German philosopher; born at Filehne, in the Prussian province of Posen, Sept. 15, 1824; died at Meran, Tyrol, April 13, 1903; son of Aaron Levin Lazarus, a pupil of Akiba Eger, and himself president of the bet din and the yeshibah of Filehne (died there Feb. 26, 1874). With his brother Leyser, who later became president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of Breslau, Lazarus received his first instruction at the school of the Jewish community of Filehne. Besides he studied with A. Waldenburg, father of the Berlin professorLudwig Waldenburg. The first German public school in Filehne (founded 1834) was inaccessible to young Lazarus on account of its denominational character. Thus his early education was confined to the various branches of Jewish knowledge. His parents destined him for a commercial career, and at the age of sixteen he was apprenticed to a merchant of Posen. From the outset, however, this career did not meet with Lazarus' approval. In 1844 he entered the German gymnasium at Brunswich, and left it two years later with the "testimonium maturitatis." From 1846 to 1849 he studied history, philology, and especially philosophy at the University of Berlin. Being a fervent admirer of his teacher Herbart, Lazarus in course of time became a prominent exponent of his philosophy, to which he gave a more idealistic impress. In 1850 he obtained his Ph.D. degree; in the same year he married Sarah Lebenheim.
Lazarus' first publication, "Die Sittliche Berechtigung Preussens in Deutschland" (Berlin, 1850), appealed to the public at large. In this book he claimed for Prussia the leadership over the other German states on account of her political, philosophical, and religious superiority. From 1850 Lazarus devoted himself especially to psychology. Applying the laws of the psychology of the individual to the nation and to mankind (for these he considered as social beings), Lazarus established a new branch of research which he termed "Völkerpsychologie" (national psychology). In an article entitled "Ueber den Begriff und die Möglichkeit einer Völkerpsychologie als Wissenschaft" (in Prutz's "Deutsches Museum," 1851) he laid the foundation for the study of this science. Nine years later, in collaboration with H. Steinthal, his friend and brother-in-law, Lazarus established the "Zeitschrift für Völkerpsychologie und Sprach wissenschaft" (vols. i.-xx., Berlin, 1860-90; continued as the "Zeitschrift des Vereins für Volkskunde"). From 1856 to 1858 he published his principal work, "Das Leben der Seele in Monographien" (3 vols.; 3d ed., 1883-97). It deals with the principal problems of psychology from the standpoint of the philosophy of Herbart. Written in a popular and easy style, it soon found a large circle of readers.
In 1860 Lazarus was called to the University of Bern as professor of psychology; six years later he returned to Berlin and was appointed teacher of philosophy at the Royal Military Academy (1867); and in 1874 he became professor of philosophy at the university of that city. He was one of the founders of the Schillerstiftung and for many years its president; he was also curator of the Victoria Lyceum. On the occasion of his seventieth birthday Lazarus was honored by the German emperor, the University of Bern, and the Hebrew Union College of Cincinnati. The first conferred upon him the title of "Königlicher Geheimer Regierungsrath"; the second, the degree of doctor of law; and the third, that of doctor of theology. In 1895 Lazarus, after the death of his first wife, married the widow Nahida Ruth Remy, who under his influence had embraced Judaism. During his last years Lazarus lived a retired life in Meran.
Among his shorter philosophical and historical writings may be mentioned: "Ueber den Ursprung der Sitten," 1860; "Ueber die Ideen in der Geschichte," 1861; "Zur Lehre von den Sinneserscheinungen," 1867; "Ein Psychologischer Blick in Unsere Zeit," 1872; "Ideale Fragen," 1878; "Erziehung und Geschichte," 1881; "Ueber die Reize des Spiels," 1883.Communal Activity.
Lazarus took a very active part in the public and spiritual life of the Prussian Jews. From 1867 to 1892 he was a member of the Repräsentanten-Versammlung of the Jewish congregation of Berlin; from 1882 to 1894, vice-president of the Deutsch-Israelitischer Gemeindebund; from 1867 to 1874, president of the Berlin branch of the Alliance Israélite Universelle; in 1869, president of the Jewish Synod of Leipsic, and in 1871 of that of Augsburg. He was also vice-president of the Russian Auxiliary Committee and of the Rumanian Committee (1869-94). Lazarus was furthermore one of the founders of the Lehranstalt für die Wissenschaft des Judenthums of Berlin, and for many years president of its board of curators. He was a very effective and popular public speaker. His most important lectures on Jews and Judaism were collected and published in his "Treu und Frei," Leipsic, 1887 (contains his speeches at the meetings of the two synods; "Was Heiss National?"; "Unser Standpunkt"; "An die Deutschen Juden"; "Auf Moses Mendelssohn"; "Auf Michael Sachs"; "Aus einer Jüdischen Gemeinde vor Fünfzig Jahren").
Lazarus devoted much time and energy to combating that anti-Semitism which took its rise in Germany about 1878. He was one of the most prominent Jewish apologists of his time. Like many of his contemporaries, he believed (but erroneously) that anti-Semitism was merely a passing fancy, a phenomenon engendered by reactionary times, which could be explained away in writings or addresses. He maintained that the Jews were united only by means of their religious history ("Treu und Frei," p. 77). In this case as in many others, when considering Jewish matters, Lazarus follows the dictates of his desires rather than the interests of the common weal ("Gemeingeist"). Much cited for apologetic purposes is his definition of the concept "nation," as the essential and only objective characteristic of which he takes not the similarity of customs and morals, of territory, religion, and race, but the bond of language."Die Ethik des Judenthums."
Of his more important contributions to Jewish literature may be cited: "Der Prophet Jeremias (1894), a lecture, and "Die Ethik des Judenthums"(part i., 1898; 2d ed., 1899; translated into English by Henrietta Szold, and published by the Jewish Publication Society of America, 1900). In the latter work Lazarus takes ethics as the resultant rather than as the basic principle of religion, and, following Kant, establishes as the principle of Jewish ethics in particular the co-equality of God and the law of autonomy, whereby the Jewish conception of God has, of course, been given up. Lazarus fails to show the historical development of the morals of Judaism according to the various sources, as has been pointed out by Herman Cohen ("Das Problem der Jüdischen Sittenlehre, eine Kritik von Lazarus, 'Ethik des Judenthums,'" in "Monatsschrift," xliii. 385 et seq.).
- E. Berliner, Prof. Dr. M. Lazarus und die Oeffentliche Meinung, Berlin, 1887;
- Brockhaus Konversations-Lexikon;
- R. Brainin, in Ha-Shiloaḥ, v. 45 et seq.;
- Jew. Chron. April 17, 1903;
- A. Choralnik, in Die Welt, vii., No. 18;
- Morais, Eminent Israelites of the Nineteenth Century, pp. 192 et seq.;
- comp. also the necrologies in Ha-Meliẓ, xliii., No. 79;
- Ha-Ẓoeh, i., No. 78;
- Ha-Ẓefirah, xxx., Nos. 79, 81;
- and in Ha-Zeman, i., No. 25.