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Hermann von Keyserling

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Hermann Graf von Keyserling
Born20 July [O.S. 8] 1880
Died26 April 1946(1946-04-26) (aged 65)
Era20th-century philosophy
RegionWestern philosophy

Hermann Alexander Graf[1] von Keyserling (20 July [O.S. 8] 1880 – 26 April 1946) was a Baltic German philosopher from the Keyserlingk family. His grandfather, Alexander von Keyserling, was a notable geologist of Imperial Russia.


Keyserling was born to a wealthy aristocratic family in the Könno Manor, Kreis Pernau in Governorate of Livonia, Russian Empire, now in Estonia. After his education at the universities of Dorpat (Tartu), Heidelberg, and Vienna, he took a trip around the world. He married Maria Goedela von Bismarck-Schönhausen, granddaughter of Otto von Bismarck. His son Arnold Keyserling followed his fathers footsteps and became a renowned philosopher.

Hermann Keyserling interested himself in natural science and in philosophy, and before World War I he was known both as a student of geology and as a popular essayist. The Russian Revolution deprived him of his estate in Livonia, and with the remains of his fortune he founded the Gesellschaft für Freie Philosophie (Society for Free Philosophy) at Darmstadt. The mission of this school was to bring about the intellectual reorientation of Germany.[2]

He was the first to use the term Führerprinzip. One of Keyserling's central claims was that certain "gifted individuals" were "born to rule" on the basis of Social Darwinism.

Although not a doctrinaire pacifist, Keyserling believed that the old German policy of militarism was dead for all time and that Germany's only hope lay in the adoption of international, democratic principles. His best-known work is the Reisetagebuch eines Philosophen ("Travel-journal of a Philosopher"). The book also describes his travels in Asia, America and Southern Europe.

He died at Innsbruck, Austria.


  • Reisetagebuch eines Philosophen [Travel Journal of a Philosopher] (in German).
  • Das Buch vom Ursprung [The Book of the Origin] (in German).
  • Schöpferische Erkenntnis [Creative Knowledge] (in German).
  • Südamerikanische Meditationen [South American Meditations] (in German).
  • Einführung in die Schule der Weisheit [An Introduction to the School of Wisdom] (in German).
  • Philosophie als Kunst [Philosophy as Art] (in German).
  • La Révolution mondiale et la responsabilité de l'esprit [The Global Revolution and the Responsibility of the Spirit] (in French).
  • Das Buch vom persönlichen Leben [The Book of Personal Life] (in German).
  • Betrachtungen der Stille und Besinnlichkeit [Reflections of Silence and Contemplation] (in German).
  • Reise durch die Zeit (Memoiren) [Journey Through Time: A Memoir] (in German). (1958).
  • Das Spektrum Europas [The Spectrum of Europe] (in German).
  • Das Gefüge der Welt: Versuch einer kritischen Philosophie [The Fabric of the World: Attempt at a Critical Philosophy] (in German).


  1. ^ Regarding personal names: Until 1919, Graf was a title, translated as Count, not a first or middle name. The female form is Gräfin. In Germany, it has formed part of family names since 1919.
  2. ^ New International Encyclopedia

Further reading[edit]

  • Dyserinck, Hugo: Graf Hermann Keyserling und Frankreich, Ein Kapitel deutsch-französischer Geistesbeziehungen im 20. Jahrhundert; Bouvier, Bonn 1970; ISBN 3-416-00667-4
  • Gahlings, Ute: Hermann Graf Keyserling, ein Lebensbild; Justus-von-Liebig-Verlag, Darmstadt 1996; ISBN 3-87390-116-1
  • Keyserling-Archiv Innsbruck-Mühlau (Hrsg.): Graf Hermann Keyserling, ein Gedächtnisbuch; Rohrer, Innsbruck 1948
  • Kaminsky, Amy: ' Victoria Ocampo and the Keyserling Effect' in Argentina, Stories for a Nation, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008) p. 70-98.
  • Stephenson, Craig E.: The Correspondence of Victoria Ocampo, Count Keyserling and C.G. Jung: Writing to the Woman Who Was Everything, Abingdon, New York 2023; ISBN 978-1-032-20955-5
  • Struve, Walter. Elites Against Democracy: Leadership Ideals in Bourgeois Political Thought in Germany, 1890-1933. Princeton University Press, 1973. http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt13x11bp.

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