German 116: Twentieth Century German Philosophy

Instructor: John McCumber

This course will survey high points in the tormented, but enormously influential, development of German philosophy in the Twentieth Century. We will begin by looking at Edmund Husserl’s critical response to the last great German philosopher of the 19th Century, Friedrich Nietzsche (whom Husserl rarely actually mentions). That response consisted in the development of a “rigorous science” founded upon what Husserl calls phenomenology, which is the description of fundamental traits of human experience. Much as German thinkers in the 19th Century (such as Hegel and Schiller) had “historicized” Kant by viewing his account ot the human mind as the product of history—and so as changeable—Heidegger “historicizes” Husserl. In so doing, however, he falls into the exact trap Husserl was trying to avoid, that of irrationalism. We will conclude with the first generation of critical theorists (primarily Adorno and Horkheimer), who attempt to free philosophy rom Heidegger’s irrationalism by introducing a type of dialectical thought which avoids, they claim, Marx’s own metaphysics.

Evaluation: one short paper (7-10 pp.) on an assigned topic, due Thursday of Week VI; one final term paper (10-15 pp.) due in class on the last day (topics for this paper should be selected after consultation with instructor). Students desiring an extension must notify the instructor.

Taught in English.

TR 11-12:15    Online LA