KAHLER, ERICH (1885–1970), historian and philosopher. Born in Prague, raised in Vienna, educated at the universities of Berlin, Munich, Heidelberg, and Vienna, he settled in
Kahler's approach to history was characterized by Hermann Broch as moral anthropology. This approach was apparent in his study of the Hapsburgs, which considered the royal family as a historical organism with common psychological traits throughout six centuries. In his sociological and historical study Israel unter den Völkern (1936) he found a common Jewish type persisting down the millennia from its tribal origin until the twentieth century. In Der deutsche Charakter in der Geschichte Europas, he presented the Germans as a specific historic organism, its evolution and its impact upon Europe. Its ideas continued to occupy Kahler's thinking and formed the basis for The Germans published in 1974. In it, the material was presented not topically, as in the earlier volume, but rather chronologically, from the confrontation of the German tribes with the Roman Empire until the Nazi assumption of power and the catastrophe of World War II.
Kahler's most important work, Man the Measure (1943), was subtitled A New Approach to History. It studied the human species as an organism whose historical changes were grafted on to an enduring psychic structure. It emphasized the evolution and transformation of human consciousness.
The Tower and the Abyss (1957) may be regarded as a sequel to Man the Measure. As an inquiry into the transformation of the individual, it stresses the evolutionary forces that converged to bring about the disruption, disintegration, and fragmentation of the contemporary individual personality from without and from within. Kahler sees the present as a state of transition from an individual form of existence to a supra-individual form, whose character is still obscure. The work concludes with Kahler's own vision of a possible Utopia, which will permit the reintegration of fragmented Man in free communities.
Kahler's essays were collected in the German volume Die Verantwortung des Geistes (1952) and in the English volumes Out of the Labyrinth (1947), The Disintegration of Form in the Arts (1968), and The Inward Turn of the Narrative (1973).
S. Liptzin, Germany's Stepchildren (1944), 275–81.