Philosophy has constituted a central element in the emergence of modern German culture. In the late 18th century, German philosophy participated in the broader European Enlightenment culture, which was in turn connected to the development of modern empirical science. Under the impression of the historical changes brought about by the French Revolution and by the ‘Industrial Revolution’ in Great Britain, a special constellation of German philosophy emerged at the end of the 18th century, which has deeply left its mark on subsequent philosophical thinking far beyond Germany.
This philosophy course addresses the historical reality of this ‘German moment of philosophy’ in two subsequent phases: In the first part, we follow the emergence and full deployment of German philosophy from its Kantian beginnings to Hegel’s grand but fragile synthesis, trying to understand its richness as well as its fragility. In a second part, we discuss the later renewal of German philosophy in the late 19th century and its historical tragedy in the 20th century. This will include a discussion of the new beginnings of philosophy since the mid-19th century, from Marx, and Nietzsche, via Frege to Husserl and Wittgenstein, who have been reacting to the scientific and political revolutions of the late 19th and early 20th century. Martin Heidegger as an established pro-Nazi philosopher and Max Horkheimer as the leading philosopher of the “Frankfurt School” driven into exile are studied as philosophers immersed into the Night of the 20th century.
Finally, post-World War II developments in philosophy (as exemplified by Jürgen Habermas) will be looked at as pathways out of the self-destructive turn the ‘German moment of philosophy’ in Germany had taken in the first decades of the 20th century, and as passages into an emerging world philosophy.
The course will be based upon contemporary attempts at rethinking a global philosophical perspective. The focus is on the tension between the Enlightenment heritage of a universalizing human philosophy and a national culture project, as well as on the tension between classicist rationalism and romantic emotionalism in its construction as a series of philosophical projects. From the perspective of a German version of the dialectics of the Enlightenment, the German philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries will be studied in context - combining the reading of key texts with a reconstruction of their historical contexts and their interaction.
This course is open for students from all disciplines having a deep interest in Philosophy. Prior exposure to the field of philosophy will be helpful.
Students should be able to speak and read English at the upper intermediate level (B2), preferably even higher. Prior experience with reading philosophical texts will be helpful.
Active Participation, Course Presentation, Midterm exam, Essay Paper
A course reader will be provided at the orientation meeting.