History Of Classical German Philosophy (2019/2020)

Course code
Name of lecturer
Laura Anna Macor
Laura Anna Macor
Number of ECTS credits allocated
Academic sector
Language of instruction
Sem. 2B dal Apr 6, 2020 al May 30, 2020.

Lesson timetable

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Learning outcomes

The course aims to foster a fruitful dialogue with the classics of German philosophy, focusing on a topic of crucial interest and enduring relevance. The learning objectives (whose attainment will be carefully checked and tested during the exam) comprise an ability to read and understand texts: students will be exposed to dialogue with some of the protagonists of German philosophical thought in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. They will sharpen their awareness of key terminology and, at the same time, increase their disposition to connect acquired knowledge with personal experience. The anticipated learning objectives are as follows:

1) Knowledge and understanding of classical German philosophy and its major exponents;
2) Knowledge and understanding of some of the most important texts of classical German philosophy; 3) Knowledge and understanding of the German philosophical lexicon developed between the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries.

1) Applying acquired knowledge and understanding to the reading of and commentary on philosophical texts belonging to the classical German tradition, possibly in the original or at least with some reference to it; this should be demonstrated by the possession of an appropriate vocabulary and the ability to identify interpretative problems and suggest possible solutions;
2) Applying acquired knowledge and understanding to the translation of the key words of classical German philosophy, which are often intrinsically polysemous; 3) Making autonomous judgments and engaging in independent reasoning;
4) Developing communication skills in the following areas: participating in guided discussions, explaining ideas and defending these through argument, and possibly delivering short presentations in class;
5) Enacting autonomous learning skills through the development of an appropriate methodology of study and interpretation of texts;
6) Developing the ability to connect study outcomes with personal experience with regard to the specific subject of the course, wherein particular attention will be paid to ability to differentiate between historical circumstances and contexts.


PREREQUISITES: Knowledge of early-modern philosophy at B.A. level. The linguistic considerations of the classes do not presuppose knowledge of German; all necessary information for a full understanding of the concepts and key words arising during the course will be provided in the teaching.

COURSE CONTENT: The Vocation of Man between Enlightenment, Critical Philosophy and Idealism.

The course will centre on the history of a key word of classical German philosophy, which at the same time expresses an existential interrogation of a-temporal validity: the “vocation of man” (Bestimmung des Menschen). The urgency of the need to understand “whence” human life comes, but also and most importantly, “towards which final goal” it is directed, represents one of philosophy’s major challenges, and it is no coincidence that German intellectuals between Enlightenment, Critical Philosophy and Idealism made it one of their main theoretical interests.

The course will consist of three parts, each devoted to a specific phase in the history of the concept being discussed:

1) Introduction of the concept “vocation of man” into the German lexicon and thought by Johann Joachim Spalding (1748): religious genesis, innovative potential from a theological perspective, polysemy and concomitant translation issues;
2) Controversy between Thomas Abbt and Moses Mendelssohn (1764-1767) and its legacy in Immanuel Kant: ethics and the philosophy of history;
3) Johann Gottlieb Fichte: the vocation of man in society and the role of the intellectual.

TEACHING METHODS: The course will successively involve lectures, discussions guided by the professor and short papers given by students. Students’ presentations are not mandatory, though strongly recommended in order to demonstrate attainment of both knowledge and skills outlined in the Learning Outcomes. Possible themes for papers will be offered in class, but students are equally invited to make their own pertinent suggestions: indeed, the ability to identify and explore new perspectives relating to the subject of the course represents a further, important step in the process of acquiring the anticipated skills.


1) J. J. Spalding, La vocazione dell’uomo, ed. by L. Balbiani and G. Landolfi Petrone, Bompiani, Milano 2011;

2) Learning materials published on e-learning;

3) J. G. Fichte, Missione del dotto, ed. by D. Fusaro, Postfazione by M. Ivaldo, Bompiani, Milano 2013;

4) L. A. Macor, Destinazione, missione, vocazione: “un’espressione pura per la pura idea filosofica di Bestimmung des Menschen”, in Rivista di storia della filosofia 70 (2015), 1, 163–201;

5) One of the following texts: M. Mendelssohn, Fedone. Sull’immortalità dell’anima, ed. by F. Tomasoni, Morcelliana, Brescia 2009; J. G. Fichte, La destinazione dell’uomo, transl. by R. Cantoni, ed. by C. Cesa, Laterza, Roma – Bari 2001.

* Students delivering a paper are exempt from 5).

LEARNING MATERIALS: Additional learning materials, which will form part of the mandatory reading, will be published on e-learning.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
L. A. Macor Destinazione, missione, vocazione: “un’espressione pura per la pura idea filosofica di Bestimmung des Menschen” 2015
M. Mendelssohn Fedone. Sull'immortalità dell'anima Morcelliana 2009
J. G. Fichte La destinazione dell'uomo Laterza 2001
J. J. Spalding La vocazione dell'uomo Bompiani 2011
J. G. Fichte Missione del dotto Bompiani 2013

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral exam + optional presentation in class.

The exam aims to assess the attainment of the course’s twofold learning outcomes (knowledge/understanding and skills), and this will be addressed as follows:
1) reading of and commenting on a philosophical text from among those discussed in class: students will have to demonstrate knowledge of the genesis of the text, ability to establish connections with other texts dealt with in class, and, finally, acquisition of a robust methodology for analysing texts and reflecting on their theoretical implications;
2) discussion of the linguistic features of the concept Bestimmung des Menschen and the concomitant issues involved in translating it: students will have to demonstrate understanding of the major challenges connected with the polysemy of the German term Bestimmung, and formulate their own position in this regard;
3) introduction and discussion of one of the two texts indicated in 5) of the Mandatory Reading: students will have to demonstrate capacity to introduce the relevant work in a systematic manner and contextualize it within the history of the concept; in doing this, they will have to demonstrate mastery of the lexicon and theoretical maturity.

Each part of the exam has equal weighting, i.e., a third of the final mark. Students who have presented an optional short paper will be exempt from part 3) of the exam, because both part 3) and the oral presentation relate to proficiency in the same skill, i.e. learning autonomy. The paper’s assessment will contribute a third of the final total.

No distinction will be made between attending and non-attending students.