Freiburg Ditches “Heidegger” Chair (2 updates)


The University of Freiburg, the academic home of Günter Figal—who recently stepped down from the leadership of the Martin Heidegger Society in the wake of the publication of Heidegger’s Black Notebooks—has decided to convert the faculty chair long dedicated to the Heideggerian tradition to one dedicated to philosophy of language. It has also downgraded the line from a full professorship to the equivalent of an assistant professorship. Figal now holds the position, but will be retiring soon, as he has reached the mandatory retirement age in Germany. At the moment, as far as I know, there is no official explanation for the decision, but there has been speculation that the university is attempting to distance itself from Heidegger and his anti-semitism. Those who read German can read more about these developments here and here. Feel free to pass along translations of any passages that provide further helpful information.

UPDATE (3/5/15): Three items:

(1) There is an audio interview here with Sebastian Rödl (Leipzig) on the matter (in German). I am told that he voices support for Freiburg keeping the Heidegger chair. (2) Volker Gerhardt (Humboldt) has written an open letter to the president of the University of Freiburg, urging him to reconsider the decision. (3)  Markus Gabriel (Bonn) will be starting an online petition to keep the chair. In an email announcement, he writes:

Needless to say: so far no one engaged in building up a critical opposition to these ridiculous plans is interested in defending Heidegger, but we all think that it is particularly important now to engage in historical and critical analysis of his work in light of the recent publication of the Black Notebooks. At least equally important: Giving up this chair means destroying Husserl’s heritage in Freiburg.There will soon be an online petition against this decision that will be made available to the ministry of science and education in the state of Baden-Würrttemberg which is able to change these plans that threaten to make the philosophy department in Freiburg irrelevant for the global context in which we are all working. Please feel free to share this information. Publicity is the best chance of saving the tradition of phenomenology and hermeneutics in Freiburg which made it famous. Instead of giving up on its entire department structure on the level of chairs in philosophy (which in the German context means: serious research positions), the demand will be to open up an international search for the best qualified candidate in phenomenology/hermeneutics with the requisite abilities to lead a team that will critically investigate Heidegger from a historically and philosophically informed point of view.

UPDATE (3/9/15): The petition mentioned in the previous update can be found here.

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T
T
6 years ago

I might be wrong about this. But Philosophy of Language is Sprachphilosophie. Sprachanalytische Philosophie, as far as I know, is just a (out-dated) way to speak of analytic philosophy. So, the Heideggerian chair is replaced by a junior professor position for logic and analytic philosophy.Report

Heathclifg
Heathclifg
6 years ago

The first article also argues that, in keeping with the university’s phenomenological tradition, the chair ought to revert to being the Husserl chair. Phenomenology is, after all, the source of Freiburg’s philosophical standing and popularity among international students. Trying to compete with neighbouring universities that have been offering analytic philosophy for years therefore seems detrimental. It is also pointed out that since Heidegger’s politics (and antisemitism) were not in any way unknown before the publication of the Black Notebooks, the move seems particularly dubious — especially since the university hasn’t made an official statement clarifying their motivations.Report

Tsutomu Ben Yagi
Tsutomu Ben Yagi
6 years ago

Markus Gabriel (a philosophy professor at the University of Bonn) has written a polemical piece concerning this issue on Sueddeutsche Zeitung, attacking the University of Freiburg for its “suicidal” decision. For those who can read German, I’ve uploaded the article to the following link (since it is not available online): https://ssl.webpack.de/phi.web-republic.de/owncloud/public.php?service=files&t=f4438fe81b8ea4129c7cd884380c5903
(To Editors: Please let me know if this is problematic in terms of copyright. I will take it down should there be an issue. Thanks.)Report

Thomas
Thomas
6 years ago

The whole issue leaves a bitter aftertaste in my oppinion. First, we have a renowned Heigegger-specialist who, with retirement age approaching, finds out that Heidegger was a Nazi. Second, we have a University that tries to “wash away its sins” and at the same time uses this for budget cuts (in contrast to a Junior-Prof, a W3/C4 Prof has something like a Postdoc, a Secretary and an army of Hilfskräfte/ research assistants connected to his position). Also while I never endorsed the Phenomenology done in Freiburg and while I`m more sympathetic towards Analytic Philosophy in general, it`s still somewhat sad to witness the loss of plurality in the field.Report

Joe
Joe
6 years ago

First, Gabriel’s reasoning is a bit bizarre. We don’t need to have a Hitler Chair in history departments to study Hitler critically.
Second, why not change this to “Husserl Chair” in philosophy? That way you can keep the phenomenological tradition, and not idolize a NaziReport

Thomas
Thomas
6 years ago

In case the non-German speaking readership is interested: aside from the likely loss of reputation for the philosophy department in Freiburg, Gabriel Rödl and Gerhardt complain about there being a lack of possibilities for scholarschip in German philosophy within the German scene. They all mention that most research about German philosophy is getting done in the US, France and so forth. In the last decade there has been a tendency to replace a generation of professors who did rather historically/exegetically oriented work on the likes of Kant, Hegel or Husserl with younger people that clearly have their philosophical roots in the anglophone scene. So Kant, Hegel and Husserl have been more or less replaced with the likes of Block, Chalmers or Lewis. Given that, I think that the issues with the Heidegger-chair are not only limited to the philosophical department in Freiburg and instead they seem to represent a discussion at-large about which direction the philosophical scene in Germany should head towards.

As I`m just a random graduate-student I am not qualified to give deeper insights or a more sophisticated assesment of the whole discussion though.Report

google
google
6 years ago

first, M.Heidegger is not Hitler.Report

Tsutomu Ben Yagi
Tsutomu Ben Yagi
6 years ago

The University of Freiburg has released a press statement yesterday. One can read the English version here:
http://www.pr.uni-freiburg.de/pm/2015/pm.2015-03-10.32-en
A polite way of insinuating that the phenomenological-hermeneutical tradition will no longer play a major role there in the future. It is an implicit announcement of its death, as it were.Report

Ejede Mejame
Ejede Mejame
2 years ago

I think the attempt by the authorities of Freiburg to do away with Heidegger on account of the discovery that he is a Nazi and anti Semitic is nothing more than a tragic mistake; a faux pas that will be corrected by posterity. Freiburg will later discover that Heidegger is a big brain; that he is a philosopher of the still hidden world the modern world is yet to fathom. Heidegger’s Nazism pales in comparison with Heidegger’s great thought. Heidegger has been betrayed.Report