19th June: Public lecture by Jürgen Habermas

The famous philosopher returns to Goethe University on the occasion of his 90th birthday to talk about the relationship between morality and ethics

Jürgen Habermas is the most important contemporary German philosopher and one of the most frequently cited intellectuals worldwide. He played a decisive role in shaping the political debates in the Federal Republic of Germany. On the occasion of his 90th birthday, Habermas will return to Goethe University, where he carried out his research and taught until his retirement. The programme includes a public lecture in German by Habermas with the title: “Noch einmal: Zum Verhältnis von Moralität und Sittlichkeit“ (Once more: on the relationship between morality and ethics) on Wednesday, 19th June 2019 at 6:00 p.m. in the Hörsaalzentrum (HZ 1) on Westend Campus at Goethe University, Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 5, 60323 Frankfurt am Main.

In his lecture, Jürgen Habermas takes up a central issue in the field of practical philosophy and one that plays a significant role in his work. Starting from the controversy between Kant and Hegel, he asks how the principles of moral and political autonomy behave with regard to the “ethical” reality of historically situated communities. He argues that the principles of justice have priority over the imperatives of social integration and from this draws conclusions for our present day.

Jürgen Habermas will celebrate his birthday the day before (18th June), and will then come to Frankfurt following an invitation by Professor Rainer Forst and Professor Klaus Günther, speakers of the Cluster if Excellence “The Formation of Normative Orders” at Goethe University. The Leibniz research group at Goethe University “Transnational Justice”, headed by Professor Forst, was also involved in organizing the lecture.

Goethe University President Professor Birgitta Wolff said:

“Jürgen Habermas is one of the most influential personalities of Goethe University and contemporary philosophy. His discourse theory also inspired the Cluster of Excellence ‘The Formation of Normative Orders’, which has led to further current research initiatives such as the Frankfurt contribution to the “Institute for Societal Cohesion’.”

Professor Rainer Forst, political philosopher, stated:

“It’s is a great honour and pleasure for us to welcome Jürgen Habermas at Goethe University on the occasion of his birthday. His discourse theory has been paradigm shaping in the fields of philosophy, law, and the social sciences. No one considering the most urgent challenges of our day, such as global justice, religiously pluralistic societies, or questions of cosmopolitan democracy and state citizenship can bypass his work.”

Jürgen Habermas had three separate stays in Frankfurt, where in his own words he experienced “the most exciting times” of his “adult life”. He worked as assistant at the Institute for Social Research with Theodor W. Adorno from 1956 to 1959. As successor to Max Horkheimer, he held the double chair for philosophy and sociology at Goethe University from 1964 to 1971.

Following his time at the Max-Planck-Institut zur Erforschung der Lebensbedingungen der wissenschaftlich-technischen Welt (Max Planck Institute for the research of living conditions in scientific-technical world) in Starnberg, where he still lives today, he again followed a summons to Frankfurt despite attractive alternative offers from the U.S. and other places. Here, he carried out research and taught as professor for philosophy with a focus on social philosophy from 1983 until his retirement in 1994.

The Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize is among the many awards and distinctions Jürgen Habermas has received over his lifetime. This is still the most important and best endowed national science prize and Habermas received it in 1986, the year it was first awarded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). He used the funds to establish a legal-philosophical research group the “AG Rechtstheorie” (Legal Theory Working Group). Rainer Forst and the legal scholar Klaus Günther were among its members.

The lecture will be opened by Goethe University President Professor Birgitta Wolff, followed by welcoming words from Ayse Asar, State Secretary of the Hessian Ministry of Higher Education, Research and the Arts, and from Professor Rainer Forst.

Media representatives and the interested public are warmly welcome to attend. The lecture will be in German.

During an internal conference at Goethe University in the following days, former students and colleagues of Jürgen Habermas will discuss his work with him, in particular his new book to be published in the fall.

Please note: The organisers regret that interview requests with Professor Habermas cannot be accommodated.

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