The conference “Philosophy, Theory and History in Germany” (September 15-16, 2014) is aimed at shedding some light on the relationship between analytic philosophy and what historians have come to call “theory” in the historical discipline in Germany since the Second World War. Although debates by historians about the theory of history and the debates of philosophers about the philosophy of history are obviously related, it is a curious fact that these debates have rarely taken account of each other in the past decades. This conference intends to draw together a group of distinguished speakers to discuss the proper role of current philosophy in German historical scholarship especially since 1945.
The topic will be addressed from two different perspectives, one historical (a) and the other philosophical (b).
(a) First of all the conference will address the question: “What role has analytic philosophy played in German historical scholarship in the past?” Although this might seem like a simple question to answer, it yields in fact a very complicated one that has not yet found any consensus among historians. The difficulty lies in the fact that many historians have discussed topics such as epistemology, logic, or philosophy of language, but have rarely incorporated debates in analytic philosophy. The task will therefore be to explore the history of a silent dialogue and a non-relationship between history and analytic philosophy.
(b) Second, the conference will also address the question: “What role should current philosophy play for German historical scholarship today?” It is important not only to answer the historical question of how the disciplines of history and philosophy have related to each other in the past. It is also pivotal to understand where we stand today. This question can be framed by the historical trajectory, but in essence it must be led by the best arguments for or against the effort to bridge the gap between current philosophy and history. Due to the lack of interdisciplinary debate between analytic philosophers and historians in the past, it will be a challenge to find common ground. The effort will be richly rewarded if it will prove possible to find a language in which both historians and philosophers can communicate with each other about diverse topics. With so many German historians interested in questions about theory and methodology, I believe that debates with philosophers especially about issues such as philosophy of action, epistemology and logic could prove to be a storehouse of interesting ideas.
The conference "Philosophy, Theory and History in Germany Since 1945" is supported by the Ruhr University Research School PLUS, funded by Germany’s Excellence Initiative [DFG GSC 98/3].