A common theme of this set of thirteen essays by one of the major figures in contemporary German philosophy is the idea of a postmetaphysical modernity. In his preface Wellmer relates the title of his book, Endgames , to this common theme: The historical utopias of the Marxist tradition and the programs of ultimate justification in the Kantian tradition are both endgames within metaphysics, the deconstruction of those utopias and programs of ultimate justification are endgames played with metaphysics, and the game with an end as ultimate telos—the end s of history, the end s of knowledge, the end s of human life—is metaphysics. The title, Endgames , finally also refers polemically to postmodernist games with an end of modernity; as opposed to these, Wellmer defends the fragile moral and political substance of the modernity that postmodernists attempt to overcome—and that sense of what needs to be preserved of the modern tradition for a postmetaphysical modernity is what makes his writings unique. In the first of the book's three parts, "Negative and Communicative Freedom," Wellmer focuses on political philosophy, examining in particular the links and tensions between liberal basic rights and modern ideas of democracy. The book closes with an appended critical essay on Hannah Arendt, reflecting the importance of Arendt's political philosophy to Wellmer's work.
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The German philosopher Albrecht Wellmer died earlier this month in Berlin, on September 13 at the age of Although Wellmer wrote both of his dissertions the Promotionsschrift and the Habilitationsschrift on topics in the philosophy of science, he soon turned to ethics and critical theory , and later to the study of the philosophy of language and the philosophy of music. In , he was awarded the Theodor Adorno Prize by the city of Frankfurt.
Infinitely less significant is that Wellmer also gave me my first job in philosophy, as a wissenschaftlicher Hilfsassistent — basically a teaching assistant — in the Institute for Hermeneutics in the philosophy department at the Free University of Berlin. I worked under him from to , including serving as a teaching assistant for the lectures that were published in as Sprachphilosophie: Eine Vorlesung. One of the pleasures of being a teaching assistant for Wellmer was that I was allowed to participate in the invitation-only, biweekly discussion group that Wellmer held with his assistant professors, Ph.
Generally, probably about fifteen people or so attended those discussions. Wellmer was, himself, quite an accomplished pianist, and it was evident how important music was to him — an abiding interest that he shared with his dissertation director, Adorno. There is the distinction between composers and performers. There are the questions of relevance: Why waste your time with that? But how will you earn a living? There are concerns that the field is overly focused on a too-narrow Western canon and that the major figures in the field lack an appropriate appreciation for the contributions of non-Western or other traditionally marginalized figures.
Finally, there is the fact that not everyone has an ear for it. Some can hear the beauty and the pathos, the terror and the joy. Others just hear noise. For the lucky few for whom it has resonance, though, philosophy — like music — can be a source of consolation in dark and debased times. I noted that some philosophers were composers while others were performers. It does so not in order so much to fraternize with them, but in order critically to engage with their experiences and perceptions.
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Philosophy as music: On the death of Albrecht Wellmer
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