Fritz Mauthners Heimatbegriff: Zwischen Deutschnationalismus, jüdischem Selbsthass und Sprachkritik

  • Thomas Hainscho Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt


This paper investigates the concept of Heimat in the work of philosopher, writer, and journalist Fritz Mauthner (1849–1923). It points out a conflict between Mauthner’s language philosophy and his political views. In his philosophical work, he argues that language is an insufficient tool for the acquisition of knowledge. When he writes about his heritage and uses notions such as Heimat, Volk, or Vaterland, Mauthner makes claims about the formation of social communities based on a shared language and neglects a critical analysis. It appears as if he ignores the philosophical critique of language when it comes to political concepts. Thus, his political position is usually described without regard to his language philosophy, and Mauthner is conceived as a devoted German nationalist and a typical example of Jewish self-hatred. That reading can be contrasted with parts of his work – especially the late book Muttersprache und Vaterland (1920) – in which he criticizes political concepts from a language-philosophical point of view. I argue that Mauthner, read as a philosopher, cannot be typecast as a naïve nationalist as he is too contradictory. I show that his writings offer both a historical example of German nationalism and a deconstruction of nationalism.