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Oswald Spengler

(1880—1936) German philosopher

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German philosopher of history.

Spengler was educated at the universities of Munich, Berlin, and Halle, completing in 1904 a PhD thesis on Heraclitus. He worked as a grammar-school teacher until 1911, when he devoted himself full-time to his own writings.

His famous work Der Untergang des Abendlandes (2 vols, 1918–22; translated as The Decline of the West, 1926–28), appearing at the end of World War I, appeared highly relevant to Spengler's contemporaries. He spoke of the inevitable decline of all previous civilizations, from the Egyptian onwards. Clearly, Spengler implied, our own civilization was unlikely to be an exception to the course of history. Choosing to present his case in a series of striking images rather than basing it on argument and a careful analysis of the historical record, Spengler identified our present civilization as the successor of the Greco-Roman, or Apollonian. He termed it Faustian and characterized it in terms of its command of space, its distinctive and destructive weapons, and its industrial power. Deploying biological and meteorological analogies without constraint, Spengler argued that civilizations undergo a seasonal cycle of about a thousand years. Faustian culture, which had experienced its spring during the Renaissance, was in its autumnal stage and about to move to its final wintry end.

Subjects: Literature

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