New Advent
 Home   Encyclopedia   Summa   Fathers   Bible   Library 
 A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z 
New Advent

Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > P > Philanthropinism


Please help support the mission of New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more — all for only $19.99...

The system of education educed from the ideas of Rousseau and of the German "Enlightenment", and established by Basedow on the basis of "philanthropy".

Johann Bernhard Basedow (born at Hamburg, 11 Sept., 1723; died at Magdeburg, 25 July, 1790) was a pupil at the school of Hamburg under the free-thinker Hermann Samuel Reimarus, studied theology at Leipzig, became (1749) a tutor in a noble family in Holstein, and (1753) professor at the academy for young noblemen at Soroe on the Island of Zealand, Denmark. In 1761 he was removed from this position on account of his Rationalistic opinions and appointed professor in a school at Altona. Here he published his "Methodenbuch für Väter und Mütter der Familien und Völker" (Altona and Bremen, 1770; 3rd ed., 1773), in which he presented in detail his ideas for the improvement of the school-system. This work and his "Agathokrator oder von der Erziehung künftiger Regenten" (Leipzig, 1771) attracted the attention of Prince Leopold Friedrich Franz of Anhalt-Dessau. In 1771 the prince called Basedow to Dessau, where he wrote his "Elementarwerk" (4 vols. with 100 copper-plates, Dessau, 1774; 2nd ed., Leipzig, 1785) which, in a form suitable to modern times, sought to present the idea carried out in the "Orbis pictus" of Comenius, of uniting the pictures of the things with the notions of them, by giving with pictures all the material essential for training children. In 1774 he opened a model school at Dessau, the "Philanthropinum".

As the name signifies, it was to be a school of philanthropy for teachers and pupils. In contrast to the severe discipline of earlier days, children were to be trained in a friendly and gentle manner, instruction was to be made attractive, study as easy and pleasant as possible. The standard in forming the course of study was the practical and useful. Languages were to be taught more by practice and speaking than by the learning of grammatical rules, Latin, German, and French being regarded as the most important. Special attention was also given to the more practical studies, as arithmetic, geometry, geography, drawing, and natural science. Basedow and his successors deserve credit for their improvement of methods and educational appliances. Special stress was laid on physical development. The fact that children belonged to a particular nation or religious confession was disregarded; education was to produce cosmopolites. Religious instruction was to be replaced by the teaching of a universal natural morality. Among the teachers who aided Basedow in this school was Christian Heinrich Wolke, who had been his assistant before this in preparing the "Elementarwerk". Basedow, although a fine pedagogist, lacked the personal qualities necessary for conducting such an institution, and retired in 1776. His place was taken (1776-77) by Joachim Heinrich Campe (1746-1818), who was later a prolific writer on subjects connected with Philanthropinism, and is best known by his German version of Robinson Crusoe called "Robinson der Jüngere"; his most important work is "Allgemeine Revision des gesammten Schul- und Erziehungswesens" (16 vols., 1785-91). For a short time after Campe had retired, Basedow, assisted by Wolke, was once more the head of the school. Among the others who taught for a time at this institution were Ernst Christian Trapp (1745-1818), who sought to systematize the philanthropinist principles and theories in his "Versuch einer Pädagogik" (Berlin, 1780); Salzmann (see below), and Louis Henry Ferdinand Olivier (1759-1815). In 1793 this first 'Philanthropinum" ceased to exist.

Those who held Basedow's pedagogical opinions were called Philanthropen, or Philanthropisten. In imitation of the school at Dessau institutions called Philanthropin were established at various places. The only Philanthropin that prospered and still exists was that founded by Salzmann at Schnepfenthal in the Duchy of Gotha. Christian Gotthilf Salzmann (born at Sömmerda near Erfurt, 1 June, 1744; died at Schnepfenthal 31 Oct, 1811) was one of the most distinguished pedagogues of the Philanthropinist school, and probably the most interesting personality among all its representatives. He was originally a Protestant pastor at Erfurt; then, after writing on educational subjects for some time, he became the teacher of religion at the Philanthropin at Dessau (1781-84), and in 1784 founded his own school at Schnepfenthal, which he conducted until his death. Like the entire Philanthropinist school, his religious opinions were rationalistic. The best known of his writings are "Krebsbüchlein oder Anweisung zu einer unvernünftigen Erziehung der Kinder" (Erfurt, 1780, and frequently reprinted), a satirical account of the results of a wrong education; "Ameisenbüchlein oder Anweisung zu einer vernünftigen Erziehung der Erzieher" (Schnepfenthal, 1806); "Konrad Kiefer oder Anweisung zu einer vernünftigen Erziehung der Kinder" (Erfurt, 1796). The most important of Salzmann's assistants was Johann Christoph Friedrich Guts-Muths (1759-1839), who was the teacher of geography at Salzmann's school; one of his Pupils was the celebrated geographer Karl Ritter, the first pupil of the school at Schnepfenthal. Guts-Muths, however, is best known for his work in gymnastics. Friedrich Eberhard von Rochow (1734-1805) advocated views similar to those of the Philanthropinists but, unlike the actual members of this school, did much for the improvement of primary education; his "Kinderfreund" (1775, and many later editions) was a widely used school-book. Finally Christian Felix Weisse (1726-1804), a voluminous writer for children, exerted great influence through his "Kinderfreund" (24 vols., 1775-84), a weekly publication for children.


PINLOCHE, La réforme de l'éducation en Allemagne an 18e siècle, Basedow et le philanthropinisme (Paris, 1889); PINLOCHE AND RAUSCRENFELS, Gesch. des Philanthropinismus (Leipzig, 1896); THALHOFER, Die sexuelle Pädagogik bei den Philanthropen (Kempten, 1907); ROLFUS AND PFISTER, Real-Encyclopädie des Erziehungs- und Unterrichtswesens, IV (2nd ed., Mains, 1874), 1-15; KELLNER, Kurze Gesch. der Erziehung und des Unterrichts (6th ed., Freiburg im Br., 1881), 141-56; PAULSEN, Gesch. des gelehrten Unterrichtes auf den deutschen Schulen und Universitäten, II (2nd ed., Leipzig, 1897), 46-63; BAUMGARTNER, Gesch. der Pädagogik (Freiburg im Br., 1902), 166-72; KRIEG, Lehrbuch der Pädagogik (2nd ed., Paderborn, 1900), 145-47; BASEDOW, Ausgewählte Schriften, ed. GÖRING in Bibliothek pädagogischer Klassiker (Langensalza, 1880); SALZMANN, Ausgewählte Schriften, ed. ACEERMANN in Bibliothek pädagogischer Klassiker (2 vols., Langensalza, 1889-91); SALZMANN, Krebsbüchlein und Ameisenbüchlein, ed. WIMMERS in Sammlung der bedeutendsten pädagogischen Schriften, VI (Paderborn, 1890; 2nd ed., 1894; 9th ed., 1891).

About this page

APA citation. Lauchert, F. (1911). Philanthropinism. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Lauchert, Friedrich. "Philanthropinism." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.

Copyright © 2021 by New Advent LLC. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.