Karl Philipp Moritz - Biography
Karl Philipp Moritz was born September 15, 1756 in Hameln and died June 26, 1793 in Berlin. He was a German author and novelist of the Sturm und Drang.
Born into a very poor family, Karl Philipp Moritz was working as a hatter´s apprentice by the age of twelve. Eventually he was able to study theology in Erfurt and Wittenberg, though soon thereafter, he decided he wanted to become an actor. After this plan failed, Karl Philipp Moritz became a schoolteacher in 1777. Two years later, he became a Mason and aquainted himself with the philosophers of the late Enlightenment, such as Moses Mendelssohn, Marcus Herz, and Johann Erich Biester. In 1784 Karl Philipp Moritz was appointed “professor” at a Gymnasium in Berlin, where he also served as an editor for the “Vossische Zeitung” for one year. After just two years of teaching, Karl Philipp Moritz decided to become a writer and gave up his teaching post in 1786.
Karl Philipp Moritz left Berlin and travelled to Italy to write. He remained there for over two years during which time he met Johann Wolfgang von Goethe who helped to support him. After his return to Berlin, Karl Philipp Moritz was appointed professor of archaeology and aesthetics at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in 1789. One of his notable students was the infamous Alexander von Humboldt. Following his appointment, he became a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences in 1791.
Though Karl Philipp Moritz only lived to the age of 36, he was an immensely prolific writer and published more than fifty books. In 1781 he published the play Blunt oder der Gast, which is sometimes labelled the first German Schicksalstragödie. His many other publications include the psychological and biographical novel, Anton Reiser (three of five parts of the book were published in 1785 and 1786, the fourth and fifth parts were published in 1790); the satirical novel Andreas Hartknopf (1786) as well as its sequel, Andreas Hartknopfs Predigerjahre (1790); the travelogues Reisen eines Deutschen in England im Jahre 1782 (Journeys of a German in England 1782, 1783), his first literary success, and Reisen eines Deutschen in Italien (1792-93); Versuch einer kleinen praktischen Kinderlogik (Essay toward a Practical Logic for Children, 1786).
Karl Philipp Moritz also wrote poetry, which was highly praised by Friedrich II. He was the editor of several journals, among them one of the first German psychology journals, Magazin zur Erfahrungsseelenkunde als ein Lesebuch für Gelehrte und Ungelehrte (Magazine of Experiential Psychology as a Reader for Scholars and Laymen) from 1783 until 1793.
With his many treatises on aesthetics he greatly influenced the aesthetic theory of the period. The most important of these treatise were: Grundlinien zu einer künftigen Theorie der schönen Künste (1789), Versuch einer Vereinigung aller schönen Künste und Wissenschaften unter dem Begriff des in sich selbst Vollendeten, which was published as an open letter to Moses Mendelssohn, and, Über ein Gemälde von Goethe (1792). Perhaps his most famous and influential text is, Über die bildende Nachahmung des Schönen (On the Formative Imitation of Beauty, 1788). In this text Karl Philipp Moritz argues that imitation in art is not a copy, but itself a creation. In art, he asserts, beauty is an impression of the beauty of nature, and it is only through such an experience of beauty can we get a sense of the world.
Though he never received much fame during his lifetime, it is widely assumed that Karl Philipp Moritz influenced other philosophers such as Immanuel Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Friedrich Schiller, with whom he also developed a friendship. Karl Philipp Moritz died of a pulmonary edema in 1793 in Berlin.