Karl Jaspers Prize for Prof. Dr. Hans Maier
3 February 2014
Kirchhof, president of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Rector Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel and the mayor of the City of Heidelberg, Dr. Eckart Würzner.
Scholar and former education policy maker Prof. Dr. Hans Maier has received the Karl Jaspers Prize. The Prize, which is endowed with EUR 25,000, is awarded jointly by Heidelberg University, the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the City of Heidelberg. The distinction was bestowed on Prof. Maier in recognition of his scholarly achievements, which are international in scope and “sustained by a philosophical spirit”. Alongside his reputation as a historian, political scientist and philosopher Hans Maier has also made a name for himself as Bavaria’s minister of education. The award was created in 1983 in honour of the 100th anniversary of the birth of German philosopher Karl Jaspers (1883-1969) and has been awarded nine times so far. The Prize was presented to Prof. Maier at a ceremony on 31 January 2014 at Heidelberg University.
The regulations for the conferral of the Prize stipulate that the significance of the academic achievements of the recipient should “exceed the normal limits of a discipline in the humanities or psychiatry and promote interdisciplinary communication”. Hans Maier (b. 1931) studied history, Romance languages and literature, German and philosophy. Under the supervision of the Freiburg political scientist Arnold Bergstraesser, he was awarded his doctorate in 1957, the title of his thesis being “Revolution and the Church. Studies on the Early History of Christian Democracy.” After going on to complete his habilitation, Hans Maier was appointed professor of political science at Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich in 1962. Alongside political and historical topics, his special research interests also extend to philosophical and theological issues.
In 1970, after a period on the German Education Council, Hans Maier entered the world of active politics as minister of education in Bavaria. This office, which he exercised until 1986, made him president of the Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs in 1970/71 and 1982. From 1978 to 1987 Hans Maier was also a member of the Bavarian parliament. In 1988 he returned to Munich University, where he held the professorship for Christian philosophy and the theory of religion and culture until 1999. The many offices he held in this period include that of president of the Central Committee of German Catholics. He has received many distinctions for his work and scholarly achievements.
The presentation ceremony of the Karl Jaspers Prize was opened by the Rector of Heidelberg University, Prof. Dr. Bernhard Eitel. There followed speeches from Dr. Eckart Würzner, mayor of the City of Heidelberg, and Prof. Dr. Paul Kirchhof, president of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities. The central appreciation of Hans Maier’s achievements was delivered by Heidelberg scholar Prof. Dr. Jens Halfwassen of the university’s Department of Philosophy. The recipient himself spoke on the subject “Overstepping the Mark: Experience with Interdisciplinary Studies”. At a second event the following day, Hans Maier engaged in discussion and debate with Heidelberg students.
The Karl Jaspers Prize commemorates a “scholar whose life’s work in psychopathology, philosophy and world philosophy was greatly revered throughout the world”. In addition, the Prize is designed as a “token of grateful appreciation for his opposition to the reprehensible spirit of an epoch”. As co-founder of existentialism, Karl Jaspers was one of the most influential German-speaking philosophers of the 20th century. After working as an academic assistant at the university’s Psychiatric Hospital, he did his habilitation in psychology and as of the early 1920s taught philosophy at Heidelberg University. During the Nazi period he was dismissed from office and subjected to a publication ban. After the War, Jaspers was a member of the Committee of Thirteen that organised the reconstruction of the university. He resumed his duties at Ruperto Carola and was made honorary senator in 1946.
In 2010, Heidelberg University set up the Karl Jaspers Chair for the investigation of the philosophical foundations of psychiatry and psychotherapy. This research is designed to build bridges between philosophy, psychiatry and the neurosciences. Heidelberg University’s Karl Jaspers Centre for Transcultural Research is the seat of the “Asia and Europe in a Global Context” cluster of excellence. A major project at the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities is devoted to the completion of a commented edition of Karl Jaspers’ complete works as well as hitherto unpublished writings and letters.