Philosophy: Germany celebrates reluctant Habermas

18 June 2009
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

, 1 January 1970
Jürgen Habermas, the only living world-renowned German philosopher, turned 80 this 18 June – and the press is lionising the octogenarian thinker. “He is the most studied exponent of the generation of the (post-war) scientific miracle”, trumpets the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which has also published a 1968 photograph of the young Professor Habermas. To understand the philosopher’s merit, the German daily pursues, one has to situate his achievements in their historical context: “Not a single school of thought was spared by the Nazi excesses,” and there was no knowing which remnants of German thought might actually survive. The author of the “Theory of Communicative Action”, however, intellectually chaperoned the fledgling German Federal Republic and sought to “improve the level of discourse in public debate”. Habermas' mood, however, is far from celebratory. “I have no desire to be the object of any manifestation of nostalgia whatsoever,” he has said.