Studia Historica Septentrionalia 73


Marja Jalava, On the Question of Social Coherence in the Moral Philosophy of Rolf Lagerborg    

It is hardly an overstatement to claim that since the late 18th century, European scholars have been obsessed with the conception of modernity and the question of how modern societies could maintain their coherence. As stated by Friedrich von Schiller in his classic Über die ästhetische Erziehung des Menschen in einer Reihe von Briefen (1795), the advanced culture had inflicted a wound upon modern man, causing fragmentary specialization of human powers so that not only had the division of labor distanced the abstract thinker from the man of practical affairs, but the inner unity of human nature was severed, too. When egotism and one-sidedness formed the basis of the modern system, people were incapable of acquiring “a heart that is truly sociable” and thus, they suffered all contagions and afflictions of society. For Schiller, as for many of his contemporaries and followers, the answer was to be found in the reconciliation of the individual and society on a higher level, on which opposites, such as sensuality and rationality, subject and object, and private and public were merged into one in a qualitatively new kind of unity.

This article deals with the Finnish discussion on social coherence and national unity at the turn of the 20th century, with special emphasis on Rolf Lagerborg’s (1874–1959) sociological moral philosophy. While the Finnish intellectual milieu was dominated, on the one hand, by the legacy of German Idealism and, on the other hand, by the Anglo-Saxon empiricism of the Westermarckian school, the French-orientated moral philosopher Rolf Lagerborg was a rare bird. Broadly speaking, his conception of the world was firmly rooted in the liberal, anti-clerical, and anti-metaphysical ideas of the radical French Revolution. In Finnish intellectual life, he was a well-known and controversial figure, who often managed to arouse public anger by way of his sharp-worded, deliberately provocative opinions. In his case, it was impossible to distinguish scholarly ideas from extra-scientific interests, since for him, a philosopher was essentially a public figure taking part in topical issues, not an isolated academic in his/her ivory tower.

Takaisin Studia Historica Septentrionalia 73