Conference 'The Actuality of German Idealism


Form – Judgment – Experience

A Conference organized by Jan Voelker, Frank Ruda, Mark Potocnik, Daniel M. Feige in the frame of the CRC 626.



Aims and objectives

The project of German Idealism, in its historical as well as in its systematical character, marks an overcoming of disciplinary boundaries. Not only does it represent a certain challenging of the traditional philosophical inventory of knowledge; in its discussions of the anthropological, ethical, political, religious and aesthetical it also combines questions of the most different range. Today, it is in particular in current discourses on aesthetics, that the implicit as well as the explicit reference to German Idealism is remarkable. The governing question of the conference focuses on this recurrence, the Actuality of German Idealism especially in aesthetics : How to diagnose the consequences of the resurgences of German Idealism within theories of the aesthetical? Does the recurrence of German Idealism put the contours of particular disciplines as well as their common foundations into question again?

For the recourse to German Idealism both, a reference to a content-related as well as to a structural momentum is noticeable: On one hand, the present confrontation with Kant, Hegel, Schelling, and Fichte or with authors like Schiller, Hölderlin, Schleiermacher, and Humboldt in aesthetics takes shape in questions of the logics of form and the un-form, of representation and the un-representable, in the tension of operation and material. At the same time, one can notice a return of answers from within German Idealism, too: something can only be conceived of as un-form against the background of forms, only as un-representable against the background of something representable, operations are only possible against the background of their specific materials. On the other hand, it is in structural terms instructive for this recourse that it does not only draw a diagonal, running counter to the usual division of disciplines. With regards to the different traditions this recourse forms a surprisingly common foundation, upon which traditions as different as the contemporary continental and the Anglo-American theory-formations encounter one another, which up to now has not yet been sufficiently carved out.

As its starting point the conference will tackle three foundational concepts of modernity (and therefore also of its politics, its art and its historicity) which gain a specific contour within German Idealism: Form, judgment, and experience. It is in the German idealist constellation that all three of them are presented as interrelated terms : The elaboration of the Aristotelian category of the form is connected with the development of the concept of judgment (for example in Goethe’s morphology or Kant’s definition of the aesthetic judgment), which makes general and individual understanding and evaluation possible, and leads to theories of subjective experience (for example with Hegel). At the same time, questions of material events, of representation and of subjectivity (for example with Schelling or Schiller) are at stake. Therefore the debates centered around these three concepts are in a specific way connected with the contemporary discourses: They appear for example in the examinations of the materiality and the corporeality in the theatre; in the distinctions of the evaluative and interpretative judgments related to the aesthetic experience e.g. of movies; in the enquiries into representation and imagery in the discourses of the history of art and last but not least in the investigations of the relation between a narration and the unnarratable in literature. Alongside these topics, each science as a discipline is challenged: How do questions of materiality and corporeality affect theatre studies? What is the relevance of theories of judgment for film studies? Which role does the contour of representation and imagery in German Idealism play for the history of art as a discipline? To what extent does the problem of the relationship of narration to the unnarratable lead to a re-assessment of classical strategies of narration within literary studies? The conference does therefore focus on the actuality of German Idealism in the sense of its relevance for the present. In this context the conference aims at the virtual crossing point between the particular disciplines and the different traditions of theory. It seeks to examine the potential and actuality of German Idealism first and foremost with respect to contemporary aesthetics, and to take an analysis of singular art phenomena and their multiple relations to political, epistemic, philosophical questions and questions of the life sciences as a starting point. Therefore the conference’s main aim is to establish the contours of a shared question throughout the disciplines, by means of confronting the most different traditions and theories, and to thus properly grasp the contemporary recurrence of German Idealism.



Program (PDF)

Program (HTML)


Conference Venue
Seminarzentrum der FU Berlin
Otto-von-Simson-Str. 26
14195 Berlin
Räume: L115, L116, Hörsaal 1a


Map Directions (PDF)