Philosophy in Heidelberg

Heidelberg is interesting with respect to the history of philosophy for several reasons (as I mentioned in my first post) – also with respect to the history of German intellectual culture in general. For instance, some important intellectual figures that have taught at or lived in Heidelberg include:

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (, Karl JaspersHans-Georg GadamerJürgen HabermasMax Weber,  Friedrich Hölderlin (who wrote a poem about Heidelberg, which can found on the ‘Philosophenweg’/’Philosophers Path’ overlooking the city

Some alumni include:

Robert Schumann (composer), Ludwig Feuerbach and Edmund Montgomery (philosophers), Joseph Freiherr von EichendorffChristian Friedrich HebbelGottfried KellerIrene FrischHeinrich HoffmannSir Muhammad IqbalJosé RizalW. Somerset MaughamJean Paul,Carl Spitteler (writers/poets). Wilhelm Wundt (psychology), J. Willard Gibbs (chemistry), Franz Boas (anthropology), Dmitri Mendeleev (chemistry) Hannah Arendt (political theory) Karl MannheimRobert E. Park and Talcott Parsons (sociology).

Phew… what a tradition. But today, still, this oldest of German universities is one of the most ‘ansprüchsvolle’ universities in Germany… (perhaps by analogy, a German ‘ivy league’ status, könnte man sagen). The philosophy faculty here, as mentioned in my first post, is one of a kind and of particular interest, I would say, for north Americans or people educated in the ‘Anglo-American tradition’ who would like to find out what ‘classical German philosophy’ is actually all about – something that is simply not possible in many if not most English-speaking institutions. To give an example, this year my course load consists of reading primary texts by Kant, Schiller Fichte, Schelling… and Hegel.

If you are considering taking a look into German philosophy, or are interested in German philosophy but are considering studying in Heidelberg, I would really recommend it – one gets a view into a world of thought that Anglo-American philosophy for the most part insists no longer exists.

Of particular interest is the ‘Philosophenweg’, or the old student path, that still leads up to the hills overlooking the quiet old city, and lends itself to ‘philosophical reflection’… if not between touristic interruptions ( ).


While in the area, I would also recommend seeing the ‘Thingstätte’ (, a Nazi-era auditorium built specifically for related purposes, and the old ancient ruins of the Abbey I suspect was robbed to build it nearby.

Also, while in the area, the ‘Heidenloch’ is worth checking out ( ).

It is a very old (perhaps pre-Roman, ‘Heathen’/Pagan era) mysteriously bottomless pit. Coincidentally, the hill on which all three sites are to be found is the point at which the border of Roman and Celtic cultures met, fought and the progresses of which stopped in the early middle ages.

I would seriously recommend checking out these last three mentioned sights as soon as arriving in Heidelberg, although it is all the more beautiful when the city changes colors in the autumn – in other words, do not wait until it gets cold, as you have to take the paths by foot and it takes as long to get back down as it does to go up. At the top, however, you will find a very nice ‘Gasthaus’ where you can get traditional German cuisine in the ‘hof’.


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