Hans Krämer (philosopher)

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Hans Krämer , also Hans Joachim Krämer (born April 26, 1929 in Stuttgart , † April 24, 2015 in Tübingen ) was a German philosopher and classical philologist . Until his retirement in 1994 he taught as a professor in Tübingen. From 1959 he founded, together with Konrad Gaiser, a new interpretation of Plato , which has since been received worldwide and discussed controversially: the "Tübingen Paradigm " of the "Tübingen Plato School".

Krämer developed his own philosophical position without any connection with his historical work on Platonism . He emphasized both his critical demarcation from older, especially ancient approaches, as well as his opposition to strong currents of the modern age. His main concerns included the rejection of far-reaching claims of philosophical hermeneutics and the establishment of an "integrative ethics ". With the integrative ethics he wanted to combine the duty-demanding “ought ethics” (moral philosophy) and the “striving ethics” aimed at optimizing the individual good to form an overall theory. He pleaded for an upgrading of the ethics of striving, which is relatively neglected in modern discourse.


Hans Joachim Krämer is the son of the music teacher Wilhelm Krämer . In 1949 he graduated from high school in Ludwigsburg . Then he studied philosophy, classical philology and German in Tübingen, Munich, Vienna, Rome and Paris. In 1957 he received his doctorate in Tübingen from Wolfgang Schadewaldt with the dissertation Arete under Plato and Aristotle . In 1963 he completed his habilitation there with the work The Origin of Spirit Metaphysics. Studies on the history of Platonism between Plato and Plotinus . From 1969 he taught in Tübingen with the classical philologists as an adjunct professor . In 1978 he joined the Philosophical Faculty with a C-3 position. From 1980 to 1994 he worked as a full professor of philosophy at the University of Tübingen , then in 1995 as a visiting professor in Vienna. Krämer wrote numerous papers on ancient philosophy as well as ethics, hermeneutics , theories of historical sciences and aesthetics . He remained unmarried and childless. He was buried in an urn grave in the New Cemetery in Ludwigsburg.

Historical research

Krämer attempted to reconstruct Plato's “ unwritten doctrine ” , which was controversial in classical studies . The existence of this doctrine is deduced from indications from Plato and from an indirect tradition. In Plato's Dialogue Phaedrus as well as in the Seventh Letter attributed to him , the view is taken that the communication of essential philosophical content should be done orally, since any written presentation is necessarily inadequate. In addition, there is Aristotle's message that there are “unwritten teachings” of Plato, as well as a number of clues. Kramer saw the core of Platonic philosophy in the unwritten doctrine, also known as the doctrine of principles or esoteric doctrine. With this assumption, he decidedly opposed the thesis, advocated by Friedrich Schleiermacher and influential since his time, that the entire content of Plato's philosophy was contained in the dialogues and that there was no oral teaching that went beyond that. Krämer also fought against variants of the “anti-isoteric” view, according to which the doctrine of principles is hardly reconstructable or of little philosophical relevance. He defended his position in numerous publications.

Krämer's hypothesis, which he formulated and substantiated in detail in the revised and expanded version of his dissertation published in 1959, triggered a variety of reactions in the professional world. It met with some approval, some with skepticism and energetic opposition and is still being discussed controversially. Radical skeptics, like Schleiermacher, believed that Plato did not teach anything orally that was not in the dialogues. Moderate skeptics assumed that the teaching was unwritten, but criticized the Tübingen reconstruction as speculative, insufficiently justified and too far-reaching. Some critics of the Tübingen paradigm did not deny the authenticity of the doctrine of principles, but saw in it only an immature concept from the final phase of Plato's philosophical activity. Krämer vehemently contradicted this late dating. He saw in this an attempt to eliminate the doctrine of principles as "threatening competition and disturbing corrective of the scriptures", since it did not fit into a preconceived Plato image.

Krämer believed that a comprehensive and integrating historical appraisal could make Plato "plausible across epochs and into the debates of the present as an orientation and promising future". In addition, he basically remarked: "The historically correct is ultimately always the systematically more productive, in contrast to the historically wrong, because it is adapted."

In the foreword to the 2014 collection of his essays on Plato, Krämer last summarized the numerous controversies surrounding the Tübingen paradigm and countered misunderstandings. He found that the “opposing voices” almost without exception all go back directly or indirectly to the Plato pictures of the two romantics Schleiermacher and Friedrich Schlegel . These had conceived their Plato interpretation "consistently with a view to Kant's critical philosophy and thus had resounding success". The " metaphysics- critical modernity" of their point of view is considered absolutely binding by the opponents of the Tübingen paradigm and is "not even called into consciousness and thus made accessible to critical clarification". Krämer claimed that the opponents argued "not out of an original factual interest and out of an objective, neutral position." Rather, they are only obliged to defend certain biases. In their historical evaluations, they either openly or covertly attached systematic tendencies of the present. The mixture of historical and systematic perspective is "the original sin of the historian". On the one hand, the opponents committed this sin themselves and, on the other hand, it was completely wrong to assume that the "Tübingen people" were there. The assumption that the people of Tübingen represent the results of their Plato research “also systematically as their own philosophical credo” is completely wrong. He, Hans Krämer, declares emphatically that he himself is not a Platonist "in any sense" and does not want to and cannot be one. The separation of the history of philosophy and systematics demands such a distance from the subject of research. As a historian, he sets himself apart from both "anglophone positivism ", which rejects the Tübingen paradigm for ideological reasons, and from Christian Platonism, the proponents of a Philosophia perennis who, likewise for ideological reasons, considered Plato's unwritten doctrine to be both historical and true.

Philosophical positions

Integrative ethics

Krämer presented his “Integrative Ethics” as a new concept, which he placed as a “third type of ethics” alongside the two conventional approaches - the moral philosophy that deals with duties and the “ eudaemonistic ” ethics aimed at a successful life or “happiness” . The moral philosophy, which was shaped by Kant's influence and which made demands for shoulders, called Krämer the “should ethics” to distinguish it from the older, pre-Kantian models of the “striving ethics”. He coined the term “ethics of striving” as a summary term for all theories in which the successful life of the individual is accepted as the decisive goal and everything is placed in the service of this goal. His demand was to keep the ethics of the ought and the ethics of striving apart in an ideal-typical way, but to combine the two approaches as sub-disciplines into an overall concept of a comprehensive ethics.

For Krämer, integrative ethics was initially just a program of combining the ethics of ought and striving in a contemporary form. The starting point was his opposition to the monopoly claims of both sub-disciplines, mainly against that of the ethics of ought. He found that the two types of ethics should be equal or that priority should even be given to the ethics of striving, because they regulate the majority of life, while morality only becomes relevant in cases of conflict. By far the largest part of everyday actions and decisions is of an extra-moral nature. Integrative ethics defined Krämer as "a complementary, non-exclusive ethic that covers not only moral but also all other life problems". The subject of ethics is not just moral demands and problem areas; rather, all of life is virtually ethically relevant. Philosophy could not afford to deny a theory of the correct way of life the status of the ethical and thus also of the strictly philosophical and to refer it to the fore. The will is to be rehabilitated against the sole rule of the ought. Against the monopoly claim of the ought ethics, founded by Kant, Krämer argued that it remained unclear from which authority the ought proceeded if one's own volition was to be excluded as a source of ought. Kant saw this problem, but did not succeed in solving it.

A particular concern of Krämer was to defend the ethics of striving to be competent in providing advice ("consilatory ethics"). He said that the ethics of striving could and should provide content-related guidance, which included explicit advice: “While moral philosophy provides information about duties and stimulates inhibitions, the ethics of striving provides life, orientation and decision-making aid. It leads to learning to live and ultimately to understanding oneself and being able to live. Your task is to train the individual's ability to plan and act [...] and to guide them towards self-discovery; then: helping to organize the actor's own experience in order to make it optimally usable for efficient action, but also to break through the contingency of his lifestyle and to expand and supplement it through experiences of others or further considerations. " the overcoming of operational difficulties through the mediation of proven alternative models and decision support through the formulation of suitable criteria. Krämer defended the ethical advisory system against the objections that it was a patronizing external determination and that practical philosophy had nothing relevant to say on the level of application, since it could only bring up trivialities. As part of his upgrading of the ethics of striving, he pleaded for a rehabilitation of the individual ethics , which addresses the actions of the individual towards himself. The task of individual ethics is to provide answers to the not moral but pragmatic question “What should we do to be able to live (properly, better, at all)?” Advice is appropriate here; The viability and quality of life of people depend on advice, because each individual cannot have all the experiences that he needs to lead a life. With this in mind, Krämer formulated the thesis: "Advice is the core and heart of practical philosophy."

Critique of Hermeneutics

With his “Critique of Hermeneutics” - the title of his relevant book - Krämer turned against the concept of hermeneutics that had been changed by Hans-Georg Gadamer . With this, the philosophical hermeneutics raise an exaggerated claim, which should be rejected and restricted to a limited legitimate scope. The basic assumption of Gadamer's influential hermeneutics is "anti-realism". By anti-realism, Krämer understood a metatheory of the hermeneutic sciences and everyday life, "according to which the framework of meaning is generated anew from the progress of the history of effects". Although a limited objectivity of science is preserved, the claim to truth and meaning "has passed over to a correspondingly charged 'understanding' of a historical nature". The process of the sciences itself is not affected, but the accessibility of supra-historical truths is put into perspective. Krämer also called this cognitive model "interpretationism". In Gadamer's case, the meaning of the history of the impact is always generated anew and differently in the acts of a historically changed understanding. This approach guarantees the lasting relevance of history or other cultures at the cost of relativizing meaning and truth. Anti-realists like Martin Heidegger and Gadamer are not skeptics , but negative dogmatists, because according to their thesis "we are in any case wrong with regard to the traditional concept of truth". Their negative dogmatics are skeptical of their relativism .

Krämer asserted that anti-realism had no argument ahead of realistic lines of thought, but took on further mortgages, which in the end could not be redeemed. He finds himself in a dilemma because he cannot do without realistic assumptions in his justification, in contrast to realism , which does not need any anti- realistic assumptions to justify it. In principle, it is impossible to prove a dogmatic anti-realism, since one has to compare an interpretation with the one to be interpreted and to do this one has to know the latter itself, which makes a return to realism necessary. The only alternative is to abstain from judgment, but with which one waives the evidence.

In contrast to Gadamer's anti-realist understanding of hermeneutics, Krämer stuck to the realism of knowledge. He is convinced that a real approximation to the goal of knowledge is possible; there is an additional knowledge of the interpreter, which differs from Gadamer's different understanding in that it includes the original knowledge and formulates the difference between the final position and the initial position. The additional knowledge is in principle not interpreted, but realistic. As an example, Krämer cites the historian's increased knowledge. This explains the past from the perspective of the present in a detailed, new and complete way and moves it into further perspectives; the knowledge of the past is contained in the knowledge of the present.


In September 1994, on the occasion of Krämer's 65th birthday, a conference was held in Stuttgart, the task of which was to critically appreciate his draft of integrative ethics as a “progressive theory project”. The contributions appeared in 1995 in the volume published by Martin Endress on the foundation of an integrative ethics , in which Krämer made a final reply and took stock.

On the occasion of the publication of Krämer's Critique of Hermeneutics , an interdisciplinary colloquium was held in Tübingen in May 2008, which was also intended to honor the philosopher's oeuvre. The contributions were compiled in the volume Hermeneutics and History of Philosophy , which was published in 2009 as a commemorative publication for Krämer on his 80th birthday. The Festschrift contains statements on Kramer's work in the areas of Platonism, Integrative Ethics and Hermeneutics.

The city of Syracuse made Kramer its honorary citizen . He was an honorary member of the Academia Platonica Septima Monasteriensis and a corresponding member of the Accademia Pontaniana in Naples.


The numerous essays, smaller contributions and reviews by Krämer are listed in the bibliography (under web links).

  • Arete in Plato and Aristotle. On the nature and history of the Platonic ontology (= treatises of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences. Philosophical-historical class , born 1959, no. 6). Winter, Heidelberg 1959 (new edition: Schippers, Amsterdam 1967)
  • The origin of mind metaphysics. Studies on the history of Platonism between Plato and Plotinus . 2nd, unchanged edition. Grüner, Amsterdam 1967 (1st edition 1964)
  • Platonism and Hellenistic Philosophy . De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1971, ISBN 3-11-0036-43-6
  • The Senior Academy. In: Hellmut Flashar (ed.): Outline of the history of philosophy . The philosophy of antiquity , Volume 3: Older Academy - Aristoteles - Peripatos , 2nd, reviewed and expanded edition, Schwabe, Basel 2004 (1st edition 1983), ISBN 3-7965-1998-9 , pp. 1–165
  • Plea for a rehabilitation of individual ethics . Grüner, Amsterdam 1983, ISBN 90-6032-248-7
  • La nuova immagine di Platone . Bibliopolis, Napoli 1986, ISBN 88-7088-157-1
  • Plato and the Foundations of Metaphysics. A Work on the Theory of the Principles and Unwritten Doctrines of Plato with a Collection of the Fundamental Documents . State University of New York Press, Albany 1990, ISBN 978-0-79-140433-1 (translation of Platone ei fondamenti della metafisica. Saggio sulla teoria dei principi e sulle dottrine non scritte di Platone . Vita e Pensiero, Milano 1982; so far no German language edition)
  • Integrative ethics . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1992, ISBN 3-518-58112-0
  • Reflections on an anthropology of art . Musarion, Tübingen 1994
  • Critique of Hermeneutics. Interpretation philosophy and realism . Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-56486-4
  • Collected essays on Plato , ed. by Dagmar Mirbach. De Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2014, ISBN 978-3-11-026718-1


  • Martin Endreß (Ed.): On the foundation of an integrative ethic. For Hans Krämer (= Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch Wissenschaft 1205). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-518-28805-9
  • Dagmar Mirbach (Ed.): Hermeneutics and history of philosophy. Festschrift for Hans Krämer on his 80th birthday. Olms, Hildesheim 2009, ISBN 978-3-487-14283-8

Web links


  1. Jürgen Busche : In the duty of the beginning . In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung January 28, 1987, p. 31.
  2. Kürschner's German Scholars Calendar 2009 , 22nd edition, Vol. 2, Munich 2009, p. 2193.
  3. A series of relevant publications is compiled in the volume Hans Krämer: Collected Essays on Plato , Berlin / Boston 2014.
  4. Hans Joachim Krämer: Interim balance of the Tübingen Plato research . In: Denkwege 3, 2004, pp. 100–118, here: 100 f.
  5. Hans Joachim Krämer: Interim balance of the Tübingen Plato research . In: Denkwege 3, 2004, pp. 100–118, here: 117.
  6. Hans Krämer: Collected essays on Plato , Berlin 2014, pp. XI – XIII.
  7. Hans Krämer: Integrative Ethik , Frankfurt 1992, p. 127.
  8. Hans Krämer: Integrative Ethik , Frankfurt 1992, pp. 9–11, 119–126.
  9. Hans Krämer: Integrative Ethics . In: Joachim Schummer (Ed.): Glück und Ethik , Würzburg 1998, pp. 93-107, here: 93 f., 96, 99; Hans Krämer: Integrative Ethik , Frankfurt 1992, pp. 78, 98.
  10. Hans Krämer: Integrative Ethik , Frankfurt 1992, pp. 14-16.
  11. Hans Krämer: Integrative Ethics . In: Joachim Schummer (Ed.): Glück und Ethik , Würzburg 1998, pp. 93-107, here: 97 f.
  12. Hans Krämer: Should and can ethics advise? In: Jakob Hans Josef Schneider (Ed.): Ethics - Orientierungswissen? , Würzburg 2000, pp. 31-44.
  13. Hans Krämer: Plea for a rehabilitation of individual ethics , Amsterdam 1983, p. 2 f., 65.
  14. Hans Krämer: Critique of Hermeneutics , Munich 2007, pp. 9, 11 f., 14.
  15. Hans Krämer: Critique of Hermeneutics , Munich 2007, p. 13.
  16. Hans Krämer: New Contributions to the Current Hermeneutics Debate. In: Dagmar Mirbach (ed.): Hermeneutics and History of Philosophy , Hildesheim 2009, pp. 115–126, here: 120–124.
  17. Hans Krämer: Critique of Hermeneutics , Munich 2007, pp. 9, 15.
  18. Hans Krämer: New Contributions to the Current Hermeneutics Debate. In: Dagmar Mirbach (Ed.): Hermeneutics and History of Philosophy , Hildesheim 2009, pp. 115–126, here: 124; Hans Krämer: Critique of Hermeneutics , Munich 2007, pp. 140 f., 143 f.