Faculty of PhilosophyPhilosophy
Philosophy is at times viewed as abstract discussion of life’s “big questions”. Although students of philosophy do discuss topics which one might consider life’s “big questions”, they first gain the methods and skills they need to consider these issues in detail. This includes the art of rational argumentation, and informed reading of central philosophical texts.
Philosophy can largely be broken down into two key areas; theoretical philosophy and practical philosophy. The former considers the possibilities and limits of knowledge, the structure of consciousness, the relationship of the mind and material, or other well-known questions about why things exists and why other things don’t. Practical philosophy considers human behaviour in the broader sense, asking what human actions are, what role human intentions play, and what humans may, should or can justifiably do.
The degree programme consists primarily in lectures and seminars. Professors and associate professors present their own research in lectures, they provide an overview of philosophical history or detailed insight into current philosophical debates. Seminars offer a forum for students to make their own contributions. Each course of seminars will focus on one text or one central topic per semester. They give students the opportunity to engage in inspiring discussion, carry out detailed analysis and contribute to highly contested disputes. The degree course consists primarily of seminars during which texts are the object of close study; students trace and reconstruct arguments, examine and critique these.
Special Features and Characteristics
With four professorships, the department is comparatively small, yet it ranks internationally amongst the best philosophy institutes in the world. The department has attracted numerous undergraduate students, doctoral students and researchers from around the world. It is therefore able to offer students a lively and stimulating environment for learning and study.
The degree programme in Philosophy is designed to allow students sufficient freedom to develop their independence and creativity. It thereby contrasts with the large number of strictly regimented degree programmes offered today. As far as possible, the department enables students to develop their own specialisms.
The traditional study of philosophy at Heidelberg University offers a systematic and historical approach to both research and learning.
There are systematic specialisms in theoretical philosophy, and in particular in the philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of the mind, philosophy of science and hermeneutics.
Historical specialisms focus on antique and early modern philosophy, German idealism and philosophy of the twentieth century. In addition, teaching covers further topic areas within traditional and contemporary philosophy.
Like many of the humanities subjects, a degree in philosophy does not prepare for students for any one particular career. Students of Philosophy have developed very good thinking skills, have acquired excellent analysis skills and have demonstrated that they are able to understand complex thought processes and write about them. They have also honed their discussion and argumentation skills and have proven their abilities to organise their own time and studies. Graduates of a degree programme in Philosophy are therefore particularly well equipped for work in fields which require that they quickly familiarise themselves with new and unknown subjects. Graduates of Philosophy may pursue a career in any of the following fields:
- in publishing
- in foundations and associations
- in broadcasting and journalism
- in administration
- in the education sector
- in research
It is important that students of philosophy explore potential areas of employment early on, through work placements, part-time work or creative reflection.
I worked for many years in private industry in the concrete technology sector. So philosophy was an entirely new field for me. When I began the course, I had some initial difficulties finding my feet in the subject. But as the degree programme progressed, I noticed how fulfilling and enriching the study of philosophy is. Today, I can barely imagine what I would be like had I not spent those years in Heidelberg.
Peter Abelmann, 30, Philosophy, 6th semester Bachelor