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 wall came down, in the former East-German town of Jena. My teachers have been, among others, Richard Münch (Bamberg), Otfried Höffe (Tübingen), Wolfram Hogrebe (Jena), Gonsalv Mainberger† (Jena), and, above all, 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. In addition, I spent two years as a dissertation research fellow at Emory University in Atlanta (2000-02) taking classes by David Carr and Thomas Flynn. I received an M.A. in philosophy, sociology, and art history from the University of Bamberg in 1997 (advisor: Walther Ch. Zimmerli), and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Marburg in 2002 under the directorship of W. Ch. Zimmerli (Philipps-Universität Marburg), D. Carr (Emory University), and Antonio 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 and thinking 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.), distributed 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)
Reality not only is everything that is; rather, it is everything that becomes. It is a process. This process is contradictory. If one does not acknowledge its contradictory character, one does not know it at all. (Brecht)
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. A while ago I began 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 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 relation between the social and the political.
Main publication in this area: The Capitalist Schema: Time, Money, and the Culture of Abstraction (Lexington Books, 2014, pbk. 2016).
Area II: Continental and Critical Aesthetics
I have been working on central aspects of visual culture, esp. painting and photography, from a “hermeneutical” perspective, which is based on Gadamer’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. In this vein, I am also interested in developing a contemporary concept of (critical) realism, especially in relation to photography and documentary film.
Main publication in this area: The Art of Gerhard Richter: Hermeneutics, Images, Meaning (London: Bloomsbury Press 2015, pbk 2017).
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. In my current 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 new work needs to be done in bringing Marxism and phenomenology together, and that not much attention has been paid in recent decades to bridging these traditions.
Main publications in this area: From Affectivity to Subjectivity. Husserl’s Phenomenology Revisited, (London: Palgrave 2008); Vom Leib zum Selbst. Kritische Analysen zu Husserl and Heidegger (Freiburg: Alber 2005).
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. 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. 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. We are not “technicians of practical knowledge” (Sartre).
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)