The University of Freiburg plans to shut down the institutional structure of the chair held by Husserl and Heidegger. It plans to do so for very dubious reasons and intends to replace the chair by an assistant professorship (Juniorprofessur) in logic and analytical philosophy of language. This amounts to replacing one full professorship and one assistant professorship (Akademischer Rat) with a single assistant professorship, likely with tenure option. A person holding that position might not even achieve tenure. It is unclear what the university’s exact plans are, but at the very best, this position will have the option of being promoted to tenured associate professor after six years. Yet the planned Juniorprofessur can never again reach the current status of full professor, which involves additional staff and research money.
The person to be appointed would have to teach 4 courses per semester, supervise doctoral students and build an entirely new structure in logic and analytical philosophy of language on a salary of slightly more than 50,000€/year without the typical team structure of a German professorship, which includes a secretary, at least one assistant professor position (usually with an up to 6-year contract per candidate) and a number of (graduate) student assistants.
The decision to destroy the Husserl-Heidegger chair comes at a time when the university has recently created a full chair in epistemology and theory of science at its University College (UCF). The chairholder and the assistant professors attached to the chair have already assumed teaching duties both at UCF and in the department. The university has thus already established capacities to teach in the field of analytic philosophy.
There are additional rumors that the second chair the small philosophy department currently has will also be reduced to a tenure-stream Juniorprofessur in medieval Arabic philosophy.
Instead of giving up on its entire departmental structure on the level of chairs in philosophy (which in the German context means: serious research positions), we suggest to open up an international search for the best qualified candidate in phenomenology/hermeneutics with the requisite abilities to lead a team that will critically investigate Heidegger from a historically and philosophically informed point of view.
These decisions are declared by university officials to be promoting junior scholars; yet they effectively create positions very much dependent upon current senior faculty until tenure has been granted. The installation of a Juniorprofessur is often discussed in public as a transformation from the German academic system to the Anglo-American tenure system. However, as is less known inside German academia, it is very common in the UK and the US to hire senior faculty if that is in the best interest of the university. In this case, it would be.
In our judgment, the university deliberately destroys one of its strongest assets in research in the humanities. Rather than downgrading the current position and investing into another field of philosophical research already represented at other universities in Baden-Württemberg, the university should continue to support the leading research in the field of phenomenology and hermeneutics for which it has a strong international reputation.
This online petition is designed to collect signatures in order to direct our protest against the plan of destroying the institutional structure of phenomenology and hermeneutics in Freiburg. A letter to this effect will be made available to the Ministry of Science and Education in the state of Baden-Württemberg. The ministry can still change the plans that threaten to make the philosophy department in Freiburg irrelevant for the global context in which we are all working.
The philosophy department not only has a magnificent philosophical history. It continues to contribute significantly to the field through the professorship at the Husserl Archives and the Husserl-Heidegger chair in modern philosophy. It is well integrated into bigger research schemes at the university. Also, the chair currently edits the International Yearbook for Hermeneutics. This peer-reviewed journal is one of the few in philosophy edited in Germany that is recognized internationally as one of the leading in its field. Without the additional resources that only a full chair offers, the university can no longer be host to that publication.
With the Husserl-Heidegger chair gone, international exchange at the university can be expected to decrease significantly. The philosophy department has long been part of international exchange at all academic levels. The department’s focus on phenomenology currently attracts both a high number of international students at the undergraduate and graduate level and senior researchers. Through schemes such as those of DAAD and the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, they actually bring additional research money to the university and attach the university’s name to their own research output. Only through the ongoing research and international cooperation in phenomenology, the university is visible internationally. Freiburg is ill advised to invest in analytic philosophy, as it is effectively impossible for the university to become a center of analytic philosophy through an additional assistant professorship in that field.
The university library has also devoted significant funds to establishing a special collection on the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Destroying the research focus represented by the Husserl-Heidegger chair would effectively undermine this decade-long effort of the university.
Even without regard to the public discussion surrounding Heidegger and the particular responsibility the University of Freiburg bears, it is evidently not in the best interest of the university to significantly weaken one if its strongest assets. For the current high level of research, international exchange and visibility to be sustained, the university must make a commitment to keeping the Husserl-Heidegger chair intact.
Three major German-speaking newspapers have already reported on this scandal. One of the editors of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), Jürgen Kaube, reported in the FAZ:
The philosopher Markus Gabriel (himself engaged in the historical-critical analysis of Heidegger and his political entanglements) has written in the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
The philosopher and journalist Uwe Justus Wenzel reported in the Neue Züricher Zeitung:
The philosopher Sebastian Rödl (himself a strong voice in analytic philosophy in Germany) was interviewed on air here:
There is also an article in the local Badische Zeitung with confirmation of the plans by the Dean (himself a member of the philosophy department, yet not in favor of keeping the Husserl-Heidegger chair): www.badische-zeitung.de/literatur-und-vortraege/heidegger-lehrstuhl-perdu--101142616.html
The local newspaper for Meßkirch reports here – quoting local political voices from various parties: www.suedkurier.de/region/linzgau-zollern-alb/messkirch/Reaktionen-zur-Heidegger-Diskussion;art372566
Needless to say: no one engaged in building up a critical opposition to these ridiculous plans is interested in defending Heidegger as a person. But we all think that it is particularly important now to engage in historical and critical analysis of his work in light of the recent publication of the Black Notebooks. At least as important: giving up this chair means effectively destroying Husserl’s heritage in Freiburg. This should not be threatened by the not so surprising ‘discovery’ that Heidegger was a Nazi.
In the name of all signers.
Bonn, 09 Mar 2015 (aktiv bis 05 Apr 2015)