The name of Eucken has become a familiar one in philosophical and religious circles. Until recent years the reading of his books was confined to those possessing a knowledge of German, but of late several have been translated into the English language, and now the students of philosophy and religion are agog with accounts of a new philosopher who is at once a great ethical teacher and an optimistic prophet. There is no doubt that Eucken has a great message, and those who cannot find time to make a thorough study of his works should not fail to know something of the man and his teachings. The aim of this volume is to give a brief and clear account of his philosophical ideas, and to inspire the reader to study for himself Eucken's great works.
Professor Rudolf Eucken was born in 1846, at Aurich in Frisia. He attended school in his native town, and then proceeded to study at the Universities of Göttingen and Berlin. In 1874 he was invited to the Professorship of Philosophy at the University of Jena, and here he has laboured for thirty-eight years; during this period he has been listened to and admired by many of the more advanced students of philosophy of all countries and continents.
His earliest writings were historical in character, and consisted mainly of learned essays upon the classical and German philosophers.
Following upon these appeared valuable studies in the history of philosophy, which brought out, too, to some extent, Eucken's own philosophical ideas.
His latest works have been more definitely constructive. In Life's Basis and Life's Ideal, and The Truth of Religion, he gives respectively a full account of his philosophical system, and of his ideas concerning religion.
Several smaller works contain his ideas in briefer and more popular form.
As a lecturer he is charming and inspiring. He is not always easy to understand; his sentences are often long, florid, and complex. Sometimes, indeed, he is quite beyond the comprehension of his students—but when they do not understand, they admire, and feel they are in the presence of greatness. His writings contain many of the faults of his lectures. They are often laboured and obscure, diffuse and verbose.
But these faults are minor in character, compared with the greatness of his work. There is no doubt that his is one of the noblest attempts ever made to solve the great question of life. Never was a philosophy more imbued with the spirit of battle against the evil and sordid, and with the desire to find in life the highest and greatest that can be found in it.
I have to thank Professor Eucken for the inspiration of his lectures and books, various writers, translators, and friends for suggestions, and especially my wife, whose help in various ways has been invaluable.
Passages are quoted from several of the works mentioned in the Bibliography, especially from Eucken's "The Truth of Religion," with the kind permission of Messrs. Williams & Norgate—the publishers.
ABEL J. JONES.