A german friend of mine linked me this article, from Die Zeit. The question is “what does a philosopher do all day?” They ask Doktoranten, and not undergrads, but then only seem to talk about what they do all day (namely, they don’t get too much into “what they actually do think about”).

Apparently, though, fewer Germans are studying philosophy, and certainly the “greats” of German philosophy don’t seem to get much attention from these “kopfzerbrecher.” Birte Schelling doesn’t know if she’s related to Friedrich Schelling, the guy who promoviert at Humboldt in Berlin (apparently occupying an office near where the masters of german idealism worked) scoffs at Marx’s quote and says it wasn’t the “philosophers” who only interpreted to world, but rather more properly just Hegel (its unclear to me if he likes Kant or not, though… he’s working on “problems of Urteilskraft), and the guy who “likes to stroll in the woods like heidegger” thinks that the age of philosophical systems is over and now philosophy is just the disciplinary watchdog that tells other people if their theories make any sense (though I guess he likes Gadamer… he has pictures of him as a slideshow on his computer [if i understood correctly].

If the nytimes article sutures philosophy to abstract “critical thinking” instrumentally useful for one’s career, this article seems to deny that. The only problem is that it may go too far in the other direction — even if the philosophers have some idea of what philosophy does, no one else may expect to (except realizing that discussing that very question is philosophical). The article seems to present the sentiment that “philosophy is for those weird people who like to think about things that make their heads hurt.” Thankfully doesn’t ask for philosophy to justify itself (perhaps one thing germans will always take for granted), but by doing so, it may suggest that philosophy has no relevance to anyone but “philosophers.”

Or maybe my German isn’t as good as I think it is.


2 thoughts on “

  1. If I can be glib for a moment, can I just say that this article doesn’t really surprise me about the status of philosophy in Germany since nothing interesting has come out of Germany in the last thirty years?

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