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).
I had luck, insofar as I encountered philosophy already in high school and took philosophy as an AP course at my hometown high school (in Germany this is the university prep high school, called Gymnasium). I vividly remember that one of my Gymnasium’s final exams was on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. It was terrifying. During my final Gymnasium years I worked as a freelance journalist writing more than 400 articles for my local hometown press. Though I initially thought of either applying to the Henry Nannen journalism school in Hamburg 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 (advisor: Walther Ch. Zimmerli), 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 area of research and thinking is Post-Kantian European philosophy, especially Marx, critical theory, phenomenology, aesthetics, cultural philosophy, and contemporary political philosophy [see also the department page for a short bio: here].
There is a link 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)
M.A. Thesis (1997): Gewissenhabenwollen in Heideggers Sein und Zeit (120 pages)
Dissertation (2002): Umwelthandeln und Selbstbezug. Phänomenologie praktischer Subjektivität (370 pages), distributed on micro fiche
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)
Lecturer, Philipps-University Marburg (1999-2000)
Instructor, Philipps-University Marburg (1997-98)
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
Federal 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 + AOC
AOS: Post-Kantian European Philosophy, German Philosophy, Marx, Critical Theory; AOC: 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 (2018)
Area I: 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 critical theory and phenomenology together, and that not much attention has been paid in recent decades to bridging these traditions.
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: 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.
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 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 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.
“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)
Finally, I am also working on developing a contemporary concept of (critical) realism, especially in relation to photography and documentary film. Although Lukacs’ attitude towards modernism has, rightly so, ridiculed, I see potentials in renewing a critical concept of realism and mimesis.
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.
Current Book Project: Phenomenology of Social Categories
My project aims at closing a gap in recent social theory and social philosophy. Unfortunately, in the wake of Jürgen Habermas, almost all representatives in contemporary social theory and have turned their attention to ethical questions, such as questions about fairness, justice, and recognition as the base principles of what constitutes contemporary society. As a consequence, social-economic theory, political economy, and historical reflections, as they were initiated by Marx, became sidelined. In my book, I will 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 questions about social knowledge with questions about the reality of capitalist society. Against the mainstream, however, I will argue that this task can be achieved neither by returning to subjectivist (a la Kant) nor by returning to objectivist (a la Hegel) theories of social reality. Instead, I propose and present a “mediating” approach to bridging epistemological, ontological, and social-economic questions. I argue that we need a theory that explains the main moments (categories) of what constitutes the social form determined by capital. This form is constituted by what the philosophical traditions from Aristotle to Durkheim and Piaget have called “categories,” such as (in this case) capital, money, space, time, and, most importantly, growth. My project aims at presenting a new approach in the form of a phenomenology of social categories (via Simmel, Cassirer, Husserl, Heidegger, Lukacs, 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 and philosophy of culture in undergraduate classes. Moreover, 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. I try to teach new classes and topics as often as possible, as major parts of the US curriculum tend to be based on scholastic procedures that are structured and controlled by standardized textbooks and the reduction of intellectually engaging university education to repetitive school procedures, a narrow minded and “fixed” curriculum controlled by the amount paid per credit hour, and a misguided idea of professionalization in higher education.
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)
Intellectual engagement in the humanities 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. I agree with Sartre on this point: we are not “technicians of practical knowledge.” Philosophers do not solve problems or “riddles.” Teaching philosophy, for me, is an intellectual praxis that can still give guidance in matters related to understanding the reality and, above all, our lives.
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; 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)
“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” – engraved above the entrance hall of the old Wittenberg University; today’s Luther Haus.