Studying Kanonbildung: An Exercise in a Distant Reading of Contemporary Self-descriptions of the 19th Century German Philosophy
In 19th century Germany, the number of publications in the history of philosophy increased dramatically. According to Schneider’s (1999) calculations, from 1810 through 1899, 148 original textbooks by 114 authors were published in German. The aim of this article is to analyse how the documented in these publications canonic vision of 19th century German philosophy evolved. An analysis of 66 treatises published from 1802 through 1918 allows dividing 19th century philosophers into groups based on the frequency of their names across the tables of contents, describing the changes in the leading group composition and in the share of attention received by a given philosopher over time (the patterns of attention for Kant, Fichte, Hegel, Schelling, Herbart, Schleiermacher, Schopenhauer, Jacobi and Fries are discussed in detail). The paper presents thus a formal analysis of how historical reputations of philosophers were made, how they stabilised, or faded. The authors claim that the current understanding of the history of 19th century philosophy differs significantly from the one recorded in the German textbooks of the era (e.g. Herbart’s key position within the 19th century philosophical Canon; Schopenhauer’s recognition by university philosophers during his own lifetime).