Ethics in History: Ernst Troeltsch (1865-1923) as Moral Theorist

This is an Archive of a Past Event

Ernst Troeltsch was the most gifted, provocative, and influential Protestant theologian of the Kaiserreich. A thinker and scholar of tremendous range and erudition—the critical edition of his oeuvre will span 25 volumes—Troeltsch pursued a historicist program in theology undergirded by a philosophy of history and ethics. When he was appointed to a custom-made chair in philosophy in Berlin in 1915, he announced in his inaugural address that he had come to “overcome” the “anarchy of values” that so stumped his predecessor Dilthey. This lecture will introduce Troeltsch’s major concerns and discuss the conception of ethics that he developed in order to “dam and shape” the turbulent stream of history.

Brent Sockness is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and, by courtesy, German Studies at Stanford University. His teaching covers a variety of thinkers, movements, and topics in the history of European and North American religious thought since the seventeenth century and explores the way in which the Christian religion has undergone modernization via its engagement with the rise of modern philosophy, the natural sciences, critical history, and liberal political institutions. His research focuses on German post-Kantian theology and ethics, in particular the thought of the early nineteenth-century theologian and philosopher Friedrich Schleiermacher and the early twentieth-century theologian, cultural historian, sociologist, and philosopher of history Ernst Troeltsch. Sockness holds a B.A. in economics from St. Olaf College and an M.A. in Religious Studies and Ph.D. in Theology from the University of Chicago. He is author of Against False Apologetics: Wilhelm Herrmann and Ernst Troeltsch in Conflict (Mohr Siebeck) and co-editor with Wilhelm Gräb of Schleiermacher, the Study of Religion, and the Future of Theology. Sockness is also is Director of the Honors Program in Ethics in Society, and serves on the Advisory Board of Stanford’s McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society.

Sockness is a current fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center working on the first major book in English to consider Troeltsch's work on ethics in depth.