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Modern German Thought from Kant to Habermas

Modern German Thought from Kant to Habermas: An Annotated German-Language Reader

Henk de Berg
Duncan Large
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 408
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  • Book Info
    Modern German Thought from Kant to Habermas
    Book Description:

    German-language thinkers such as Kant, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud are central to modernity. Yet their reception in the English-speaking world has largely depended on translations, a situation that has often hampered full engagement with the rhetorical and philosophical complexity of the German history of ideas. The present volume, the first of its kind, is a response to this situation. After an introduction charting the remarkable flowering of German-language thought since the eighteenth century, it offers extracts -- in the original German -- from sixteen major philosophical texts, with extensive introductions and annotations in English. All extracts are carefully chosen to introduce the individual thinkers while allowing the reader to pursue broader themes such as the fate of reason or the history of modern selfhood. The book offers students and scholars of German a complement to linguistic, historical, and literary study by giving them access to the wealth of German-language philosophy. It represents a new way into the work of a succession of thinkers who have defined modern philosophy and thus remain of crucial relevance today. The philosophers: Immanuel Kant, G. W. F. Hegel, Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, Georg Lukács, Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, Jürgen Habermas. Henk de Berg is Professor of German at the University of Sheffield. Duncan Large is Professor of German at Swansea University.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-770-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Philosophy, Linguistics

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Introduction: German Thought since Kant
    (pp. 1-20)

    Introducing a survey of modern French philosophy, Vincent Descombes summarizes the post-war developments covered by his book as follows:

    In the recent evolution of philosophy in France we can trace the passage from the generation known after 1945 as that of the “three H’s” to the generation known since 1960 as that of the three “masters of suspicion”: the three H’s being Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger, and the three masters of suspicion Marx, Nietzsche and Freud.¹

    What is perhaps most striking about these six namedmaîtres à penseris that they are all German, or at least German-speaking. Descombes’s observations...

  5. 1: Immanuel Kant (1724–1804)
    (pp. 21-56)

    The title “father of modern philosophy” (modernin the sense of “not ancient”) is usually ascribed to the Frenchman René Descartes (1596–1650). By introducing mathematical methods into philosophy, Descartes founded the rationalist tradition in epistemology (the theory of knowledge and its objects), which holds that all knowledge of reality is ultimately derived from the exercise of human reason according to foundational principles independent of the senses. The rationalist position, which in Germany was taken up by Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646–1716), Christian Wolff (1679–1754), and Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten (1714–62), gave philosophical underpinnings to the European intellectual movement...

  6. 2: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1831)
    (pp. 57-80)

    Born in Stuttgart in 1770, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel studied theology and philosophy at the Tübinger Stift, the theological seminary attached to the University of Tübingen. Here, he formed friendships with two students who would also become major figures in German cultural history, the poet Friedrich Hölderlin and the philosopher F. W. J. Schelling. He graduated in 1793. Not wanting to become a vicar, he started working as a private tutor, first in Bern (where he became acquainted with the work of the economists James Steuart and Adam Smith, whose ideas would remain crucial to his thinking) and after that...

  7. 3: Ludwig Feuerbach (1804–72)
    (pp. 81-96)

    Ludwig Feuerbach was born in Landshut, Bavaria, in 1804. His father was a politically liberal jurist of international renown; one of Ludwig’s brothers, Karl Wilhelm, would make a name for himself in mathematics; and one of his nephews, Anselm, was to become a famous painter. In 1823, Feuerbach started studying theology in Heidelberg, where, through the teaching of Karl Daub, he became an enthusiastic adherent of Hegelianism. After two semesters, he moved to Berlin to study with Hegel himself, switching from theology to philosophy in the process. He completed his studies at the University of Erlangen in 1828 with a...

  8. 4: Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860)
    (pp. 97-122)

    The year 1788 stands out in the history of German philosophy for being the year in which Kant’sKritik der praktischen Vernunftwas published, in Riga, and Arthur Schopenhauer was born, down the Baltic coast in Danzig (now Gdańsk, Poland), on 22 February. This contingent conjunction of the two philosophers’ lives was a happy coincidence, since Schopenhauer would in due course become one of Kant’s most devoted followers (as well as one of his most stringent critics). Their lives were markedly different, though, and can perhaps be taken as symptomatic of the larger differences between the Enlightenment and the Romantic...

  9. 5: Karl Marx (1818–83)
    (pp. 123-158)

    Karl Marx was born in the historic Rhineland city of Trier in 1818, into a middle-class Jewish family. From 1835 until 1841 he studied a rather eclectic variety of subjects, including law and philosophy, at Bonn and Berlin before obtaining his doctorate from the University of Jena with a comparative study of the Greek philosophers Democritus and Epicurus. During these years, he was heavily influenced by the Young Hegelians, a group of left-wing intellectuals who used what they considered the progressive elements in Hegel’s philosophy to move beyond that philosophy with its seemingly conservative implications into various forms of political...

  10. 6: Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900)
    (pp. 159-184)

    Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche was born in the village of Röcken, Saxony, on 15 October 1844. His father and both grandfathers were Protestant clergymen, so the family naturally expected him to follow in this tradition when, after attending primary school in Naumburg, in 1858 he took up a place at the prestigious boarding school of Schulpforta nearby. Here, he excelled at the classics, which he went on to study at the universities of Bonn (1864) and Leipzig (1865–69), by which stage he had abandoned his religious faith. As a student he fell under the influence of the philosophy of Arthur...

  11. 7: Sigmund Freud (1856–1939)
    (pp. 185-216)

    Sigismund Schlomo Freud was born in 1856, in the small town of Freiberg, which at the time belonged to the Austro-Hungarian Empire (renamed Příbor, it is now part of the Czech Republic). Both his parents were Jewish. Their domestic situation was unusual: Freud’s mother, Amalia, was not only twenty years younger than her husband, Jacob, but also younger than Freud’s oldest half-brother. In 1859, Jacob’s wool business was facing financial ruin and he moved the family to Leipzig. They settled in Vienna the following year (by which time Freud’s two half-brothers had emigrated to England). Jacob’s commercial position remained precarious,...

  12. 8: Martin Heidegger (1889–1976)
    (pp. 217-238)

    Heidegger polarizes opinion. To some, he is the most important philosopher of the twentieth century; to others, he is little more than a mystifying word-spinner. The perplexingly difficult nature of his work derives to a significant extent from his exploitation of the resources of the German language, so — even more than with most other philosophers — there is a clear advantage in reading him in the original rather than in translation. In the immediate postwar period, the vogue for Existentialism favored Jean-Paul Sartre (whose early philosophy was largely based, as Hubert L. Dreyfus once put it, on “a brilliant misunderstanding” of...

  13. 9: Walter Benjamin (1892–1940)
    (pp. 239-280)

    Walter Bendix Schönflies Benjamin was born into a wealthy Jewish family in Berlin in 1892. His childhood, which he would later evoke in the memoirBerliner Kindheit um neunzehnhundert,was culturally refined and protected, with servants, French nannies, elegant soirées, and expensive holidays. (As an adult, Benjamin admitted he could not even make his own coffee.) After several years of private tutoring, he was forced into the straitjacket of a PrussianGymnasium.Only an extended stay, made for health reasons, at the progressive Thuringian boarding school Haubinda offered a temporary respite from an educational regime that Benjamin experienced as tyrannical...

  14. 10: Georg Lukács (1885–1971)
    (pp. 281-316)

    The Hungarian philosopher Georg Lukács, who published most of his works in German, played a central role in the development of twentieth-century Marxism. Like many other Marxist thinkers, he was born into a rich family. His mother belonged to one of the wealthiest dynasties in the Austro-Hungarian Empire; his father, a self-made man, was a highly successful banker. Both were Jewish. Growing up in the cosmopolitan atmosphere of Budapest, Lukács became a native speaker of both Hungarian and German, while also gaining fluency in French and English. He studied at the universities of Budapest and Berlin, and was awarded his...

  15. 11: Max Horkheimer (1895–1973) and Theodor W. Adorno (1903–69)
    (pp. 317-354)

    Of the two authors ofDialektik der Aufklärung, Theodor W. Adorno is by far the more influential philosopher. Born in Frankfurt in 1903, he lived his first eleven years in the same street on which Arthur Schopenhauer had once resided. His father, Oscar Wiesengrund, owned a successful wine business; his mother, Maria Calvelli-Adorno della Piana, had been an opera singer. It was only when Adorno emigrated to America, in 1938, that he replaced the patronymic Wiesengrund with the less German-sounding surname taken from his mother. Maria’s unmarried sister, Agathe, a well-known pianist, also lived with the family, and within this...

  16. 12: Jürgen Habermas (b. 1929)
    (pp. 355-382)

    Philosopher, sociologist, and political theorist Jürgen Habermas is the most distinguished German intellectual currently alive, and one of the world’s leading thinkers. Combining genuine philosophical depth with penetrating social analysis, his work draws inspiration from a wide variety of sources, including Marxism and neo-Marxistkritische Theorie, post-Wittgensteinian linguistic philosophy, and the sociological tradition since Émile Durkheim (1858–1917) and Max Weber (1864–1920).

    Habermas was born in Düsseldorf on 18 June 1929 and brought up within a bourgeois Protestant family in Gummersbach, near Cologne, where his father chaired the local Chamber of Commerce. In the phrase of former German Chancellor...

  17. Index
    (pp. 383-396)
  18. About the Editors
    (pp. 397-398)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 399-399)