D.the title of the book could be deceiving. He is only half responsible for the autobiographical memories of the philosopher Dieter Henrich. In front of us is the documentation of a very long conversation that Henrich’s colleagues – he calls them “co-authors” – Matthias Bormuth and Ulrich von Bülow had with him about his career.
The now 94-year-old Henrich has repeatedly engaged in this kind of conversational remembering. There is an audio book with such conversations and a whole series of interviews.
Henrich’s retrospectives deserve multiple interests. One is the historical one. The philosopher belongs to a generation that spent childhood and early youth at the end of the Weimar Republic and during National Socialism. As the only descendant of a religious and depressed family who survived his childhood, he saw illness and death very early – and that a dear God did not help him or his parents.
School days in National Socialism
He lost his father at the age of eleven. The blessing of the son on his deathbed does not leave him, who will not belong to any denomination, for a lifetime. In his hometown of Marburg he experienced National Socialism, which determined the years of almost all of his school days.
It appears to him as a cult that enabled young people like him to feel excited and to have a “high-flying gesture” without them having to do much. There is a lot of singing and playing soldier. “It was” also “a world without adults” for the National Socialist Young People.
What the school hardly offered took place there: the opportunity for personal activity. Henrich, who was previously isolated by his illnesses, enjoys it, not without worrying about what the eleven-year-old is also experiencing: anti-Semitism, enthusiasm for war, “I had the idea that being anti-Semitic was not essential for the young people. That was of course a glossing over mistake, ”says Henrich.
The memory of a twenty-year-old “Bannführer” who answered Henrich’s protest that Germany should not win the war for moral reasons, not with a punishment, but with the request that he should think it through for himself, regardless of the voices of those around him, is impressive. Not that the Nazi believer was right, but the appeal to think for yourself got stuck.
The appeal to think for yourself
When the war ended, Henrich was eighteen years old. Without having been drafted into military service, he associates the last years of the war with a particularly alert basic tension of his generation.
The unlikely survival motivated the will to learn afterwards. Henrich’s studies soon lead him from prehistory to philosophy. Here he finds the opportunity to clarify life problems in relation to demanding texts that deal with them.
One could almost say that in Paris Henrich would have become an existentialist at the time, in Marburg he became a Kantian. He got to know Hans Georg Gadamer and was thereby guided on a path of measured attitudes that determined him to this day and differentiated him from philosophical generation comrades such as Hans Blumenberg, Robert Spaemann, Michael Theunissen and Niklas Luhmann.
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