Document Type

Contribution to Book

Title

Schleiermacher and Transcendentalist Truth-Telling: Ethics, Gender and Speech in 19th century New England

Source Publication

Schleiermacher's Influences on American Thought and Religious Life, 1835-1920

Publication Date

10-23-2014

Editor

Jeffrey A. Wilcox, Terrence N. Tice, Catherine L. Kelsey

Publisher

Pickwick Publications

Volume

3

Series

Princeton Theological Monograph Series

ISBN

9781606080054

First Page

293

Last Page

321

Department

Languages, Cultures & Linguistics

Abstract

Within the discursive and intentional communities of the New England Transcendentalists (and their successors) the practice of mutual criticism was a central tenet of the ethical practice of truth telling. The Oneida Perfectionists, who, as some would argue, were the ideological children of Brook Farm, practiced the ancient Greek right of “parrhesia,” or frank criticism of error between equals, as a central mechanism whereby all community members, men and women, were enfranchised.

This essay will examine the intellectual roots of the German theologian, Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher’s notion of “parrhesia” and trace its manifestation through his own intellectual background and the reception of German philosophy and religious thought in North America. Drawing on Schleiermacher’s early ethics and writings on religion, and their reception by the New England Transcendentalists, this essay will argue that Schleiermacher’s plea for a catechism of reason for noble women translates in the context of early 19th century North America into a praxis-oriented right of free speech for women. Through an examination of the recently discovered Peabody sisters’ texts, and Margaret Fuller’s writings, the influence of Schleiermacher’s early religious and ethical texts will be traced in the Transcendentalists’ pursuit of a gendered ethics of speaking and understanding.

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