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Romanticism is a philosophical movement during the Age of Enlightenment which emphasizes emotional self-awareness as a necessary pre-condition to improving society and bettering the human condition. Like the German Idealism and Kantianism with which it is usually linked in a philosophical context, Romanticism was largely centred in Germany during the late 18th and early 19th Century. It stands in opposition to the Rationalism and Empiricism of the preceding Age of Reason, representing a shift from the objective to the subjective.

Romanticism in general was a reaction against the scientific rationalization of Nature during the Age of Reason, which left little room for the freedom and creativity of the human spirit, and it stressed strong emotion as a source of aesthetic experience. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but it also had a counterpart in philosophical thought.

Philosophical Romanticism holds that the universe is a single unified and interconnected whole, and full of values, tendencies and life, not merely objective lifeless matter. The Romantic view is that reason, objectivity and analysis radically falsify reality by breaking it up into disconnected lifeless entities, and the best way of perceiving reality is through some subjective feeling or intuition, through which we participate in the subject of our knowledge, instead of viewing it from the outside. Nature is an experience, and not an object for manipulation and study, and, once experienced, the individual becomes in tune with his feelings and this is what helps him to create moral values.

The roots of Philosophical Romanticism can be found in the work of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant. Rousseau, (who is credited with the idea of the "noble savage", uncorrupted by artifice and society), thought that civilization fills Man with unnatural wants and seduces him away from his true nature and original freedom. Kant's theory of Transcendental Idealism (see the section on Idealism) posited that we do not directly see "things-in-themselves"; we only understand the world through our human point of view, an idea developed by the American Transcendentalism of the mid-19th Century.

The German Idealists who followed on from Kant and adapted and expanded his work with their own interpretations of Idealism, can all be considered Romanticists in their outlook. Among these the most important were Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Friedrich Schelling, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and (arguably) Arthur Schopenhauer. Hegel was perhaps the most influential of the German Idealist philosophers, and his idea that each person's individual consciousness or mind is really part of the Absolute Mind (Absolute Idealism) had far-reaching affects. After his death, however, the Hegelians were split between the "Old Hegelians" who uncritically accepted Hegel's Romantic views, and the "Young Hegelians" who wanted to continue the revolution of ideas using his concept of dialectics.

Their ideas influenced a generation of Romantic writers, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832), William Blake (1757 - 1827), Samuel Coleridge (1772 - 1834), William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850), Lord Byron (1788 - 1824), John Keats (1795 - 1821), Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792 - 1822) and Victor Hugo (1802 - 1885); artists such as John Constable (1776 - 1837), Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775 - 1851), Théodore Géricault ( 1791 - 1824) and Eugène Delacroix (1798 - 1863); and composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven (1770 - 1827), Franz Schubert (1797 - 1828), Hector Berlioz (1803 - 1869), Frédéric Chopin (1810 - 1849), Robert Schumann (1810 - 1856), Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886), and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840 - 1893).

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