Jürgen Habermas wins Kluge prize

508px-JuergenHabermas_retouchedThe German philosopher Jürgen Habermas was recently awarded with the Kluge Prize by the Library of Congress in Washington DC. The prize rewards lifetime achievement in disciplines not covered by the Nobel prizes, with its main criteria being deep intellectual accomplishment in the human sciences. Habermas was chosen for his scholarly work as much as for his deep engagement with public debate. He shares the prize with Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor.

Habermas is one of the most renowned contemporary philosophers worldwide who is mostly known for his work on communicative rationality and the public sphere. After studying philosophy, history, psychology, German literature and Economics, Habermas gained his PhD in 1954 with his thesis Das Absolute und die Geschichte. Von der Zwiespältigkeit in Schellings Denken (9500.d.1076). He started his Habilitation at the University of Frankfurt under Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, but differences with Horkheimer prompted him to transfer to the University of Marburg. There, he completed the work on his Habilitations-thesis Strukturwandel der Öffentlichkeit. Untersuchungen zu einer Kategorie der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft (9003.d.2511) in 1961 under Wolfgang Abendroth.

A few of the UL's holdings of Habermas' works.

A few of the UL’s holdings of Habermas’ works.

In the same year, and even before he completed his Habilitation, Habermas was offered the post of Ausserordentlicher Professor (extraordinary professor) at the University of Heidelberg. During the following years and through various influences, Habermas engaged himself with hermeneutics, analytic philosophy, and American pragmatism. He returned to Frankfurt in 1964 with the support of Adorno and got involved in the positivism debate, which saw him publish one of his most influential works, Erkenntnis und Interesse, in 1968. The UL has the original German text standing at C203.d.1358 in a 2008 edition that also includes Habermas’ reflection on his own work 30 years after its original publication, with a commentary by Anke Thyen. The UL also holds various English translations of this work titled Knowledge and human interests, with the earliest one in an edition from 1978 and translated by Jeremy J. Shapiro (180.c.97.778).

Habermas remains active and continues to publish extensively since his retirement. In addition to his scholarly work, Habermas has been engaging in the public discourse of various political matters throughout his professional life. He was most notably involved in the Historikerstreit (Historian’s Quarrel) in Germany during the 80s but also commented on various topics such as religion, eugenics and Europe/the EU. Additionally, he publicly opposed the Iraq War after 9/11 and published his views together with Jaques Derrida in Giovanna Borradori’s Philosophy in a Time of Terror: Dialogues with Jürgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida (206:1.c.200.201). The list of Habermas’ works is quite extensive and our vast holdings of his works can best be browsed in our catalogue by an author search.

Stephanie Palek

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