History Of Classical German Philosophy (2020/2021)

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 14, 2021 al May 29, 2021.

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 and contemporary philosophy at B.A. level. The linguistic considerations of the classes do not presuppose knowledge of German nor of Ancient Greek: 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: Introspection, Research and Exercise. The Dimensions of “Care” in Classical German Philosophy.

The course aims to offer a brand new narrative of classical German philosophy both chronologically and theoretically: on the one hand, classical German philosophy will be extended backwards so as to include the late Enlightenment, on the other hand, it will be reconstructed using the notions of “spiritual exercise”, “art of living” and “care”. These notions have originally established themselves in the different, yet not unrelated contexts of contemporary philosophy (Heidegger, Foucault) and scholarship on Ancient thought (Pierre Hadot, Christoph Horn), but represent a valuable key also to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century German culture, which they help to describe in a different way than we are accustomed to. The conception of philosophy which follows from this novel picture is mainly practical and existential, and is based on self-knowledge and the clear insight into one’s role in the world as preconditions for any further intellectual endeavor, but most importantly for daily behavior. Philosophy’s task, to be transmitted to theology and literature, is therefore to guide the human being to discovering their own vocation and the best means to realize it, according to what Lessing and Kant identified as Socrates’ teaching, which in their eyes was however immediately forgotten by his scholars and successors.
In order to do justice to the specific features of this theoretical and cultural project, often obscured by the epistemological character of both criticism and the subsequent idealistic theories, the course will consist of three parts:

1) Introduction to classical German philosophy and revision of its traditional image: periodization,
alternative historiographical categories, authors, ideas, literary genres;
2) Key words: care (“Sorge”), vocation (“Bestimmung”), mission, (“Sendung”), calling (“Beruf”/“Berufung”), aim (“Zweck”) or final aim (“Endzweck”), striving for perfection/perfecting (“Vervollkommnung”), meditation (“Betrachtung”) e comparison with equivalent ancient terms referring to exercise, practice and care;
3) Authors and texts: reading of and commentary on selected passages taken from philosophical, theological and literary works by authors such as Johann Joachim Spalding, Gotthold Ephraim Lessing, Thomas Abbt, Moses Mendelssohn, Immanuel Kant, Johann Gottfried Herder and Johann Gottlieb Fichte.

TEACHING METHODS: The modality of course delivery will depend on the University’s measures against COVID-19. The course will consist of lectures as well as, if possible, 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 identified by the professor, 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. Also non-attending students can prepare a short essay.


1) Learning materials published on e-learning;

2) L. A. Macor, Bestimmung des Menschen, in Tra filosofia della natura e antropologia filosofica. Parole-chiave nel percorso di Gian Franco Frigo, a cura di M. Dalla Valle, D. De Pretto, F. Grigenti e L. Illetterati, Padova University Press, Padova 2013, pp. 27-35;**

3) One of the following texts: M. Mendelssohn, Fedone. Sull’immortalità dell’anima, ed. by F. Tomasoni, Morcelliana, Brescia 2009; J. G. Fichte, Missione del dotto, ed. by D. Fusaro, Postfazione by M. Ivaldo, Bompiani, Milano 2013; J. G. Fichte, La destinazione dell’uomo, transl. by R. Cantoni, ed. by C. Cesa, Laterza, Roma – Bari 2001.*

* Students preparing an essay are exempt from 3).
** This article will be made available on e-learning.

LEARNING MATERIALS: Documents published on e-learning will include parts 1) and 2) of the Mandatory reading as well as possible additional learning materials.

Reference books
Author Title Publisher Year ISBN Note
M. Mendelssohn Fedone. Sull'immortalità dell'anima Morcelliana 2009
J. G. Fichte La destinazione dell'uomo Laterza 2001
J. G. Fichte Missione del dotto Bompiani 2013
AAVV Tra filosofia della natura e antropologia filosofica. Parole-chiave nel percorso di Gian Franco Frigo Padova University Press 2013 9788897385813 pp. 27-35

Assessment methods and criteria

Oral exam + optional paper.

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) discussion of one or more topics/concepts and/or reading of and commenting on one text from among those belonging to parts 1) and 2) of the Mandatory Reading: students will have to demonstrate understanding of the new image of classical German philosophy and/or acquisition of a robust methodology for analysing texts and reflecting on their theoretical implications;

2) presentation and discussion of one of the three texts indicated in part 3) of the Mandatory Reading: students will have to demonstrate capacity to introduce the relevant work in a systematic manner and contextualize it within the classical German philosophy and its new image; 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 half of the final mark. Students who have prepared an optional short paper will be exempt from part 2) of the exam, because both part 2) and the paper relate to proficiency in the same skill, i.e. learning autonomy. The paper’s assessment will thus contribute a half of the final total.

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