Throughout history, different cultures and societies have been born, developed and died, generating many ways of thinking and seeing the world. Philosophy and sociology are fundamental elements to understand not only their evolution, but also the very functioning of society and the discussion of multiple aspects of life.

Many authors have developed both disciplines, but not as many have moved on to microsociological analysis as interpersonal relations or the structuring of reasoning. One of them, who would serve as a precursor to symbolic interactionism and the scientific development of sociology, was Georg Simmel. This author participated in the first stages of sociology and developed his own philosophical thought.

Throughout this article we will see a brief biography of Georg Simmel .

Short biography of Georg Simmel

Georg Simmel was born in Berlin on March 1, 1858, the seventh and youngest son of Edward and Flora Simmel. His family, of Jewish origin, was prosperous and educated, although his relationship with his mother was never close as she was excessively authoritarian. In spite of this, and regardless of whether his parents had converted to Christianity , throughout his life he had to face a widespread anti-Semitism in society .

His father died in 1874, something that would end up putting his family in a precarious economic situation. At that time a family friend, Julius Friedländer, took over and became the guardian of little Georg. Thanks to him , he was able to study at a Gymnasium in Berlin , and he was able to finish his secondary education before entering university.

University training and start of teaching activity

After completing his primary and secondary studies, Simmel enrolled at the University of Berlin to study philosophy and history, subjects in which he was deeply interested, in addition to attending lessons in social sciences and psychology.

During his training, which he carried out entirely in Berlin, he made contact with important philosophers, anthropologists and psychologists and studied works such as that of Kant . In spite of this, he had difficulties during his studies: in 1880 the university rejected a work that he intended to use as a doctoral thesis, referring to the origin of music. Fortunately, after changing the subject to metaphysics, he managed to obtain a doctorate with his thesis The nature of matter according to Kant’s physical monadology (a thesis that even received a prize from the Kaiser).

Once he had finished his studies, he was able to obtain the authorization to be appointed privatdozent, a private teacher, in 1885: a position that was not highly valued but which allowed him to remain in contact with the university. Despite this, his great training and interest in many subjects made him a deeply popular teacher who was loved by his students, since in addition to working in unusual areas of philosophy he tried to bring them closer to subjects that were close to their hearts.

Publications and personal relationships

During this period, he would also begin to write publications that would gradually gain in prestige, even at the international level. In 1890 he married Gertrude Kinel, a painter and intellectual with whom he had a son , and from whom he met and established a good relationship with thinkers like Max Weber.

In this context he began to elaborate some of his most relevant philosophical works, introducing and being one of the precursors of sociology as a science with publications such as On social differentiation or Introduction to moral science, in which he worked on themes such as sociology or the impossibility of working on a scientific ethics beyond mere description .

In addition to this author, Simmel began to hold several talks with great authors such as Stefan George, Edmund Husserl and Walter Benjamin. He also made several trips to Italy. In 1900, the University recognised his many contributions by appointing him as an extraordinary professor, but not accepting him as a professor (something that provoked the indignation of many intellectuals).

In 1908, he published Sociology , helping to establish the scientific basis of this discipline. Also at this time he focused on the concept of life, leaving the field of sociology a bit aside as such as entering into a more metaphysical and existentialist area.

Despite the marginality to which his origin condemned him, he managed to found the German Society of Sociology together with Weber . Around 1914, coinciding with the First World War, the university finally gave him a professorship.

Legacy in sociology and philosophy

Unfortunately, throughout 1918 the author contracted liver cancer, which eventually led to his death shortly thereafter. Georg Simmel died on September 28, 1918, in the city of Strasbourg . In his last year he would produce publications such as The Conflict of Modern Culture or Intuition of Life: Four Metaphysical Chapters , in the last of which we see his metaphysical position in his final days.

Simmel’s contributions are unmentionable: despite being relatively unknown and having been marginalized by the academic world of his time, he contributed greatly to establishing sociology as a science, working on aspects such as authority and individuality or personal relationships. He was also a controversial and interesting philosopher who touched on themes such as immortality, moral relativism, life, love and ethics, and whose works inspired many later authors.

Bibliographic references:

  • Rammstedt, O. and Cantó, N. (2000). Georg Simmel (1858-1918). Papers, 62: 11-24.