Barth and Romanticism and the Enlightenment

Karl Barth, Protestant Theology and the Nineteenth Century: Its Background and History (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002), 327.

“Romanticism was not the most profound, the most radical or the most mature form of the great intellectual movement which fulfilled and surpassed the Enlightenment and the eighteenth century generally, and established the typical way of thinking of the nineteenth century. Not the most profound: this was in all likelihood the philosophy of Kant. Not the most radical, which we shall come to discover in Hegel. Not the most mature, which we should have to recognize in the wisdom of life of the one and only Goethe. But of all these forms of that great intellectual movement Romanticism probably expressed this movement in its most characteristic and representative form; that in which the general trend was clearly apparent. Nowhere, probably, were the final aims of the Enlightenment expressed in a form so plastic as to tend almost to caricature, as in this most angry and most thoroughgoing of all the protests against it. And nowhere was the secret of the man of the dawning nineteenth century, of his strength and weakness, of his greatness and of his faults expressed in so plastic a form as to be almost a caricature, as in this very part-manifestation of the great eruption which was establishing the new basis, this manifestation which, after flaring up briefly, was itself in its turn dispatched and extinguished. It was dispatched and extinguished with even greater fury and derision than that which Romanticism itself had once imagined it could dispatch and extinguish the Enlightenment.”


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