Ich habe das Gefühl, dass es wirklich schon nicht mehr darauf ankommt, wo man sich befindet, so dass man wenigstens eine gute Rationalisierung dafür hat, dort zu bleiben, wo man sich einigermassen zurechtfindet (Adorno in a letter to Horkheimer, 1959)
I was born in Wuppertal (Barmen) – the birthplace of Friedrich Engels – in former West Germany in 1970. Here is how Engels speaks about Wuppertal: “True, at first glance it seems otherwise, for every evening you can hear merry fellows strolling through the streets singing their songs, but they are the most vulgar, obscene songs that ever came from drunken mouths; one never hears any of the folk-songs which are so familiar throughout Germany and of which we have every right to he proud. All the ale-houses are full to overflowing, especially on Saturday and Sunday, and when they close at about eleven o’clock, the drunks pour out of them and generally sleep off their intoxication in the gutter.” (Engels, Letter from Wuppertal). From 1990 to 1997, I studied philosophy, art history, and sociology at the universities of Bamberg, Tübingen, and, right after the reunification, in the former East-German town Jena. In fact, I was one of the first “Wessis” at a former East-German university. My teachers have been, among others, Richard Münch (Bamberg), Otfried Höffe (Tübingen), Wolfram Hogrebe (Jena), and Wolfgang Welsch (Bamberg). I was awarded a state fellowship for promising young researchers (1997-99) as well as a national fellowship (German Research Foundation, DFG, 1999-02), which provided me a “full ride” as a graduate student (which is rare in Europe). In addition, I spent two years as a dissertation research fellow at Emory University in Atlanta (2000-02). I received an M.A. in philosophy, sociology, and art history from the University of Bamberg in 1997, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Marburg in 2002 under the directorship of Prof. Zimmerli (Philipps-Universität Marburg), Prof. Carr (Emory University), and Prof. Aguirre† (Bergische Universität Wuppertal). Before coming to MSU I taught at the University of Marburg, at Seattle University, and at the University of Kansas. My main area of research is Post-Kantian European philosophy [short bio also here].
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Regular and Visiting Appointments
Professor, tenured, Michigan State University (since 2015)
DAAD Visiting Professor, full time (W2), Brandenburg Technical University Cottbus (2011 and 2013)
Associate Professor, tenured, Michigan State University (2009-2015)
Assistant Professor, tenure-track, Michigan State University (2005-2009)
Assistant Professor, tenure-track, University of Kansas (2003-2005)
Adjunct Professor, Seattle University (2002-03)
Lecturer, Philipps-University Marburg (1999-2000)
Instructor, Philipps-University Marburg (1997-98)
Ph.D. (Philosophy): Philipps-University of Marburg (2002)
Research Fellow (Philosophy), Emory University, Atlanta ( 2000-02)
M.A. (Philosophy, Sociology, and Art History): Otto-Friedrich University of Bamberg (1997)
B.A., equivalent (Philosophy, Sociology, and Art History): Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena (1993)
Undergraduate Studies: Otto-Friedrich University of Bamberg (1991-92; 1994-1997); Eberhard-Karls University of Tübingen (1993-94), Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena (1992-93)
M.A. Thesis (1997): Gewissenhabenwollen in Heideggers Sein und Zeit (120 p.)
Dissertation (2002): Umwelthandeln und Selbstbezug. Phänomenologie praktischer Subjektivität (370 p.), on micro fiche
Awards, Honors, Fellowships
Fintz Award for Teaching Excellence in the Arts and Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences, Michigan State University, 2014
Teacher-Scholar Award, Office of the Provost, Michigan State University, 2009
National Fellowship; German Science Foundation; fully funded; Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), 1999-2002
State Fellowship for Promising Young Academic Scholars; fully funded; Hessische Nachwuchswissenschaftlerförderung, Land Hessen, 1997-99
AOS: Post-Kantian Continental Philosophy; AOC: Critical Theory, Marx, Continental Aesthetics, Contemporary European Political Philosophy
Check the “Research & Publications” menu on top of this page. Almost all publications are available for download.
An overview of my projects can be found in this file (2016)
Area I: Social-Political Philosophy
I am working on aspects of a critique of political economy in relation to social ontology from a contemporary standpoint, working through some work carried out by the “Neue Marx Lektüre” (Reichelt, Backhaus, Altvater, Heinrich, Elbe, Postone) during the last decades in Germany and the US. I have started to philosophically re-read Marx’s entire oeuvre focusing on his theory of Vergesellschaftung, social synthesis, and social totality. Recent work in European critical theory operates without social ontology and a clear idea of social reality. I am also interested in rediscovering the Neo-Kantian base of Lukacs’ philosophy as well as developing a substantial critique of recent “post-Marxist” political philosophy, as I am especially interested in the question of the ontological relation between the social and the political. In this vein, I present a monetary and Marxian interpretation of Kant’s concept of schematism in my recent book The Capitalist Schema: Time, Money, and the Culture of Abstraction (Lexington Books, 2014).
Area II: Continental Aesthetics
I am working on central aspects of visual culture, esp. painting and photography, from a “hermeneutical” perspective, which is based on Gadamer’s and Adorno’s philosophy of formed images [Gebilde] and Hegel’s concept of plasticity, both of which are related to how the German tradition conceptualized culture, art and history. I present some of my ideas in my recent book on on painting, images, photography, and Gerhard Richter (Bloomsbury Press, 2015). In this vein, I am also interested in the developing a contemporary concept of (critical) realism, especially in relation to theater, photography, and documentary film.
Area III: Post-Kantian Continental Philosophy
I worked on the European tradition of philosophy in general, with a special focus on Husserlian and Heideggerian phenomenology, on Fichte and Hegel, as well as phenomenological concepts of practical subjectivity, such as affectivity, memory, forgiving, and the lived body, which resulted in my book on Husserl From Affectivity to Subjectivity (Palgrave, 2008) and in my book on practical subjectivity in Husserl and Heidegger Vom Leib zum Selbst (Alber, 2005). In my current research projects I am concerned with bridging central aspects of social phenomenology and Frankfurt School inspired critical theory, such as Adorno’s and Heidegger’s readings of Kant. I believe that much work needs to be done in social phenomenology, and that not much attention has been paid in recent decades to bridging these traditions. In addition, I would like to tie together phenomenology and Marxian philosophy, insofar as Marx’s genetic method shows, in my view, certain affinities with phenomenological “disclosure” of (social) reality.
Current Book Project: Phenomenology of Capital. Foundations for a Contemporary Critical Social Ontology
My current project aims at closing a gap in recent critical theory, which is characterized by the loss of a theory of society that is based on what were formerly key elements of critical theory, namely,  social epistemology,  social ontology, and  Marx’s critique of political economy. Unfortunately, in the wake of Jürgen Habermas, almost all representatives in contemporary European critical theory in the tradition of the Frankfurt School have turned their attention to normative and ethical questions, such as questions about fairness, justice, and recognition. I argue that this turn should be corrected and that the foundations of a critical theory of society should emerge out of a contemporary renewal of linking epistemological with ontological questions. Against the mainstream, however, I argue that this task can be achieved neither by returning to subjectivist (a la Kant) nor to objectivist (a la Hegel) theories of social reality. Instead, I propose and present a phenomenological approach to bridging epistemological, ontological, and social-economic questions. The focus of my investigation will be the question of how the social form of our contemporary society is constituted as a unity and how we can make sense of it via social phenomenology. Though I assume (with Marx) that this form is determined by capital as the all-encompassing principle of our contemporary life, I argue, following Lukacs, that we also need a theory that explains and critically analyzes the main moments of what constitutes this specific social form determined by capital. Traditionally, the question of how a unity of an object is constituted and, hence, establishes its specificity or “kind,” depends upon what the philosophical tradition calls “categories.” Categories are the fundamental concepts that establish a field of knowledge as knowledge of a specific form of object or reality. Categories are therefore not (necessarily) empirical concepts; instead, they define the object as knowable. Similarly, I am working on a theory of social categories that renders the object, i.e., capitalist social form, knowable. My project aims at presenting this new approach in the form of a phenomenology of social categories (via Simmel, Cassirer, Husserl, Heidegger, and Lask), and, as a consequence, pushes contemporary critical theory into a different direction.
Philosophy only satisfies its own demands when it is more than a discipline (Adorno, GS 10.2, 476).
I teach the whole range of European philosophy of the last two centuries as upper level undergraduate classes, such as Marx, Heidegger, Hegel, Foucault, Phenomenology, Hermeneutics, Marcuse, Adorno, Husserl, and 19th and 20th Century survey classes. I also enjoy teaching aesthetics in undergraduate classes, in which I usually focus on a few challenging texts from the European tradition in combination with selected artists. In addition, I teach graduate seminars on selected topics, texts, and figures in European philosophy. Finally, I teach introductory classes in philosophy and large interdisciplinary lecture classes in the humanities that deal with topics of general interest, such as capitalism and globalization or the meaning of human existence. I try to teach new classes and topics as often as possible, as major parts of the US curriculum are based on scholastic procedures that are structured and controlled by standardized textbooks and the reduction of critical and intellectually engaging university education to repetitive school procedures, a narrow minded and “fixed” curriculum, and a misguided idea of professionalization in higher education. As Onora O’Neill put it, “standard systems for assessing what is described as the quality of universities” tend to ignore “many matters of substantive educational and cultural significance”. Intellectual engagement in the humanities, however, is more than the ordering and presentation of fixed information and arguments; instead, it is based on productive imagination and critical reflection on what makes information, facts, and arguments socially, culturally, politically, and individually possible. Philosophy offers avenues to come to a better understanding of our existing world in order to open up a different future.
Click here for a statement about teaching in the humanities
Classes taught at the introductory level
Aesthetics: Benjamin, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, Marcuse (2017); Existentialism (2016, 2017); Introduction to Social-Political Philosophy (2014); Marx (2014, 2015, 2016); Aesthetics: Nietzsche, Heidegger, Deleuze (2012); Adorno’s Aesthetics (2010); Aesthetics: Kant, Nietzsche, Heidegger (2009); Aesthetics: Kant vs. Hegel (2008); Introduction to Philosophy (Honors, 2004); Ethics (2003); Introduction to Philosophy (2002, 2003, 1010, 2012, 2013); Introduction to Philosophy and Critical Thinking (2002, 2003); Philosophy of the Human Person (2002, 2003); Husserl: Cartesian Meditations (Marburg, 1999); Introduction to Phenomenology (Marburg, 2000)
Classes taught at the senior level
Sartre (2017); Heidegger, Being and Time (2017); Marcuse (2014); Arendt (2014); Anarchism and Radical Democracy (2013, Cottbus); Community, the Commons, and Political Resistance (2013); State, Democracy, Power: Radical European Political Thought (2012); The Meaning of Photography: Recent Anglo-American Discussions (Cottbus, 2011); Gadamer and Hermeneutics (2010); Philosophy of Poetry (2009); Hermeneutics of Life: The Early Heidegger (2008); Hegel (2006); Foucault (2006); Heidegger and Phenomenology (2005); 19th Century Philosophy (2003, 2005); Contemporary Continental Philosophy (2004)
Rationality and its Other II/Critical Theory II (2015, co-taught with Todd Hedrick); Rationality and its Other I/Critical Theory I (2014, co-taught with Todd Hedrick); Recent European Political Philosophy (2013); Marx, Das Kapital (2013, Cottbus); Philosophie und Kunst im Werk Gerhard Richters (2013, Cottbus); Marx, Capital (2012); Intentionality and Beyond: From Husserl to Levinas (2012); Recent Anglo-American Philosophy of Technology (Cottbus, 2011); Adorno and Heidegger (2010); The Sublime and Non-representable (2010); Philosophy of Culture (2009); Heidegger: Being and Time (2008; Cottbus, 2011); Intersubjectivity from Hegel to the Present (2006); Augustine’s Confessions and Contemporary Philosophy (2005); Husserl and Heidegger (2004)
Large lecture courses
Visions of a Post-Capitalist Society (2016); On Being Human (2014; scheduled for 2017); Capitalism and Globalization (2013, 2014, 2015); Die Philosophie von Karl Marx (2013, Cottbus); Heidegger (2011, Cottbus); The Culture of Capitalism (2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012); Human Nature (2005, 2006, 2010, 2017)
“Niemand lasse den Glauben daran fahren, daß Gott an ihm eine große Tat will” (Luther); engraved above the entrance hall of the old Wittenberg University; today’s Luther Haus.