Hans Albert

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Hans Albert (2005)

Hans Albert (born February 8, 1921 in Cologne ) is a German sociologist , philosopher and university professor . From 1963 to 1989 he held the chair for sociology and science at the University of Mannheim . He is considered to be one of the main representatives of critical rationalism . The Hans Albert Institute was founded in February 2020 to honor his work .


Albert was the son of a classical philologist and Protestant religion teacher. As a child he was very interested in history, reading in particular Oswald Spengler and works on war studies because he wanted to become an officer. After graduating from high school, Albert signed up as a volunteer in 1939 and initially joined the Reich Labor Service , where he was assigned to work on the Siegfried Line . He then came to the artillery , first to the reserve in Vienna and then to combat operations in France and Greece.

After being a prisoner of war in the United States , Albert began studying at the University of Cologne , initially with a degree in business administration. He heard his first sociology lecture from Leopold von Wiese ; With this he was able to write his diploma thesis on politics and economics as subjects of political and economic theory at his own request and in 1952 he received his doctorate with Rationality and Existence - Political Arithmetic and Political Anthropology .

Albert's habilitation thesis Economics as the Sociology of Commercial Relations was rejected in 1955 by both René König and the dean of the Faculty of Economics because his criticism was supposedly neither economics nor sociology. In addition, Albert had previously been secretly denounced as an alleged member of the Communist Party . He then qualified as a professor in Cologne in 1957 with a series of articles on social policy , since he was assistant to Gerhard Weisser , the holder of the chair for this subject. However, he held the courses in logic, science and the critique of welfare economics and published his critique of pure economics .

In 1963 Albert received a call to the newly created chair for sociology and science at the then business school, now the University of Mannheim . Although he received several appointments at other universities, he stayed in Mannheim until his retirement in 1989.

Albert holds honorary doctorates from the universities of Linz (1995), Athens (1997), Kassel (2000), Graz (2007) and Klagenfurt (2007) as well as an elected member of the Academia Europaea (1989) and the Accademia delle Scienze di Torino (2006).

Albert is on the Advisory Board of the Giordano Bruno Foundation .

On Albert's 99th birthday, the Hans Albert Institute, based in Oberwesel, was opened, a think tank to promote critical and rational thinking in politics, business and society.


In sociology and economics, Albert has made a particular contribution to market sociology . He advocated the unity of the method in natural and social sciences and also pleaded for the abolition of the traditional specialist boundaries between economics, sociology, law and other social sciences. The utilitarian theory tradition he held despite all the arguments put forward by himself objections of the more interesting finding program compared to functionalism or Marxism .

Albert had passed from instrumentalist - decisionist positions, which he drew from Martin Heidegger and Hugo Dingler in his dissertation , to the reception of Victor Kraft and Karl Popper , which he initially also considered to be a representative of logical positivism . During the Alpbach University Weeks , Albert met Paul Feyerabend in 1955 and then Popper in person in 1958. As a representative of critical rationalism , Albert finally took part in October 1961 alongside Popper as a counterpart to Theodor W. Adorno and Jürgen Habermas in the so-called positivism dispute, in which none of the participants took a positivist position in the narrower sense. Albert found it particularly ironic that Habermas took positions there that were almost similar to those he had taken before, but had since given up. One of his main statements, which are often strongly oriented towards Popper: Since reason is fallible, theories have to be criticized again and again.

Albert is co-editor of the journal Enlightenment and Criticism and honorary president of the Society for Critical Philosophy Nuremberg . He is also a scientific adviser to the Bavarian Humanistic Academy and the Giordano Bruno Foundation .


In Albert's philosophy, epistemology is of great importance. Initially representing the ideas of positivism , he sympathized with Critical Rationalism from the mid-1950s and, alongside Karl Popper, developed into the best-known exponent of this philosophical and epistemological view. Correspondingly, a fundamental assumption of his philosophical view states that no assertion or statement (proposition) , if it comes from evident intuition, deductive reasoning and evidence (e.g. through axiomatics in logic and mathematics), empirical - inductive knowledge, or what origin Whatever a statement may have, it can be traced back to a reliable justification. It is not possible to claim ultimate justification for any statement . So reliable knowledge is not possible.

"All certainties in knowledge are self-fabricated and therefore worthless for the understanding of reality"

- Hans Albert : Treatise on Critical Reason, 1991; 5th edition, publisher: JCB Mohr. P. 36

Albert countered the theses of the classical ideal of knowledge with his conception of critical rationalism. His critical method of subjecting statements, assertions, theories to constant critical examination and the associated rejection of any ultimate justification claims is probably based on the conclusions that can be drawn from the so-called Munchausen Trilemma . With the help of this trilemma, Albert puts forward the thesis that any attempt to make an assertion to a finally founded and thus completely uncritical truth must fail and therefore also the classical ideal of knowledge with its recourse to an Archimedean point (foundation), from which to secure Knowledge can be guaranteed in order to arrive at a final justified assertion, that is, an absolutely indubitable truth of human knowledge, which is an illusion. Because if I assert that this or that statement is absolutely true because I can trace it back to an absolutely certain justification, then, according to the consequences that can be drawn from this trilemma, I always have three possibilities that an alleged ultimate justification fall victim to will, and therefore all of them destroy the attempted solution of wanting to characterize any claim as an absolute and therefore uncritical truth:

  1. One way in which the assertion of an ultimate truth will fail is infinite recourse . This expresses that the process of justification never ends. For a reason - even for one that claims to be a final reason - a further reason can always be required. Because the justification of a phenomenon to be explained is again in need of justification.
  2. A second possibility is circular reasoning , whereby an assertion is made about a phenomenon that is already contained in the alleged phenomenon itself. A simple example of a circular argument would be the following line of argument: Why do chickens lay eggs? Because they're chickens! And why are they chickens? Because they lay eggs!
  3. The last option is the arbitrary termination of the justification procedure.

If the infinite regress and the logical circle are to be avoided when tracing allegations back to a secure foundation, then the just mentioned "divorce example" makes it clear that the termination of the justification procedure is in principle possible and feasible, which is why it is so or similar in practice is used frequently. The termination of the justification procedure seems to offer a solid foundation of certain knowledge, as long as an assertion can only be immunized well enough against critical objections and thus raised to an absolutely valid assertion, about which no doubt seems possible, and should not even be allowed . But such a break in the chain of reasons and the intended immunization of criticism is nothing more than recourse to a dogma that is set up in order to take away the risk of the assertions failing due to possible objections. As a result, the act of arbitrariness is retained: The chain of reasons is interrupted at the point that appears sufficiently evident or plausible to the person making the argument.

Albert's conclusion from the Münchhausen Trilemma is: Everything and everyone is fallible . Nothing and nobody is infallible. And if nothing and no one can be infallible, then of course also not the pure human mind or the pure human sensory perception, which could receive the revealed truth of the world and bring man into possession of the indubitable truth of the world, as is the case with classical epistemology is claimed.

Albert tries to evade the ultimate justification claim of classical epistemology and thus any kind of dogmatism. Our statements about the world are therefore always to be understood as provisional statements, precisely as assumptions about the true processes of an assumed real world. All of our statements about the world are theories that can be considered valid until a new theory with greater explanatory power, one that can describe the world more comprehensively and precisely, that has fewer contradictions and greater congruence with other theories about the real world, the description of the world improved. Thus, an attempt can always be made to subject every theory to a test by means of a comprehensive critical examination of the statements conceived as hypothetical about the truth of our findings and our knowledge of the real world - if it fails in reality or to be proven and thus the Maybe to get a little closer to truth (Popper's principle of falsification ). A critical examination of the real world is more likely to get closer to the truth of our findings than is possible with dogmatic assertions. Because, as is well known, dogmatic assertions claim that they represent the absolute and only truth. Possible alternatives must therefore all correspond to the untruth. A view that, in view of the most varied of philosophical and ideological views, some of which claim to have the certainty of being in possession of the one absolute truth, represents a contradicting and therefore implausible, unsatisfactory situation.

Thus, Critical Rationalism sticks to the idea of ​​the possibility of one or the truth of the world, as it can also be found in classical epistemology, but, in contrast, rejects the complete certainty of the knowledge and knowledge of this truth and thus the exclusion of any Doubt. As with Immanuel Kant , for example, the idea of ​​truth represents a regulative principle of the human striving for knowledge. Nothing can be recognized as completely true and known with absolute certainty. But therefore the idea of ​​a possibly ( extramental ) existing truth, to which one can come closer, but without ever being able to recognize and know this with absolute certainty, to give up, is equivalent to an opened "barrier" that calls for the path of relativism and / or to enter subjectivism , which in terms of its plausibility, i.e. when comparing its claims with our everyday and scientific logics, experiences and experiences that we can have in and with the real world, is obviously too contradictory.

Albert's criticism is a plausible approach to arrive at the clearest and most consistent description of our human knowledge situation and possibility of knowledge. But in no case does he want to proclaim an absolute truth that is free from errors and mistakes.

Albert's critical philosophy sees itself and with it his own statements as a hypothesis - a theory that would like to face criticism in order to discover mistakes and errors in our experience of the world and our reflection on it, the supposed real existence of the World and thus the truth of this world, maybe to get a little closer. A quote from Albert should clarify this objective:

“While classical rationalism elevated certain instances - reason or the senses - to epistemological authorities and thereby sought to make them infallible and thus immune to criticism, because otherwise the goal of secure justification would not appear attainable, critical rationalism can no longer be infallible and thus no instance the right to dogmatize certain solutions to problems. There is neither a problem solution nor an authority responsible for solving certain problems, which would necessarily have to be withdrawn from criticism from the outset. It can even be assumed that authorities for whom such criticism immunity is claimed are not infrequently awarded in this way because their problem-solving would have little chance of withstanding any criticism that would otherwise be possible. The more such a claim is emphasized, the more likely it is that the suspicion is justified that behind this claim is the fear of uncovering errors, that is to say: the fear of the truth. "

- Hans Albert : Treatise on Critical Reason, 1991; 5th edition, publisher: JCB Mohr. P. 44

Albert also dealt with the critical psychology of Klaus Holzkamp .

Criticism of religion

"Religion can be defined as [...] the belief in numinous beings of a personal or impersonal character - gods, spirits, demons, angels or divine powers - that have certain properties and possible effects and therefore for the fate of people and thus also for their salvation are important, and a related practice of the members of the groups concerned, which is suitable to take account of the power of these beings and to influence them in the sense of their own salvation, ie a culture that is supported by healing technology is shaped. "

Albert, who sees himself as a dedicated atheist , has repeatedly and sharply criticized all forms of religious belief and the actually existing religions, especially Catholicism. He expressly turned against liberal theologians such as Rudolf Bultmann and Hans Küng . Against this he argued primarily that Christian theology is by no means easily compatible with the knowledge of modern natural science and, above all, that it also has logical inconsistencies (e.g. the theodicy problem ). He does not consider the attempts at resolution discussed here by theologians and philosophers to be sound.

Albert also made considerable ethical objections to official Catholicism : on the one hand, he criticized intolerance and the belief in authority, on the other hand, the idea of ​​retribution, which is shown in the notions of punishment from hell without any prospect of mercy. He also criticized the defense of religious belief systems by his old adversary Jürgen Habermas , who had stabbed the Enlightenment in the back.



  • 1968 treatise on critical reason Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen; 5th, verb. & exp. Edition 1991; ISBN 3-8252-1609-8 . 1992: ISBN 3-16-145721-8 .
  • 1969 (with Adorno, Dahrendorf, Habermas, Pilot and Popper): The Positivism Controversy in German Sociology Luchterhand, Neuwied & Berlin; 8th edition 1980.
  • 1973 Theological wrong way. Gerhard Ebeling and the right use of reason , Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, ISBN 3-16-534911-8 .
  • 1975 Transzendentale Träumereien , Hoffmann & Campe, ISBN 3-455-09167-9 , current edition, part of the Critique of Transcendental Thinking .
  • 1977 Critical Reason and Human Practice (with an autobiographical introduction), Reclam, Stuttgart; Universal library N. 9874, 2nd edition, reviewed and supplemented, 1984.
  • 1978 treatise on rational practice Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, ISBN 978-3-16-840842-0 .
  • 1979 The misery of theology. Critical examination of Hans Küng . Hoffmann & Campe, ISBN 3-455-08853-8 ; extended new edition Alibri, Aschaffenburg 2005 ISBN 3-86569-001-7 ; 3rd, expanded edition, ibid. 2012 ISBN 978-3-86569-111-8 .
  • 1982 Science and the fallibility of reason Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen
  • 1987 Critique of Pure Epistemology. The problem of knowledge in a realistic perspective , Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen
  • 1994 Critique of Pure Hermeneutics. Anti-realism and the problem of understanding , Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen
  • 1994 Introduction to Critical Rationalism, Lecture Cassette Edition (nine tape cassettes with an accompanying text by HG Russ), Carl Auer, Heidelberg.
  • 2000 Critical Rationalism Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen (UTB 2138)
  • 2001 Hans Albert. Reader Mohr Siebeck UTB, Tübingen (collection of articles, list of publications)
  • 2003 Critique of Transcendental Thinking , Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, ISBN 978-3-16-148197-0 .
  • 2005 Hans Albert & Karl R. Popper: Correspondence , ed. Martin Morgenstern and Robert Zimmer, Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, ISBN 3-596-16586-5 .
  • 2007 Entangled in controversy. From cultural pessimism to critical rationalism , Lit, Münster, ISBN 3-8258-0433-X .
  • 2008 Joseph Ratzinger's Salvation of Christianity: Limitations on the Use of Reason in the Service of Religious Faith , Alibri, Aschaffenburg, ISBN 3-86569-037-8 .
  • 2008 (with Paul Feyerabend ): Briefwechsel , Vol. I: 1958–1971 , ed. Wilhelm Baum , Kitab Vlg., Klagenfurt / Vienna 2008
  • 2009 (with Paul Feyerabend ): Briefwechsel , Vol. II: 1972-1986 , ed. Wilhelm Baum and Michael Mühlmann, Kitab, Klagenfurt / Vienna, ISBN 978-3-902585-27-1 .
  • 2011 Critical Reason and Rational Practice , Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, ISBN 978-3-16-150624-6 .
  • 2011 Conversations with Hans Albert , edited by Robert Zimmer and Martin Morgenstern , Lit, Münster, ISBN 978-3-643-10957-6 .
  • 2012 power and law. Basic problems of politics and economics , Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, ISBN 978-3-16-151846-1 .
  • 2013 Critique of Theological Thought , Series: Enlightenment, Volume 2, LIT Verlag, Berlin, ISBN 978-3-643-12153-0
  • 2014 Economics as the Sociology of Commercial Relations , Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen, ISBN 978-3-16-152775-3
  • 2017 On the analysis and criticism of religions , Alibri, Aschaffenburg, ISBN 978-3-86569-270-2

Essays and conversations


  • Eric Hilgendorf , Hans Albert for an introduction . Junius, Hamburg 1997, ISBN 3-88506-943-1
  • Hans-Joachim Niemann , Lexicon of Critical Rationalism , Tübingen (Mohr-Siebeck) 2004, 423 + XII S., ISBN 3-16-148395-2 ; Study edition 2006 ISBN 3-16-149158-0 .
  • Ley, Hermann , Müller, Thomas, Critical Reason and Revolution: on the controversy between Hans Albert and Jürgen Habermas , Cologne (Pahl-Rugenstein) 1971.
  • Ebeling, Gerhard , Critical Rationalism? On Hans Albert's treatise on critical reason , Tübingen (Mohr) 1973.
  • Mojse, Georg-Matthias, philosophy of science and discussion of ethics with Hans Albert , Bonn (Bouvier) 1979.
  • Kröger, Jörn, Normativism in Business Administration: a contribution to the discussion of methods in economics with special consideration of the concept of bridging principles by Hans Albert , Stuttgart (Poeschel) 1981.
  • Weger, Karl-Heinz, On the misery of critical rationalism: critical discussion of the question of the recognizability of God in Hans Albert , Regensburg (Pustet) 1981.
  • Suchla, Peter, Critical Rationalism in Theological Examination: On the Controversy between Hans Albert and Gerhard Ebeling , Frankfurt am Main / Bern (Lang) 1982.
  • Bohnen, Alfred and Musgrave, Alan , ways of reason , Tübingen (Mohr Siebeck) 1991. - On Albert's 70th birthday.
  • Gadenne, V., Wendel, HJ, Rationality and Criticism , Tübingen (Mohr Siebeck) 1996. On Hans Albert's 75th birthday. - Includes Albert's essay publication list A176.
  • Speller, Jules, "An argumentation game about the Münchhausen Trilemma", Journal for General Theory of Science XIX / 1 Franz Steiner Verlag Wiesbaden Stuttgart (1988)
  • Nutzinger, Hans G. (Ed.), On the problem of social order. Contributions to the honorary doctorate ceremony of Hans Albert at the University of Kassel , Marburg (Metropolis) 2001. In it (pp. 23–34) Albert's contribution (list of publications A197).
  • Journal kontrapunkt, dedicated to Hans Albert on his 80th birthday: methodology of qualitative social research , contrapunt, yearbook for critical social science and philosophy 2001.
  • Enlightenment and Criticism special issue 5 of the Society for Critical Philosophy Nuremberg (2001). Focus: Hans Albert's Critical Rationalism.
  • Lorenzo Fossati: "We're all just provisional!" Interview with Hans Albert (PDF; 51 kB). Enlightenment and Criticism (2/2002), pp. 6–18.
  • Fittipaldi, Edoardo. Scienza del diritto e razionalismo critico. The program of Hans Albert per la scienza e la sociologia del diritto. Milano, Giuffrè 2003.

Web links

Commons : Hans Albert  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wikibooks: Study Guide Hans Albert  - Learning and Teaching Materials

Individual evidence

  1. Brockhaus: Philosophy . Mannheim / Leipzig 2004, Lemma Hans Albert.
  2. ^ Founding of the institute on the 99th birthday of Hans Albert. Giordano Bruno Foundation , February 8, 2020, accessed on February 6, 2021 .
  3. Hans Albert Institute. Retrieved on February 6, 2021 (website of the institute).
  4. The second part of the dissertation was published in 1954 under: Economic Ideology and Political Theory. The economic argument in the regulatory debate . Göttingen 1954; 2nd ext. 1972 edition.
  5. Hans Albert: My detour into sociology . In: In: Christian Fleck, (Ed.): Paths to Sociology after 1945: Autobiographical Notes . Leske + Budrich Opladen 1996. ISBN 3-8100-1660-8 , p. 31ff. as well as enmeshed in controversy. From cultural pessimism to critical rationalism , Vienna / Berlin 2007, 81f.
  6. ^ Hans Albert: Market sociology and decision logic. Economic problems from a sociological perspective . Neuwied / Berlin 1967
  7. ^ Members: Hans Albert. Academia Europaea, accessed January 6, 2020 .
  8. Soci: Hans Albert. Accademia delle Scienze di Torino, accessed January 6, 2020 (Italian).
  9. ^ List of the Advisory Boards of the Giordano Bruno Foundation . accessed January 11, 2020
  10. Our mission. Hans-Albert-Institut , accessed on February 6, 2021 (website of the institute).
  11. Hans Albert: My detour into sociology . In: In: Christian Fleck, (Ed.): Paths to Sociology after 1945: Autobiographical Notes . Leske + Budrich Opladen 1996. ISBN 3-8100-1660-8 , p. 30ff.
  12. ^ Humanist Academy of Bavaria: About Us ( Memento from November 12, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
  13. (Albert, 2000 # 5997: 142)
  14. ^ SWR2, Zeitgenossen series: Hans Albert, philosopher, broadcast on Monday, April 13, 2009, 5:05 p.m., in conversation with Anja Höfer
  15. Especially in Albert 1979 and Albert 1982
  16. See especially Albert 2008