This seminar provides an examination of the central philosophical texts and arguments of one or more key figures in 20th-Century German (and Austrian) philosophy. Students will gain insight into the wider context of the texts studies and an understanding of the arguments for and against the positions taken. They will also develop their own interpretation and assessment of the texts examined..
In the German-speaking world, the 20th century was a period of enormously diverse and fruitful philosophical activity: the phenomenological and hermeneutical tradition of Husserl, Heidegger, and Gadamer; the analytical philosophy of Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle; the Frankfurt School tradition from Horkheimer and Adorno to Habermas and Honneth; and the influential work of Hannah Arendt. Each year, this seminar will focus on one or two philosophers, focusing on particularly influential texts.|
Topic for 2016-17: “An Attempt That Requires Other Forms”: An Introduction to the ‘Middle’ Heidegger
For more than half a century, the development of Heidegger’s thought was primarily conceived in the binary terms of an ‘early’ and a ‘late’ Heidegger, phases that were supposedly distinguished by a controversial ‘Kehre’ or turning in his thought. ‘Early Heidegger’ referred, basically, to Sein und Zeit (1927) and the writings that led up to it. The ‘later Heidegger’ roughly meant the texts after the Brief über den “Humanismus” (1947). Famous key texts from the late ‘20’s and early ‘30’s were understood as working towards the Kehre or as having already effectuated it. The Kehre itself supposedly consisted in a reversal of the methodology of Sein und Zeit: instead of approaching the sense of being through a prior interrogation of the ways of being of Dasein, the later works were, so it was told, attempts to ‘speak out of the truth of being’ itself, by re-conceiving that truth of being as Ereignis ("event").
This entire binary scheme for interpreting Heidegger’s development is now irretrievably outdated. Starting with the Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis) in 1989, the publication of no less than seven works from the ‘30’s and early ‘40’s has completely altered our understanding of Heidegger’s development and of the key terms involved. A ‘middle’ Heidegger was born. We have barely scratched the surface in interpreting these controversial works, let alone of the recently published private notebooks (the notorious ‘black notebooks’) that accompanied this period.
These so-called "beyng-historical" works are difficult to penetrate, and in this short course we cannot systematically study them or engage head-on with the heated antisemitism-debate sparked by the notebooks. Instead, this course aims to sufficiently prepare students for such engagements by providing an introduction to the beyng-historical works, focusing on two things. (1) We will read texts from different phases of Heidegger’s development to situate the ‘middle’ works, especially in relation to Sein und Zeit and the so-called Kehre. (2) We will read selections of the Beiträge zur Philosophie (Vom Ereignis) to introduce the key terms of the beyng-historical project, such as Machenschaft, Ereignis, Grundstimmung and the idea of an ‘other beginning’. That the middle works are hard to penetrate has essential reasons: a central course theme and special focus will therefore be the topic of philosophical method and language, in order to understand why Heidegger conceived his middle works as an “attempt that requires other forms”.
The course serves both beginning and more advanced students of Heidegger’s thought. Some background in the history of modern German philosophy is required. Ability to read German is recommended but not strictly required (translations are available).
This course is for RMA students in the Graduate School of Humanities and students in the History and Philosophy of Science. Students of other MA-programmes, please contact the Course Coordinator.
Interested M.A. exchange students with a strong background in philosophy may qualify to take the course; however, they should first contact the RMA Philosophy coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org