pamphlets that were distributed widely and attempting to publish a series of pieces that would work as consciousness raising implements for the working class. More and more Lange began to develop a socialist position which developed in a rift with the liberal paper that he was writing for, he felt that the interests of the working class were not being taken as seriously as they needed to be. Indeed, it became increasingly harder for Lange's articles to become published as his various political connections through his engagement with the German Workers' Association and his involvement as a mediator between the interests of the middle class and the working class. His mediation was colored by his own belief that the working class should not necessarily merely be made to be middle class and that the efforts and struggles of the working class had their own interests that needed to be heard instead of sloughed off in favor of middle class values. Because of this position, Lange felt impelled to write out his own position in The Labor Question (1865). It was also during this time that The History Of Materialism was developed and published in 1866 as well as Grundlegung der mathematischen Psychologie (1865). Due to the increasing difficulty which Lange encountered in his belief that workers were still not being taken seriously on their own terms, he began his own newspaper Der Bote vom Niederrhein that only ran a year (1865-66) and had even been denied support by Marx and Engels. Lange's position was to left of liberals but he was not willing to fully sign up with the socialist viewpoint. As a result he was left rather isolated in the political scene and felt rather discouraged.
Lange left for Switzerland and stayed in Winterthur where he continued to be active in politics and writing. He became co-editor of the Winterthurer Landboten and was active in the reformation of the Swiss constitution. In 1869 he became a Privatdozent at Zurich and did receive a professorship eventually although he had been diagnosed with cancer. He worked on a second edition of The History of Materialism and received many offers for professorships in Germany before he accepted a post at Marburg in 1872 where he gave lectures until his death in 1875.
Of Lange's many varied interests, the most particular that is remember for are those regarding pedagogy, labor interests and his work to restore Kant to the limelight. As for his pedagogy, he maintained that teachers and professors should be exemplars of civil service and thereby engaged with the politics of the time in regards to their own personal viewpoints. He continually looked at pedagogy and its history determining it within historical context and how each developed different kinds of citizens and how each system of pedagogy did so. He worked with K. A. Schmid on his encyclopedia of pedagogy although his views are not necessarily present in it. Concerning labor interests, the work written when in most direct debate over labor issues and worker's rights, Arbeiterfrage (Worker's Rights), was written in response and in light of the rapidly developing industrialization that Marx and Engels witnessed and were privy to as well. Again, his emphasis was on the workers and not what the middle class thought was good for the workers. Marx and Engels did not agree with Lange on myriad of topics like Hegel, whose dialectics Lange thought were not adequate to explain what was going on and complicated measures too much, not to mention the idea of revolution seemed far to unrealistic for Lange. This position would factor greatly in later socialist revisionist, Edmund Bernstein's work. Bernstein is said to have said that Lange led him back to Kant saying, "I would translate ‘back to Kant’ by ‘back to Lange’.” Lange's Kantian emphasis comes from a supreme disenchantment with the Idealism of Hegel which was undergoing critique under the burgeoning fields in natural sciences. Lange wrote, “I take the Hegelian System to be a step backward towards Scholasticism from which we are really already free. Herbart, to whom I first attached myself, was for me only a bridge to Kant, to whom so many honest researchers return in order to, where possible, complete what Kant had only half done: the annihilation of metaphysics.