Romanticism: Philosophical Definition

Romanticism is a broad movement of thought in philosophy, the arts, history, and political theory, at its height in Germany, England and France towards the end of the 18th and in the earlier part of the 19th centuries.

Romanticism can be defined as a reaction against the rationalism and empiricism of the period of the Enlightenment : romanticism is best characterized by its idealist celebration of the self, by its respect for the transcendantal, and by its conviction of the power of the imagination and of the supreme value of art.

Philosophically, the movement has its roots in Kant’s theories in respect of the relation of self to the phenomenal world and of the unknowability of the noumenal world. But the most direct manifestation of philosophical romanticism is to be found in the extreme idealism of Schelling.

Through Coleridge, Schelling’s views exercised a strong influence over the English romantic poets, Wordsworth and Shelley; in history and political theory, the work of Shelley’s father-in-law William Godwin was much admired by romantics, who were also deeply interested in the ideas of the French Revolution. However, the arch-romantic is undoubtly Goethe, whose drama, Faust, stills remains the clearest expression of romanticist feeling.

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