Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann, the challenge of phenomenology

Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann, the commitment to phenomenology

Although it only aroused a strange feeling in the conductor, the foundations of 20th century European thought were forged under the title of “Phenomenology”. Born in Germany with the work of Edmund Husserl, the phenomenological movement attracted the most brilliant minds of the continent, many of whom gathered in the city of Freiburg im Breisgau, which at the beginning of the last century had become a veritable bastion of phenomenological thought. . With the sad message of the death of Professor Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann on August 2 at the age of 88, an important chapter in its history is closed.

Professor emeritus at the University of Fribourg, where he developed his entire academic career, von Herrmann was the culmination of a diameter that linked the beginnings of phenomenology to our present. At the same university, he received the Edmund Husserl Chair of Philosophy, which was succeeded by Martin Heidegger, his disciple and, like it or not, one of the greatest thinkers in Western history. This tradition continued with Husserl’s last assistant and Heidegger’s collaborator, Eugen Fink, also a professor at Freiburg and eventually a trainee at Herrmann.

Trained for years thinking of his adored Fink (by which he acquired a spontaneity uncommon with the work of Husserl), the career of Prosefor von Herrmann is marked by his rapprochement with Heidegger, of whom he will be the personal assistant from from 1972, in support of Von Herrmann asked to undertake, as an elaborate executor, the colossal task of revealing, defending and disseminating his vast and puzzling intellectual endowment; task to which he devoted himself until the last hours of his life.

Most of the contributions left (partly in English, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Italian or Gachupin) are the expression of this commitment to Heidegger, understood as a personal obligation. Among them stands out a detailed commentary on Being and Time, Subject and Dasein (1974, 42014) and Paths to Event (1994), in which he tries to shed light on the hermetic philosophy of the “second” Heidegger. Under the direction of Hermann, the monumental printing of the complete work of this thinker (which exceeds 100 volumes, still unfinished) was carried out, not exempt from several polemics which he resolutely faced, for which he became an essential reference for professional scholars. Studies.

During his years as a university professor, he combined this success with supervising the work of many researchers who came to Friborg from all over the world to benefit from his teaching. His retirement in 1999 meant an increase in his work as an interpreter and editor, recently distinguished with the title of honorary professor by the University of Pavia. In the last years of his life he had also begun to distribute his own readings of Descartes, Leibniz and Kant.

The claim with which he assumes this titanic commitment to Heidegger, despite the difficulties, is exemplary. However, the loss of Hermann is painful for all that he transmitted in his personal encounters, the value of which exceeded that of his works. As if the timing and the amount of work were not delegated, he continued in the last years of his life to welcome young researchers in his personal studio in Zähringen, patiently transmitting his knowledge, his passion and the rigor of phenomenological thought. . Thanks to the proximity of these encounters, this rigor was felt in countless gestures with which von Herrmann, as he liked to make sure, tried to teach, as his teachers Heidegger and Fink taught him, who at their turn had learned them from Husserl. With the assassination of Professor von Herrmann at dawn on August 2, the historical continuity he maintained for so many years in his work and in his person came to an end.

David Hereza Modrego has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Valencia. In 2019, he carried out a research stay with Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann.

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