William and Trudy Ausfahl Professor of Philosophy
Office: 309 Moses
Office hours: W 2-4
Phone: (510) 296-5926
I was born and grew up in Germany and though I have lived since then in the English-speaking world I remain considerably influenced by German culture and thought. Through an early education in the classical languages I became interested in philosophy (both ancient Greek and German). I initially pursued that interest at the Universities of Bonn and Munich where I was exposed to philosophical ideas coming from both the "analytic" and the "Continental" tradition. This left me convinced that the division between these two currents of contemporary thought is somewhat artificial and by now largely unfruitful.
At Oxford, I became familiar with Wittgenstein's work which made a decisive impression on me. Under the influence of Michael Dummett I also concerned myself extensively with the foundations of analytic philosophy and specifically with Frege's contribution to the development of modern logical and philosophy of language. At the same time my teachers R. M. Hare and Isaiah Berlin stirred my interest in questions of ethics and politics.
Through Dummmett I came to be familiar also with the neo-intuitionist conception of mathematics and its constructivism fostered in me eventually the radically historicist belief that we can understand ourselves only as beings with a particular evolution and history. For this reason also I have been drawn to the work of Nietzsche and Foucault. I am, in consequence, doubtful of the possibility of a "pure" apriori philosophizing and feel attracted rather to a realist and naturalistic view of things in place of any sort of formalistic rationalism.