4 May 2011 12:45pm - 2:00pm CRASSH


Part of the CRASSH Fellows Work-in-Progress seminar series.  All welcome, no registration necessary.  Sandwich lunch and refreshments provided.


   Dr David James (University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg):
   CRASSH Visiting Fellow Easter 2011
   Fichte's and Heidegger's Plans for a Historically Situated  
   German University

   Email: djames@uj.ac.za

Early in the 19th-century, the idealist philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte proposed a German national education as the only means of truly uniting the German nation and allowing it to regain its independence in the face of French hegemony. Over a century later in 1933, the philosopher Martin Heidegger offered further proposals concerning university’s relation to its role in German cultural life.

I will explore how Fichte’s plans for the future university of Berlin can be compared to Heidegger’s aims and raise the broader question as to how historical circumstances shape the conception of the role of the university in society. In the case of Fichte and Heidegger, given the consequences of the rise of German nationalism, we are provided with examples of the possible dangers involved in incorporating social and cultural, even nationalistic, aims. I will also ask whether their thoughts contain a utopian element, despite seeming to be shaped by historical circumstances.


About David James


David James is Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. He received a DPhil in Philosophy from the University of Sussex, and went on to hold research fellowships at the University of Ottawa, the University of KwaZulu-Natal and the University of Johannesburg. He has published extensively on various aspects of German idealism, especially German idealist political thought. His most recent publication is Fichte’s Social and Political Philosophy: Property and Virtue (Cambridge University Press, 2011). While a visiting fellow at CRASSH, David will be working on the topic of JG Fichte’s proposals concerning the planned establishment in the early eighteenth-century of a new university in Berlin. He will seek to place these proposals within the context of Fichte’s claim that the moral regeneration of the German nation requires the establishment of a new German national education. Special emphasis will be placed on the question of the role of Fichte’s own foundational philosophical science, the Wissenschaftslehre, both in the life of the university and in a German national education more generally.


For administrative enquiries and a link to the readings please contact Michelle Maciejewska.



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