I was born in Wuppertal (Barmen) – the birthplace of Friedrich Engels – in former West Germany in 1970. Here is how Engels, in the context of describing the consequences of 19th Century labor conditions, 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).
I had luck: philosophy was offered at my high school as an AP course. I vividly remember that one of my Gymnasium’s final exams was on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. It was terrifying. Though I initially thought of either applying to a journalism school (since I had worked as a freelance journalist in my hometown) or studying protestant theology (which I gave up quickly), I ended up studying philosophy, art history, and sociology at the universities of Bamberg, Tübingen, and, right after the German reunification, in the former East-German town of Jena. Due to the political changes in Germany and Europe at that time, the time in Jena was intellectually exciting. My teachers have been, among others, Richard Münch (Bamberg), Otfried Höffe (Tübingen), Wolfram Hogrebe (Jena), Gonsalv Mainberger† (Jena), and Wolfgang Welsch (Bamberg). I was awarded a fellowship from the Hesian State (Land Hessen) for promising young researchers (1997-99) as well as a federal fellowship by the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG, 1999-02), which provided me a “full ride” as a graduate student. I spent two years as a dissertation research fellow at Emory University in Atlanta (2000-02) taking classes by David Carr and Thomas Flynn on Husserl, Sartre, and Heidegger. I received an M.A. in philosophy, sociology, and art history from the University of Bamberg in 1997, and a Ph.D. in philosophy with a thesis on Heidegger and Husserl 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 areas are Post-Kantian European philosophy (esp. phenomenology), social philosophy (esp. Marx, critical theory, globalisation, technology), continental aesthetics, philosophy of culture, philosophical anthropology, and contemporary political philosophy [see also the department page for a short blurb: here].
Professor, Department of Philosophy
Department of Philosophy, Michigan State University
368 Farm Ln, rm 503, South Kedzie Hall
East Lansing, MI 48824
dept | 517.355.4490
fax | 517.355.1320
Education, Appointments, Awards
There is a link to my full CV in the menu on top of this page.
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, Zwischenprüfung (Philosophy, Sociology, and Art History): Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena (1993)
Undergraduate Studies: Otto-Friedrich University of Bamberg (1990-91; 1994-1997); Eberhard-Karls University of Tübingen (1993-94), Friedrich-Schiller University of Jena (1991-93)
Regular and Visiting Appointments
Full 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)
Instructor, Philipps-University Marburg (1997-2000)
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
Area I: 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 together critical theory and phenomenology, and that not much attention has been paid in recent decades to bridging these traditions.
“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)
Representative 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); “Recollection, Mourning and the Absolute Past: Husserl, Freud and Derrida,” New Yearbook for Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy, Vol.3, Nr. 4, 2004, 121-141
Area II: Critical Social and 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 a social ontology, a categorial analysis of contemporary society, 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.
“Brecht saw that the ens realissimum consists of processes, not immediate facts, and they cannot be depicted” (Adorno)
Representative publications in this area: The Capitalist Schema: Time, Money, and the Culture of Abstraction (Lexington Books, 2014, pbk. 2016); “Fiction without Fantasy. Capital Fetishism as Objective Forgetting,” Continental Thought & Theory, 2, 2017, 364-382; “An der Oberfläche der Tauschgesellschaft. Kritik der Kritischen Theorie,“ Prokla. Zeitschrift für kritische Sozialwissenschaft, 180, 2015, 453-469.
Area III: Continental 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 art and culture from Goethe to Beuys. Central ideas about image constitution and painting are presented in my book on Gerhard Richter. I am also interested in a de-mystified understanding of Beuys’ ideas about creativity, sensuality, politics and thinking. Finally, I am also thinking about a contemporary concept of (critical) realism, especially in relation to photography and documentary film. Although Lukacs’ attitude towards modernism has, rightly so, been ridiculed, renewing a critical concept of realism and mimesis is a task of our times.
“If you take the sentence by Picasso: ‘Art is not made to decorate our rooms; rather, it is a weapon against the enemy’, then the question is: who is the enemy?” (Beuys)
Representative publications in this area: The Art of Gerhard Richter: Hermeneutics, Images, Meaning (London: Bloomsbury Press 2015, pbk 2017); “Representing Capital? Mimesis, Realism, and Contemporary Photography,” The Social Ontology of Capitalism, ed. Daniel Krier and Mark P. Worrell, London: Palgrave 2017, 173-193; “Art = Capital? Reflections on Joseph Beuys’ Das Kapital Raum 1970-1977,” Against Value in the Arts and Education, ed. Sam Ladkin, Robert McKay, and Emile Bojesen, Rowman & Littlefield 2016, 193-213; “Depiction and Plastic Perception. A Critique of Husserl’s Theory of Picture Consciousness,” Continental Philosophy Review, 2/2007, 171-185.
Philosophy only satisfies its own demands when it is more than a discipline (Adorno).
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, Philosophical Anthropology, Marcuse, Adorno, Husserl, and 19th and 20th Century survey classes. I also enjoy teaching aesthetics and philosophy of culture in undergraduate classes. On the graduate level I teach graduate seminars on selected topics, texts, and figures in European social and cultural 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, globalization or the meaning of human existence and the possibility of a good life. For me, higher education is the opposite of “schooled learning,” “fixed curricula,” and “textbook education.” It requires more than superficial understanding of ideas. However, I also hope that my students learn something in my classes that helps them to see the world and themselves in a different light.
“Niemand lasse den Glauben daran fahren, daß Gott an ihm eine große Tat will” (Luther); the sentence is difficult to translate, perhaps somehow like this: “No one should lose faith in God and his will to see a great deed in him/her/they” – engraved above the entrance hall of the old Wittenberg University; today’s Luther Haus.