Theses Doctoral

History and Metaphor: Hans Blumenberg's Theory of Language

Bajohr, Hannes

This dissertation reconstructs German philosopher Hans Blumenberg’s theory of language in its intellectual and historical context. It shows how Blumenberg develops an original interpretation of language as a “weak” medium of expression, and offers an approach to Blumenberg’s whole oeuvre by tracing the changes he makes to this conception over the course of his career.
In a first phase, Blumenberg develops a notion of language that is based on intersubjective situatedness, which both accounts for the impossibility of language to ever reach full objectivity, as Edmund Husserl set out to do, and language’s function to infer this intersubjectivity as the historical understanding of the reality in which it arose. The systematic investigation of these “concepts of reality” Blumenberg calls “historical phenomenology,” and it informs his thought up to the late nineteen-sixties. In a second phase, Blumenberg turns away from the philosophy of history and toward anthropology; now, intersubjectivity is no longer an exclusively linguistic phenomenon. Language loses its dominant status and is incorporated into a “phenomenological anthropology” that studies all productions of meaning—be they linguistic or otherwise—as “significances.” Here, language is one tool among others for human survival.
In tracing these changes, the thesis contextualizes both Blumenberg’s major works and discusses unknown archival material. In addition to a new assessment of Blumenberg’s biographical background, the thesis addresses his metaphorology, his literary theory, and, in particular, his theory of liberalism.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Germanic Languages
Thesis Advisors
Müller, Harro
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 23, 2017