FU-BEST 9a: The Promise of German Philosophy: Kant to Hegel (Fall only)

InstructorDr. Frieder Otto Wolf
Credit Points5 ECTS / 3 U.S. credits

Fall semester only


Philosophy has constituted a central element in the development of modern German culture. In the late eighteenth 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 eighteenth century, which has deeply left its mark on subsequent philosophical thinking far beyond Germany.

The two Philosophy courses offered by the FU-BEST program address the historical reality of German philosophy in two chronological parts: in the first part, offered during the Fall semester, 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 limitations. In the second part, offered during the Spring semester, we discuss the later development of German philosophy in the nineteenth century and its historical tragedy in the twentieth century. This will include a discussion of the links between Marx and Marxism, between Nietzsche and the German political/ideological right-wing, between the 'Vienna circle' and the scientific revolution of the early twentieth century, as well as between German academic philosophy and Nazism. Post-World War II developments in the field will be studied as pathways out of the destructive turn philosophy in Germany took in the first half of the twentieth century.

Both courses will be based upon contemporary attempts at rethinking a global philosophical perspective - by focusing 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 nineteenth and twentieth centuries will be studied in context - combining the reading of key texts with a reconstruction of their historical contexts and their interaction.

Please note: these two Philosophy courses can be taken either together, in a two-semester sequence, or separately and individually.