The View of Life
Four Metaphysical Essays with Journal Aphorisms
Published in 1918, The View of Life is Georg Simmel’s final work. Famously deemed “the brightest man in Europe” by George Santayana, Simmel addressed diverse topics across his essayistic writings, which influenced scholars in aesthetics, epistemology, and sociology. Nevertheless, certain core issues emerged over the course of his career—the genesis, structure, and transcendence of social and cultural forms, and the nature and conditions of authentic individuality, including the role of mindfulness regarding mortality. Composed not long before his death, The View of Life was, Simmel wrote, his “testament,” a capstone work of profound metaphysical inquiry intended to formulate his conception of life in its entirety.
Now Anglophone readers can at last read in full the work that shaped the argument of Heidegger’s Being and Time and whose extraordinary impact on European intellectual life between the wars was extolled by Jürgen Habermas. Presented alongside these seminal essays are aphoristic fragments from Simmel’s last journal, providing a beguiling look into the mind of one of the twentieth century’s greatest thinkers.
Note on the Translation
I. Life as Transcendence
II. The Turn toward Ideas
III. Death and Immortality
IV. The Law of the Individual
Appendix: Journal Aphorisms, with an IntroductionNotes from Simmel's "Metaphysics" File
“Although Simmel has written the most profound and stimulating book in sociology, in my opinion, that has ever been written, he was not in the first instance a sociologist but a philosopher.”
“Following World War II, neither in Germany nor the United States did Simmel achieve an intellectual presence that would lead one to suspect the extent of the influence he exerted on his contemporaries.”