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Grundkurs Klassische deutsche Philosophie
Schweidler, Walter
Klassische deutsche Philosophie
Schweidler, Walter

Lehrveranstaltungsnummer: Prüfungsnummer:
Lehrveranstaltungsbezeichnung: Prüfungsbezeichnung:
Klassische deutsche Philosophie: The German Romance with India
25.04.2019 - 27.07.2019
Federführende Fakultät:
Philosophisch-Pädagogische Fakultät
Dozierende/r: Prüfer/in:
O´Donnell Neil
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0 unbegrenzt
The German Romance with India:
The Reception of Oriental Philosophy in 18th and 19th Century Germany.

It is occasionally still claimed, because the Eastern world did not undergo precisely the same historical dialectical development as the West, that it remained until relatively recently philosophically a land of the past; its traditional conception of the summum bonum of the philosophical endeavour, that is, the absolute, persisting, to make recourse to a Hegelian term of art, in the form of the abstract, and not at all concrete universal. Ultimately therefore, and although the East might be said to demonstrate, in the very broadest sense, evidence, again in Hegelian terms, of the ‘deepest philosophising’ (das tiefste Philosophieren), nevertheless its historical attempts to provide adequate rational form to the perennial content of metaphysics were, in stark contrast to Western conceptual articulations of the same, only wild and vague ‘presuppositions’ (Voraussetzungen).
The popularisation of this understanding that philosophical thinking is a phenomenon which only properly emerged in sixth century Greece owes much, of course, to G. W. F. Hegel. Nevertheless, in view not only of the ancient associations of travel with the practice of philosophy, the Greek philosophical atmosphere in which the knowledge of a wide world played a significant part, and indeed, the plain fact that the generative matrix of philosophy crystallised on the geographical boundary lines between Greece and the so-called ‘barbaric’ world, it has been argued, per contra, not only by the ancient Greeks themselves, but also indeed by many of Hegel’s own contemporaries, that certain advanced figures of thought, subsequently given over to particularly Greek philosophical reflection, had extra-Hellenic origins.
Beginning with J. G. Herder in the 18th century, for whom Asia in general was conceived of as the birthplace of what would become European racial stock, an especial sympathy for Hinduism developed; particularly regarding the thought of certain of its philosophical schools which teach a nondual metaphysical monism. Such, more often than not, was construed, mostly positively, at times negatively, by the German Classicists in terms of pantheism. ‘Vishnu is in you, in me, in all beings; /’, apostrophises Herder, ‘It is foolish to ever feel offense. / See all souls in your own, / and banish the delusion of being different’. Naturally, the presence of such a doctrine of ‘oneness’ found sympathy with the later Romantic attitude, and reading circles, such as F. Schlegel’s at Jena, were formed to study the Indian Vedas. Schlegel posited, in his first flush of the specifically German romance with India, that not only the religion of the Vedas was the Urreligion which historically informed all subsequent determinate religions, from the Pharaonic cult of ancient Egypt to the religion of the Jews, but also went as far as to argue that the cause of European civilisation tout court was due to a diaspora of ancient Aryans. For Schlegel, it was with the Eastern progenitors of European culture, the ‘most cultivated and wisest people of antiquity’, that, as he exults in a letter, ‘Here is the actual source of all languages, all the thoughts and poems of the human spirit; everything, absolutely everything, is of Indian origin’. Aside from the Vedas, other Indian religious texts were also the objects of enthusiastic German study and the recipients of no mean praise. In the early 19th century, the father of modern linguistics, W. v. Humboldt, declared the Bhagavad-Gita to be ‘the deepest and loftiest thing the world has to show’ and A. Schopenhauer hailed the Upanishads as ‘the production of the highest human wisdom’.
Such a discovery was of great import for the Romantic way of thinking, for, according to their view, contemporary Christendom had entered into a period of cultural and spiritual malaise. Owing to its advanced state, Europe had become atomised and machine-like; estranged from its meaning-giving first cause. Yet now, in the East, the most sublime form, the ‘pinnacle of Romanticism’ (Schlegel) was waiting to be discovered; and it was India and its wisdom in particular that represented the possibility of a return to wholeness, to the origins and to the birth-place of humanity. India is ‘the cradle of humanity’ (Herder), which, ‘in contrast to the cold, dead Spitsbergen of that sitting-room reason’ (Novalis), the ‘spirit of infancy’ reigns with its ‘language full of lively cultivation, picturesque representations, sensuous and figurative denotations’ (F. W. J. Schelling).
In the course of this seminar, we shall call critically into question Hegel’s ultimate dismissal of the value of Eastern philosophy, and, through a study of the Eastern religious and philosophical texts and their reception by other thinkers of 18th and early 19th century Germany, come to reflect anew on the perennial self-critical philosophical question: What is it to philosophise?
Empfohlene Voraussetzungen:
eLearning-Angebot (URL):
W. Halbfass, India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1990).

Suggested reading:

R. Gérard, L’Orient et la pensée romantique allemande (Paris: George Thomas, 1963).
H. v. Glasenapp, Das Indienbild deutscher Denker (Stuttgart: K. F. Koehler Verlag, 1960).
W. Halbfass, ‘Hegel and the Philosophy of the Hindus’, in German Scholars on India: Contributions to Indian Studies (Varanasi: Chowkhamba Sanskrit Series Office, 1973), pp. 107-122.
—, Indien und Europa: Perspektiven ihrer geistigen Begegnung (Basel and Stuttgart: Schwabe & Co., Ag-Verlag, 1981).
G. W. F. Hegel, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Geschichte, in Werke in 20 Bde. (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp 1986), XII.
—, Vorlesungen über die Philosophie der Religion I, in Werke in 20 Bde., XVI.
—, ‘Über die unter dem Nahmen Bhagavad-Gita bekannte Episode des Mahabharata; von Wilhelm von Humboldt. Berlin 1826’, Jahrbücher für wissenschaftliche Kritik, 7. 8 (1827), 51-63.
J. G. Herder, Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der Menschheit, in id., Sämtliche Werke, ed. by Bernhard Suphan, 33 vols (Leipzig: 1877-1913), V.
B. L. Herling, The German Gītā: Hermeneutics and Discipline in the German Reception of Indian thought, 1778-1831 (New York, NY: Routledge, 2006).
P. Th. Hoffmann, Der indische und der deutsche Geist von Herder bis zur Romantik: Eine literatur-historische Darstellung (Tübingen: H. Laupp Jr., 1915).
Michel Hulin, Hegel et l’Orient (Paris: Vrin, 1979).
Novalis, ‘Die Christenheit oder Europa’, in id., Schriften, ed. by J. Minor, 4 vols (Jena: Eugen Diederichs, 1907), II, pp. 22-47.
S. Radhakrishnan and C. A. Moore, A Source Book in Indian Philosophy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973).
F. Schlegel, ‘Reise nach Frankreich’, Europa: Eine Zeitschrift, 1 (1803), 5-40.
—, Über die Sprache und Weisheit der Indier: Ein Beitrag zur Begründung der Altertumskunde (Heidelberg: Mohr und Zimmer, 1808).
—, Vorlesungen über Universalgeschichte, in id., Friedrich Schlegel: Kritische Ausgabe seiner Werke, ed. by Ernst Behler, Jean-Jacques Anstett, and Hans Eichner, 35 vols (Vienna, Paderborn, and Munich: Ferdinand Schoningh, 1960), XIV.
F. W. J. Schelling, ‘Über Mythen, historische Sagen und Philosopheme der ältesten Welt’ [1793], in id., Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schellings sämmtliche Werke, ed. by K. F. A. Schelling, 14 vols (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1856-61), Part 1, I.
A. Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, trans. by E. F. J. Payne, 2 vols (New York, NY: Dover, 1969).
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Datum / Zeit Raum Dozent Kommentar
Do 25.04.2019 10:30 - 12:00 PPJ-108 O'Donnell, Neil
Do 02.05.2019 10:30 - 12:00 PPJ-108 O'Donnell, Neil
Do 09.05.2019 10:30 - 12:00 PPJ-108 O'Donnell, Neil
Do 16.05.2019 10:30 - 12:00 PPJ-108 O'Donnell, Neil
Do 23.05.2019 10:30 - 12:00 PPJ-108 O'Donnell, Neil
Do 06.06.2019 10:30 - 12:00 PPJ-108 O'Donnell, Neil
Do 13.06.2019 10:30 - 12:00 PPJ-108 O'Donnell, Neil
Do 27.06.2019 10:30 - 12:00 PPJ-108 O'Donnell, Neil
Do 04.07.2019 10:30 - 12:00 PPJ-108 O'Donnell, Neil
Do 11.07.2019 10:30 - 12:00 PPJ-108 O'Donnell, Neil
Do 18.07.2019 10:30 - 12:00 PPJ-108 O'Donnell, Neil
Do 25.07.2019 10:30 - 12:00 PPJ-108 O'Donnell, Neil