Since Luther and the Reformation, German intellectual history has been marked by a complex interaction between literature and philosophy.
Consideration of the interaction between the two spheres of discourse is important for an understanding of the development of German thought from the late eighteenth century through to the first half of the twentieth.
The late eighteenth century is characterized by two crucial events. On the one hand, it is marked by the rise of Goethe as Europe’s leading literary figure and his far-reaching influence on German intellectual life. On the other, it sees the birth and development of Kant’s thought which soon became the lingua franca of all German academic philosophy.
From the philosophers who founded German Idealism in the late eighteenth century to Freud in the twentieth, much of German thought can be understood as an attempt to establish a synthesis between these two intellectual inputs, between, so to speak, Dichtung und Wahrheit.
While the young philosophers of the Tübinger School concreatively adopted Kant’s view of philosophy as a system of ideas, they also reacted to some extent against his systematizing impulse by positing the equiprimordiality of world and Self, of art and reason.
This can be seen notably in The Oldest System Program of German Idealism, dating from ca. 1797, a fragmentary manifesto co-authored by Hegel, Schelling and Hölderlin, where beauty is described as a unifying principle between truth and goodness.
Guided by the idea that all philosophy of spirit is an aesthetic philosophy, The Oldest System Program argues that we cannot have knowledge of anything unless we also have an aesthetic sense and that even our understanding of history requires an aesthetic sensibility.
Adhering to the self-critical impulse of Kant’s philosophy by positing an equiprimordiality of both the empirical world and the intelligible subject, while trying to overcome the problems within the model of Bildung espoused by German classicism, the Oldest System Program argued for the co-extensiveness of the reality of both philosophy and art. For this reason, the fragment suggests that “Die Poesie bekommt dadurch eine höhere Würde, sie wird am Ende wieder, was sie am Anfang war – Lehrerin der Menschheit.”
This critical engagement with these divergent traditions of Goethe and Kant enabled the literary and philosophical discourse around 1800 to develop new aesthetic and philosophical impulses which, beyond idealism and classicism, paved the way for the development of a whole range of new traditions of thought and writing in the long 19th and 20th centuries, such as, among others, romanticism, realism, historical materialism, existentialism, Nietzsche, phenomenology and hermeneutics.
In the light of these programmatic divergences and their creative potential between lived experience and speculative autonomy we will attempt a new reading of the protagonists of the literary, aesthetic and philosophical discourse around 1800, including e.g. Hegel, Schelling, Goethe, Schiller, Kleist, Hölderlin, Heinse and Jean-Paul. Hegel’s disturbed preoccupation with Antigone in his phenomenological approach to the idea of morality, Hölderlin’s late notion of the apriority of the individual, or Goethe’s ironically conceded realistic tic in Wilhelm Meister could be seen as possible topics for proposals.
We also welcome proposals dealing with the critical reception of German Idealism and Classicism within European thought in the 20th century (Nietzsche, Heidegger, Freud, Benjamin, Derrida, etc.).
For further information please contact:
Gert Hofmann, Dr. phil., Dr. phil. habil., PD
Head, Department of German, UCC
Juliana de Albuquerque, MA
Department of German, UCC