The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language
Schleiermacher, Friedrich Daniel Ernst (frē´drĭkh dä´nyĕl ĕrnst shlī´әrmäkh´´әr), 1768-1834, German Protestant theologian, b. Breslau. He broke away from the Moravian Church and studied at Halle. Ordained in 1794, he accepted a post as a Reformed preacher in Berlin. There he came into contact with the German Romantic movement and became a friend of Friedrich Schlegel. In 1799 he published his eloquent Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers (tr. 1893). The work showed his closeness to the Romantics as well as the influence of his Pietist background. He defined religion as an absolute dependence on a monotheistic God, reached through intuition and independent of dogma. From 1804 to 1807, Schleiermacher taught at Halle. When war led to the closing of that university he returned to Berlin, where he was made professor in 1810. Through his stirring sermons he played a prominent part in the Prussian war against Napoleon. From 1819 he was occupied with his major work, The Christian Faith, published in 1821-22 (tr. of 2d ed. 1928). Here he developed systematically his earlier ideas, viewing Christianity as the highest manifestation of religion. The work exhibits the influence of Kant, Spinoza, and Leibniz and shows Schleiermacher's aversion to both German rationalism and theological orthodoxy. His thought exerted an enormous and lasting influence on Protestant theology. He is also known for his attempt to secure the liberation of the church from the state and for his translations of Plato.